Cauldron is a (2D) shoot ’em up/platformer computer game developed and published by British developer Palace Software (Palace).
The game was released in 1985 for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amstrad CPC computers.
Players control a witch (also called The Hag), who aims to become the “Witch Queen” by defeating an enemy called the “Pumpking”.
Where it all began
Created by Steve Brown and Richard Leinfellner, Cauldron originated as a licensed video game version of the classic horror movie Halloween.
The game received praise from video game magazines, of the day who focused on the graphics and two different modes of play.
It wasn’t an easy game (were many of them back then?) and this hindered it’s score in reviews.
In 1986 , Palace released a sequel titled Cauldron II: The Pumpkin Strikes Back however, that game is in my opinion not as fun so we will talk only about this lovely bubbly jubbly video game for the cassette tape computer systems of this era.
How Do You Play Cauldron?
I used to play this game on my Amstrad CPC 464 Cauldron is divided into two modes of play: shooting while flying and jumping along with platforms.
Areas of the game world set on the surface feature the witch flying on a broomstick, while underground segments require the witch to run and jump in caverns.
In the flying segments, players must search for randomly scattered coloured keys to access underground areas that contain six ingredients.
The objective is to collect the ingredients and return them to the witch’s cottage to complete a spell that can defeat the Pumpking.
While traversing the game world, the witch encounters Halloween-themed enemies such as pumpkins, ghosts, skulls, and bats, as well as other creatures like sharks and seagulls.
A collision with an enemy causes the witch’s magic meter (which is also used to fire offensive projectiles at enemies) to decrease.
The character dies once the meter is depleted. After dying, the character reappears on the screen and the meter is refilled. Players are given limited opportunities for this to occur, and the game ends once the number of hags reaches zero
When I played the game as a kid I was amazed you start off in your little cottage stirring your cauldron and then leave the cottage you can walk through the woods but it is easy to get to the clearing and take off on your broomstick.
I never completed the game, it was too hard for me but I did get to fight a giant pumpkin called the “Pumpking” (yes I know it sounds corny but he was scary).
Assemble The Key Ingredients
So in a nutshell you must assemble the six ingredients required to kill off your arch-rival, an evil pumpkin.
The ingredients are all located in underground buildings, each of which can only be entered once you’ve found the appropriate key.
The keys are located overground, and you must fly around on your broom to collect them.
Once you go underground, the gameplay becomes a test of precision platform jumping, including some Manic Miner-Esque blind jumps.
The six underground sections can be completed in a variety of orders, but you will sometimes reach points that can’t be completed without objects from other sections, so a lot of back-tracking is required. That is why 10 year old me never completed the game but thank heavens for you-tube as I have got to see the end.
Other names for Cauldron
The game was released for the Commodore 64 under the German-speaking title “Hexenkuche” which translates to “Witch`s Kitchen”. It was a massive success in German-speaking countries. The legacy of the game is well known, and it was praised by so many magazines of the time.
The TV series the Worst Witch was currently airing on ITV causing the witch craze phenomena of the 80s this may have helped towards the sales of the game.
The worst witch was a series of books adapted into a long-running TV series that was like Harry Potter of the 80s.
The game was now a cute cartoon game and the player now controls a 15 year old witch called Zmira (who is related to the witch queen from the first 2 games).
Sadly for the Amiga and Atari it got negative reviews being called a Twin worlds Rip off or a poor man’s Seven Gates of Jabala.
I personally feel that’s rather unfair and harsh as the game is very enjoyable.
The levels are populated with bats, trolls, and snakes, which have programmed attack patterns and follow you off the screen.
You can collect and cast up to 12 spells, which are accessed using the cursor or function keys.
It was one of the last games released for the Amstrad CPC and it was praised for its graphics and gameplay.
Zmira the witch must negotiate four worlds, each split into bite-size chunks, in order to retrieve her magical powers and restore the kingdom. Like its predecessor, the gameplay is pretty much the same but with the added extras of spell casting.
Unfortunately the game was panned and ended the cauldron series.
The Final Game & It’s Legacy
The final game in the series by Titus was released called “Incantation” this time you play a young wizard it was more of a spin-off so treat this as a relative to Cauldron.
The player controls a young wizard who has to complete several levels.
Enemies are defeated by using different ranged spells that can be found throughout the levels, with different firing patterns and power.
Some levels require players to pick up a certain amount of items while others have a boss battle.
Released for the Super Nintendo in 1996 by Titus France and targeted towards young children, Incantation was released near the end of the lifetime of the Super NES so is quite valuable now with a resale on eBay between £40 for the cart only to £150+ for a complete boxed version.
It was sadly also the last of the Cauldron games and this was the end of this much loves franchise.
What are your memories of the Cauldron games? Let us know in the comments below.
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