Everybody wants to ruin the world...

Populous 2: Trials of the Olympian Gods logo Gamer Gold

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Gods. They're absolutely bonkers, aren't they? Just look at the wombat. Completely bonkers animal. How are you supposed to take the whole theological argument seriously when the deities in question are obviously a few Harry Secombes short of a Welsh male voice choir?

And I know why the gods are crazy. Yes. I know the reason for all the world's problems. Famines, floods, volcanoes, Top of the Pops, earthquakes. I know why they all happen. It's because - and steady yourselves for a fairly cosmic revelation - we are all little Populous people. Think about it. It all starts to make perfect sense, doesn't it? We're all under control of some huge pan-dimensional being who's busily trying to finish some huge, pan-dimensional game of Populous. Our entire existences are just figments of a gigantic inter-spatial Amiga. Weird or what? Well, it made sense at the time. I suppose you have to get drunk first.

Anyway, that's enough philosophy and theology for one review. Let's take a look at the steaming pot of noodles that is Populous II.
Where to begin? That's the question isn't it? How can a mere mortal even begin to explain the mind-boggingly divine entity that was, and is, Populous? It was, of course, the game that launched a million imitators. Well, one or two at least. And to be fair, they made the original Populous look a bit worn around the fringes and tassly bits.

So, not being ones to suffer such abuse lightly, Bullfrog have taken off the gloves and prepared to kick some serious rump with Populous II. And believe me, there's some distressingly bruised rumps out there tonight.

Populous II takes the basic idea of the first and builds on it to make it a much more involved and detailed game that its predecessor. The main criticism of the original is that all you seemed to do was flatten land and occasionally make a mess of your opponent's settlements with the odd disaster. And with hindsight, it was true. The game might have introduced a whole new genre, but after a few hundred levels it got flamin' boring as well.

To combat this niggle, Bulffrog have made everything in Poppie II much bigger and better than ever before. There's more disasters, with more emphasis on destruction and all round nastiness. The little Poppie people are more varied ,as are the buildings, the scenery and, er, the crisp flavours.

'Tis not only the graphics that have been made firmer and more robust, the sounds has been beefed right up as well with plenty of crackling fires, howling winds and screaming little Poppie people. All doing wonders for your ego and giving you a dangerous messiah complex. The power, the power. He he he he he he he. Die, little people, die. He he he he he he . Ahem.

And as if by magic, the gameplay has been polished, spruced up and had all the nobbly bits chipped off it. It's now been shifted to Ancient Greece, where all the gods were completely off their trees, and each god has unique specialities and playing techniques. And to keep it from repetition that flawed the first game, there's more to do now than ever before.

The new disasters are really violent and much more satisfying than the old ones. The earthquake for instance, sends huge cracks thundering across the land, swallowing up all and sundry. The whirlwind, er, whirls about and scoops up any bods in the way, dumping them miles from home, or, if you're really lucky, in the sea. And if the whirlwind goes over the sea, it creates loads of whirlpools which wander the oceans and destroy any land in their path.

Fire disasters will burn any building or person they touch, and leave behind a charred wasteland that can't be built on unless you level it out again. Blimey. That's just a small number of disasters at your fingertips, but they're almost all infeasibly wonderful.

It's not all warmongering and strife, though. There are icons to do nice things as well, such as planting trees and flowers in your settlements to make life nicer for your people, or building roads for them. There's even an icon that creates little pools, and when a Poppie person falls into one they switch sides, from red to blue or vice versa. These can reek havoc in the enemy's settlements, but then of course your new found worshippers can fall back into the pool and revert to the way they were. Careful planning is required to make best use of them.

Strategy wise, for each world you conquer, you'll get some experience points from Zeus (top Greek god bloke) depending on just how skilfully you managed your god-like powers. These can then be used to build up your prowess in one of the six elements.

For instance, if you build up your prowess in the fire element then you'll be much better at using fire disasters, and so on. Each time you upgrade your powers, you' ll be given a password that will restore them to your new level, when you restart the game. This password coupled with the password for each world means that you can start the game exactly how and where you left off. A save game feature would have been a lot less hassle, but then Bullfrog always have moved in mysterious ways.

So the big question is "Is it a worthy sequel?", and the answer is "Yes", in a booming voice. It's tons more playable than the original and, in my humble opinion, more playable than all the pretenders to its throne. The new disasters are sexy beyond belief, and the 1,000 levels mean that there's no chance of it being a "one weekend to finish" affair. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that this is, ooh, it's, blimey, it's ooh I've gone all light-headed just thinking about it. Wibble. Rush out, buy it and see it for yourselves, OK? I'm going to lie down in a dark room for a bit.

Populous 2: Trials of the Olympian Gods logo Amiga Format Gold

Bullfrog topped the Christmas chart with Powermonger. How can they top that? Easy...

Religion has caused more wars than anything else in human history, so nobody should notice a few more. This is what Populous 2 does best, set up two opposing deities and let them sort out who's boss. The sequel is couched in Greek myth and legend and picks up from where the mighty Populous left off. But is it just the same game with whistles and bells or have Bullfrog performed another coding miracle?

Version 2 is a power trip. The power of life and death, the ability to bring down a rain of fire, the power to send tidal waves crashing across cities are all yours to command. With these powers you must conquer the world. Currently, it is a land of heathen folk who prey the graven images of your Olympian competitors, but adept displays of your abilities will start the populace worshipping you.

