LOOKING FOR TABLETS IN A LABYRINTH OF CAVES
Sarnak has been summoned to retrieve the Zodiac Power Source stolen by evil Krillys. The brave adventurer's quest begins in the mysterious Ebbledown Forest, which lies above a vast cavern system, populated by hordes of Krillys's terrible demons.
Luckily for Sarnak, a network of magic platforms exists, created by Krillys for his own convenience. Using these, Sarnak is able to explore the demon-patrolled caves in search of the four elementals with which he can summon the Zodiac Power Source.
These are constructed from six pieces of magical tablet, scattered around the many caves. and can be used to defeat the powerful Guardian to allow escape from the current region.
Soldier Of Fortune looks and plays rather like a cross between Beyond The Ice Palace, and Ghosts And Goblins - even down to the great patience needed to master the pixel-perfect jumping skills necessary to reach some of the more inaccessible ledges.
The various areas of the land are linked by magic portals which transfer Sarnak to a different region. Also littering the land are the skeletons of other unfortunate adventurers; their trapped souls can be freed by contact with Sarnak, and they may gratefully reward him with a clue to the hidden location of the Guardian's chamber, accessed via a portal.
To start you are armed only with a simple bow and arrow, but more powerful magic weapons may be found, such as throwing daggers and swinging axes. Further aid is found in glowing crystals - collect eight for an extra life.
Soldier Of Fortune contains some cute, colourful characters patrolling a fairly large playing area of lifts and platforms. The hero is effectively animated as he leaps and runs through a multitude of caves. Although jumping around shooting demons is good fun, the lack of variety kills the appeal, especially when most of the screens have been explored.
PHIL … 69%
Joysticks: Kempston, Cursor, Sinclair
Graphics: well-drawn sprites patrol a colourful landscape of lifts and platforms
Sound: catchy Steve Turner title tune, plus plenty of spot FX
'Even though much swearing is heard, and frustration is felt at first, patience and practice soon has you merrily bounding across the colourful, and well-drawn screens. Overall, despite the fact that Soldier Of Fortune is playable, I feel it adds little to the existing platform and ladders format.'
MARK ... 68%
'Roaming around a scrolling landscape collecting bits and pieces and fighting off various nasties isn't very appealing on its own, but with the added attraction of teleports, the game becomes quite addictive. If you're looking for a good excuse to lock yourself in your bedroom for a couple of hours, here it is…'
NICK ... 73%
Four figures huddled around a campfire. “Ooh! Huddle closer, duckies,” the fire said camply. The quartet acted butch and ignored it. They were Teron the Terror, Sarnak the Snapper, Gorman the Gormless and Tartarus the Baking Powder. Their gathering could mean but one thing... that this was the start of yet another computer game scenario!
This one concerns the Zodiac Power Source, a sort of Ever Ready of evil from before the time of legend - or lunchbreak, whichever was longer ago. Krillys, (rhymes with Phyllis) a heavy-handed meddler in the subtle arts of magic, provides the necessary nasty who fries three of the four heroes, leaving only you, Sarnak the Soldier of Fortune, to rid the land from foul being (worse than the YS team?)
Pretty standard stuff so far, but for one thing - this is the latest from hard-grafting Graftgold, the people who gave you Uridium, Magnetron and many other golden goodies. But Solider's recruiting officer is neither Steve Turner nor Andy Braybrook, but one David O'Connor, so let's find out if all that glitters is (Graft-) gold.
On first impressions, Soldier Of Fortune ain't going to win no awards in the originality stakes. We've all played plenty of running, shooting and collecting games before, haven't we? But let's not dismiss Soldier so soon. What was Uridium but just another shoot 'em up - but one which transformed into a classic because of its brilliantly balanced playability? Perhaps Graftgold can work its Midas magic on yet another old genre.
As you play along, you'll realise that it can - and how! Forget the fact that you've seen almost every element of this game before, ranging from moving platforms to teleports and swooping birds to crumbling floors. You've probably not seen them put together as imaginatively as this more than three or four times in the whole history of the Spectral computing. Add to that some great and varied graphics and you have to magic hook of addictability to make you play and play again.
You start by running along the surface, shooting down some loping monsters which provide easy targets. But then you reach the first fissure in the crust. Will you try jumping (inadvisable) or hang around in the hope of help (somewhat wiser)? And when the lift arrives (ooh, worra giveaway!) do you descend or use it as a stepping stone to fresh fields?
Variety as you explore - that's the key! You have a choice of paths, even shooting out walls to reach caves by alternative routes. There are also teleports which take you into other realms, such as a world set amongst trees, and each has its own particular beasties, which become increasingly tough to tackle. Then, just to keep you on your toes, you won't find the objects that you're seeking in the same place each game!
You will be able to work out the cave layout though and discover how to deal with specific problems - only to have them lead you into new dangers. Luckily there's lots to collect as you go, ranging from more powerful weapons to life-giving crystals and more crucially, the six pieces of the magical tablet which let you construct an elemental to defeat the Guardian of the region - or was it a Daily Mail?
Yea, verily, there was a rejoicing throughout the land for once again the brave knights of Graftgold had got it right and breathed life into an old formula. So don't delay - sign up as a Soldier and receive a Fortune of fun!
We've come to expect space-smashing shoot-'em-up mayhem from Graftgold, so it's a bit of a surprise that the latest effort is steeped in pixieness and things that go bong in the night.
Soldier of Fortune - lousy title, too similar to The Edge's Soldier of Light - is by David and Brendan O'Connor, rather than the familiar team of Steve Turner and Andrew Braybrook. It's a very, very, very traditional shoot-jump-collect exercise which initially looks uninteresting but which keeps you playing with a combination of tricky puzzles and the odd surprise.
