Our recent preview of the new graphical adventure Tir Na Nog, which loosely translated means Land of Youth from Gargoyle Games, whose first game Ad Astra caused such a stir with its graphics, seems to have already aroused a lot of interest. Tir Na Nog is one of those games that is a review team's nightmare! There is such a lot of it to get through in a shortish space of time that it is inevitable we can only give a hint of the flavour.
Tir Na Nog is set in a mythical Celtic world peopled by the Sidhe. Once mighty, now fallen on hard times, these monkey-like creatures are the main protagonists in the adventure. They had bound the Great Enemy by creating the Seal of Calum, and thus had become a great civilisation. But the Great Enemy had managed to steal the Seal by sending a thief. In their rage the Sidhe killed the thief but the Seal was shattered into four pieces and the Great Enemy freed to wreak havoc on the Earth again. So fell the Sidhe into sub-human beasts.
When the game opens, it is a new, darker age. You play Cuchulainn, the Hound of Heaven, a mighty warrior who has been called to reunite the four pieces of the Seal of Calum and thus defeat the Great Enemy. In this respect Tir Na Nog is definitely an adventure. You are required to explore, seek useful objects such as weapons and keys (some of whose uses are immediately apparent, and some are not), and interact with the other characters who inhabit the land. But it is not a text orientated adventure - text only plays a part in telling you where you are and what objects you are carrying, although occasionally there are situations where text will appear, such as the Oracle. There are puzzles to solve (the Oracle's obscure pronouncements are such), and there are many arcade situations where quick reactions are needed to stay alive.
The screen is split roughly into two sections - a top playing area, where the land is seen, and a lower information area which tells you where you are, what you are carrying or using, and most importantly, a compass. The hero Cuchulainn moves left and right, but the scene may be viewed from four 'camera' positions which relate to the changing compass below.
Tir Na Nog comes in a large cardboard box which contains a 28 page booklet and a full colour map of the land. The booklet has playing instructions, a history of the land and playing tips contained very neatly within a supposed Sealltuinn, or 'observations' of a Bard of the Sidhe. The game may be saved at any point (to avoid constant death!) and reloaded.
Control keys: corner keys for thrust, alternate bottom row for left/right, alternate second row for changing 'camera' view, alternate third row for pick up/drop
Joystick: none, but a programmable interface might prove useful here
Keyboard play: responsive - takes getting used to keys and views
Use of colour: black drawings on simple colour grounds, works well and looks fresh
Graphics: excellent animation, using many frames, large characters and smooth scrolling effects
Sound: not much, mostly warning beeps
Skill levels: 1
Lives: 1, but the game constantly returns you to the start position, with effects of last life intact
Screens: continuous scrolling
Special features: map of Tir Na Nog
'What we have here is a game that desperately needs careful mapping by the player! The map provided is very useful in giving the general layout of the land, but as the booklet says, 'So many doors are there in Tir Na Nog that it has often been called the Land of Opportunity, because of the number of openings that exist.' And there are hundreds of pathways. Because of the 3D world the program creates, but which you only really see in two dimensions at any time, it can get very confusing at first! The first time player would be well advised to ensure that he or she doesn't lose a life right outside the altar cave and so drop the axe picked up just inside, because a Sidhe prowls around on that path and makes it a hard job on a next life to get the axe back. And that's an important point - as in Avalon, objects used or dropped remain where they are, you affect the land every time you play and things are not reset to 'start'. The graphics are extremely good. Cuchulainn walks and fights with tremendous vigour. It's marvellous animation. The adventure quests are numerous and this game is going to take a long time to get through, which makes it good value for money, and a must for adventurers and arcade players alike.'
'Tir Na Nog requires the skills of adventure, strategy and arcade. Some of the creatures you just have to fight, and what with orienting yourself and moving, it can be quite a skill. But some are in possession of things you need, and you may have something they want, so strategical thinking and forward planning comes in as well. Colour has been well used so there are no attribute problems to spoil the look of it. All the animated characters are masked on the backgrounds, so they look realistic and can be easily seen. The sidhe are very good, but a damned nuisance! I have barely scraped the surface of this marvellous looking game, but as far as I have got, it is playable, fun and (not usually the case with an adventure) very addictive.'
