Mindwalker (Second Review)


Title           Mind Walker (Second Review)
Game Type	General Action
Players		1
Compatibility	All
HD Installable  Yes
Submission	Hidehiko Ogata Profiled Reviewer (hog@aqu.bekkoame.ne.jp)

Review
Originally released in '86 by the big C= themselves, Mind Walker was
possibly the very first commercial game to showcase the full potential of
Amiga.  Yet no less remarkable than that landmark was its imaginative,
bizarre premise:

You are a physics professor gone mad.  Your course of action?  Delve into
your Mind, to inspire "Ideas" by tracing "Paths of Coherent Thought", with
the help of your split ego.  Then through opened-up Tubes, enter your
Brain, to retrieve "Shards of Sanity".  Finally, put them back together in
Subconscious.

Now all this esoteric stuff would have baffled the player, but the
author's uncanny knack of simple, consistent logic and catchy gameplay
managed to tie it all up, into a delightfully strange action-adventure.

The stage changes wildly as you home-in on the Shards, the Mind in calm
chaos (birds-eye view over 3D voxelscape maze), the mesmerizing descent in
 a tube (first- person pseudo-3D tunnel), then the shimmering, pulsating
Brain (top-down 2D maze).  The focus is never lost, however, as the shift
in viewpoint and scale helps to build up a clear mental vista. Soar, dive,
fetch - like a bird diving for a fish.  The Subconscious (Rorschach
puzzle with a certain Uncle Sigmund) is a soothing break from hectic action,
to complete a play cycle.  After several cycles, the game closes with a
satisfactory cheer for your full recovery.

Random mazes notwithstanding, the game doesn't offer much in terms of
variety. So how does it retain that particular refreshing feeling after
so many plays nonetheless?  Could be by the neat attention to detail
everywhere, or by the frontal joy with the then new hardware which has
survived the novelty itself, or by the sheer contrast of its surrealism
against the onslaught of photorealism which was to come (it's so
DIFFERENT)... it is to modern games what personal films are to the latest
forgettable blockbuster movies; its charm never dies.

Also worthy of note is the sound design.  Here the author, an ex-musician,
unleashed his unique asset; not only to compose impressive music tracks,
but also to create an aural scape, with judicious use of volume/pan.  It
helps provide an otherwise outlandish world in your mind, with much-needed
realism and totality. Pump up the volume, and listen to the Fractal Ray
bzZZZzaaPp across your room!

All these are packed in files less than 300K, on one non-protected floppy
disk. It multitasks, runs from/exits to Workbench, saves/restores
sessions, and keeps highscores.  It has proved to be 680x0-friendly,
harddisk-installable, Kickstart/Workbench3.1-compatible - long before
such things existed.

By the way, should you come upon the original package, grab it by all
means. Tucked in nondescript C= standard slipcase is a gorgeous,
full-color manual, full of otherworldy illustrations and witty remarks.
It makes a real impact on the gameplay.  (Case in point: the name of that
"Skull and Crossbones" floating in the Mind is Existentialist Death Mask,
which is, curiously enough, always hungry!)

In short: like the computer it represented, Mind Walker had everything,
and was put together with great imagination and skill.  There was nothing
like it.

(This review is dedicated to the author of Mind Walker, Mr. Bill Williams,
who passed away in May 1998.  On his other works and his career, please
refer to an excellent 2-part biography by Mr. Peter Olafson, in Amazing
Computing issue February and March 1998.)





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