So you say you're tired of all the run-of-the-mill 3D Doom clones currently clogging the shelves, and that you need something fresh to keep your attention span from imploding upon itself? If it's fast-paced action in a new mold you desire, then look no further than Magic Carpet.
If you haven't been living under a rock for the last year, you'll recognize he name Magic Carpet from the incredible amount of well-deserved press that it and its sequel, Magic Carpet 2:The Netherworlds, have been receiving. In the Saturn version of Magic Carpet, you take on the role of a maverick wizard intent on restoring the balance of magic in a series of enchanted worlds. This would be all fine and dandy, were it not for the fact that a cadre of unlike-minded wizards are using every spell in their arsenal to shut you down.
The coolest thing about Magic Carpet is its interface: instead of simply walking along, as in most games, you actually fly around islands and have great freedom of movement.The game also requires a lot of strategy and, as the levels progress, becomes quite difficult, thereby ensuring Magic Carpet's play value.
Jeez, I sound like an accountant, don't I? Bottom line: is the game fun? Heck yeah it is.
Download Magic Carpet
I this preview. It's sort of a bit pointless. The reason why? Simply because we are looking at a Bullfrog game, which is like looking at a LucasArts game or a Geoff Cramm-ond game. In other words, we're expecting excellence. But are we going to get it? Yet again? Er, yes actually (yawn). Let's take a small trip back in time i.e. to about a couple of weeks ago.
STARDATE September 1994:
I drive to the left-hand edge of the London A to Z map. get a bit lost, but then finally locate Bullfrog hq. I am half an hour late, but urprisingly no-one seems to care. I'm ushered into a room and bribed with a cup of tea. I have a pack of 20 Silk Cut primed, but I am told I'm not allowed to smoke. (Boo).
About a minute later:
I'm joined by Peter Molyneux, Bullfrog's numero uno. He isn't allowed to smoke either. (Hooray). He fires up the Bullfrog "showing off' pc (a Pentium 90 affair), takes a seat, and tells me about his recent bout of toilet-fever, caused by eating a dodgy chicken kebab. He explains in gory detail how he was incapacitated for a week, losing a stone in the process. He says he's thinking of patenting this weight-losing technique: calling it the K-Plan diet, and advertising his own diseased "chicken kebabs" on telly. A good idea. We're in the middle of discussing possible slogans for the K-Plan diet ad campaign when suddenly the monitor is filled with a vast mountain-scape. It looks like a photograph. It makes Commanche Maximum Overkill's scenery look like a pile of old cack. Peter reaches for the keyboard and mouse. He is about to show me this scenery moving.
Five mins later:
I think about how I really hate the word "gobsmacked", and remind myself how I'd vowed years ago never to use it. Unfortunately. I realise it's actually a fairly good word to explain my current situation. Yes. I am "gobsmacked". "Smacked in the Gob". Not speechless, though, because instead I'm babbling slightly - "Blimey". "Wow". "Excellent". "Smart". "Lummee", and so on.
"Watch this." says Peter, and he launches a spell/missile at a particularly rocky outcrop of land. Before my very eyes, and with the magic carpet still flying at high speed, the landmass rips itself apart, forming a gigantic crevasse. Peter flies the carpet into this ravine and the newly-formed cliffs to either side scroll past seamlessly. The sense of speed is phenomenal. Beneath us now is water. The cliffs are reflected in the water, and the water itself is undulating. And still everything is moving as smoothly and effortlessly as ever. "That was an earthquake bomb," says Peter, proudly. I make a sort of gagged, whining noise in reply. "Now for a volcano bomb," says Peter. And on and on.
20 minutes later:
It's utterly amazing. Every single flying thing in the game has a shadow, and if the flying things in question are over water, there are reflections. And it's all happening at machine number 12.
