Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is a delightful role-playing fantasy game. The Sultan's daughter has been kidnapped by the ruthless band of thieves and has been taken to the thieves' stronghold deep inside a treacherous mountain. You play the famous Ali Baba and have been summoned to rescue the lovely princess.

You enter a world filled with exciting characters, each with his own strength and allotment of weapons, and armor. Some of these are loyal to the Sultan and will assist you in your quest but there are many opponents who must be overcome. Ferocious tigers, ruthless bandits, magical swords, and a deadly dragon are among the more than one hundred creatures you will face. These have a reincarnation ratio which you can adjust.

The game may be played by either keyboard or joystick. Joystick mode is by far the easier method. And when other characters are created to help Ali Baba in his quest, they can be assigned to different joysticks so that up to four players can play at once. The game is also novel in that a player can leave the game for an hour and return later to that same character again. Players can move, create new characters, buy armor or weapons, search for hidden doors and open treasure chests.

The graphics are refreshing. As you enter each room, the contents, including visible exits, are identified by a moving cursor. While this slows game play substantially, it does help you familiarize yourself with the symbols used throughout the game. Various runes contain messages and when you touch one of these, the message is displayed in lettering that is reminiscent of ancient Arabic writing. The accompanying music is a delight to the ears - a few bars of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scherazade done in multi-part harmony.

There is a degree of puzzle content but it's not really sufficient to classify Ali Baba as an adventure game per se. Hints, either obtuse or blunt, are found in runes. These cause your disk to wake up when encountered. Other than that, there is no disk interaction in the entire 60-plus room game. New hi-res displays are nearly instantaneous but the unfortunate byproduct of this is a very slow response in the interminable sequence of combative encounters. These delays are only slightly offset by the humorous text accompanying the encounters. Even with the Monster Regeneration Factor (i.e. difficulty control) set to zero, there seems a near endless procession of assault-minded thieves and assorted monsters. Mitigating this, but again at the expense of longer delays before it is once more your turn, there is the ease of calling in a veritable army of allies, including yourself, or any favorites that may have just been killed off. This multi-player capability also simplifies the difficult task of mapping, made complex by the extensive use of one-way doors and teleporting locations. The game is divided into dungeons and outside areas. Gold can be discovered in chests throughout both sections.

You may encounter in your adventure two other captives, Abdulla and Morgiana. Free them and they show their gratitude by aiding you in your quest. If you are very virtuous, a unicorn may come to your aid in fighting the monsters. Be very wary of moving statues and collapsing tunnels: things are not what they seem in many parts of the dungeon, so explore with caution.

A particularly novel and amusing feature is that the bad guys, all being played by the Atari computer, are not too particular whom they clobber, and will gladly pile into other bad guys. It's fun (in a devilish sort of way) to start a fight and then sit back and watch your enemies go at it. This feature, together with the multi-player capability, make Ali Baba great fun. This unique hi-res adventure should be a part of every player's collection.

Overall rating : B Difficulty:COriginality:B
Puzzle quality :C-Ease of use: B+Documentation:A
Text quality:BVocabulary:N/AHolds interest? B+
Graphics quality:A-Save/Restore:B-Value for money:B+