Do some hacking with your spectrum.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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