Be brave. Be shrewd. Be worthy.
February 10, 1998
The game actually runs at a 320 x 200 or 640 x 400 resolution, so it may in fact work on systems with less than 640 x 480 resolution. If you have gotten Merlin's Apprentice to work on such a system let me know!
Merlin's Apprentice is a delightful collection of challenging puzzles designed by Cliff Johnson. Cliff Johnson has created several other games of a similar nature including the excellent The Fool's Errand. Unfortunately, as with Johnson's three previous puzzle titles, the publisher has since gone out of business. In Merlin's Apprentice, you aspire to become apprentice to the legendary Merlin. In order to attract the attention of the mysterious wizard, you must prove your worth by weaving magical spells. There are thirty puzzles in Merlin's Apprentice of about eight different types. There are some action puzzles that require you to click on objects that float by, several logic puzzles that involve moving objects into a certain configuration using only a few types of movements, and word puzzles requiring deciphering some encrypted sentences. The game has three difficulty levels which can be set on a puzzle-by-puzzle basis and changed during the game.
The puzzles in Merlin's Apprentice, though fewer in number and in general easier than those in Johnson's previous works still present some intriguing challenges to be overcome. The logic puzzles present the most challenge, often requiring the player to carefully arrange each move to produce the desired result. The action and memory puzzles seem like filler, padding out the game. Some additional types of puzzles would have been welcome to add more variety. The cleverness evident in 3 in Three and The Fool's Errand is missing from the more straightforward puzzles found here. Also, the beginner and advanced difficulty levels make the game far too simple and should not be used, at least not without first trying the expert setting. You'll get a lot more satisfaction at the expert level.
Though somewhat blocky, the animations are full screen and very dazzling. Sound effects are plentiful and appropriate music is used during animations. The interface is mostly point and click. The space bar is used to hide and show the menu, which includes a help option that explains the current puzzle and options available. There are 12 save game slots, and the game uses an automatic save. Once you complete the game you can replay the puzzles, but without the reward animations. Unfortunately, the state of partly finished puzzles is not saved when you close your game.
Though shallower than Johnson's previous work, anyone who enjoys puzzles such as those that appear in Games magazine will find Merlin's Apprentice a welcome diversion.
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Copyright 1998 Marc Khadpe
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