Friday, February 4, 2011

Retro Review: Magic Carpet (available on PSN)

It’s almost forgotten now, but if any one game from yesteryear deserves a modern remake, that game is Bullfrog’s Magic Carpet. 


First released on PC way back in 1994, and then remade for the original PlayStation, Magic Carpet is in essence a free-movement FPS. Taking on the role of a magician on a magic carpet, you’ll run through around 50 levels, killing stuff with magic and then collecting its “mana.” Collect enough mana and the next level is opened up.

The stuff being killed is not defenceless though – far from it. Enemies range from relatively harmless vultures, right through to swarms of undead, firespitting dragons and titanic wyverns. There’s also other mages to contend with – in some levels as many as seven - and that’s where the toughest challenges are at.

Each mage possesses a castle. As long as the castle exists, the mage has a spawning point should he/ she die. The castle is upgradable provided the mage has collected enough mana, so levels quickly fall into a rhythm that is split evenly between fighting the wildlife to collect mana, protecting your own castle, and then attacking your “human” opponents.

So far it probably all sounds pretty standard, but Magic Carpet has a host of ideas that work so well, the game still remains relevant today. The maps are reasonably small (by today’s standards), but they really are open – each map is filled with secrets and dangers to find and avoid. The levels are also morphable – it is possible to destroy environments as it was possible to create volcanoes and gaping chasms.

There is also a huge range of spells to collect and use – 24 in total – ranging from standard shield and health regeneration, through to more aggressive fireballs and the awesome destructive might of meteors. 


The PC original features LAN multiplayer as well, and this is almost limitless in entertainment value. Magic Carpet is the kind of fast-paced multitasking action game that is still popular today in online FPSers.

The game is unattractive by today’s standards, with basic animations, limited textures and sprites, rather than polygons. But at the same time, the aesthetic is strong – through the (excellent) music and basic visuals, Magic Carpet still creates a convincing Arabian Nights setting. Given the popularity of the Prince of Persia franchise, it is a setting that still has legs now.

Aside from a visual upgrade, there isn’t a whole lot we’d like to see changed for a Magic Carpet reboot. Online multiplayer would be necessary, and an expanded range of enemies would help, but for the most part, Magic Carpet could survive intact in the modern era.

EA now owns the license to Bullfrog games – and we’ve already seen it support the Theme Park series with new games on modern consoles. C’mon guys, lets get Magic Carpet back too.

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