Altered Beast

by Jason Austin, Mark A. Jones, Paul Hiley
Activision Inc
Crash Issue 71, Dec 1989   page(s) 63

Activision/Software Studio
£9.99 cass only

'Rise from your grave and rescue my daughter' is the command Zeus gives the player at the start of this multi-level romp into the realms of fantasy and vicious great monsters who do their best to return him to his original state (ie dead). Zeus's daughter Athena has been kidnapped by Nelf, the evil Lord of the Underworld. You (and your mate if you wish, and he lets you) play a fallen warrior whose eternal slumber is disturbed by the search for the lovely daughter.

Level one takes you to a ruined tempts where the meanies' condition is rather grisly - most of them seem to be in a state of severe decomposition (have you noticed George A-zombie Romero's influence on this issue's games?). But they can still inflict a fair bit of damage if their blows connect. At the start your character is a fairly muscular chap whose punch would probably stagger the likes of Rocky Balboa: but as wolves attack him and are destroyed, glowing 'spirit balls' are revealed, which if collected transform him first into Schwarzenegger proportions, then into one of the strange were-beasts that bestow incredible powers.

In this guise sprite hero faces Nelf, who himself changes into a strange and frightning creature. When beaten, Nelf takes away the spirit balls(!), and spriteling reverts to a puny human who must battle his way through the rest of the levels - only changing into were-beast when enough spirit balls are found - until Athena is found and returned to her father. After which he returns to zombie state - thanks, after all it only took balls to do the job. Altered Beast, along with Galaxy Force is one of my favourite Sega arcade games. But once I started playing the conversion I was disappointed. The game is faithful to the original but the graphics are so horribly clashingly garish to make most of us in the office leap for our sunglasses. Scrolling is a bit of a shambles as well, waiting for the slow and juddery screen to catch up with the hero isn't my idea of fun. Altered Beast isn't dire, but Activision could have done better.

MARK [61%]

When you first load up Altered Beast, the presentation just knocks you back. All the front end is excellent with animated sequences, a great loading screen and an abundance of colour. The game itself is full of detailed backgrounds and characters with colour everywhere. The only fault is the scrolling, and this spoils all the other aspects of the game. Walking along the screen scrolls character by character, which makes it very jerky, and with it being slow to boot the game is not a joy to play. The sound is of a good standard, with a tune and spot effects. I have played Altered Beast on the PC Engine and the Amiga, and the playability would be exactly the same on the Spectrum if it weren't for that one problem. Never mind, if you think you can stand a bit of a jerk (no Mark Caswell gags please!) give this one a whirl.
NICK [74%]

Presentation: 79%
Graphics: 73%
Sound: 74%
Playability: 68%
Addictivity: 65%
Overall: 67%

Summary: Good conversion, beastily unscrolled to near undeath.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 95, Jan 1992   page(s) 61

The Hit Squad

Altered Beast takes us back to a time when nasty mythological creatures roamed the Earth and the only mighty heroes around were six-foot under. A good example is the heroic-type corpse resurrected by Zeus (the head honcho of the Greek gods) to rescue his daughter, Athena, from the clutches of Nelf, Lord of the Underworld (cue evil laughter).

But of course, Nelf, despite having a stupid name, is pretty sharp in the smarty-pants department. He isn't going to give Athena up without a fight, but not to worry 'cause our zombie lad (when alive) won honours in monster mangling and wrote a best-selling novel titled '100 Places To Stick A Very Sharp Sword' (I've read that one, so watch it - Ed).

The game's a multi-level affair with most of the attacking creatures looking like extras from a George Romero flick. In normal mode, the player sprite could probably go a couple of rounds with the likes of Nike Tyson. But once in a while glowing 'spirit balls' (ahem!) appear. Collecting one means our hero can leap buildings in a single bound, catch bullets in his teeth etc (well not quite, but you know what I mean). Grabbing a second ball (madam), the character transforms into a strange were-beast with awesome powers (able to push tall buildings over, throw unfeasibly large objects around etc).

When first reviewed way back in Issue 71, Altered Beast didn't receive a particularly warm greeting. And now, two years later, the story's just the same. Don't get me wrong, the game isn't dire, but the programmer should have been shot a birth.

The colour scheme is horrendous, a definite case of 'pass the sick bag, please Vicar', but the real problem is the scrolling - it rarely keeps up with your movements so when you advance it often takes a few seconds for the screen to catch up.

