Steve Crow has joined the Hewson label for his latest release, having built up a powerful reputation as a Spectrum programmer with games like Wizard's Lair and Starquake. His latest game stars a chivalric hero on a quest to liberate an oppressed land...
The Evil Queen who rules over the stricken land of Torot has a new and very deadly weapon in her possession. Using her cunning charm she has tricked a dragon into parting with the powerful Firestone which conveys the ability to hurl fireballs. With this weapon in her hands the wicked queen sets about terrorising the inhabitants of Torot.
Luckily it just so happens that a happy avenger of evil is in the neighbourhood at the moment. Sir Galaheart is a fearless Knight who hopes to con the Queen into letting him have the Firestone. The wicked Queen is terribly vain and terribly scared of growing old and losing her beauty. Sir Galaheart plans to find the four ingredients for the spell of Eternal Youth and trade them with the Queen for the Firestone.
Although the inhabitants of Torot have fled into their homes, the land is by no means empty. Deadly Fire Ghosts abound, ready to sap away Sir Galaheart's essential life force if they get too close. When the bold knight's energy level reaches zero he loses one of his five lives. At the beginning of the game, Sir G. doesn't have any weapons with which to defend himself against the ghosts, so his first priority is to arm himself. His firepower comes in the form of different coloured crystals, but these only last for a while, so new ones must be collected.
Sir Galaheart roams around the land of Torot looking for the charms needed to brew the secret youth spell. Useful objects, spells and charms are kept by the inhabitants of Torot inside their houses, so Sir G. must enter their homes and barter with them. Some of the objects lying around in the open are useful when it comes to bartering with the locals.
When Sir Knight enters a house, the view moves to an icon screen. One column of icons shows the objects which the housekeeper has to offer, another shows items carried by our hero. After deciding whether he wants anything, the hero can access a column of action icons and attempt to trade. If all else fails, a bit of pilfering might just work... The hands icon represents the theft option, and to steal you have to wait until the householder turns away and then move the control arrow from the theft icon to the object which you want to steal. Move it quickly to the object you are offering then over to the acceptance icon and you have stolen the required object.
If the householder looks round at any time during the theft, you are automatically brought up before the Reeve, who judges you. Should he decide you're guilty you get a reaction test, and have three attempts at stopping a moving arrow. Get it wrong, and you could lose up to three lives.
Sir Galaheart has to keep his energy up, and tasty bits of food can be found along the way. When Sir G. picks these up, his energy level shoots back up to maximum. However, should the knight lose a life, he is instantly vaporised and his tin helmet clatters to the ground...
Your knight must negotiate his way through leafy glades and deserted towns in his quest. Apart from scuttling around on his feet, there are also transporters which take him to a different location in the game. If Sir G wants to return to a Magic Place, he must remember the correct objects for the spell - casting the spell takes him to his destination.
Apart from useful objects, the knight can trade for information with the locals. Although they would like the reign of the power-crazed Queen to end just as much as he does, they'll only oblige for a price!
Control keys: redefinable: up, down, left, right, fire
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: no problems
Use of colour: excellent
Sound: small tunette at the beginning of the game with really good spot effects throughout
Skill levels: one
'Steve Crow has certainly got a fair list of hits behind him, from the very good Factory Breakout, to the superb Starquake. This next one follows on very well, though in a different vein. Another arcade adventure is all very well, but one of this calibre is very welcome indeed. The graphics are very good, with the colour used lavishly and to good effect. I don't think that there is anything in the game that is bad, in fact I like it a lot. If arcade adventures are your scene, then get a load of this.'
'I'm very impressed with this. I got straight into Firelord and thoroughly enjoyed playing it. The layout is very similar to Robin of the Woods, and graphically they are very alike. This is one of the best arcade adventures around. The sound is very good and contains some excellent spot effects and a good tune at the beginning. All the backgrounds are very colourful and are well drawn. I liked the way you can go into different doors and find different people in houses - all offering useful bits 'n' bobs. Stealing is also fun but quite tricky. Presentation is well up to Steve Crow's standards.'
'An excellent game this, but would you expect anything else from the man who brought us Starquake? I really enjoyed playing this one although the instructions are not much help. I think Firelord will have wide appeal as you don't need a great deal of joystick mangling. A good memory is necessary however, as running around the hundreds of screens can often lead you to lose your bearings, and the signpost 'service' given by some home occupants isn't very helpful. Graphically the game is excellent, but its outstanding feature is the colour. The sound is admirable: there are a couple of tunettes on the title screens and there are lots of lovely effects during the game. I strongly recommend this game.'
