A revolution on every disc

Freedom: Rebels in the Darkness logo

ONCE again French programmers have come up with something original, a game set in a flourishing slave colony in the 18th century - a plot which belies the inlay card picture of a negro breaking his chains while wearing a very 20th century pair of jeans, but that's another kettle of chromosomes...

Before you get started there is a blast from the past to deal with - a colour chart, one of the oldest and most effective anti-piracy devices for unprotected discs (a la Jet Set Willy, circa 1983).
You use the mouse to select the colours of two given squares from 3,684 possibilities. Make a mistake and the computer re-boots. The colours are displayed on screen in words, so there are no problems for those editors of Amiga magazines who happen to be colour blind.

There are thre levels of difficulty. You can be defiant, rebellious or fanatical, with varying degrees of skill at lock-cracking, fire-starting and thing-climbing. You can even make the game easier by weakening your opponents - two masters, three managers, three stewards, three foremen, a Catholic priest, a Jesuit priest and an animal doctor.

Once the opposition is suitably fixed, you spend your time rushing around talking to the four slave leaders, persuading all 204 slaves to join the revolt, getting rid of guard dogs, bending the ears of the witchdoctor and the medicine man, foiling the priests' plans to stop you, starting fires, breaking into buildings, finally reaching the road to freedom by killing one of the masters or burning down building and crops.

If the local militia is aroused, either by your tasks not being completed or the plantation bell rung, the revolt fails.

You normally see a large scale plan view of the compound. Pressing the mouse button magnifies the area you are in and allows you to crack locks, start fires, persuade slaves and so on.
The Pathfinder option pinpoints enemies nearby and allows you to pick fights with them. You can review your achievements or seek advice from a nearby sorcerer. If you are very, very lucky a mermaid will appear and make time slow down.

Fighting is standard beat-'em-up fare as seen many times before, although it is well done with good animation, including moving backgrounds and foregrounds.

Control is a little bit awkward if you're using a joystick - you need one hand on the stick and another to press the six keys which control the various thrusts and parries. One unusual variation is a fight against four guard dogs.

The garish graphics are superb. Sound is excellent, with some realistic effects, especially dogs barking and a suitably African percussion passage whenever a new section is loaded from disc. boom-dada boom-daga boom-dada...

Freedom: Rebels in the Darkness logo

IT is the 18th century, the price of sugar is high and the value of human life low. Subjected to constant trashings, the negro workforce grows increasingly restless. The time is right for rebellion. Are you the one to lead it?

Freedom is a game of strategy that is beautifully complemented by a series of well-programmed combat sequences. The usual title tune is replaced by some excellent Tarzan-like jungle drums - not only do they sound good, they create a superb atmosphere.

Freedom can be played at any of three levels - from defiant,through rebellious to fanatical. Your initial values for constitution, charisma, and dexterity are fixed unless you choose fanatical as the game level, in which case you can redistribute your total points allocation between three categories.

Decision number two is the selection of your own character - there are two male and two female slaves to choose from. Each has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, all detailed in the flimsy but fact packed manual.

Preliminaries completed, it is time to start your bid for freedom. A diagrammatic view of the plantation forms the main playing area for the game - colourful, detailed and animated.
A menu across the top of the screen displays the current game options. The two most frequent used are path finding and movement. Path finding allows you to place a cursor upon any of the plantation buildings and find out who is inside - a most useful feature when you want to know which places to visit and which to avoid.

Movement gives you control to move your character around the plantation - fraught with danger due to the plantation's large population of dogs. Encounters with dogs normally occur in three stages. Initially you are surprised by the animals, but they don't bark. Walk into the same pack of dogs for a second time and they will bark, on the third occasion you will be confronted by a character from a nearby hut.

Combat takes place against a stunning lakeside view - bullfrogs croak and splash while a huge lizard lazily flicks its tongue. Standard karate-type moves are executed to the accompaniment of sampled sound effects. A successful confrontation is followed by the choice of executing the victim or taking him prisoner.

Before you stand a chance of overthrowing the masters and destroying the plantation you must first mobilise your forces. This you do by creeping from hut to hut persuading your fellow slaves to follow you. Your success in the persuasion business is very much dependent upon your charisma level.

To succeed you must kill all the guard dogs and burn most of the fields and buildings. Alternatively you can try your hand at killing the master, although I wouldn't recommend it.

Freedom is an engrossing game and will keep even the most active of minds occupied through the long winter nights.