Discworld

Posted by David Tanguay.
First posted on 15 October 1997. Last updated on 13 August 2009.
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Discworld
The dimwitted Rincewind sets off to defeat the dragon.
Discworld
This game can be a challenge even to expert adventure gamers!
Discworld
The beautiful backgrounds in Discworld are all hand drawn.

Discworld represents an unique effort to bring the work of fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett onto the computer screen. The game is based on the magical Discworld universe created by Pratchett from which a multitude of paperback novels have been published. With the capability of multimedia CD-ROM technology, the beautiful cartoon look of Discworld is brought to life and enhanced by an impressive ensemble of voice talents, including Eric Idle as the voice of Rincewind. Yet, one should not be fooled by the silly look of Pratchett's magical world, the game Discworld is by far one of the toughest adventure games ever published. Its devilish and cunningly difficult puzzles will test the patience of even seasoned adventure gamers.

A dragon has come to terrorize Ankh-Morpork, the largest city on the Discworld. It is up to the wizards of Unseen University to get rid of the dragon. You play Rincewind, a wizard with little, if any, magical ability. As the University's worst wizard, you are also its most expendable, and so you are chosen to deal with the beast. You first task is to assemble a dragon locator. Once you have found the dragon, you discover that it has been summoned by an evil brotherhood so that you must thwart their plans by traveling into the past. Still more, the dragon has to be dealt with, so your next task is to defeat the dragon and become a hero. Unfortunately, Rincewind is as good at cowardice as he is bad at magic, so that you must lend your wits to Rincewind so he may save the day.

Discworld is a third-person adventure game that uses animated sprites running over a hand drawn background. All the background arts are beautifully done and are a good representation of the world of Ankh-Morpork. The character animation is not as impressive but still pretty good. All the characters in Discworld are brought to life by the excellent voice acting that is available only in the CD-ROM version of the game. The original Floppy Disk version has only subtitles but no digital speech. As such, I recommend that you ignore it and hold out for the CD-ROM version instead. This is because much of the game is primarily about humor and the voices are the primary vehicle for the laughs. Of interest is that there is even an earlier Discworld game made for the ZX Spectrum; it is a text adventure called The Color of Magic and is released by Piranna.

The high production value of Discworld is worthy of a mention. All the backgrounds in Discworld are first hand drawn and then scanned in digitally. The voice cast is led by Idle who is best known as a member of the Monty Python team. Jon Pertwee, who plays Doctor Who in the long running BBC television series of the same name, joins the cast. Tony Robinson (Baldric in Black Adder), who has already narrated several Discworld novels recorded on cassette tapes previously, also lends his voice in the game. Both Pertwee and Robinson play multiple characters and voices in this game. Even Pratchett has personally participated in the development of this title.

The interface of Discworld is simple and straightforward. Most of the inventory is kept in a walking chest, as related in the books. The game is controlled with a single action mouse, but there are a large number of objects and people to interact with in the game. Some of the characters well known in Pratchett novels are found in the game Discworld, including the Patrician's "Information Retrieval Technitions" and Nanny Ogg.

Playing Discworld is a rewarding but challenging gaming experience. The game unfolds over four acts. The script is funny, and the voice acting makes it hilarious. The game world is large. There is a good developing plot that gives the player a lot to do. The puzzles are well integrated into story and the Discworld universe. It takes a long time to finish the game. On the other hand, many puzzles require you to perform long chains of actions without any reasonable way to know whether or not the outcome may be successful. In other words, you must be extremely patient, trying everything with everything else until something good happens. The game also forces you to track back and forth the same territory many times. There is no mechanism to zip through previously visited scenes or teleport to a previously visited destination. This slows the game down tremendously. Although there are several minor graphic and audio glitches, these bugs will not affect the overall gameplay experience. The pixel hunting is tedious and makes the game even more difficult than it already is. Some of the objects you must use are very hard to see, with the worst being a pair of scissors that occupies only three or four pixels on a background shelf.

Unless you are a masochist, do not attempt this game without a walkthrough. Not only is Discworld hard, it can get very convoluted in places. Still, there are plenty of good adventures to experience, so do not be too quick with the cheats. The reward for persevering through some of the most contrived puzzles in Discworld is the experience of having completed one of the funniest adventure games ever made. Although the humor of Pratchett in the game may be better appreciated by fans who are already familiar with the Discworld novels, it is not a prerequisite to play this game.

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