It's always difficult to review a new Ultimate game, people's expectations of them can be so high that it's easy to feel disappointed if the new game is anything less than world-shattering. Not only do Ultimate have to compete with all the other software houses around, they also have their own reputation to contend with. Alien 8 came in for some criticism, not because it was a poor game, but because it only improved marginally upon the format of Knight Lore.
So, what of Nightshade and Filmation II? To be honest, I don't think that Nightshade is as immediately addictive as Knight Lore, but after playing it for a short while, the game does work its way under your skin, and the 'just-one-more-try' syndrome takes hold.
The details given to you for playing the game are, as always, sparse. Nightshade is the name of a village that has been overrun by the forces of darkness. Plagues have swept the village and its inhabitants have been turned into foul monsters. Your task is to rescue the village from the curse laid upon it, but it is entirely up to you to determine how to do this.
Filmation II retains the slightly' overhead 3D perspective of Knight Lore and Alien 8, but rather than moving from one fixed screen to another, in Nightshade the streets and buildings of the village scroll past you - almost like a truly 3D version of the town in Dun Darach. This effect is very impressive - there are no thin-line vector graphics here. Fully drawn and detailed buildings scroll smoothly across the screen without a trace of flicker. If your character passes behind a building, then the walls vanish so as not to obscure your view, and the boundaries of the building are marked to allow you to maintain some sense of perspective.
Filmation II is, by the way, in colour. This obviously makes the screen display more attractive, but the accursed attribute problems do crop up quite a lot and make the graphics look a little less tidy than the two-colour displays of KLI A8.
As I mentioned earlier, Nightshade isn't as immediately addictive as KLI A8. This is because there are none of the obstacles which require split-second timing to get through, and which grab your attention from the word go in those two earlier games. In Nightshade I found myself wandering the village streets for quite a while before I even figured out how to kill the monsters that kept chasing me up and down the streets.
The variety of animated monsters in this game is, however, greater than in KLI A8, and they have more freedom of movement in this game too. Some of them are very nicely designed, and they move just a fraction slower than the Sabreman (yes, it's him again). So some strange scenes can occur as you see the Sabreman being chased along the village streets by creatures with outstretched arms and rolling eyes (like something out of a Maurice Sendak cartoon).
Floating around inside some of the buildings are antibodies, and if you collect these you can use them to combat. the disease ridden monsters of the village. There are also a number of objects lying around the town that can be collected and (I suspect) used against the major league nasties responsible for these demonic goings on.
The status display at the bottom of the screen contains a number of figures which, I think, represent the Monsters In Charge that you must defeat in order to save the village. Then again, I could be totally wrong. Ultimate don't give anything away in the game's instructions, and I've just been stumbling along trying to figure out what's happening without getting myself killed.
It will probably take a while to uncover the depths of this game (assuming there are any), and only time will tell if it's as everlastingly addictive as Knight Lore, but even if Nightshade isn't Ultimate's greatest game, it's still streets ahead of most of the competition.