Title		Benefactor
Game Type	Platform
Company		Psygnosis
Players		1
Compatibility	All
Submission (Jan Ullrich Bister)

   Psygnosis, the same company that brought you Lemmings and many other
great games, now brings you Benefactor, a fascinating combination of
jump'n'run and strategy that resembles the game Lemmings quite a lot.
But make no mistake, this is not a cheap imitation. On the contrary.

The disks:
   The game comes on three NDOS disks which autoboot and kick right into
the rather cool intro, which tells the background story of Benefactor
with a "Star Wars"-style 3D scroller. Unfortunately, a harddisk
installation is not possible (but disk accesses don't take place often),
and the game saves its highscore list on the main disk, which, since the
disks cannot be copied, will not find many friends. However, the disk can
be write-protected - the program won't complain (it just won't save
either). On my A500 with 2MB Chip RAM, the game runs perfectly, as long
as I keep my GVP A530 turned off. With it turned on, the intro scroll
slows down and flickers a lot; the game experiences trouble. It may run
fine with other accelerators.
   The manual that comes with the game mentions data disks to be made
available in the future by Psygnosis ("future" referring to 1994, when
the game was released). Apparently, none of these data disks have ever
surfaced. This is really unfortunate because Benefactor _will_ get you
addicted, and it is possible that you finish all levels within a week or
less because you can't put the joystick down. (It happened to me. :)

The story and gameplay:
   You are Ben E. Factor and must help the Merrymen, whose awesome Rainbow
Machine has been stolen by an evil tribe, which also kidnapped all of the
guards that were protecting the machine. Now, everyone of them sits
trapped in a cell, except a few Merrymen who managed to escape and enlist
your help. They provide you with a transporter that takes you to a total
of 61 levels - that is, 6 stages (with different themes, background GFX
and music) with 10 levels each, and a special end level.
In each level, there are one or more prison cells with Merrymen inside
them, and one key somewhere for each cell. Your job is to find the keys
and open the cells to free the Merrymen.
   This is where the fun starts.
   You see, they don't just walk straight to the transporter. You will
almost always need their help - they fix broken machines for you that you
need to use, flick switches for you that do all kinds of things (for
example, activating additional pieces of platform that you need to get to
another section of the level).
   Each Merryman will go to his place of purpose and, if he needs Ben to
take him somewhere, wait patiently for him. Ben can pick up the Merryman
and throw him up to a higher platform, or give him tools so the Merryman
can fix a broken machine which, in turn, Ben can use to reach his goal of
freeing other Merrymen. With each level, these exercises of teamwork get
more and more complex and you will sometimes need to really think what to
do first - or, as a matter of fact, what to do at all. ;)
   Sometimes you will encounter a black-and-white Merryman that has turned
evil due to lack of Rainbow power, and you need to guide him through a
small Rainbow Machine to turn him back into color, so he can help you. In
his evil state, he will just blindly walk wherever fate takes him, and
possibly destroy things in the way. Ben will have to hurry so these
little creatures don't run into their death! And since we're comparing
Benefactor with Lemmings: Benefactor actually contains one rather hilarious
level that turns out to be a Lemmings spoof - lots and lots of
black-and-white Merrymen come falling out of a trapdoor while a "Let's
go!" sample plays, followed by the familiar Lemmings background tune!
   The gameplay is very responsive and well laid-out. Basic movements
that Ben can perform are: running, jumping short distances, bridging longer
distances by doing somersaults (kind of "Impossible Mission"-style, for
anyone who remembers that Commodore 64 game), climbing onto a platform
right above Ben, hanging off various things, rolling on the floor and
lying down flat. Ben can also pick up keys and tools, carry and throw
Merrymen, hand them things or take them back. This is done with a
push of the fire button and a downward movement. Great!

Sound and graphics:
   The graphics of the game, as well as the sound, are incredibly good.
It is amazing how colorful and detailed the background, sprites and
animations can look on an ECS Amiga, and speaking of sprites, they are
TINY! In fact, I think the Merrymen are even smaller than the Lemmings,
yet the animation detail is amazing and the Merrymen, Ben, and all the
monsters that you will encounter look very much... alive. :)
   Each of the six stages of the game is based on a different theme. You
will find yourself in underground caves, Egyptian tombs, the jungle,
spooky Transylvanian castles, an ice world and a "techno" zone. Each of
the stages is amazingly atmospheric and really involves you in the game.
For example, I was playing one of the spooky-Transylvanian-castle levels
one night with the lights off in my room, and suddenly there was
lightning on the screen, revealing a dark castle somewhere far in the
background, and a ghost emerged from the ground and started haunting me -
rarely did a game scare me that much!
   The music is also excellent and adds even more to the atmosphere, with
a great Carribbean reggae-style tune playing in the jungle levels, very
cool and rather laid-back dance music in the techno zone, scaringly
realistic-sounding church organs in the castle levels, and more. The
sound effects are very entertaining, ranging from the happy giggling of a
Merryman that is freed from prison to the deep rumble of a rock rolling
downwards or the typical factory machine sound of an activated Rainbow
Machine. The volume of each of the sounds even changes depending on how
far Ben is away from the sound source! It is impressive to walk past a
Rainbow Machine with its sound getting louder, then fading away while a
buzzing sound emerges from nowhere as you approach a nest of hornets in
the jungle...
   To summarize it, both the graphics and the sound are indeed so
seamlessly perfect that you almost forget this is just a computer game.

All in all:
   Everyone should have this game because it's a true gem, and it has
something for everyone, from the action fan to the thinker and
adventurer. Even for those who have a decent stereo hooked up to their
Amiga and just want to listen to the music. :)
   If you don't have this game, get it now.

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