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If you've ever played a classic text adventure, a genre made famous by Infocom in the early 80s, then Dark Mage will be an unexpected pleasure for you. Greg Troutman managed to squeeze a text adventure into an 8K Atari 2600 cart, and although it's much simpler in execution than Infocom's offerings, it's an enjoyable game nonetheless.
In Dark Mage, you play the role of a jester banished from your kingdom and your goal is to find and return the king's black rose. As in most text adventures you explore the game world by moving through the four compass directions, find and use items and talk with characters you encounter along the way. This is all accomplished with relative ease through the use of the joystick controller, there's no typing here!
Includes cartridge only.
|Number of Players||1|
|Label Design||Dave Exton|
Dark Mage really took me by surprise. It does a pretty amazing job of fitting a text adventure into a 2600 cartridge, and it instantly transported me back in time. I spent a really enjoyable evening, sitting in front of my 2600 with a pencil and a piece of paper, mapping out the world, and trying to work my way through it.
While not a large world, Dark Mage still does exactly what a good text adventure should do: it pulls you into it. You imagine seeing rolling hills, strange creatures, barren wastelands, and castles on the horizon. And, in the grand tradition of text adventures, I had to go online to dig up a couple of clues (my hint: some objects have more than one use).
I thoroughly enjoyed playing Dark Mage. Although it's only text with no sound effects at all, none were needed. I put some early 80's music on the stereo, and was transported back in time 25 years. There's also no manual included with it (figuring out the joystick controls doesn't really require one), although it would have been cool to include someplace to write down notes (like the original Myst had).
People who never played text adventures may not get the appeal of Dark Mage, but hopefully they'll give it a chance. For the rest of us, it's a well-done homage to that genre, and for the price, well-worth the nostalgia trip. I really wanted to keep playing it, discovering the next clue, unlocking the next piece of the puzzle - but in an evening's time, I had solved it, and it's short enough that by the time I was through it, I knew it by heart. That would be my only complaint - is that I wanted more. Hopefully someone will take advantage of larger cartridge capacities and utilize the AtariVox's save feature, and create another, larger text adventure.
In the story, you are a jester banished from your kingdom. You must find and return the king's black rose. You find and use items, talk to characters, and generally get stuck and start again. Once you've beaten it, replay value is low since you'll probably have the solution memorized.
Even so, Dark Mage comes recommended. Both for its uniqueness as an Atari game and the fact that it is one of the better aftermarket homebrew games.