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The Pawn

DOS - 1986

Also available on: Mac - Commodore 64 - Amiga - Amstrad CPC - Atari 8-bit - Atari ST - Apple II

Alt name QL Pawn
Year 1986
Platform DOS
Released in United States
Genre Adventure
Theme Fantasy, Interactive Fiction
Publisher Firebird Licensees Inc.
Developer Magnetic Scrolls
Dosbox support Fully supported on 0.65
4.25 / 5 - 12 votes

Description of The Pawn

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Definitely one of the "Finest Hours" of the British interactive fiction scene, Magnetic Scrolls' first release The Pawn was an instant sensation in Europe when it was first released by Rainbird in 1987, and instantly earned its the developer the moniker of "Europe's Infocom." The PC version, not surprisingly, fared much worse than the Commodore and Amiga version due to inferior graphics and almost nonexistent music.

The game is off to a good start with an imaginative fantasy plot. After being knocked out on the way home from the market, you awake in the magical land of Kerovnia, with a silver band clasped around your wrist that cannot be removed. Your goal is to escape Kerovnia, where a general election is about to be held to decide whether King Erik will continue to reign. A dwarf, whose campaign pledge (to cheers of adventurers worldwide, no doubt) is to "rid dungeons of mazes of any sort" is running against the King. Other locals you'll meet are Kronos the Magician, a Guru on a hill, and a Dragon, all of whom are very well-written and memorable in his or her unique way.

If you've never heard of Magnetic Scrolls, or a parser that not only rivals but surpasses Infocom's in many respects, you are in for a pleasant surprise with The Pawn. With a 3,500-word vocabulary, it understands adjectives, pronouns, and two interpretations of the conjunction (instead of just one as with most parsers). How many games could handle this sentence: "Get all except the cases but not the violin case then kill the man-eating shrew with the contents of the violin case."? The parser outdoes Infocom's in the number of multiple commands it can deal with in one go: 32. In fact, the only feature of the (late) Infocom parser that is missing here is the "oops" feature (if you've misspelled or used an unknown word in a command, such as "get the yellow frob," you can say "oops frog" instead of retyping the entire command). But even the world's smartest parser is just a bunch of bits and bytes unless it's put to work inside a good game, and fortunately, The Pawn delivers in spades.

The game wraps a well-honed prose, great graphics (even though they are grainy in the PC version), and scores of puzzles - some diabolically difficult, others deceptively simple - in a fun story that unfolds as you progress (you won't learn the significance of the game's title until later in the game). Most puzzles are object-oriented, and there are dozens of things to juggle while figuring out how and where to use them. If you get stuck, the game's on-line hint feature doles out graduated hints, similar to Infocom's Invisiclues hintbooks. Purists who don't want graphics to get in the way of their imagination can turn them off, to no detriment to gameplay, since most scenes are described in great detail, often with a wry sense of British humor.

With a great plot, outstanding parser, and many imaginative puzzles bound to keep adventurers up late at night, The Pawn is a revolutionary step in interactive fiction, a pioneer in the field that just no IF fan should pass up. Magnetic Scrolls even includes a thick, well-written novella "Tales of Kerovnia" that sets the stage to the game (which you can download from Magnetic Scrolls Memorial, link below). A must-have!

Review By HOTUD

External links

Captures and Snapshots

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Screenshots from / Platform: Apple II

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Comments and reviews

Kendex 2020-08-31 0 point Atari ST version

My brother and I bought this game in 88 for our Atari 520ST computer and got stuck in the first few screens. Not sure if it was a computer error or a glitch in the game. The little be got to play was awesome for it's day. Hard to believe what have in my hand in comparison..... lol

Caticorn 2017-09-26 2 points DOS version

This is a must-play, not just because it's a great game but also because of its historical significance, and the influence it had towards the adventure games that followed.

The art blew people away at the time, to the extent that this game significantly contributed to ushering out non-illustrated text adventures.

The Pawn had advanced interpretation for the time, the input was highly praised for its human feel. It's the earliest text adventure I've played with no frustration when telling the player character what to do.

Other mentionable qualities that contribute to the game's greatness include: charming humor throughout, near-sighted dragons, surprise surrealism/breaking the 4th wall, and socially awkward snowmen.

Larry 2014-05-11 3 points DOS version

If you don't care about the exact original experience (with its limitations) on DOS (or Atari ST, Amiga, etc.), I recommend using a modern interpreter to play the Magnetic Scroll games (like this one).

The interpreter is a program that uses the game files to get the game logic (the story), graphics and sound, but it plays directly on your modern computer with a _much_ better interface.

One interpreter here:

On Linux, I would recommend using Gargoyle (which interprets almost all text adventure formats as well).

indstr 2014-02-07 2 points DOS version

1986? The graphics are pretty impressive!

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DOS Version

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Various files to help you run The Pawn, apply patches, fixes, maps or miscellaneous utilities.

GuideGameplay Guide English version 404 KB MapEnglish version 1 MB MiscPoster English version 2 MB

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Amiga ROM

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