Dark Crystal, The (Apple II) (1982)
Gelfling Adventure (Apple II) (1984)
Review by Faididi and Co.
Beautiful and powerful
Sierra's The Dark Crystal and Gelfling Adventure are two versions of a game that's based on the Jim Henson and Brian Froud movie. (In the case of The Dark Crystal, it's one of the first games to be built alongside their associated films.) Taking place in a realm of magic, fantasy, and peril, the tale is about a young hero, Jen, who must restore the corrupted Dark Crystal to its former, pure state before the malevolent beings known as the skeksis can rule the world forever. The problem, in a fascinating twist, is that the skeksis are bonded in essence to Jen's adopted family, so he can't just kill them without harming his loved ones. Worse still, the bad guys know everything that would be taught to him, making any surprise moves against them difficult. The game follows the original movie closely, which is a big plus given its deep mythological inspirations and abundant symbolism.
The Dark Crystal is the sixth game in Sierra's Hi-Res Adventure Series, and it's as much of a text adventure as any of the earlier installments in that series. Typing in commands, you help Jen explore the world, find useful items, solve challenging puzzles, and hopefully make it to the end alive. Those who remember the movie in detail will have an easier time, because many of the puzzles' solutions are derived from the material in the flick.
What makes this particular adventure so cool, however, is its level design. Unlike many other games of its kind, The Dark Crystal has a world that is clearly organized, with every area having its own distinct look. There are no cheap-ass warp points or repetitions of scenery. Adding to the fun (and the lore) are the extra puzzles not found in the movie, such as Aughra's riddle.
Gelfling Adventure is a drastically simplified version of The Dark Crystal that's meant for younger Players, but it's still enjoyable for all fans of the film. Instead of using a parser interface, Gelfling Adventure uses a multiple-choice interface. You simply select a choice and then pray that Jen makes some progress without getting turned into butt sauce. Funny enough, Gelfling Adventure follows the original story more closely than The Dark Crystal does. That means all the extra puzzles are taken back out, which should satisfy certain purists.
The Dark Crystal's kick-ass gameplay also owes much to the hefty parser interface, as it's considerably smarter than those of Sierra's earlier text adventures. This interface recognizes a whole bunch of synonyms, allowing the Player plenty more leeway. For example, you may issue the command TAKE, GET, HOLD, or GRAB in order to have Jen pick up the items he sees. Verbs that aren't essential to beating the game, like SMELL, are included in case you want Jen to screw around. All of this doesn't just make The Dark Crystal easy to play, but it makes the gaming experience a far more involving and rewarding one, too. As for Gelfling Adventure, its controls are very simple, and working with the multiple-choice menus there is a breeze.
The backgrounds are rendered with lots of color and detail. You can see all the leaves on the trees and the jagged cracks on the rocks. The characters are neatly drawn, and because the game is played from a third person perspective, you always watch the heroes interacting with their surroundings on the screen, instead of seeing objects being invisibly manipulated from a first person view.
The Dark Crystal and Gelfling Adventure are both great games based on a wonderful film, and the two text adventures do well in paying close attention to the movie's carefully crafted world and its rich fantasy elements. Their enchanting story, splendid level and puzzle designs, friendly controls, and exceptional visuals bring out the true magic of adventure.