Hold on to your space helmet (or broadsword) - Gargoyle's games are back, they're cheap, and they're still brilliant.
The Gargoyle animated arcade adventure trilogy - Tir Na Nog, Dun Darach and Marsport - first appeared in 1984/5. Two things left the reviewers dumbfounded; first, the unpronounceable Gaelic titles, second, the wonderful animation and depth of gameplay, which were so impressive that all three games won high praise and several awards.
Now the trilogy is re-released at budget price on the Rebound label, Hewson's new showcase of blasts from the past. Dash out and buy all three at once, or you must need a new brain.
Based loosely on the Gaelic myths of the hero Cuchulainn (that's pronounced Cahullan, folks), all three adventures, two of the past and one of the future, share a revolutionary use of giant sprite animation which has not been bettered to this day.
Programmers Greg Follis and Roy Carter based the frames of animation on sequential pictures of authentic walking; hence the realism of the animation. The main characters, Cuchulainn and Commander John Marsh, share a loping stride which is so watchable that just running the demo is more enjoyable than playing many of the latest games. Like the other games, Tir Na Nog has a scrolling graphics section in the middle third of the screen. The hero stays in the centre of the screen while the background scrolls past him.
Cuchulainn's aim is to reunite the fragments of the shattered Seal of Calum. Tir Na Nog - the Land of Youth - is inhabited by many hostile forces, principally the Sidhe. But since Cuchulainn is already dead, he cannot be killed, just dissipated by repeated attacks, at which point he returns to the gate of Tir Na Nog, loses all the objects he was carrying and has to start again. Likewise, none of Cuchalainn's enemies can be killed, only dissipated for a short time, so don't hang around after a fight!
Above the main display appears a compass and the clues which you will need to locate the fragments of the Seal. Below, inventories of the objects and weapons Cuchulainn has found. He can carry up to four objects, and can thrust with any one to use it as a weapon.
The world can be viewed from any of four directions by changing the, "camera angle" You can also move in any of these directions, following the paths, so mapping is essential. There are also many doorways to caves and tunnels, so you will need to find keys to use these shortcuts. As always, though, the hardest bit is not finding objects, but persuading their owners to give them up...
Revolutionary animated adventure, now a must at a bargain price.