Medieval characters, 500 detailed locations and full colour, cartoon style graphics make up Firelord. The game was originally released in 1986 by Hewson when it got 91% from this very organ. Now on rerelease how will those five years have taken their toll? Your task is to recover the four charms of eternal youth to give to the evil queen. She has seized the firestone and will only give it back if this small gift is bestowed upon her. You must succeed, brave warrior.
Playing Firelord you can't help but notice the similarities to the older Ultimate games like Atic Atac and Sabre Wulf. The graphics here are a little smaller but the idea of running about a flip screen world dodging nasties and collecting objects is exactly the same. An added feature is the bartering you can do with the townsfolk to get objects and cast spells. The system used in a barter is very confusing if you haven't read the instructions thoroughly - come to think of it they're still confusing when you have! The large play area allows you to explore more and more each time you play, making you come back for go after go.
Firelord is a little dated as a full price game but as a rerelease I recommend it to everyone who missed out the first time.
Ultimate has a lot to answer for. By being so good, its programs spawned a whole new genre... Imitate - Plagiarise the Game. Firelord isn't a 3D clone, thank Knight Lore, but goes back further to the savage days of Sabre Wulf.
For those without long memories, that means that it's a multi-screen maze game. Very 'multi', with 500 plus screens, a host of meanies and lots to pick up in your perambulations. And the one thing that makes this deja-play tolerable is that it's written by Steve Crow, who seems to have a knack when it comes to imitating the Ashby crew.
Plot-wise, Firelord sets Sir Galaheart on a mission to seek out the sacred Firestone (though why he should want a holy car tyre I have no idea) and return it to the dragon. This means he'd better get a move on and though he's already got his drag on, he needs a weapon, which he'll find lying around the medieval highways and by-ways.
Life in the Middle Ages was nasty, brutish and short (rather like the Ed) but at least it was pretty too, and as you wander the country lanes, or stroll into town, you'll benefit from some attractive scenery.
But the hottest thing about Firelord is its trading element. You can walk into some houses and sit down for a bit of bartering with the occupant. Of course they may not want to sell their magic supplies or information for the hall eaten ham sarnie that you're offering, but you can always try a tittle light fingered theft ...
Life in medieval Britain obviously progressed at a more gentle pace, and though I quite enjoyed this, my feelings are that it's pleasant rather than powerhouse. It has an olde worlde charm that could soon wear off, unless you're really into the game type. In that case, it's got some novel twists, but personally I'd have preferred something rather more original from Hewson.
Stephen Crow's programming history reminds me of Amstrad. His stuff is not particularly original, but it does ring some interesting changes on some familiar ideas and sometimes he does it better.
So it is with Firelord, the first offering from Stephen now that he has left Bubble Bus and joined Hewson.
The cruel and cynical will say that Firelord is Attic Attac-meets-Sabre Wulf and thus dismiss it as yet another Ultimate clone. But it's a very, very good Ultimate clone: fast, vast, visually stunning and tremendous fun to play.
The background is a sort of Walt Disneyesque tudor backdrop - the land of Torot - where all the inhabitants have been cursed and turned into ghostly apparitions - a little like Rhyl on a Sunday in fact. You have to get the pieces of an eternal youth spell to trade for the Firestone which will release everybody from the trance... etc, etc.
It so happens that the inhabitants are the kind of cute little assorted yokels that fill Ultimate games and the hero if a little knight with a big helmet. Apparitions materialise a few seconds after you enter a location in an Ultimatesque mini-explosion and wander about aimlessly, bumping into you and getting in the way.
You do get to defend yourself from the inhabitants of Torot and kill them in large numbers, which is a pleasing but futile pastime, since they keep on coming. To start blasting you need one of those all-purpose magic crystals - you should find one lying about somewhere, although there is a lot of ground to cover, literally hundreds of screens.
Other assorted objects you may find scattered around include food (= energy), crystals, hay (?), and some easily identified objects. Pick them up by running over them.
All this stuff is hardly anything new.
