Us N' Them

Title           Us N' Them
Game Type       Strategy
Authors         2 Bit Productions - (1)
Players         1 or 2
HD Installable  Yes
Compatibility   All (2)
Available       Aminet game/misc/UsNThem.lha
Submission      Joachim Froholt Profiled Reviewer

The name might not give it away, but Us N' Them is actually an accurate
Amiga conversion of the C64 classic, Archon. Archon is, for those of you
who don't know, a turn based strategy game which looks much like chess.
The theme is the classic battle between good and evil (light and dark).
Archon was created by Jon Freeman, Anne Westfall and Paul Reiche III (3),
and published by Electronic Arts.

I'll try to describe how the game works. Each side has 18 units. Although
none of the units are similar, the sides are evenly matched. The playing
board, viewed from above, consists of 9x9 squares and, like in chess, each
unit occupies one square. You can move one piece in each turn. If you move
your piece onto a square all ready occupied by a unit from the opposing
side, battle will ensue. The battle will take you to a different screen,
where you can control your unit with the joystick. The goal on this screen
is to wipe out the other unit present.

As you control the battles yourself, your strategy can't be the same as it
would be if you were playing a game like chess, because there's no
guarantee that the attacker will win the battle. The outcome will be
determined by your own skill, but you can be helped or hindered by your
decisions in the strategic phase. Every unit behaves differently, and
you'll find that they've all got different strengths and weaknesses.
You've got to consider this when you attack. To make things more
interesting, the colour of the square the defending unit stands on will
affect the amount of health that the units carries with them into battle.
Dark units thrive on dark squares, light units have an advantage on light
squares. In addition to the white and black squares, there are some
squares which change colour during play (from black to white and black
again). Careful planning is neccesary unless you want to risk having
valuable units stuck on squares of the "wrong" colour.

There are a wide range of unit types at your disposal. You've got your
basic foot soldiers who wield swords or clubs, you've got fast units who
shoot, slow and strong units who hurl stones, and much more. My favourite
unit is the Banshee, which can damage the enemies by screaming (scaring
them to death :)). The target has to be pretty close for the scream to
have any effect, but the banshee moves very fast, and will catch up with
most slower units in no time.

Each side has a queen-type unit. In addition to being strong, this unit
can also cast magic spells. You've got a number of spells at your
disposal, and a well-used spell can give you a real advantage. Spells
range from heal to revival (where one of your units are raised from the
dead), to imprison and teleport. Each spell can be used only once, so use
them wisely.

The goal of Archon (and, of course, Us N' Them) is either to destroy all
units of the opposing force, or to occupy all the five power points on the
playing board. These power points are special, because they make the unit
standing on them immune to magic. Three of the power points are placed on
squares which change colour, while the remaining two are on black and
white squares (and usually defended by very strong units, so they are very
tough to get).

The presentation is functional. The graphics are very small, but they're
much better than the original C64 graphics. I'm not sure if the game would
work with bigger graphics. The sound is ok, too, and I like the title
music a lot. The sound effects are sparse, but well used. This kind of
game doesn't need fancy graphics or megabytes of sound effects, it just
need to be playable. Thankfully, Us N' Them is very playable.

It is hard to say just what makes this game a winner. It's got just the
right mix of strategy and arcade action, and, like chess, it is easy to
get into, but hard to fully master. The computer opponent is intelligent
(apparently much more intelligent than the original Commodore 64 AI), and
if he's too weak (or strong) for you, then you can play against a friend.

There's not much more to say. This game is incredibly playable, and it
offers plenty of longevity. Considering the fact that it is also free,
this is a game which should not be missed by any Amiga owner who hasn't
played the (commercial) Amiga version of Archon, or who remember Archon
from the good old C64 days. Log onto your local Aminet mirror and download
Us N' Them. You won't regret it.

There's plenty of Archon resources on the web, and as Us N' Them is a very
accurate clone, these resources will be useful for Us N' Them players as
well. The documentation that comes with Us N' Them covers the game well,
but you'll find lot's of extra info & hints on the web. I have collected
some addresses for you here: - The Archon FAQ - The Archon Shrine


1. 2 Bit Productions are currently busy with their new Play by Mail game,
   Storm of the Eye. This is available for both Amiga and PC computers,
   and you cand find more info about it on their website:

2. The readme file claims that the game needs an accellerated A1200 (28
   Mhz) to run at full speed, but I've played the game on a standard A1200
   with no problems. It might run better on my 030/50, but it was
   certainly playable on the standard A1200.

3. Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford later created my all time favourite
   PC game: Star Control II (Published by Accolade).

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