'I didn't get to see the preview copy of Tir Na Nog earlier but I had heard about it, and was looking forward to seeing it. Then I saw The Legend of Avalon and wondered whether Tir Na Nog wasn't going to be very similar. Well they are not at all alike, visually or in the playing, beyond the fact that in both games you do have to be able to think and move very quickly at times in what is a vast playing area. I like the idea in Tir Na Nog that access to the many major 'above' and 'below' ground places is done by way of caves which lead you from one place to the other. This game is also one of those that requires a lot of exploring and familiarising before you have a hope of getting onto the quests. Fortunately, the exploring itself is fun and there is a lot to see. I just wonder whether there isn't too much walking about to do? I feel sure that Tir Na Nog is going to appeal widely because of the different things in it, and it's going to take a long time to get right through it and destroy the Great Enemy.'
Gargoyle Games' first release was the very well received Ad Astra, a 3D 'shoot 'em up' space game. But Tir Na Nog could hardly be more different. It's an adventure that combines the 'what you see is what's there' graphic style of Valhalla with simple no-text keyboard controls. (That comparison is rather unfair though because the graphics in Tir Na Nog reflect all the advances in programming techniques that have occured since Valhalla appeared!)
The hero of the game Cuchulainn (Cucuc for short) is represented by a fully-animated graphic almost one third of the screen high. He scours the Land of Youth (Tir Na Nog) for the four pieces of the seal of Calum in an effort to re-unite them to defeat the great enemy.
Cucuc's only mode of transport is to walk. You control the hero using simple 'walk left' and 'walk right' keys. Two more keys are used to pick up and drop the many objects and weapons littered around the paths.
Weapons are very important items for Cucuc as he's not alone in Tir Na Nog - there's also a violent race of monkeys called Sidhe; they can be defeated by 'thrusting' at them with some kind of weapon. If Cucuc loses a fight, he doesn't die (in fact he's dead already!) but all his possessions are dropped and he goes back to the starting position - so it's useful to save the game straight away when you start, if you don't want all the bits and pieces littered all over the shop!
Tir Na Nog is a mammoth undertaking which will take a very long time to complete and, as such, offers excellent value for money for 'mad mappers'. Add to that the superb graphics and you have a game which deserves to go down as a classic!
CELTIC QUEST OF CUCHULAINN
OTHER programmers will find it difficult competing with Tir Na Nog from Gargoyle. Until you have loaded up you may think that the booklet's boast of a 'computer movie' is pushing it a bit. Not so - this animated graphics adventure is bound to become a classic of Spectrum programming and portrays the travels and adventures of the hero Cuchulainn through the Celtic afterworld, Tir Na Nog.
Cuchulainn strides tall, clear and purposeful along the paths of his world. Fore-, middle- and backgrounds scroll independently behind him, giving a convincing likeness of real movement. The camera angle can be altered so that he can be seen from four viewpoints and the scenery changes accordingly. The clouds roll, smoke billows, birds flutter.
Other characters are shown in equal detail and live their own lives whilst Cuchulainn obeys you in his search for the fragments of the Seal of Calum.
Not that you have to pursue the quest. You may choose to wander the roads and explore the intricacies of the world or follow secondary objectives that may well need to be completed before the major aim can be accomplished. Other characters may lay tasks on you too and events may force you in a certain direction at times.
Beware of the Sidhe, those powerful, dangerous and magical beings who also use the pathways. Combat may occur if all else fails and Cuchulainn can thrust with any weapon he may have found. To progress and survive you will need persistence, lateral thinking and good luck - though of course you cannot be killed, merely returned to the beginning.
The game is not designed as a text adventure and uses the keyboard for movement and initiating various actions. Do not be misled by this into thinking that it is an arcade game - the program scope is vast and the world it depicts is alive and full of atmosphere. This is a full adventure and, with no single or simple solution, may keep you occupied for a long, long time. Highly original and stunningly presented.
Hold on to your space helmet (or broadsword) - Gargoyle's games are back, they're cheap, and they're still brilliant.
The Gargoyle animated arcade adventure trilogy - Tir Na Nog, Dun Darach and Marsport - first appeared in 1984/5. Two things left the reviewers dumbfounded; first, the unpronounceable Gaelic titles, second, the wonderful animation and depth of gameplay, which were so impressive that all three games won high praise and several awards.
