Poor old Julian Sands. There he is, pitched as the "greatest English actor ever" after his appearance in A Room With A View, and, before he knows it, his career hits Crapville with appearances in turds like Arachnophobia, Boxing Helena and Warlock. Let's hope Hugh Grant takes note.
Still, in this strange topsy-turvy world of video games where sure-fire hits are turned into binary dogs like Pink Goes To Hollywood, Mr. Sands' appearance as the titular Warlock a few years back (and in the straight-to-video sequel!) obviously won him a fan at Acclaim, as the film has been the inspiration for their latest arcade-adventure.
Based on the not-exactly-blockbusting film which came out five or so years back.
Warlock's plot tells of the coming of evil (i.e. Julian Sands) and how the only way to stop him placing the Earth in eternal darkness and all that usual Black Magic malarkey is to collect six runestones and use them against him. However, as the runes are spread across the world and the Warlock is using his powers to turn everyday pets and people to evil, gathering them is going to be no walk in the park. The game is spread across twelve stages, which scroll across the usual eight directions and contain a wealth of the Warlock's evil sidekicks. Cast as the unlikely raincoat-wearing hero, you have been given a magic sprite and an unlimited supply of energy bolts which are used to collect objects and fend off enemy attacks respectively.
The runes are located at the end of every second stage. Each world is inhabited by a weird assortment of spiders, controlled humans and other such dangerous critters, and later levels complicate things further with the addition of natural hazards such as dripping acid. A trio of energy bolts sees off most of the energy-sapping buddies, but the Warlock himself also appears every now and then and is a lot more resilient. Similarly, he is also better equipped than his minions and can attack using animated statues whilst hiding behind a forcefield or can send bolts of fire across the floor to KO the player!
Warlock doesn't do itself any favours with the appearance of its first few levels. It looks like the video game equivalent of a hangover - rough. But, unlike many unfortunate titles, the initial disappointment and confusion lifts somewhat with the prospect of a tough challenge and gameplay that mixes platform blasting with puzzle genres. As you get deeper, the tasks get more complex and the gameplay more rewarding. Okay, it's never going to win a beauty contest, but it's far better company than many of those Pamela Anderson platformers.
I have to say that I really disliked Warlock when I first played it. It looks like a hastily cobbled together platformer with very little in it, but behind the dated graphics lurks a large and very challenging arcade-adventure. Whilst the Warlock films didn't exactly set the world alight, they had enough content to spawn several game ideas, and the best of them are contained within this cart.
As the player searches for potions and runes, statues come to life, huge spiders scuttle across the floor and there's more than enough to shoot and collect. If I had to level a couple of complaints, it would have to be that the graphics are extremely rough with skinny sprites and gaudy backdrops, and that the game gets a little too hard too soon (i.e. the second Warlock confrontation), but this is a solid enough arcade-adventure. It probably won't sell because of the weak licence and the duff aesthetics, but those in search of a good challenge could do a lot worse than this.
P. Nice picture of Julian Sands if you lose.
N. Awful sprites, over-colourful backdrops which obscure the bad guys.
P. Adequate zapping effects.
N. Naff all else of note.
P. The smaller prelude stages ease the player in, but the secondary stages offer a greater challenge and really open the game up.
P. It's tough (perhaps too tough at times!) but the plus side is it'll take ages to find all the runes.
N. ... If you can put up with being placed at the start of the level again if you die.
Value For Money 75%
N. It'll weigh in at the forty-five quid mark, which is a little too much for a game with as little polish as this.
A crap-looking veneer hides a very challenging platformer. It you fancy something a little different, give it a whirl. But, be warned, it can get frustrating...