SPELLCASTING 101 / Legend / PC
 
 
Steve Meretzky is one of the legends of the text adventure world, developing renowned Infocom titles like Planetfall and A Mind Forever Voyaging. Though he's seen as one of the mainstream commercial designers that helped elevate the adventure game to something close to literature (or at least really good written fiction), he wasn't above getting a little smutty toward the end of the text adventure era with Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Of course, this was PG-13 type stuff, nothing steamier than you'd see in Leisure Suit Larry or a Porky's movie. It was more about sophmoric humor and a dash of T&A than some attempt to be straight-up porn, and this approach continued with his Spellcasting series when he branched off, formed Legend Entertainment and started transitioning into graphic adventures in the early '90s.
 


Spellcasting 101 is basically Horny Potter, but seven years before the first of those books was published. It gets off to a surprisingly dark start for a comedy game, as protagonist Ernie Eaglebeak is locked in an attic room by an awful drunken stepfather who we are told beats him regularly. He's just found out he's been accepted to Sorceror University, however, so he's gotta escape and get there somehow. The game uses a "chapter" structure, automatically flushing your inventory of all non-essential items once you complete each chapter. The first chapter is simply Ernie's journey from attic prison to the gates of town, from which he flees automatically to start the second chapter at Sorceror U.
 


Spellcasting is oddly difficult and easy at the same time, and the first chapter is actually one of the most challenging. Unbeknownst to you at the start, you're on a tight 40-turn time limit, after which Ernie is packed off to a dragon farm apprenticeship by a whip-cracking slavemaster. In later chapters, you won't be on a timer (or be on a much longer one), and if you fuddle around long enough the game sometimes has a fairly fly by and just yell the puzzle solution at you. But in the first chapter there's no help whatsoever. Though I would say the rest of the game cants a little to the easy side (at least by the general standards of early '90s adventure games), especially if you leave the list of objects in each room turned on, it has some moments that seem try-and-die and at least a couple of points where you could potentially no-win yourself without realizing it. The chapter system keeps this from getting as bad as, say, a King's Quest V (where you can blithely wander through half the game unaware you screwed something up back at the beginning that has already screwed your game over). But it's still one of the less graceful adventure game systems even for the time, and modern gamers will probably have some trouble coming back to it.
 
 
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