Firelord does though have some nicely inventive touches that I haven't seen elsewhere. There are small details like the ice flames you can set burning by running away even more quickly. More significant is the trade option which forms an essential part of solving the game. Objects you collect can often be exchanged for tips, guidance, spells and other objects on entering one of a number of houses owned by certain key figures in the game.
The trading section is a change from the usual Ultimate-style backdrops. The screen displays the owner of the house you have entered - with an animated head which turns to look left and right, the objects you have on offer, the objects the owner has on offer and a hand icon. Ordinarily you use the joystick to select one of your objects and one of the owners objects thereby offering a trade. If it is accepted the object will appear in a third column and you may take it. There is, however, another way of doing business...
You can steal! When the owner turns away you can try to press the hand icon, dash over with the cursor and press the object you wish to steal and finally press the exit icon. Do it in time and you get the object for nothing. Should the face turn and 'see' you then you stand trial.
The trial is a little like those options on gambling machines where win/lose flashes alternately, except that in this case it's guilty/innocent. Careful timing might get you off - the trouble is you have to go through the process three times with guilty/innocent flashes getting faster and faster - it isn't easy and you could lose up to three lives - crime doesn't pay (unless you are very good at it).
I guess Firelord does for Sabre Wulf-period Ultimate what Dan Dare did for Manic Miner, ie it made up for its lack of basic plot originality by being beautifully designed, excellently programmed, bigger and by ringing a few more changes here and there it diffuses any serious claims of a rip-off.
And, because of all this, Firelord is a lot of fun.
Author: Steve Crow
Reviewer: Graham Tayor
Sir Galaheart's quest to restore the Firestone to its rightful place appears to be a straightforward maze-type arcade adventure, but in fact there's a lot more to it than that.
Resembling very much one of the classic imagine arcade adventures, Hewson's Firelord has some quaintly-designed and colourful backgrounds, smoothly-animated characters and fast screen-flipping. Though your eventual aim is to find the Firestone, to do this you have to deal with a host of characters by entering their forest homes and trading with them (or by blowing them to bits with bolts of magical energy).
Buying spells or magical objects and paying travel tolls using than icon-driven system, you move around the land of Torot in search of the Firestone. Trying to get away without paying for a deal can be profitable, but if you fail to come up innocent in the trial reaction test, you face a heavy penalty.
Engrossing, large-scale and entertaining arcade/strategy fun.
Price: £2.99 48K
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
PRICE: Spec/Ams/C64 £8.95
VERSION TESTED: Spectrum
C+VG Golden Joystick Winner Steve Crow has come up with a real scorcher in the shape of Firelord! It's an arcade adventure in the best tradition of arcade adventures - plenty of action and puzzles plus a couple of new twists.
This is Steve's first game since the award winning Starquake - and you'll recognise some similarities between the two games when it comes to the style of graphic presentation. But Firelord isn't Starguake set in the Middle Ages. Far from it.
If you read our preview last issue you'll know the background to the game. But for those of you who missed it the basic idea of Firelord is, well basic.
You play the part of Sir Galaheart, a noble knight out to end the rule of the Evil Queen who has enslaved the population of the land of Torot using the sacred Firestone which she has stolen from an unsuspecting and very friendly dragon.
Galaheart has to become the Firelord and defeat the Evil Queen. Not an easy task...
You begin the game - as a lowly peasant - in the village, battling flame ghosts who take the form of poor villagers. Our hero can zap these creatures - but only when he's collected an enchanted crystal.
All the real villagers are hiding in their houses. They can be persuaded to help you by giving you information, and you can barter with them for useful items.
When you begin the game you won't have anything to barter with. This means you're going to have to steal something!
Now normally a gallant knight like Sir Galahart wouldn't dream of doing such a thing. But times are hard and there's a quest at stake here!
So you're going to have to do a bit of breaking and entering. You'll always find someone at home - but you can still walk out with a useful object if you're quick at manipulating the various icons on the bartering screen.
Succeed and you'll be able to trade. Fail and you'll have to stand trial! More about that later. First let's take a closer look at trading a cheating!
Once inside the house, shop or other inhabitable area, the screen will change. In the top right corner of the screen the character with whom you are trading is depicted. Below that is a cheat command. More of that later. Finally, on that side is the exit option.
Down the middle of the screen you can find the various services offered by the character. A set of scales signifies that you may be able to trade with them.
A signpost will tell you that you can find out your location.
