In most respects this is probably the most redundant review in this issue! By the time you read it, it would be surprising if you aren't already an expert at playing Sabre Wulf, the latest game from Ultimate. Due to the inevitability of the natural law which states: Ultimate will always release a new game at the last possible moment before CRASH goes to press - we have had to do this one backwards in order to get any colour pictures fitted in! So below you will find the criticisms, and on the opposite page the general bits and pieces with the pictures.
It is, perhaps, almost redundant making an Ultimate game a CRASH SMASH. From the moment the first ad for Sabre Wulf appeared, the question we have heard most is, 'Is it out yet?' Those rumours which suggested that Sabre Wulf would be like Atic Atac are, in many ways, correct. What we have here is another Ultimate mystery with a glossy, cryptic scenario, a long cast list of the horrors to be encountered, and very little else. As in Atic Atac, the player is expected to explore, discover and die endlessly until things begin to slot into place. Also as in Atic Atac, the game plays in a massive maze where at any moment you will be able to see a place you would like to reach and no obvious way of getting there.
Unlike Atic Atac there is no pickup/drop key, and consequently no info box to tell you what you are carrying or how strong you are. This deepens the mystery. How are you to know whether you are on the right track? (Forgive the maze-like pun.) The only starting point is the dire WARNING etched deep into lifeless stone and reprinted on the insert. Put together the four sundered pieces of what must be an ACG Amulet so you can pass the keeper wrought with hate and gain an entrance to the gate.
Any review of Sabre Wulf at this point could only scratch the surface of the game's complexity. But it's safe to say that, like Atic Atac, it will endure.
What we do have immediately is a glowing screen full of colour, intricately drawn graphics, constant animation and action and a desperate desire to get on with it and find out what's going on in this tangled jungle world. Ultimate are very good at designing games without explanation or hint, but at providing enough clues in the action itself for you to try out things. In this sense both Atic Atac and Sabre Wulf are really like graphic adventures. It is up to you, the player, to find solutions to the problems. The very fact that the problems exist is a guarantee that there will be a solution - if only you can discover the right combination of events.
Control keys: Ultimate's famous QWERT combination
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair 2, Protek, AGF
Keyboard play: very responsive
Use of colour: excellent
Features: one or two-player games
Originality: top marks
'After waiting a week in a state of extreme anxiety for the phone call to say, "IT'S HERE!" I almost fainted when it came. Then came the blow. They told me I only had two hours to get it reviewed! But it takes almost that long to load! In two hours, all you can do is run around like mad, try and stay alive and explore the countryside. Or rather the jungleside. I did get to see natives, spiders, scorpions, lively and sleepy hippos, dancing flames and I picked up all sorts of things. I also saw lakes and mountains and got chased by the Wulf or a wulf anyway. As to how the game plays, it is going to take longer, but the graphics are fabulous - detailed, colourful, varied, extremely well animated and very fast. The sound is great too. After a short time I am convinced it's better than Atic Atac. Time will tell. Pity about the steep price increase, but I think the game is worth the money.'
'In my opinion this is "state of the art" Spectrum software. It's basically a jungle version of Atic Atac but much more involved (and better too). The graphics are superb and extremely colourful. Many animals are to be found and there are lots of game features. I felt that I had travelled for miles yet only attained 25% - Indiana Jones eat your heart out! On the subject of aims Ultimate have included an inscription or warning. After some thought I took it to mean: get the four parts of the amulet and escape through the cave (without the amulet you cannot leave). I have two main criticisms, neither of them very serious. (1) Occasionally on two-player games with a Kempston, I was unable to move upwards until several lives had been lost. (2) The price of £9.95 is a steep increase from £5.50. Even so, I would still recommend it to anyone. It's worth almost any two £5.50 games on the market. But I wonder whether this increase will mean an increase in its piracy. (In a plea to pirates I would like to say that their actions could mean that high-quality software such as this may tend to decrease!) As a final opinion all I am going to say is that this is a Software Masterpiece (anything less would be a gross understatement). Thanks, Ultimate.'
