Magic Carpet (video game)
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European DOS cover art
|Platform(s)||MS-DOS, PlayStation, Saturn|
1996 (PS1, Saturn)
Magic Carpet is a 3D flying video game developed by Bullfrog Productions and published by Electronic Arts in 1994. Its graphics and gameplay were considered innovative and technically impressive at the time of its release.
An expansion pack, Magic Carpet: Hidden Worlds, was released for DOS in 1995 which added 25 levels and winter-themed graphics. A compilation package, Magic Carpet Plus, which included the main game and the expansion was used as a base for PlayStation and Sega Saturn ports that were released in 1996. A sequel was released in 1995, Magic Carpet 2: The Netherworlds.
The player plays a wizard on a magic carpet flying over water, mountains and other terrain while destroying monsters and rival wizards (which are controlled by the computer) and collecting "mana" which is gathered by hot air balloons and stored in the player's own castle.
The story is told in a cutscene that depicts the pages of a book being flipped. According to this back story, mana was discovered and though it initially had beneficial uses, the quest for it made the lands barren. Worse, many corrupt wizards began turning to mana for their own nefarious purposes, eventually leading to war between them. The battling wizards began using more destructive spells and summoning deadly monsters, the latter of which often turned against them. One wizard hoped to end everything with an all-powerful spell but instead only left the worlds shattered. Only his apprentice survived and his goal is to restore the worlds to equilibrium.
The player has to visit several small spherical "worlds" (50 in the original game and an additional 25 in the expansion). The goal in each world is to build a castle and fill it with the necessary percentage of the total mana in the current level (or "world"), restoring it to "equilibrium". The total mana level is fixed in each world.
The player can destroy enemy monsters and then salvage the mana they leave behind, represented by pearls of varying sizes. To accomplish this, the player has to possess the mana so that mana-collecting balloons bring them to the player's castle (the balloons ignore mana that are unpossessed or possessed by an enemy wizard). Greater amounts of mana stored in the castle allow the player to expand the castle and cast more powerful spells.
As the player expands the castle, it spawns additional balloons and armed guards that defend the castle against attacks by enemy wizards. Besides storing mana, the player's castle also serves as a home base for the player character where he can regain health and mana. Upon death, the player character respawns at his castle. Dying without a castle forces the player to restart the level since the game does not have a mid-level save feature. As long as the player's castle is at least partly intact, the player character cannot die.
The magic carpet can be piloted in three dimensions, similar to a helicopter, although the player cannot roll and it is impossible to crash. Instead, when the carpet approaches an obstacle, it automatically ascends to fly over the obstacle.
For offense, there are scorching fireballs, very accurate lightning bolts and devastating meteors. For defence, players can heal themselves, bring up a shield to reduce damage from enemy fire, and even use rebound to deflect certain fire-based spells back at the enemy.
In multiplayer, there is no completely dominant spell, which often adds some balance to the game and results in several tactical dilemmas. For instance, meteor is usually considered to be among the most powerful attacks and can often kill weakened wizards with a single hit, but it becomes a double-edged sword if the target wizard has rebound cast. However, rebound is not a perfect defense. It costs a good deal of mana and, as with all other spells, does not allow one's mana reserve to recharge while it is in use. Moreover, it does not defend against lightning and many other powerful attacks. Lightning bolts are more accurate and more powerful than fireballs but lack the latter's longer range.
Exotic spells include teleport, which takes the player back to his castle and returns him to his original location if cast a second time, and skeleton army which creates undead archer minions for either attacking enemy castles or wreaking havoc in civilian towns.
Revolutionary for the time were real-time terrain-altering spells such as crater, volcano, and earthquake; it is possible for the player to carve through a continent (rather than splitting apart a land mass, earthquake digs a twisting gorge in the ground), build up a volcano, or dig a lake (with crater). Even the staple build castle spell is interesting; casting it in a suitable location would cause the ground to morph up into the shape of a fortress. Players soon discovered that crater was very useful against monsters and wizards alike on high ground, as (literally) sinking the earth from under the target was often sufficient to kill it, and for monsters the resulting crater would provide a handy hole in the ground to keep all of the mana together. Volcano proves to be an extremely deadly castle killer, creating damage both from the initial strike and from the lava rocks that fly out in the subsequent eruption and bounce along the ground, causing further damage along the way. Even the staple castle itself is proficient at destroying legions of weaker enemies (indeed, it will kill nearly any kind of monster that happens to be over the player's castle at the time); strategically casting it right in the middle of a swarm can net a weak player lots of mana to quickly build up his strength.
After level 26 the player could not retain spells picked up in earlier levels. This presented new challenges for players. For example, some levels' challenge depended heavily on barriers and mazes in the form of walls that the player could not cross over. Certain spells such as Crater, Earthquake, and/or Volcano would tend to make such obstacles useless. On certain levels, crucial spells, such as Castle, were left out entirely or were only available after the player had completed a desired task (usually along the lines of killing all of the monsters on the level).
Magic Carpet Plus replaced the rarely used flamewall with the guided meteor (specifically for anti-player duels, as opposed to the regular general-purpose meteor).
Krakens dwell in bodies of water. They use the Duel spell to prevent wizards from escaping and holding them within range of the Kraken's lightning bolts.
