The Apprentice (Amstrad CPC)

23 January 2020

There's no Alan Sugar in this one, unless you consider the computer it's running on. This is another one of those games from my original CPC tape set, meaning I wasted too much time on it as a kid. You see, this game is almost impossible to win (but at least it is technically possible to complete - I'm looking at you, Chiller).

I played this on a 464+ with green screen monitor (MM1). Interestingly the game has an option to switch between colour or green graphics. I wonder if it was put there for testing purposes, because it doesn't really change anything on real green screens.

According to the story on the cassette inlay, you play as an apprentice wizard who accidentally cast himself into a strange maze world. To escape the maze you need ten magic rings, and those are held by other wizards who will trade them for particular items. Yes, in other words it's one of those fetch quest type games that I seem to be quite fond of.

Magic ring.

One of the 10 magic rings to collect.

So far, so good. However there are two major issues (and one minor one) that increase the difficulty.

1: The burning fires. Touch one with just a pixel of your robe, and you lose a life. There are at least two places in the game where you have exactly three pixels of space to manoeuvre past these deadly flames. You float to the ground (and thus the fire) if you don't keep holding the up key, but you also have to press a directional key as well. A bumpy overhead surface makes this extremely difficult.

Diagram showing the tight spacing of a particular area.

2: There are enemies positioned too close to the edges of some rooms. This means that the moment you enter, you lose a life. Worse still, you respawn in exactly the same place you died, killing you again! This repeats until you run out of lives - effectively being an instant game over.

Animation showing the player stuck by an enemy.

If you cheat, you softlock yourself into this for ever...

3: A missing instruction. The inlay card does not tell you what the scroll does, nor what key you need to press to invoke it. It opens locked rooms, and the key is "S".

I have stitched together a map of the game world from screenshots, and annotated some areas of interest. It was difficult to make a map that makes sense, because sometimes the rooms don't actually line up. For example, almost all the wizard chambers take you somewhere else. These other areas are mapped at the bottom. This was the best way I could think of to lay out the game.

Apprentice map thumbnail

Download: PNG (168KB)

Anyway, if you plan your route carefully, you can avoid problem 2 (above) entirely. I can't help with the fires, but one of the problem areas is very close to the start, so perhaps go there first. Otherwise, emulator save states could be handy if you’re not playing on the real thing.

The ending screen promises a sequel called "Castlekey", but I don't think it was ever released for any platform.

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