Now the trilogy is re-released at budget price on the Rebound label, Hewson's new showcase of blasts from the past. Dash out and buy all three at once, or you must need a new brain.
Based loosely on the Gaelic myths of the hero Cuchulainn (that's pronounced Cahullan, folks), all three adventures, two of the past and one of the future, share a revolutionary use of giant sprite animation which has not been bettered to this day.
Programmers Greg Follis and Roy Carter based the frames of animation on sequential pictures of authentic walking; hence the realism of the animation. The main characters, Cuchulainn and Commander John Marsh, share a loping stride which is so watchable that just running the demo is more enjoyable than playing many of the latest games. Like the other games, Tir Na Nog has a scrolling graphics section in the middle third of the screen. The hero stays in the centre of the screen while the background scrolls past him.
Cuchulainn's aim is to reunite the fragments of the shattered Seal of Calum. Tir Na Nog - the Land of Youth - is inhabited by many hostile forces, principally the Sidhe. But since Cuchulainn is already dead, he cannot be killed, just dissipated by repeated attacks, at which point he returns to the gate of Tir Na Nog, loses all the objects he was carrying and has to start again. Likewise, none of Cuchalainn's enemies can be killed, only dissipated for a short time, so don't hang around after a fight!
Above the main display appears a compass and the clues which you will need to locate the fragments of the Seal. Below, inventories of the objects and weapons Cuchulainn has found. He can carry up to four objects, and can thrust with any one to use it as a weapon.
The world can be viewed from any of four directions by changing the, "camera angle" You can also move in any of these directions, following the paths, so mapping is essential. There are also many doorways to caves and tunnels, so you will need to find keys to use these shortcuts. As always, though, the hardest bit is not finding objects, but persuading their owners to give them up...
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
LOOK WEST, YOUNG MAN
Know, O prince, that when the land was grey with pagan ways and cursed with pungent sanitation there evolved a race of wily manthings who became known as the Sidhe. It was they, who with monstrous wit (and the holy Seal of Calum) captured the Great Enemy, the Master Worm, and cast him into a grim and icy abyss, thus bringing about the dawn of a bright new age (credit where credit's due). The Master Worm was naturally piqued at this development and vowed to destroy the Seal of Calum and stomp the godly Sidhe into the ground! As is the way of legend the Worm wasn't just whistling Dixie. There followed a terrible battle that climaxed with evil walking the Earth once more and both Sidhe and Seal being cast down into the underworld of Tir Na Nog. Know also, O prince, that somewhile later the great hero, Cuchulainn (also known as Sedanta, Culan's hound or just plain Cucu) travelled to Tir Na Nog (via the keyboard) in search of the shattered Seal. His quest being to bring the fragments and reunite them, thereby lightening the burdens of the world and ensuring his own everlasting glory (which seems a fair enough reason to me).
Thus begins this unquestionably impressive new episode in the controversial annals of the animated adventure. Combining both full-scale animation and mammoth play area with a (recognisable) random/vaguely intelligent cast, Gargoyle Games' Tir Na Nog actually delivers everything that Valhalla promised. I mean, you don't have to peer painfully at a load of undistinguishable black blots here. The central character of Cucu stands a full 56 pixels tall and comes complete with grimace and matted hair! The screen display offers you four different camera angles allowing full examination of he land of Nog - as well as displaying both a compass and inventory list . The animation of all the characters is quite superb.
Cucu shambles about with a realistically smooth gait, hair blowing dramatically in the wind and Nog's drooling denizens are a delight to behold. However, don't expect to complete it in a week. My version was only a pre-production model, smaller in size and less baffling than the final program, with prize items (keys for locked doors and fragments of the Seal) readily available yet even in this simplified form, it presented a number of headaches; how to avoid the shambling Sidhe (now reduced to simian appearance following the loss of the Seal) for example? 'Twas enough make a grown man weep. Needless to say I'm hooked. A full blown Cuchulainn should be shambling past your way soon. Don't fail to check him out.
MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
FROM: Gargoyle, £9.95
Any game with a hero called Cuchulainn has got to be different, and Tir Na Nog is certainly that. It's a 'vast interactive adventure, set in the magical landscapes of Celtic mythology' and the only games I can think of that even faintly resemble it are The Lords of Midnight and Valhalla.
