The Northlanders are unwelcome visitors in the Islands Of The Western Sea. The King Of The Isles is set on revenge and orders a fearsome sceptre to be wrought - but the King himself is struck down, and his enemies gain the very power with which he sought to destroy them.
So the sceptre must be found and destroyed, in this graphic adventure based on programmer Mike Singleton's own play-by-mail game.
You have command of a warrior band that seeks the eponymous evil sceptre. The Red Shadow Lords we your deadly adversaries and must be overwhelmed at all cost. You can enlist the help of other fighting companies; but they're neutral at first, and even after taking your side are liable to desert you.
Each character has one of eight different personalities, which makes him suited to certain tasks and not to others.
Your warriors are controlled by commands from a set which includes kill, protect, defend, seek, bewitch and petrify. Each fighter can be given several orders at once, to be carried out in sequence.
But once an order has been issued you have no control over a warriors actions, and he'll act independently during unexpected encounters.
You can watch any warrior in action, and hear the clashing swords. When one of your warriors is fighting an enemy, others may line up waiting to fight your warrior.
A scan option provides a scrolling overview of the land through which your quest takes place.
Dark Sceptre has been eagerly awaited after the success of programmer Mike Singleton 's Lords Of Midnight (Smashed in Issue 7) and Doomdark's Revenge (an Issue 13 Smash; both earned ten out of ten on the first CRASH rating system!).
A sequel to them, Eye Of The Moon, is promised. But it's taken Singleton more than a year to develop Dark Sceptre, and not even he can complete it in less than 17 days... yet.
Joysticks: Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: superbly-animated large characters
Sound: basic, but effective, spot effects
Mike ... 95%
'Dark Sceptre is quite something: The graphics are huge, well- animated and excellently coloured, and the gameplay is complex: it took me a good while to get to grips with things. When you can play for hours and not double back on yourself you start feeling you've got the hang of it The presentation is very good, too.'
Nick ... 84%
'Like all Mike Singleton's games, Dark Sceptre has outstanding graphics. The main character and backgrounds are excellently drawn and animated, and colour clash doesn't seem to exist In Mike's mind; all the characters ' shapes are similar, but the colour of their heads and hats keeps changing. Sound is used well. Dark Sceptre is another fantastic addition to Mike Singleton's list of hits.'