Magic Carpet is a non-stop roller coaster ride of Byzantine proportions. It's a shoot-'em-up, basically - I've gleaned that much from watching Peter blast nine trillion nasties into oblivion. "Yes. it is a shoot'em-up." he agrees, "But there's strategy involved as well." He kills a dragon and then continues. "It's all about collecting Manna. Everytime you kill something, it drops to the ground and becomes a Manna Ball. As you collect more of these Manna Balls, you are given access to more powerful spells." I suggest at this point that it's a bit like Populous. Peter says he's fed up of everyone saying "Oh. that's Bullfrog... they did that game Populous once". So I shut up. He goes on: "Unfortunately, you have a computer-controlled enemy to contend with, and he's doing the same thing as you. He can nick your Manna Balls, so you have to build a fortress to keep them safe." Cue the "fortress bomb". Peter shoots the side of a hill and a castle grows magically from the ground. There's a reflection of all this in the water. He sends in another bolt: the castle grows defensive walls. He casts a different spell, and suddenly there are armies of undead soldiers patrolling the castle keep. (You have to see this stuff to believe it, really.) Then Peter zooms off elsewhere, kills 30 trillion more nasties, aims an explodey spell at some trees (thereby starting a forest fire), and does battle with the enemy wizard. The action is absol-outely relentless. The sound effects and music are superb.
30 minutes later:
Slightly exhausted simply from having watched the proceedings for an hour, I ask about the number of levels, the addictiveness, extra trimmings and so forth. Here's roughly what's on sale. There are 50 levels of increasing difficulty, and the learning/ addictiveness curve is akin to Populous or Syndicate. There can be up to seven computer-controlled enemy wizards in action at any one time (depending on your current level). You'll encounter different types of terrain. There's going to be a multi-player option, enabling eight people to go head to head... and there are ten special levels designed purely for these clashes. There's a 3D-mode where you use the old red/green glasses (and it works brilliantly). Oh. and there's a further viewing mode which is as novel as it is bizarre i.e. the "auto stereogram" mode. You know? Those pictures that at first look just like a random bunch of dots, but turn into 3D images when you get your head around them (or not, if you are anything like me)? Yes. Those things. But they're actually "moving".
The only question you may need answering then, is this one: What's Magic Carpet like on a slightly useless PC? I was assured that it's fine on a DX33 and above. Praise the Lord! Amen.
And lo' it came to pass in times long past (about a year ago) that the one they called Duncan of the tribe of MacDonald did journey to the land of Bullfrog in the realm of Guildford (or somesuch nowhere). And he did meet the wise and mighty one, Molyneux of that name. And it did come to pass that there was much burning of tobacco for they were both of the smoking persuasion. Through a Silk Cut haze they did speak a little of the game known as Theme Park (For 'twas that the Mac they called Donald had come to see.), but Molyneux had more knowledge than any in the universe and did say "Come, see, worship," and did lead the Duncan to a screen where a landscape was scrolling at a fair old rate of knots.
"That's smart" said the Duncan, for he was oft one to flatter, especially in the presence of the Molyneux. "Yes I know" said the Molyneux "but I'm not sure what to do with it yet. I'll probably end up doing a flight sim."
And lo' the audience was over and the Donald of Mac did return to the of PC and verily did he rave of what he had seen. So we did sit Electronic Arts and speak to them of the wondrous things the great Molyneux one had unveiled. "Oh bugger," they didsay "He wasn't supposed to show you that."
That's enough padding (Ed.)
So there you have it. Peter Molyneux at Bullfrog had a great routine (though nothing to the one he does with the feather duster, chain saw and packet of smarties...), but he wasn't sure what to do with it. A flight simulation seemed the obvious choice but then, when were Bullfrog ever obvious? So we get Magic Carpet, an aerial shoot 'em up with pyjamas.
The scenario is so notional it's barely worth the intro sequence it's related in (though the intro sequence itself is dead smart). Basically, and it is pretty basic, your world was in quite a bad way after years of fighting. Your master, a wizard, proceeded to really put a spanner in the works by producing a spell so powerful that it destroyed both him and most of the planet.