'Sabre Wulf takes Atic Atac further. There is the search, the far from friendly creatures, the central mystery of what does what - but there is just a lot more of it. I managed in the short time allowed to get down to the bottom where you can see the mountains, passed the Wulf (who is much faster than you, don't try to outrun him) and to the side mountains where I found I could leave the jungle and run along the mountain tops. Much further, though, is going to need more time! Fab graphics and sound, brill colours -words fail. It's the game that counts - play the game.'
The review of Sabre Wulf only just managed to get into issue 6 because we got it so late in the schedule but it was timed just right so we were one of the first magazines to review it. Also due to popular demand a set of ratings will be published in this review as if the game had just come out today. Most people know how to play it, just find the four parts of the amulet and get out only to find you've got to travel on to the Underwurlde. The game is played in a 16 by 16 grid with various monsters materialising from the ground. These can be killed by using your trusty sabre while other creatures such as the hippos and warthogs are persuaded to change direction away from you by poking them with your sabre. Only the Wulf which patrols the bottom half of the maze and the guardian that blocks your way out (unless you have the four parts of the amulet of course) aren't affected by your sword, they kill on contact!
Sabre Wulf it still one of the best games around. It has very good graphics and is still as playable and addictive as anything else on the market at the moment, I don't think it looks at all dated. When Sabre Wulf came out everyone said how much like Atic Atac it was but just with different graphics, personally I don't really see the resemblance.
Sabre Wulf, at the time it was released, caused a bit of controversy because of the new price and some people said it was just Atic Atac over again. I agree about the price but comparing it to Atic Atac was unfair; if you say Sabre Wulf and Atic Atac are the same except for graphics, you could argue that all platform games are the same and therefore it doesn't matter which one you buy, but as everybody knows they aren't all alike and equally text adventures aren't the same just because they all have text. As to the game I think it's still pretty good and certainly addictive and playable. Still worth buying, though a little pricey.
Well here's the moment you've all been waiting for - the ratings.
HAVING thrilled gamers with the dusty attics and caverns of Atic-Atac, Ultimate has transported you to steaming jungles in its latest Arcade-Adventure, Sabre Wulf. The concept is similar to the earlier Atic-Atac. You must seek four parts of a hidden amulet to escape from the jungle maze; on the way you must battle a dzIing variety of foes, some weak and others seemingly invincible. There are numerous treasures to inflate your score, some of which may prove of use in the game.
The game is played over an enormous maze of jungle paths and clearings. Of the monsters, against which your only weapon is a sabre, we particularly liked the hippos, which charge down the corridors and must usually be dodged rather than skewered.
A major feature of Sabre Wulf are the various coloured orchids which, when eaten, have strange temporary effects on your abilities.
The disorientation orchid, which reverses all joystick controls, is particularly infuriating.
While the graphics are not entirely flicker-free, with the usual problems when figures pass over each other, they are up to the high Ultimate standards and the action is fast.
The main criticism of the game is price. Ultimate claims that is because of an increase in development time but the price still seems high. If the game is anything like as successful as previous releases, and it should be, we fail to see how Ultimate could avoid making a big profit even at the old figure of £5.50.
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Sinclair
Ultimate seems to have gained a unique reputation among Spectrum owners. Ever since the arrival of Jet Pac, Sinclair fans everywhere have rushed out to their computer shops to buy Ultimate games, turning them into top sellers.
After Jet Pac, including conversion for the Vic, came Atic Atac and it's still selling well.
However nothing had been heard from Ultimate's Ashby HQ since Atic Atac was launched a few months ago. Everyone knew that they were working on a new program, and all agreed that it would probably be better than anything they'd done before.
Sabre Wulf is the result of all that waiting and was launched this month.
It's a graphic arcade Adventure game, which is another way of saying that it's similar in style to Atic Atac. Sabre Wulf is one of those maze games where you move through an area, much bigger than the screen is capable of showing.
So the display scrolls in four directions, a whole screen at a time. It you disappear off one side of the display, it will be redrawn instantly to show your new position. If you go off the right hand side, you will be on the left of the new display.
Previous reviewers of Ultimate's software have usually ended their articles by saying that Ultimate have achieved as much detail in their graphics as the Spectrum is capable of, Sabre Wulf goes to prove just how mistaken those reviewers, including myself, really were. I have never seen graphics of such high quality on a Spectrum as presented by Sabre Wulf.
