Once more into the briefs

Barbarian 2: The Dungeon of Drax logo

JUST when you thought it was safe to step back into your loincloth, Barbarian II from Palace has arrived. And this time he's out for... well, probably much the same things as last time actually - a spot of death and destruction, all nicely rounded off with a great haul of treasure to improve his credit rating.
Can't argue with that, I suppose. At least not to his face.

This time he's got help. There is a choice of playing the Dark Destroyer himself or his rather comely companion. Female barbarians? Gotta move with the times I suppose. Whether this move is to attract more female games players seems somewhat dubious after witnessing a few of her near-naked acrobatic feats with only her well place jewelery saving her from exposure.

An amazing opening sequence, even by Amiga standards, draws you into the game. Nice animated effects and sampled speech even for the "Insert Second Disc" request.
Why can;t everyone put as much effort into this sort of thing? One doesn't mind so much rooting around the box and manuals and swapping discs when it is done in an interesting and entertaining manner.

Each level consists of a maze full of undesirables almost begging to be hacked, slashed gouged and generally inconvenienced. Not only must you find the exit, but you must also collect the two magic items if you are to be able to withstand Drax - the big nasty - at the end of the game.

The items certainly are magic. When you pick them up they flash incessantly for some jolly good and arcane, if a tad annoying, fashion.

The various bad guys, or bad things more properly, all require a different technique to overcome. Enemies floating off the ground are unlikely to be affected by a swing of the sword at knee height. Similarly, there is no point for the neck if your opponent is only two feet tall.

This means a separate strategy needs to be evolved to defeat each type of beast, more so than in other games of similar ilk. A strong will and stern resolve, never mind the possible advantages of being stone deaf, will be needed to overcome the rabid assaults of the giant chicken, presumably recently escaped from a Neanderthal Col. Saunders.

Care must be taken not to let a monster get your back against a wall or with a hole behind you. Look around, find your own ground, because if you get trapped you should have listened to that nice insurance salesman who called last Thursday.

Navigating the maze is fraught with problems, not the least of which are the large holes some unthinking workmen have left all over the place. You'll need to take a running jump at these.
The other problem is that it all starts looking the same: Didn't I pass that molten river and the skull on the stick a few minutes ago?

If you get hopelessly lost it is time to take a look at the poster that comes with the game. This won't help, but at least it will take your mind of the fact that you're going to die in some horribly grotesque and totally unreasonable fashion.

On the whole the animation is nothing spectacular, with the exception of the leaping sequences and the death scenes where our hero or heroine slumps to the ground, usually followed by the victorious baddie celebrating over the prostrate ex-barbarian with a spot of sampled sound.

Palace has made up for spawning a generation of bimbo marketed games by producing a worthy sequel to a good game.

Der Miet-Held kehrt zurück:

Barbarian 2: The Dungeon of Drax logo Amiga Joker Hit

Lange genug hat es ja gedauert, nun ist es endlich soweit: Na den 64er- und ST-Usern dürfen seit kurzem auch wir Amigianer zum fröhlichen Monsterschlachten antreten. Also Leute, holt schonmal die Axit aus dem Keller - der Nachfolger des Indizierten Palace-Hits bietet Hack & Slay in Reinkultur!

Die Hintergrundstory zu "Barbarian II" ist ebenso kurz wie abgedroschen: Ein fieser Magier namens Drax (Wohnhaft Dungeon Nr 7, unterste Etage links) schikaniert Land und Leute, weshalb unser wackerer Barbar angeheuert wird, um den Übeltäter einen Kopf kürzer zu machen (darin ist er ja bekanntlich Meister...!). Neu ist allerdings, daß der Spieler im Zuge der allgemeinen Gleichberechtigung nunmehr auch wahlweise als Frau Barbar auf Monsterhatz gehen darf. Blasen wir also zum Halali, die Jagdsaison ist eröffnet:

Im Gegensatz zum Vorgänger präsentiert sich "Barbarian II" als reinrassiges Arcade-Game, in dem es gilt, vier grafisch unterschiedliche Level mit über 50 verschiedenen Screens zu durchforsten, ehe man zum letzten Showdown antreten darf. In jedem dieser Level (von der öden Vulkanlandschaft über düstere Höhlen geht's in die finsteren Dungeons) tummelt sich eine Vielzahl phantasievoll gestalteter Monster, denen nur mit unterschiedlichen Kampftaktiken beizukommen ist. Aber keine Sorge: passionierte Fighter werden mit den reichhaltig vorhandenen Schlagvarianten und der präzisen Joystickabfrage ihr wahre Freude haben.