Overall, Altered Beast is a slightly above average beat-'em-up that may just appeal to fans of the coin-op.

Presentation: 65%
Graphics: 55%
Sound: 68%
Playability: 66%
Addictivity: 63%
Overall: 69%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 47, Nov 1989   page(s) 72

£9.99 cass
Reviewer: Phil South

Grrroowwlll! I'm an altered beast... but then again you already knew that. (At least those people who come into the office when I'm in a leg-bitin' mood know. And they still walk with a limp too!)

But this time it's all a game, and what a good sort of game it is too. Altered Beast was a corking, ripping, snorting game as a coin-op with all sorts of fab 'n' groovy undead beasties to beat up, not to mention a whole googolbyte of sound and graphics. And looking at its conversion I can but marvel (gasp, gasp) at the capacity of the average Spectrum programmer to shoehorn this much game into such a small memory space. Tsk! Y'know I still remember when 48K was a LOT. Still, enough of this foolish reminiscing... sniff... on with the review.

Once upon a time, a young bloke died and before he could even get comfy in his grave, some bleedin' wizard came along and raised him from the dead. "What do you want, you whiskery old goat?'' he shouted politely. "I wuz just gettin'settled in me grave, an' now you've blinkin' come along and resurrected me, yer big dimmock."

"You are to be my agent in this world," said the wiz, with a voice like an old wallet. "You shall take on the beasts of the night and rescue my daughter. Art thou worthy of the task?" He prodded a lightning bolt into the wretched dead-un's kidneys, making his eyes bulge out like mushrooms. Being brave about death but a complete wimp about pain, the lad accepted and trudged off through the Graveyard.

It wasn't much, a trifle overpopulated with zombies perhaps but it was the only home he had. He ploughed into the zombies without much ado, but soon realised, as he progressed through his next four picturesque locations of the Forest, the Cave, the Temple and then back again to the Graveyard, that something rather peculiar was happening to him. Whistling merrily along as he ker-splatted his fiendish foe he'd find himself turning into a flying dragon and a blue bear, and a funny humanoid tiger. Sometimes even a golden werewolf! That wizard's got a rum old sense of humour, he would mutter to himself. Ha... ha...

Hey, YOU, wake up! It isn't a bed time story, you prannock, it's the game. Ahem. Right, sitting comfortably? (Chuckle.) Then I'll continue.

On the Speccy it's easier to do a monochrome version of a blockbustin' coin-op beat-'em-up game, because it's less hassle than finding out new ways to bamboozle your way around the attribute problem. I think this is a bit of a cop-out, personally, especially when the one thing that the Speccy actually does rather well is fast colour graphics. Okay, so it's not many colours, but with care and attention you can achieve a multicoloured game which moves at something like a realistic speed. Which is exactly where Altered Beast comes in. (Lumme! At last! Ed)

It's a multi-coloured game, a bit like Karnov in design and execution, in which the sprites all have their own colours. The technique works better if you layer the colours and do calculations to match the sprite colour with the background colour but that all takes up processing time, so the backgrounds take on the sprite colour as it moves across the screen. It's easier to do, faster to play, and so much closer to the original game in looks and speed. Altered is as fast as it can be for the amount that's going on, and it rates a higher score for that, but it does judder a bit. The graphics are first class, and the sounds are none too bad either although a trifle annoying if we're talking about the theme tune.

The game is quite satisfying as beat em ups go, and my only real criticisms are a) if anything the levels are too short b) shame the players look like they re doing ballet kicks rather than karate, and c) with the background and 400 bits of zombie flying around it's hard to see what's going on. But Altered pushes the Speccy to its limits, and although it's a flawed execution in some ways, I'd still say it's a good game.

Life Expectancy: 66%
Instant Appeal: 79%
Graphics: 79%
Addictiveness: 76%
Overall: 80%

Summary: Little niggles here and there but very adventurous (and gory).

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 72, Dec 1991   page(s) 67


We've got compilations coming out of our ears this month! (And nearly as many reviewers!) So come on baby, let's go!

Reviewer: Rebecca Norley

Originally released by Activision in '89, this was also included on Ocean's Power Up compilation pack back in June. And here it is again! Spook, eh? if you're into bright colours, whizzy graphics and lots of fighty-jumpy action then you'll love Altered Beast. It's crammed full of lovely colourful stuff and might well be the gamette for you. A rather large eyeball has captured a powerful wizard's daughter and you have been personally chosen to rescue her. You'll need brains and a steely physique to complete this difficult, yet romantic, task.