When you load the game and have selected the initial options, you start on the first screen. This is remarkably similar to Atic Atac and I wondered at first whether this was just another version of an old game.
I happened to mention this to the manager of my local computer shop and he agreed with me. If people see this game for the first time while they happen to be standing at the computer counter in W. H. Smith, he said, then they may see it load, think that it's nothing new and walk away without looking further.
The game appears to be set in a jungle. I assume that it is, although the word jungle is never actually mentioned in the cryptic instructions which come with the cassette.
Your task, it appears, is to free yourself from this strange place in which you have become lost. To do this, you must explore all the area around you. You can get some clues as to your ultimate (sorry!) goal by reading the strange rhyme on the instruction card. It goes like this:
Thy path is long so tread with care.
Beware the Wulf and pass his lair.
Danger threatens all around
So take ye from this hidden mound.
To free thee from this sunken gate
By way of cave or meet thy fate.
An amulet to seek thy will.
'Twas split by quad and hidden still
Pass the keeper wrought with hate
To gain an entrance to the gate.
The pieces lost must thee amass
For if no charm then none shall pass.
So the idea is to collect the four pieces of a charm (another word for amulet) which are hidden around the area of play. We managed to find one of them and my top score currently stands at around 17 per cent.
By now, you're probably wondering why the game's so hard. Wandering round a maze isn't really that difficult. But you're not alone in your quest. There's a strange variety of other creatures in that there jungle. Some are helpful and will give you extra points or lives, while some will cause your instant death.
Your character is that of a small explorer. You are initially coloured white, but certain events will have a drastic effect on your colour. If you turn red for a few moments, then you are immune to all enemies and you can wander to your heart's content without fear of being splatted. There's one thing better than being red, though, and that's being blue. When you're blue, not only are you immune to torture but you also travel at twice the speed of your red counterpart.
Other animals which you'll encounter on your safari are tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, fruit bats and more. There's also a strange, vicious creature called the Sabre Wulf. Which is lucky, really, otherwise they wouldn't know what to call the game.
Your weapon against the cruel world of nature is a sword. Pressing the fire button on the joystick will activate your sword and you have a high chance of surviving. You have to hit an animal straight on to be in with a chance of killing it, though, so timing those corners is crucial.
But it's the graphics which make up the playing screen that really make the game worth every penny. The detail the animals themselves and in their movement continue to make Ultimate number one among the Spectrum software houses.
If you feel that you must get hold of you own copy, then you should find one in your local computer shop somewhere. It's also available in W. H. Smith.
Sabre Wulf costs £9.95 which is pricier than most games. Ultimate claims that this is necessary because of the vast amount of time it took to develop Sabre Wulf. I can believe it.
WATCH YOUR STEP IT'S A REAL JUNGLE OUT THERE!
Ultimate Play-the-Game's newest and lushest hit to date is Sabre Wulf, a mean, fast, brilliantly coloured jungle frenzy with all the puzzles and super-smooth coding now expected from its authors. Or is it nothing more than an over-priced retread of Atic Atac? Richard Burton plays the game...
"In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight..."
So sang Tight Fit in 1982 (and so did Karl Denver, for those of us with longer memories). In a strange way the song seems more than appropriate to Ultimate's newest offering, Sabre Wulf, because the lion is about the only beast that does sleep - every other creature in this jungle is nauseatingly active and out to make life hell for you!
With just six games Ultimate have carved themselves out a heavy rep with the games punters to the extent that each new release is as eagerly anticipated as the next Michael Jackson Album. So far they have only once gone back to a previous game theme for a new release, Lunar Jetman was a souped-up version of JetPac. With Sabre Wulf they have returned, justifiably, to many of the arcade-adventure elements that made Atic Atac such a chart success.
The word 'enigmatic' almost sums up the game. It comes in a plain black box with simple title stickers front and back. Inside a six-page fold-out leaflet contains cryptic comments in purple prose that are little or no help. Basically, you're on your own in discovering exactly what this game holds.
The scenario, as said, is a vast jungle maze, glossily rendered in colourful hi-res graphics, (See map opposite for crib.)
