They're a funny old lot at System 3. There's one type of game they do very well indeed (a sort of semi-actiony, semi-puzzley, flip screen adventure thing) but as soon as they try anything else they tend to go a little bit wonky.
Take this summer for instance. Out they came with Dominator, an attempt at a classic progressive shoot-'em-up, which, despite promising graphics, got roundly panned. And quite right too, because it really wasn't all that good. More recently there was Tusker (reviewed last issue), much more traditional System 3 territory and a bit of a return to form, though, like Dominator, it had a rather rushed feel to it.
Happily though, everything has come together for them on Myth. Quite simply, it's brilliant - a massive flip screen arcade adventure, absolutely jam-packed with neat graphical touches, nicely timed gameplay and suitably tricky puzzle bits. If there's been a better original Spectrum product this year I haven't seen it.
Totally loopy, of course, but it does make bizarre sort of sense. You play a normal human chappie who's been whisked into the past by some greater power to sort out various minor gods and mythical beings, all of whom have gone a bit doolally. A bit of a steep task for an ordinary joe, you might say, but, in fact, if you've ever read any Greek myths, the gods are always mucking about with the destiny of men and getting them to do their dirty work. The idea works so well because the programmers have been pretty faithful to the spirit of the originals, and there's such a ready supply of brilliant monsters to be filched from ancient legend.
Don't be put off because some of the sprites look a little small, oh dear me no. The graphics in Myth are absolutely brilliant.
A lot of it has to do with the animation. Our little hero has a whole host of different moves (walk, hack, fire, raise shield, big jump, little jump, punch, kick, crouch) and they all work very smoothly (once you've sussed out how to do them. It often takes a combination of keys). Then again, some of it has to do with the design. Take the big end-of-level monsters. There are some truly spectacular set piece beasties here which really lake your breath away, especially as the way the game is structured you'll suddenly flip a screen and see them all at once, broad as daylight and twice as ugly.
The smaller set piece baddies are equally lovely (nicely animated and often attacking in unusual ways), as are many of the foot soldiers. Take the Jason And The Argonauts style skeletons, for instance. They drop down on screen (or climb up out of the ground), look around a bit, suss out where you are and then come for you. Brilliant! Kill them, and you collect their heads (you'll need to use them later on). Then, when you actually get round to lobbing one, you find it does a lively little bounce along the ground. Brilliant!
Finally, there are the effects. The flame sequences are smart throughout, the explosions are really bright, colourful and full of bits flying about all over the place, and the death graphic is simple but lovely. In fact, this is my favourite - your body turns into a stream of twinkly bits which fly around and then recorporate rather like someone being down in Star Trek. It's just one neat little touch in a game fill of neat little touches.
Anyone familiar with Last Ninja II will know the sort of thing - collect Weapon A from behind the wall on Screen B to open the door in Room H, or whatever. It's the same sort of thing here, but, if anything, they've done it even better.
You see, these gods might be all powerful and everything, but they've got their weak points if only you can suss out what they are. Things have been made easier for you here by the careful placement of suitable weapons (hidden in chests or urns, deposited by dead nasties and so on), all ready to be collected before you actually come across any of the big monsters. Now, if you've done things right, it's just a case of rummaging through your inventory, finding the best tool and working out how to use it. A bit of trial and error should see you right.
So there it is. All in all, it's brilliant. There are enough levels and puzzles in here to keep you going for absolutely yonks, but even after you've completed it I suspect you'd still keep loading the thing up just to remind yourself how nice Spectrum graphics can look, how neat the puzzles are and just what damn fun it all is to play.
In a year when a lot of full price stuff has looked suspiciously monochrome and budgety, this is about as full price as you can get. There are touches in here that aren't strictly necessary, but have been worked on and put in there because someone actually cares about producing a really good product. A deserved Megagame.
I've always been a fan of legends. There are some really brilliant ones, like the Loch Ness monster, the Trojan horse, the British Summer and (lest we forget) the amazing legend of the Interesting Politicians. The great thing is that we'll never know if they're true or not, which means that people can carry on churning out books about them and writing features in Sunday supplements. Legends are like that.
Myth, on the other paw is no legend. It's a corking game which the Amiga convert (and latter day traitor) Matt Bielby first reviewed in January 1990. He gave it a rather ebullient 95° and a chorus of hurrahs. And do you know? He wasn't wrong.
What we've got here is a platform game with style, panache (not by Lentheric) and gorgeous animation. The idea is to wander around a Faustian (look it up) netherworld populated by sword-fighting skeletons and corpses on gibbets in a landscape of gushing volcanoes and lava pits. If you think that it all sounds a bit grim, well you'd be right. Your little chappy has some nifty weapons at his disposal. These can be found by kicking open chests and vases. Fireballs, tridents, doves(?!), skulls and bolts are all waiting to be revealed, each with its own peculiar effects. F'rinstance, the fireballs will deal with skeletons and hanging corpses while you'll need a trident to stuff the hydra.
Actually finding your way around a particular level isn't particularly hard, but figuring out what to do when you get there might be. Some of the innocuous items you pick up on your travels have to be used in a particular way at one particular point of a level, so it's wise not to waste your armoury on soft creatures.
What really sets this game apart from the pack is the superb animation. This game makes Prince Of Persia look bad and it's three years older than that game. Everything about the game tells you that the programmers paid attention to detail. This is a playable slayable fable of mighty proportions. Most considerable!
Featuring quite possibly the best ever animation on the Speccy, this huge trapse through history scores highly in every department. It works brilliantly as both a tricky collect-the-object puzzler and a simple zap-the-baddies fight game, which can be no bad thing. Magic.
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