Using the cross-shaped cursor, you select which service you require, and how you intend to pay for it.
Now, back to the cheating part. Should you decide that it's worth the risk, you can choose to try and rip off the occupant of the building. If you get away with it, then you will escape with the object you desire, and the one which you promised to part with! However, if you are caught, you will find yourself at the trial.
If you're familiar with the bonus game in Uridium you'll get the idea of the trial screen pretty quickly. An arrow flashes back and forwards between two words - Innocent and Death. You get three chances to ensure you don't lose a life. If you get it wrong and the arrow points to Death one life goes - every time. So if you get nabbed early on in the game it could be quite short!
Your score can be found at the top left hand side of the screen, lives left are shown in the right. In the centre are bars which show the condition of your energy, weapon and bartering powers. Items you've collected are also shown at the top of the screen.
You'll also find useful things dotted around the landscape - things like the crystals and bits of food which help keep your energy up. Making a map is essential, and always remember where you've left a supply of food.
Firelord is an excellent game. Graphics are colourful and sound effects original - which is saying something on the Spectrum. I particularly liked the metallic tinkling sound which happens when Galaheart dissolves after running out of energy or when he is wiped out by a baddie!
When a programmer who has recently had the honour of being named Programmer of the Year moves almost instantly to a new software house, the accusations tend to fly. Although Bubble Bus must surely miss Steve Crow, his move to Hewson must be considered reasonable. What Crow had to do was to make sure that his first game was as good as his last, Starquake, and that would be no mean feat.
With Firelord, he has produced an arcade adventure of such depth and quality that he must now stand alongside any of the top programmers in England. The game is set in the medieval lands of Torot, where it is your task to seek the sacred Firestone and return it to the dragon's safekeeping. That may sound an easy task for a super-hero like Sir Galaheart but unfortunately the evil Queen will not take kindly to his actions.
To obtain the Firestone it is necessary to collect the elements of the spell of eternal youth and then trade them. At the beginning it is necessary first to obtain the enchanted crystal, as that will allow you to shoot everything in sight.
As the game unfolds it becomes apparent that its important aspect is bartering. As you enter each house, owned by peasants, witches and wizards, you can see items which they are willing to swap. If you have other items, trading can take place. The more dodgy players will also find that stealing is not too difficult, so long as you are quick.
As you gain spells, the game unfolds even more and you soon learn how to travel round the land and what is where, but with more than 500 screens, even the most dedicated fans will take a time to complete it.
Overall, Firelord is a tremendous success and it goes even further to establish both Crow and Hewson. The only question left to ask is how can the games continue to improve so dramatically?
HEWSON'S MEDIEVAL MAGIC ARCADE ADVENTURE HAS OUR REVIEWER UNDER ITS SPELL.
Firelord has all the elements we have to expect from Steve Crow, author of Starquake and Wizards Lair, but it's also a dazzling progression from his previous work.
The plot is fairly standard - you play Sir Galaheart and must collect the charms and free the land from the Evil Queen who has put a fiery curse on the land with the power of the magical Firestone. Don't be put off by a familiar plot as Firelord is executed faultlessly and will provide days of entertainment on many different levels.
There are a multitude of things to do in this 512 screen feudal word but you won't get very far unless you first locate an enchanted crystal which will give you some firepower against the bands of knights who roam the land. Objects are scattered throughout the landscape and these are necessary to give you bartering clout to obtain the spells you need. So it's not just a matter of 'collect the right objects and you are home and dry' and the barter sequences are a very clever addition. Enter a house and you are transferred to an icon driven screen which shows you the house owner (witch, peasant, etc) by way of an animated inset picture of a face, what objects you have and what objects are on otter.
You could of course go for a straight transaction but there is also an icon which gives you the chance to get away with what you are after for nothing. You have to be pretty fast with the cursor to do this and if you mistime it retribution is swift.
If you get caught red-handed you are brought before the judge and may forfeit up to three of your five lives if you fail to come through a sub game that requires even greater split second timing than carrying off the crime itself which is a nice touch of poetic justice.
Even after long periods of play I found I'd barely scratched the surface of the game but had been enthralled throughout and that to me is a sure sign that Firelord will be returned to again and again.
The game features very attractive graphics, smooth animated figures, and a complexity of gameplay that is pitched at just the right frustration level. It holds more than enough surprises to captivate even the most accomplished arcade adventurer.
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