I don't expect you want to hear the plot. You do? Oh, all right. The Zodiac Power Source has been destroyed by the meddling of the sorceror Krilys. The last of the good mages, Gorman, has disappeared after charging you, Sarnak, with the task of restoring the Source. Stranded in the mysterious Ebbledown Forest, Sarnak must use magic platforms, and avoid crumbling deathtraps in his quest to restore the Source. There. I bet you wish you hadn't asked.
In order to restore the Source you must construct four Elementals, and to construct each elemental you must find six sections of a map. Each map gives you access to a new area of the game through the teleporters, which look like large purple cabbages.
You start off with an arrow-firing weapon, and collect tokens along the way which eventually add up to a more powerful weapon; a knife or a flying hammer. You'll need these to ward off the flying boogies, shambling zombies, wood creatures and other monstrosities found in the woods and caverns.
You'll also come across the skeletons of fallen adventurers. Freeing each one earns you a bonus score and the eternal gratitude of a pile of bones.
To complete each region you must defeat its Guardian, which you can only do with the help of an elemental. Some of the portals are also closed to you unless you have assembled an elemental, so the moral of the tale is - find an elemental. Glowing crystals restore you life energy, and you can also gain an extra life by defeating a Guardian.
That's just about your lot, then. Once you've figured out how to time your leap on and off the moving platforms, avoid or shoot the monsters, find the bits and bobs and defeat the Guardians, everything's hunky dory.
While Steve Turner's music and sound effects are pretty good, the graphic design is unremarkable, and if it weren't for the fact that the animation is smooth and the gameplay tricky, Soldier of Fortune would be no better than the average budget platforms-and-ladders game. Give it a go by all means, but don't expect anything as stunning as previous Graftgold efforts like Uridium or Magnetron.
Author: David and Brendan O'Connor
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
C64 version reviewed Issue 14 - Ace rating 719
Completely different to the C64 version. Still, an arcade adventure that's addictive and frustrating enough to keep you playing for some time.
MACHINES: Spectrum, CBM 64
PRICE: £7.95 Spectrum/£9.95 CBM 64 cass/£12.95 disk
VERSIONS TESTED: CBM 64/Spectrum
In the last few months, the legal wobblies over Graftgold have tended to cause more excitement than their games. In the battle between Hewson and Telecomsoft over the rights to programmers Andrew Braybrook and Steve Turner's work, no-one seems to have come out best; so far, Firebird have come up with Magnetron (very much a re-run of Quazatron) and Morpheus, a pretty but unplayable shoot-'em-up.
Maybe Soldier of Fortune will be the turning point. Written by John Cumming, it's not what you'd expect from Graftgold at all. It's a fantasy arcade adventure rather than a space extravaganza, and it certainly doesn't set any new standards in either originality or programming excellence.
You'll want to know the plot, although frankly it's the normal sword-and-sorcery tosh. Evil mage Krillys has unleashed a horde of demons on the world by damaging the Zodiac Power Source. Your task, as either Tartarus or Teron (or both in the two-player version) is to find the Source, return it to its rightful place and save a whole forest full of grateful pixies.
Tartarus and Teron can walk, run, jump, climb and open doors, all under joystick control. In two player mode, the game "camera" attempts to follow whichever player pressed his fire button first, so it's in your interest to stick together. If the other player disappears off the screen, he will lose energy swiftly. The Commodore version has very poor background graphics of trees, platforms, ladders and walkways. The monster sprites dance around smoothly while the screen scrolls around, but the design is so poor that you can't make out what most of them are supposed to be - bats, wolves, whatever.
In fact, the whole production looks like a second-rate version of Ghosts and Goblins, with only the excellent theme music and spot effects feeling more up-to-date. In contrast, the Spectrum version looks completely different, with larger, more interesting sprite designs, nicely detailed status indicators and decorative screen borders. They're like two completely different games, and the Spectrum version is immensely superior.
What they have in common is the basic plot. In order to complete your quest you have to collect magical tokens, find your way through mystic transporters, and obtain new weapons to protect you against ever more fearsome enemies. In the Commodore version, you can enter shops in villages and, if you have found golden tokens, trade with the villagers for extra weapons, shields, keys and scrolls. The trading sequence is graphically uninteresting and doesn't add much to the game, so it's no loss that the Spectrum version doesn't have one; here, it's just a matter of finding tokens hidden on the bodies of dead adventurers, and collecting enough to earn you the protection of a guardian spirit as you fight against the final monster on each level.
The Commodore 64 version, then, is a dead standard, pretty boring pot boiler which does little to add to Graftgold's reputation. The Spectrum version, in contrast, is interesting and imaginative, featuring touches like flying platforms, giant monsters and imaginatively designed sprites which make it more than your run-of-the mill pixie shoot-'em up.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £7.95
Graftgold's latest release delves into the world of demons and magic, where Sarnak, the hero, attempts to restore the mysterious Zodiac Power Source disrupted by the evil Krillys.
Weapons and magical tablets are found on the scrolling platforms: necessary in forming elementals which give access to different levels and eventually summon the Zodiac.
Gameplay differs considerably from the C64 original shopping for weapons has been exchanged for simple collection, bringing it even closer to Ghosts 'N' Goblins, from which the game was inspired.
The two-player option has been removed, as has the shield system - one touch from a monster takes a life. The platform layouts have been drastically altered, requiring a difficult leap near the beginning of the game and making platform skills essential.
The lively screen surround includes runic markings and an attractive status panel. The liberal use of colour is continued in the play area and generally avoids clash. The screen scrolls smoothly and the characters are adequately defined, though the hero looks demonic.
Title music and sound effects are good but strangely futuristic.
With the strategic buying element missing, Soldier of Fortune on the Spectrum is a simple platform game mixed with a ghostly shoot-'em-up.
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