Publisher: Palace
Machine: Amiga 500

Published in Computer & Video Games #79


Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the dawn of pre-history... Chop! Slash! Hack! It's Barbarian - the bloodiest and noisiest combat game in the world, now out on the singing, dancing Amiga. Everyone must have seen at least one version of this fantasy sword-fighting epic, which topped the charts in both 8-bit and Atari ST versions last year. Now the inexplicably delayed Amiga version is here, and although it may not make full use of the Amiga's graphics potential, it's certainly one of the most enjoyable games ever for the machine.

Your task is to defeat a series of hard-bitten barbarian warriors, then their evil sorceror master. Do this and you win the hand (and probably all the more interesting bits) of the beauty represented on the packaging by Maria Whittaker.

The two warriors face each other across a series of beautifully-detailed backgrounds, including a forest glade, an icy waste, a fighting pit, and the wizard's lair. The sprites are admirably fast and smoothly animated, but the let down is that they have barely more colour or detail than those of the 8-bit versions of the game. It doesn't spoil your enjoyment of the game, but it gives you the impression that it's been a bit rushed.


As usual with this style of game, you have sixteen offensive and defensive moves, selected with the joystick and fire button. Because you are armed with a sword, some of these moves are spectacular; the spinning "web of death", the overhead chop and the headbutt for instance. Each time a blow lands, a splash of blood and a cry of pain informs you of the fact. At the side of the screen, the injured party's life force ebbs, and his serpent rears its head in pain.

The sound effects are absolutely stunning; sampled chops, the clang of steel, grunts of pain, and, if you ever sever your opponent's head in a shower of gore, the squish and thump of the bouncing bonce. You'll kill yourself laughing as the giggling mutant slave kicks the severed head off screen and drags off the corpse. Other samples include snatches of dialogue - "Prepare to die!" - "Aw, C'mon!" which are probably the best samples I've heard.

In one-player mode, you must fight warrior after warrior until you get through to the wizard. Tactics change as the oppoents become more skilled; the first couple, you can often get with an early head chop. Later on, your best bet is to keep rolling forward to knock your opponent over, pin him in a corner, then alternate rolls and chops until he's a puddle of gore. The wizard is another proposition entirely; he throws magic fire and you must leap and duck to avoid it and give him the chop.

In two player mode, each round has a time limite, and the game continues until one warrior is finished off. With two reasonably skilled (or hopeless) players, this can go on for ages!

There's a nicely-detailed high-score table, but this is the kind of game you play for fun rather than to rack up points. It's the little things that make Barbarian so great; the way the victor kicks the loser's corpse and flourishes his sword, the grotesque mutant, the gorgeous sound samples. All that's missing is music, but who cares? Unless you have a weak stomach, you should tie on your loin-cloth, sharpen your sword, and dash out to the nearest bazaar for a copy of Barbarian right away.