The job of restoring order falls to you, and you, of course, welcome it with open arms and a steady jaw. (Well it's either that or fart about whistling the Sorcerer's Apprentice for the rest of your life.)
In the great tradition of the Metropolitan Police, your method of restoring order is to charge around destroying everything in sight. The slight difference is that the Met don't fly around on Magic Carpets firing thunderbolts at everything that moves (Though just give it time...).
The aim of each level is to gather a certain amount of the manna which is dropped by some of the creatures you destroy. (If I was a halfway decent writer I would now make some clever pun about this being the manna by which you restore order, but I'm not so I won't.) By gathering sufficient quantities of this manna and returning it to your castle, which you prepared earlier, you complete the level. Ah, but wait, there's more to it than that. Not much more mind you, but more nonetheless.
At the start of each level you are confronted with a first-person perspective view of a world populated by a range of creatures with a variety of leg-to-head ratios, but one thing in common - they all hate you. (So what's new? Sigh.) Initially you have no reply to the slings and arrows that they hurl at you, but as you fly around the land you'll be able to collect a variety of spells. These spells range from the basic fire ball to some spectacular, ground splitting, volcano creating spells, usually restricted to people whose name begins with G and ends with od.
Flying around the screen is initially a tad unnerving. Pitch, tilt and direction is controlled by the mouse, while the cursor keys control speed and left/right movement. For me this meant a lot of time spent crashing into hills or getting stuck behind walls. However, it soon became pretty intuitive. (Can something become intuitive?). Besides, your central nervous system may not have been destroyed by years of Talisker abuse, in which case you'll probably pick it up straight away.
Once you've mastered the flying bit it's time to set off in search of magic. Not Black Magic, which can be found down the local newsies, but violent magic, which can usually be found in pots that are lying around beside standing stones. Once you've gained a spell, you can assign a numeric key to it. Pressing that key will then make that your active spell. Pressing the left or right mouse button will then send this particular brand of oblivion hurtling towards any monster, castle or innocent blade of grass that takes your fancy. (Not all the spells are destructive but most of them are.) Right, now it's time to kill something.
On torching, blasting and generally exterminating a foul fiend, it will then give up manna in the form of one or more golden balls. Provided you have the correct spell (and if you don't, you might as well quit the level there and then) you convert the manna to your colour. It can now be collected by the balloon.
Balloon? Er... yes. With each castle you build you get a balloon. Don't ask me why, you just do, okay? This balloon sort of floats (as balloons do) over the walls (and indeed crenallations) of your castle. Every now and again it sets off around the map collecting all the manna that's in your colour. This might not be quite as much as you are expecting because (cue spooky music) you are not alone. There are other wizards, equally challenged in the trouser department and equally eccentric in their choice of transport. These wizards may be computer or, if you play the game over a network, human controlled. (Though most of the people I've ever played games over a network with would struggle to be classed as human.) The moment your back is turned these guys will whip in, turn the manna to their colour and send out their balloons to gather it up, and before you know where you are all of your hard work has gone down the drain (or into the balloon to be more precise).
As well as half inching the fruit of your labours, the other players also attack your castle, your balloons and, of course, poor old you. Dogfighting these guys is a nightmare since, despite all your magic, you've still failed to invent radar, and besides, even if you can see them, they're an absolute bugger to kill.
Hmm... I'm not sure that I've made a very good job of explaining this game, which is rather annoying because one of my criticisms is of its simplicity. The game looks great, particularly if you have all the shadows and reflections turned on. The way the castle walls become more scarred is smart, better still are the sploshes when one of your shots hits the water. Ahh, the water, it undulates in such a sort of undulating way that I felt horribly sea sick by the end of one level. On a 486 66m hz the game simply whizzed along, smoother than a Rupert Grant. It's supposed to run pretty smoothly on a 33MHZ, but I didn't have one to test it on. It was certainly very clunky on a 25MMHZ machine, but to be fair it's not recommended for those, and you can improve things by turning the detail down.
