When Titus promises to give you a screen full of game you'd better believe 'em. Knight Force opens with two of the most stunning loading screens ever seen on a CPC. Using Titus's overscan technique, the monitor's filled from edge to edge with gothic graphics. But it doesn't stop there, they actually manage to cram 'full' screens into the game as well. Combine this with excellent animation and detailed backdrops, and you know you're in for a pixel feast. But how does it stack up as game?
Knight Force takes the form of an arcade adventure. Fair Storm, the hunky hero, has to track down Red Sabbath's clones who are scattered through time and destroy them. Otherwise, the evil wizard will work his craft and erase the magical land of Belloth from the corridors of time.
Time jumping is a simple affair once you know how. Go to the four stone 'Dolemen', rattle some beads and as if by magic you've changed century. The oracle has narrowed the field down to the four most dangerous clones. One's in Pre-history, one's holed up in modern New York, another's hiding in a futuristic space city, while the fourth replicant has taken refuge in a fantasy world. The order in which you visit them is up to you, but they must all be overcome if Belloth is to survive.
The mighty Fair Storm is a pretty special knight, but a particularly weak one. He can jump huge distances - it's the safest and fastest way to move - but only take a few hits before he's pushing up the daisies. He has only a limited number of sword strokes to slay folks with, so you know split second timing and luck are going to play a large part in your near future.
The Stone-age land is populated by a host of Neanderthal cavemen - refugees from Barbarian. They grunt a lot and lash out with their clubs, but are very vulnerable to certain strokes of your blade. New York pits you against a wickedly fast female gang leader who would make Tyson think twice. Future world features some nasty robots and strange spring creatures, while in Fantasy land you need plain good fortune to avoid being bitten in the head by a lunatic dwarf.
Your object is to kill the clone wizard and all his cronies in a particular zone, then grab part of a magic amulet that will stop Sabbath taking over time. You must top all the bad guys on the level first, then take out the wizard clone; a tall order at first, but it's all a matter of technique. Certain creature/creations have different weak spots and these can only be discovered by fighting and dying countless times until you get that one lucky shot.
The whole game has that Barbarian feel, with a limited variety of monsters but stunningly accurate swordplay action that brings combat scenes to life. The similarity's further enhanced by the use of the flick-screen design of the game, each one loading separately. The characters move very fast and henceforth appear smooth and fluid in their actions. Impressive is too small a word for it [Stick to impressive - Ed].
Yet even with four different sections to explore the first-time player is put off by the sheer toughness of all the opponents. They have to be struck cleanly in the exact spot or they don't die, whereas they seem to be able to whack you whenever they please. The limited instructions don't help much either, you know why you're risking your life but given few clues as to the art of survival in the strange worlds you visit. With only one life and little energy to spare you die too suddenly to even begin to figure out what to do.
Death results in a return to the 'Dolemen' statues and a repetition of the whole process. Disk users get a high score table but have to route through it every time they die, even if there's no chance of them etching their name on the board. A hack and slash veteran might be able to cut it here, but the average games-player with normal reactions - like myself - stand no chance whatsoever. The whole package being ruined by overly difficult gaming and too little time to assimilate what's happening.
Titus seems to feel that an awesomely good looking game has to be correspondingly tough, which is a shameful waste. Knight Force looks too mouthwatering to miss, but a few quick trips back to the start will have you cursing and confused. Knight Force's a great rolling slide show of of games screens for artists to admire, but a continuous Knightmare for gamesters.
All very pretty, but what about the game? You die too easily and there's too much disk access. What's the point of having pretty pictures if you spend most of your time loading between them?
Dark but clear.
P. Where's all the music gone?
N. Fun spot effects.
P. The graphics demand you play...
N. ...the game forces you to stop.
Staying Power 54%
P. Very hard going.
N. There are techniques to learn.
Breathtaking graphics in a frustrating game.