This is a very attractive game indeed, with an unusual display, excellent graphics, and a very original gameplay system. It's also rather frustrating to play, has limited command options, and will almost certainly not appeal to people used to traditional adventuring.
Slaine is the excellent Celtic warrior-king featured in 2000AD. Although not as well-known as Judge Dredd, the strip he features in is very original in conception with superb artwork and very strong storylines. It's certainly one of my favourite 2000AD features, so naturally I was keen to see what Martech had come up with.
Certainly the originality of the programming and the quality of the graphics both do justice to their source of inspiration. The screen is divided into three main areas, a small text window, an options window across which the various command options scroll rapidly; and a graphics display area where cameo shots of your location, your companion Ukko, your possessions, and sometimes other characters are attractively windowed.The problem with the game is two-fold: limited options and poor control. The limitation of options is not in itself so serious - we've become used to this in games like Heavy On The Magik - but if you do limit the player's scope than you have to give him something in return, either greater playability, arcade action, or tremendous game size. Slaine offers only pretty graphics.
This on its own wouldn't be too bad, but then there's the problem of control. The software designers claim that the options scrolling oh-so-rapidly across the window are representing various alternatives flitting through Slaine's (apparently very limited) imagination. To act on any of these, whether it be to examine, to attack, or simply to move involves moving a severed-hand icon (striking but difficult to position accurately) over the required option and "clicking" on it before it disappears again. It takes you about an hour before you're really adept at doing this, but by this stage you've also started wondering why on earth they bothered to introduce such a clumsy control method.
The truth is that, underneath the complex (and admittedly very attractive) exterior, lies a game that is difficult to control and is, at heart, a fairly simple search and destroy scenario. If you've got the patience to overcome initial frustration, it should keep you busy for quite a while, but don't expect too much - the combat is pretty uninteresting, the character interaction extremely crude, and the command options limited. At ten quid on tape it's not exactly cheap either. A Christmas present to keep you occupied, no doubt, but I'm not sure that it makes for a deeply satisfying New Year.