I was at the thrift store the other day and scored a copy of Disney’s Black Cauldron game made by Sierra On-line in their glory days of text/mouse based adventure games. When I first got an IBM compatible system back in the 90’s, the Sierra games were by far my favorites. They were always consistent, always fun and sometimes a challenge to get running properly which was also fun. This particular game was released in 1985 although this particular copy was printed and sold in 1989. According to the box, the system requirements are very very low. It requires 256k of ram, vga, ega, cga or hercules graphics and a keyboard. Mouse or joystick optional.
I opened up the packaging and was pleasantly surprised to find both the 5.25″ floppies and the 3.5″ floppy. There were several other goodies inside as well including the manual, the tenth anniversary Sierra catalog and the original Prodigy Network trial offer which brings back many fond memories. Another prize buried in this box was a hint guide that someone painstakingly downloaded via dial up and printed on a dot matrix printer.
Using a little forensics, it’s obvious to me that this game was played a lot but taken care of meticulously. The computer it was used was probably late 80’s technology based on the fact the previous user obviously used the 5.25″ disks and most likely played the game straight off of the disk. There is a characteristic fingerprint/smudge at the top of disk 1 but not on disk two. I’m guessing the owner played through the game as far as they could get which took them a while. They probably never made it to disk 2 on their own. That’s when they resorted to printing the hint guide. They played through the rest of the game, cheating with the hint guide to beat it in the matter of a couple hours. After they beat it, they put the game away for 20 years and someone finally donated it to the thrift store. All of this only leaves one question in mind: Will this game actually work on my PC XT after sitting in a box for 20 years?
Well much to my pleasure, it decided to work! I put in disk 1 and ran the install script:
The 30 year old floppy drive sprang to life and copied the disk to the hard drive. Disk 2 went just as well. The installer left me in the c:\sierra directory and told me to type:
This is obviously an updated version of the game since the older Sierra games had much cruder install scripts. Anyhow, I started the game up. Obnoxious 8-bit PC speaker music came blasting out. Sad that the IBM’s didn’t even have sound as good as the C64. I turned the music off with F2 and could then study the glorious 8-bit graphics. This must have been an amazing game in it’s day. As far as the sierra line up, I would say the graphics are similar to Space Quest 1, Kings Quest 1, etc. The game play is much different however. This game is geared toward younger players so it requires no typing at all. Instead you use the F-keys to DO, LOOK, USE, etc. It’s a good concept that Sierra didn’t fully develop until the days of King’s Quest 5, Space Quest 4, etc.
I tend to like both styles of the Sierra games for different reasons. I plan to play this one through at some point and see what it has to offer. Go check out Abandonia for much more information, screen shots and a download for the Black Cauldron.
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