Wyverns are the most dangerous enemies (apart from other wizards), due to their flight, rapid fireball breath weapon, and their large amount of hitpoints. Also unique is their aggression, being one of the few monsters to actively attack both castles and towns.
Genies cannot directly harm the player's health; however, their Steal Mana spell will drain the player's mana power, limiting his capabilities in encounters with other wizards or monsters. Genies are not only unrelenting in their pursuit, but if sufficiently wounded, they will teleport away to heal themselves.
Griffins are usually unaggressive monsters, but when attacked, the entire pack will retaliate and will carry a grudge against the player for the rest of the level (unless another wizard attacks them, causing the griffins to switch their attention to the attacker).
The crabs are unique in that they can "consume" loose mana and by doing so gradually grow in size from tiny to large, gaining the use of increasingly powerful spells (first Fireball, then Lightning, and finally Meteor) accordingly. Sufficiently large crabs can even lay eggs to hatch new crabs. The consumed mana can be released by killing the crab.
There are seven computer-controlled wizards with an associated color to be found along the journey: Vodor, Gryshnak, Mahmoud, Syed, Raschid, Alhabbal, and Scheherazade.
The player character is called Zanzamar by default, and his flags are a white color.
The enemy wizard AI has limitations. Enemy wizards only use a subset of spells on any given level; most commonly this includes at most Accelerate, Fireball and Rapid Fireball, Lightning Bolts, Meteor, Rebound, and possibly Shield in addition to Castle and Possess Mana; on tougher levels, Volcano, Heal, Cloak, and Skeleton Army might also be part of their arsenal. As well, wizards also have tendencies which can be exploited. For example, on certain levels, enemy wizards spend most of their time attacking other castles, ignoring both the protection of their own fortresses and the need to acquire more mana. As a more general example, enemy wizards are programmed to always attack monsters when they have nothing else to do; on many levels this leads to the spectacle of wizards industriously attempting to kill griffin or wyverns with nothing more than the basic Fireball spell, often with disastrous results. Wizards will sometimes build castles in bad places, such as next to a maze wall or next to a town. When a castle is too close to a town/wall, it cannot be expanded.
The game was promoted with a marketing budget of $307,600.
The PlayStation version retains many of the PC version's spells. The map has changed slightly, and some of the monster graphics and enemy wizard graphics are slightly different. As in the PC game, one can only save at the end of the level. Enemy wizards now have a health-bar over their heads, so the player can see when they are close to death. This version does not support multiplayer, but does contain the Hidden Worlds expansion as a reward for finishing the game in "Normal" mode.
There was also a port for the Sega Saturn console. It is largely identical to the PlayStation version, and likewise includes the Hidden Worlds expansion. Gaming journalist Ed Lomas reported the technical differences from the PlayStation version as: the sky is animated in a "sliding wallpaper" fashion (whereas it moves in 3D in the PlayStation version), the sprites are more detailed, and the shadows lack the translucency effect.
Atari Jaguar CD
A port for the Atari Jaguar CD was in development after Atari Corporation made a deal with Electronic Arts to bring some of the latter's titles to the system in the middle of 1995, with Magic Carpet being among them. The port was announced during the same month for a general 1995 release and later slated for a December 1995 release. Despite kept being advertised in magazine ads and catalogs, in addition of internal documents from Atari Corp. still listing the port under development, this version was never released for unknown reasons until Mike Diskett, one of the playtesters of the title and programmer of the Atari Jaguar versions of Syndicate and Theme Park revealed in a 2015 forum post at AtariAge that he was working on the conversion in-house before Atari bought the rights to the title and port it themselves.
Reviewing the Saturn version in GamePro, Tommy Glide lauded the game's massive size, wide open 3D environment, morphing terrain animations, subtle touches to the sound effects, and accessible controls. He concluded that "If you want to break out of those corridor adventures and play an original first-person shooter, test-drive this carpet of the Persian persuasion." Sam Hickman of Sega Saturn Magazine approved of both the originality of the game and the accuracy of the Saturn port, summarizing that "as a conversion, Magic Carpet is actually very good. As a game in its own right it's nigh on brilliant." She criticized the absence of multiplayer mode, but praised the inclusion of additional levels and a new spell, as well as the more streamlined spell system, and described it as one of the Saturn's most visually impressive games to date. Maximum assessed that the Saturn version is graphically less impressive than the PC and PlayStation versions, but carries over the gameplay flawlessly. They praised the game itself for its deep and original yet enjoyable gameplay, summarizing it as "a perfect mix of strategy and mindless blasting".
Reviewing the PlayStation version, the four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly commented that the controls and interface are confusing at first, and that the graphics become pixelated when getting close to objects, but three of the four felt that it was an overall enjoyable game. Tommy Glide gave it the same ratings as the Saturn version in all four categories, and reiterated his praises for that version. A Next Generation critic commented in a brief review that "Magic Carpet has a lot of challenging action. But a weird control scheme and so-so graphics fail to deliver." However, the magazine's review of the Saturn version in the same issue was much more positive, praising the originality, demanding strategy, massive length, and "airy, mystical quality".
- "Rugged". Next Generation. No. 13. Imagine Media. January 1996. p. 164.
Bullfrog's original Magic Carpet will always be remembered for its innovative style and engaging gameplay.
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It's Easy To Get Carried Away With Bullfrog's Beautiful MAGIC CARPET
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