Discworld: The Colour of Magic

Warning, several Pratchett novels were consumed in the making of this review

How do you turn a cult comic novel into an accessible mobile game? Ask Blue Sphere Games - they appear to have managed it.

Let's start at the beginning. There's this giant turtle, see, called Great A'Tuin, swimming slowly through space with four elephants on his back - well, we say 'his', but there's some dispute about gender...

Hmm, maybe that's a bit too early.

The Colour of Magic game, like the book, concerns the adventures of a wizard called Rincewind who's reluctantly 'encouraged' to look after Ankh Morpork's first tourist, a naive yet wealthy chap called Twoflower, by the Machiavellian city ruler Lord Vetinari - and did we mention Death and the demonic suitcase?

Okay, so it's not essential to know everything about the Discworld universe in order to enjoy the first mobile game based on the series, but it's Pratchett fans who'll undoubtedly get the most out of the experience.

Whilst the game's 2D visuals aren't quite up to the famous covers of the books, they're detailed enough to capture many familiar locales as well as the infamous locals of The Big Wahoonie. Sights such as CMOT Dibbler peddling his dodgy wares outside the Broken Drum or Death hovering menacingly in the Shades are sure to raise a knowing smile among insiders.

Similarly, it's fans who'll best comprehend how well the manic, slightly out-of-control gameplay perfectly captures the spirit of our hero (of sorts) Rincewind.

The central aim of The Colour of Magic is to direct Twoflower towards the more salubrious sights (like the Unseen University or Temple of Small Gods), but it's keeping him away from the less auspicious ones (the sharp end of a dwarven axe or the bottom of a stage coach) that makes for the challenge.

Rincewind's role as guide is taken very literally here; you physically nudge your companion in the direction you want him to go and away from the perils of muggers, swamp dragons or Dibbler's pies.

This task is made tougher by the physical confines of the city (a maze of alleyways, ruins and jutting walls), the speed of villainy (the crooks move faster than you) and the fact Twoflower has at least half a mind of his own, and it's one drawn to danger more avidly than paparazzi to a celebrity wedding.

Fortunately you've the means to strike back. There's your iconograph - Discworld's equivalent of a camera, featuring an imp who can paint really fast - which effectively stuns the bad guys. You've also gold coins that can be thrown to distract robbers, and the final, nuclear threat that is the luggage (a travelling chest with lots of little legs that eats everything in its path, but is limited to one outing for each of Twoflower's three lives).

But it's mastering the indirect control method that's the initial challenge. This is somewhat frustrating at first, as Twoflower repeatedly wanders off or ricochets unexpectedly from objects. After a little practice, however, you'll get used to setting the tourist on his way (bouncing off walls if necessary), and then patrolling around him to fend off impending danger.

Indeed Pratchett fan or not, after 20 minutes or so you'll be relishing the task of herding your charge around the city (and its perils) to seek out the picture postcard images that are your reward for locating each of five different locales.

Unfortunately, this is where it all goes slightly sapien pearwood-shaped.

In a game design that could have come from the mind of Bloody Stupid Johnson himself, the first proper level also turns out to be the last. Sure it's a big level covering much of Ankh Morpork - a map is needed to navigate its many screens - but the end nevertheless seems excessively abrupt (THAT'S WHAT THEY ALL SAY), and we can't see why there couldn't be more missions crammed into the game.

As it stands, even a master procrastinator like Sergeant Colon would be hard pressed to drag the game on for more than an hour or two. Whilst it's by no means an abomination (to Nuggan), nor is it a thief of time, let's hope that the inevitable sequel is even more fantastic but rather less light.

7 / 10

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