Amstrad Action1st March 1991
Published in Amstrad Action #66
North And South
The 1860s. The United States were anything but united. Abe Lincoln had just been elected and was advocating the abolition of slavery. Many Southerners took exception to this, and promptly declared themselves a Confederacy. The North took exception to this, and thus a war was born.
North and South is not really a serious recreation of the American Civil War. There is a strong and accurate historical element, but the whole scenario is treated lightly and entertainingly. This is for the most part due to the very impressive cartoon graphics of Lambil (who apparently is dead famous in France for his Civil War cartoon 'The Blue Jackets').
The strategic element of the game utilises a map of the eastern USA with the states marked out. You must move your forces from State to State, capturing forts, robbing trains and wiping out the enemy. Your troops can be massed into huge armies, or can be spread out over a wide area.
What you must do is capture and then defend both the forts and the railway lines between them. For each successfully defended link, you'll get bags of gold. Collect five and they're traded in for a new army. Thus the forts and railheads are the key to the whole game.
The battles are fought on a different scale. Whenever two opposing armies coincide in one State, you'll see a close-up of the battle-field. Your artillery, cavalry and foot-soldiers are all shown. The artillery is possibly the most important battle-field element. It can destroy bridges, take out foot-soldiers and panic horses. The cavalry race around with swords flashing, but tend to be difficult to control. The infantry are much slower, but can set up barrages of fire which scythe everyone in the vicinity.
The best combination is to destroy the bridge (if there is one), then concentrate the artillery fire on the enemy cannons. Forget the cavalry, but use your infantry to move around mopping up stragglers.
If you move into a State with a fort, you'll also need to capture that. This is the first arcade sequence. You must run along a right-to-left scrolling screen, armed only with some throwing knives and your incredibly powerful fist. The enemy run towards you, also throwing knives and punches. You must knock them out as well as jumping over dynamite and fierce guard dogs. All this is done against a time limit!
The other arcade sequence occurs when of of your armies intercepts a train heading back to the enemy HQ. You, controlling a bloke remarkably similar to the one single-handedly storming the fort, must leap onto a moving train and run along the roof. A horde of angry enemy men run at you, throwing knives and yet more fists in an attempt to knock you off the rapidly-moving choo-choo. If you do get knocked off the roof (and indeed fail to capture the fort in the other scenario), you lie in the dust and have a wonderfully-animated tantrum.
The train sequence is also set against a time limit. If you are ahead of the clock, you have time to spare. But when the clock overtakes you, you'll need to move very fast in order to get to the loco and force the driver to stop.
The two arcade sequences are very similar, but there is enough variety to make them interesting. Also, quite a lot depends on the outcome, so you have to concentrate on them.
During the strategic troop-moving phase, other random elements can intervene. These include: a storm cloud which halts movement of any troops under it, indians which can wipe out an entire State's forces and sea reinforcements. This strategic phase is an incredibly playable game in itself.
Graphically, North And South is astounding. What is really impressive is the fact that it isn't just made up of nice pictures; the screens constantly change, and you need the detailed info to move your men around. The battle scenes are accurately and beautifully drawn, too.
The arcade sequences both function in the same way. The only criticism is that they are pretty easy once you develop the correct technique. The men move smoothly though, the screen scrolls nicely, even the dogs lope past with a realistic gait.
Sound is up to this same high standard, with a a lot of different tunes. Predictably, there are the Dixie melodies as well as the Yankee tunes. Spot effects occur during the battle sequences and the arcade games. These are fine, too. A great deal of attention has been paid to the way the game sounds to complement the graphics perfectly.
A two-player option is supported as well as the computer opponent, which has three skill levels. Another nice touch is the ability to start a game at one of three points during the Civil War. Each scenario is different, with the Yankees holding a stronger position towards the end of the war.
Using a well-known (in France) cartoonist appears to have paid dividends for Infogrames. Its game has a style which is rarely seen in a wargame. But then, North And South isn't just a strategy simulation. It is also an arcade game, and also a battlefield tactical movement game. In short, it is a great mix of all these elements, with a touch of Gallic humour thrown in as well.
First Day Target Score
Win as the Union on Easy level.
North And South mixes arcade action and strategy elements. The result is an extremely playable game that will have gamesters of all kinds stuck to their CPCs for hours, especially when two players join in the fun.
Almost cartoon-quality. Superb graphics and animation.
As many sounds as you'll need, and some great tunes, too.
Grab Factor 93%
Easy to pick up and play - not a traditional 'stuffy' wargame.
Staying Power 90%
A lot of different games rolled into one excellent program.
Forget all you've heard about strategy games - go out and buy this 'un!
So What Was It All About Then?
By the mid-19th century, many American Northerners, or Yankees, were getting pretty cheesed off with the slavery trade which was then flourishing. The Southerners thought it was all a fuss about nothing. Slavery was actually quite important to the functioning of the South.
In 1860, Abe Lincoln was elected as President. He was pro-abolitionist, and gave the South a pretty nasty poke in the eye over their slave trade.
The Southerners decided that they didn't want to be part of the American Union any more. They declared themselves an independent Confederacy. This was a rather silly thing to do, as the North had well over twice the number of people, 70 per cent of the railway lines and 93 per cent of the factories, including all of the iron, cannon and gun-manufacturing businesses.
So it wasn't really very surprising that the North won. What is surprising is that it took them four years to do it. This was because the Southern Generals were the best in the whole country, and they were also fighting on their own territory.
The moral of this story is: don't have slaves and don't have wars. And if you do have a war, make sure you've got all the factories and railway lines on your side.