Wanted: exceptionally brave person to rescue complete Kingdom from violent demon. Applicants must not have an IQ over ten. Ed Ricketts applies for the job...
Can you make a sentence using these three concepts: Readysoft game, fabulous graphics, non-existent gameplay? Up till now Readysoft concentrated on Sullivan Bluth cartoon-style games that amount to little more than vaguely interactive demos. They hope to change all that with the release of Wrath Of The Demon, an original creation from three French-Canadian programmers.
Apparently a large and exceptionally nasty demon has woken up from a long leep and he's not too happy with the current situation. Talk about getting up on the wrong side of bed - the grumpy old thing decides to decimate the kingdom. And you'll never guess - you've got to stop him. With the incentive of the Princess's hand in marriage - and maybe even the rest of her - you gallop off onto the first level. This is a sort of prologue to the rest of the game, which is basically a normal beat-'em-up.
On your faithful nag you get to jump over obstacles and pick up potions that happen to be lying around - these come in very handy later on. On each level, you're confronted with a different species of baddie. On Level Two, for instance, you get to meet some extremely annoying goblins, while on Level Three you meet a huge dragon - it's a shame he's far too comical to be threatening though.
Unlike in many other combat games, there isn't a huge number of complicated joystick movements for you to learn. Fighting is fairly indistinctive, so moving the joystick has a very predictable effect - pretty useful when you're trying to dodge three enemies at once.
Since you're not likely to want to start from the very beginning each time you play, there is a save game option. Unfortunately you can access this only in the between-level screens, so getting killed just as you're about to finish a stage means having to play that level all over again.
The graphics throughout Wrath Of The Demon are superbly animated. Before the game starts there's a fantastic opening sequence, complete with gloomy and atmospheric samples - it's so well drawn and animated you feel as if you're watching a cartoon. In the game itself, the sprites are large and colourful, and they move extremely smoothly.
Every creature has a different method of attack and they're pretty difficult to kill as well. Scrolling is smooth in all cases and the parallax works well, although the detailed backdrops tend to become repetitive after a while. A different sampled tune and various spot effects accompany each level - they serve their purpose, but aren't overly exciting.
This is certainly an improvement on the previous Readysoft games. Instead of the odd push on the joystick, you actually have to use it in an intelligent way - there's far more player interaction than before. Finding potions and having to explore your way around a level certainly adds an element of interest, but there's still something missing.
To begin with, completing a stage is not easy: it's such a large program, on four double-sided disks, that date is annoyingly loaded from disk each time you restart a game. These delays are very frustrating. Couple this with the restricted game save facilities and the edge is taken off the just-one-more-go factor. Pleasurable frustration can easily turn into angry boredom.
Wrath Of The Demon is a step closer to marrying fantastic graphics with a worthwhile game, but it doesn't quite make it. If there had been more variation in the gameplay department, a break for the backing perhaps, then this could have been Format Gold material. As it is, it's good, but not that good.