The Colour of Magic

Piranha, £9.95


Bear with me one moment... I’m just looking for a photograph that’s been lying around my floor for about eight weeks and it seems such a shame not to mention it after someone went to all the trouble to shoot it and everything. It shows a Mike, a Fergus and a Stephanie with the label, ‘Level 9 sign contract with Delta 4’, which sounds the wrong way round, but all seem happy in the photo.

Well, the upshot of it is that this Fergus McNeil chappie is popping up just about everywhere, and it’s all that his sidekick, Judith Child, can do to stop him. I mean to say, I’m sure amongst the folder of info proffered by Piranha to go with this game there was one bit that indicated a slight lack of enthusiasm for the Colour project on her behalf. Really, Judith, having read about two-thirds of the book to date I can say I think it’s an excellent book, one of a kind (whatever that means).

I’ll be quite honest here — I had never heard of the book by Terry Pratchett called The Colour of Magic but a friend who reads WHITE DWARF had, but there again, he’s heard about and read just about everything in the science fiction and fantasy fields. Now, if you’re reading this review, and you’ve read the book, and, what, you’ve played the game as well... then what the heck are you reading this for — a second opinion? No, seriously, you’ve got no idea what the book’s about and you want to know what the game can offer. Well, the answer is the game has much to offer and the book is all about the magical number eight (hence the crummy joke at the beginning about eight weeks — oh, you get it now do you(??)?)

The chief character in the book, and the one you whisk around the environs of Ankh Morpork and beyond in the game, is a hapless wizard named Rincewind who winces his way through all manner of mishaps and unbelievably bad runs of luck. Take his training as a wizard, where, sneaking a peek at a powerful grimoire he ended up with one of the spells leaping from the pages and lodging in his mind. This curtailed any further studies, meaning he couldn’t cast spells like other wizards. It wouldn’t be so bad if he had any control over the one spell he does possess, but this isn’t so; the spell leaps out of its own accord.

But the magical dabbler isn’t a total loss as he is an excellent translator and it is this skill which brings him crashing into the storyline. The big picture has four gargantuan elephants supporting a disc atop the meteor-pocked shell of a turtle by the name of Great A’Tuin. Because the Discworld is supported by this turtle tracking its way across the skies, this gives licence for a joke concerning its Steady Gait crawling or its Big Bang rendezvous (this involving some mating on a cosmological scale, get it).

Now if you’re not so sharp with the old memory, forget all the curious creatures in the sky and just consider the Discworld for one moment. There is a long waterfall wisping away at its circumference but more relevant to the game is its makeup which does away with the normal east, west, south movements and replaces them with Hubward, Rimward, Turnwise and Widdershins.

The Hub of the DiscworId is never closely warmed by the sun and the islands there are locked in permafrost. The Rim is a region of sunny islands and balmy days. Turnwise and Widdershins are less obvious, but relate to the direction of spin on the Discworld where Widdershins opposes the 800 day spin direction. There are 8 days in a disc week and 8 colours in its light spectrum with the eighth colour being octane which is a sort of greenish-yellow..., purple. Eight is a number of some occult significance and in some places (like the temple of Bel-Shamharoth) shouldn’t even be mentioned. Needless to say, Rincewind’s room in the Unseen University’s Halls of Residence was the unfortunately contrived 7a!

The next piece of geography brings us back to the twin cities of Ankh-Morpork and the plot of the adventure. Ankh-Morpork are the foremost of all the cities bounding the circle Sea, but even so, few people from the counterweight continent on the other side of the Discworld have ever wanted to visit them. None before have been as reckless as the tourist, Twoflower, who in this story lands at the harbour in Morpork and proceeds to throw his considerable money around. These gold pieces, or Rhinu, are no more than a humble clerk’s savings from the Counter Continent but in Ankh-Morpork, whose currency is devalued with copper and silver, these monies represent vast wealth. Were this not enough Twoflower’s luggage is made of sapient pearwood, and Rincewind is fully aware that even an Archmage, by dint of great effort over many years, would struggle to fashion a mere staff, never mind a trunk. What is a little un-nerving, however, are the tourist’s four eyes and some peculiarities concerning his luggage — like the fact it sprouts many tiny legs to go about its business and can munch a man’s arm with its rows of sharp teeth.

Rincewind’s first task is to wrest the gullible tourist from the assorted low-lifes around him eager to get their hands on some of those gold-rich Rhinu. Broadman, the owner of the Broken Drum, is already trying to fleece Twoflower of many a Rhinu when Rincewind overhears the commotion from his seat in a dark corner of the tavern. Being a multi-linguist, he eventually identifies the tourist’s tongue which leads to the following popping up: ‘Rincewind attempted to translate. After trying almost every conceivable tongue (Chimeran, Vanglemesht, Sumtri, even Black Oroogu, a language with no nouns, and only one adjective, which is obscene) he finally, in desperation, mumbled a few words of heathen Trob. The little man’s face lit up’.

The Colour of Magic is a super book (a Corgi paperback) and therefore the Quilled and Illustrated computer game was always going to be something worth playing. But the Delta 4 team of Judith Child and Fergus McNeil have done a really competent job of coding the concept. The text, like the plot, is very close to the book. The pictures are quite good and the presentation (I particularly liked the full moon which parts to accept your input) is very neat. The game comes in four parts which makes the asking price seem very reasonable. Any money spare should certainly be directed towards purchasing the paperback as without it the game, I’m sure, could appear a little mysterious.


Difficulty: could prove puzzling without reading the book
Graphics: okay
Presentation: good
Input facility: a little beyond verb/noun
Response: fast
General rating: good

Addictive quality89%