I was young enough to be simply sold on the idea that Avalon was a 3d Adventure Movie. I was also young enough to be lured by the larger than standard cassette box with its bold front cover and fact based statements on the rear side.
Avalon – the all action 3D arcade adventure movie
Avalon – with unique stunning moving graphics
Avalon – the breakthrough that bring adventure to life
Avalon – the adventure game of the decade
I was just 10/11 years old, I held on to every word and I had money to spend. I hadn’t read a single review, but I gravitated back to this game amongst the vast (it seemed like that at the time) archive of John Menzies games section. The seed had been planted, my mind had already been made up. This was my “take home” game -sometimes one has to trust their gut instinct.
It was a cold winter night, so it must have been within the release of November/December 1984. I remember my dad moaning at me because he was bored waiting on me making my final purchase decision. I had £40 to spend that night – I had sold my unused accordion (another story). That was a substantial sum of money to spend on a set of games back then, so I had to make a somewhat wise investment decision. Up until then I just had the ZX 6-pack that came with the system. They were charming titles, but I was convinced the machine could handle better. Boy, did I hit the mother lode that evening. I glowingly walked out the shop with Manic Miner, Chuckie Egg, Pyjamarama and of course, my coveted Avalon.
I remember wolfing my tea down rapidly after my return home. This was a Friday night and I knew I wanted to maximise my extended weekend bedtime with starting gaming as soon as humanly possible. I loaded them up in the same order as above. And I can’t deny the impact of all of the above as they are probably still my most favourite choice of games ever. But Avalon, the staunch and well-crafted Avalon; it gave me something beyond my expectations. It gave me irrevocable suspension of disbelief as if I were reading a compelling book. I fired it into the cassette player and read the instructions and lore contained within.
You are now the proud owner of Avalon, the first in a new world of computer
games, the Adventure Movie.
Oh, I was able to taste the anticipation. Surely the hype cannot be bettered by the game itself. The world map and the poem contained within the box just fuelled my desire to get playing it.
The first impact the game actually had on me wasn’t the game itself, but the intro music. It’s a haunting melody that still sends shivers down my spine to this day yet. It sounded discordant and minor in its keys. It contained none of the merry optimistic melody of the previous games I loaded up. It emitted malice as if it were music performed by the dark Lord of Chaos you were meant to defeat within the game.
And there I was, zapped into the cold damp dungeons of the Gatehouse level. I couldn’t move and I had completely forgotten the instructions I had just read. Yeah, I needed to select move from the menu as you were meditating and sending out your characters astral projection. Now I became this dungeon explorer in this catacomb where few had walked.
I instantly loved the aesthetics of this game, the vector style minimalistic dungeon rooms along with the 2d models of the main sprites worked really well. I found the 3d floaty environment a treat to rove around in. The way Maroc bounced off the doors and they swung open felt right. The colours were bright and everything looked so detailed.
It was soon that I came across my first adversary – a goblin warrior. I shat myself when I first came across one. He didn’t have a fixed path, oh no – he came malevolently towards and I had no means of defence. I tried to escape but he followed me through rooms with the creepy footstep sound effects making me panic enough to make fatal mistakes. Rest assured, I died quite a number of times whilst getting to grips with the game. But once I got the feel of the pace of it all, I came across the spells required to Freeze such foe and later on, spells to destroy them and re-energise myself. One of my longest lasting memories in Avalon is the artificial intelligence of the creatures of the dungeons. It’s not enough just to escape one room – you have set a distance of 2 of them between your pursuer and yourself. Not only that, if there is only one way out of a room, then that distance increases as it was clear your foe knew where had went. So you need to escape a minimum of 2 rooms in which had multiple exits. Many times, I thought I had escaped only to see the door swing open and those haunting footstep sounds come into play. This was genius and my single most favourite thing of the entire game.
I’ve said this a number of times in various forums and I don’t want to sound like a Monty Python Yorkshireman trying to get one-up-man-ship on how tough life was, but I think the cold damp house with no central heating that I grew up in added to the atmosphere in Avalon. I felt I was personally in the dungeon and I lamented warmth. It’s the perfect winter game and it always resurrects memories with a tsunami of nostalgic fondness.
Needless to say, I played this countless times and loved the fact that I was able to save my game state onto a C15 cassette. I got further and further into the depths of the game. From the multiple doors in The Wayroom to the varying monochromatic colour schemes of the Mines of Madness and the Chamber of Chaos, this game was a cartographers dream. Not since Adventure on the Atari 2600 had I felt a deep love for an RPG/Dungeon Fantasy game.
It was clear that Avalon was created with love and passion and that passed onto me as the player. I still play it today and find in no less enjoyable than when I first bought it all those years ago. That is testament to how great I think it is. My single best gaming investment.