Title Barbarian (Psygnosis) Game Type Action Adventure Company Psygnosis, 1987 Players 1 Compatibility All Amigas (WHDLoad HD installer available) HD Installable With Patch Submission Seppo Typpö (firstname.lastname@example.org) Profiled Reviewer Review When I bought my first Amiga (A500) back in 1987, one of the first games I bought for the Commodore's new wonder machine was Psygnosis' hack'n'slash adventure, Barbarian. Now, after all these years I had a chance to try it again, thanks to the excellent WHDLoad HD installer. So let's step into the time machine and travel back to the dawn of the Amiga, to the time of Barbarian... Following the adventures of a young barbarian called Hegor, it is up to the player to guide him throught a flip-screen arcade adventure, fighting monsters and collecting weapons and other items as he progresses through the game - not an easy task as all sorts of dangerous situations needs to be solved, and sudden death is usually only one step away from the hero. Barbarian is a controversial game. While it was one of the first games that tried to utilise the power of 16-bit computers, the game controls and simple gameplay severely cramped the style of the graphics and sound. You either like Barbarian or hate it - even now, 14 years after its release, conversations heat up when somebody mentions this 'golden oldie'. Such is the 'magic' of the game - and when playing it in order to revive my memories for this review it was quite easy to see why it made such an impact in people's minds. After the game is loaded, the player is greeted with a short intro. Considering Psygnosis became famous for their magnificent intros in games like Awesome, Barbarian's short animation is bit bland and unimaginative. Still, the facial animations of Hegor when he strikes a thick metal chain in two with his broadsword brought a faint smile to my face - I remember watching this through again and again while trying to get into the actual game - one needed to click the mouse button at a precise moment to exit from the intro - and this feature was still present in the WHDLoad patched game. Oh, the memories... After the intro and the quite impressive 16-colour picture of a dragon the player is thrown into the actual game. First thing to notice is the simplistic nature of the graphics. The sprites are big and moderately well animated but the backgrounds are dull. Things pick up slightly when the player proceed further into the game - but still, while the graphics were impressive back in 1987, they now look severely dated. However, thanks to the talented graphics artist Garvan Corbett, they still look crisp and stylish. The main character and the imaginatively designed monsters look especially good. The sound is very basic - some sampled grunts and weapon noises. There's no music which is a shame as it would have definitely enchanced the atmosphere like it did in the unofficial sequel, the Obliterator. The gameplay still has the original feel. The actions of the main character are 'programmed' by clicking (with the mouse) a set ot icons which are conveniently located in a two-page strip at the bottom of the game screen. Joystick and keyboard controls can also be used but the most accurate control device is the good old Amiga rodent. When I say programmed I mean it - it is possible to program Hegor to do different actions in a desired sequence - for example, you can order Hegor to do a somersault (in order to avoid enemy fire) and then attack the enemy with the sword. You can also move around by clicking the actual game screen (for example, if you want Hegor to go down the ladder, just point at the ladder with the mouse cursor, click the mouse button and Hegor will walk next to it and climb down to the next screen). With some practise it is possible to guide Hegor through a screens with considerable ease. Unfortunately there are few things that make these innovative controls a bit problematic too. Probably the worst thing is the control lag which means there is a slight delay between clicking the icon and the response of the main character. Again it is possible to learn to cope with this and anticipate the problems with carefully timed mouse actions, but sometimes the icon click does not seem to produce any response at all (as if Hegor has his own free will). The 'final nail in the coffin' comes from spreading the control icons over two pages of the control strip. This results in some frustration as the player needs to flip between the two strips in order to fully control Hegor - not something you want to do in the heat of battle or when you have to quickly execute a set of actions. The level design is pretty simplistic, too - what makes it challenging are the various traps and enemy behaviour which the player needs to learn the hard way. There's usually no visible clues alerting you to the traps - the first time you notice a trap is when you fall into it - which is very frustrating, considering you have only three lifes and no save game option. The slow animation of the main character and the control lag cause problems in combat - the player needs to precisely time the attacks in order to survive - and even then luck plays a big part in the final outcome. This game is definitely not recommended for the short-tempered amongst us - lots of patience, good memory (you need to remember the locations of all the traps) and cunning planning are needed to push Hegor through the game and to victory. Despite the problems in the gameplay and the heavily outdated audiovisuals, Barbarian still has some 'old skool' charm. If you learn to deal with its quirky interface and ruthless game design, it provides you with some good old-fashioned fun, even after all these years. Psygnosis came a long way from this, releasing some of the best Amiga games ever during their heyday, but leaving aside Brataccas with its 8-bit roots, Barbarian was where it all started - this was the game that brought Psygnosis into the limelight. Barbarian may not be a classic game, it may not even be a very good game (and some people probably think it is complete trash) but even with its faults it is still an important part of the Amiga gaming history, and the history of many Amiga games players - like me.