You have control of a tiny, sword-wielding (?) explorer in search of four parts of an amulet. Obstacles are constantly appearing in his path in the form of snakes, bugs, lizards, wart hogs, gorillas, hippos, rhinos, etc. There's a list of 14 of the critters in the instructions. A quick thrust with the sword will finish off most of these or, in the case of the larger beasts, at least scare them off. Also the local plant life can aid or endanger any of your three lives.
Many items appear in your path which can be picked up simply by crossing them. Unfortunately, Sabre Wulf doesn't feature Atic Atac's on-screen display of what you're carrying. Again, it's up to you to find out what these items are and how they can benefit you.
Sabre Wulf is a safari of discovery, a Big Game hunt where you are the prey. It's the nearest yet that Ultimate have come to an adventure game (note the Hobbit-style 'percentage complete' indicator) and is sure to fuel the letters pages of the computer press for some time.
It's another high quality Ultimate product and value for money (just about), even at £9.95, a figure that Ultimate claim reflects "higher development and packaging costs".
Luckily it's not the sort of game that will lose its appeal quickly.
MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
CONTROL: Kemp, Crsr, Sinc
FROM: Ultimate, £9.95
The weeks before the release of a new Ultimate game are always exciting. The company's previous two releases, Lunar Jetman and Atic Atac, were not only expertly programmed but brilliantly original - both pushed back the frontiers of what was possible on a Spectrum.
So what would the next game be? Could Ultimate do it again? With hands sweating, you jam the cassette into your recorder and load up while feverishly trying to make sense of mysterious clues in the cassette inlay. It's loaded. You start playing and... disappointment.
It's just a version of Atic Atac.
Those are your first thoughts. But as you begin to get into the game, begin to understand those subtleties and those visions, your disappointment is replaced by mounting awe, mounting delight. Make no mistake, Sabre Wulf is Ultimate's best entertainment yet.
As is Ultimate's custom the game's instructions do not spell out exactly what you're supposed to do, nor how the various game features work. Some things quickly become clear. Others don't. If you want to work it all out for yourself, don't bother reading on.
You play the part of a new hero, Sabreman, who finds himself lost in the middle of a mysterious jungle. The jungle is in fact a vast maze which, after hours of work, we have mapped out for you on the next page. It's a size of no less than 256 screens, although this has been achieved by repeating many screens in different locations.
Each individual screen shows pathways walled off by rows of extremely colourful plants and trees. When you move Sabreman along the path to the edge of the screen, the picture is replaced by the adjacent screen of the jungle.
As in Atic Atac, no sooner has the explorer moved into a location than vicious creatures materialise all around him: from snakes, scorpions, frogs and parrots, to gorillas, fruit bats and lizards. They're colourful, nicely animated and lethal to touch.
But our hero is not called Sabreman for nothing. His sabre chops into them, makes them disappear in a puff of smoke. Other animals such as rhinos and hippos are indestructible but are turned away by the sabre.
The way Sabreman uses his sword is a delight. Just press the fire button, and he weaves, flashes and thrusts in fantastic style. Provided he is facing the attacker, he is safe.
Another crucial aid is the use of orchids. These flowers will bloom for a couple of seconds, and if Sabreman is nearby he will be stained the colour of the flower and rendered invulnerable to attack so long as the intoxication lasts.
There are five different types of orchid: one speeds him up, another slows him down and the purple orchids disorientate him so that you must operate the controls in reverse! Despite these complications it's imperative to make good use of the orchids, because under their protection Sabreman can cover a good deal of ground in safety.
On his travels he will come across a large number of objects which he collects automatically by passing over them. Most of these are simply treasure or spoils to gain extra points. But the small red statues are invaluable as each one of these gives an extra life.
What about the 'Wulf' itself? This impressive looking creature inhabits a strip at the bottom of the jungle and is invulnerable to Sabreman's sword. But apart from the occasional savage attack his part in the game is relatively minor.
The task, apart from "staying alive, is to escape from the jungle through a cave. The cave is hidden inside a temple, which is two locations above the start. But to reach it you must travel through almost the entire maze.
