Barbarian II: The Dungeon of Drax

by MC Lothlorien Ltd: Paul Atkinson
Palace Software
Crash Issue 60, January 1989   (1988-12-15)   page(s) 19

Do some hacking with your spectrum.

Producer: Palace
Sword Price: £9.99 cass, £19.99 disk
Author: Paul Atkinson

Drax, like all the best baddies, has more lives than a cat. A year after his apparent demise in the original Barbarian (85%, Issue 41) he's returned to menace respectable, if only partially clad people again. Naturally, Barbarian sets out to finish his task, but after his mistake last time Princess Mariana has taken up arms herself. At the start of the game the player is given a choice of which of these two to control for the rest of the game.

Drax has gone to ground in the deepest depths of his monster-filled castle. This is made up of four multi-loaded levels (one big load on the reverse side of the tape with music for the 128K). The first level is set just outside the castle, while the other three take the player inside. Each level has its own distinctive background graphics and superbly animated monsters. The latter range from leaping panthers and aggressive apes to dinosaurs which can bite your head off. Our hero and heroine are hardly wimps though, they've got a devastating range of combat moves including the notorious 'web of death' which beheads opponents.

Like Drax they've also more lives than average - five in fact! - plus an energy bar at the right of the screen. When they encounter an enemy, a bar appears on the left to show the creature's energy. Unlike the previous game simply killing opponents isn't enough, instead you've got to find two magical objects located somewhere in the smallish maze of locations on each level.

While colour isn't as used as cleverly as in the original, animation remains excellent and the increase in the number and type of opponents adds some particularly vicious new elements. Despite the arcade adventure format, the game's still essentially a beat-'em-up and tough enough that the multiload is more an occasion for celebration in reaching a new level than a drawback. My only reservation is that the game-type is a little old now and there's little dramatically new here.

MARK [79%]

Joysticks: Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: the large sprites are well-animated, although sometimes difficult to distinguish on the monochromatic background
Sound: 128K tune, hitting effects
Options: play either the barbarian or the princess

Now here's a sequel that stands out on its own merits. The original Barbarian was great hacking fun but underneath all the gore was basically just a beat-'em-up with swords. Conversely, Barbarian II puts the emphasis on arcade adventure. Combat with a variety of weird, well-animated monsters is fun but mapping's essential to success. Barbarian II is an interesting hybrid of beat-'em-up and arcade adventure which is challenging enough to hold your interest for a long time, even though the combat eventually proves a bit repetitive.
PHIL [80%]

Kick the meanies which look like Phil's hovering sheep! Barbarian II seems to have taken the reviewers' comments on Barbarian and improved on the original to produce a great slice-and-dice game that all fans of the original will love. The main complaint with the first game was the lack of variety in the sprites. This has certainly been put right here with a huge range of tough new enemies. A pleasing follow-up to one of the best beat-'em-ups of 1987, maybe this is the best of 1988?
NICK [83%]

Presentation: 80%
Graphics: 83%
Sound: 38%
Playability: 79%
Addictive Qualities: 77%
Overall: 81%

Summary: General Rating: An epic sequel which is really more of a arcade adventure than a beat-'em-up.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 83, December 1990   (1990-11-15)   page(s) 53

£2.99 re-release

Barbarian II's strong point is its graphics. Large detailed sprites on the main character and all the foes you hack and slay on your travels. Some of the sprites almost fill half the screen and they're all animated very well. Each screen is well coloured and there's some groovy music too. However, gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. Screen after screen of fighting the mutant monsters and jumping over streams soon gets repetitive.

You get four levels to play through: the Wastelands, the Caverns, the Dungeons and finally the Inner Sanctum of the evil Drax. Each level has about 28 screens with caves and huts you can enter. Mapping these levels is essential if you're to succeed. A basic beat-'em-up maybe worth having in your collection just to watch the great animation, especailly when the large dinosaur munches on your head! Yuk.

