SAN FRANCISCO (07/05/2000) - Anyone who's tried to take an eight-year-old to the movies in the last couple of years knows that few films at the local octoplex are both appropriate for younger viewers and entertaining for adults.
One can say the same of computer games: those targeting teens and adults often overflow with violence and devilish complexity, while diversions designed for children are often too saccharine for mature tastes. Ferazel's Wand, a side-scrolling run-and-jump adventure from Ambrosia Software Inc., strikes a pleasing compromise that should make players of all ages happy.
You control Ferazel, the last of the free Habnabits, on a quest to destroy the evil Manditraki race, led by Queen Xichra. To defeat this insectoid horde you must leap, clamber, and fight your way through 23 levels of landscape. Along the way you'll battle a host of enemies, including poisonous spiders, evil goblins, and spine-flinging armadillos. In the lower levels your main weapon is a fireball spell; you pick up more exotic weapons as you progress.
Veteran gamers will see a striking similarity to such classics as Broderbund's Prince of Persia and Delta Tao's Dark Castle-especially if they've encountered Prince of Persia's spike pits and Dark Castle's venomous bats. One difference is that Ferazel's Wand doesn't require the split-second timing that these earlier games demand. When propelling Ferazel from a ledge to a nearby vertical wall, for example, your fingers don't get tangled up in the effort to issue several keyboard commands in perfect succession. The game is very forgiving when it comes to executing commands.
But Ferazel's Wand is no walk in the park. Although the first few levels are relatively easy, things get tricky a third of the way into the game-particularly when environmental conditions such as high winds and slippery ice demand more precise control of your character. (Don't worry, it's not too tricky for younger kids or even clumsy adults.) Adding to the challenge, you can save your game only in certain locations. These appear often enough to keep you from quitting in frustration, but infrequently enough to require careful planning of your moves.
Those accustomed to the lush graphics of many modern Mac games may find that Ferazel's Wand looks a bit cartoonish. Its graphics style has both good and bad points: although older users will wonder if they're playing a little kids' game, the absence of gruesome detail may convince adults to let their children play it.
Macworld's Buying Advice Ferazel's Wand is a fun adventure that hearkens back to some of the finest Mac games. What it lacks in graphical refinement it more than makes up for in compelling and challenging game play.
RATING: 4.0 mice
PROS: Challenging and well-balanced game play; controls are not too finicky.
CONS: Somewhat cartoonish graphics.
COMPANY: Ambrosia Software (800/231-1816, http://www.ambrosiasw.com).
LIST PRICE: $30.