Although many people remember Sierra and LucasArts for their incredible adventure games, other companies produced a few gems, too. Legend Entertainment managed to procure the publishing rights to a slew of literary properties, including Frederik Pohl’s Gateway, Terry Brooks’ Shannara, Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s The Death Gate Cycle, and Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, the focus of this game of the week blog entry, Companions of Xanth.
Companions of Xanth was based on the best-selling, pun-filled Xanth series of fantasy fiction by Piers Anthony. The game was based on – and further fleshed out – one of the books in the series, Demons Don’t Dream. To emphasize the connection, the softcover novel was included in the box. This 1993 game followed Dug, a Mundane from Mundania, as he competes in a world-shaking quest thrust upon his shoulders by the demons E(A/R)th and X(A/N)th.
Dug travels Xanth with a Companion who is there to try to keep him out of trouble as he has no experience with the magical dangers that Xanth is rife with. When you begin the game you are offered a choice from four Companions: Nada Naga, Jenny Elf, Che Centaur, and the Demoness Metria. Choosing any Companion other than Nada Naga results in a failed game, which irritated some gamers.
The game plays as a standard mouse controlled adventure game. You select what action you want to do from a list of verbs, then select the object with which you want to perform the action. Unlike some Legend adventure games, there is no text input. Inventory management is controlled by the mouse in a similar fashion, by selecting the object and then the action. Graphics are crisp at 256 color VGA, with the player touring various scenic vistas of Xanthian beauty.
The “puzzles” in Companions of Xanth are not terribly difficult, and operate in typically twisted Xanth fashion. Those who cannot turn their hats backwards will find this terribly annoying, and simply won’t understand where they should be searching. Some scenes are one puzzle wonders, which mirror the one-pun scenes in the novels. It pays to have read and enjoyed previous books in the Xanth series so you know what kind of logic applies.
I quite enjoyed this game as it was fun to adventure in the magical world of Xanth. It has a different vibe than some games, which can put some people off, but as far as I’m concerned, Companions of Xanth is a retro gaming classic!