ZX Computing

By Durell
Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in ZX Computing #33


Enter the dragon! Wizardry, chivalry and mythical lizardry as Thanatos takes to the sky

Durell's latest game adds a twist to the old 'people versus big bad dragon' scenario, as this time around, you play the dragon and, instead of threatening the distressed maiden you enlist her aid in searching for a cauldron and book of magic spells.

In some ways, Thanatos is about as close to a graphical representation of Dungeons and Dragons as any game since Knight Lore, as the way in which you control your dragon figure helps to create more of the 'feel' of D&D than many of the more complex simulations.


At the start of the game you find yourself in control of the dragon, Thanatos, a large and excellently animated figure who can walk or fly over the countryside as he searches for the enchantress Eros, and the other items he needs to complete his quest. The landscape is represented in a sort of 'layered' 3D perspective which lends a feeling of depth to the graphics, foreground objects being placed lower down the screen than background objects - a simple technique, but quite effective.

Initially you fly west (left to right across the screen) through caves where you have to avoid rockfalls, over the heads of footsoldiers who will attack you with bows and rocks, and over the sea to reach the first castle where Eros is waiting for you. Once past the first stage, there are three zones (caves, countryside and sea), but the caves become full of deadly spiders, the countryside guarded by ever more soldiers and the air above both land and sea is filled with other monsters, none of whom realise that a dragon's just gotta go what a dragon's gotta do.

All these attackers put a bit of a strain on the poor dragon's heart, which is depicted in the lower left hand corner of the screen. As the strain increases his heart beat speeds up until - if you don't slow down and rest for a bit - he drops dead of a heart attack. The hard part is finding somewhere quiet enough to rest as you won't be able to just sit down and ask the sea serpent not to attack you for a while.

The fun bit lies in the way you get to strike back. Like any dragon worth his or her salt, Thanatos can breathe flame and frazzle those insignificant people on the ground if they get in his way. Also, as you get the hand of flying, you'll find that you are able to pick up rocks and other objects and drop them in order to demolish targets on the ground. Thanatos doesn't have the sheer pace of some arcade games but, when you swoop down out of the sky, grab a soldier in your claws then fly to the top of the screen before carefully dropping him onto a group of other soldiers, it's hard to beat for sheer vindictiveness. I came unstuck here quite a few times because, sadist that I am, I sometimes spent so much time depopulating the countryside that I ran Thanatos into the ground before I'd got anywhere near completing the rest of the quest.

Burned Out

When you're likely to have trouble is when you run out of flames, because you need a lot of firepower to burn down the castle doors in each stage of the game. There's a 'flameometer in the bottom right of the screen and when you run out you have no choice but to go back the way you came and try and find the witch. If you can eat her, your flame will be recharged but she's guarded by a knight on a white horse who tends to come charging across the screen with a long pointed lance aimed at you.

The quality of the animation does enhance your enjoyment of the game, because with just a little bit of imagination you can easily imagine yourself flying over the heads of the people below, prior to trampling them into the ground. Mind you, the game isn't perfect, there are certain points above the landscape where you can build up a bit of speed and just leave the dragon on autopilot for a while until he reaches the next stage. And on several occasions, I've spent forever looking for the witch in an attempt to recharge the dragon's flame and I just haven't been able to find her. Maybe she's there somewhere, but it's frustrating not being able to go onto the next part of the game just because you can't find her.

And, of course, wherever you have a Spectrum game with large multi-coloured moving figures you're going to get those good old attribute clashes. Admittedly, you can't hold Durell responsible for the machine's attribute problems, but they are responsible for the price, whch at £9.99 is a bit pricey. But despite these points, Thanatos is still highly addictive and well worth a Monster Hit.