I don't know how they've done it, but they have. Melbourne House has managed to faithfully convert one of my all time favourite Amiga games to one of the most feeble computers around today Barbarian is just so wicked, it makes Eugene Lacey look poor in comparison. Barbarian is just the slickest, bestest Speccy arcade adventure ever, and that even rules out my old favourite Firelord!
You are Hegor, the rootin', tootin', slashin', bashin', dinosaur-slaying Barbarian, who also claims to be the toughest son of a chicken ever, and you've been sent to take care of an evil wizard, who's done something bad I suppose and (yawn), I guess he's hiding somewhere down a dungeon with lots of levels and nasties. Oh, why should I carry on, you've heard it all before anyway...
So, off you trot, and before long you find yourself in a nice little field near the entrance to the dungeon, and this is where the game begins. As this first screen is completely void of any nasties and traps and things, now is a good time to hone your fighting skills. To perfect these, you have to get used to the icons at the bottom of the screen. Look at any convenient screenshot that happens to be near this review, and I'll talk you through the icons, left to right.
First, you've got a group of four arrows pointing in the four normal directions. These are the commands to make Hegor walk left or right, and climb up and down ladders or steps. Next to that, you've got what looks like a VC. This means stop all actions, oh please, oh for god's sake stop, no don't go there you'll die, etc. Next to that you've got a badly drawn umbrella, which makes you somersault - useful for getting over collapsing bridges. Then you have the icon that looks like the rewind button on your video. This makes you run in the direction you're facing. Next to that, there's a picture of a sword. This means use the item you have in your hand. Then you've got another piccy or a sword, which means, curiously enough, do a backward somersault. Finally, you've got the two arrows that are circling each other, this means drop everything and run away. This is not advisable because you drop everything, and lose your weapon as well.
Right, that's the confusing bit over with. The rest of the game is a regular hack and slash adventure through quite a large map. On various screens, traps will appear out of the blue and try and kill you. One nasty trap is the old 'collapsing bridge' trick. Then you've got the 'large door with spikes' falling from the ceiling jape. As well as traps, there are lots of different types of nasties, just waiting to eat you, or put their head up your bum - whichever is more painful.
Just like the Yellow Pages, not all the things in the game are nasty. There are some good things, as well, like blocked drains, broken windows and extra weapons. You can find a bow and a very limited amount of arrows in place on the map, and these are used to kill baddies at long range, as there are some that you just can't get to. Also a shield lies hidden somewhere, and it's with this that you kill the Wizard, but I'm not telling you how.
The graphics have come down very nicely, and do bear quite a bit of resemblance to the original, though some of the animation is decidedly dodgy.
Thankfully, Melbourne House hasn't tried to get the sound onto the humble black box. Instead, they've come up with some wonderful 128K effects, making good use of echoes (doop-e-doop-e-doop-ee-doo-ee-doo). See what I mean? 48K sound, however, is just a matter of bleep, blip and blop, but this doesn't detract from the game too much.
Controls are far better than on the original, with up/down on the stick cycling through the icons, left/right manually moving the man on the screen, and fire selecting the currently highlighted option.
Barbarian is fabbo, terrific, great, good and OK all rolled into one. It's as good a conversion as possible and I wouldn't hesitate in thoroughly recommending it to any Speccy owners, if there still are any.