It's a very basic and straightforward RPG, its creators not wanting to burden you with complications like instructions or telling you what the hell is going on. It saves you the effort of having to sit through an introduction and goes straight to telling you to reroll stats or to pick a class for your character. I like it when my games are to the point.
You have four stats - strength, agility, reason and vigour which, have some affect on the game. OK, I expect strength is how much damage you do, agility relates to your chances of getting hit, reason affects your spellcasting ability(?) and vigour definitely affects how many health points you get when you level up.
|Am I doing well? At least my character is smiling.|
There is a bar for health, energy, food and water. You need to eat and drink to stay healthy. Energy decreases whenever you perform an action and you cannot do anything other than move when it is 0. It increases with time, its speed being dependent on your food and water level(?)
Still, it's fun to discover!
You have the choice of four classes which get different bonuses from the available weapons and armour and they each have their own special skills, which you activate if you press the diamond icon while their right hand is empty. The warrior can perform a big attack (I think; it does reduce energy to 0), the thief can jump two squares (quite handy to get over pits), the priest can bless themselves and heal themselves simultaneously and the wizard can't do anything. Ah, that must be it! The wizard can cast spells (written on blue paper with yellow bits on the top and bottom) without destroying them after the first time they cast them. Nice work, wizard.
So it's not totally user friendly, but what it did do was make me work to find things out and experiment. In some weird twist to the story, plunging me into a dungeon with no instructions, aim or items made every mundane act an act of discovery. Wizards don't get the same bonuses from leather armour as warriors. If you press the diamond button while holding a club, you can throw it. This wall is fake. Some mirrors are magical and show you a map of the dungeon (you have to find out which ones by holding one in your right hand and, yes, pressing the diamond button) etc.
Eventually, after lots of experimenting, I managed to clear the various levels of the castle and make it to a crazy level with blue walls, dragons and crazy robots. I fought my way through this level to find a room where a floating yellow skull attacked me mercilessly. I killed it to get a congratulations message and then the game continued. Was that it? Did I just win? If so, why am I still playing on?
|This means game over.|
If you want to get ahead quickly, then you can find a fireball flinging sword if you fall down a couple of pits, so if you find the pits and can survive the fall, then you can get ahead. I also remember a way of finding a piece of twisted mithral when you are at a low level, which, if you throw it in the well, will raise your level to fourteen.
|Cheer up. Here's an|
'In the heat of the battle, you have forgotten all about the litte half orc...'
I certainly had. I wonder if Steve Jackson knew this?
So the lesson from Mystic Well is that keeping information secret in order to be found out is fun. I won't do it to the extent that Mystic Well did (and I can't in a gamebook due to the differences in format. Imagine if Fighting Fantasy didn't have a rules section.) But I must remember that discovery is fun :).
You can play Mystic Well on the PC if you download an Atari ST emulator (such as STEem) and then download the file.
Bonus extra review
The above link goes to a review written at the time. I love the following quote:
'The game itself was, as far as I could tell, well enough written and ran smoothly with very little disk accessing.'
This bought back a whole load of memories of my Atari ST where I would play for five minutes at a time before the computer accessed the disc. A little green light would flicker and the computer would make a soft thudding noise as the game would freeze, waiting for its next set of instructions. Mystic Well did not need to access the disc very much. It's funny what people used to look for in a game.
Finally, if you are Jim Todd, the creator of Mystic Well, please get in touch as I'd love to know what all the stats mean and what the spell Mnemonic enhancer does.