Personal Computer News17th November 1984
Published in Personal Computer News #087
TIR NA NOG
The development of cartoon adventures, where you control a figure moving around a landscape, still have some way to go. But only a year ago you'd have said that what Gargoyle Games has achieved here was impossible. The company has managed an astonishing degree of realism in the animation of the hero, Cuchulainn, and the characters which populate the world of Tir Na Nog and has come up with a worthy successor to Legend's Valhalla.
Tir Na Nog is Celtic for Land of Youth, or our land of the dead. Cuchulainn's task is to collect and activate the four fragments of the Seal of Calum to lighten the burdens of the world; the deal has the power to imprison the Great Enemy - Evil Incarnate. The 20 page booklet called Sealltuinn that comes with the game is worth ploughing through, for these are many tips and hints.
The screen is split into three horizontal panels. At the top is the background, which shows one of the four backdrops - the limits of the kingdom. The castle of Dhum Dhonuil with its fluttering Badbha (Battle Ravens) lies to the North, to the South is the volcanic Ceardach while to East and West are the rocky outcrops of Snathad - the Needle and Dudh Sgorr, beneath which lie the catacombs called An Lin, The Net.
If you find it hard to orient yourself, there's always the compass at bottom left which alters as you alter the viewpoint. Also in this lower panel are the location's name (so keep the map handy), your inventory and any messages.
The central panel is what really makes the visual aspect of the game - Cuchulainn stands almost one third of the screen high, and the animation is superb. He strides along with a lilt to his gait, hair flowing behind, arms swinging. You can make him thrust with whatever items he's carrying, which you pick from the inventory list by means of an asterisk.
The view can be chosen from any of the compass points. You'll need to use this to help Cuchulainn take the many roads and doors of Tir Na Nog in his quest. For an epic like this there are save, restore, freeze and quit to restart options.
Press a key and you're looking at our lad from the back; another and you're to his right or left; another and you're face to face; all in the blinking of an eye. Cuchulainn's a bit hard to direct at first, especially in this labyrinth of interesting paths and doors to who knows where. A good deal of my first few hours were spent just wandering around, picking up various potentially useful bits and pieces. It was quite a shock when the representative of Sidhe appeared. The Sidhe are the remnants of the last guard, the ones who originally imprisoned the Great Enemy, but whose carelessness led to the fragmentation of Calum's seal and Evil's escape. Whoever they are, it's bad news to cross them, so make young Cucuc leg it if they come on the scene.
I found it easiest to think in terms of 'to the left', 'to the right', etc, but each to his or her own. As Cuchulainn strides about, he remains central to the screen and the background immediately behind him scrolls smoothly by. However, the upper panel stays put - a bit disturbing at first.
The graphics, apart from the animation, aren't brilliant, but then there's so much to the land of Tir Na Nog that there can't be much RAM left.
It's interesting that both Valhalla and this game take ancient myths for their settings, but perhaps they betray some important human truths. In Tir Na Nog you'll find action and adventure, and you might even have to pop into your local library if you really want to solve it. If you want state-of-the-art software, Cuchulainn's your man.