Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Game 52: MAG: A Dungeon Adventuring Game (1988)

At first glance, Mike's Adventure Game (which I will abbreviate MAG from now on) is the same game as Rogue (reviewed here), although you're trying to find the Sudbury Sapphire instead of the Amulet of Yendor. Check out these two screen shots, the top from MAG and the bottom from Rogue, and tell me if you see any real difference.

The textures are virtually identical. The games are the same in that you do not pick a particular class, and your attributes are only hit points and strength. Levels are randomly generated. You kill monsters represented by letters, you find unidentified potions, scrolls, and rings, and so on. There are secret doors that you have to search for, and traps that put you to sleep, teleport you, and hold you in place for a time. You can find riches, but there are no stores in which to spend them--they just add to your overall score. Like Rogue, it deletes your saved game when you reload, meaning that death is permanent.

And yet your fame lives on.

Away from the surface, though, MAG has a number of innovations that distinguish it from Rogue and make it more of a transition between Rogue and NetHack. Though perhaps the game is simply derivative of Hack, which was also such a transition. I didn't play it. In any event, here are the new features I've found:

  • Doors are sometimes stuck or require a key (found at other parts on the level) to open.

  • Enemies can set off traps, and if they do, you hear the sounds of it in the distance.
  • Like the nymphs in NetHack, there are fairies that steal your stuff.
  • But there are also scrolls of genocide!

No more stealing my stuff.

  • I don't remember rings of resurrection in Rogue, although they may have been there. If you're wearing one when you die, you automatically get resurrected, although with no equipment, so you're very likely to just die again.

  • If you see a torch on the wall, you can light it or extinguish it.

The developer also seems to have made the game slightly easier. The monsters respawn on each level, though not quite so rapidly. You need food and get hungry, but you find a lot more food than I remember in Rogue and you don't get hungry quite as fast. Unlike Rogue (but like NetHack), you can backtrack to previous levels. Monsters are more likely to drop food, so you can stay on a low level and grind for a while without worrying about starvation.

That doesn't mean the game is "easy," though. It is a roguelike, after all. Like most of them, escaping from battle is virtually impossible once engaged, and this screen appears frequently:

Nonetheless, in the first few hours I played the game, I managed to get a character (my sixth, I think) to Level 10 without dying, and the game notes seem to suggest that the Sapphire appears on Level 20 or so.

I'll give it at least six hours, but it's not yielding so many innovations over Rogue and other roguelikes that it's worth too much time. It's worth the $10 that developer Mike Teixeira asked for in 1988. The version I downloaded had a small instruction guide from Mike with two e-mail addresses, so he must have re-released the game after 1988; I'll see if he's available at either.


  1. If you are thinking about Mars Saga next, Wikipedia notes that it is a rushed and somewhat broken early release of the fixed and re-branded 1989 game, Mines of Titan. (Which I have in my closet.) I've been confused about the difference between the two in the rare occasions when I have thought about the game, but if you go through with Mars Saga note that "six different skills that a character can train in are useless" as they are in the game but not hooked up to do anything.

  2. I'm not sure the original Mars Saga was actually published for DOS, like Wikipedia and Mobygames suggest. I haven't been able to find it anywhere, just the improved remake that is Mines of Titan. I guess this could be pushed into 1989.

  3. Mines of Titan! Mines of Titan! (I am excited, for I think that the CRPG Addict will appreciate this one!)

  4. Roguelikes are my absolute favorite subgenre of CRPGS, and this is one I'd never heard of before. Thanks, addict!

  5. I played Mars Saga and enjoyed it quite a bit many years ago, but I thought it was Commodore 64 only. If there is a DOS release, I'd love to try it!

  6. I'm looking forward to the Mars Saga playthrough as well. Never played it, but it sure looks interesting.

  7. I highly recommend reading the wikipedia entries on Mars Saga and Mines of Titan. Although they don't clear up whether Mars Saga was released for DOS (I'm still not sure myself), they do highlight the differences and also point out a potential game-breaking issue with common abandonware copies of MoT.

  8. Also, you'll absolutely need the documentation for Mines of Titan. I had played and finished the c64 version as a younger person. I'm now going through the PC version (found on Home of the Underdogs) and I needed copy protection codes from within the manual. Plus, tons of good flavor text in it.

    I hope it's not a copy that breaks in the last battle like it says on the wiki!

  9. Every day not spent playing Might and Magic II is a wasted day.

    Although, I must confess to being a bit worried. Though I started off with the DOS version, years later I moved to the Sega Genesis port, which I recall thinking made many appreciated streamlining changes (spell names, for instance!). I just hope the original is everything I remember it to be! Also, yeah, MAG is intriguing,

  10. mag was interesting. I have a very different version of mag, I think I have PCMAG, and I'm sure it has no colour, not 100% there. I dont know if Mike ever saw the rogue source, but I think it was more a game of imitation than copying and making a minor variant of rogue.

