Amstrad Action


Barbarian

Author: Gary Barrett
Publisher: Psygnosis
Machine: Amstrad CPC464

 
Published in Amstrad Action #40

Barbarian

No. This is not Palace's Barbarian again, but rather another game with the same name, which appeared first on 16-bit machines. Palace have a reputation for cover art featuring scantily clad women, but now Psygnosis have gone one step further: there's full nakedness on the cover. Before you get too excited, I should explain that the being in question is in fact a dragon. Members of the Society for the Protection of Dragons from Exploitation should contact Psygnosis direct.

Right then, some background, courtesy of the little novella that accompanies the game. (It's a sort of Gothic Coronation Street, so be prepared!) Thoron and Necron are twin brothers who meet an old druid one day as he is wandering through the forest. He befriends them and teaches them to fight with sword, bow and spear. After a year of daily visits, the druid turns up as usual, but carrying only the sword and bow. He asks the brothers to close their eyes and, when they open them again, they feel power surging through their bodies. Necron can cast fire from his fingertips, but is warned never to burn Thoron because the flames would turn back and destroy Necron.

The bow is given to Necron and the sword to Thoron. Many years pass and the boys part company, only meeting again much later in a village, during which time nice Necron has turned into a real bad guy. When they meet they fight tooth and claw (sound like normal brothers to me) and eventually Necron is slain. Thoron doesn't have the will power to destroy the soul of his evil brother and so in fact Necron doesn't die; he is merely forced to live underground. Thoron is later killed by a dragon sent by Necron and Tnoron's son Heyor swears to avenge his father's death and bring the evil Necron's life to an end. You are Hegor and you wield the sword of your father. Phew! Got all that?

Barbarian

The screen is split into a row of icons and a flick screen playing area with a large sprite of you standing at the left. There are ten icons on screen and a further three can be accessed at the flick of a button. Left/right moves you and up/down alters which icon is highlighted. Fire activates the icon. There are four normal movement icons and you can also run. A dramatic forwards or backwards somersault is also possible and you can stop dead in your tracks with another icon. No barbarian would be complete without a sword, however, and this can be wielded menacingly at any monsters. If a monster is too scary then you can turn tail and run, leaving your sword behind in your haste. The extra icons allow you to pick up, drop and select objects. Your lives, score and number of arrows are also shown with the second set of icons. Arrows are picked up later in the game.

Each of the screens that you wander around has one of two types of danger: moving and static. Static ones include sections of ceiling that bash you on the head and sections of bridges that vanish when you step on them. Moving dangers are the toads, werewolves and ghosties of this world. Contact with static or moving dungeons are equally lethal. You start with four lives, but in your first few games they won't last very long.

That's one area in which the game lets itself down badly: it's too easy to end up dead unavoidably. Traps have no warning, and so the first time you come across one, you're almost guaranteed to lose a life. Monsters may only take one blow to kill, but timing it can be very dodgy. I suppose it's like an arcade game: you die a hundred deaths before you start to recoup your investment.

Barbarian

Graphically Barbarian is not technically brilliant and the graphics are, in general, chunky. There are no tunes, but the few sound effects are good.

There's not really any great depth to the game, which is just a series of problems with basically only one solution to them. Once you know how to deal with them there will be little challenge to the game. This is one of the most obvious examples of a game that you'll only ever bother to complete once. A nice try at cutting a sixteen bit game down to eight bits.

First Day Target

Complete 20%

Second Opinion

Barbarian

This is better than Palace's Barbarian, in that there's an objective. I always like games which give me a reason to play them and the novella certainly helps. And I like running through a fortress chopping everything in sight: this barbarian's a guy I can sympathise with.

Green Screen

No major problems

The Verdict

Graphics 87%
Colourful sprites
Chunky graphics

Barbarian

Sonics 31%
No tunes.

Grab Factor 85%
Nice mix of icons and hack'n'slay.
Very frustrating at first.

Staying Power 78%
Large playing area and many tricky obstacles to deal with
Finish it once and that's it.

Overall 81%
Fun, but lacking in the long term.

Gary Barrett

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