The Price of Magik

by Pete Austin, Nick Austin, Mike Austin, and James Horsler

Episode 3 of Time and Magik

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Large exploration and puzzle game. Collect spells and objects, go slowly mad., November 22, 2015
by jwhitham (York, England)

Price of Magik is a fascinating, atmospheric horror-themed exploration game, perhaps one of the best of the Level 9 games.

It has a large, sparse map: there are probably a hundred rooms, maybe more. The detail is quite low, but you don't have to thoroughly investigate the scenery, as all of the important objects are listed separately. This is completely unlike more modern IF games, which tend to take place in smaller, highly-detailed worlds, and exploring scenery can be important.

The game environment is varied: the parts I liked best were inside the decaying, sprawling mansion where the game starts. Even within the mansion, the layout of the rooms is somewhat surreal, with secret passages and connections to the cave system below. Portals lead to entirely different worlds, including a peculiar "hyperspace" which you find about halfway through the game. Don't attempt to store all of this in your head!

Progress in the game involves collecting spells (each is a three-letter word) and their corresponding objects. Most spells require a specific object in order to be used. Often you will find one before the other, and then have to solve a puzzle to get both.

You "level up" by going mad. This allows you to cast more complex spells. Myglar, the antagonist, has gone completely mad and is therefore a powerful wizard. In order to try to beat him, you must be almost as mad. This is a good idea, but the madness did not appear to come with any disadvantage: it does not prevent you perceiving the game world or acting within it.

You cannot explore entirely freely, as there is a turn limit imposed by ageing. (The magik ages you rapidly.) There is a way to reset this, but it's limited, and you have to plan your moves. This gives the whole game a sort of "restore puzzle" character.

I thought some of the individual puzzles were a little unfair, as they did involve hidden rooms (not listed in EXITS) or hidden objects (which were non-obvious parts of objects that were listed). There are also some NPCs in the game, other than Myglar, and if you make a mistake while interacting with them, they will come back to haunt you. It's not obvious this will happen, but once it has, your only real options seem to be restart and restore.

Despite these downsides I found the game enjoyable, atmospheric and challenging. Persist with it, and refer to the clue sheets if you get stuck.