The Black Cauldron is an adventure game designed by Al Lowe of Sierra On-Line and released in 1986. The game is based on the Disney film The Black Cauldron, which was itself based on the Chronicles of Prydain novel of the same name by Lloyd Alexander. It was made shortly after the first King's Quest game, so it resembled that adventure in many ways. Along with The Dark Crystal it remains one of only a few adventure games by Sierra to be based on films.
The player character is a young assistant pig-keeper, Taran, undertaking a quest to stop the evil Horned King, who sought for Hen Wen, the magical pig of the wizard Dallben, for her visionary abilities. With these abilities, the King would be able to discover the Black Cauldron and rule the land.
Taran's first mission is to lead her to the Fair Folk while the King's dragons are looking for them. Should the pig be captured (the game allows either possibility), Taran can go to the King's castle and rescue her. Once inside, Taran will meet and rescue Eilonwy with her magic bauble and Fflewddur Fflam, as well as discover a Magic Sword.
The Cauldron is in possession of three witches of Morva who will trade it for the Sword. Unfortunately a dragon grasps the cauldron and Taran goes back to encounter the evil man himself.
The game actually featured plot branches and multiple endings depending on many variables, such as whether Hen Wen the pig was saved, how the cauldron was destroyed and what reward was chosen afterwards. This use of multiple endings predated the more famous use in Lucasfilm's game Maniac Mansion by a year.
In order to make the game more accessible to children, Sierra used an innovative idea that would not reappear in the genre for the next 10 years: the text parser was removed in favor of the function keys that performed various actions:
F3 would choose an inventory item,
F4 would use it,
F6 would perform "Use" near the character's location, and
F8 would "look". The simplification of the two actions "Look" and "Use" was not reused in Sierra's later games. However, it somewhat resembles the control system of other later simpler point-and-click adventure games, such as the King's Quest VII or The Dig whose interfaces only consisted of "Look" and "Use". Being based on a Disney film, the graphics present some relative 'flexibility', compared to the monolithic and straight sceneries of previous and later games.