Commodore User


Barbarian

Author: Bill Scolding
Publisher: Melbourne House
Machine: Commodore 64/128

 
Published in Commodore User #61

Barbarian

Even when Barbarian first appeared it was difficult to see why anyone would willingly but a run-of-the-mill arcade quest, even for the then software-starved Amiga.

A year later, and shorn of the detailed graphics which were its main attraction, Barbarian on the C64 now looks so totally mediocre it's surprising that Mastertronic haven't released it as part of their budget range.

Armed with colossal biceps, sword and long-bow, Hegor descends into the bowels of the earth and the depths of cliche on a quest to destroy the evil Necron. For only then will the land be free of the fear and terror that has plagued its villages, ravaged its crops, etc, etc.

Barbarian

This rubbish might sound original to novice Amiga owners, but us loyal C64 users have had it up to here with moronic axe-wielding psychopaths. The only way this kind of stuff gets tolerated is if there's some sufficiently novel twist which makes gameplay a new experience.

But the only unusual feature in Barbarian is an unnecessary and clumsy icon-control system. Displayed beneath the screen, and accessed by a joystick or keyboard-controlled cursor, it gives options for running, walking, jumping, somersaulting, fighting, changing direction, picking up objects, climbing and selecting weaponry. As nearly all of these actions could be directly controlled by the joystick - as they are in almost all other games of this ilk - then Psygnosis must have only one reason for choosing this perverse control method; without it the game would be too goddam easy!

Gameplay boils down to ambling along corridors and climbing up and down ladders, collecting weaponry and killing the one-legged gremlins, ogres and monsters before they kill you. And all the most infuriating characteristics of the genre have been included: dead monsters which are resurrected as soon as you re-enter a room, booby-traps which can't be foreseen or avoided, and, of course, the conspicuous absence of a Save-Game option.

The graphics are nothing to write home about, and the animation is restricted (especially that of the various nasties). And somewhat surprisingly, considering this is 1988 and not the middle ages, there's no horizontal scrolling. I'd forgotten just how irritating flip-screen games were.

Worst of all are the sound effects - or rather the almost total lack of them. Except for the odd unsuitable whoosh when Hegor rubs out an enemy, and the occasional rumbling noise - either a distant dragon or else the plot creaking - there's no sound at all. Even massive rocks come crashing to the floor in complete silence.

Still, there is one good thing about Barbarian - and that's the nifty little loading game by Aplin and Hubbard. This is pure Space Invaders accompanied by some frenzied music, and takes you back to those days when playing computer games was fun.

Bill Scolding

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