The Black Cauldron is a fun adventure for kids based on a quite obscure Disney movie of the same name, which was in turn based on the popular "Chronicles of Prydain" series of children's books by Lloyd Alexander. As in the movie, you are Taran, assistant pig keeper, making your meager living in the fantasy land of Prydain. Your troubles begin when your pig HenWen, which has magical powers, has been kidnapped by the Evil Horned King. The King wants to use HenWen's magical powers to locate the powerful black cauldron and rule the world. Naturally, your job is to rescue HenWen and save the world from evil.
The feature that sets The Black Cauldron apart from other Sierra adventure games of the time is the lack of a parser. Instead of typing commands a la Police Quest, King's Quest etc., the entire game is played only by pressing a few function keys which represent the "USE [INVENTORY] OBJECT", "DO", and "USE" commands. This fulfills the game's goal of furnishing kids, since it allows preschoolers to enjoy the game without worrying about grammar. The only problem with this approach is that if you are near several Do-able objects, the game just arbitrarily picks one. Not a big deal, though. The game overall is well-designed, with appropriate pacing and logical puzzles that won't frustrate kids. Although there is a maze and a few action sequences, they are easy to complete. Unlike most early Sierra games, there are many endings in The Black Cauldron. Some follow the storyline, others are just there for fun, making the game quite replayable.
With colorful characters, an interface accessible for kids, and the usual charm of early EGA Sierra games, The Black Cauldron is a great adventure that kids of all ages will enjoy. Thumbs up!Reviewed by: Underdogs