Reduce lackies to piles of chopped flesh
Out of Pocket: £9.99 cass
Author: Paul Murray
Although they aren't too common these days, many ears ago, barbarians roamed the land. Strange but true, claim Psygnosis, a software house more known for their 16-bit games. But you needn't worry, this is no mere hand-me-down from the Atari ST or Amiga, but a fully-realised Spectrum hack 'n 'slay of exciting proportion.
So, back in time: Moron was a brave and savage warrior who usually brawned before he brained and so made many enemies. One in particular, an evil and powerful being called Necron, took a particularly strong dislike toThoron. For many years their feud raged, until one day, Necron, determined to end it and sent his deadliest ally, a huge fire-breathing dragon called Vulcuran, to kill him. Which the dragon did.
But Thoron's son, Hegor, swore vengeance on Vulcuran and Necron. A brave boast, but our boy hasn't earned his title of dragon-slayer by sitting at home knitting socks. Nope, he gives as good as he gets - slashing left and right with his trusty blade, and leaping around the screen as though there are springs tied to his feet. The prospect of kicking this large reptile's bottom does not worry him, so with a spring in his step and a sharp sword in his hand, he sets out to avenge Thoron's death.
As Hegor explores the variety of platforms and ladders in Necron's underground empire, he is attacked by evil creatures who roam the dank and dingy passages. These include dogmen, giant soldiers, monks, strange creatures that hop around, and such a liberal sprinkling of fiendish traps and pitfalls that they would do an Indiana Jones movie proud.
Hegor is controlled by a row of icons placed at the bottom of the screen. Moving left and right across the playing area can be controlled normally using keyboard or joystick. The other options - running, jumping, fighting, defence etc - are selected by moving the red cursor to the desired icon, and then hitting the fire button. If the opposition gets too hot, a handy little icon on the far right of the screen allows Hegor to drop everything and run for it. At a press of the space bar, a second set of icons allow you to pick up and drop items, as well as collect objects like a sword or a bow.
Once the lackies have been reduced to piles of chopped flesh and bones, the evil overlord and his fire-breathing companion are faced - and with a lot of skill (and more than a little luck), defeated.
The icon system is as simple in design as in use - very little practice is needed to send the loin-cloth-clad hero on his merry, and very blood-stained, way. Barbarian is a good old fashioned hack and slay affair that I, for one, really enjoy playing.
Joysticks: Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: nicely drawn and animated sprites hack their way around the screen with great zeal
Sound: simple but atmospheric biff and bash effects
Pity about the awkward push-scrolling but that's hardly a major factor when you've got a mammoth complex of dungeons and dragons to explore. Everyone who thinks that one Barbarian (Palace's) is more than enough is in for a surprise. With intricately detailed graphics, Psygnosis have created a grippingly sinister atmosphere. Both monsters and muscleman are excellently animated - even Hegor's mop of he-man hair rises and falls as he runs. Barbarian turns out to be an exciting and hair-raising experience.
At a quick glance Barbarian may took bleak and boring, but when you get to grips with controlling Hegor in his mangling adventure the unpredictability does get the old ticker going! What makes Barbarian so addictive is the fact that you never know what's coming up next when you enter a new screen (unless you've been there before). The enemy characters are graphically similar to those in Rastan, but Barbarian lacks the excellent backgrounds and sound. There are some atmospheric sound effects but they're very sparse. I found Barbarian a thoroughly addictive game and I will certainly be playing it for a long while yet.
Barbarian was a big hit with ST and Amiga owners earlier this year, coming as it did from one of their fave labels, Psygnosis. And now Melbourne House (Mastertronic by any other name) has bought up the 8-bit rights and knocked out some conversions. So far so bon, ein?
What were looking at here is another Rastan/Vixen/Athena scrolling slice 'em up quest-to-find-the-lost-golden-pillowcase-of-Tharg, or something. You are Hegor the Barbarian, man of muscle and tiny brain, and while you've got your trusty sword, you're always in with a chance. The control system is unusual, but surprisingly easy to cope with, although I'd recommend keyboard over joystick.
Q and W control movement left and right, as normal, while O and P move the cursor along a row of icons at the bottom, which if activated, make Hegor do something more interesting than just wandering about. There's one for fight, for instance, another for moving quickly, one for going downstairs and so on. Fighting requires timing but is otherwise straightforward. More important is standing in the right place at the right time - timing things just right is the secret of survival.
