Of gods and giant robots. (Gameplay)(computer games) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
What do you get when you combine Greek mythology with a touch of Bill and Ted? You get Wrath of the Gods, the first game from upstart publisher Luminaria. This CD-ROM graphic adventure (you'll want a double-speed drive) is faithful to classic Greek myths, but it tosses in bits of dialogue like "Surprised to find Hercules in Hades? These are the Elysian Fields, where the cool guys go when they croak."
The game is packed with smooth-scrolling animation, dozens of digitized backgrounds of actual Greek sites, and 300 digital movies of heroes, gods, and monsters. But unlike most prior games designed specifically for CD-ROM, Wrath of the Gods actually features a good underlying game. It's not the most difficult adventure game you'll ever play, but neither is it a collection of video clips wrapped around very few player choices, as too many of its predecessors are. A small icon box at the bottom of the screen offers a few basic choices: walk to, pick up, look at, talk to, and inventory. Choose an icon; then click your pointer on objects to manipulate them.
The puzzles are mostly of the typical "find the right object to complete your goal" variety, but they're not just random obstacles tossed in your way. In fact, many of the puzzles are based upon actual decisions encountered in mythological quests. You can pull up an lnfo window that describes the mythological analogue of the current scene (complete with an historical painting or picture of a Greek artifact), which can offer hints as to how to solve the puzzle. If that's not enough, you can use Wrath's innovative Oracle help system, which offers progressively more direct hints in exchange for some of the points you've earned.
Along the way you'll encounter gods including Hermes, Athena, Zeus, and Hera, as well as monsters such as the Hydra, Cyclops, and Medusa. The humans and gods are portrayed by actors who do a pretty good job of it--the acting is generally on a par with what you'd find at a local play-house, but with dialogue like "Hey, dude. We can't fight you if you don't have a blade," you're not going to expect the Royal Shakespeare Company anyway. The monsters are rendered using stop-motion animation that's just wonderful--better in many respects than what we've seen in the old Harryhausen films.
With over 40 hours of game-play, one of the best combinations of multimedia and story line yet, and historical educational value, Wrath of the Gods should be a real winner.
Dynamite Dynamix. I just received early beta versions of two of Dynamix's summer releases, and it looks like I may have to cancel that beach trip. Metaltech: Battledrome is a giant robot fighting game to play with your best friend (or worst enemy), while Aces of the Deep takes the Dynamix 3-Space graphics engine on a dive from the skies into the deep seas.
In Battledrome you pilot a large robot called a Herculean in an arena battle against another Herc. Choose your mount from a variety of Hercs of different capabilities; then enhance it with your choice of weapons, armor, internal components, and even custom color schemes. Then it's off to the arena to toss laser bolts and missiles at the bad guy. The sound is spectacular, with rockin' tunes, but the graphics are fairly simple, with polygon robots and a cartoonish headsup display. Gameplay against the computer is interesting, but not groundbreaking. Battledrome comes into its own when you duel another player via modem. There are few joys greater than admiring the meticulous construction of a friend's Herc and then blowing it to smithereens. If you have a friend with a modem who's a local call away, you should definitely pick this game up.
Aces of the Deep lets you take the helm of seven different U-boat types for missions ranging over the entire course of World War II. Attack merchant shipping in the Caribbean early in the war when the Germans enjoyed a tactical advantage, or just try to stay alive in the North Atlantic in May 1945. Graphics are a cut above those in the Dynamix flight sims, and the fast-moving waves on the heavy seas are stunningly realistic--you'd better stock up on Dramamine before booting this baby. You'll face a variety of surface ships in individual missions and campaigns, and you'll have to watch the skies for attack aircraft. This game is definitely not subpar.