Four levels a penny

Archipelagos logo Amiga Computing Excellence Award

LONG, long ago, in a place where a cloudy planet always hung above the north, the ancients played with thought worlds. Together the power of their minds created a hundred planets, each an archipelago, where they met, relaxed and drank tea.
Their thoughts were so strong that the places became real. When they slept, they found the morphogenic patterns of their thoughts remained to generate, almost randomly, thousands more worlds.
Then the ancients turned their minds to another place. They contemplated the cloudy planet in the north and imagined seas, then inhabitants, and finally whole civilisations. In time this place also became real - so real that one day visitors came from it.

The visitors liked Archipelagos. They had found 10,000 paradises. Pretty soon they staked their claim on every archipelago by placing an obelisk of immutable granite, each a sentinel of their power. The ancients tried to de-imagine their visitors, but it was too late - the obelisks were in place.
The very idea of de-imagination made the visitors mad. They decided the ancients would have to go.

Early one morning, as the multicoloured birds sang Acolian harmonies in the trees of Archipelagos, the visitors made their last call. They tracked down the ancients and drained their blood into the soil. Their bodies were turned to stone where they slept. If they awoke, their waking forms were mutated into the unspeakable. Their souls were cast into torment. Even the tea supplies were confiscated.

And all the life in Archipelagos was left perverted. Where clumps of gladioli once bloomed, eggs now awaited the elemental spark of thunder - erm, shouldn't that be lightning, Herbie? - to spread poison. Where birds once sang, necromancers now inexorably ate the very fabric of Archipelagos. The visitors have long since gone, but their work remains. Until now...

This is where you come in, floating, as if disembodied, a metre above the ground. You're here to destroy the obelisk in each archipelago.
Remember, the obelisk gets its power from the stones, the petrified remains of the ancients, so to destroy it you first have to crumble the stones and absorb their energy. This you do by placing a cross-hair cursor on to the same square of land as the stone and pressing the action button.

In each Archipelago there are a number of stones to crumble. Some are on islands separated from the obelisk by a calm sea. Before you can absorb their energy, you must join them by a continuous but not necessarily straight path to the obelisk. Sometimes it's just a matter of three or four wedges of turf, other times you will need to build vast land bridges from island to island.

Once all the stones in an archipelagos are crumbled you have 90 seconds to return to the obelisk and destroy it. If you don't, it will get you.

Despite what you may have read elsewhere about Archipelagos, you cannot choose which level to start on - you start on level one and must work your way through to level 9,999. There is no save game option and you only have one life. Sounds an impossible task, and it is. Let's hope Logotron leaks a cheat mode real early.

Various bits and pieces are out to hinder your progress. As mentioned in the story, ancients who have awoken from their sleep drift about the islands in the form of marvellously animated lost souls. A wonderful sound effect, something akin to a depressed wasp, accompanies their travels. Let one of these stumble into you and you'll get to meet Marvin Gaye. And you can't get more lost soul than that.

Necromancers rise from the ground and wander along the shore of islands, devouring the land. When the sky grows dark and there is a mighty clap of thunder and a flash lightning, a Blood Egg is ready to hatch. These peeling, spinning beauties either spread poison like arboreal trees or eat land like necromancers.

You can use the power you suck from the stones to build or disinfect land. Arboreal tree pods, if nipped in the bud, also build up your power. You're going to need it.

Every fifth archipelago in the first 100 is bitmapped. There are some great maps there - Europe, the Americas, the Logotron turtle, I won't spoil the fun by listing them. All the rest are computer generated, but the deeper you get into the game, the bigger and more complicated each archipelago gets, and the longer it takes to calculate.

Quick, smooth, colourful animation apart, the graphics Logotron has added especially for this Amiga version give it that touch of class you don't see on the, erm, other thing: A day and night cycle, lightning striking when thunder claps, bark on the arboreal trees and a correctly shaded horizon, giving it that realistic hazy look of the seaside.

The music and sound effects, some of which are unique to the Amiga, are by David Whittaker. Need I say more? Course not.

BUt with the lack of a save option, Archipelagos falls down ever so slightly on the gameplay stakes. Nobody in their right mind is going to play this one from beginning to end.

After two weeks of regularly dying on level 35 - and it'll take a couple of hours to get that far - you could be forgiven if you were sick to death of the first 34. Bet it won't stop you having another go though.

Archipelagos logo

Price: £24.99

At last! I thought the day would never come, an original Amiga game! A new form of 3D. No violence. No other human opponent! Instead you have to work your way through 9,999 3D landscapes, defeating the huge monolith on each, by first absorbing its underlings, and then absorbing the big guy. The controls are simple. Point to where you want to go and then press the transfer button. It is strategic! It is big! It will take a long time to complete! (It is a bit like Sentinel, actually).

Ah! There goes all my hopes and dreams of an original game. Maybe next time. Perhaps there won't ever be a next time. I worry about the state of the software industry at times like this. Archipelagos has to be one of the most surreal and abstract games I have ever played and even this is comparable to an earlier title. It is just not fair.