The icons can cause problems, as the game deliberately doesn't explain what they mean. Some are obvious, others deeply obscure, and there are still one or two that I haven't worked out yet. Not that I've needed them as far as I can make out, so who knows? There are arrows tying around as well, but I get the feeling that this is one of those games in which finding out what's going on is up to you - "part of the fun", as the inlay usually says - so I shall say no more.
Once you've worked out the puzzle that each screen boils down to, Barbarian is quite easy, certainly to get into. I suspect that it's quite large, and so fairly tricky to complete, but there's a saminess in the graphics, no doubt caused by the Speccy's notorious limitations, that begins to pall after a while. Still, I do keep having just another go, usually between every sentence of this review. See, there was another one. My own feeling is that people who thought Karnov was an morceau de gateau will find this a dead cinch, but as I thought Karnov completely unplayable, I quite like this. I don't know about you, but I HATE shelling out a tenner for a game that I can't get beyond the first screen on - this presents no such problems. Whether it has true lasting fun-potential, though, is another matter entirely.
Overall though, I was pleasantly surprised. The conversion is very professional and to be honest, rather better than Melbourne House's usual standard. My only real moan is that it's not amazingly fast. Hegor doesn't exactly rush about (unless you click him into Rush About Mode, upon which he whizzes all over the place, generally getting killed in the process). Control, though, is very user-friendly, as you can press movement buttons and icon buttons at the same time -and both actually work! Now I think there may just be time for one further game. How am I going to get past that accursed wizard ...?
Huh! Roar! Swipe swipe! Spurt! Bleed! Drip! Various other violent sounds and more abound in this latest gift from ol' software supremoes, Melbourne House. I know that there are some of you (and I know who you are) who are going to say, "We've had that one already, and Palace did it, not Melbourne House." Of course, you are completely wrong, as usual. Barbarian is acktuerly the official conversion of the Amiga smash that caused such a storm with its incredible graphics, digitised sound and revolutionary icon-driven system. Now, slightly toned down, it has found its way to the jumble 8-bit market.
You play the gallant, but incredibly thick Hegor (not Hagar, as we printed last month, sorry), who bills himself as the famous dragon-slaying-monster-mangling-barbarian. He's been given the task of ridding the world of the evil wizard Durgen, who is hidden in a room at the bottom of the very deep dungeon of, er, Tharg or something.
You begin your quest out in this wilderness, just a few screens' walk from Milton Keynes. Ha! it was a joke and you fell for it! I mean the dungeon. As this screen is empty, now is a good time to get used to the control method. Along the bottom of the screen is a series of icons, used to control your on screen counterpart. They are, left to right: Walk left; Climb up stairs/ladder; Climb down stairs/ladder; Walk right; Stop movement; Do a forward somersault; Run in the direction you're facing; Use weapon/item in hand; Backward somersault; Drop everything and flee.
Another series of icons can be called up by pressing 'space,' this is the one that controls all the items in the game. With it you can pick up and drop items, and ready them for use too. Next to the icons are graphical representations of what you are carrying, how many arrows you've got and a lives counter.
There are 3 types of weapon in the game, but usually you only start with one of them, the sword. (See box for more details).
To hinder you as you rush madly about the mazelike dungeons, which, incidentally, are huge, so a map of some description is definitely called for (A signed photo of me to the first person who can deliver one. You are attacked by all manner of nasties, all depicted wonderfully. All the graphics in the game are great, though some of the animation leaves a lot to be desired. The main sprite, for example, walks just like something out of Thunderbirds, and he runs, ha! I can't describe it! The best that I can do is that he jerks his head around, his arms swing madly and he has the habit of slashing himself in the face. Very comical, I must say.
Different weapons are needed for different nasties. Some swing axes and clubs, so they have to be taken out at a distance with the bow. Some won't move until you are very close to them, so the sword is needed, along with some very good reflexes.
As I have said, the map is huge, and after a little practice, you'll find yourself having some very long goes and getting incredibly far into the game, which does lead to extreme frustration when you die after climbing down the final ladder in the game and get nabbed at the bottom. It was almost enough to make me say something naughty, like, "Oh bum." and I don't say naughty things very often. (B****** - TH).
The sound has suffered quite a bit from the porting between machines. All the amazing digitised Amiga noises sound as if the main character is walking through a pile of dry leaves, though some very nice echo effects have been used.
I love Barbarian. It plays like a dream, and has just the right blend of arcade action, adventure and strategy to be appealing to anyone. A must buy for any self respecting Speccy owner. Either that or splash out £425 and get an Amiga and the game. I know which I'd rather do.
