The Balrog's back, on top form once again with this new release that really tickled my funny bone, not to mention my fancy. Right from the title screen, by ace artiste Kez Gray, the adventure shows the professionalism of all Zenobi's releases. A quick mention too for the bonus Goblin Gazette program on side two - not so much an adventure, more a browse through your favourite paper. I loved page three! (Oo-er!) The main game starts innocently enough, with the beloved Balrog hearing a scratching sound at the door. Outside there's a small ball of smoke. Or so it seems, until it reveals itself as really being a cat with its tail on fire. It tells its tale of woe (ho-ho), that as pet to a short-sighted magician, the White Wassock (!), it's lost eight lives this year already, and the latest bit of bad spelling has transported it here to outside your front door. Can you help it at all? Admit it, you could never resist a piece of fluff, could you? So remembering that the old gypsy on the far side of the bridge might be able to help, orft you jolly-well go.
Well, eventually you do, but first search your cottage thoroughly - you might find a notebook containing a magic word and the ever-fashionable backwards-writing. Or even the secret passage to the smallest room in the house (okay, just outside it to be exact), which contains an entry form for the cockroach races. If this doesn't make sense at first, then a moving experience (in the cottage, not the bog!) gives a bit more information. Try talking to the cat and the cockroach, too.
On your journey you'll briefly meet Fuddo, Slam and Bulbo, and even our own dear T'zer puts in her by now compulsory appearance. But is it true what they say about Ekim Drarreg??? Surely not! And what can this reference be to seeing the Balrog in his red satin posing pouch where he keeps his valuables? Not an adventure for the faint-hearted, obviously.
It's an adventure where money comes in handy. There's free help available with every purchase at the pub, but food and beer cost one gold coin each, and where's a Balrog to get cash like that? Our old pal the troll on the bridge demands his gold coin too - and he wouldn't be fobbed off with the green-cheese sandwich I offered him either.
There are a few in-jokes along the lines of Shadows Of Mordor, Golden Eggcup and something called Nigel's Revenge, and as usual with Zenobi games the problems are all quite cleverly worked out. The Quill is well used too, with smart ways of getting round some if its shortcomings.
The Balrog And The Cat doesn't have many shortcomings - though perhaps a bit easier than earlier John Wilson games, it should appeal to his many existing fans and win him a few more into the bargain. And it is a bargain too!
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