Lapis Philosophorum

Reviewed by Jim Short


Issue 26

Mar/Apr 87

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'Philosopher's Stone'


14.95 - Disk only

1 Player



Twentieth Century Royalty have never had it so good - sitting back with their feet up sipping a glass of Bollinger, making the odd Christmas speech now and again just to keep up appearances whilst letting the Government mess up the running of the country for them. Ah, what a life!

It wasn't quite so cushy in bygone days. PHILOSOPHER'S STONE is a graphical adventure set in ancient times. King Gieselher, wise ruler of Alkanien, has been poisoned by his evil stepson in a bid to seize the throne. Messengers have scoured the land in vain for a cure to save the old King and now, in desperation, they have turned to you, a loyal servant who once dabbled in the mystical art of alchemy. Can you help save the King?

Maybe it's not the done thing in adventure circles but I'm going to put the cat among the pigeons by confessing that I prefer graphic adventures to text only ones. It's been said many times that you don't need graphics when there is good descriptive text as offered by Infocom and the like, but I don't agree. Perhaps I don't have a vivid enough imagination? In any case, I can't see the sense in ploughing through line after line of text just to get an image forming in your head when a picture does it for you instantly. Anyway if, like me, you prefer your adventures with artwork then PHILOSOPHER'S STONE will not disappoint you. The many and varied picture scenes are bright, clear, full of detail and remarkably similar to the type used in Activision's 'Mindshadow', another first-rate adventure in my opinion.

The parser is of the verb/no variety, which I feel most people comfortable with despite the claims some programs to understand 'English' sentences. I've lost count of times I've typed sentences into these programs only to be disappointed with the replies. I always use verb noun inputs - yes, even with Infocom adventures. Maybe that's why I've never actually completed one!!

A word here about the text which is done in bold 'Olde English' style - large black letters on a light background - and is infinitely more readable than the terrible stuff used in the early Scott Adams adventures. The program also features an impressive title screen and even a catchy 'singalong' theme tune. Plenty of extras for your money!

You begin the game in the comfort of your own home deep in the heart of the walled city. A quick rummage through the attic reveals a couple of useful items, including a book which gives you a clue to the solution of all your problems - the Philosopher's Stone. Only problem is how to find it!

Outside in the streets you are presented with yet another major problem - how to get out of the city. You're in league with the King remember, so his stepson has doubled the guard on the main gate to prevent you from leaving. An alternative method has to be found. And now your troubles really begin ......

This is poised to take over from 'Mindshadow' as my favourite adventure. It offers a series of logical puzzles which require smart thinking rather than a University degree in psychology. It also gives clever, interesting replies. When you tell it to 'TAKE object' it responds with things like 'How can I do what is already done?' or 'I am sure it is safely stowed away' rather than the usual boring 'OK' or 'Taken'. I like it's sense of humour too. If you 'PLAY LUTE' to the guards at the gate you are subsequently thrown in jail for disturbing the peace. That won't get you very far, mind you, but you'll get a laugh from it if nothing else!

This game is a whole lot of fun. I may only be a novice where adventures are concerned but I know a good program when I see one. Highly recommended.