Barbarian (Psygnosis) Review | Zzap - Everygamegoing

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Barbarian
By Melbourne House
Commodore 64/128

 
Published in Zzap #43

Barbarian

The small village of Thelston is harbouring a secret: the most famous dragon slayer of them all. Thoron the hunter wished to pass his skills down to his son, Hegor, so he trained the boy from a very early age in the use of all weapons.

One day, there was a great commotion at the edge of the village; curious, Hegor ran there only to see his own father in the middle of a ferocious battle with a huge dragon. Thoron fought fiercely and managed to force the beast to leave, but as the dragon turned, it lashed out its huge tail breaking the warrior's neck.

Hegor swore to avenge his father's death and so went off to the furthest reaches of the land, slaying a great number of dragons, but failing to find the beast that killed his dad.

Years later, news reached him of an evil force that terrorised his home village. Returning home quickly, Hegor discovered that the tyrannical lord was Necron, Thoron's brother, who had turned to evil. What's more, one of Necron's subversives was the dragon responsible for Thoron's death.

You take the part of Hegor in the fields at the entrance of the subterranean kingdom. Control is via a strip of icons at the bottom of the screen, causing Hegor to walk, climb, run, jump and fight. Moving the pointer off the edge of the display causes a further set of icons to appear which control the Barbarian's inventory (picking up and putting down objects). Throughout the maze are monsters and guards which can be killed - either with your trusty sword or other weapons found in the underground rooms.

KH

Hegor, the man with the hairy armpits, isn't exactly my idea of a hunk - plonker would be more appropriate! The excellent, atmospheric graphics which made the 16-bit versions of this game aren't really impressive enough on the C64 to cope with the tedious gameplay.

I'm all for hack 'n slay games when they involve elements of skill or exploration but neither are really required here: once you've sussed a screen all you've got to look forward to is the next. As if that's isn't enough, the icon selection system is incredibly awkward and totally redundant.

Forget about the snazzy control panel - and I really wanted were good old, traditional joystick controls. If you took away the icons you'd just have something that looks like a very normal, slightly below average slash-'em-up - which is exactly what this is.

ME

Psygnosis' classic was one of the first games I ever played on an Atari ST and I was amazed by the incredible atmosphere created by the graphics and sound. The icon control was an original idea and worked surprisingly well once you got used to the layout.

However, the game did not have a lot of challenge in the gameplay department: it basically boiled down to a simple run-jump-hack-and-collect game. On the 16-bit machines, this didn't matter so much, but now that Barbarian has been converted to the 8-bit machines, we find out how much better the presentation made the game seem.

The absence of a mouse to control the pointer slows the game down a great deal, often leaving you at the mercy of an oncoming nasty.

All the characters and creatures are fairly well designed but not brilliantly animated; the backgrounds are pretty useless and the sound is rubbish. It looks like Melbourne House are simply relying on the reputation of the name to sell the product, because this incarnation is pretty pathetic.

Verdict

Presentation 45%
Rubbish front end fiddly pointer control which limits the computer/player interaction.

Graphics 39%
Average sprites and poorly coloured and animated and the backgrounds are very ineffective.

Sound 21%
A few crunches, and that's about it.

Hookability 46%
As ever, there's the old exploration bug to lure you...

Lastability 24%
...but that very quickly wears off. Basically, the control method ruins a sense of interaction.

Overall 31%
The 16-bit's weak gameplay is reinforced by poorly designed 8-bit graphics. A poor conversion.