Spellcasting 301: Spring Break

Posted by Matthew Murray.
First posted on 23 January 1998. Last updated on 12 August 2009.
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Spellcasting 301: Spring Break
The Sand Bar is the home to some of the most renowned drinks and entertainment in Fort Naughtytail.
Spellcasting 301: Spring Break
The Blueberrystains Huemaze may make a few gamers dazed and confused.
Spellcasting 301: Spring Break
The multi-window display provides a simple yet effective interface for both navigation and command input.
Spellcasting 301: Spring Break
Oops! Only censored images are shown in Nice Mode!
Spellcasting 301: Spring Break
The title page says it all!

Steve Meretzky has never finished the Spellcasting series. The series follows the adventures of the dimwitted Ernie Eaglebeak as he struggles through Sorcerer University and rebels against his vicious stepfather Joey Rottenwood. When Spellcasting 301: Spring Break is released back in 1992, the game is never meant to be the last of the series. Unfortunately, the sequel Spellcasting 401: The Graduation Ball is never made. Knowing that each game in the series improves on the previous title, one can only guess how good this sequel may have been. Although many adventure fans regret its absence, this regret is lessened after playing this title. This is because Spellcasting 301: Spring Break, despite not being the intended end, is nonetheless a great way to say goodbye to the series.

It is Ernie's junior year at Sorcerer University. He has suffered through months of classes, but it is all about to pay off. It is spring break time! Where better to head for the festivities than Fort Naughtytail! Known for its beaches, parties, and its gorgeous women, it is where everyone is going this spring break. Unfortunately, this includes those good-looking jocks from St Weinersburg Academy of Magic's Getta Loda Yu fraternity—a fraternity that clashes with Ernie's fraternity, the nerdy Hu Delta Pharts. After a test of strength which manages to solve nothing between the warring frats, a beautiful but mysterious woman known only as "The Judge" proposes a way to solve the problem—a series of contests to determine which fraternity's members are the kings of the beach. The losers are to be banned from Fort Naughtytail for the next five spring breaks. Using your wits, magic spells, and items you find along your way, can you help Ernie to win the contests and assure that the Pharts are the ones to emerge triumphantly to enjoy the greatest spring break ever?

The interface used in Spellcasting 301: Spring Break is identical to that used in all the earlier games in this series. The first window displays the text which describes in detail the room you are visiting and what is happening in it. A second window shows you a high resolution picture of that room. A third window displays the compass rose showing the available exits or movements allowed. A fourth window gives easy access to a list of useful commands in the game such as look and inventory. As with the earlier titles, this display is completely customizable. If you choose, you can have two menus present—one with a complete list of verbs and the other with a list of available noun from which you can construct your commands using either the mouse or the keyboard. If you prefer, you can also simply type in what you want to do. If you so desire, you can even remove all the other windows and play the game entirely in text mode. Should you choose to play using the windows, you may change the main graphics window to display your inventory, your status in the game (score, moves taken), a text description of your surroundings, or a map of the local area. All these options allow you to play the game in the way that suits you best. For certain puzzles in the game or gambling in the casino, the game employs a different interface which is equally effective.

This game has many nice bells and whistles. Eschewing the lower resolution graphics, Spellcasting 301: Spring Break 301 sports high resolution 640x480x256 EGA and VGA graphics as well as the super high resolution 800x600x256 SVGA graphics. The 640x480 screens are very beautiful and extremely detailed. Likewise, sound effects are well implemented. Even if you do not have a soundcard, RealSound technology assures that you hear all the sounds of Fort Naughtytail—all of which are very creatively performed and recorded. Of course, these sound effects can also be played by dedicated soundcards.

Like the previous two games in the Spellcasting series, there are two different modes of play—Nice and Naughty. Both modes offer the same puzzles, but Naughty Mode is much more explicit. Though the humor in Nice Mode is clever, the game is clearly designed to be played in Naughty mode. If you are not offended by some of Ernie's escapades, this mode is definitely how the game should be played (on the other hand, consider playing it once in Nice Mode so you can see how they gloss over the game's certain explicit aspects)!

There are far too many positive aspects of this game to be listed. In addition to the superb graphics and sounds, the game's humor is abundant and very funny. The game space is quite large and all of the locations are worth visiting beyond what you may need to do with the puzzles. The use of magic, while building on the previous titles, offers even greater opportunity for experimentation with lots of results possible from all sorts of different spells. The puzzles, which are numerous in this game, are all well thought out. Though differing greatly in style and difficulty from its predecessors, these puzzles still require fairly creative solutions that test your common sense. None of them, on the other hand, require huge leaps of logic or other unfair tactics. The game maintains its atmosphere completely throughout. It never loses its tone or strays away from the formula that has worked so well previously for this series. The only negative aspect of this game is the endgame sequence which can be mildly frustrating. There is one glaring (but not game altering) typographical error. The most disappointing part about the game or the series, though, is that there is no sequel!

Spellcasting 301: Spring Break is a great adventure and is the best game in the Spellcasting series. It is a title that should not to be missed by any adventure gamer who is a fan of comedy or Meretzky's works.

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