You are a young apprentice of magical arts named Axil, who was foolish enough to insult a greater mage - Master Therion, who in a fit of rage has teleported you to a sinister dungeon full of all kinds of creatures, both living and undead. Sort of. Your primary task is to... GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE! Oh well, now you're encouraged to stay calm and patient, 'cause there's a lot of weird stuff waiting ahead, including a great many puzzles and traps. Your only means to survive and escape this place is your mind and magical skills. A fabulous and mind-busting adventure!
Alright,by Gargoyle, a “company” that consisted of technically two people only, which makes it more of a duo kinda, and who did a really great job of presenting us with such a marvelous and exclusive game. Thumbs up, fellas!
The game was released in 1986 for two platforms: ZX-Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Can't really tell which rocks more, but since i first saw it on Spectrum (God, send me back in time) i dare say Spectrum version is a little more comforting, even though there's a slight difference in palette and sound, and CPC is mostly famous for having offered “improved” versions of virtually all the same Spectrum games, that, nonetheless, isn't the case now. Like most other games shared by both platforms, on CPC this one looks just different, but not particularly better in my opinion.
The game control is conducted entirely via the command console situated in the middle part of the bottom panel. This also makes the game pretty unique in contrast to pure text-based 1st person adventure or partially text-controled games, where you can take over the movement of the character at least by using the arrow control pad. In HOTM you do it ALL by commands, which isn't bad in my opinion, just different. Besides, i think it adds extra thrill and adrenaline rush to the gameplay, especially in cases of immediate threat to the character - it's all real-time and nobody waits till you make up your mind and decide to move around. Which is fair. The actions themselves don't have to be typed out manually, it's enough to press the related key and it pops out. For instance “X” is responsible for EXAMINE, “P” for PICK UP etc. You can move in 8 different directions, which are: NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, WEST, NORTH-EAST, NORTH-WEST, SOUTH-EAST, SOUTH-WEST, which is done accordingly to the above method by typing the respective letter or a combination of those, i. e. if “N” does NORTH, then “NE” does NORTH-EAST.
You start in a red room, standing in the center of it between two tables with mysterious looking objects resting on them, which look kinda identical. Congratulations, you've already got into some sorta booby trap, where you have to figure out which one of these is a real book of spells, and which is a harmful device. By the way, the book of spells is your key to escape, without it you're hopeless, thus ignore it not. Initially it contains a few basic spells which you can immediately apply, but it's not enough to complete the game, so in addition to all other troubles you will have to search for the missing pages.
The dungeon is heavily infested with goblins, trolls, ghosts, werewolves, vampires and other things just waiting to tear you apart. Uh-huh! Here comes “B” for BLAST, which is how you retaliate. However, they all have different powers and life counters, and those are sometimes more than you can handle, in which case it is often best to avoid such encounters. Thank goodness they don't follow you all around the place and it's enough to just slip out of the room and when you peek back in it's all clear. If there's, of course, no wall blocking the way, otherwise you're pretty much a gonner.
By the way, you have a friend in the game - a bulky character named Apex the Ogre, who is a kind of a living hintbook to you. Yes, you can communicate with him by simply typing quotation mark (which is how you address things in the game, unquote is not neccessary, by the way), comma, his name, then the subject/object in question. But don't get your hopes up, cause the big dude isn't often that helpful and he replies mostly with some twisted charades. Sometimes he's more confusing than anything else in this game. Also, him and other characters have a pesky habit of appearing anywhere anytime (one of the passages starts flashing in the bottom left window), giving you only brief seconds to get your butt out of the way, else you may suffer a great damage, which is fatal in many cases. By the way, if you feel like practicing around a bit you can attack even Apex. Just make sure you can split before he whams the hell out of you. He's not that big of a friend, you know. However, he's not resentful either, so next time you see him he will act as if nothing ever happened, while just standing there and smiling stupidly as always.
The game allows you to grow your powers up to no limit, so you can eventually blast down anyone with only one “B”! No, i never got that far myself. Not the right way at least. BUT.. there was once a glitch with one of my saved games. I can't remember, maybe it was the tape itself which would return a slightly messed up stats, including humongous skills, but no other issues. Oh wow, that was fun!!! Guess what i did first? Yep, that's right, i immediately decided i wanna kill Apex and see what happens. And so i did and he went down. Erm.. nevermind, it appears that he's immortal anyway. If you get the drift. So if you ever get real tough in the game - don't bother killing Apex. There's perpetually more of him to come. He will come and smile at you again and again.
There's also a lot of different objects, some of which are helpful, some malicious and some appear to be meer distractions, imitations and such, which complicates things to an extent. Some serve as a protective means against commonly known creatures, which you'll have to figure out yourself, don't wanna spoil your fun. Unfortunately the keys DO NOT intuitively tell you to which doors they belong. At least i failed at detecting any connection between them, so you'll just have to make guesses. Some doors require a password instead of a key, which is one of the most difficult aspects of the game, as it often leaves you with no clue whatsoever. God, you can talk even to pillars of the doors, they seem to be semi-conscious and give you a tip on the passwords, which is often just as helpful as Apex and his riddles. Also, don't bother talking to things attacking you. They tell no stories, and you waste your time instead of B-B-B-B-B'ing or just running for your life. By the way, don't think you have all the time in the world, 'cause even if the coast is clear and nobody does any harm to you, your stamina still runs out little by little, so you'll just HAVE TO move around and look for food and other things capable of restoring your stamina. Good luck!
