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Bold and intriguing fantasy fun
For a game which combines the thrills of pure text adventuring with a little bit of modern RPG flash (just a little though, so graphics hounds shouldn't get too excited) then Shard of Inovar is something of an unexpected gem. While couched in the trappings of a traditional and familiar fantasy setting, the game manages to transcend these potentially restricting limitations and turns out to be a fine and enjoyable adventure well worth checking out. The plot is a surprisingly complex one, revolving around an ancient elfin race, a magical artefact, a terrible plague and of course an evil wizard but which proves to be highly engaging and enthralling and which provides much of the game's appeal. The player takes the role of an apprentice mage who must take the responsibility of performing an all-important rite and so must set out on the usual epic quest. To say more of the plot would be to spoil much of the game's interest but suffice to say, it is a well-told tale full of mystery and adventure (although if you don't like fantasy, it's likely to prove an instant turn-off). In terms of interface, Shard of Inovar is a sort of text adventure that makes use of an icon-driven system and which is backed up by evocative graphics which create a strong atmosphere of dread and fear. Once you have it worked out, the system is really simple to use and which makes questing a breeze, with several handy little features that are both clever and elegant. Supporting this are puzzles which are generally challenging and interesting but which lack the all-too-common frustration of other games so really, if you're looking for something a little unusual, you can't go far wrong with this. Check out the Doom series of adventures for similarly intriguing gaming thrills.