Curse of Enchantia
|Curse of Enchantia|
Cover art by Rolf Mohr
Virgin Games (PC CD)
|Programmer(s)||Robert Toone (Amiga)
Ian Sabine (PC)
|Composer(s)||Nuke (Martin Iveson)|
Curse of Enchantia is a graphic adventure game developed and released by the British video game company Core Design for the PC DOS and Amiga in 1992. The game tells the comic fantasy story of Brad, a teenage boy from modern Earth who was magically abducted to the world of Enchantia by an evil witch queen. Brad needs to escape and take on the forces of darkness to find a way back to his own dimension.
Curse of Enchantia was Core Design's first attempt in the adventure genre as they set up to compete with LucasArts and Sierra On-Line. The game features several highly unconventional and controversial game mechanics and design choices for an adventure title from that era, including having many simple action game style sequences and being practically devoid of in-game text and conversations.
Nevertheless, Curse was generally well received upon its release, especially by the Amiga magazines, where the game's graphics and animation received particular praise even as its illogical puzzles and unusual design choices were often criticized. A direct sequel was briefly planned but eventually turned into a spiritual successor game titled Universe and released in 1994.
Curse of Enchantia uses a point and click user interface, similar to the King's Quest series. The player character is commanded with an icon based control bar that is accessible by pressing the right mouse button, which also pauses the game. The control bar features seven main actions: inventory, pick up/take, manipulate/use (opening up a sub-menu with eight further actions: unlock, insert, push/pull, eat, wear, throw, give and combine), look, talk (only either "Help!" or "Hi!"), attack, and jump. Usually, the protagonist has to stand in the immediate vicinity to the game's objects and characters, which then appear as icons in a separate bar, in order to interact with them. A joystick or computer keyboard input can also be used.
The game does not feature text-based object descriptions or conversations, as its few short scenes of rudimentary communication with friendly non-player characters use only a minimalist system of pictograms in comic book-style speech balloons, usually displaying the objects that the characters need to be delivered. Instead, the game features several action-style sequences, like dodging hazards or timing the use of items. However, the character is never at risk of dying, being effectively 'immortal' no matter the dangers, and thus every such task can be repeated until successfully completed, risking only losing a few points from the score. Objects of value, such as jewels and gold coins, can be collected throughout the game for a higher score.
In a parallel universe, a fantasy world of Enchantia is suffering under the terrible rule of a most vicious coven of wicked witches. One witch, who managed to surpass the others in her boundless cruelty and depravity, frantically seeks a live male child from another dimension as the main ingredient of her desired spell of eternal youth. She has created a perpetual portal connection to Earth for this purpose, ruthlessly destroying two of her 'sisters' in the process, and also borrowed magical from all the other witches in Enchantia power on the promise to make them too young forever.
One day in our world in the 1990s, an American young teenager named Brad plays a baseball practice with his sister Jenny when the nameless supreme witch of Enchantia spots him through the portal and incants a summoning spell, making him suddenly vanish in a flash of light. The game begins as Brad, dressed in medieval-style clothing, wakes up in a dungeon cell under the witch's castle. But the boy soon manages to escape, and then sets out on a journey to return home safely. In the course of his surreal adventure, he braves various dangers, meets a host of friendly and hostile characters, and rises to become a reluctant hero who just might break the titular curse and bring down the witches' reign.
After breaking out from his prison, Brad falls into a moat before coming to a halt in a maze of an underground cavern. Reaching the surface, he arrives at a nearby village, which is then sealed-off by the monsters sent after him. This location is repeatedly revisited throughout the game, as Brad comes back here after traveling to the various corners of the land: the Edge of the World cliff, the Ice Palace, and the Valley of the Lost (a place where all kinds of things lost on Earth have gone to), all while searching for a set of items that would help him emerge victorious from the game's final showdown. In the end, a friendly mage teleports him into a grave in a vampire-haunted cemetery near the castle from which Brad has escaped. Inside the castle, the boy goes seek out the evil queen's sanctum to confront the witch and defeat her once and for all. Once she is no more, he gets instantly transported back to the baseball field where it all had started.
Core Design's original idea for the game was to make it more like an action-adventure, before the project has evolved into a more classic adventure game. Its working title was initially Zeloria, which later caused some confusion as several video game magazines continued to use "Zeloria" as the name of the world in the game (some other magazines also incorrectly assumed Enchantia to be the name of the game's antagonist, who is actually unnamed). Some articles in video game magazines featured an earlier and slightly different version of the plot, which involved a castle of three evil witches, who needed to drink a special potion every hundred years or else they would turn to dust, and the protagonist Brad's original task involved a rescue of his captured sister Jenny.