I guess one of the most mysterious things in the game are the 4 evil spirits which you can conjure and communicate with. This is done with “I” for INVOKE + <name>. By the way, the game's starting screen shows only one of them... where the hell are the other 3?! God, if only you knew how i found the rest of it! Since i never bought the original tape of HOTM i had no booklets or anything (which was probably the missing part) i had to spend many hours guessing names, typing in all kinds of crazy things, which, of course, never worked, so i went for a little trick: i loaded the game into a hexeditor and searched through the code for any related words whatsoever. Gotcha! Astarot, Asmodee, Belezbar and Magot. Clever me. Oh well, that didn't help a whole lot, cause i still didn't even know what to do with those guys (except for Astarot, who's in charge of teleporting you anywhere in the dungeon, should you know the name of the required area). They would just come out of the ground and stay there waiting for hell knows what, and then they would commit me to the flames of punishment for having wasted their time in vain (oh my, what busy spirits). Oh well, after a few experiments i did figure out their offices, and so will you. That's the least difficult part in my opinion. And yes, i believe those things are essential to the completion of the game, perhaps even indispensable. Oh, and make sure you have all the right talismans for the spirits, without those they just prefer to toast you immediately. Also, be aware that if you're transported anywhere the talisman remains at the place of last departure, which means you have to go back and pick it up in case you wish to avail yourself of spirit's service, otherwise it's... TO THE FURNACE WITH YOU!
The stats in the right bottom window show your stamina, skill and luck. Honestly, i could never understand how luck was important in this game, from what i could gather it's something like a score to you. Then again, maybe the higher luck the less ineffective attacks, which sometimes tend to occur in combat. I'm not really sure. The stamina is clear. And skill is really your BLAST power. That's exactly what got messed up when i had that tape issue. However, it proved to be very helpful. At least now i know what it all means and i'm sharing it with you. Also, in the left bottom window your location and grade are displayed. Grade isn't really essential as it does nothing. Not that i noticed any difference at any rate. It's rather a sign of formal accomplishment. Also, the same window can display your inventory, magical spells, exits and the default location/grade info, you can toggle it with “Z”.
The game allows you to save your progress, which is a pretty nifty add, as it would probably take you much longer to finish the game without that feature. Or better yet.. just impossible. Also, considering the fact that there were really few games with such implementation. However, in our age of emulators and their state saving feature this would be no problem in either case.
I'm sure i'm the only person on this planet who has accidentally discovered this odd glitch, which i made into a trick for my own ends, for it's extremely delicate and one must be super bored to pick around so much so he'd finally stumble on it. Ok, here it is. If you feel like having a company (which is normally done by using the “call” spell), you can do the following: Spot an object which you don't really need, step aside from it leaving a considerable space between you and that, then type a combo of: “B” + <name of the object>, “F” + <name of the monster>. The “F” stands for FREEZE spell, which is employed in case of urgent need to pass some meanie by, if you're without the means of taking it down. It temporarily renders it harmless, long enough for you to walk through. However, in the combo provided above it does something else. Here's the full example: “BLAST TABLE, FREEZE TROLL”, and the guest will arrive! The advantage of this is pretty significant, since you don't lose bits of your stamina on CALL spell (yes, that's another way of wasting it), and you don't start with the CALL spell either, it is yet to be found, so in the mean time you may resort to this fancy little gimmick of mine. Enjoy!
P. S. Don't try this with inoperable objects, demons, yourself, non-existent and other unthinkable stuff, 'cause the game will hang. Which actually proves it's not a secret you should find out, implemented by game authors themselves. Also, aim only at all objects you can destroy, plus signs, pillars and things that would be normally hit by BLAST, no matter if destroyed or not. This way you can place, say, a wyvern in fire, which, of course, won't get hurt. The wyvern that is. You can actually try “calling” objects too, like all that you can pick up and carry, they will even appear for a few seconds, but then they will just vanish. So, the only real thing you can do with it is calling forth monsters, and mainly Apex in case you feel like his help is neccessary in any situation.
If you're somewhat familiar with victorian occultism you might detect a row of striking similarities and references to Golden Dawn tradition (with its 10 degree rank scale, Neophyte, Zelator, etc.), Aleister Crowley (Therion), 4 evil sub-princes of the Abramelin's Sacred Magic and other peculiar elements. All these were not devised by Gargoyle, but rather employed to decorate the game in a special way. And they truly succeeded at it. All of this is quite indicative of the game creators having been interested in western occultism at the time, which obviously had inspired them to make.