  11. I'm really looking forward to M&M II as well, but I'm a bit worried that I'll have to skip it for fear of spoilers, since I plan to play it and it's supposed to be such an amazing game. I haven't read the posts here on Ultima 3 & 4 either, for the same reason..

  12. Actually, I'm looking forward to Knights of Legend (1989). One reviewer on Moby Games says, "It is without doubt the single most tedious game I have ever played." The other says, "Knights of Legend is the best role-playing game I've ever played." Heh, heh.

    That's a game I really, really wanted to like. I remember being desperate for a turn-based RPG at the time, and this one seemed to be exactly what I wanted in a game. But it was virtually unplayable.

    I kept going back to it, thinking that it just couldn't be as bad as I'd remembered. The combat was just so neat,... and so completely ridiculous for a game, especially since you could only save the game in town. Anyway, just knowing that someone else experienced this game, even briefly, would give me some solace. :)

    I can't wait until you get to it, but I don't recommend that you waste much time there.

  13. Anonymous, Helm, Joel, and Hunterz, thanks for your background info on Mars Saga/Mines of Titan. See my last paragraph in the second "MAG" posting for my decision. Helm, it sounds like you were excited about the game, so sorry you'll be waiting a little longer.

    Aelfric ought to be happy, though. Taylor, the first couple of postings ought to be safe. After that, no guarantees.

    Max, give it a shot and let me know what you think. It'll be interesting hearing from the perspective of someone that really likes roguelikes. I'm coming to appreciate them, but I don't think I'll ever really love them.

    Now I'm intrigued about KoL, WCG. It's 37 games away. When I started this blog, I hoped to write about a lot of games that were jaw-droppingly awful, but that hasn't really happened much.

  14. I believe Knights of Legend was one of the first games programmed by one of the original duo that did Doom, if I'm not mistaken...

  15. KOL is a very half completed game that never felt like it was completed by the programmers, its so.. long and boring with little to do and what it does it massivly overcomplicates. I so badly wanted to like it, it comes on a huge number of disks for the c64 (iirc)... I mean, how many of origin's games of that scope sucked? KOL sucked...

  16. Knights Of Legend made by Todd Porter (dont know if he worked on Doom) was not completed.
    But it has imho the best combat system ever (and I compare too my favorite rpg : Fallout 2, Temple of elemental evil, Baldur Gates II, etc)
    Let's list what we found in this game that was, in my sense, never done in other crpg:
    -Intelligence and Foresight as attribute used to know what your enemy will do as a next move and so be able to react accordingly.
    -Race impact combat gameplay: Dwarf cannot 'run' (a 3 step move) Kelder (new race) can fly (being unreachable by melee). In other crpg being a dwarf or an orc doesn't change anything beside the stat bonus.
    -Size taken into account : small character could not aim at the head of taller enemies.
    -each combat move cost a certain amount of fatigue depending also on the weight of your armor. And when you're too fatigued you fall. Spell take a heavy load on fatigue, and all of a sudden Mage not wearing armor make sense, and player choose it voluntarily.

    On the bad side, all of this was poorly used as combat can become pretty tedious, and the UI is pretty lame. The story is a bit convoluted, and the lack of completion impact greatly the leveling (some teaching master just does not exist)

    Knowing KOL is coming in a near future for the Addict, I'm realy looking forward to know what he had to say about it.

  17. It hurts so much to imagine someone thinking Knights of Legend "sucked." The only thing that sucked about the game was the unforgivingly difficult combat system. And yes, that was a huge part of the game. But to follow up on Anonymous' early 2012 point: character creation, NPC interaction, equipping your characters (with the best paper doll system seen up until that time), and exploration ... all these things were legitimately amazing for the time, and some of them have basically still not been topped (I dare you to find a more fulfilling paper doll system, particularly given that the "war hammer" was literally an enormous modern day hammer). The game definitely deserves to be remembered in a positive light, albeit as an example of something way too difficult.

    That said ... as to this posting, you know e-mail addresses did exist in 1988, too; I will just assume that they you knew they were more modern by their domain (like an address or something).

    1. Did "" really exist in 1988? I know AOL users had user names and could send mail through the system, but I didn't think the modern system of domains was appended to those names until the 1990s. In any event, one of the e-mail addresses was an address, which I'm 99% sure didn't show up until about 1995.

      To be fair on KoL, there were a lot of things about that game that sucked, not just the difficult combat, but I wouldn't apply that label to the game as a whole.


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