Into the mountain, into the game
“Grim doesn’t even begin to describe this rock. All we have encountered in these dark, desolate halls and tunnels are oversized slugs and monstrous walking Shiitake. I’m not sure if the death penalty would not have been kinder. Oddly enough, Dayna seems to feel right at home underground and I must admit that there’s something uplifting about the smell of fried mushroom in the air. If only her fireballs didn’t get so damn close to my head that I fear it will be my own burning skin I will smell soon. Gan, big bull that he is, shows no fear at all. Come to think of it, if I had his anvil-sized hooves I’d probably feel pretty confident myself. It is Cally I worry about most. Oh she can defend herself just fine – just ask any slug that she’s poisoned since we entered Grimrock – but she’s miserable down here. I can see her cringe at every staircase leading deeper into the mountain. I wasn’t made to be cooped up in such close quarters either but I refuse to give up. We’ll beat this damn rock, one level at a time or my name isn’t Avon.”
I played my first video game on the Atari 2600 but it took a PC game to make me realize what it was to be a gamer. The game was Eye of the Beholder, a PC dungeon crawler that held me captivated for weeks. It forced me to sketch maps to escape its seemingly infinite dungeons while torturing my brain over puzzles that appeared to defy logic. But there was an end, and there was logic and while the end scene was little more than a picture with some scrolling text, it was rapture. Eye of the Beholder saw two sequels and it formed the foundation for Lands of Lore but ultimately did not survive the nineties. But now it is back… at least in spirit.
Stuck but on my way out
Legend of Grimrock puts you in control of four prisoners-turned-adventurers who are desperate to find a way out of their mountain prison. The mountain, called Grimrock, is the unwilling home of a mysterious being able to contact the adventurers in their sleep. During their nap-time rendezvous, he tells them he knows a way to get out and that he needs their help to escape. Whether you trust the voice or not is kind of irrelevant as there is only one way to go and that is down.
The tunnels beneath Mount Grimrock are made up of an old-school patchwork of squares through which your team of four navigates one square at a time. If that sounds a little boring, I can tell you that it’s far more dynamic than it sounds. You will encounter caverns of various sizes, there are levers and hidden buttons to push, holes in the floor that should usually be avoided and enough traps and puzzles to sap the hope out of even Indiana Jones. To top it all off, the environment changes dynamically so you can never really be sure if stepping on that pressure plate releases another ball of fire in your direction, or if the push of the button made it safe to move.
A game wouldn’t be fun without being challenging and the way down is full of reasons not to get bored. The tunnels of Mount Grimrock are filled with all sorts of monstrosities, some hurling poisonous bombs at you, others depending on magic or just plain bodily strength, but all bent on killing you. Don’t get the wrong idea though: you will sometimes face multiple foes at a time but never so much that you feel like you are drowning in them. Usually they are defending an area you have just started to explore and simply makes more sense to clean out the tunnels before progressing.
Old-school role-playing with a modern day spin.
The realistic colours make the game look a little dull.