So, the game looks and moves like a dream. (Yes I know there's a remark crying out to be made here, but we don't all read Loaded.) The whole thing is put together with the sort of professionalism and style that one usually expects only of the top US teams such as LucasArts. And it's certainly very playable. Look, half of me wants to give it a whopping great score. But... it's just a bit basic. Of course there is a strategy/puzzle element on the later levels (and there are c. 50 of them) as you try to devise a plan to nobble the other players.
I imagine it must be great as a network game, provided you don't mind losing all your friends. But... Qh I dunno, maybe it's just that Bullfrog are becoming victims of their own reputation. If anyone else had produced this game I'd have probably said "wow, what an excellent, fast, smooth and imaginative shoot 'em up. I'll give it 100 per cent" Because it's Bullfrog I want more than that. Perhaps, also, they're victims of their own imagination. They've avoided the obvious flight sim and gone for something a bit different. Problem is, found myself thinking "I'm not really into this magic carpet stuff, it's a bit poncey". I was actually wishing that they had done an arcadey flight sim instead. Maybe I've just got something against pyjamas. (As the result of a strict upbringing I only ever sleep in a Victorian Bee-Keeping outfit.) Oh dear, oh dear. Even as I write this I'm dithering over the score. It's good, it's very good, but is it "Bullfrog Brilliant". I think I'll go and have a cup of coffee while I think about it. I'll see you at the verdict.
By Any Manna of Means
Bullfrog seem to have quite thing about manna. So what is it? Well, in Bullfrog games it's usually a source of power or energy. In the Bible it is the food that Cod gave to the Israelites to feed them during their 40years in the desert. However, in The Manna Machine, Rodney Dale and Ceorge Sassoon claimed that the biblical text could be interpreted as a description of a nuclear-powered food production unit and that it was this that had led the Israelites.They built a model of this machine, based on their interpretation of the text, and claimed that it had probably been left behind by aliens who had visited earth centuries before. This is very interesting. Rodney Dale used to be my next door neighbour. This is not very interesting.
Last issue we took a look at the PlayStation version of this popular PC game, and seeing as the two versions are virtually identical, doing a new review is almost redundant, but here goes.
In Magic Carpet, you're a young magician charged with restoring the "mana balance" of a host of fantastical realms.To do this, you must fly around beautifully rendered 3-D worlds collecting crazy spells and battling monsters and evil wizards. Magic Carpet is a heck of a game. It's original, incredibly fun, and challenging. The Saturn's graphics are only a slight step down from the PSX version.
Graphics - 7
Sound/FX - 8
Gameplay - 9
Rating - 8
Magic Carpet is an innovative new game that PC players will find familiar. The unique gameplay combines shooter action with strategy. You are a hero on a Magic Carpet, performing strategic strikes against your opponents. Destroy their assets and collect the leftover mana to build up your own fortresses. These strategic elements set this game apart from games like Descent.
Magic Carpet is rich in technique and gameplay. There are all sorts of enemies, ranging from mindless worms to irritating bees to a giant crab, all the way up to your main competition--the wizards. Each enemy needs to be met with a different response. Fortunately, you have a variety of magical spells at your disposal, including offensive attacks and mana collection.
Magic Carpet sports some terrific-looking graphics and lots of texture-mapped polygons as shown in the detailed pictures supplied by EA. What has to be seen yet though, is how well and how fast you will be able to fly on your carpet. There appear to be an awful lot of polygons that have to be pushed around. This title will be released for both the Sega Saturn and the Sony PS.
- MANUFACTURER - Electronic Arts
- THEME - Action
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1
Magic Carpet is a mythical feast with the flavor of the Middle East.
The universe is in chaos. From your magic carpet, you must restore balance to 70 three-dimensional worlds by collecting mana, an energy that comes mostly from enemies that you destroy with spells. You must also build and protect a castle to store your mana.
