Knightmare is a TV licence with a difference, based on the ITV/Anglia series which starred school-age role-players in a fantasy castle of computer graphics. In the Activision game, a sad distressed knight has been cast through time and space to a place he does not know, and he must survive.
He can ask things, look, dig and even drink, selecting commands and responses to other characters' suggestions from a multiple-choice set.
As the knight progresses through these dank dungeon rooms, he encounters people, and there are beasts who can help him by answering his questions. Like him, they talk in speech bubbles. But he will also encounter goblins, snakes, and bats.
A burning candle at the side of the screen shows how much life the knight has left.
More information is available from two oracles - but one is helpful and the other is malicious. And because it's not a detective game, you cannot cross-question them about their replies. If the knight survives long enough, he can gather Merlin's Magic. There are many spells, and only by trial and error can you find out what they do. One squashes the nasties, but not all are so useful; if things get really desperate, resort to hurling bricks at the goblins.
Joysticks: Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: book-like presentation, 'turning pages', from one screen to the next, using isometric views of monochromatic rooms.
'Knightmare is very complex, and though most of the actions you must take make sense, when you have to repeat things it gets monotonous. Visually Knightmare is very attractive, with the individuals detailed and accurately drawn - and the oracles have a very commanding appearance. The main fault of Knightmare is that it's very, very hard - and will prove a great challenge to the most capable adventurers.'
PAUL ... 77%
'This one's a toughie - it took me ages to get out of the first two screens. Knightmare has great graphics but the pace is a little too fast. Though the word commands are difficult to use at first they soon become easier, and very fast. Still, Knightmare will take a long time to master - which may or may not be a recommendation.'
BEN ... 60%
'A nightmare indeed - there's one correct response to every situation, no variation is permitted, and the system of Knightmare soon gets too dictatorial.'
BYM ... 48%
If you've been suffering withdrawal symptoms since Anglia's adventurous TV prog Knightmare, went off the air, is it worth handing over a tenner to get the micro version? Well, it ain't bad, it ain't brilliant... and it's at least two quid over-priced.
The graphics are pretty neat and well-animated, though we won't compare them too directly with the TV show's special effects, seeing as they were done with a Supernova machine which costs the equivalent of about 300 Plus-3's. To get the graphic detail you have to sacrifice colour, so the screen is mainly blue on white, but other colours are used for the Dungeon Master and the Oracles whose heads appear at the top of the screen when you consult them.
As you might expect, you start this mix of arcade and adventure in a dungeon... yup, there you are with your funny little hat on. At the right of the screen is a candle burning down as your life force gradually goes - and it goes more quickly if you encounter any of the nasty creatures that lurk in the domain of Damonia Castle. Your target is knowledge, your aim is survival.
Also in the opening dungeon is a geezer with a beard, a chicken leg, and something spherical on the floor. Balls? Could be. At the top of the screen is room for your verb-noun text input, which is chosen from a list of options. You flick through your choice of verbs first of all, such as OPEN, CLOSE, DIG, LOOK, ASK and so on, confirming your choice with ENTER, then you do the same for the nouns: ROCK, FOOD, WATER, DOOR, OLD MAN etc. You can speed things up by typing the initial letter of the word you want. If you want to dig the old man or eat the door then you can go ahead and try, but opening the door might be a better option at the start, and you soon realise that it's wise to do a good deed for the decrepit old duffer who's pacing round the dungeon with you.
The arcade action comes if you manage to figure out how to escape the first couple of rooms, though you can probably guess it's a case of avoiding baddies at first, then engaging in combat if you can find yourself a suitable weapon.
It's only by going through the list of options open to you that you realise, for instance, that the perfectly round objects on the dungeon floors are not, as you suspected, blue oranges, but are in fact rocks - useful for throwing at the ghosts, goblins and slimy creatures that emerge from the floor to attack you.
At any time you can consult the Dungeon-Master, who will probably tell you in his snotty voice: "I do not guide. I observe." Well, thanks a bundle, chief. You can consult the two oracles as well, the good guy being Runius, the bad guy Buggane, although Buggane's first piece of advice seems fairly sound to me: "Trust no-one, give away nothing and drink plenty."
The option menus are a bit awkward and limiting for adventurers, and the arcade elements won't exactly thrill the zappers to their little cotton socks, but for those who like creeping around dungeons with funny hats on, Knightmare looks good and offers a certain amount of challenge.
A TV show? I choked as visions of Blockbusters, Countdown and - gasp EastEnders invaded my usually vacant mind.
Worse. It's a TV show about wandering around a blue studio with paintings of dungeons matted on afterwards, with some poor clutz rendered blind by a big helmet being directed by three tragic morons and a middle-aged man with a beard whose interest is dangerously suspicious does not sound like the soundest of bases on which to construct a computer game.
But Knightmare, I am surprised and pleased to say, is quite, quite brilliant.
You're at no disadvantage if you haven't seen the TV show of the same name, as the game successfully stands on its own. Nevertheless, if you're an addict of the Anglia TV twenty-minute-er, you'll be impressed by the similarity of feel that programmer Mev Dinc has managed to achieve.
Knightmare is an adventure in the truest sense of the word. You control the knight, guiding him around various levels of a ghastly world, solving problems as you go. It's difficult to give an idea of the play and feel of the game by comparing with previous titles, because the way it works is so original. But there are elements from games like Fairlight here, and even Valhalla.
