We've come to expect space-smashing shoot-'em-up mayhem from Graftgold, so it's a bit of a surprise that the latest effort is steeped in pixieness and things that go bong in the night.
Soldier of Fortune - lousy title, too similar to The Edge's Soldier of Light - is by David and Brendan O'Connor, rather than the familiar team of Steve Turner and Andrew Braybrook. It's a very, very, very traditional shoot-jump-collect exercise which initially looks uninteresting but which keeps you playing with a combination of tricky puzzles and the odd surprise.
I don't expect you want to hear the plot. You do? Oh, all right. The Zodiac Power Source has been destroyed by the meddling of the sorceror Krilys. The last of the good mages, Gorman, has disappeared after charging you, Sarnak, with the task of restoring the Source. Stranded in the mysterious Ebbledown Forest, Sarnak must use magic platforms, and avoid crumbling deathtraps in his quest to restore the Source. There. I bet you wish you hadn't asked.
In order to restore the Source you must construct four Elementals, and to construct each elemental you must find six sections of a map. Each map gives you access to a new area of the game through the teleporters, which look like large purple cabbages.
You start off with an arrow-firing weapon, and collect tokens along the way which eventually add up to a more powerful weapon; a knife or a flying hammer. You'll need these to ward off the flying boogies, shambling zombies, wood creatures and other monstrosities found in the woods and caverns.
You'll also come across the skeletons of fallen adventurers. Freeing each one earns you a bonus score and the eternal gratitude of a pile of bones.
To complete each region you must defeat its Guardian, which you can only do with the help of an elemental. Some of the portals are also closed to you unless you have assembled an elemental, so the moral of the tale is - find an elemental. Glowing crystals restore you life energy, and you can also gain an extra life by defeating a Guardian.
That's just about your lot, then. Once you've figured out how to time your leap on and off the moving platforms, avoid or shoot the monsters, find the bits and bobs and defeat the Guardians, everything's hunky dory.
While Steve Turner's music and sound effects are pretty good, the graphic design is unremarkable, and if it weren't for the fact that the animation is smooth and the gameplay tricky, Soldier of Fortune would be no better than the average budget platforms-and-ladders game. Give it a go by all means, but don't expect anything as stunning as previous Graftgold efforts like Uridium or Magnetron.
Author: David and Brendan O'Connor
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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