Title           Knightmare
Game Type       RPG
Players         1
Company		Mindscape (1992)
Compatibility   1 Mb
Submission      James Chambers

From father to son.....
     Knightmare is the true underdog of the Dungeon Master family tree.
Since its creation at the height of the Amiga 500's popularity, I have
found only one favorable review of it since. Even the understanding
folks on a popular web site devoted to its ancient precursor have a hard
time liking it.

    The problem cannot be with the game's graphics. Knightmare is a
veritable feast for the eyes. Not since the errie dungeons in Ishar: The
Legend of Fortress have I been so effectively excited, frightened, and
awed at the same time. Knightmare is a shock to the system, from its blood
stained dungeon corridors, to its grimacing evil elves, Knightmare is a
knock out of a game.

    I suppose the problem comes in when fans of Dungeon Master try to
translate Knightmare as another Dungeon Master. While this ancient
fore-father began the tradition, Knightmare is a game that stretches the
genre. Knightmare seeks to redefine the idea of the dungeon crawl by
adding layers of dark atmospherics based upon the engine of fairy tale
types. This combined with a fevered hack and slash approach makes for
one challenging game.

"All ye who enter here..."
    As the player boots up Knightmare for the first time, fond memories
of Dungeon Master float about like heather upon the wind. However, these
memories quickly fade as the game screen loads up. In the labor to
integrate mythic atmosphere with a twinge of the present, the player is
re-introduced to an old construct of the theater, namely the simple use
of curtains. Curtains are the simplest artifacts of creative strivings.
It is the curtain at the opera that separates the mythic stories of Wagner
from the hum-drum mediocrities of the world; when the curtain rises, all
disbelief sinks to submission, and the viewer becomes a part of the drama.
As the player clicks the mouse and the curtain draws aside, one is drawn
completely into a world different from Dungeon Master's and our own. I
cannot think of a better cue, a better way in which to invite the player
into the drama of the game; however, as we submit to the game world, we
must remember that Captive is the blood that Knightmare thrives upon.
This one constructive difference is the making of the game, and the flavor
of its soul.

    Though it is true that Knightmare (and Captive) owes its physical
appearance to Dungeon Master, it is the soul of the game that differs
vastly. Knightmare's approach was cut from the archetypal cloth of old
folk tales. This cloth is wonderfully stitched through with the modern
spirit of dry humour and the odd collapse of historical time into that of
a believable `once upon a time' so popular in fantasy stories of our day.
It is here that the differences between Dungeon Master and Crowther's
brain child are most obvious. Monsters are a good example. Knightmare's
induction of creature types are smooth lifts from the bestiaries of our
oral fairy tale cultures. Thus the old problem of covering the question
"Hey, what's a wasp doing down here in the dungeon without a nest?" is
answered quietly, so quietly that the question never occurs.

    Dungeon Master occasionally suffered from its illogical usage of
beasties in unlikely dungeon areas. This small interruption between
interface and player causes for a small forgetting of the game's driving
plot. However, in fairness, Dungeon Master obviously grew from the old
memories of dedicated pen and paper role playing enthusiasts where the
bestiary was often mixed. This proved to be a solid bedrock for the old
father. The holes of  "What's a wasp doing deep underground" were
occasionally answered and patched by the commonality of the eclectic
spirit of the Dungeon and Dragons monster folio experience in the player's
background. The giant wasps, the mummies, and the large arachnids all flow
from our AD&D daydreams like honey from a bee hive. This miasma of horrors
was pulled together by believable monster routines, gorgeous sounds, and
fun character portraits.

    However, none of this interruption between player and interface is
found in Knightmare (at least to my mind).  The evil elves, bumbling
trolls, and the tomb clothed Lord Fear all hail directly from the soil of
the European past (of course the TV show processed this material in a
gamey atmosphere, the game reprises the full moody nature of these types);
the other monsters are very Captive-like renderings of Greek Mythology
beasts. This makes for a tantalizing palette of strange enemies to
defeat; coupled with the gorgeous hedge mazes, stormy Highland mountains,
and heavy moody clouds, Knightmare rolls into one large atmospheric punch.
which offers no escape once you begin.