Label: Melbourne House
Reviewer: Tony Dillon
MACHINES: C64, Spec
SUPPLIER: Melbourne House
PRICE: £7.95 cass
VERSION TESTED: Spec
I don't know how they've done it, but they have. Melbourne House has managed to faithfully convert one of my all time favourite Amiga games to one of the most feeble computers around today. Barbarian is lust so wicked it makes Eugene Lacey look poor in comparison. Barbarian is just the slickest, bestest speccy arcade adventure ever, and that even rules out my old favourite, Firelord.
You are Hegor, the rootin', tootin'. slashin', bashin', dinosaur-slaying Barbarian, who also claims to be the toughest son of a chicken ever, and you've been sent to take care of an evil wizard, who's done something bad I suppose and (yawn), I guess he's hiding somewhere down a dungeon with lots of levels and nasties. Oh, why should I carry on, you've heard it all before anyway.
So, off you trot, and before long you find yourself in a nice little field near the entrance to the dungeon, and this is where the game begins. As this first screen is completely void of any nasties and traps and things, now is a good time to hone your lighting skills. To perfect these, you have to get used to the icons at the bottom of the screen. Look at any convenient screen shot that happens to be near this review, and I'll talk you through the icons, left to right.
First, you've got a group of four arrows pointing in the four normal directions. These are the commands to make Hegor walk left or right, and climb up and down ladders or steps. Next to that, you've got what looks like a VC. This means stop all actions, oh please, oh for god's sake stop, no don't go there you'll die, etc. Next to tho - you've got a badly drawn umbrella, which makes you somersault - useful for getting over collapsing bridges. Then you have the icon that looks like the rewind button on your video. This makes you run in the direction you're facing. Next to that, there's a picture of a sword. This means use the item you have in your hand. Then you've got another piccy of a sword, which means, curiously enough, do a backward somersault. Finally, you've got the two arrows that are circling each other, this means drop everything and run away. This is not advisable because you drop everything and lose your weapon as well.
Right, that's the confusing bit over with. The rest of the game is a regular hack and slash adventure through quite a large map. On various screens, traps will appear out of the blue and try and kill you. One nasty trap is the old 'collapsing bridge' trick. Then you've got the 'large door with spikes falling from the ceiling' jape. As well as traps, there are lots of different types of nasties, just waiting to eat you, or put their head up your bum - whichever is more painful.
Just like the Yellow Pages, not all the things in the game are nasty. There are some good things, as well, like blocked drains, broken windows and extra weapons. You can find a bow and a very limited amount of arrows in place on the map, and these are used to kill baddies at long range, as there are some that you just can't get to. Also a shield lies hidden somewhere, and it's with this that you kill the Wizard, but I'm not telling you how.
The graphics hove come down very nicely, and do bear quite a bit of resemblance to the original, though some of the animation is decidedly dodgy.
Thankfully, MH hasn't tried to get the sound onto the humble black box. Instead they've come up with some wonderful 128K effects. making good use of echoes (doop-e-doop-e-doop-eedoo-eee-doo). See what mean? 48K sound, however, is just a matter of bleep, blip and blop, but this doesn't detract from the game too much.
Controls are for better than on the original, with up/down on the stick cycling through the icons, left/right manually moving the man on the screen, and fire selecting the currently highlighted option.
Barbarian is fabbo, terrific, great, good and OK all rolled into one.It's as good a conversion as possible and I wouldn't hesitate in thoroughly recommending it to any Speccy owners, if there still are any.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.99
WHERE HEGOR, I GOR
Originally released for the 16-bit market (reviewed in TGM 002 - Atari ST 80%, Amiga 87%), Melbourne House has teamed up with Psygnosis to convert the successful title, Barbarian to the less powerful machines.
Hegor The Barbarian was taught how to fight by his father, Thoron. Womanising, dragon slaying and general barbaric behaviour earned them both many enemies. One in particular, an evil master of magic called Necron, hated Thoron and sent his dragon ally, Vulcuran to kill him - which, after a ferocious battle, he did. Hegor swore revenge and dared enter Necron's underground kingdom in the hope of slaying both Vulcuran and the nefarious magician.
This is where you come in, beginning your quest at the opening to the subterranean complex, you control the monochromatic Hegor as he walks, runs, fights, and lumps his way through the caverns. Many enemies and man-traps lurk in the complex, all nicely animated and deadly to the touch.
Control of Hegor, whether by keys or joystick, is via a row of icons along the base of the playing area. The chosen action is highlighted in red and executed by pressing the fire button or appropriate key.
Sound is minimal throughout, but this does not detract from gameplay which is surprisingly similar to the 16-bit versions. All in all, an excellent conversion.
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