NO, it's nohting to do with Dudley Moore, this is Arthur as in the ancient Saxon King. No, not Arthur Negus. Look I'll start from the beginning, shall I?
There are many versions of the Arthurian legends, but all of them have one or two things in common - Lancelot, jousting, a round table, Camelot, and, of course, a magical sword called Excalibur.
But here the tales begin to differ. For instance, one school of thought talks of the "sword in the stone" being Excalibur, whereas Geoff of Monmouth insists that the magical sword was given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake at a later date.
In actual historical fact there was no jousting. Camelot was probably a collection of tents rather than a stone castle, and the table? - yes, it was more probably square.
As for Arthur himself, much mystery and debate surrounds the legend, as it does the life of Christ, and it is contested with an almost religious fervour.
In its version of the legend, Infocom has compromised, weaving most of these stories into the plot. Some of the other mythical figures and places that emerged from this period are drawn into the story. This is quite pleasing as it gives the player the real feel of this most magical of times without giving the answers away. If he or she already knows the mythology. In fact, this adventure concentrates on the period leading up to Arthur becoming king, of which not very much is known, historically or otherwise.
The story opens in the churchyard where the sword in the stone is being kept. The local bad guy, King Lot, is determined that he will be High King of England, so he half-inches the stone and pretends he has pulled the sword out. He plans to be crowned High King on Christmas Day, in 72 hours' time. With the help of Merlin, Arthur must find some way to stop him.
Unfortunately Merlin reckons that Arthur isn't yet ready to be King. First he must prove that he is wise, brave, chivalrous and experienced enough to be leader of all England. He also must find a way into Lot's castle to find out what the evil person is up to.
Various mini-quests will take Arthur into the surrounding countryside to face magical knights, wild animals, mythical beasts and enchanted forests.
The usual Infocom Help menu is included, probably the best help system in the world. Clues are revealed ranging from the so obscure that the other didn't really know what was going on, to the thunderingly obvious which everyone's pet hamster, or even mother, would twig to.
Some problems are merely a question of having the correct objects or having previously completed some other part of the adventure, others require a great deal of logic and, I venture to say, at least one peek at the hints.
There is a variety of screen modes, incorporating text only, graphics or a rather useful mapping mode which allows you to use the mouse on any adjacent location or to choose a direction from the on-screen compass. This is a great aid to rapid travel, especially in later stages where you may find yourself rushing backwards and forwards a bit.
Parsing is very good throughout, with the exception of the "say" command, which is a bit strange in its usage. But it's seldom needed, anyway. Graphics are pleasing throughout, although I belong to the school of thought that you only look at the picture once, so it is a bit of a waste of space.
Infocom is quite good about this since there are only three full-frame pictures, the rest being confined to a small, but nevertheless attractive, graphic in the top centre. They do say, after all, that size doesn't matter - it's where you put it that counts.
Arthur, like most games from Infocom, is a highly polished example of the state of the art in adventures. Yet unless one is very careful with the hints, it can be over far too quickly.