The adventures/action distinction has finally been eroded with Onslaught, an action-adventure. In charge of graphics was Nigel Brown-john, of Verminator fame. So it looks great. So how does it play?
Armour seems to be trendy again, so if you're a hip dude, or into heavy metal, pop down to Burtons and pick up a suit - you'll need it if you want to win this game. Onslaught is set in Gargore, a country riddled with kingdoms competing to crush each other. As a magical warrior, you need to guide your troops across enemy territory and defeat any opposing kingdom you meet.
Gameplay is divided into four areas: field battle, sieges, defending actions and mind combat. You'll spend most of your time engaged in field combat. Fight your way forward through a horizontally-scrolling maze of levels, defeating all the little bad guys who come your way.
Onslaught is more than just another bout of alien bashing, however, because it's essential that you don't let too many enemies get by. If they do sneak past they'll reach your banner and take control of your army. You can redress the balance by moving left and killing any enemies you missed - but by doing this, you're wasting valuable time. While you're clearing up mistakes, more enemies are emerging from the right of the screen making things even tougher.
When you reach the enemy's banner, opponents stop emerging. Now go back and kill all the characters still left on the battle field. Achieve this and you're ready for the siege.
Sieges are similar to field battles but if you win one of these you enter a mind duel. Lose a mind duel and you return back to the siege. Lose a siege and you must go through the field battle all over again (Ain't life a bitch?).
Tactical moves are essential when you're engaged in defending actions. This time you're competing on a map of your stronghold. If you lose your banner then you must enter a mind duel to reclaim it.
As you've probably gathered, winning a field battle is fine, but if you're going to get through this game it's the mind battles that really matter. These take place on a single screen and you fire mind blasts at the enemy's banner to defeat him. Win this section and you pass to the next tough campaign.
Throughout the game, there are obstacles to overcome. The worst is rebellion among your troops. If you own large amounts of land, this is quite likely to occur; as a result, control of your land is transferred to the enemy. The same thing happens if your troops fall victim to plague.
To help you in the challenge, four types of items may be picked up. Weapons are the most useful and can be anything from a maze to a magic demon. The mace is standard equipment and allows you to give the enemy a good whack around the head - but because it's a body-contact weapon, you need to come dangerously close to your victim for it to have the desired effect.
Most of the other weaponry can be tossed at the enemy from a distance, which makes it much easier to survive. Unfortunately, these don't last long. The more effective the weapon, in fact, the shorter the amount of time you can carry it. Talismans crop up in areas of terrain impossible to cross. Different types of talisman allow you to pass through different types of terrain - from forests to swamps to mountains. Special talismans can even be used to clear plagues and put down rebellions.
Since the game is all about amassing a gigantically high score, bags of gold found around the map can earn you an extra 500 points.
Nigel Brownjohn has been responsible for the graphics and it shows. The first thing that strikes you when you start to play Onslaught is its amazing similarity to Verminator. This isn't surprising since Brownjohn has used his traditionally detailed designs in both of these games. Onslaught is a visual treat and, because more than 16 colours appear on screen at once, it looks even better than its predecessor.
The amount of animation going on is so intense that you need twelve eyes just to keep track of the enemies on your tail - let alone fire back at them.
Standard sound-chip music plays throughout the game accompanied by spot effects every time you attack. Since you can't walk more than three paces without needing to retaliate to some form of attack, these effects tend to override the music.
Read the scenario and you could easily be forgiven for thinking that Onslaught was some type of adventure game, and this is certainly to its credit. After all, how many slay-'em-ups have a plot that's actually relevant to the gameplay?
If you're after constant, mindless alien bashing then you won't find it here. In Onslaught you need to employ some grey matter if you're going to win the day. At the same time it's a test of your skills with the joystick - and what a test! There's so much going on that it's impossible to do anything without running into an enemy and needing to do some quick thinking pretty damn fast.
The strategy element, the graphics, the variety of levels and the separate mind duels all make Onslaught original, exciting, and fun to play, even if it is horrendously difficult to grab much land.