Thanatos


by Mike A. Richardson, Jane Richardson, Julian Breeze
Durell Software Ltd
1986
Crash Issue 35, December 1986   (1986-11-20)   page(s) 152,153

Let's face it, the dragons of this world have had a pretty bad press. Ever since George did his bit of dragon bashing, people have been going around being very butch and sticking it to these badly misunderstood creatures.

Quite understandably, the dragons have always resented this. Lovers of the peaceful life, constantly being harassed by these tin plate tinheads just didn't fit in with their lifestyle. Thus, in order to be able to put their feet up and get a good (k)night's kip, your average dragon has to torch a good fifty mile radius around his home just to be sure of a bit of 'ush. And thus the legend of the bad old drag' with a breath problem was born. So, he makes a snack of the odd maiden or two? Well, nobody's perfect!

In a bid to rehabilitate the image of these poor old creatures, Mike Richardson has foresaken his previous hi-tech worlds of fast cars and high flying helicopters for a more rustic setting.

In this pastoral land, the good dragon - Thanatos the Destroyer - must do his duty. The good Sorceress Eros has been imprisoned by an evil Lord of the underworld, and to add to her problems the rest of her belongings - spell books, trusty cat and so on - have been locked up in separate castles. These must be restored to the Sorceress so that she can bring light and enlightenment to the land, and forever clear the good name of dragons.

The Dragon is controlled by joystick or keys with up, down, accelerate and decelerate. Hitting the fire button does just that - the Dragon breathes fire, either up or down depending on the up/down keys. Pressing fire and the decelerate key causes the dragon to reverse direction.

The action takes place against a scrolling background. Thanatos and the meanies move in the foreground while mountains and villages in the background scroll past more slowly giving a perspective effect. All the meanies and Thanatos are animated: men throw spears, gulls wheel around in the sky and sea serpents writhe in the sea and plunge back into the water.

The dragon flies through the air by flapping his huge wings, waddles around on the ground on claw, or can paddle and swim in the sea. To take off, just trudge along and press the 'up' key. Apart from breathing fire, the drag' can set about his foes by picking them up with his talons and carrying them aloft. They are dropped again by pressing fire, and plunge to their death. By hitting another baddie with the falling body, two 'birds' can be killed with one stone and extra points won.

The higher the level, the more damage is done to the dragon with each brush with a meanie. These come in various shapes and sizes. Killer bees mob him, nasty two-headed dragons give him a hard time, sea serpents are out for his blood and deadly spiders hang from silver threads in the caves. On the ground he comes up against the odd pack of wolves, and has to cope with soldiers chucking things at him.

Thanatos's life force can be restored by taking a quick breather on the ground. His life force is shown by a beating heart and as he takes damage the beat quickens. If he gets really badly damaged, the heart turns blue. If he runs out of fire, he has to refuel by taking a quick snack of nasty witch. But watch out for the knight on a white charger doing his dragon slaying bit. The only way to deal with him is to grab him with your talons while he's galloping along - very tricky.

To win the game, Thanatos has to rescue Eros from one castle, and then take her on his back to other castles to collect various objects. There are three castles on the lower levels and four on harder levels, and it's no day trip rescuing damsels when you're a dragon...

COMMENTS
Control keys: redefinable, up, down, left, right, fire, P to pause
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Interface 2
Keyboard play: good positive feel
Use of colour: excellent, but badly masked
Graphics: gibber, gibber
Sound: a haunting tune, but beep, cough, burp effects
Skill levels: eight
Screens: scrolling


I was very impressed with my first game of Thanatos: the graphics are well up to the standard of recent Durell successes and the game as a whole is extremely original in look and play. The movement of the main dragon is very smooth and realistic, and all the characters, from bees to sea monsters, are well drawn and contain lots of colour. I found it very easy to get into and highly addictive, even though it presents the same problems in the same order every time. The game is well presented, but I feel that it is a little too hard so that you may end up missing out on quite a lot - which is a pity as it is quite expensive. Another very decent game from Durell.'

