£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.
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.
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.
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