Producer: Palace Software
Retail Price: £9.99
Author: Steve Brown and Shaun Griffiths
Hardly a month goes by without a fighting game appearing on our review pages. However, amongst all the oriental offerings Palace's latest release takes us into the age of mythology with a beat 'em up featuring great hunky swordsmen, evil guardians and strange man-eating creatures.
The background is straight out of any Boys Own action story, telling of Drax, an evil sorcerer, who's lusting after the beautiful (and very wet) Princess Mariana. Unless she's delivered to him he shall unleash his unspeakable wrath upon the people of the Jewelled City. Drax gives only one alternative - the Jewelled City must offer up a champion to defeat his own.
Champion after champion is defeated and the Jewelled City is losing hope, when, from the forgotten wastelands of the north, comes a mysterious barbarian willing to take on the awesome task. And guess what? That's you.
Barbarian comes in two parts, loading in no particular order. The first is a combat practice routine for one or two players, designed to help you get to grips with the fighting moves and assess the strength of opponents. The second is a Fight to the Death - the real game where the Princess' future is at stake and where you eventually come face to face with Drax himself.
Similar to other beat 'em ups, Barbarian has 16 available moves - eight using the directional keys (these control body movements) and another eight with the directional keys and fire button (this gives the attacking movements). There are four stages, and four increasingly difficult opponents for Barbarian to beat on his way.
As each foe is defeated (literally by knocking his head off), a small lizard-like creature ambles across the screen, kicks the severed head aside and drags the body off to prepare for a feast. Tasty.
On the final screen you have to fight the mighty Drax. He's is no swordsman and launches into battle by hurling bolts of magic; these should be avoided to the best of your ability and a physical attack launched. With Drax defeated, Princess Mariana is saved and shall probably want to marry you for something soppy like that).
Control keys: definable
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2
Use of colour: brightly designed surround and monochromatic playing area
Graphics: simple backdrops, but large, excellently animated characters
Sound: even 48K sound boasts a great tune
Skill levels: one
Screens: eight stages, plus two-player practice mode
Yeah! Now this is what I call a real slice 'n' dice fight. The graphics are realistic, the backgrounds convincing and (best of all) there's proper movement (like heads coming off) - games this really bring out the animal in me. The program itself is very simple in construction, but it's all brilliantly executed and very addictive. I loved the way the little character comes on at the end of a battle, kicking the loser's head off the screen and pulling the body behind him. Barbarian is easy to escape in, and hard to get from. Worth the asking price, without a doubt.
Make 'em bleeds, beat 'em ups or whatever they're called nowadays... I love 'em, especially when they're as beautifully programmed as this. A few more characters and backgrounds wouldn't have gone amiss, but this still compares well with Palace's other releases. What characters are there are excellently animated and well drawn, and the grounds are also pretty neat. I'd say that this is one of the best beat 'em ups on the Spectrum so far, even if it is a little expensive.
Just as we were thinking that no-one would have the audacity to release another beat 'em up, along comes Palace with Barbarian - and it's remarkably impressive. The package is very professionally put together, with a combat practice game and the actual event both included. The animation is so slick that the characters appear to have a little life of their own as they roll around. One of Barbarian's most pleasing elements is the sense of achievement as an opponent is defeated. Mastering Barbarian will take some time, but well worth it.
There's been an explosion in martial-arts sims since The Way Of The Exploding Fist, as RICKY EDDY and ROBIN CANDY observe in this good beat-'em-up guide. And the ninjas just won't lie down - all they want to do is...
They started three years ago, when Bug Byte revealed an interesting little number called Kung Fu. It was an admirable wireframe attempt to produce a martial-arts simulation - 'probably the most unusual game to be seen on the Spectrum for a long while,' said CRASH in amazement.
But sceptics thought the genre would never catch on. It took Melbourne House to show them the way - The Way Of The Exploding Fist, which sold more than 150,000 copies for the Spectrum and nearly half a million across all formats.
Since then, nothing's kept the combat games down. They've been grotesque (Barbarian), skillful (Fist) and downright silly (Ninja Hamster).
The genre soon caught the nickname 'beat-'em-ups', as the gameplay always involves a player beating up his opponent, whether the computer or another player.
And with the advent of the 128s and their improved sound chips, the fighting effects became more hideous - the most disturbing beat-'em-up sounds must be the animal squeals on Ninja Hamster.
But most of these martial-arts simulations are so unrealistic, set in pseudo-Oriental fantasy worlds, that it's just harmless surrogate violence - and everyone likes a bit of that.
85% Issue 41
RICKY: Scream! Maria Whittiker! Pornography!! There was a great moral outrage over the luscious lady who advertised this Gothic horror beat-'em-up - and over the notorious CRASH cover.
Fight your way through screens of beautifully animated bashing action to release Princess Marina from the evil Drax...
When you knock off an opponent in Barbarian, a deformed lizard creature trundles the body away. Little touches like this make the game worthwhile, though experts may find it a bit simple. Still, Barbarian is one of my top combat games; Fist is wearing a bit thin these days.
Now programmer Steve Brown is developing Barbarian II...
ROBIN: Barbarian is one of the best beat-'em-up's I've played. Most of the graphics are monochromatic, but this enhances the game rather than detracting from the super-smooth animation.
It's instantly playable, and for such a simple idea it's surprisingly addictive. The two-player game is one of the best features of Barbarian - you can invite your friends round for a slice 'n' dice party. So if you want nothing more than a straightforward brutal fighting game, this is the one to get.
Palace, 1987 – 85% #41
There was no escaping Barbarian back in 1987 thanks to Palace Software's controversial advertising campaign that featured a scantily-clad page three model by the name of Maria Whittaker. The game isn't bad either, and just missed out on Smash status with a good score considering how disenchanted the reviewing team were with fighting games. Playing the titular hero, it's your job to take on the villainous magician Drax and free the comely Princess Mariana. Now there's a prize worth fighting for.
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