It took a month for the project to be completely storyboarded before any programming work started on it. While the game's design evolved over time, its original plot remained largely intact. Several revisions resulted in some of the already made some graphics and other content being cut from the game, in particular in the final area of the castle's interior which at first was intended to be longer and to feature some monsters that would guard it. The game's story was partially inspired by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Snow Queen, and relies heavily on surreal humor and slapstick. It contains several Easter egg pop culture references, including the shop called "Benn's Costume Shop" (complete with a costume of Batman), a band named "The Slugs" (consisting of four humanoid slugs), getting into a frozen realm through a wardrobe, and encountering the wreck of Marie [sic] Celeste. Curse of Enchantia was described by Stuart Campbell as "a funny version of Lure of the Temptress with a different plot." He was not the only one who noted the both games' similarities to each other.
The both versions of the game, for the PC and the Amiga, were developed separately and simultaneously, in order to make the best possible product for each platform rather than a quick port from one system to another. A version for the Amiga CD32 had also been planned. The game mixes backgrounds hand-drawn with acrylic paint and then digitized by the concept artist Rolf Mohr, and sprite bitmap graphics made in Deluxe Paint and Brilliance on the Amiga with some rotoscoped animations. The animators Billy Allison and Stuart Atkinson created "huge" DPaint-made character sequences but they had to implement them in game in more efficient way due to computer memory limitations. In addition, the PC version used the full 8-bit color of a 256 color palette, but the Amiga version had to be downscaled to only 32 colors (including 24 colors for the background and eight colors for the main character; the other characters had to be drawn with these colors). The game also uses various digitized sound effects.
The game was supposed to be "an adventure for people who hadn't played that kind of game before." The protagonist's effective invincibility was a late demand by the executive producer Jeremy Heath-Smith, resulting in a series of minor plot changes. Toone said that the idea behind the concept was to make these parts of the game "interesting without being difficult." Core Design's Ian Sabine stated that the lack of text "speeds up gameplay". Regarding the decision to keep the onscreen text to a minimum, the game's co-designer and the Amiga version's chief programmer Rob Toone said that "too much reading can slow the game or kill it, like The Adventures of Willy Beamish," with Mohr adding that "hopefully, a picture will say a thousand words and make this system easy to use." According to Toone, "Lucasfilm gets most of its humour out of its text, whereas we hopefully get ours from comical animations and daft happenings."
Curse of Enchantia was officially revealed under this title at the European Computer Trade Show (ECTS) in April 1992. The game was originally planned to be released in September 1992, but got delayed two months to November 1992. It was the first adventure game by Core Design as well as one of the first CD-ROM adventure games. Virgin Games bundled it with many of the earliest PC CD-ROM drives in 1993. It was also re-released on CD as part of Encore Multipack, together with Heimdall and Thunderhawk.
The game's original release was accompanied by a promotional campaign with valuable prizes (computers and money) in some magazines such as France's Joystick. Two decades later in 2012, an advertisement for Curse of Enchantia was featured in GamesRadar's article making fun of "what game ads looked like when the SNES was alive."
Critical reception of Curse of Enchantia was mostly positive, especially in regard to its graphics and animation. However, the game was derided by some for its confusing user interface system, often illogical puzzle solutions and what some reviewers thought was a lack of quality humor, plot development and atmosphere, attributing it to the absence of text and dialogue.
British reviewers in particular have often praised the Amiga version of the game. Brian Sharp of Amiga Action gave this "well-made and cleverly constructed package" the Amiga Action Accolade award, calling it "flawless" and "easily the best adventure game on the Amiga to date." It hinted that using a joystick for control may make certain sections of the game "less annoying to play." Amiga Computing gave it the Gamer Gold award, calling the game "excellent", "down-right bloody enchanting" and Core Design's "easily greatest and most impressive game yet," and even advising to "buy it today because if you don't you will more than likely commit suicide, it's that good." Tony Gill of CU Amiga gave the game the CU Gold Screen award and said that while "some of the puzzles are a bit illogical, the further into the game you get the more luxurious it becomes. Around each bend the graphics get better and better." Les Ellis of Amiga Power said it was one of funniest games he has ever played and called it "a classic adventure, which with a few tweaks could have easily beaten the Monkey Island [series] and a worthy addition to any collection and will stand as a challenge to any adventurer." Atari ST User even called it a "contender for the best game of the year."
