FOR THE FUN OF IT
OF GODS AND GARS
In Which Laurence Reassembles
Dad And Defenses
|AT A GLANCE|
Eye Of Horus
REVIEWED BY MATT LAURENCE
Thousands upon thousands of years ago, when men were real men, women were real women and hawk-headed humanoid demigods were real hawk-headed humanoid demigods, the Egyptians created shrines of mind-boggling size to the benficent deities that watched over them. Of these gods, King Osiris, god of life and the living, was the kindest and most beloved, embodying all of life's most benevolent forces. The only one who didn't share these feelings was Osiris' half-brother, Set. Set, once a revered god, had since been overshadowed by his half-brother and (as embodiments of night and evil are wont to do) swore to destroy him forever. By clever trickery (or perhaps some inside god-joke to which we are not privy), Set managed to trick Osiris into lying down in a chest at which point he nailed it shut, then sent it down the Nile to destroy him forever.
Osiris' wife, the beautiful goddess Isis, got wind of Set's mischief and of course would not have this sort of foolishness. She retrieved the chest in time to save the dying king just long enough for a royal quickie, and thus was conceived a son. Osiris died in Isis' arms, and she hid the body in a tree to keep Set from finding and defiling it. Set, however, found the corpse and tore it into seven pieces to keep Osiris' spirit from resting peacefully. As long as Osiris' spirit remains uneasy, neither he nor his family can be honored on the walls of the tomb in hieroglyphics. Now, years later, it is up to Osiris' son Horus, hawk-headed god of light and good, to retrieve the scattered pieces of his dad, return them to the burial chamber and give uncle Set a good sound thrashing once and for all.
Where You Come In
With the burden of genealogy on your head, you set out as Horus in this new arcade adventure from Fanfare, Britannica Software's new entertainment division. Your job is to enter the deep labyrinth of Osiris' tomb and reconstruct pop to save the family name. Set is enraged at your efforts and has turned himself into a dragon. He has holed up in the deeper, more dangerous parts of the tomb to await you and do you in before you can restore Osiris. In addition, he has used his magic to animate many of the hieroglyphics on the walls of the tomb that attack if you come too close.
For your part, you must travel through the corridors of the tomb, moving between them via elevators. Your major advantage in this game is that Horus has the ability to turn himself into a hawk at any point (except on an elevator), enabling him to gain more flexibility in movement and in offensive action. The hawk is much quicker and fires a more rapid stream of darts than the humanoid, but you must use the humanoid form to collect the necessary goodies on your journey.
Scattered throughout the tomb are a large number of useful thingamabobs that you must gather and use wisely. At the most basic level, some elevators must be unlocked before you can travel on them, and to unlock these you must find the properly colored key. In addition, there are amulets hidden amongst the hieroglyphics that can give you added powers, aid your quest, or give you extra life (the Amulet of the Steps is particularly useful - it maps your progress through the maze). Many of these amulets are necessary, and you must know the proper time to use each one, since you can only carry seven at a time. Finally, you must collect the actual body pieces and either bring them back to the burial chamber or summon Isis (with an amulet) to take them for you.
All of these items, while often extremely useful, may prove to be more trouble than they're worth - you see, the items are usually hidden among the living hieroglyphs that haunt and taunt you throughout the game. Some of the amulets require split-second timing to pick up without having your hair parted by flying axes or having a rabid duck nip your nose (no, I'm not kidding). This is more difficult than it seems, since you must be walking (e.g., not a hawk) to pick up any items you come across and Horus is no power-walker. He meanders along at a leisurely pace, making it difficult to dodge the fountains of knifes that explode if you saunter too near.
Through trials and tribulations you must battle through the deepest, most unfriendly parts of the tomb until you have found and returned all seven bits of Osiris to his rightful place of burial. Then you must find the last key, seek out the chamber in which Set has hidden, fight off the serpent hieroglyphics that he has guarding him, and defeat Set himself to score the ultimate victory.
Eye of Horus is a classy game. The characters, story and hieroglyphs are based on authentic Egyptian mythology. The music is very atmospheric, lending to the feel of the game, and the graphics are attractive and occasionally amusing. It is also a long game, however, and there is no save-game feature (though there is a pause key). In addition, it is very easy to die without accomplishing much - don't expect to get very far in your first few games; the evil guys are sneaky until you know where to look for them and the amulets don't look much like the pictures in the manual.
Other than these details, I had few problems. Some of the activation codes that serve as copy protection didn't work - I had to reboot and try another. This was simply bad planning; the fact that the disk bombed three days after I received the program was just bad luck.
None of these problems are enough to bury the game, however. Eye Of Horus an enjoyable game, with nice graphics and sound and a challenging mission. I had little chance to test it for lasting appeal, however, since it didn't last long enough for me to find out. Eye of Horus is a decent first offering from Fanfare.
|AT A GLANCE|
Day Of The Viper
REVIEWED BY MATT LAURENCE
Take one part classic maze-chase game (Pac Man will do); add two parts Dungeon Master; sprinkle with a modified dash of Tower Toppler; throw in a cup of hot, hip, happenin' shoot-'em-up; sift in a bit of a moderately trite, but very atmospheric SF plot; top it all off with the very best features from the latest batch of action-adventure games, bake at the hottest action level you can take for weeks on end and what have you got? Day of the Viper, the newest release from Accolade software and probably one of their best to date.
