By Peter Brown

Originally published in EUG #68
Click here to download a large .zip file
of the entire Omniscient playing area

Note: This article has now been superceded as the original Omniscient instructions are available.

The word 'omniscient' means "all knowing; having the knowledge in all matters or subjects", and the game was originally distributed with The Micro User/Acorn Computing #12.05 in 1994. It is a beautiful looking graphic adventure, surpassing Palace Of Magic, Shipwrecked and Ricochet in its complexity. In fact, in its current form, Omniscient must be one of the Electron's most enigmatic titles.

Yes, its title is a lesson in irony if you, like me, come to it knowing nothing more. It has no instructions nor can I, even having mapped it out for your delectation, shed much light on how you should approach it. On first glance, it seems a typical "collect the keys to open the doors and make progress through the maze" type of game. But experiment with it for a while and you will realise progress is very hard to come by. [Perhaps someone reading this has the original Acorn Computing magazine and will be kind enough to search its pages to see if it gave any indication of how one does make progress through it? - Ed]

Your main character is a wizard. In one location a spellbook can clearly be seen, and a cauldron bubbles away in another. So the theme of the game is clearly one of magic, and the multitude of baddies are fairly obviously to be avoided at all costs. Contact with any of them drains your energy bar and, once it reaches zero, you will expire.

There are a perplexing number of objects scattered throughout the caverns and these appear to fall into two distinct 'types'. Objects that can be picked up, and objects that cannot be picked up. You are able to navigate almost the whole of the caverns from the beginning of the adventure and to quote just some of the 'takeable' items, you can find a magnet, an axe, a male symbol, a female symbol and a block. The cauldron I have already mentioned, and any of these items can be dropped onto the cauldron and will immediately be destroyed. There is also a mysterious treasure chest, onto which you can also drop objects, and finally a diamond.

However, there are touches to the game which are difficult to predict and which have left me very bemused. There are types of keys, for example, which look like magic wands. The only key you have access to when you start the game has a white blob at each end. When holding this, you are able to pass through a white star (which otherwise obstructs the way) - so clearly the white wand and the white star is a problem which I have solved successfully. Games like Palace Of Magic for example combine keys and doors with mysterious objects too.

However, the white wand also has a further purpose. Dropping it in any room that contains objects then leaving the room and returning to it, 'wipes out' all the items that you cannot pick up. By dropping the white wand in a room with deadly mushrooms, the mushrooms, after a leave and return, disappear. This also allows you to make progress, in this case, giving you access to an axe.

There is also an 'Indiana Jones'-style falling wall which will trap you in a cavern containing a cross-hair like symbol should you not prop it open with the block I mentioned earlier. Fair enough. But the block also has another purpose and needs to be taken to a second location to hold open a passageway that otherwise closes when you pass through it.

Clearly the cauldron, the diamond and the treasure chest have some purpose. It also seems as though there are simply not enough keys for the doors (Look at the objects on the map), so it may be that further wands need to be created in some way. Once again though, I cannot be more specific because, despite fetching all the takeable objects to each of these enigmas, nothing seems to happen.

There is a tragedy here in that this puzzle game has only just come to light again yet not having instructions for it really makes it ten times more puzzling than intended. What am I missing, people? Try as I have done, I struggle to fully explore it, so I include it here with an appeal to any fellow Elk/Beeb graphic adventure enthusiasts. Read what I've found out so far, and let's crack it together...

Game Controls

X - Left, C - Right, * - Up, ? - Down, RETURN - Pick Up/Drop
S/Q - Sound/Quiet, COPY/DELETE - Pause/Restart

You can hold two objects at any one time.

Further game controls may be available.