Companions Of Xanth

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a game by Legend Entertainment
Platform: PC
User Rating: 7.5/10 - 4 votes
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Companions Of Xanth
Companions Of Xanth
Companions Of Xanth
Companions Of Xanth

Piers Anthony is, if you like, the American version of our beloved Terry Pratchett. On the surface, this means that while Terry has brussel sprouts on toast (with gravy) for breakfast, Piers is gobbling up waffles and maple syrup (with jelly). However, in literary terms, a larger gulf appears. Tezza's books are funny: Piers' are not. Terry spoofs and parodies his way through hugely amusing Tolkien troll fests. Very amusing. Very amusing. Piers, on the other hand, has built up an independent 'comedy world' in which clever parody gives way to hideous word-play, and excellent plot and characters bow to the pressure of awful personalities and happenings based around puns. Very Ha-musing (and stuff like that). Piers' land is called Xanth and it's a peninsula off the us mainland just like Florida (in fact it is Florida, but a kind of shadowy, alternate, magic Florida).

In this Xanth place, there are your humans, centaurs and golems (goodies) and your demons, dragons and zombies (baddies). The humans are born with a special magic talent which can be either incredibly powerful or unbelievably useless. One chap, for instance, may be able to blow things up just by pointing at them, while another may just be able to conjure lettuces out of nowhere with a flick of his wrist. These special powers allow the humans to survive in their rather unsavoury and sometimes dangerous environs.


Flora-wise, there's Cottage Cheese (soft material which can be hollowed out to make a nice house), Blind Dates (cause temporary blindness when eaten), Eye Scream Bushes (look like eyes, shriek when picked, taste good), and the Stinging Barbara Bush (the description of which 1 didn't get). Wandering around the said flora, is a wide range of esoteric fauna. Bar the usual pot pourri of elves, fairies, goblins and harpies, there are Chocolate Mousses (hard to catch, but yummy to eat), the Com-Pewter (a jug-like device which can revise reality at its discretion), and Golden Fleas (rare creatures subject to a misguided quest by Jason and the Argonauts).

Xanth is split into five main realms - Air, Earth, Fire, Water and The Void - and has been brought into existence by the highly magical demon x(a/n)th. This demon, for purposes of the game, has made a wager with our demon, Satan, or e(a/r)th as he's known to Xanthians. The two devils have bet that one of two mundanes (a) cannot survive the perils of Xanth and (b) achieve The Prize. Accompanied by two Companions of Xanth, the two peeps. Dug and Kim, must travel through the five realms, interacting with the inhabitants, skipping lightly over the dangers, and solving as many puzzles as possible. You're Dug.


The first major puzzle is to work out how old Dug is supposed to be. The first location finds you in Dug's apartment, sitting in front of a computer, a large storm raging outside. The manual has left you clueless as to who, what, why, where etc. etc. Dug owns his own flat, but has a girlfriend called Pia, who has just been grounded by her parents for staying ou late. Dug is obviously at working age or could not rent, so he must be over 18. But then his friend Edsel rings and bets him that he'll get addicted to this new computer game (Companions Of Xanth, play-within-a-play fans). Okay, but Edsel offers his motorbike if he loses the bet (so Ed must be pushing 21), but if Dug gets addicted to this game, he must let Ed go on a date with Pia. Oh dear. So, mentally. Dug and Ed must be around 12, physically about 21. But, if this is his age, why is Dug 'dating' (c) someone who is young enough to be grounded. Could Dug be having under-age sex with a minor? Moral outrage. Indignation. And why, when you/Dug plop the disk into the computer and a happy golem called Grundy appears and talks to you, inviting you to Xanth do you say 'yes'?


Unfortunately, due to the fact that you don't believe in magic, you enter Xanth as a floating computer screen. Once you've chosen your companion, Nada Naga (d), in this case, you're led through a brief series of computer screen jokes ('Screens can't drink water Dug'), and badly-digitised cut-scenes in which Sam, your mundane rival, competently surges ahead of you in the race, leaving you with piles of puzzledom to solve. Nada's there to be chatted to and to occasionally offer aid in moments of inspiration loss.

Now we are here...

The whole of Companions Of Xanth has a nice rounded but conventional feel to it. There are no real surprises. You've seen clicky-mouse interfaces like this a million times before. The puzzles are of the usual manipulate-certain-object-in-certain-place variety, evolving into little sub-quests and try-and-find-the-right-approach conversational conundrums. The location graphics are pleasingly average, the whole style edging more towards Monkey Island than Sam And Max. The occasional animated bits are very poor, with badly realised 'actors' and no sampled speech. The only thing which makes it stand out, for better or worse, is the humour (or 'humor' as this variety is spelt).

Neon lights will shine...

With every adventure and its action man doing the funny thing these days (Monkey Island, Day Of The Tentacle, Hand Of Fate), Legend has obviously plumped for a firm foundation in the popularity and wit of Mr Piers Anthony. You've probably got the gist of this 'humor' from the previously described puns. There's a puzzle in the game where you endeavour to get past a demonic bucket by building a catapult. Once you've achieved this, you've gone... beyond the pail. Ho-ho-ho. This pretty much sums up what you're in for. Piers' books aren't normally associated with belly laughs or uncontrollable urination, and Piers has unfortunately undermined his possible rank of PisstakeMaster " (a la Pratchett) by writing some serious, proper fantasy novels as well (e). As a 'funny game', Xanth has its occasional smirks and one or two half-baked grins, but it won't splinter your ribs and leave your intestines lying in humorous steaming piles on the carpet. As an adventure game, though, it will give you a few hours of puzzling and lateral thinking. Not bad.

Text adventure style parser

What now?

Quit... forever

Yes, it is official. Text adventures are no more. Over the last few years, Legend has been the sole torch-bearers of the old style, golden age adventures. While every software company and his barber has been dropping the text and upping the graphics, Legend had stuck to its cheeky parsers, its endless 'YOU CAN'T DO THAT' replies, and its reliable old compass. They brought us 'back to the basics 'of adventuring. Classics such as Gateway and er, er, the Spellcasting series, Eric The Unready, and er, ah, Chrono Quest made us old gamers dab our dewy eyes with delight and spurn the new tangled 'point and click adventures'. But no more. In updating its engine (i.e. dropping the text) Legend has wrapped an era of gamesplaying in a bin liner and thrown it in the river.

The new Legend system bows in favour of the seminal SCUMM style system. A graphic window gives you a first person perspective of your location, while a short list of Take, Push, and Talk To style verbs form a column on the left. The inventory is represented graphically along the bottom of the screen, alongside the disk, map and undo functions. The mouse clicking is intuitive. Click on an object and a bunch of appropriate verbs appear (select the paper bag, for instance, and you 'get,' crumple,' 'flatten' or 'throw'). Choose a verb and waft the mouse around the screen to make a range of sentences appear. Opt for the best one and you're there.

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System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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