Seems like a lifetime

Day of the Pharaoh logo

TIMES change very quickly. Less than a year ago, if we had seen a game with digitised graphics and sound, we would have thought it darn hip. Now it seems that a game without digitised effects is out of the ordinary. By this argument, Day of the Pharoah is pretty mundane.

Basically, all is not well in Ancient Egypt, whose inhabitants could never fathom how ehty had earned the "Ancient" title. The old Pharaoh died many years ago, but all his heirs suddenly vanished, to be replaced by real bad 'uns faithful to Seth, the god of the desert who, incidentally, is no relation to Gateau, the god of the dessert.

You are but a young fellah - Egyptian for peasant, believe it or not - who, unbeknown to everyone, including yourself, is actually the son of the old king and rightful to the throne.

Amon-Re, sun god and sworn enemy of the evil Seth, grants you a ship and a fairly large sum of money in order that you should regain the throne that is rightfully yours. You can only do this by trading and general rat-racing. As luck would have it, Egypt is not a particularly stable place - there is nearly always good money for the right goods in the right place. Yup, it is like trading in Elite, except more complex and not so much fun. Also, Elite has not got the rather unconvincing digitised graphics and really, really irksome tunes that Pharaoh has. But there you go.

As you navigate your way around the waterways always look the same. It is a case of Dodge the Rocks in the most mediocre fashion. Sometimes, if you are really lucky, your ship is set upon by Phoenician pirates, which you must beat off with a paddle. This bit is like some deranged Game & Watch because there is virtually no animation and the digitised Eeks! and Wahs! Of the pirates are hilarious.

Once in port you can gamble at the camel races. Rather than being a competition to see who can smoke an acrid ciggy the quickest, this is a standard Daley Thompson type effort. It is also deathly dull.

For a bit more excitement, you can declare war on the peasants, who are revolting in both senses. For a little more rapid social advancement you could always take yourself a wife from the gentry, but do not expect the dowry to be small. In this department your otherwise shrewd and cripplingly expensive business advisors are not of any use.

This is a complex game, one that will take a long time to get very far. Unfortunately, the initial stages are so stunningly ennui inducing that it would be a truly Herculean (sorry - don't know any Egyptian heroes) task, maybe even requiring the patience of Job as well, to get anywhere useful.

Even though there was a valiant struggle, this reviewer succumbed to the background boredom. Maybe if you were a chronic insomniac who enjoyed a long term challenge, did not mind rather badly edited digitised sound and graphics with a dash of ropey translation to boot, and who also had two drives to make the gameplay less awful, you might be able to put up with this game.

But as I am not, and I do not think you are either, wild horses could not get me to recommend it to you, to end rather neatly on a badly mixed metaphor.

Day of the Pharaoh logo

Das Handelsspiel von Rainbow Arts ist der legitime Nachfolger des erfolgreichen "Jeanne d'Arc", was allen Eingeweihten das Herz schon etwas höher schlagen lässt: Diesmal wurde die Uhr noch weiter zurückgedreht, und der Ort der Handlung in weite Ferne verlegt, genauer gesagt nach Ägypten.

Von Kleopatra hat noch keiner was gehört, und auch der römische Geier Julius Cäsar ist erst en paar Jahrtausende später dran - genau der richtige Zeitpunkt also, um das Ruder der Macht an sich zu Reißen! Bis dahin ist es allerdings ein langer und mühseliger Weg.

Angelehnt an das biblische Kapitel Moses, wächst du, totgeglaubter Abkömmling des letzten Pharaos, als Ziehsohn armer Fellachen am Ufer des Nils heran. Wohlgesonnene Götter spendieren dir ein Schiff und 3000 Silberlinge, sowie den Auftrag, dich in der ägyptischen Gesellschaft hervorzutun. Daß es hier um eine antike Handelssimulation geht, dürfte damit schon klargeworden sein.

Es gilt, göttlich gesegnete Güter einzukaufen und anderswo mit Gewinn wieder abzustoßen. Dazu wird mit der Maus das Ziel auf der Karte festgelegt, und schon kann man Segel setzen...

Die Reise auf dem Nil erweist sich jedoch als nicht ganz einfach, weil du selbst ans Ruder mußt - aber mit ein bißhen Übung lassen sich auch diese Klippen umschiffen. Durch fleißiges Handeln arbeitet man sich zäh nach oben, und der Geldsäckel wird schwerer und schwerer - langsam ist es Zeit, die passende Frau zu finden!

Ein Mausklick auf "Harem", und eine repräsentative Auswahl an nubischen Schönheiten bietet sich den Augen des hoffnungsvollen Bewerbers dar. Die Ernüchterung kommt mit dem nächsten Bild: Da listet nämlich der Vater der ausgesuchten Schönen in wunderbarer Ausführlichkeit auf, was er sich alles an Brautgeschenken für seine Tochter vorgestellt hat.

So mancher heiratswillige Möchtegern-Pharao schreckt da doch wieder zurück und entschließt sich, vor dem entscheidenden Schritt in die Ehe erst noch mal in den Krieg zu ziehen - gegen die Beduinen, beispielsweise. Wer aus solch einer Schlacht als Sieger hervorgehen will, muß nun nicht extra antike Kampfformen studiert haben: Jeder, der schon mal "Feindliche Indianer überfallen eine Postkutsche" gespielt hat, wird sich hier auf Anhieb zurechtfinden.