Where Tir Na Nog is superior to both of these is in the animation. Cuchulainn is the most smoothly animated figure I've ever seen on a micro. He looks a bit like an old-time hippy as he bounces along, bare-chested with his long hair waving behind him.
But what's he up to? Well, Tir Na Nog is the Celtic Other World, into which Cuchu descends after his own demise in order to find and reassemble the fragments of the Seal of Calum. This is partly because the Seal is needed to prevent great evil etc, etc, and partly because Cuchu wants to make up for the slight mistake he made when he killed his son.
Cuchu has to travel through a huge and impressively created landscape, which scrolls past him at different speeds in the middle-distance and the background. The player watches Cuchu through a camera which can be pointed in any of four directions. Although the hero can only move left or right on screen, changing the view enables him to move in other directions.
Emerging from the Altar Room at the Entrance to Tir Na Nog, Cuchu is faced by three doors. Often, before he can even get his mitts on a handle, he is confronted by a Sidhe. These are malevolent creatures which pop up all over the place. They too are beautifully animated and are somewhat daunting in appearance - hairy, ape-like things. Although they can be killed, the wisest course seems to be to run away from them.
Cuchu's main goal involves him in many subsidiary quests, such as getting information out of stubborn creatures. Scattered throughout the land are various objects, certain combinations of which will do the trick in certain situations. Only trial and error will reveal to the player which ones are successful.
The immediate difficulty in playing Tir Na Nog is the size and complexity of the game. Mapping is essential or you could end up wandering for hours through the Plain of Lies, with only the odd Sidhe for company.
Tir Na Nog's originality and complexity are sure to make it popular with players who like a lengthy intellectual challenge. If you just like a quick zap, stay away.
Quite a game, this. I found the animation pretty mind-blowing and reckon that there's material here to keep me playing for many a long, dark winter's night.
I found it difficult to get my bearings to start with - the different 'camera angles' are rather confusing when you first play. This was a particular disadvantage when I was being chased by a Sidhe and come to a road-junction all too often I got 'killed' while trying to turn in a different direction.
It's certainly not a simple game to get the most out of. Perhaps it almost too complex - making a map is essential, of course, but the instructions also mention something about visiting my local library to gather important information. I'm not sure how many days of the week would see me willingly put that sort of effort into a game, but perhaps others will feel differently.
Despite these reservations, this is definitely a game I shall keep coming back to.
Definitely the best animation on the Spectrum and the complexity and playability have not been sacrificed to achieve it.
The way you lumber around on travels is tremendous and the adventure element is there in full as you explore in search of objects and your goal.
Gargoyle hove also managed to capture the atmosphere that the plot and setting of the game demand, but I wish I knew the language.
This is perhaps the first TRUE adventure movie which will doubtless spawn many similar games.
THE HOUND OF ERIN
MICRO: Spectrum 48K
SUPPLIER: Gargoyle Games
Julie Lewis enters the world of Celtic mythology and explores the land of Tir Na Nog.
The booklet which accompanies this tape tells newcomers to the land of Tir Na Nog that "a complete solution may take months, perhaps years...". This is well within the bounds of possibility - so far I do not seem to have progressed very far at all.
Tir Na Nog is described by the publishers, Gargoyle Games, as "a vast interactive Adventure", based on Celtic mythology. It concerns the exploits of the great Hero, Cuchulainn, who, according to the manual, was formerly known as Sedanta, familiarly called Cucuc, also known as the Hound of Heaven, Culan's Hound or Hound, alias YOU.
The game is designed to operate like a film, with the main character and his adversaries all moving and acting independently on the screen. What you see in front of you is what you would see through the camera lens, and you can choose between four different viewpoints or directions - north, south, east and west. You can walk left or right, and can carry up to four objects any one of these can be nominated for use in combat.
The game operates entirely with the use of function keys, and anyone who doesn't already possess a keyboard overlay is advised (by me) to buy a pack along with the game. It is very easy to forget which key to press, especially when facing a nasty - you may have time to pick up the axe lying nearby and quickly nominate it, but if by mistake you drop your feldspar there probably won't be time to defend yourself.
