-   -   -   -   -   -   - 

Apprentice II:
The Knight's Move
Developer:Herculean Effort Productions
Publisher:Herculean Effort Productions
Release Date:August 2004
Article Posted:March 2006
System Requirements

Not long after I started playing Apprentice II: The Knight’s Move, memories came flooding back of the good old days of adventure gaming. These were the days when big name companies like LucasArts and Sierra would release one stellar adventure game after another, to the constant delight of avid adventure game fanatics like me. Remember the Monkey Island, Discworld, Simon the Sorcerer and Space Quest series? I would stay up all night trying to figure out ways to get my hands on the elusive elixir, or thwart a bunch of pirates, cursing under my breath as I inevitably found myself stuck somewhere, yet loving every minute of it. Apprentice II: The Knight’s Move is a game that will take you back to that gentle era when adventure games actually flew off the shelves of stores and anybody who’d talk about the “demise” of adventure gaming would have been instantly branded a loony, and promptly tied to a pole and pelted with orange peels. Before you break your beloved piggy bank, it is my delightful duty to inform you that the game is an amateur freeware adventure – yes, you really don’t have to pay anyone a dime to play this game.

Developed as a labor of love by the fine folks at Herculean Effort Productions using the AGS system, Apprentice II was, not surprisingly, preceded by Apprentice I. In the first installment of the series, you play as a young wizard’s apprentice who, by a cruel twist of fate, just so happens to be named ‘Pib’. The story in Apprentice I involves our fearless protagonist Pib venturing forth to collect ingredients for his first magic spell … and that about sums it up really. Apprentice I is indeed a very short game, with low-res 2D cartoony graphics and a standard point-and-click interface. But this freeware adventure still manages to score points for being charming, witty and a fun distraction if you have an hour or two to kill (longer if you get stuck somewhere of course).

Apprentice II: The Knight’s Move is longer and more difficult than the first game. It has more quests, locations, characters and puzzles. The game starts out with Pib, who’s still an apprentice wizard, falling out of his bed and waking up from a nightmare. In the nightmare, an oversized knight attempts to convince Pib that his destiny is to become a knight, and not a wizard. Now becoming a knight would not be cause for alarm for most. But take one look at Pib and you’ll realize why he might not be cut out to meet the physical demands of knighthood. Unfortunately, all is not well in the magical land of Willowbean, and the nightmare might just come true. The evil knight Lord Ironcrow, is leading the kingdom to war and is eager to recruit soldiers into his army. So eager in fact, that he is burning down people’s houses to make them homeless, since the homeless are required by law to be drafted in times of war. Pib unfortunately happens to be an eligible candidate for the draft. Some clever negotiating on his master’s part gets him a temporary reprieve, but it is clear that if Pib is to escape the draft, he must become a wizard. His master agrees to consider making him a wizard if he can complete three tasks which, as it turns out, are not all that straightforward. But then again, what else do you expect from an adventure game?

To complete these tasks, which involve driving stubborn rats out of a bakery, winning money at the centaur races, and creating a magical golem, you will need to go on numerous side quests and interact with a plethora of characters scattered around different locales in Willowbean. The puzzles in Apprentice II are mostly inventory-based, where you’ll interact with characters and your environment to collect stuff and combine/use it in various ingenious ways. Be warned though that you will face a menacing feature in this game, which has plagued plenty of adventure games of yore and harassed unsuspecting gamers to no end: the dreaded pixel hunting puzzles. Yes, it does make the game more challenging, but at the same time I was yanking my hair out trying to figure out which pixel on the screen I had neglected to move my mouse over while searching for an item. Thankfully, such scenarios are few and far between, and by and large, the game won’t stump you for too long at any given time. The puzzles are not too hard if you’ve been playing adventure games for a while, but if you’re fairly new to the genre, be ready to be befuddled for several hours while you try to beat this game.

The interface in Apprentice II is a standard mouse-driven point-and-click affair. The magical wand that serves as the pointer glows red when you pass it over an interactive hotspot. Right clicking on the hotspot cycles through different actions you can perform (‘Look at’, ‘Use’, ‘Take’, ‘Talk to’) and a left click performs the action. When it is not hovering over a hotspot, the wand is in the default ‘Walk to’ mode and can be used to move Pib around the screen. The inventory is conveniently located at the bottom of the screen, and pops up when you move the mouse there. Move the mouse to the top of the screen and a simple Save/Load/Quit menu appears. I liked this simple and intuitive arrangement, which lets you get on with the game without unnecessary clutter.

While the graphics in Apprentice II are certainly nowhere near the high quality stuff we’ve come to expect from recent commercial offerings, they’re certainly quite good for a freeware adventure. The 2D cartoony style reminds one of classic LucasArts games like Day of the Tentacle and Sam n Max Hit the Road. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered, and the environments are colorful and sufficiently detailed. The different locales you will pass through in the game are typically buzzing with activity, with characters on the screen defaulting to their ‘idle animation’ when you’re not interacting with them. You will encounter several memorable characters during your quest, each with their own distinct quirks and mannerisms presented through some witty dialogue and unique character animations. Overall, the look of the game gives it a nice “retro” vibe, which adds to the experience. The music in the game is also quite catchy. Sadly, there are no character voiceovers, which would have added another dimension to the gameplay. The developers did release a patch to add voices to the original Apprentice game some time after it was first released, but seeing that Apprentice II has been out for quite some time, don’t get your hopes up too high.


In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran or an adventure game newbie – this game will have you chuckling at the funny dialogues and absurdly comical encounters between different characters. Apprentice II: The Knight’s Move is a wonderful game which coasts along to the finish line on the strength of its engaging storyline, strong character development, and side-splitting monologues (and dialogues). The graphics and music give the game an ‘old school’ look and feel, which I also enjoyed immensely. Sure, the game will be challenging at times, but you’ll figure it out eventually, and then look back and wonder what took you so long. The best thing about this game is that it’s absolutely free. All the more reason for you to download and play it right away! But before you do, I recommend you play Apprentice I if you haven’t done so already. Part of the charm of playing Apprentice II is the recurring characters and references to the events in the earlier game, which will not only add to the fun, but also have you looking forward to the next installment in the series. Yes, Apprentice III: Checkmate will (hopefully) come out sometime this year, and if the first two games in the series are any indication, this game will certainly rock!

To download the Apprentice games, head over to the Herculean Effort website.

PC System Requirements:
Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, or XP
About 68 megabytes of hard disk space
DirectX 5 or above