'Eyes popped at the CRASH offices when we first saw the preview copy of Thanatos, and the final version is even better! You get totally enthralled in the mystic scenario. This is one game that I can't really see myself leaving alone for weeks. Graphically what can I say? Thanatos the Wyvern (it ain't a dragon 'cos it's only got two legs) is the best character I have ever seen on the Spectrum. All the other characters are very nicely done, as is the countryside which scrolls astoundingly. This is the best game I have played for months, even at ten quid it still represents good value.'

'Wow! This game is really amazing; stunning, astounding, brilliant! The tune on the title screen is very nice, but the graphics are absolutely superb. The parallax scrolling works excellently, and the effect that it creates when you belt past a path, the castle, or a beach, is breathtaking (almost!) Playable and addictive, Thanatos is a game that I'll be playing for a long time to come; if variety is the spice of life then buy this and become a chicken curry.'

Use of Computer: 94%
Graphics: 95%
Playability: 92%
Getting Started: 91%
Addictive Qualities: 94%
Value for Money: 90%
Overall: 93%

Summary: General Rating: An excellent and rather different arcade adventure.

Award: Crash Smash

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 13, January 1987   page(s) 85

Dragons roll! (Er... shouldn't that be wagons?) Not in this adventure, bucko. You play the part of a v. green and mega scaly dragon, called Thanatos the Destroyer. You are in total conflict with the forces of the Underworld, and we ain't talking British Rail employees here... although they're pretty fierce. No sir, we mean real dribbling hordes of evil stuff. Nasty little goblins fresh from Mischa and Stephen's jokebook, killer bees from T'zer's bonnet (Oi! T'zer), falling rocks bigger than Ed's dandruff... (Smack!) You must find the beautiful Eros (wahay!) for she is the only one who can guide you to the book of spells and back to the magic cauldron...

Gosh, this is heady stuff, all this dragonlore. Sounds like a really drippy idea for a game, like maybe the Orpheus effort about fairies? No way, Jose! This is a truly original idea for an arcade game, and so well executed. The graphics are stunning, from the flight/walk/ swim animation of the dragon, to the way the background moves in 3D - the objects in the foreground move faster than the objects in the background. Sounds simple, looks marvellous.

The only thing you must be very careful of is over-exerting your dragon. You can see his little heart pumping in one corner of the screen and if he looks to be heading for a rupture you must land and rest, or take the consequences. It's a race against time, but you must look after your dragon if you want to finish the course.

So, okay wiseguy, why is this game so much fun? Hmmm? I'll tell you. No other game lets you fly a dragon. No other game lets you fly along blasting the enemy with flames from your nostrils. It's an original premise but it would be nothing if it weren't so nicely done. The game just oozes atmosphere, and that's a quality all megagames have.


Graphics: 10/10
Playability: 9/10
Value For Money: 9/10
Addictiveness: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Award: Your Sinclair Megagame

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 50, February 1990   page(s) 48

Here's a novel idea - a re-release. An old Durell one this time, and quite good, considering. There's no plot or anything, so it's a case of plunging in head first. Let's start with the dragon. He's about half a screen long, has the usual fiery breath, flappy wings and pointy tail, and can walk along or fly. As is normally the case, your job as the aforementioned draconic beast is to eat people, burn things down and attack castles with the ultimate goal of rescuing a maiden.

Being half a screen long, the dragon makes an impressive central character. Damned impressive, in fact. The parallax scrolling is pretty triff too, especially the paths leading up to castles in the distance which skim past very effectively. Otherwise, the graphics are functional and the only sound is a gently throbbing heartbeat (let this get too rapid and you'll suffer a mid-air heart attack).

As for the fun factor, Thanatos is refreshingly different. It's full of delightful little touches, like the ability to deposit rocks on people's heads, burn them and drop them from great heights. Good stuff. Gosh, yes.


Overall: 82%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 57, December 1986   page(s) 44

"Long, long ago, when dragons ruled the earth, and men and women were but helpless creatures.."

How many times have you read this sort of storyline at the start of an adventure game? Wouldn't it be nice, given that humans were altogether useless, to take the role of the dragon, and be able to stomp down villages, attack castles, and do all the rest of the reptillian repertoire? Durell's latest lets you do just that. And I can let you know that it is very satisfying indeed.

Featuring what must be the hundredth revolutionary scrolling routine to appear in the last 48 hours, the game has some rather splendid graphics.