The problem is that each line of keys is used for a particular function. For example, the keys on the third row up alternate between picking up and dropping objects. In my opinion it would have made play much easier if one side of the keyboard had been used for one function, and the other side for the other.
The locations in the game have suitably weird and wonderful names, such as Lava Flats, Dubh Sgorr and Glasmarsh, and the graphic interpretations are faultless. The Plain of Lies includes a maze of sorts, although you won't realised it's a maze until it occurs to you that you keep returning to the same place over and over again.
There are, apparently, hundreds of objects scattered around the Land of Youth, although personally I've only encountered a handful. The objects are to be found in a variety of places - buried underground, hidden in caves, guarded by a formidable beast, or just lying by the wayside. You can use any object in combat, but some, a honeycomb for instance, are not likely to offer much protection.
Each object possesses certain attributes - some may seem valueless but turn out to be essential. For example, I can think of no apparent purpose for a pile of old bones, except maybe to make soup, but I daresay it forms an essential part of the solution. The disembodied face that keeps throwing stones at me (with what, I ask myself?) certainly seems to think it worth protecting. Then again, he could be trying to stop me running off with the crown that's with it. It is possible to get away with both the crown and the bones, but not easily (it took me several attempts and I don't really know how I did it). Many players would no doubt grab the crown and run, thinking it to be the most valuable object of the two, but it wouldn't surprise me one little bit if it was really the bones...
Tir Na Nog contains many doors. Theese are to be found in various forms - within hedges, brick walls and so on. These doors, some of which are locked of course, lead to varying locales - caves and tunnels, other parts of the Land, or just to the other side!
There are, I understand, some invisible doors, but so far I haven't seen any of those. Actually passing through a door is no easy task - it is necessary to position the 'camera' in such a way that the doorway is immediately to your left or right, and this can sometimes prove very difficult, particularly when you are being hotly pursued by an angry foe, or trying to avoid the dreaded Oleweed.
One interesting factor about the game is that, each time it is loaded, objects will not necessarily appear in the same place as they appeared the previous time it was played. This is a definite plus - games which involve going through exactly the same process time and time again soon become monotonous. This is not to say that Tir Na Nog is without its irritations - I can see myself becoming bored with it unless I can do more than just roam the land picking up and dropping objects and having the occasional disagreement with baddies.
The actual purpose of the game is to locate and re-unite the four fragments of the Seal of Calum which, as a result of the usual battle between good and evil, were scattered randomly throughout the land. The baddy in this tale is the Great Enemy, and the goodies were the Sidhe - I say were because they have since presumably turned into baddies, seeing as how they seem intent on attacking me at every given moment.
Cuchulainn cannot actually be killed, for the simple reason that he is already dead - like any hero worthy of the title he deliberately let himself be disposed of in order to enter the Afterworld, and from there enter Tir Na Nog, thereby being able to embark on his quest. Nevertheless, although Culan's Hound cannot die in the strictest sense of the word, his shade can be dissipated if he goes too far, and it will then reform at the Gateway to the afterlife, which is where the game commences.
Any objects he is carrying when this occurs will be automatically dropped at the point he departs, and will remain there until he passes that way again - other characters do not seem to pick objects up or tamper with them in any way. Whether this rule also applies to the quest objects I do not know, as so far I have not encountered any. The same rule applies to other characters in the game they cannot be killed, only deterred...
However, if you should inadvertently find yourself in a position from which there seems no escape, such as getting stuck in the catacombs of An Lin (the Net), there is no way you can return to the start of the game except by being killed or completely reloading - not a very useful function. For this reason, I think it is a good idea to save the starting conditions of the game before commencing play.
During play, the lower part of the screen is the 'status area'. This contains a compass, general details concerning the present location, your nominated weapon and current possessions, and any information volunteered by other creatures in the game (so far I haven't received any of the latter).
The game can be 'frozen' by pressing shift 5, and shift 4 will put the game into auto-mode - you can then watch your shade dissipate continually while you eat your lunch. The only problem is, that when the game is auto-running the main character will only follow a straight path, he will take no side turnings, and as a result he often ends up going backwards and forwards along the same path.
