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Back in 1983 I had an issue of Video Games Player magazine and on the back inside cover was an advertisement for a game that haunted me for months. Why did it haunt me you ask? Well simply because I had no computer to play this particular game at the time and the advertisement teased me oh so much that I begged for a Commodore 64 or Atari 8-Bit to play it on. But at least for a while, my parents wouldn’t give in and so I had to only yearn for the game while staring at what was one of the coolest advertisements of the day. That game was Necromancer by Synapse and I bet many of you also remember this ad very well!
Surprisingly enough I did end of getting a Commodore 64 eventually, but then ended up totally forgetting about this game until years later. Well, it just so happens I finally picked up a boxed copy of Necromancer for my C64 and have played it for the very first time this week. After all these years did it live up to my expectations from so many years ago? And does it still stand up today as a fun video game? Well read on to find out!
Necromancer was a game created by Bill Williams, who sadly passed away back in 1988, just five years after the game’s release. It is a hard game to describe but I will do my best. I will tell you all right now Necromancer was a gaming masterpiece that if you have yet to play you must track down a copy and add it to your collection. You won’t be disappointed!
Necromancer is a game that is made up of three different screens (or acts) and play mechanics. The first “act” sees your magical druid in the middle of the screen. Here you control your Wisp with the joystick and your goal is to plant as many seeds as you can and then protect them as they grow slowly into mammoth trees. Ogres and poisonous spiders close in from all directions on your growing trees. As they take root and grow you must protect them by moving your Wisp over the Ogres and Spiders to “eat” them. Ogres can’t hurt fully grown trees so once a tree reaches that level of growth you no longer need to protect it from them. However, the Spiders hate the adult trees and can still poison them which gives you only a short time to heal them before they turn into useless stumps. You begin with ten seeds to plant and can get more from an Eye Pod (Apple would be so proud). Your goal in this first act is to grow as many trees as possible so they can then be taken to the next act The Vaults.
The vaults are another strange level where you now use your tree army, cultivated in the first act, to destroy spider larvae that are growing beneath the various vault openings. Using your Wisp you control the trees and walk them over the vaults containing the spider larvae. After the tree is planted above the larvae its roots will break through the vault and come crashing down on the spawning spider larvae and killing it. In addition, while guiding your trees across the screen you must avoid the Hands of Fate (I wonder if this hand is related to the hand in Joust?) which reach down at random times grabbing whatever is beneath. If a tree is grabbed, it is lost for good. The Hands of Fate also leave occasional goodies and mystery prizes that can be picked up by your wizard druid.
In all there are five levels of vaults to get through accessed by ladders that go down deeper and deeper. Once the fifth vault level is complete act three begins and pits you face to face against the evil Necromancer in his lair. In these levels you have to quickly run your druid over all the grave sites which is where the Necromancer appears and reincarnates from, moving from grave to grave. You must clear five levels of gravestones so that the Necromancer can no longer reincarnate. The Necromancer also hatches all the larvae that was left behind on the previous vault levels and must be quickly dealt with via your Wisp. There are a variety of other spiders that grow and spawn in the Necromancer’s lair and have to be dealt with as well. When all thirteen gravestones are removed from each level, bonus points are collected for finishing the level and you go to the next level, five in all. When the last gravestone is grabbed the Necromancer runs out of graves to reincarnate in and the forest explodes in a rainbow of colors and the game ends. You have defeated the evil Necromancer!
I know this game sounds strange but it all plays great and I enjoy how each level’s quality of completion is carried forward to the following levels. This game will give your hands and joystick a major workout but it all is worth it as Necromancer is a hidden treasure from 8-bit days gone by. Necromancer was available on Commodore 64, the Atari 8-bit line of computers and even in cartridge form on the Atari XE.
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