There was also much positive reception in the gaming press elsewhere in the English world. The "absolutely enchanted" Ken Simpson from Australia's ACAR said the game's "delightful" graphics and animation "are among the most tastefully executed [he has] ever seen," but noted the problems with its interface system and difficulty. One preview in North American magazine Computer Gaming World called it "a pretty looking product" of "a Loom / KQV / Legend of Kyrandia approach," even as another called it "actually more of a multi-screen puzzle game than a traditional animated adventure," adding that "gamers with a strong penchant for puzzle should find it entertaining" despite its "a bit clumsy" interface. Bill Holder of Australia's OZ Amiga called it "a light-hearted and funny adventure that appeals to almost everyone" and "one of the better releases of 1993."
On the other hand, Ed Ricketts of Amiga Format called Curse of Enchantia "light years behind" Monkey Island with "no comparison" to Monkey Island 2, as "the textless interface just doesn't work - despite the designers' belief, you do need words" and there is "no humour to speak of, no genuinely amusing humour, anyway." Even as a preview in The One Amiga called it a "game set to rival even the mightiest of American adventures," the magazine's David Upchurch wrote that "the game lacks real humour and atmosphere. This may be partly due to the lack of text in the game - it's hard to relate to the characters you meet," and "although entertaining, Curse of Enchantia is to Monkey Island 2 what Smash is to mashed potato," that is "just a weaker substitute." Lee Perkins of The Age opined that "Curse of Enchantia might be seen as a mite disappointing by fantasy gamers with moderately sophisticated tastes." PC Gamer UK described it an "average generic fare" as "the graphics are pretty" but the game "lacks atmosphere and feels too much like a succession of annoyingly vague puzzles rather than an adventure story."
In France, Curse of Enchantia was given the high ratings of 84% in Génération 4 (PC) and 90% (Amiga) / 91% (PC) in Joystick. The game also received a score of 79% from Sweden's Datormagazin. Nevertheless, German magazine PC Player gave it only 38%, saying that the game may make the players "nostalgic for Sierra titles." It received better scores from other German magazines, including 53/60 in ASM, 79% in Amiga Joker, 68% in both PC Joker and PC Games, and 70% (DOS) and 71% (Amiga) in Power Play. Italian magazine K gave it a score of 802/1000. Reception was strong in Poland, where Curse of Enchantia was positively reviewed in C&A (95%) and Secret Service (77%), and featured among "the best adventure games" of 1992 (alongside Alone in the Dark, Indiana Jones IV and The Legend of Kyrandia) by Computer Studio. However, in a 1993 ranking of graphic adventures games by Spanish magazine PCmanía, Curse of Enchantia received only three stars out of six due to its "strange" design and despite Core Design's "trademark" good graphics. A 1996 retro review by France's PC Soluces gave it three stars out of five, stating that the game's interesting characters, surrealist feel and varied graphics were dragged down by "a bit weak" plot and an interface that was not intuitive enough.
Retrospectively, the website GamersHell found the lack of any text messages and dialogue in the game to be "an interesting design element." However, Gry-Online included the lack of even partial descriptions of objects among the reasons why Curse of Enchantia failed to become an outstanding game, along with a too many user interface icons and "useless" features. Wirtualna Polska ranked it as the 27th best Amiga game, but noted that "proponents of adventure genre's purity" to this day dislike the game for its "unwise flirt" with action-adventure, as well as the 19th best adventure game in history, opining that the lack of written text "perfectly" fits with the game's story and specific type of humor. It was also ranked as the 26th best Amiga game by Polish console gaming magazine PSX Extreme, noted for its strong playability. Curse of Enchantia was also the first Amiga video game owned by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, who in 2012 made a Let's Play video of the PC version of the game, saying it had "great graphics, great animation, appalling game design."
A direct sequel for the game was briefly planned by Core Design. Few details were made available, but it would continue and conclude Brad's battle against the evil witches of Enchantia and his sister Jenny was considered to play a much larger role. However, it was never released (in part because of Robert Toone's departure from the company), as the new game "has grown up so much during the development that it has simply became a follow up." Its working title has still remained "Curse of Enchantia 2", but only "for practical reasons".