Durell seems to have employed virtually every fantasy sub-plot in order to make the game as interesting as possible. Initially, you must wreak a bit of havoc amongst the local people, before moving on to find Eros, an enchantress who will guide you to more wonderful lands. Eventually, you will be taken to a book of spells, and a magic cauldron. See? it's all in there.

Obviously, the villagers don't take too kindly to having their houses burned to the ground, and their peace-loving community wrecked by a lumbering great lizard. As a result, at the first hint of a little pyrotechnics on your part, they're out on the streets armed to the teeth, slinging arrows and spears.

Occasionally, you will be confronted by A Mythical Creature. For the most part, these looked rather closely related to bumble-bees, but they were quite tenacious, and ended my games more frequently than I care to mention.

The graphics of Thanatos are really something. In the lower portion of the screen, your heart-rate and flame-capacity are indicated by a pumping heart and what looks like a glass full of fire, respectively. (Actually, I think it is supposed to be a belly of the dragon, but it's a little hard to tell.)

The graphics really come into their own when you see the dragon flying over the landscape. The wings flap with superbly convincing swooshing sound effects, and the dragon waves his head around too.

The graphics for the background, if a little sparse, are attractive, and the little characters on the ground hurl their weapons upwards in a most satisfying manner. Of course, the most fun can be gleened by scorching the little bodies, or picking them in a claw, elevating them to a great height, before releasing them, and watching their descent. I told you it was fun.

Although the game is really two dimensional, you are given an impression of depth 'into' the screen by the fact that a distant object will move across the screen slower than a nearby one. It works rather well.

It seems impossible to turn around once you have taken off in either direction, be it be air or on foot. It is possible to attain quite frightening speeds, but some realism is lost by the way in which you can slow down rather too easily.

There is one marvellous section in which you must fly through a flooded cave system. As you progress, an increasing number of rocks will fall from the roof of the tunnel, on to the dragon's back. If you are struck too many times, he will eventually disappear in a puff of smoke. There's also a really nice representation of water in the game. Should you land in a lake, or similarly wet area, your creature will sink up to it's stomach, but you can still walk around.

I enjoyed it all hugely.

Label: Durell
Price: £9.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

****


Overall: 4/5

Summary: Thanatos is entirely original. The you-as-Dragon role reversal offers scope for lots of fun. Torching things and so on. Fine stuff.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 94, January 1990   page(s) 50

There's one thing I can say about the game - and that is... It's original alright! It's not very often that you get to take a 2.8 litre dragon for a test drive.

Anyway, on with the game. To make Thanatos fly, press the left or right key to gain momentum and then press the up key as you announce the departure of Dragon Airways flight 747. As Thanatos leaves terra firma his little legs fold up into his body and he flaps his economical wings and soars off into the wild, blue yonder.

The game scrolls from left to right and Thanatos flys along and uses his firey breath weapon to frazzle any odd moron stupid enough to try to shoot arrows at him. He can also use his claws to scoop up the odd rock to drop on the men's heads below. He can even pick up a man and drop him to his death which is really nice.

(Oh yea? Nice for whom? - Garth).

After being attacked by rocks and outraged by fortunate arrows, Thanatos lands at a castle where, after burning the doors down, a girl will climb onto his back who will thereafter, do all of Thanatos' fetching and carrying as he works his way to rescue the princess The controls were a little difficult to master but they're okay after a little practice.

Graphics in Thanatos are good. They're nice and big - the only problem being that once Thanatos starts moving quickly the scrolling gets a little |erky although colour clash is rare. Sound is not very good at all but the game really isn't all that bad.

EDITOR FOR A DAY...

Label: Encore
Author: Durell
Price: £2.99
Memory: 48K/+2/A
Joystick: Various
Reviewer: ?


Graphics: 75%
Playability: 70%
Overall: 65%

Summary: It's good, but not that good.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 94, January 1990   page(s) 50

THANATOS GARTH

Thanatos was probably one of the first games on the Spectrum to have a character that was larger than one sprite big. That was a couple of years back now and so it was probably due for re-release as a budget due to the success of Dragon Spirit.