As you move through the game, you will often come across situations which won't be easily soluble. Here, like in the TV show, you can call for assistance. Two Oracles will appear, like gods, at the top of the play area, looking down on the game. Both will offer advice as to what your next course of action should be. One Oracle is good, the other evil.
Unfortunately, the good oracle is quite happy to advise you to take a strong course of inaction and get absolutely nowhere, while the evil character will try to get you killed. What to do?
You've got to walk a very fine line. And try to use some advice from each.
On screen, Knightmare is a wonder.
The screen is laid out like a book, with the action taking place on the pages. Move from one location to another and the current page will scroll in a most realistic manner to reveal the new scene. The rooms are drawn in a single colour, in semi-3D form. As you can see, Electric Dreams has steered well clear of the isometric (Ultimate) approach.
The graphics for the characters are well defined, if a little on the thin side, and they move around the screen quickly and without fuss.
As well as moving around and fighting, you can use two word input for object handling and similar actions. No need to worry about the need for typing finesse, though, as you use a very friendly system that ED is called Word Gears. Actually, it isn't particularly impressive to look at, but the way it works is quite clever. By hitting a key, one word (usually an action) will pop up at the top of the screen. If this is the word you want, you can select it which will cause another to appear next to it. You can cycle through the words by tapping a key.
The clever thing about Gear Words is that once you've selected an action word, Open, for example, the next series of possible words will only comprise items that you could try to open. This saves a great deal of timewasting which could easily result in your untimely demise.
Your completely vital Stamina quotient is represented by a candle on the right hand side of the screen. The lower the candle burns, the more exhausted you are.
Puzzles encountered are of a varied nature. There are nasty old creatures which emerge from nowhere and ask you riddles under threat of death at the merest whiff of an incorrect answer and there are visual problems in the spot-the-difference mould. Each must be answered before the timer runs out. Should you fail, all hell will break loose, and a harpie of some description will; come at you from every conceivable angle. All hell, it has to be said, breaks loose quite a lot.
Among the more useful objects that you'll find are scrolls. They equip you with spells. Some are merely useful - Torch will light up a dark area. Others are positively malevolent - Toad will turn everything in the room into a harmless frog. You can also take the occasional risk with spells by casting the Metamorph spell, which will cause your nearest assailant to change into another beast. This comes in handy if you are unprepared to deal with a monster as you may find it changes into a stronger foe for which you do have the appropriate weapon.
The game is in two parts. The first consists primarily of dungeonesque locations. Should you manage to battle through to the next section, you'll emerge into the woodland scene.
Although Knightmare has no obvious aim to begin with, other than gaining as many points as possible, you will soon find yourself involved in the sub-plots which run throughout the game. Without giving too much away, you can expect to find the classic challenge involving a female, a large reptile and a rich old man.
Electric Dreams has taken a top-notch licence and produced a classic game. Smart-alecs.
Label: Electric Dreams
Author: MD Software
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
When we First reviewed Knightmare, now re-released on Ricochet, we thought it was pretty clever - a bit too clever for its own good, perhaps. It seemed to be second thoughts, it's much more approachable than that; think of it as an adventure which just happens to have nice animated graphics and you'll get the idea.
You find yourself stuck in the magic castle Damonia. Your task is simply to escape, but you have two advisers to help you. One will give true clues, the other false ones. Only one will answer each time you call for help, so it's a test of your wits as well as your imagination.
You can communicate with other inhabitants of the castle using simple one or two-word commands. You can also use magical shells if you find and combine the correct ingredients There are even combat routines, and. thankfully, a game save feature.
Like a modernised version of the Ultimate Filmation games, with a lot more intelligence and sophistication. Knightmare is a must if you like a protracted challenge.
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
MACHINES: CBM 64/Spectrum
PRICE: CBM64 + Spec £9.99
VERSION TESTED: CBM 64/Spectrum
Television and computer games rarely mix. It seems that the ancients who control the airwaves are totally ignorant about the millions of people who play computer games.
So when Knightmare the television programme surfaced last year the event was no less than staggering. For the first time the elements of live role-playing, adventure games, stunningly brilliant computer graphics and television and being skilfully blended into a highly entertaining show. The team behind it, including game designer Tim Child, should be congratulated. And Anglia TV deserves a pat on the back for having the guts to go for it.
Now Activision's game of a game show is out. The television formula has been adapted into more of a straightforward arcade adventure.
You play a knight placed in the dungeons of Damonia Castle. The aim is explore, survive and escape.
In the television programme the Dungeon Master, Treguard, would appear at various times to guide the adventuring knight with clues, hints and help. He also appears in the game to monitor your progress.
As your knight moves through the dungeons - a nice feature here is that each screen flips over like the pages of a book - encountering various inhabitants, oracles, one good, one bad, guards, puzzles etc. You can use word commands to communicate with those you encounter. Also to pick up, drop and use things. Your knight's lifeforce is shown by a burning candle on the edge of the screen.
On the Knight's travel you can also attain magical powers which allow you to indulge in a little Spellcasting.
These spells are:
Anvil - This hovers in the air until it is commanded to fall and crush.
Caspar - This is a key which opens certain doors in the castle.
Alchemy - This spell turns people into gold spheres which can be collected as treasure.
Ice - This spell does what its name implies - turns people into toads.
Metamorph - Changes characters into other beings.
It's also possible to engage your knight in a little bit of combat. But don't expect Barbarian-style action. All you have to do is move next to the character who is the object of your aggression and hit fire repeatedly for the battle to commence.
Arcade adventurers everywhere should find Knightmare a thoroughly enjoyable game. I know I did.
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