Overall: 71%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 37, January 1989   page(s) 49

Gwoaaarrrr! Woohooohooohooohooh! WAAAAARRRGGH! (Get a bucket of water, someone. Ed) Ker-SPLOSH! Thanks, I needed that. Now, where were we? Ah yes, Barbarian, which vaulted suggestively to number one on the back (or indeed the front) of the curvacious Maria Whittaker. Another year, another beat em up, and here we are again with the still pneumatic Ms Whittaker posing in tiny strips of metal that only the most broadminded person would ever describe as clothes. No doubt the game is throbbing to the top of the charts as I write.

"Ah, yes, but what's the game like?"

What? Did I hear that properly? Did you ask what the game's like?

"Yup, what's the game like, you total pillock?"

Oh I see, you want to know what the game's like. Well, not a lot, really. It's just another beat em up, and not a very interesting one at that. But does anyone really want to know that? Isn't the game perched lustily on top of the Gallup Top Thirty?

For indeed that's the problem with these Barbarian games. They're basically a case of "nice poster, shame about the game," and while this is much better than its predecessor, it's still not terribly exciting.

You can play either the barbarian or the princess and there are three levels to fight through - the Wastelands, the Caverns and the Dungeons - before you get to the Inner Sanctum of Drax. Each of the levels is mainly just an excuse for different scenery, and is made up of 28 'rooms' arranged in a rather tricky maze. Unfortunately to get through the maze you have to fight umpteen badly drawn nasties, each of which needs dispatching in a different way. You also have to collect two magic thingies from each level which will give you a chance in the later harder levels.

It's all pretty swift, and quite slickly programmed, but yet again it seems that a software company has tacked together two fundamentally incompatible game types without thinking of the consequences: in this case, slash em up and arcade adventure. As we've seen so often before, the combination fails because neither works by itself and they definitely don't work together.

Not that it's entirely without challenge. It's certainly quite fun to work out how to dispose of the saurian beasts, mutant chickens, stabbers, floaters, orc guards, giant grubs and so forth, that are so completely determined to chop you into little pieces and chuck away the bones. But the maze is a distraction, and there's not enough in the fighting to distinguish this from the eight billion other slashfeasts that the software industry has churned out over the millennia.

Last year Barbarian sold a healthy number of copies and surprised everyone. But considering its commercial success, it wasn't exactly prominent in our Game Of The Year feature at the end of the year. Barbarian II is unlikely to improve on this performance. Still, to all you lustbuckets who have already pinned up their posters. I'm sure that's not really important. Is it?

Graphics: 5/10
Playability: 7/10
Value For Money: 6/10
Addictiveness: 5/10
Overall: 6/10

Summary: Slobbery follow-up to everybody's fave slash 'n' drool game of 87. Fab poster, but the game's not up to much.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 60, December 1990   page(s) 84

Perhaps if I'm quick this month I'll be able to stick in the odd slash/chopper joke before anyone notices, eh? (I'm waiting. Ed) Oh, er, yes - let's talk about the game instead, shall we. readers?

The orig Barby was a (one- or two-player) straight hand-to-hand hunky-bloke beat-'em-up - which worked quite well and hung around the top of the all-important game charts for absolutely ages.

Then came the follow-up. In other words, this. What they decided to do was take the best fighting moves from the first game, stick you in a maze of around 100 flip-screens (split into four levels), and bung in loads of different baddies to dispose of, objects to help and things to find. And now it's out on budget (which is what it's doing in Barg Basement)!

Hmm. The graphics are really good and well animated (all big and chunky) - you should see this whopping great dinosaur dragon thingy for a start (well, perhaps you shouldn't 'cos he comes along and bites yer head off). But after a bit of playing you soon discover that beating baddies is merely a case of doing the same move over and over (and over) again. And as a walk-around-and-collect- things type game it doesn't quite make it because everywhere looks the same and the whole thing becomes rather annoying and not particularly fun to play at all. But still worth the light of day for a couple of quid (perhaps).

Overall: 60%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 81, December 1988   page(s) 26

Ba ba ba ba ba Barbariaaanl Yes, folks I he's big. he's bad and he's back. Barbarian: all muscle and hair with gleaming teeth.