It took me a little while to work out how to take the pathways to the north or south when I could only go left or right, but once I managed this (with the aid of the compass) I was soon on my way. I cannot say I am too pleased with my appearance, however - I seem to have greasy, straggling hair and a permanent stoop. However, the characters move better than they do in Valhalla.
Tir Na Nog is not really a true adventure, nor is it an arcade game - it is not even somewhere between the two. It has the usual ingredients of an adventure objects, a quest and so on, but there is no 'communication' with the computer, everything is done via function keys rather than typing in commands. I personally prefer the latter kind of game, mainly because I have never found any other kind which compares favourably, except for Beyond's Lords of Midnight.
GAME TYPE: Adventure
Great were the heroes of Celtic lore, and greatest of all was the hero, Cuchulainn. When he was but a boy the druid Cathbhadh prophesied that any who took arms on a certain day would do great deeds, and be renowned for ever, but would be fated to be short-lived. Cuchulainn took arms that day, his deeds were great, but his fate came upon him swiftly. Now, in Tir Na Nog, the land of youth, Cuchulainn faces his greatest challenge. He must find and unite the four sections of the Seal ofCalum.
Great too are the programmers of Gargoyle games, and great is the animation they have wrought. Through the four views mortal watchers have of the land of Tir Na Nog can be seen the hero Cuchulainn, a character of the epic height of 56 pixels. As he walks the labyrinthine paths of the land, mortals can change both his direction, and their view.
In the records we read of the fabled characters animated in Valhalla and Oracle's Cave but, verily, the animation of this game doth surpass all those of which we know. Those who are privileged to see the hero's hair blowing in the wind, to meet the other denizens of this strange land and see the range and variety of the smoothly scrolling landscape will agree that here is the animated adventure in its most complete form.
Pity the poor seeker after truth who must chart the wanderings of the paths through the regions of Badheim, of Tir Clechan and Stormbase. The seeker who must show the undercover ways, the customs of the characters and the uses and positions of the many objects. The seeker who must make sense of the ramblings of the Bard of Sidhe, who must face the cave wights and the Sidhe, pass by the olcweed and uncover the mysteries of the standing stones of Stormbase. Such seekers must be pitied, but also envied, for it is they who will see the rich life of Tir Na Nog and they who will finally help Cuchulainn to the Seal.
Those eager searchers after truth who wish to visit Tir Na Nog will find it produced by Gargoyle Games, 74 King Street, Dudley, West Midlands.
Some old hippies might try and persuade you that Tir Na Nog is an Irish folkband that gained prominence along with Planxty and other unpronounceable names. These people will of course know that the phrase is Gaelic for land of youth. So here we have it, a computer game set in the Celtic Other World. There probably are Irish computer jokes but naturally you won't find ant of that sort of thing in Your Computer.
Based on the great Irish mythological hero Cuchulainn, the game is billed as a "computer movie". Things being what they are today, it is very difficult for a self-respecting computer game to get into the shops without (a) being based on a movie, or (b) going the whole hog and actually pretending to be a movie in its own right.
Tir Na Nog has taken the latter course - the action is presented as through a camera pointing at Cuchulainn, whom we are assured was known as Cacuc to his friends and intimates. Personally, I would not try calling the shambling knee-jerker at the centre of the screen anything other than Sir unless I had bought him at least three pints of Guinness. If he could play the bass guitar he would certainly give Motorhead's Lemmy a lot to worry about.
He stands 56 pixels tall - that's pixels, not pixies - and is controlled from the keyboard. The animation of the character is very impressive.
As he slouches disconsolately through Tir Na Nog, the detailed scenery in the fore and middle grounds scrolls past him. Birds of ill-omen hover around the castle of King Dhomnuil, flapping their wings continuously in the distance. Cuchulainn can carry up to four objects - though you have to check with the status area at the bottom of the screen to see what he is actually carrying.
Since everyone in the Celtic Other World is actually dead all you can hope to do is daunt them a little bit, and should anyone harm Cuchulainn seriously he just rematerialises at the entrance to Tir Na Nog - sans objects.
The purpose of the game is to locate and reunite the fragments of the Seal of Calum. Due to a breakdown in security, the seal was smashed into four bits by a servant of the Great Enemy now being free to carry on business as usual, snuffing out galaxies, vesting pain and misery on mankind in the customary way.
Having located the pieces you have to persuade the owners to give them up.
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