Well Thanatos certainly hasn't dulled with age and is still a very nice piece of software thank you! Durell's old dragon has awoken and taken flight with the great graphics that made it sooo popular first time around. Unfortunately, the gameplay is now a little dated as we've moved on a wee bit from the up, down, and fire scenario onto the more complex type with option menus, shops, weapon choice and so on, but I think Thanatos is still worth a look at to see how good graphics were two years ago.

REVIEWER FOR A DOZE.

Label: Encore
Author: Durell
Price: £2.99
Memory: 48K/+2/A
Joystick: Various
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter


Graphics: 89%
Playability: 76%
Overall: 73%

Summary: Thanatos the Dragon isn't quite the hot stuff he was.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 63, January 1987   page(s) 21

MACHINE: Spectrum
SUPPLIER: Durell
PRICE: £9.95

Always expect the unexpected from Durell. They beaver away quietly down in Somerset and always come up with original games - at least one a year anyway. This time it's Thanatos, a magical mystery tour through a land full of dragons, demons and a beautiful sorceress to be rescued.

It's an arcade adventure with a difference. The difference is the scrolling "wide-screen" landscape you fly our hero, Thanatos the Dragon, through on his quest for truth and justice. And all because the sorceress wanted a magic cauldron.

I guess someone down at Durell has been reading Anne McCaffrey's dragon books because the idea owes a lot to these fantasy classics. You're in control of Thanatos, a great-big-green dragon. The first part of the game involves flying Thanatos across hostile lands and seas and through dark caverns, all the time fighting off the attentions of arrow-firing, spear throwing locals. He ends up at a castle where the sorceress is waiting to be rescued. Then you carry the sorceress through yet more dangerous lands and seas in order to complete your task and find the magic cauldron.

Fortunately, like all dragons, Thanatos can breathe fire. This means he can roast anything that attacks him from the air or the ground.

His supply of fire is limited however level is indicated at the bottom of the screen. He can obtain more solid fuel for his fire by eating witches - more of that later.

He also gets tired. Watch out for the heart on the right hand side of the screen. When it starts flashing Thanatos needs a rest. All you have to do, generally, is land and he'll be OK after a few seconds.

But you could be in trouble if he's surrounded by ant like human attackers or horrible flying bees or stuff like that.

The best way to kick off the game is to get to the first castle - important things are found in castles - as quick as possible. Don't worry about notching up a big score at this stage. Fly over attackers and only use your fire when in trouble. You'll need most of it to burn down the door of the castle. Once inside the castle watch out for a little figure waving at you in among the other figures firing things at you. Don't roast her, for this is the sorceress.

Land and she'll run and climb up Onto your broad and scaly back. Fly away into the wild blue yonder to escape the castle guards. And now the game really starts!

Life gets more and more difficult for the sorceress and Thanatos as they progress through this fascinating fantasy world. The seas are populated with long-necked monsters who reach up to snatch the sorceress from the dragon's back, the caverns are populated by nasty giant spiders with poisonous bites and the cities and castles are full of horrible people who think dragon hunting is in season all year round.

If Thanatos runs out of puff he can turn around and fly back to the nearest city where a witch is usually being burnt at the stake. It's the sort of thing they liked to watch in medieval time - well, they didn't watch Eastenders! Thanatos can eat the witch and gain more fire-power.

But watch out for the knight on a horse who tries to do a St George on you with his pointy lance. Could Thanatos have been set up here?

Each new part of the game provides a new challenge. More than enough to keep you coming back!

The graphics are interesting. Thanatos the dragon is a big, nicely animated character who performs neat turns and landings on request. Very obliging for a dragon is old Thanatos.

Scrolling is pretty smooth and colour clash problems are kept to a minimum thanks to an intelligent choice of background colour - black!

Thanatos is a novel mixture of adventure and arcade action. You could play it just to get a high score. But the best thing is to fly over the mysterious lands, discovering more each time you play. An interesting and playable game. Check it out.


Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 6/10
Value: 8/10
Playability: 8/10

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 98, January 1990   page(s) 85

Encore
Spectrum, C64: £1.99, Amstrad: £2.99

Thanatos is a hefty green dragon who likes nothing more than rescuing damsels in distress and toasting whole armies along the way. And what luck! For, far across the land is a fair maiden in need of assistance, and there's a whole legion of soldiers guarding her.

