Oldschool Gaming - reviewing new games on classic computers
Main review :: written by Dan 

What's the world coming to? Wars, famine, global warming and a Demon arising to conquer the world. Bah! How dare they in the middle of my hangover. Anyway, this demon only rises once every thousand years and my hangovers happen once every other day so who's the better man? So, it appears this one thousand years is up and this so called Demon has risen sending his minions down on Earth for the dark times ahead. The prophecy says though that a Holy Cup, the Sangraal, can defeat the Demon but that it was lost an age ago and no one knows where. Step forward Sir Griel, our hero for this story, who will search for the Sangraal against all odds and against the dangers of the Demon's minions.

The gameplay takes part over a mass of stages and in the form of puzzles; on each stage you need to get the key and then make your way over to the exit. Sounds simple enough but it isn't, the Demon has three minions for you to deal with, a slimy blob thing, ghosts and ogres with more than one of each to each stage. To deal with these beasties you can collect three weapons, a staff to kill the slimes, a crucifix to evaporate the ghosts and a sword to knock senseless the ogres. These weapons are collected around each stage, but you can only carry one of each and they can only be used once. This is where the puzzle element comes into play because you have to carefully work out which weapon to collect and where to use it to navigate around each stage. Although you won't lose a life (you start with four) by walking into a beastie you can effectively get "stuck" and then have to hit the escape key to retry the level thus losing a precious life.

TURN LEFT AT THE BIG ARROW
Also making your life slightly more difficult on later stages are certain blocks with arrows pointing on them. Stepping onto these blocks will make you automatically travel in the direction the arrow is pointing, an extra consideration if all you are thinking about is the key and exit. Thankfully after every fifth level you are given a "prayer" which allows you to continue (in the form of a password) and which can be used whenever you play the game.

Graphically the game itself is cutesy and the levels are well thought out and will provide many hours of enjoyment. It very much reminded me of games such as Bombuzal, Chip's Challenge and Sensitive. There is music in the game and even a sampled laugh in the intro (which really shines) but, although the in-game music is fairly nice, it soon grates and I found myself switching my stereo on. One niggle is there is no difficulty curve; the level is either taxing or you can just wander through it without thinking about what you are doing. Something which should have been addressed but, with the passwords, the game will keep you coming back to it until you reach the end.

Second opinion :: written by Jason 

This is a nice reworking of those puzzle games where you have to figure out the only route through each level to the exit; however, instead of traversing dangerous walkways built from crumbling blocks the setting is more medieval, taking place in forests and dungeons. As if to reflect this olde worlde look, there's a more laid back pace to this game as well; no time limits ticking down to worry about, there aren't any places to die if Griel holds still, nothing pursuing him to rip out vital organs and you can stand next to a ghost, amorphous blob of slime or ogre for pretty much as long as you like without them even acknowledging your presence let alone doing something about it. Griel is pretty much left to his own devices and can spend as long as he likes mulling over each level and deciding on his approach.

Graphically, things are nicely presented, colourful and clear but it's all a little somewhat... well, cutesy really, with all the protagonists that are distributed around each level dancing away as though wearing personal stereos. Granted, the slime pretty much has to move in order to distinguish it from the bushes used on some of the stages but do ogres really stand around stamping their feet...? The sound is a similarly cute piece of music that is accompanied by a series of simple but effective spot effects; the tune isn't bad as such but, as Dan mentioned, it'll be getting on your nerves by the fourth or fifth level and probably turned off by the sixth.

Some of the levels take four or five goes and it's not merely a case of memorising a few steps because each requires an intricate path be taken through the obstacles - a single slip and you find yourself holding an object that you can't use, boxed in, totally out of a specific object or in a deliberate trap that is blindingly obvious around three seconds after you get stuck (as a "hint" for the latter, look at the first in-game screenshot and the bottom left corner in particular).

Whilst these puzzles are a little frustrating, they are also fun and completing all the forward planning required to work out each stage is rather satisfying (as is remembering the solution the next time you tackle a level) but there doesn't seem to be a sense of a difficulty curve as the game progresses and things jump around a bit - so whilst level five is quite a nasty little dungeon level, it's followed by level six, an open air stage that is easier than any of the preceding levels including the very first. But if you can live with that quirky approach to difficulty and enjoy a bit of a challenge from your puzzlers, this is neat, unusual game and well worth sitting down with for a while.

Information

GRIEL'S QUEST FOR THE SANGRAAL

Format MSX
Developer Karoshi Corp.
Publisher MSXdev'05 Competition
Released 2005
Price Free
Review Dan and Jason
Download Available
Screenshots
Titles Screen
Titles Screen
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
In-game Screen
Scores
Graphics
Sound
Playability
Lastability
7
4
9
8
   Overall 8
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