The Dungeons of Drax, in case you can't tell from the decidedly booby artwork that's been appearing recently, is the sequel to Barbarian, the game of Maria "Chocolate Mousse" Whittaker fame.

Palace have slightly changed the format for this outing.

Instead of the straight-forward combat situation from the first game, there's definitely more of a mappy-explory feel to this one. The story goes as follows: Drax. having seen defeat in the first game has fled to his secret dungeons beneath the wastelands, surrounding himself with troops and monsters and keeping a very low profile. In true avenging crusader style you have to track him down and destroy him.

The game takes place on three levels. There's the openair wasteland section, where you are confronted with "warmup" creatures which aren't really to threatening and you get a chance to practise your swordsmanship (you get a sword if you play Princess Mariana and an axe if you are The Barb) without too much grief Next up - once you've found your way around the maze-like area - it's the catacomb level with moderately offensive characters which, in turn, leads to the final dungeon level where Drax's top henchmen hang out.

Getting the hang of the controls is a bit of a pain As with all of the games of this ilk there's a whole cartload of joystick moves that you need to memorise. Even when you've mastered them, you may well find them to be a little unsatisfactory.

For example, to turn around you pull the stick straight down, but the low chop (a very useful move) is executed by a down move with the fire button depressed. As a result, in the heat of the batle you stand a good chance of mooning at the enemy rather than launching a useful attack simply because of a momentary slip off the fire button. Unfortunately the. um, flamboyant nature of the aboutface means that you're defenceless for at least a couple of seconds.

The bad guys are exceptionally annoying and I felt that their frustration factor wasn't equal to their "skill".

They all seem to wait until you have initiated a move, and then dodge it and attack before you can strike again. Since you can't abort a strike, this gives them a slightly unfair advantage.

The graphics are large and pretty swift on the movement front. The colours are largely unsavoury -disgusto black-onpink for level 1 - and it's advisable to ditch them unless you've got a decent monitor.

Along the way there are various objects which will boost your energy, open secret doors etc.

You do get the impression of exploration. Making a map is pretty much essential since you may be pushed onto another screen during combat and need to find a swift route to your destination, rather than faffing around retracing your steps.

Barb iI is certainly playable, though I'm not dure how much the exploration element adds to its appeal. This is the sort of game you play to vent some commuter aggression, not when you want to enter into any thought process. If you've got the first volume, you should think carefully before buying this episode.

Label: Palace
Author: Icon Design
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

Graphics: 70%
Sound: 50%
Playability: 78%
Lastability: 70%
Overall: 69%

Summary: Enjoyable slash-fest. Limited exploratory value.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 105, November 1990   page(s) 60,61

Three things in life are certain, death, taxes, and sequels to big-selling games. Barbarian 2 scores in two of these three categories; it's a sequel and it's full of killing. All three categories, if you consider it particularly taxing.

You may remember Palace's original Barbarian; a combat sim featuring mightily-thewed warriors hacking each other to bits. Noted for its fine animation, violence and the size of the Princess Maraiana's boobies on the cover, it revived the tepid combat game genre.

Barbarian 2, now re-released on budget, attempts to do the same for arcade adventures. All the fighting elements are there - a variety of moves such as overhead chop, low kick and so on, but instead of being limited to a single screen, here the action takes place in a series of flip-screen mazes, and there's also an adventure element as you pick up various magical objects.

If you can make your way through fighting the dragons, snappers, mutant chickens and gorillas, you eventually get to confront the wizard Drax in his castle.

Good joystick response, decent animation and absorbing action add up to another super head-chopping challenge. A bonus for pervies is that you can choose to play the Barbarian or Princess Mariana. who reacts most peculiarly when she's jabbed in the backside by a dragon.

Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Graphics: 78
Sound: 60
Playability: 89
Lastability: 89
Overall: 88

Excellent arcade adventure combat action.

Graphics: 78%
Sound: 60%
Playability: 89%
Lastability: 89%
Overall: 88%

Summary: Excellent arcade adventure combat action.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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