• magisterrex Retro Games

    I've been gaming since the days of Pong and still own a working Atari 2600. I tend to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. Sometimes I digress. Decades after earning it, I'm finally putting the skills I learned while completing my history degree from the University of Victoria to good use. Or so I think. If you're into classic old school gaming, this blog is for you!

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Forgotten Classics: Wonderland (1990)

“Forgotten Classics” is a celebration of obscure PC games that weren’t released to widespread fanfare – or simply fell of the radar of gamers at the time of their release – and deserve a second look. In this installment: Wonderland, an adventure game developed by the British game developer Magnetic Scrolls and published by Virgin Games in 1990.

Box art for Wonderland

Wonderland was a game set in the Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland mythos. You played Alice as she made her way through the bizarre Wonderland landscape, solving puzzles and enduring plenty of puns. However, the plot of the game did not follow that of the book, although familiar characters, such as the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Duchess, and the Red Queen all appeared to delight the player (or confound them).  However, only the characters from Alice in Wonderland appeared; there were no characters or scenes from the sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass (which meant no Tweedledum and Tweedledee!).  Even so, there were still around 110 locations to explore in all their surreal glory.

Magnetic Scrolls developed an interesting game engine called “Magnetic Windows” which they used for Wonderland. Rather than one game screen, Magnetic Windows permitted several game screens to be opened at once (much like Microsoft Windows), and each window could be moved or resized as needed. So a player could have their inventory screen, a screen with details about a particular object, the game map, a specific room item list, a compass, a help menu, the main screen with a graphic, and more all open at once. Particularly enjoyable for those who tired of the constant switch between game map – inventory – action screen that most games used.

Wonderland received generally good reviews: “…very simply, it’s fun stuff to play” (Computer Game Review, June 1991); “Wonderland has shown me that the adventure-game genre is alive and growing” (Compute!, August 1991);  “an atmospheric and cerebellum-crushing adventure game…”  (Amiga Power, June 1991).  It was (and is!) an enjoyable romp through a classic landscape. It doesn’t have much repeat play value, but being of the adventure game genre, it’s not really fair to expect it to. For those who have never parsed a text, give Wonderland a chance to show you what gaming was like twenty years ago!


4 Responses

  1. I remember buying this when it was newly released. Did a search to rediscover it here. I may still have the original box and install disc(s)… somewhere. Loved it back when I played it. Fantastic game. At the time it was, well, pretty magical. Nice you included it in your Forgotten Classics.

  2. I haven’t tried Wonderland before, but loved one of their other odd games, Jinxter. It’s a bit of a shame that Magnetic Scrolls didn’t get anywhere near the fanfare it deserved… While they weren’t remotely as prolific as Infocom, all of the reviews I’ve seen from oldschool IF fans that played them back in the day seem to suggest that the quality was similarly strong.

    Also, I find that interactive-fiction games do have replay value in the long run, since after several years I won’t recall precisely where everything is or how to solve all of the puzzles. Revisiting locations (or experiences) that had been particularly vividly-described makes it a little more pleasurable in some ways, as I get to look forward to & enjoy reaching them so the description is renewed in my mind.

  3. I still love this one. Love it, though I no longer have the 5.25″ disk drive necessary to install it properly. Excellent write-up!

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