In A Nutshell
The scenario, in a nutshell: some bonehead at the Rore Corporation created a superduper race of androids with super-fast brains, bodies of an assault vehicle and the reasoning ability and intuition of a human - but at supercomputer speeds. Thus was born the first of the GAR - Genetic Android Race. Created to mine the asteroid belts and pilot starships, these androids were the perfect psychopaths.
Of course, they weren't supposed to be psychopaths, but the GAR soon began to discover a subtle side effect of the "neurosynthetic melding" process: pain. Unhappy with this situation, GAR-1 (the most powerful and influential of the GAR) flipped out, declaring war on biological organisms of any kind. For 300 years now, GAR and his powerful army of antibiological robots have been smashing the Sun League Defense Force (SLDF) in their never-ending quest for death, chaos and the end of organic life everywhere.
In their headquarters, the SLDF has put together prototypes of weapons and shields that at least match GAR's arsenal, if not surpass it. Armed with this technology, carbon-based lifeforms (like us) could defeat these rustbuckets and get on with life. But GAR has taken over the SLDF complex and destroyed the program in the main Security Defense Computer and the last hope of defeating GAR has crumbled to iron filings. Someone has to sneak in there, wipe out GAR's evil minions, find the 25 disks that contain the backup of the Security Defense Computer program and reactivate the thing. And can you guess who that someone is?
That Someone Is You
Now don't worry, you don't actually have to go in there. SLDF has one ace in their seemingly shallow hole: a device known as VIPER-5, a human analog. This device is an android of GAR-like strength and speed, but with one difference - it has no brain to complicate things. It is a remotely-piloted assault android that a skilled technician can control to the last circuit. You must steer the only available VIPER-5 into the SLDF complex, survive the onslaught of GAR's buddies and complete the reprogramming of the defense computer.
Your Viper control console is a complicated mass of displays and buttons that will probably scare the pants off you the first time it comes on the screen. Since the game is entirely mouse-controlled, however, it quickly becomes a breeze to navigate the console. The main display consists of two screens: a plotter screen and a monitor.
Viper travels between floors by use of the turbolift (a glorified elevator), and moves between buildings with the shuttlecraft that waits on the fifth floor. But getting to these vital rooms is no stroll in the park. You have the GAR-goyles and various other dangers to contend with. At the outset, your Viper is equipped with the most powerful weaponry currently available - but it is not strong enough to take you through all 25 levels of the SLDF complex. To beef up your firepower and defensive strength, you must find the weapons and shields that the SLDF research team has built. These are easily installed on your Viper, letting you penetrate further into the complex.
To further keep you from going off-line," multicolored crystals and pods are scattered throughout the corridors. These capsules can lower your damage and raise your energy by varying amounts depending on the color. Snarf a few of these, and always keep a few in your storage compartments for lean periods. You can also find other vital objects scattered about that will make your quest much easier. There are even a few items so new that they haven't been officially documented. It is up to you to decide what they do and whether they are helpful or not. Note: If you ever find, a beneficial use for the ubiquitous toxic waste containers, let me know.
Day of the Viper does have a few annoying little problems. To begin with, one of its greatest features also proves to be an occasional drawback: The game is entirely mouse-driven. While this makes for extreme simplicity of control, it also makes for a worn-out mouse button and less efficient operation of some controls. At this point, my (admittedly old) mouse is one unhappy camper and my fights with the GAR degenerate into a battle with the mouse button. It would have been nice to be able to move your Viper with the arrow keys, which correspond perfectly with the directional buttons on screen.
The manual has some minor problems, including one or two misprints that could cause new players confusion: Some of the screen illustrations are mislabeled, with the arrows pointing to the wrong gauges when describing their functions. My advice on that front is to read the manual, but also experiment on your own.
When you first boot up Day Of The Viper (and after the deep, throbbing theme song, opening story, and copy protection), you'll probably goggle at the number of screen locations to keep track of, but it quickly becomes familiar. The opening, with its poignant music, attractive animation and authoritative monologue, immediately draws you in, begging you to start right in without touching the manual. Don't do it - you need to know your enemy and your allies before you go diving into the SLDF complex.
The programmers at Accolade have done just about everything right with Day Of The Viper. Everything, from the look and feel of the buttons on your console to the interface, have been implemented exquisitely.
Possibly the best feature of this two-disk game is that it can be installed on your hard drive and played without a key disk. The off-disk copy protection consists of a slide rule printed with different circuit-board modules. It is one of the best examples of off-disk protection that I have seen and I wonder why more manufacturers do not use it. It seems more effective than on-disk protection methods and I heartily applaud Accolade for employing it - it makes Day of the Viper that much better.
Matt Laurence has written numerous game reviews for Atari Explorer. This is his first appearance in START.