    The use of dreary colour renderings seeps over into the character
selection menu and clearly recalls the wonderful eclectic stem of the
Dungeon Master tradition. However, there are one or two things underdone
in this department. The Dungeon Master enthusiast will miss the hall of
heroes; for in Knightmare we are treated to a less than interactive
experience in choosing our personas. Yet, there is a silver lining to
this problematic cloud. From among the roster of possibilities one may
pick from in the Knightmare world, the mundane human class (male and
female) is the least of the sum of possibilities available. The player
may choose from the smallish goblin as a character, a large ogre, or an
ugly troll. The ephemeral characters of the Wraith , magical Genie, and
earthy Insectoid are also up for grabs.

    The strange character races reflect the wonderfully odd colour palette
of the game. Each character is depicted in an errie blend of minimalism
and dark shadings.

 One cannot help but feel out of place as you decide the profession of
each;  whether to be a gladiator or a mage are the important choices one
will have to weigh carefully. The old adage of choosing two fighters, one
mage, and one cleric type are still advisable here (though later the game
will commit the player to a complete reversal of fortune). The world of
Knightmare will continually test and re-test all initial decisions made
early in the game; thus the engines of Fate and Fortune (alike in Dungeon
Master) are also heavily relied upon here to create the grim realism of
the game.

    Knightmare demands a quick mastery of the Captive desk top. The
combat is timed so that if you miss a beat, you had better back-step very
quickly or loose your first line of characters in seconds. I call this
realism, as combative realism in this game genre is best related to the
player by the threat of character death. In contrast, the grand old
father Dungeon Master allows the player to ease into its system enjoyably.
This is of course a big part of the Dungeon Master method; however,
Knightmare was sculpted from a different mold.

    In the first few days of gameplay (and this depends largely upon your
gaming habits) your characters will be armed with the likes of baseballs,
pea-shooters, rocks, and perhaps a shovel if you are lucky. These weapons
don't often make for comfortable stepping stones from the  daggers, short
swords, and bows of the Dungeon Master game. Thus early in the game,
timing is the player's true weapon of choice (that and the use of doors).

    The demands of nutrition are also present as you stalk the dim halls
of the quest dungeons. This is where timing and planning also come in,
for not all the dungeons contain food; in fact, most of the quest dungeons
have one way doors that trap the player within, effectively entombing you
in the depths of the earth until the quest is fulfilled.

    The first level is a conglomeration of all the perils of the later
dungeons. There you experience the pains of looking for the right keys,
operating the pressure pads to reveal doorways (beware, for some are
fallacious), riding the mining car to a different part of the map (watch
out for the rails) and hunting for food in the form of rabbits and apples.

    The dungeons contrast fiercely with those of Dungeon Master.
Knightmare has within its nook and crannies lakes (you can drown in them),
boats, islands, roller walls, and devious wall buttons (with hateful
fireball portals nearby).

    Knightmare features an "above ground" playing field. As stated
earlier, this level of the game is a beautiful hedge maze/forest level
with a splendid view of cloud clad mountains in the background. However,
the players must not linger here indefintely. They must search carefully
in the hedgemaze, for many items can be found in the grass.

    Rabbits also abound in the hedges, both for food and general
experience points. It is said that apples are available (they are also
part of a well known cheat) in the forest; however, you will need to find
a special tool to collect them. Careful planning and progression of skills
early on is suggested by most veterans.

    In structure, Knightmare resembles Bloodwych more than Dungeon Master.
The small plot teasers and plentiful puzzles combined with nice dungeon
decor (evil moose heads on the walls, odd shield crests, the familiar name
plaques, and occasional resurrection plants) add an odd atmosphere to the
game (which was Bloodwych's true call to fame; for in its oddness we
excused the scrunched player world). This sincere brand of oddness when
combined with a game design like Crowther's makes for one dark horse of a
game that will embrace only the most sadistic of fantasy role playing

    In conclusion, Knightmare is often framed as a game that has poor
graphics. I for one do not see how this is the case. The graphics are
shaded oddly by a dark palette choice, but we must remember - Knightmare
is not an interpretation of Dungeon Master, but of a dark fairy tale
culture (non-Tolkien at that). Though this culture is poured through the
Captive lens (which can be very challenging to some), it is nevertheless
the only game program (counting both the PC, Atari, and other current
console systems) that has ever attempted a serious interpretation of this
difficult genre. Buy this game only if you long to experience the dark
heart of a difficult but sincerely enjoyable quest.

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