Auch sonst ist für Abwechslung reichlich gesorgt: Man kann Pyramiden bauen, an Kamelrennen teilnehmen oder seine Schiffsladung verwetten. Da die Programmierer mit hübschen Actionsequenzen (wie z.B. der Flußfahrt oder dem Kampf auf dem Streitwagen) nicht gegeizt haben, kann Langeweile hier so schnell nicht aufkommen - obwohl es schon ein Weilchen dauert, bis man endlich am Ziel seiner Träume ist und den Titel des Pharao trägt.

Da auch Grafik und Sound einen hohen Standard erreichen (was ja gerade bei Handelsspielen nicht oft der Fall ist), ist Day of the Pharaoh ein rundum gelungenes Game, an dem Fans des Genres sich lange ihre Freude haben! (wh)

Day of the Pharaoh logo

Rainbow Arts
Price: £24.99

No, you do not have to play the part of a mummy. Actually, you are a high ranking Pharaoh. The game is set sometime between 2300bc and 250bc and it is the governor's task to rule his province and win favour in the eyes of the gods.

DOTP starts with a suitably digitised Egyptian still, sampled music and a choice of Pharaoh. Before you enter the eye of Horus, your Pharaoh needs a province to rule over. Choose from a variety of locations whose names sound like diseases you would not tell the vicar you had. Select your ship and you are on the way to true Pharaohdom.

On the main action screen you get a number of different options. The top section of the screen concentrates on trade and equipment building. Increase your fleet of ships, or your number of war chariots. Go boating up the Nile, check your supplies and trade. All of this is essential.

By using the options on the lower half of the screen you can have fun playing the tyrant. First off you have the war command. You can send one of your horse drawn war chariots to brutalise a neighbouring tribe. This takes place in an arcade sequence with you controlling the speed of the chariot and the archer. Pressing the fire button releases an arrow which, hopefully, should leave a nasty hole in someone's head. While they are firing, you have to speed up or slow down to avoid the enemies' shots. A direct hit results in your chariot driver being hurled to the ground with what looks like a rather nasty chest wound. On the other hand if you survive to the end of the section you become top dog over that tribe - until trouble starts up again.

Choose a god which appeals to you. In my case it was Hather, God of Music and Happiness. You can build a temple to a god, or sacrifice the odd peasant or two. If you think it is necessary you can also build a temple for yourself (with the aid of a few thousand slaves).

As the game progresses your prestige increases as does your power and influence over your people and neighbouring tribesmen. Boost your powers until, finally, you are accepted by the gods themselves. A tall order indeed.

DOTP is one of those games that requires at least several hours per sitting. It is deep, absorbing and fun to play. The graphics are excellent, the sound is sparse but what is there is sampled and adds nicely to the atmosphere. A good game in the increasingly popular field of interactive strategy. A must for fans of this style of game.

Day of the Pharaoh logo

Rainbow Arts/ST, Amiga & PC/£24.99

Amiga reviewSean: Now forgive me if I'm wrong, but the scenario for Pharaoh is probably the first to ever borrow a story from The Bible. Try and guess where this story was blagged from - Seth, King of the Desert and God of Evil, is planning a coup d'état, and so when the Pharaoh pops his papyrus, he decides to top all the possible ascendants to the throne by drowning them. Fortunately, a good God decides to save one sprog from drowning, and takes him to the Egyptians who dwell on the bank of the Nile, where the young prince is brought up as a peasant... well here's a clue - it's not the story of Noah.

Anyway, the sprog who has been saved, by some amazing coincidence, is you. You are granted a bit of cash and a boat, and given the task of rising through the social ranks until you've proved yourself worthy of the Pharaoh's throne. You do this by travelling up and down the Nile, trading at the various towns on the riverbank, and by using your cash to build monuments to various gods and, of course, yourself.

I'm having trouble thinking of anyone who might enjoy this arcade strategy trading game more than any other, it's simplistic, rudimentary, and boring, to say the least. Indeed, as any Egyptian trader will tell you, a life based solely on trading is fairly boring, and he'd pack in his job and become a pyramid designer if it weren't for the arcade sections. Ah, yes, what's the point in bringing out a trading game if it isn't spiced up with pretty graphics and hasn't the odd arcade section thrown in? Unfortunately, that's what they are. Odd and thrown in.

There are three major arcade - and I use the word very loosely - sections in Pharaoh. One is a daft affair where you attempt to stop people boarding your ship by giving them a quick slap across the head with a paddle. Another involves throwing arrows at attacking (stationary) enemies while you pootle along on your chariot. There's also a section in which you guide your ship through rocky waters by moving the joystick left and right.

All are lacking totally when it comes to gameplay and fun, and a simple joystick error can end two hours worth of empire building on two of these sections.
'Frustrated' does not accurately describe the seething mass I turned into, whenever this happened.

In addition to boring gameplay on all fronts, Day of the Pharaoh wins my vote for this year's prize as the most unfriendly disk juggler. Sometimes you even have to swap disks to learn you've been killed. It's a pity that what could have been a fine game has been ruined by sloppy design and a lack of thought.