Ye Olde Videogame: Alchemist

Ye Olde Videogame is a once a month-ish (or more if I’m feeling fruity) retro game recommendation.

Please sir, I cannot tell a lie, Alchemist is one of a number of videogames I’ve bought over the years for no other reason than it had a big wizard in it. A few weeks back I tried counting up exactly how many games I’d bought for this reason alone and I needed more fingers than I have! So, out of necessity, I stopped counting after ten.

It’s a thing, sorry. I’m trying to deal with it.

It's the poster art for Alchemist. An old wizard in purple garb rests upon a sceptre with a skull on top, the logo is smeared across the screen like a prog rock album left to grow wild. There's also a massive golden eagle hovering over a witch and cauldron. The tagline says "experience the visible adventure!"
I’d hate to experience an invisible adventure so good call, Imagine.

Anyway! Overdelivering on the promise, the big wizard (the eponymous Alchemist) can turn into an even bigger bird. How good is that? I’ll tell you, it’s seven good. That’s the best number of good.

Thinking on, I’m not sure what this means in turns of scale. Like, is the big wizard really a small wizard that turns into a perfectly normal sized bird? Is that it? Have I gotten things all wrong? I’m not sure I could take that right now so let’s just keep believing big wizard, even bigger bird. It’s a videogame and we can have a bird the size of Uranus if we want to.

Playing it now and I’d politely describe it as “compact” – there’s a relative handful of baddies and slight few tasks to be done, all of which can be cleared in a relatively brief amount of time once you know your way round the map. I still like it a lot! My only complaint is the exact same one as I had at the time – the push scrolling can be kinda painful, but you know, 1983 so cut it some slack.

The one thing I absolutely love about Alchemist – and it’s far from alone in doing this at the time – is how well each screen feels like a distinct elsewhere. With only a small map, the game has a lovely sense of place with the castles and caverns making it feel way, way, way more expansive than it is. Using a few screens for each ‘room’ is an especially neat way round achieving this.

Alchemist reminds me that I never needed a massive open world to feel like I’m truly exploring a place and Alchemist is a lovely, early, example of a game world I enjoyed getting lost in, felt present in.

Also, you can shoot lightning from your fingers in it and that’s always a win in my book.

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