Huh! Roar! Swipe swipe! Spurt! Bleed! Drip! Various other violent sounds and more abound in this latest gift from ol' software supremoes, Melbourne House. I know that there are some of you (and I know who you are) who are going to say, "We've had that one already, and Palace did it, not Melbourne House." Of course, you are completely wrong, as usual. Barbarian is acktuerly the official conversion of the Amiga smash that caused such a storm with its incredible graphics, digitised sound and revolutionary icon-driven system. Now, slightly toned down, it has found its way to the jumble 8-bit market.
You play the gallant, but incredibly thick Hegor (not Hagar, as we printed last month, sorry), who bills himself as the famous dragon-slaying-monster-mangling-barbarian. He's been given the task of ridding the world of the evil wizard Durgen, who is hidden in a room at the bottom of the very deep dungeon of, er, Tharg or something.
You begin your quest out in this wilderness, just a few screens' walk from Milton Keynes. Ha! it was a joke and you fell for it! I mean the dungeon. As this screen is empty, now is a good time to get used to the control method. Along the bottom of the screen is a series of icons, used to control your on screen counterpart. They are, left to right: Walk left; Climb up stairs/ladder; Climb down stairs/ladder; Walk right; Stop movement; Do a forward somersault; Run in the direction you're facing; Use weapon/item in hand; Backward somersault; Drop everything and flee.
Another series of icons can be called up by pressing 'space,' this is the one that controls all the items in the game. With it you can pick up and drop items, and ready them for use too. Next to the icons are graphical representations of what you are carrying, how many arrows you've got and a lives counter.
There are 3 types of weapon in the game, but usually you only start with one of them, the sword. (See box for more details).
To hinder you as you rush madly about the mazelike dungeons, which, incidentally, are huge, so a map of some description is definitely called for (A signed photo of me to the first person who can deliver one. You are attacked by all manner of nasties, all depicted wonderfully. All the graphics in the game are great, though some of the animation leaves a lot to be desired. The main sprite, for example, walks just like something out of Thunderbirds, and he runs, ha! I can't describe it! The best that I can do is that he jerks his head around, his arms swing madly and he has the habit of slashing himself in the face. Very comical, I must say.
Different weapons are needed for different nasties. Some swing axes and clubs, so they have to be taken out at a distance with the bow. Some won't move until you are very close to them, so the sword is needed, along with some very good reflexes.
As I have said, the map is huge, and after a little practice, you'll find yourself having some very long goes and getting incredibly far into the game, which does lead to extreme frustration when you die after climbing down the final ladder in the game and get nabbed at the bottom. It was almost enough to make me say something naughty, like, "Oh bum." and I don't say naughty things very often. (B****** - TH).
The sound has suffered quite a bit from the porting between machines. All the amazing digitised Amiga noises sound as if the main character is walking through a pile of dry leaves, though some very nice echo effects have been used.
I love Barbarian. It plays like a dream, and has just the right blend of arcade action, adventure and strategy to be appealing to anyone. A must buy for any self respecting Speccy owner. Either that or splash out £425 and get an Amiga and the game. I know which I'd rather do.
Label: Melbourne House
Reviewer: Tony Dillon
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