Begob and Begorrah. Prepare for a blast of the blarney from your man in Ireland, Chris Cockayne as he casts an emerald eye over Dun Darach, the new wan from Gargoyle Games.
From the coves of County Cork to the hills of Connemarra comes a strange tale that's shrouded in mist and mystery. Can it be true that Gargoyle Games has come up with a game that's identical to their previous hit, Tir Na Nog? Well, the hero, Cuchulainn the Great is the same, the graphics are the same but there are many more characters and the story has moved from the country to the town.
We start with our hero stalking the streets of Dun Darach seeking his faithful friend, Loeg, who's been abducted by the sorceress Skar and imprisoned somewhere in the town. While doing the rounds Cuchulainn comes across the inhabitants of the place, most of whom seem intent on ripping him off, visits innumerable shops and almost certainly ends up with a bad case of sore feet. Excluding your friend Loeg there are ten independent characters to meet but don't expect to find them all that easily. Some of them are out 'n' out thieves like Kara and her sister, Keli but others will do you a good turn if you find what they're looking for. When you meet Bren, for example, he'll offer you a map for a fur - if only I could find a fur! Similarly, the courtesan Pita is obviously open to bribery but whenever I offer her money, she takes it saying 'Oh, how generous' then turns tail and trots off. It certainly is pretty generous of me, so how about something in exchange? Now my big problem is with the names - I don' t know if they're Celtic originals but they sure as hell are difficult to remember. Every time someone approaches I have to go scuttling back to the booklet to see if he or she's a goody or a baddy. Why couldn't the hero have been given a good Irish name like Kevin? (Cor, what a crawler I am!).
You can bone up on the background history of Dun Darach with the aid of the introductory booklet. There you'll find an extract from Dinn Nemeton, 'an anonymous, ancient and secret writing which may not be published in full' - doubtless because it's so silly! But do read it, along with the rest of the intro as there are a few clues to be gleaned and you're gonna need all the help you can get.
The animation of the characters is once again excellent as they walk in a very realistic though somewhat round-shouldered way - but then you'd be pretty round-shouldered after all that pavement pounding. There are also some nice touches that you can't see in the pictures like the bouncing locks of hair and the flickering torches on the walls. The character set is also kept in line with the general Celtic theme and is doubtless copied direct from the Book of Kells. I can't make head or tail of that either and it certainly becomes tricky trying to make out the Celtic script on the Speccy. What is it this shopkeeper wants to sell me? A sting? A sling? Or is it a string?
The game can be played as a sort of medieval Minder. Buying goods at one price and flogging them off at a profit. And of course, a nice little earner is to knock stuff off ('fell off the back of a horse and cart, guvnor'), though you'll still have trouble holding on to the goods even without Sgt. Chisholm's presence. Only by building up a good deal of cash through stealing, selling, gambling or working (though don't ask me where yet), can you hope to get anywhere in the game. And if you take my advice it's an idea to duck into the nearest bank at the start and deposit your ready cash while you're finding your way around. The interest's not bad and you really can't trust anyone on the streets these days.
The game does lack a certain degree of excitement. There are no duels to the death and there are times when you long for the hero to break into a run - just this once. But no - plod, plod, plod. It's brain not brawn that's needed to conduct all the bartering, bribery and thieving necessary to complete the game. If you like Tir Na Nog and were left wanting more or you're prepared to put in a good few hours cracking this, then you could do worse than give it a go.
Just when you think that it would be impossible to squeeze any more out of the Spectrum, along comes a game which makes you wonder where it will all end. Gargoyle Games produce graphic adventures. But that is only half the tale, because Gargoyle graphic adventures are one of the jewels in the crown of British software.
Unlike most computer adventures, which are Tolkienesque or Gothic, Dun Darach, like the earlier Tir Na Nog, is Celtic. From the unpronounceable names, to the unspeakable horrors, Dun Darach is poetically atmospheric. In our dreams we've all been to Dun Darach.
The graphics and action are exceptional. Especially wonderful is the movement of the characters. Like a number of other graphic adventures, this one uses the movie camera approach. That is you do not see out of the eyes of puppet in the computer world. Instead you view him through a camera. He can be made to walk, grab, drop, fight and offer objects to others through the keyboard - the same medium is used to control the direction which the camera is pointing in.
Cuchulainn is the name of the hero of the game. Tir Na Noggers will remember him, and his task is to free his pal, Loeg the charioteer, from the city of Dun Darach. He and the other inhabitants of the city look like rock musicians, with long flowing hair, bare arms and boots - the girls have longer hair and mini-skirts.
The city is realised wonderfully in this computer game, it is easy to get the impression that you are actually there. Taking the time to draw a map can be dangerous as the inhabitants are a bunch of thieves and pickpockets, but if you do you will be impressed by the size of it, and the attention to detail.
As graphic adventures go, Dun Darach is not easy. But it is highly original, superbly crafted and will give pleasure for hour after hour.
All information in this page is provided by ZXSR instead of ZXDB