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.
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