What's more, the cave is guarded by a keeper who will only be moved by an amulet which has been broken into four pieces and hidden around the maze. So you must find the pieces, which are hidden in different locations in each game. and then enter the temple.
I can reveal that the only clue to the whereabouts of the amulet pieces is given by the natives. When they are directly in line with a piece horizontally and vertically, they turn slowly and a stern tune is played.
That is just one of the many fine effects that show the incredible attention to detail in this program. Sabre Wulf will get even an expert game-player engrossed for many hours. I'll even stick my neck out and say it's more fun than Atic Atac.
ULTIMATE ORCHIDS - BEWARE
MICRO: Spectrum 48K
SUPPLIER: Ultimate Play the Game, Ashby Computers and Graphics Ltd, The Green, Ashby de la Zouche, Leicestershire LE6 5JU
If it is not top of the Spectrum charts now, it will be in two weeks. The only game currently around of the same standard and type is Jet Set Willy. This is Ultimate's game in the same genre, a multi-screen graphic adventure with superb graphics, instant response, and a whole host of varied monsters ranging from hippos to parrots to orchids.
As usual there are objects to collect as you wander through the maze. Collecting them is instantaneous as you pass over them. Your ultimate aim is to collect all four pieces of an amulet, but you tend to pay little attention to this as most time is taken exploring the jungle setting and coping with the monsters.
The orchids act something like potions in a more conventional game. Each one of the five has a different effect, but you need not pause to sniff them, because they act the moment you pass over and turn you an appropriate colour.
Purple orchids reverse the effect of the joystick or keyboard, which is a mean trick; yellow orchids delay you (unless you have previously visited a white orchid); red orchids turn you into an unkillable zombie; and blue double your speed. Unfortunately orchids only flower for a short while, so you have to be quick on your feet (or rather your fingers) to suffer the effect.
There is not enough space to describe all the game's features, but I don't think the blurb exaggerates by claiming fifty.
Control is by the QWERT keys (for left, right, down, up and fight) or joystick. The fighting animation is the best I've seen, with our hero flourishing his sword in the best swashbuckling tradition.
In fact all the graphics are first class and even the transition from screen to screen (apparently instantaneous) only, disturbs you the first time you play until you are accustomed to the flash.
My reviews are generally rather jaded - software by and large is very much the same. But Sabre Wulf has me wanting to use phrases like 'the best graphic game for the Spectrum I've ever seen' or 'this makes the Spectrum seem like a new machine'. One word of advice - if you do not have a joystick, buy one. It is not essential, but it improves the game no end. There is not much puzzle or intellectual struggle in this game but it will be difficult to find a better action adventure. Excuse me, my wife has just left the Spectrum untended...
DUEL TO DEATH AS KILLER PARROT ATTACKS MAN
Sabre Wulf sends the player rushing round a lusciously-flowered maze-like forest in search of the four portions of an amulet which will allow escape. On the way are superbly-animated creatures to be killed or avoided and an assortment of objects and treasure to be collected.
As with Atic Atac from the same company, a joystick is almost essential to any progress in the maze. Each location is packed with lethal creatures and as fast as one set is killed, another set appears. Stay in any place for any length of time and the lethal, indestructible voodoo flame will get you.
There is a choice of objectives. A percentage at the end of each game indicate how much of the maze you have covered; a score at the top of the screen registers most events, including monster, killed and, of course, there is the ultimate goal-escape.
Apart from the obvious problems posed by an intricate maze and deadly creatures, there are tactics to be learned which can help the player to success. Each object collected has a use, although they are difficult to deduce, and even working-out which of the several objects collected has provided an extra life can be difficult.
There are the orchids which bloom occasionally. One sends your movements haywire, another moves you super-fast, a third transforms you into a zombie. Some are essential to progress, others should be avoided completely.
Then there are the pieces of amulet. They move round, so have to be rediscovered in each game. Next there are the knights in armour, and the fruit bats, and the wart hogs, the tarantulas, the killer parrots - and so it goes on.
If you like Atic Atac, you will love Sabre Wulf. If you missed Atic Atac, rush and buy both games now. Produced by Ultimate Play the Game, The Green, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire, Sabre Wulf costs £9.95.
All information in this page is provided by ZXSR instead of ZXDB