The Magic Candle

Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;

I grew up with both an Apple II and a Nintendo, and both captivated me with their games. Although over time, I grew to become primarily a console gamer, there are some genres that computers are inherently superior for, such as role-playing games.

Perhaps that’s why, two decades later, after having played a dozen Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games on Super Nintendo, Game Boy, and PlayStation, one of my favorite RPGs of all time is The Magic Candle, for the Apple II.

When I first played The Magic Candle sometime after its 1989 release, I was overwhelmed by its scope and complexity. Dragon Warrior on the NES, which I once rented for three weeks straight, had only two buttons and simplistic menus by which to guide a lone hero through a series of one-on-one battles in his linear exploration of the land of Alefgard. By contrast, The Magic Candle used the full keyboard and a large party of adventurers, and the manual suggested five directions from which to strike out from the first town. I was utterly dismayed, but I stuck with it — I’d spent my birthday money on this game, and I was not going to let that investment go to waste!

I’m glad I persisted, as the adventure that followed was one of the most diverse and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. The balance between freedom and necessity was unparalleled: Parties could be divided, with some members taking jobs to earn money or apprenticing themselves to earn valuable skills. Citizens would not talk to you unless you had sufficient charisma or were of a particular race. Time passed realistically, with towns having day and night sequences, during which certain taverns or people would present themselves. Weapons wore down, and warriors got hungry.

I could continue to wax whimsical about this grand journey, but my musings would be based on decades-old memories. A fresher and more accurate perspective is provided by JJ Sonick, who has thus far blogged a twopart tour as he rediscovers this game for himself.

Alas, the story of The Magic Candle on the Apple II ends with its first chapter. The end of the game let players save their characters to be imported into the sequel, The Magic Candle II: The Four and Forty, which came out three years later, though seemingly not for the Apple II.

More disappointing is the current lack of availability of the original game: a search on eBay for a used copy produces no hits. Around 15 years ago, I called Interplay, the then-employer of the game’s creator, Ali N. Atabek, to ask about reclassifying his work as a Lost Classic, but I never got through. I’m hopeful that someday, someone will be able to legally publish this classic game for all to enjoy.

  1. I see it was narrated by Steven Hawking on the Tandy. It’s amazing what guys will do for money in college.

  2. Thanks for the link, Ken! I do see copies of the Apple II version on eBay on and off, so don’t give up hope for that.

    Ali N. Atabek is on Linked-In, so you might try contacting him there, too, about getting it reclassified as a Lost Classic:


  3. Thanks, JJ! I forwarded Ali’s LinkedIn and Facebook profiles to Jason Spangler, who runs an online Magic Candle shrine. He said he’d try to get in touch with him.