Personal Compuer Games1st February 1985
Published in Personal Computer Games #15
The Staff Of Karnath
My first reaction to this game was one of slight disappointment. We'd been waiting so long for Ultimate to release a title on the C64 that the pictures which finally appeared on screen seemed a slight anti-climax.
The main character, Sir Arthur Pendragon, and most of the ghoulish creatures he faces don't have the same graphic brilliance of their equivalents in Ultimate's Spectrum titles. Although nicely animated, their shapes seem a little unclear. Yet once you get into it, the game is superb.
The idea is familiar. You have to explore a castle to find 16 pieces of a key or 'pentacle'. Each of these must be taken, one by one, and placed in an obelisk. Once the key is complete, it will allow you to destroy the evil staff hidden by the ancient sorcerer, Karnath.
The game's most striking feature is the way you explore the castle. The rooms are depicted in 3D and also link up to each other in 3D. So a room may have doors to the left and right, front and back, and also stairways up or down.
The rooms look extremely realistic, built out of solid stone-work and furnished with tables, four-poster beds and other suitable items. There are, I understand, only about 40 locations, but some of them are larger than the size of a single screen and almost all contain a vile resident creature.
The horrors include skulls, vampires, spiders, snakes, witches, ogres, giant toads, ghosts, and hooded monks. And the sound effects which accompany each one are very spooky. Don't play this game alone with the volume up high - it'll scare you to death!
Your main weapon against the evil creatures is a magic ring which gives you access to a dozen different spells with names like Barracata and Ibrahim. Only one spell has an effect on any one creature, so you have to find the right one by repeatedly pressing a key to change the spell, and then firing at the creature.
It's important you work out what each of your spells is for, because at the end you have just one chance to use a spell against the staff - probably one which you've found no other use for.
But you may have to play the game for some time before you discover how to use some of the more exotic features such as flying carpets and secret compartments. Without these you'll never collect all the parts you seek.
I guess its fair to say The Staff Of Karnath isn't going to hook everyone. But I found it an impressive piece of software with enough depth, variety and originality to keep me exploring those haunted halls for hours.
A beautiful game that more than lives up to expectations; in my mind it is definitely one of the best.
The animation of both nasties and Sir Arthur Pendragon is superb - watch the latter's legs and arms puming as he races off to find yet another piece of the pentangle (makes a little difference from 'keys', don't you think?).
The sound effects are average, but the title screen tune makes up for this in part. To play this game requires a lot of thought and considerable dexterity.
A superb game. The attention paid to background detail and quality of scrolling was a sheer delight to watch. The background graphics and variety of nasties to beat kept me entranced. It was more like watching a film at times! Looks definitely beatable and so a compulsive challenge to all. Not as many rooms as I'd have hoped for, but I enjoyed every nanosecond! How do they do it?
At last, the long awaited game for the C64 from Ultimate, and wasn't it worth waiting for?! Incredible 3D scrolling graphics and excellent sound effects make this graphical adventure something really special, and worthy of the acclaim given to some of Ultimate's previous releases on the Spectrum.
The rooms of the castle are beautifully drawn, and their inhabitants, be they frighteningly real or comically abstract, are all graphically superb. Especially effective are the grinning skulls, oh - and the bird which deals with you in its, er, own special way!
The Staff Of Karnath will keep you occupied for hours.