Review by Rottenwood
"A Premature But Fitting Finale To A Great Series"
Author Steve Meretzky was clearly on a roll with the 'Spellcasting' series. Both of the previous titles in the trilogy were great text adventure games, full of the witty writing and clever puzzles that Meretzky is known for. 'Spellcasting 301: Spring Break' is another winner, and many consider it to be the finest game in the series. Sadly, a fourth game was never made, despite the promise of one at the end of this game. One can only imagine how wonderful it would have been, considering the track record of the series.
Once again, the game chronicles the antics of the nerdy but magically adept Ernie Eaglebeak. (Although considering the fact that Ernie has been on two amazing adventures and slept with many beautiful women, one has to wonder how solid his nerd credentials are at this point.) Ernie is a junior now, and he and his rather geeky brothers of Sorcerer University's Hu Delta Phart fraternity are heading off to Fort Naughtytail for spring break. Unfortunately, just as they hit the beach for a week of fun, they are assailed by the brawny brothers of Getta Loda Yu, a fraternity from Sorcerer University's rival school, the St. Weinersburg Academy of Magic. After a brief altercation, the two fraternities end up in a competition to decide which group will be crowned Kings of the Beach. As the player, you will guide Ernie as he uses his brains and spellcasting ability to help his fellow Pharts to win a series of bizarre contests to hopefully overcome your larger (but dumber) rivals.
The nerds versus jocks idea is hardly an original one, and if there is anything negative to say about this game, it is that the plot seems to be based on 80's beach comedies that should have been buried in the sand long ago. However, it should be said that Meretzky's writing is about ten rungs above the run-of-the-mill beach comedy. And 'Spellcasting 301' has a great cast, too. Meretzky's knack for memorable characters is especially evident in the brothers of Hu Delta Phart, who are such a fun and lively bunch that you'll want to hang out with them after you've quit the game for the night. (My personal favorites are marble-mouthed Sid and boisterous Fred, whose call of ''wo-man!!! I want that wo-man!!!'' never fails to bring a smile.)
The game uses the standard 'Spellcasting' interface, with a location picture and typing area dominating the screen. Mouse users can still use the word-building menu on the left side of the screen if they prefer. (I hate repeating myself, so if you'd like greater detail on the game's layout, check my reviews for 'Spellcasting 101' and 'Spellcasting 201.')
The puzzle elements of the game are of varying difficulty, and most are centered around the numerous Hu Delta Phart versus Getta Loda Yu contests. You need not win all of the contests to win the game, but it's a lot more fun to try to solve them all. You will also need to perform some tasks for a guild of sorcerers to gain spellcasting levels.
Like the first two games in the series, 'Spellcasting 301' is an 'adult' title. There are a few sexual encounters in the game, assuming you are playing in 'naughty' mode and not in 'nice' mode. (And I think that's a pretty safe assumption.) However, the sex scenes are rather tame, and played more for laughs than arousal. This is adult comedy, not pornography.
The graphics in this game are the best yet for the 'Spellcasting' series. Each locale - be it a beach full of co-eds, a lone lighthouse, an underwater paradise, or what have you - is brought to life with sharp, colorful artwork. The only exceptions are the pictures of the town areas, which are a little drab and overcrowded.
The sound in 'Spellcasting 301' is miles above the two previous games, and one of the surprising highlights of the title. Unlike 'Spellcasting 101' and '201,' there is music throughout the game, and the tune changes for each locale. The music that plays near the lighthouse is especially good; a melancholy track that gives the empty lighthouse area a lonely, haunting atmosphere.
'Spellcasting 301' is surprisingly replayable for a text adventure game. You can play again to try to win any contests you may have lost the first time. And as always, Meretzky has a lot of funny messages awaiting anyone who tries a command that's out of the ordinary.
Basically, what it comes down to is this: 'Spellcasting 301' is just plain fun. The game has a certain energy and spirit to it that makes it fun to play, even if you've become stuck on a puzzle or two. The colorful characters, lush artwork, enjoyable music and clever writing create a gaming atmosphere that's hard to resist. I sometimes find myself firing up this game just to re-enter the entertaining world that Meretzky has created, and to rejoin my friends in the Hu Delta Phart fraternity.
It is a shame that 'Spellcasting 401: The Graduation Ball' never came to be. But hey, with 'Spellcasting 301,' the series went out in style.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/01/00, Updated 02/01/00
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