This spiritual successor game ultimately became known as simply Universe, Released in 1994, Universe uses an upgraded game engine of Curse of Enchantia and a similar user interface. Responding to some of the criticism of directed at Curse of Enchantia, Core Design described Universe as being "a lot" more logical and less linear than their first adventure game. They also described the text-based system as an improvement over the use of only icons, its benefits including allowing conversations between characters. They also acknowledged that Curse of Enchantia has "suffered considerably" due to inclusion of action sequences, something that "adventure gamers don't want in their games." The game's plot premise has remained similar to that of Curse of Enchantia, featuring a young man (the protagonist's name was changed from Brad to Boris, but he also has a sister named Jenny) who is transported to another world which has to save from an evil overlord. But Universe is more serious in its tone, as the game's humor only serves as comic relief and "it was never intended to be as silly as Enchantia."
Simon the Sorcerer, a 1994 adventure game similarly featuring a modern boy protagonist transported to a fantasy world where he has to vanquish an evil wizard, which was partially inspired by Curse of Enchantia. The game has also inspired the name of the Polish reggae band Enchantia, who chose this name because they thought it "feels warm". The game's chief artist Rolf Mohr said the cover art for Disney's 2007 film Enchanted could have been inspired by his cover art for Curse of Enchantia. He called it "a case of Art imitating Disney imitating Art," since he has been himself "definitely" inspired by Disney while working on the game. The "magical world of Enchantia" is the setting of the video game Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen, but it does not appear to be otherwise related.
- "THE VIRGIN GAMES CUSTOMER SERVICE CONNECTION" (PDF). Mocagh.org. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- Tony Gill, "Braving wicked witches and shark infested waters". CU Amiga, November 1992, pages 72-73.
- (German) DDF/Kate, "Bradley und die Hexe". ASM 8/1992.
- Curse of Enchantia game manual by Robert Toone and Kevin Norburn.
- Amazing Computer Magazine (June 1993), pages 83-84.
- Computer Gaming World 99, page 84: "Over There: enCore! enCore!".
- (French) Joystick 29 (8/92), page 30.
- Keith Grabban, "Giving the game away: Curse of Enchantia". Amiga Action 41 (February 1993), pages 78-81.
- Tim Tucker, Amiga Power 21, 22, 23 (the game walkthrough in three parts).
- (Slovene) R. Müller, "Curse of Enchantia". BiT 06/94 (June 1994), page 11.
- Yahtzee Croshaw and Gabriel Morton, "How Enchanting". Fully Ramblomatic, September 30, 2012.
- (Spanish) Luis Luque, "Curse of Enchantia: Contra las fuerzas del mal. Os enseñamos a golpear a una bruja con un bate de béisbol.” Micromania Segunda Epoca issue 61.
- The One Amiga 46 (July 1992), page 119.
- "First impressions: Curse of Enchantia", CU Amiga 29 (July 1992), page 43.
- "Verhext", Power Play Magazine 19/1992, p. 17-18.
- Jonathan Maddock, "Let's do the time warp...", Amiga Computing 55 (December 1992), pages 129-130.
- Ed Ricketts, "Game Review: Curse of Enchantia". Amiga Format 41 (December 1992), pages 136-137.
- Brian Sharp, "Blue Print: Curse of Enchantia". Amiga Action 36 (September 1992), page 56.
- (French) Génération 4 52 (pages).
- (German) Michael Anton, "Curse of Enchantia: Im tiefen Tal der Bösen Hexe". ASM Special 18, p. 16-20.
- Zero 36 (October 1992), page 87.
- (French) Generation 4 48 (October 1992), pages 75-77.
- (German) Volker Weitz, Power Play 11/92: "Hexensabbat: Curse of Enchantia" (Kultboy.com).
- (Spanish) "Lo historia de una antigua maldición", MicroManía 53.
- "Work in progress: We need a hero! Curse of Enchantia", The One Amiga 47 (August 1992).
- "Curse of Enchantia - ciekawostki - easter eggi" (in Polish). Przygodoskop.pl. Retrieved 2014-05-04.
- Stuart Campbell, "Things to come: Curse of Enchantia". Amiga Power 17 (September 1992), page 20.
- "Red Herring : Issue 11" (PDF). Mocagh.org. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- Rolf Mohr. "Illustrator & Concept Artist". Rolf Mohr. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
- "Billy Allison – animator" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-08-23.
- "Rolf Mohr's website". Reocities.com. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
- "Life, Core Design and everything", The One Amiga (January 1994), pages 36-37.
- "Across the Universe". Amiga Format 55 (January 1994).
- "The Autumn E.C.T.S Report By Richard Hewison". Retrieved 2013-08-23.
- (Spanish) MicroManía 54, page 18.