In days of old, the Elders (well, who else would you expect?) were a bit fed up with their boring everyday lives. So they daydreamed, their mental power being such that they could walk into each other's minds - and so they did, each creating a little piece of land within their craniums. Slowly, and after months of hard thought, these islands became real (that is what I call positive thinking). As with almost everything else in life, they soon got bored of the islands and imagined a planet that hung forever in the sky, forever pointing the way North. This too became reality, life flourished life on the planet, and the flourished lifeforms saw the archipelagi (is that right?), and they liked them, and took over, destroying anything that tried to win them back.

The aliens have long since gone, but they still hold power over the islands through the mutations they have left behind them. Mobile trees, patches of acidic blood and a couple of interesting small, ball-like creatures wander around the edges of the islands, removing the land as they move. Lost souls sweep around in the form of whirlwinds, contact bringing death.

To top it all, the overall' God' on each of the 9,999 arch's is a pointed, rather phallic lump of rock called a monolith. To beat the monolith, you have to find and destroy all the rocks that are littered about. To destroy a rock, it has to be linked on an island that is not connected to the monolith - it is Populous time again - you have to build land. This is easy. Just put the cursor over wherever you want. If there is no land, you put down sand. If sand is there, you put down land.

When you have taken out the last rock, you have a 90 second time limit to get to the monolith and remove it by absorption. Do that, and you get to go onto the next level.

Looking at the screenshots, you must admit this game really does look like something special, and it is. But I was expecting a game so deep and involving that you could play it for hours into the night and emerge the next morning covered in cold sweat. Sadly it is not that complex. It is an aspirational test which has very shallow gameplay, and it is one that quickly grows tiresome.

The graphics are amazing, apart from the way day changes into the night and vice versa. The feeling of distance is incredible, thanks to 'mist-o-matico-vision-colour'. The colour is graduated, not completely dissimilar to the system implemented on the Archimedes version of Zarch. This, plus the perfect sprite sizing in relation to distance, makes the game a visual treat.

The sound is not worth interrupting your mum as she washes out the Heinz beef and Custard Baby food that your little sister has poured over her. The Lost Souls make a wailing, whining sound.

What a shame the game does not live up to expectations. Do not get me wrong, I am not slagging it. It is good, and worth trying out. It is just not what it could have been...

Archipelagos logo Zzap! Sizzler

Logotron, Amiga £24.99

In times long past mysterious beings known only as the Ancients watched over an eternally tropical world, their leisured thoughts creating ten thousand Archipelagos.
When they tired of that they populated a nearby planet. These people eventually came to the world of the Archipelagos as the Visitors. On each Archipelago the Visitors placed an Obelisk. The Ancients disliked this intrusion and unsuccesfully attempted to de-imagine the Visitors. Soon after this the Visitors left, but only after first slaughtering the Ancients. While they slept the Ancients were turned to stone and their blood drained into the soil.

You enter this tormented world floating a metre above the ground with the objective of cleansing all ten thousand Archipelagos of the Visitors' presence. To do this you must destroy the Obelisk on every island, but this is only possible after each of the stones which give it power are disintergrated. Stones are invulnerable unless connected to the Obelisk, so sometimes vast land bridges have to be created. Once all the stones have been destroyed, by absorbing their energy, you have 90 seconds to get the Obelisk.

You move around the world by placing a cursor on a square, pressing a mouse button instantly transports you there. This is all relatively easy, but you must be wary of trees. As they rise and fall they move toward you, along with the lethal virus which turns the land red and kills you on contact. Also lethal is the sand and sea.

If you complete a level you go to the next; the game automatically remembers how far you go, so there's no need to write codes down to get back to the last level you completed.

As you get further into the game the dangers increase. Necromancers are ghosts of the Ancients and wander around taking away the land directly underneath them. Blood Eggs first appear on Archipelago 20 and hatch extremely lethal spirits with a clap of thunder and lightning. Even more fearsome Lost Souls which are like whirlwinds, contact with them brings death!
If you complete a level you advance onto the next during the first 100, where every fifth island has a special shape (there's even an Eastenders archipelago). After that all the archipelagos are drawn randomly and you advance two if you complete one. Obviously getting to level 9999 will take a while!

Robin Hogg One of those games that you just can't get into quickly but once you've experienced it you just don't want to let go.
The strange nature of the game and the totally hypnotic accompanying music creates a totally weird and immensely convincing atmosphere which (in my opinion at least) beats The Sentinel hands down.
Just start the game and listen to the music to hear what I mean. Gameplay is significantly better with considerable variety in the foes lurking around the islands, a better sense of progress, a better feeling of achievement and at last true incentive to progress. Great stuff.
Stuart Wynne Once you accept the relatively simple rules of Archipelagos there are no glitches or compromises to distract you. When the sky starts to darken, lightening bolts flash and mirror-faced Necromancers go hunting it all gets extremely tense.
The music heightens the sense of atmosphere still further, together with haunting sound effects such as the Lost Souls wailing. A massive and enchanting challenge Archipelagos makes Logotron a name to watch.