“Arthur” is a clever synthesis of a few of the earlier, usually neglected, legends surrounding the legendary King Arthur’s youth. Arthur must prove to Merlin that he is ready to accept the responsibilities of a monarch. Empowered by Merlin’s ability to transform himself into different animals, he slithers, burrows, and flies through the wilderness surrounding Glastonbury.
Despite the fact that it’s set in the wilderness, “Arthur” teems with characters. Bob Bates quickly and cleverly etches the kind, but stern, Merlin with just a shade of menace; each of the variously-colored knights that stand in Arthur’s way has a distinctive personality (my favorite is the Blue Knight, who must have just wandered over the hill from the filming of Monty Python’s “Holy Grail”); and the evil King Lot is, well … evil. The protagonist is, as usual, missing, but “Arthur” sports another dozen delightful personalities that I won’t spoil for you. I will, however, tell you that Mr. Bates found room to pay homage to that first memorable IF character, Floyd!
“Arthur’s” only weakness lies in its structure. After following Merlin’s lead, the player could find himself wandering aimlessly through more than half of this sizable game. It’s a problem that could have been easily fixed, and, as a matter of fact, I’ll take care of it right now: After you deal with the injustice Merlin mentions, walk as far southeast as you can. Listen to what the nice man in red says, and try to be agreeable.