Mastertronic is the first company to accept the challenge to produce a Gauntlet-style game. Tony Hetherington braves the Storm.
Software houses have often looked to the seaside arcades for inspiration when designing a new game. Indeed, the first games were all versions of coin-op classic such as Space Invaders and Asteroids. Now the arcades have issued a new challenge in what has to be the best game this summer, Gauntlet. The game's stunning graphics and four-player action (although there is now a smaller two-player version) surely are beyond the capabilities of the home micros.
Mastertronic are the first into the arena with an Amstrad game called Storm that only costs £1.99.
The game features one or two player action as our heroes battle through 99 rooms of monsters and treasure. Their mission is to rescue Storm's wife Corrine who has been captured by the evil Una Cum and is being held in Cum's underground lair.
Storm, although a fighter himself, seeks help in his quest from his old friend Agravin Undead a wizard. After much discussion, they decide that Agravin should go alone in a one player game as he has more skill in the ways of magic. Naturally in a two player game (how it should be played), Storm tags along.
Although Storm starts stronger than Agravin with 500 more health points, Agravin is ultimately responsible for any failure in the quest since only he can use the scrolls and amulets scattered throughout the dungeon.
These are powerful items since they destroy any of Cum's minions that are currently on the screen (and probably attacking you). Unfortunately, they don't wipe out the forces of evil totally as soon more will start streaming from the generators that lurk, with two or three per screen. To clear the room, you have to destroy the generators. This isn't too difficult but you will have to fight your way through to them. As in Gauntlet you must just want to fight your way through to an exit or any goodies lying around.
These include parcels of food to replenish some of your lost health points, restorative potions, snake broaches (three of which are required to reach Corinne) and a mask. The mask is said to possess great magical and mystical qualities with the biggest mystery being how to use it! It's worth experimenting with it as it may be the key to the whole game.
The graphics of the room aren't startling and show a plan view of each room. This is a little confusing to begin with as part of the walls and doors can be almost obscured by the floorboards you are looking through. However, perserverence pays off and you'll probably have a clear idea of where you're going as you master the keyboard controls that allow your hero to turn right/left move and fire. Unfortunately, the keys aren't the ones that I would have chosen and I spent much of my first (short) game spinning around in a circle while minions happily took chunks out of me.
The game ends when both characters have run out of steam (health points actually) although you do plenty of warnings as the total sinks to critical levels. However, since this message appears in the same place as supplementary room descriptions (they you haven't the time to read) I usually miss these warnings.
It's pleasing to see that Gauntlet-style tactics worked in the two player game. Such as "accidentally" stealing all the food, or charging through a room leaving your companion to fight your battles.
Storm is the first attempt to do a computer version of a Gauntlet-style game. Although the graphics are limited, the game does have the right feel about it particularly as a two-player game. The keyboard controls are a little strange but practice will pay off in the end. However, for £1.99, what more could you ask for?