The beast who alters is you! You run the whole gamut - from good-looking chap, to dragon, to blue bear, to gold plated wolf. Before you can change, you'll have to travel along the five different levels and collect the souls of three white wolves. Along the way. there's all sorts of sprites, head-suckers and snakes that aren't the friendliest of creatures.

To get the most out of this game you'll have to possess the oriental skills of the next Bruce Lee. Yes! You too can astound your friends with your ace karate skills as you destroy the evil beasties.You too can prove what a He-Man, or She-Woman, you really are. If you haven't got Altered Beast already, then don't miss it this time round.

Overall: 81%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 92, Nov 1989   page(s) 10,11

Label: Activision
Author: In House
Price: £8.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various

Being dead's no fun, but one thing that can be said for it is you're safe as houses. And it's quiet, like a tomb in fact. So imagine your surprise when you suddenly wake up to find yourself alive and well and not in the usual state of decomposure that you'd expect after spending a few years dead.

Actually it's all down to Zeus who, upon finding his daughter Athena kidnapped by the evil Nelf, opens up his yellowed pages and finds the number of dial a corpse and guess what? He sends a bolt a lightening down and hits your tomb, sending a life giving shock which travels through your head, across your chest, down your leg, across the road and hits a bus stop.

"It's a miracle, I'm cured gov nor an' no mistake" And so the scene is set. You must rescue Athena from the clutches of the evil Nelf who has taken the descendant of the Godsif you succeed she'll probably give you a book token which is not a great deal but if you fail you'll end up dead again. To avoid dying twice in one lifetime, you must negotiate the various levels, the first being the trip to the gateway of the underworld (no it's not a large supermarket) where Nelf is holding Athena. You must punch and kick your way to the portal and when the occasional pulsating beastie appears, kick it's orbs out 'cos the orbs, when collected, power you up and give you extra fighting power. Collect three of theses on a level and kerpow! A startling metamorphosis takes place and transforms you into one of three creatures; a wolf, a bear or a dragon with each one possessing a special fighting ability with which to battle your way onward.

Control is by joystick and keyboard with all the leap up, crouch down, left and right stuff with fire button unleashing a punch or kick and, when you're all powered up with your three orbs and undergone your metamorphosis, it will unleash the supercharged attack, sending all the beasties to their well deserved doom. At the end of the level, Nelf will provide a monstrous guardian who will bar your onward path. Defeating this is tricky, especially if you haven't managed to collect enough power spheres to warrant a change to a meatier disposition.

The Altered Beast Sega coin-op is a fairly wicked affair with some great graphics, especially which is why this conversion seems a little lacking. The graphics are pretty and the backdrops are quite good but the scrolling from left to right is slow and jerky with the attribute clash bordering on the painful.

However the gameplay is there and it's okay so Altered Beasts should look attractive to fans of the coin op, if only because they can save a fortune in 50 pees.

Graphics: 67%
Sound: 65%
Playability: 74%
Lastability: 69%
Overall: 70%

Summary: Big licence gets the Activision treatment.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 118, Dec 1991   page(s) 49

Label: Hit Squad
Memory: 48K/128K
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Steve Keen

Altered Beast was very popular with me in the arcades. I especially liked the idea of visually transforming into different beasts for the tasks ahead. The animated bits in between were evocative and imaginative and have been retained in this version.

The gomeplay is very simple - walk along the preset routes and punch/kick shoot anything that gets in your way. A wolf patrols these routes and once dead throws up a spinning ball which you collect to complete your transformation. He-man, Were wolf, Flying Devil and Were-Tiger are all part of the arsenal available to you and along with each animal's special weapon.

Graphics in the first world are terrible, with disgusting colour bleeding and blocky animation, but it's made up for in some of the later screens. Scrolling is slightly jerky, but not too much. The multiload system employed does not enhance the game and unless you can't live without this conversion it's probably best forgotten and left alone.

It's not a beat 'em up and it's not an adventure just a pure arcade conversion. Not much went into the coin-op and this cousin reaps little out of it. Pure let down!

Overall: 70%

Summary: Looking rather dated by today's standards. When first reviewed we said it had great graphics, but you'd be hard pushed to find anything, even the lowest of games, looking this dire today. Could be fun for some.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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