Sceptre Of Baghdad (Atlantis) Review | Zzap - Everygamegoing

Zzap


Sceptre Of Baghdad
By Atlantis
Commodore 64/128

 
Published in Zzap #93

Nowadays it may be a certain Iraqi dictator's hide-out, but long ago Baghdad was a mystical place. While Sinbad tackled one-eyed ogres, wealthy kings regularly held parties in honour of themselves - Chris 'Sheik Herder' Hayward visits John Menzies to find the ruler...

Sceptre Of Baghdad

The air of Baghdad is tinged with excitement at noon; you (the ruler of the city) must hold high the legendary sceptre. so claiming your right to rule over the land and its people. Of course, ceremonies never quite go to plan, especially when an evil wizard plants monsters and beasties all around your castle in an attempt to stop your public appearance and tries to seize the sceptre for himself.

Because of ol' wizzy's interference. Baghdad's all of a dither. For starters, everyday objects have grown in size - some even gained a life of their own! The only way to undo the wicked one's work is to clean up the city using your wit and intelligence (your what? Miles) . which basically means collecting objects and solving problems in the usual arcade adventure-y manner_ By combining items different results occur, such as waking a helpful genie or revealing a hidden room. The monsters you encounter also need taking care of, but the slaying can't commence until the correct items are found. Medusa can only be destroyed using [deleted - no clues here - Ed], but you need to complete a bonanza of puzzles before it can be grabbed, and so on. Tidy up the city, degiblet key monsters and the sacred sceptre ceremony can go ahead as planned...

Dated Dealings

Sceptre Of Baghdad was originally released on the Spectrum in 1987, so it's inevitably dated a bit since then. Still, if it needed tweaking it couldn't have been tweaked better - the sound is nothing short of outstanding, with several different melodies moodily setting the atmosphere the graphics are bright and colourful, but I got an uncanny feeling of dela vu. The energy status resembles that in Sabre Wulf, the ancient Speccy game, and on many a screen I cringed at the nightmarish Spectrumy sprites.

The central character is questionable, looking like a Rastafarian with no style, and the animation's also puzzling - the Caliph swings his arms and slides across the floor like a curling stone on concrete!

No matter how bad other factors fare, playability must shine through, and yes, you know what's coming next - the playability is quite sad. Now don't get me wrong, these exploration/collect 'em up games usually entertain. Searching untouched territory and solving complex problems proves fun, but only when the problems make sense. A lot of items aren't actually used as such, just swapped for other objects. This is fine when using the insect net on the spider, but who, in a sane state of mind, would think of swapping a coconut for a mirror or exchanging a carpet for a pair of slippers? [We'll let these pass - Ed]

It's this impossible predicament that opens a gaping wound in the belly of a possible winner. Salt is rubbed into the festering sore by the whimsical amount of lives you are given. Dying when 80% of the puzzles are solved inspires screams of frustration, and with only one restart point (incidentally, I couldn't find it anywhere!) exploration soon becomes a chore. Anyway I may as well try and finish it... oh dear, I should have swapped the armour for an egg whisk. Tut tut, silly me.

Miles

A conversion of the ancient Speccy game of the same name, Sceptre Of Baghdad casts you in the roll of a distinctly stout turbam-clad chappie. Yomp around the thick-screen landscape, collect objects, solve puzzles, hitch a ride on a magit carpet, eat your shorts and don't haves a cow! The crux of the game is finding the right place to put each object, and this is where the game falls down. Some of the puzzles are far too obscure. Lateral thinking's one thing but c'mon, some of this is ridiculous!

Still, clear, colourful graphics and excellent sound make Sceptre a mildly enjoyable wander.

Verdict

Presentation 85%
Dandy intro, plenty of options

Graphics 62%
Slick backgrounds, hammy sprites

Sound 92%
An amazing 25 sensational soundtracks

Hookability 50%
Surely Baghdad's more interesting?

Lastability 56%
Illogical problems lead to dull days

Overall 59%

Chris Hayward