Using large dragon sprites throughout the game, Thanatos is impressive. The pesky humans pale in comparison to the flying lizards, being only little white stick men, but they're animated well enough. Play itself is rather samey, but if you fancy the idea of taking on the guise of a mythological creature, battling against the odds on a mission of mercy, you could do worse than shell out a couple of quid for this.


Overall: 69%

Summary: The huge dragon sprite somewhat overshadows the quite repetitive blasting action, which will appeal to most for a week or so.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ZX Computing Issue January 1987   page(s) 46,47

ENTER THE DRAGON! WIZARDRY, CHIVALRY AND MYTHICAL LIZARDRY AS THANATOS TAKES TO THE SKY.

Durell
£8.95

Durell's latest game adds a twist to the old 'people versus big bad dragon' scenario, as this time around you play the dragon and, instead of threatening the distressed maiden you enlist her aid to searching for a cauldron and book of magic spells.

In some ways Thanatos is about as close to a graphical representation of Dungeons and Dragons as any game since Knight Lore, as the way in which you control your dragon figure helps to create more of the 'feel' of D&D than many of the more complex simulations.

At the start of the game you find yourself in control of the dragon, Thanatos, a large and excellently animated figure who can walk or fly over the countryside as he searches for the enchantress Eros, and the other items he needs to complete his quest. The landscape which is represented in a sort of 'layered' 3D perspective which lends a feeling of depth to the graphics, foreground objects being placed lower down the screen than background objects - a simple technique, but quite effective.

Initially you fly west (left to right across the screen) through caves where you have to avoid rockfalls, over the heads of foot soldiers who will attack you with bows and rocks, and over the sea to reach the first castle where Eros is waiting for you. Once past the first stage there are three zones (caves, countryside and sea), but the caves become full of deadly spiders, the countryside guarded by ever more soldiers and the air above both land and sea is filled with other monsters, none of whom realise that a dragon's gotta do what a dragon's gotta do.'

All these attackers put a bit of a strain on the poor dragon's heart, which is depicted in the lower left hand corner of the screen. As the strain increases his heart beat speeds up until - if you don't slow down an rest for a bit - he drops dead of a heart attack. The hard part is finding somewhere quiet enough to rest as you won't be able to just sit down and ask the sea serpent not to attack you for a while.

The fun bit lies in the way you get to strike back. Like any dragon worth his or her salt, Thanatos can breath flame and frazzle those insignificant people on the ground if they get in his way. Also, as you get the hang of flying you'll find that you are able to pick up rocks and other objects and drop them in order to demolish targets on the ground. Thanatos doesn't have the sheer pace of some arcade games but, when you swoop down out of the sky, grab a soldier in your claws then fly to the top of the screen before carefully dropping him onto a group of other soldiers, it's hard to beat for sheer vindictiveness. I came unstuck here quite a few times because, sadist that I am, I sometimes spent so much time depopulating the countryside that I ran Thanatos into the ground before I'd got anywhere near completing the rest of the quest.

BURNED OUT

When you're likely to have trouble is when you run out of flames, because you need a lot of firepower to burn down the castle doors in each stage of the game. There's a 'flameometer' in the bottom right of the screen, and when you run out you have no choice bit to go back the way you came and try and find the witch. If you can ear her your flame will be recharged but she's guarded by a knight on a white horse who tends to come charging across points above the landscape where you can build up a bit of speed and just leave the dragon on autopilot for a while until he reaches the next stage. And on several occasions I've spent forever looking for the witch in an attempt to recharge the dragon's flame and I just haven't been able to find her. Maybe she's there somewhere, but it's frustrating not being able to go onto the next part of the game just because you can't find her.

And of course, where you have a Spectrum game with large multi-coloured moving figures you're going to get those good old attribute clashes. Admittedly, you can't hold Durell responsible for the machine's attribute problems, but they are responsible for the price, which at £9.99 is a bit pricey. But despite these points Thanatos is still highly addictive and well worth a Monster Hit, the screen with a long pointed lance aimed at you.

The quality of the animation does a to enhance your enjoyment of the game, because with just a little bit of imagination you can easily imagine yourself flying over the heads of the people below, or to trampling them into the ground. Mind you, the game isn't perfect that's are certain.


Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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