Neben all der Prügelei sollte man allerdings noch Zeit finden, einen Plan der einzelnen Level zu zeichnen, da es sonst passieren kann, daß man sich im Gewirr der Durchgänge verläuft (kleiner Tip: die Karte immer nach dem schwertförmigen Kompaß am unteren Bildschirmrand ausrichten, erleichtert die Orientierung ungemein!). Auch ist es ratsam jede Screen aufgesucht zu haben, da es pro Level zwei Gegenstände zu finden gibt, die zur Lösung des Games unerläßlich sind.

Was nun die technische Präsentation des Spiels betrifft, so gibt es daran wenig auszusetzen: sämtliche Hintergründe und besonders die Gegner sind liebevoll gezeichnet, der Sound ist abwechslungsreich und stimmungsvoll, und überall im Spiel wimmelt es von zusätzlichen optischen und akustischen Gags (alleine die Aufforderung zum Einlegen der Datendiskette ist schon fast den Kaufpreis wert...!). Die Statusanzeigen sind übersichtlich, wenn auch etwas karg. Einzig die beiden Helden-Sprites sind nicht jedermanns Sache (besonders die Barbaren-Lady agiert etwas undamenhaft), aber das ist eine Geschmacksfrage.

Fassen wir also zusammen: "Barbarian II" ist ein solides Actionspiel, das man Freunden des Genres uneingeschränkt empfehlen kann. Wer allerdings kein Blut sehen kann und nicht eine gehörige Portion schwarzen Humors mitbringt, sollte besser die Finger von dem Game lassen. Für alle anderen gilt: Beeilung Leute, den berüchtigten "Kopf-Hieb" gibt's immer noch, weshalb ich einen halben Monatsgehalt darauf verwette, daß die BPS schon in den Startlöchern hockt! (ml)

Barbarian 2: The Dungeon of Drax logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Palace Software
Price: £24.99

Since Palace's barbarian first heard the exhortation 'Prepare to die!', few games have been seen on any format so testing or so bloodthirsty. From its inception as a beat 'em up on the 64 through to an arcade adventure which combined combat with maze exploration, Palace have consistently improved upon their original idea. Barbarian II on the Amiga is no exception.

Amiga owners who complain bitterly about straight port overs from the ST will be placated somewhat by the extra effort that has gone into their version, or at least the impressive introductory sequence. Reminiscent of a really hot demo in its confidence and flourishes, a skeletal hand pierces a still on the barbarian and beckons "follow me". You are then given a verbal command to choose between the hirsute Neanderthal or the spriteliness of Maria. The, as you are told to insert disk two a skeleton appears laughing hysterically - presumably at your doom. It is extremely impressively handled.

The idea behind the sequel is to pursue Drax to his castle and stop him from doing any more damage. This takes you through three levels of action, before you manage to confront The Living Idol, a demon who, finally, is all that stands between you and Drax. The levels are split into three environments: you begin in the wastelands, with volcanoes on the horizon, lava streams and pits which have to be leapt across; this is followed by the caverns, dark and foreboding, these contain streams of slime and more bottomless pits; finally you have to make your way through the castle dungeons - pit jumping has to be timed to perfection here or a beastie is likely to pop out and munch you. Succeed this far and Drax awaits.

The layout of the maps is identical to the 64 version, but the location of the various magic objects you need to collect has changed. These are crucial to completing the game. Most important are items like keys which open the portcullis in the castle and the shield which guards against the demon's fire, and the jewel which disables the Living Idol which you must pass before you can get at Drax.

Barbarian II is essentially the same challenge it was on the 64. Hack your way past the gruesome array of creatures that pop up every few moments, jump and run carefully through the screens and locate the objects. The nature of the game has not developed any. That might disappoint the more demanding among you, but it is hard to criticise this conversion. The graphics are large and well drawn. There are plenty of neat effects to complement them as well - head chopping, mauling, and merciless clubbing - all accompanied by brilliant sampled noises. Sound is superb with numerous grunts and groans, a brilliant dropping cry as you disappear down a pit and beefy thwacks as you lay into the beasts. The manic clucking of the mutant chicken will be enough to send you running in the opposite direction eventually.

There is something undeniably 8 bit about Barbarian II. Its conception and gameplay are tried and tested, but that really does not put me off, it is too well executed. It is still a must for fans of decapitation everywhere.