Knightmare (Activision) Review | Commodore User - Everygamegoing

Commodore User

By Activision
Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #53


Knightmare was one of those TV programmes that kids who get kept in a lot after school never managed to watch. Although it's finished now, a new series is planned soon. Not ones to miss a chance, Activision have bought up the game rights in the hope that, if you can't watch it, you'll still want to fork out the ten sovs it takes to play it.

Knightmare, the game, is a curious mixture of adventure and arcade action, which sticks reasonably closely to the fantasy and mystery atmosphere of the TV storyline. You get the bloke in the full facial helmet (Compelte with pair of horns) wandering around the dungeons of Damonia Castle, picking up objects, casting spells and fighting off various fantastical monsters in order to survive and escape - in that order.

This may sound pretty offputting if, like me, you've always regarded adventuring as one step down the line from train spotting. Knightmare avoids being comatose by having pretty nifty graphics animation and text input that consists merely of two works, both chosen from short lists. No keying in to do of stupid sentences. It's simplicity itself to play.


A few preliminary words about the 'arcade' stuff. Don't be fooled. This merely amounts to picking up whatever weapon is available and pressing the fire button like mad until the adversary sinks into the ground. Hardly quick-reaction combat but it provides nice little interludes.

Now that you know what you're letting yourself in for, on with the story. At the beginning of the game, you're placed into one of the castle dungeons by Treguard the Master of the Dungeons. That's where you find yourself on the first screen, represented cleverly as one page of a book. To the right of the screen you see a large flickering candle which gradually goes down. Now and then a little hot wax runs down the side - neat.

The candle (surprise, surprise) represents life force, which decreases more quickly, too quickly for my liking, when you come into contact with anything nasty. The force is not replenishable. So when the candle snuffs it, so do you.

Since the instructions don't tell you more than they can get away with, the best way to find out what you can and can't do is to flick through the two lists of words. One set is for the actions, whilst the other lists all the objects available.

There is also a set of spells, which you have to work out how to get. Two good ones are the toad and the anvil. The toad turns characters into, er, toads; and the anvil hovers at the top of the screen to be dropped on the heads of unfortunate nasties - heh, heh. Since some doors don't open with the 'open door' command, Caspar the Key is available - if you can find him.

Other spells include a nifty number that temporarily freezes everything; and the alchemy spell, wich turns characters into solid gold spheres for you to put in your knapsack as treasure.

Various other items can be picked up and put in the bag, and pressing 'I' gives you an inventory of what you're carrying. Rocks are especially handy for throwing, and so is food (I mean handy, not for throwing) which may persuade some of the characters to help you out. Take the old man who's with you in the first dungeon. A little food and drink and he's ready to spill the beans.

To get help and information, you can call the Oracles. There are two of these and they appear at the top left and right of the screen, their speech appearing in bubbles. The blurb tells you one is good and one is bad. Well, I reckon Runious (one on left) is the good and trustworthy one. Buggane (one on right) is probably the nasty, due to him bearing a grudge against whoever gave him his name.

Buggane is also the one who makes snide comments. If you input 'open door' when a door is already open, he quips: "perhaps you need your eyes testing". Ouch, tongue like a scouring pad.

Certain inhabitants of the dungeons will confront you with questions or problems to solve before you can make further progress. Get them wrong and it's usually curtains, various nasties appearing from under the floor, to make your candle go down. The monster in the wall, for example, tests you with a few tricky multiple-choice questions like "Where did the Titanic sail from?" Fail and you get eaten.

The character in the helmet is always under joystick control, and this combination of using joystick and keyboard gives the game more depth and appeal. There's a great deal of thought gone into it too. For example, inputting a command does not halt the action. So if you're confronted by guards before you've picked up a weapon they won't take a tea-break until you've bashed the appropriate keys. They'll just get right on with their job.

One solution is to leave the room immediately, choose the command without activating it (the command remains in a bubble until you press return), then re-enter the room containing the weapon and guards. Now simply pressing Return gives you the weapon and a fighting chance.

Although the dungeons themselves are graphically only reasonable, the characters themselves are suitably large and gruesome, most of them appearing and disappearing through the floor. In all, the graphic representation is of a high standard and, as you explore, there are always new things to marvel at. Sadly, sound is rather basic, and my version of the game had no title tune.

I enjoyed playing Knightmare despite my fear and loathing of anything even remotely connected with adventures (Keith Campbell excepted). Knightmare is more a strategy game based on fantasy than an adventure. My only complaint is that the combat intervals could and should have been more challenging.

Knightmare promises to be a big game with more than enough hours of brainbashing to see you through the cold New Year weeks.

Bohdan Buciak

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