- "Curse of Enchantia". Hotud.org. Retrieved 2014-05-04.
- (French) Joystick 32 (11/92) pages 116-117.
- Matt Cundy, What game ads looked like when the SNES was alive, GamesRadar, June 23, 2012.
- Less Ellis, "Reviews (Amiga)", GamesMaster 1 (January 1993).
- PC Gamer UK (August 1994), page 88.
- Ken Simpson, "Curse of Enchantia". Australian Commodore & Amiga Review Volume 10 Issue 4 (April 1993), page 73.
- Brian Sharp, "Action-test: Curse of Enchantia", Amiga Action 38, November 1992, pages 44-46.
- Les Ellis, "Game Reviews: Curse of Enchantia", Amiga Power 19, November 1992, pages 56-57.
- Amiga User International Vol 7 No 3 (March 1993), pages 96-97.
- David Upchurch, "Review: Curse of Enchantia". The One Amiga 50 (November 1992), pages 68-70.
- Atari ST User 86, page 77.
- Computer Gaming World 101, page 108: "Over There: Foreign Correspondence".
- Computer Gaming World 113, page 266: "Sneak Peak".
- Bill Holder, OZ Amiga Vol 1 No 6 (April - May 1993), page 32.
- Lee Perkins, "Get your kixx from a package". The Age, 05/07/1995.
- (French) Génération 4 48 (10/92), page 74.
- (French) Joystick 32 (11/92), pages 244-245.
- (Swedish) Göran Fröjdh, Datormagazin 1/93 (January 1993), pages 42-43.
- (German) PC Player 2/93, page 74.
- (German) Michael Anton, "Von Hexen & Helden". ASM 11/1992, pages 6-8.
- (German) Monika Stoschek, "Bunter Hexenkessel: Curse of Enchantia". Amiga Joker 12/92.
- (German) PC Joker 1/1993, page 41.
- (German) Thomas Brenner, "Von Hexen und Baseballspielern". PC Games 2/93, page 63.
- (Italian) K 43, pages 68-69.
- (Polish) Bartek "VOYAGER" Dramczyk, "Curse of Enchantia: Klątwa czarownicy". Commodore & Amiga 8/93, pages 14-17.
- (Polish) Piotr "micz" Mańkowski, "Curse of Enchantia". Secret Service 5/94, pages 44-45.
- (Polish) Mariusz Czarnecki, "Curse of Enchantia". Computer Studio 1/93, pages 18-21.
- (Spanish) PCmanía 10, pages 77-78.
- (French) PC Soluces 5 (July–August 1996), page 52.
- "Curse of Enchantia PC Game Index Page". Gamershell.com. Retrieved 2014-05-04.
- "Curse of Enchantia (PC)" (in Polish). GRY-Online.pl. 2003-11-19. Retrieved 2014-05-04.
- "27. Curse of Enchantia - 30 najlepszych gier na Amigę" (in Polish). Gry.wp.pl. Retrieved 2014-07-05.
- "19. The Curse of Enchantia - 30 najlepszych gier przygodowych w historii" (in Polish). Gry.wp.pl. Retrieved 2014-07-05.
- Przemysław "Ściera" Ścierski (2010-10-23). "Retrobeściaki: Amiga Top 30 by Ściera - Aktualności - PlayStation, Xbox, Wii - Portal PSX Extreme" (in Polish). Ppe.pl. Retrieved 2014-07-05.
- (Spanish) PCmanía 8, page 48.
- "Curse of Enchantia 2 - gra przygodowa - przygodówka". Przygodoskop. Retrieved 2014-01-15.
- "First impressions". CU Amiga (January 1994), pages 70-71.
- (French) Joystick 39 (June 1993), page 96.
- Cam Winstanley, "The shape of the things to come: Universe". Amiga Power 34 (February 1994), pages 16-17.
- Amiga Computing 74 (August 1994), page 143.
- Dave Cusick, "Universe". Amiga Computing 78, October 1994.
- CU Amiga (April 1993), page 40.
- "Enchantia: reggae z komputerowej krainy - Czwórka" (in Polish). polskieradio.pl. 2011-11-15. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- "Enchantia czyli reggae z Gdyni" (in Polish). Muzyka.dlastudenta.pl. 2009-12-29. Retrieved 2014-05-04.
- ¿Swipes Encantados?, Rolf Mohr's blog, January 1, 2010.
- "Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen Collector's Edition Game > Download Free Games | Big Fish". Bigfishgames.com. Retrieved 2014-05-04.