Nightshade (Ultimate) Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

Computer Gamer

By Ultimate
Spectrum 48K

Published in Computer Gamer #7


My favourite computer game, without a shadow of a doubt, is Ultimate's Knight Lore, and since the happy day that I bought that game at last November's Microfair it has become the yardstick against which I measure all arcade/adventures.

Set against that yardstick, I'm not sure that Nightshade is an improvement, I'm afraid. Yes, the Ultimate graphics are as good as ever, but the content of the game seems to be a bit lacking compared to their most recent releases.

The game is set in the village of Nightshade, which has fallen under a terrible spell. Demons and other evil forces control the village, and plagues have turned the village people into monsters that look like Muppets gone wrong. Your task is to somehow lift the curse from the village and to set things right.

The Filmation graphics system of Ultimate's last two games has now been updated to Filmation II. The overhead angled view remains, though the ability to manipulate objects and to move in and around obstacles (as in Knight Lore) has gone. The innovation this time is that the Sabreman now moves through a fully 3D landscape that scrolls past him as he wals through the village streets. Graphically this effect is as good as anythng I've yet seen on the Spectrum, and the way that the buildings (which are all highly detailed) scroll so smoothly is very impressive. The only drawback is that Filmation II uses colour, and the Spectrum's famous colour clashes look a bit messy at times.

The trouble with the game is that though the outsides of the buildings are all nicely depicted, and they all scroll ever so well, the insides are a bit dull. After wandering through the village for a couple of hours now (and it seems to be pretty extensive - just wait for the maps to start appearing), I've only managed to find two or three rooms that contained any objects of interest. The vast majority of the rooms seem to be just rectangular spaces with a few monsters in them (plus lots of antibodies, which you can collect to combat the plague-ridden villagers).

The status display at the bottom of the screen contains a number of figures which correspond to some of the nastier creatures I've come across in the village, and presumably the objects that you can collect are meant to be used against these creatures. As usual though, Ultimate don't reveal very much in their instructions, so I'm not too sure quite how these objects are to be used.

Anyway, collecting these objects seems to be just a matter of wandering around the village until you stumble upon them - there's no element of skill or reflexes required to find them as with the objects hidden in all those hard-to-reach places in Knight Lore. Neither can you move or carry objects as you could in that game.

Possibly I need to play Nightshade for a few more hours before it will reveal its secrets to me, but that's not something I had to do with Knight Lore or Alien-8. Those games were instantly addictive, and even though it took me a while to figure out what I was doing, they still had enough in them to hold my attention while I was feeling my way.

That's not to say that Nightshade is a poor game - it's still one of the better Spectrum games that I've seen recently, on the strength of the graphics alone. But this time around, I can't help feeling that Ultimate have concentrated on graphics at the expense of content. It's very good, but it doesn't depose Knight Lore from my personal No. 1 spot.