The gameplay continually evolves, introducing new spells and more dangerous monsters. Exciting and addicting, this carpet is spotless.
- Draw undead armies to the coastline, then play hit and run with 'em.
- Cast your possession spell on the remains of a wizard to claim his mana.
- When fighting near trees, light 'em up to damage your enemies further.
The morphing terrain and 3D landscapes are beautiful, and the game scrolls smoothly. While the enemy sprites are well drawn, they retain a pix-elated PC-type appearance.
Simply outstanding audio. The symphonic soundtrack soars during battles. Magical sound effects and subtle background sounds enhance the worlds.
Maneuvering the carpet is fairly easy. Once you get used to switching spells on the fly, the sky is yours to command.
You can't beat this game in a day or three. Huge, constantly changing levels with plenty of traps, enemies, and spells keep players engrossed for eons.
The latest PC game to leapfrog to the 32-bit pond is Bullfrog's much-heralded Magic Carpet. An action/flight sim straight out of Arabian Nights, Magic Carpet takes place in a 3D world where spells are weapons and mana is lifeblood.
You're aloft on a woven rug, trying to eradicate evil wizards by casting spells that do everything from building castles to leveling your enemies' domains. Your goal is to collect mana, the elixir of power that earns you the most devastating spells and increases your castle-building abilities.
Magic Carpet weaves strategy into its action-oriented tapestry with monsters, such as griffins, and narrow chasms that hide mana. If Bullfrog ports the PC version exactly, the landscapes will unfold in real time-literally on the fly.
Bullfrog is widely considered to be one of the most innovative and inventive software houses in the world. Its games, ranging from the thoughtful Populous, to the highly-charged Syndicate, have generated both critical acclaim and a great deal of money. One of its biggest ever PC titles, Magic Carpet, is nearing completion on the PlayStation.This will be the first chance for PlayStation owners to undertake a truly epic task. Sure, there's a couple of cool adventure titles on the PlayStation, but nothing with the kind of pedigree that Magic Carpet has. Magic Carpet may look like a regular shooter, but it takes a great deal of thought and planning to get anywhere.
But they need to think, don't they? PlayStation owners' minds are all filled with explosions and fast cars and stuff like that. What they really need to do is get out their special strategy pants and start exercising the old gray matter. Magic Carpet has more than its fair share of action, though. You control a young man on a quest for love, glory and magic, not unlike Aladdin. Mind you, Aladdin never got to race around the skies of ancient Persia shooting stuff with big bolts of Plasma.
Now all this shooting is fun, but the hard part is dealing with your castles (which you have to build and protect) and your magic (which you have to nurture and expand). The key to the game is mana, a mystical energy which you'll find floating around, or in the remnants of dead foes.The magic can be used to build on your territory, or to defeat the numerous evil villains, including rival wizards and dragons. Bullfrog's graphic techniques are obviously still enmeshed in the PC style that the company is accustomed to and it seems as though several PlayStation abilities have been left untapped in this conversion. Sound and music, however, have been vastly improved, thanks to the PlayStation's superior processing power.
One thing that Magic Carpet proves though, is that the PC is far from the ultimate games machine.The PlayStation version is faster, smoother and more playable and, it works with the PlayStation mouse. With this, Syndicate and High Octane on its record, Bullfrog could turn out to be one of the leading lights on PlayStation.
Bullfrog! Bullfrog! Remember that name, you PSX gamers, because you'll soon be trying to explain to your friends just how good this company's games are.
In Magic Carpet you quite obviously fly around on a magic carpet, but this isn't a pleasure cruise. Utilizing a flying first-person perspective, your mission is to cruise around different worlds, trying to restore the balance of mana, or magical energy.
You can find new spells to help you defeat monsters and other wizards, erect castles to store your mana, and marvel at the wondrous-yistas of other worlds. It's a Magical Mystery Tour, but with fireballs.
Graphics - 8
Sound/FX - 8
Gameplay - 9
Rating - 8
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