Cripes! This goes back a bit. Andy and Matt reckon everyone was addicted to the 16-bit game of North And South when YS was still a sister mag to Zero. (Talk about a pair of old cronies, eh? That was over a year ago!) Anyway, here's the Speccy version, so let's jump straight in with the old funkometer and see what's what...
Basically, it's French, it's a sort of American Civil War strategy-cum-arcade game, and it uses characters from a comic strip called Les Tuniques Bleues (which is also from France, is supposed to very funny and looks a bit like Asterix in, well, blue tunics really). For those who are crap at History (like me), the Blue Tunics were the Northern, or Union, soldiers (the goodies who wanted to free the slaves) and the Confederacy/Rebels/blokes in grey uniform were from the south (and wanted to keep the slaves and make them pick cotton and horrible things like that).
Right, so what've we got? Well, first there's the option screen (one or two-player, which side, whether you want some disasters thrown in - take a look at the box-off below for more info), and then it's on to the map proper.
This is split up into states, and it's where you make all your strategy decisions. Armies are represented by single soldiers, with flags indicating which territories are held by which army (if an area doesn't have a flag then it's unoccupied and up for grabs). As for battles, those come about in one of two ways - either you attack your enemy, or, erm, they attack you. (Simple, eh?) The screen then does a bit of a costume change and we're into...
The battlefield. Hurrah? The best bit! It's a sort of oblique bird's-eye-view jobby, with you looking down across either a canyon or a field, and your units (artillery, cavalry and infantry) shown up in little groups. It's basically a case of choosing which unit to fight with and then blasting the peanuts out of all the varmints who are trying to do much the same to you. The graphics are really nice and chunky, but smooth too (the horses are especially good), and when I went charging in over the bridges, well I could fair feel the wind flowing through my hair, I really could (and then I hit Retreat just as soon as General Wotnot came charging back at me! Aargh!)
Nope, it's certainly no picnic out there, which means after a few battles you're bound to want to stock up on some more men (well, I did anyway but that's probably 'cos I was so crap!). What you need is money, and this is where the towns come in. If you manage to occupy two towns that are linked up by railway (we're back to the map here, folks) then at the end of your move a train will run between them with some gold. Get five bags worth and blimey! If that's not a new army over there!
OI! WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER ARCADE BITS?
Hold your horses (ho ho) - I was just getting to those! First there's one with you sprinting along the top of a train trying to get the driver's seat to stop it - it loads when you break up the opposition's railway line by taking over a state between two towns (actually it's rather similar to the bit in Back To The Future 3. Spooky, eh?). And then the other one happens when you snatch a town (which automatically happens when you snatch a state). Again its a horizontal scroller, only this time you're in an enemy fort throwing knives and punches at the enemy, and scuttling along as fast as your merry heart will let you to get to the flagpole and raise your standard. (Phew!)
And that's it! Confused? (Well, go back and read it again then!) North And South really is the biz. Most people find straightforward strategy stuff a bit dull (like, say, Crete across the page) - what this game does is show how addictive it can suddenly get when you throw in some juicy arcade bits (After all, if it's you who's actually doing the fighting then its bound to hold your attention for a bit longer.)
And it's not just the gameplay that makes the game so spanky - the graphics are excellent! The fort and train bits, the loading and option screens, they're all really colourful and like the original 'strip'. It's full of really nice little touches too. There's the loading screen of a silhouetted tunique doing the bugle call and the crowd scenes at the end (if you win that is - lose and it's a carnaged battlefield). And when you fail in the arcade bits your man drops to the ground and starts crying, pummeling the ground with his fists. Cute!
North And South is a lot of fun. And intelligent with it. One of the last things we saw from Infogrames was Sim City of course, and, despite the arcade stuff in here, this has much the same quiet style (and value for money). Jolly highly recommended!
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