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Sorcerer’s Apprentice Review

Developer: Atari Publisher: Atari
Release Date: 1983 Also On:

I was at a crossroads. Having finally completed my Atari 2600 collection, one game had to go so they all fit in the drawers evenly. Between this and Deadly Duck, I chose this. Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t the worst of games. It was part of Disney’s idea to create children-friendly titles for the system. Considering that, it’s actually a pretty good game and it makes me wonder why they gave up the venture, but for experienced players it’s not likely to catch your attention.

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Graphically, they did a great job with Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Mickey looks awesome, and the brooms have been easily reduced to simple, distinguishable forms, plus the color scheme is great. They managed to capture the main elements. No real problems in my opinion, though the cut-scene inbetween the upper and lower levels seemed kind of pointless and empty. Not a big issue, however.

As for the sound, Sorcerer’s Apprentice is interesting. The sound effects are fine, nothing too spectacular, but they work. I liked the magical bolt sounds in particular. What’s cool is that the game plays the Sorcerer’s Apprentice theme note by note starting from each broom that manages to pour water in the lower level. Thus, as more and more come and elude your grasp, the song speeds up and completes. My only problem is that the game is really sparse and silent until this picks up, which only happens when you’re losing. So at once it’s cool and something of a fault for Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but they managed to program it spot on.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice combines elements from several classic games. What you have to do is simple, keep the brooms from filling up the bottom screen by running into them. The more that go by, the higher the water level gets. The only way to remove the water level is to fire magic at special stars flying around in the upper level. For each one you hit, little buckets appear to take the water away. So, theoretically, you have to go back and forth between screens stopping brooms and collecting stars to keep the game going. Every three-thousand points or so, the game speeds up. Check some of it out here:

The controls are easy in Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and it’s a pretty cool idea for a game. I only have one problem. Now, keep in mind, this was designed for children. That doesn’t make it simple, but you can more easily exploit the game mechanics. For a child, this would actually be a damn hard title. Running back and forth between the two main screens gets more and more frightening when the song and brooms speed up, as do the stars, which makes it harder to hit them and get buckets to remove the water. If you play it like that, it’s actually quite challenging. However, there’s an obvious flaw.

See, the way to keep playing is by stopping the brooms, you’re not required for any reason to collect the stars unless you want to remove water. So, if you just stay on the lower screen and stop broom after broom, then nothing will happen other than a progressive speed increase. You can easily sit on the lowest level and capture all the brooms in a Kaboom!-styled fashion, and for experienced gamers it’s easy. For a child, not so much, but I could sit there stopping broom after broom for about an hour straight. The speed slowly progresses, so by the time it increased my mind was prepared.

I’d say, however, that Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a pretty creative game. It takes what I don’t think was an easy theme and manages to utilize a few different genres to pull it together. The usage of two different playing screens that are connected is a cool idea, if they tweaked the necessity in the upper level it would have been pretty solid. Plus, I give them a bit of credit for trying to break new ground with the whole children’s game idea. Honestly, this isn’t that bad so I don’t know why they shelved the others, they’re actually quite good even in their unfinished forms.

I played Sorcerer’s Apprentice several times before I decided to give it away. It’s kind of cool at first, and for a child it would probably be a pretty fun game, though also perhaps above their skill level in most cases. For advanced gamers it will probably tire you in a few minutes, and it doesn’t have enough lasting challenge to make you come back for much more after a single session. Length is fine, not much different than other 2600 games, you play until you lose.

Overall, Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a cool idea that almost manages to stand out. The usage of two main screens of play is not necessarily novel but well implemented, and they managed to use an otherwise difficult theme in a creative way. However, due to some game mechanics, it doesn’t have any lasting challenge or appeal. Heck, even intermediate and beginning players over the age of eight won’t have much trouble with it. This is always a risky thing, making a game for “children” is a very delicate endeavor. Too much challenge and they won’t like it but at the same time it won’t be any good for older players because it will seem too easy. Sorcerer’s Apprentice almost managed to overcome this, but it didn’t in the end. Not a bad game by any means, but not something to write down on a list of games to purchase any time soon.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 6.5
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 5.5
Final: 6.6
Written by Stan Review Guide