Golden Path logo

Golden Path
Price: £19.95

Beautiful graphics may be no guarantee of an excellent game, but they do help, and Firebird's Golden Path has wonderfully detailed and atmospheric pictures aplenty. Despite the game being an ST conversion, taking place over these 40 beautifully illustrated screens, and there being no text input required at all, it plays more or less as a straight adventure, rather than as an arcade game.

You play Y'In Hsi, rightful heir to the land. Before you can become the emperor, however, you must traverse the golden path, in order to achieve true enlightenment. In your travels, you find objects, and meet characters with whom you must interact, help, or fight. Solve all the 50 puzzles concerning what to do with each character and object, and you get to light the sacred incense and take up your imperial duties.

Collecting and using the objects is controlled in icon fashion - a series of boxes at the bottom of the screen show what you have collected so far, depicts the Book of Knowledge, which describes each location as you visit it, and shows your current strength, indicated by a flowering vine, which is rejuvenated whenever you eat or successfully solve a puzzle. Let the vine wither and you die a premature death.

Playing the game is largely a matter of noting where objects are, exploring (it is all mappable) and working out how to use what you have collected. Hence the similarity to a conventional adventure. Y'in Hsi is also capable of a few basic martial arts moves to ward off immediately hostile characters, but this takes up a lot of strength and makes the flowering vine wilt at a remarkable rate.

Beware, too, of hanging around for too long in any one location, or the improbably named Hoppy the Goblin appears and bites your ankles, which does not do too much for your strength either.

The puzzles vary from tricky but straightforward to very easy - if you have got a dragon with a thorn in his foot and a pair of tweezers lying around just a couple of locations away, it is not too hard to work out your next move. And your ability to progress is often determined by which puzzles you have already solved.

The gameplay, then, is very simple: a pictorial adventure game, and a program that will appeal far more to orthodox adventure fans than anyone else. However, it is an adventure dressed up in very fine clothes indeed. The mouse control and use of icons, once you have got the hang of it, mean that you can speedily move and manipulate Y'in Hsi and the objects in his pockets. The continual soundtrack is a classy oriental-style series of tunes with plenty of variation.

And the graphic backdrops are truly superb; lovely detailed scenes of budding mimosa bushes, ornate pagodas, animated flickering firelight, typically oriental looking landscapes. It all goes to make Golden Path probably the prettiest Amiga game yet. I have just one gripe on the graphic front - why did Firebird put the text location descriptions in dark blue on a black background?

Golden Path logo

Firebird, £19.95 disk, mouse only

Long ago, even before the Great Wall was built, China was ruled by its greatest emperor, Y'in Hsi - the Golden Emperor. Under his reign, China grew prosperous and many tales were told of him, but as time passed all were lost, with the exception of one: a single tome, entitled 'The Golden Path'. This tale tells of how Y'in Hsi was taken into the care of Buddhist monks at the age of two, when his home province was invaded by a neighbouring warlord, who pillaged the land and killed the boy's father in the process.

On Y'in Hsi's 16th birthday the chief monk tells him of a quest he must complete before fully joining the brotherhood of monks, who have become his guardians and mentors. After revealing the story of his father's death, he gives the boy a scroll, written by his father, together with his ring. Y'in Hsi wears the ring and immediately takes on what would have been the aged countenance of his father had he still been alive. The only way to free himself of the enchantment is to take on the quest for Enlightenment, and free the enslaved populace of his rightful kingdom.

Golden Path is an arcade adventure which follows Y'in Hsi on his quest through 37 locations, occupied by 20 characters, 40 'life' situations and 50 puzzles.

The game screen is split into four sections which are controlled using a mouse-operated cursor. A large action display dominates the main screen and shows the current location, allowing the characters and objects within it to be manipulated. A 'book of knowledge' icon in the bottom left of the screen gives a verbal description of the location, plus any developments made due to the player's actions.

Y'in Hsi can carry four objects, illustrated by a four 'pocket' inventory display situated at the bottom of the screen. To its right there's a reduced picture of the current location, with a trail of red or yellow 'incense' dots showing the route of the Golden Path leading to the exits for that location.

The player directs Y'in Hsi's path by moving the cursor appropriately and pressing the mouse button. Y'in can also be made to pick up, drop or use objects as well as being able to defend himself from robbers and goblins by kicking or punching.

Y'in Hsi only has limited energy for combat, and his life-force is represented by a vine which grows or withers across the middle of the screen. Making progress by solving a puzzle, for instance, makes the vine flourish, but being injured causes it to wither. When the vine is gone Y'in Hsi dies, signalling the end of the quest.

To aid completion of the game, the program supports a game load/save option as well as the ability to restart a game from the last position, but at an increased difficulty level.

Gordon Houghton Golden Path combines excellent presentation with gorgeous graphics to produce an arcade adventure which, if not original, contains enough puzzling action to prove compelling. The large accompanying novella is as useful as it's entertaining and provides an atmospheric and functional background to the scenario. Moreover, with every death there's a comprehensive report which proves as helpful. The details are very impressive: clue scrolls, characters who change form, the vine life-gauge, the inset copy of the playing area with routes detailed: plainly the imagination that went into the creation of the game has paid off. The Oriental soundtrack is subtle enough to be atmospheric, and many of the vocal effects are impressive. All the backdrops are beautiful: varied, very detaild and extremely colourful, and some locations are outstanding: the animation on the waterfall and several of the interiors, for example. The monk and most of the accompanying figures match this standard. Even though there are only 37 locations, there are a host of characters and objects with puzzles to solve. The action just fails to match the presentation, but doesn't detract from the package as a whole. Take a look.
Paul Glancey The trouble with many arcade adventures is that they're little more than vehicles for trite arcade action with a token puzzle or two thrown in to compensate for lack of depth. After all, if you were playing an adventure game you wouldn't expect to be beating someone up or gunning people down every few seconds would you? Golden Path is definitely biased more towards adventuring than fighting though, with the mouse-controlled action being more of an extension of an adventure's 'Attack' command. Although the puzzles and sub-plots seem gauged to appeal to as wide a range of gamers as possible (that is, they're moderately easy to understand), things never become as linear as some poor adventures in which the player is led from one scenario to the next, not through their own choosing but through the author's lack of though in giving sufficient options. Even though there are only a few commands at the player's disposal, Golden Path never has the player stymied for want of a suitable action. Pretty graphics, appealing music and some fun sound effects are just the icing on a very palatable cake.
Steve Jarratt As should be expected from the Amiga, the static graphics of Golden Path are very good indeed. There are a couple of exceptions which tend toward the gaudy side, but on the whole a pleasant and subtle oriental atmosphere is generated. The accompanying figures are also well drawn but, apart from Y'in Hsi himself, suffer slightly from limited animation. I personally found the soundtrack awful: the pseudo-Chinese wailing were ill-suited to the gently rural backdrops and just made me reach for the volume control. Mouse control is surprisingly effective, and most commands and actions are accessed with relative easy making prolonged play quite comfortable. Indeed, the play itself is quite engrossing: there: plenty to see and do, and the puzzles are quite easy to solve. A weak link in the game is combat, which is rather simplistic, but thankfully is required only occasionally. A pleasant and not-too-taxing adventure, which should have quite a large appeal.