REVIEW: Swordquest: Earthworld

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Swordquest: Earthworld is the 1st in a series of games (followed by Fireworld and Waterworld), and designed as a sequel to Adventure. The Swordquest series was actually a contest in which players could win amazing prizes—in the case of Earthworld, a $25,000 jeweled talisman. The history of the Swordquest series is weird and worth reading about. More fascinating details can be found on Wikipedia.

To a degree, most games involve trial and error, but Earthworld is trial and error in a purified form. You travel a grid of rooms, taking items and depositing them in other rooms, searching for the proper combination to progress. This task eventually becomes staggering when 12 rooms and nearly 20 items are involved in the mix. This systematic grind challenges the definition of the word “game”. There are no clues – the only means for success is to methodically try and try again. Only 4 action sequences break up the monotony with a various Frogger-like challenges. Despite that, Earthworld’s sheer obscurity might interest you. Reaching the end is a gaming moment where you feel like you’ve seen something no one else has and it’s your secret, like the top of the Tower of Druaga. Example: 5000 players entered the Earthworld contest and 8 completed the game.

Earthworld’s playability suffers since some in-game messages reference a comic inside the manual that modern players won’t have (although scans can be found). This is a good of example of how cryptic Earthworld is, making it both charming and annoying. Then again, such a challenge is appropriate in a game that rewarded players with a real treasure at Atari’s expense. Ultimately Earthworld is an oddity in design and marketing worth playing as a curiosity or otherwise.

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