The people live below, on a series of scattered islands which must be conquered one-by-one. The initial battles are fought with a few lowly powers against a sluggish, stupid foe. Conquer them and you move up the god league ladder, to take on more capable deities using increasingly pokey powers.

Battle Isles
Gods need followers to flourish. At the start of each island battle, a few already worship you - some folk will believe anything! - and a few pray to your foe. It is from the devotions of your followers that your power stems. Promote their existence while inhibiting those pledged to your foe and your powers increase as the population grows. The prayers your people offer up is measured as 'mana' and this is what gives gods clout.

For each island you will receive a set of powers with which to protect, promote and punish the population. Each power costs mana to use, and the pokier the effect the more prayer power it costs. Working on a direct debit system, your mana level automatically displays and deducts the cost of each power. This symbiotic relationship of god-to-people and power-to-mana, dictates your actions throughout the game.

The range of powers depends on the island. Gods always have the power to raise and lower land, to summon followers to their 'Papal Magnet' and to invoke Armageddon. On offer are 27 other effects and it is these which make Populous 2 a classic spectator sport. Swamps that suck foes to their doom can be placed in cities, hurricanes blow buildings into the sea, whirlpools erode their land and fire-storms can raise entire forests. These all cost major mana, but their judicious use is both amusing and effective. The downside of this is that the opponent god is also gathering mana and anything you can do he can do - better? Gods that spend their time gloating can have smiles wiped in seconds when they realise that while they flooded the enemy town their own one was being turned into ash. Play against the computer and you're assured a major fight, play down the wire against a friend and it's venom spitting time!

The populace of Populous are a hardly and obedient breed - which is just as well. If you clear land and slap them in 'Settle mode' they instantly build houses. Clear more space and their shack becomes a hall, and then a mansion, which becomes a castle. And the better their living conditions the more praise - mana - they offer up. Better housing offers them greater protection though, so they tend to be a homely bunch, and have to be forcefully clicked from their house to go to war or visit the Papal Magnet.

Leaders are important to these people too. You can create one by hitting 'Go to Papal Magnet Mode' and the first man or woman there becomes your leader. People who follow them there are then absorbed into the leader, making them more efficient. This leader adds to the tribe's sense of security and can become a potent weapon in the Populous armoury. Leaders can become knights who seek the nearest enemy in an attempt to slay unbelievers. Both dogmatic and stupid they often need land raised from the sea to reach their foes, but the mana investment is worth it when you see the carnage they cause.

So where's the catch? What's the downside? Well, there isn't one. It's a sequel, but in the best sense.

Battle Command
Each island war opens with the small population scattered about the map and with the worship ratio 50:50 between gods. Neither god has much mana and all you can do is move your Papal Magnet or begin reforming land. Dragging the magnet about is good for morale but levelling the land starts the settlers settling.
Soon the mana begins to build up and the map metamorphoses as both gods crazily create lebensraum.

The gameplay shifts modes when the mana balance builds up. War erupts suddenly and thunder clouds appear above towns threatening lightning, columns of fire wreck key buildings and conversion pools suddenly start changing the peoples' allegiance. The once small island, swiftly changes complexion as tidal waves destroy entire cities and causeways are created to allow armies to cross. The battle rages until one god has the upper hand and then it's Armageddon time - when both sides populations become knights and the ownership of the islands is decided in one final fight.

Victorious deities are rewarded with awards which can be spent to customise their powers. Any of the six power types can be invested in, or the awards can be scattered around them all and only time will tell if you made the right choices for your style of play.

The new skills will be needed though, because your score on the last island determines where you'll fight next. There are over 1,000 islands in total but fast learning gods can leap frog through early levels, advancing until they find their own degree of difficulty.

The more advanced powers are offered slowly, and only given en masse on the later islands, providing the incentive (as if any were needed) for the long-term play. A good 'saved game' god will be needed if you want to use volcanoes or hurricanes on the field of battle.
Populous plays fast and loose. It has an absorbing edge that draws you into the world you control. Your divine rod is the mouse and the cursor soon flies around the screen, dictating the outcome of this deity showdown.

Beautifully crafted graphics combine with the overriding design principal of playability. Helpful information inconspicuously fills the screen, ready to read with just an eye flick away. There's power here and it's as easy to use, as it is to let it go straight to your head.

The power of Populous is not just cerebral however. The speed of the play goes unnoticed, but the fast moving map and crisp mouse responses allow real high-paced action. Once embroiled in a battle you find yourself unconsciously drawn closer to the monitor in a bid to absorb all the information the screen has to offer. Start playing and the games only seem to last for few minutes, but look at your watch and hours have passed. Strangely, sacrificing evening and weekends somehow seems worth it when you reach giddy new god heights.

Populous 2 hits the imagination where it hurts, every action is seen and can be believed. The deity drama is fully acted out with small bright sprites fighting, burning, building and drowning. They may only be tiny pixel people, but the precise artwork helps bring the abstract god concept home. You do have the power to change the map. You do have the power of life and death.

Populous 1 set the world alight with its sheer originality. This should have handicapped Populous 2 because god games are now commonplace, but it is strangely liberated by it. Now the genre is established it doesn't have to labour to get the concept across, so Populous 2 is free to explore the possibilities of the game form.Populous 2 is not a rerun, quick copy or a cop out. It encompasses grand game ideas and presents them in a way that encourages players to explore the realms of their Amiga's given powers. You don't have to have been an aficionado of the first game to play, the principals can be learned in minutes, but players of Populous 2 will feel they've found the promised land.

You are given tools and a challenge and you have to supply the solutions, but every player will have their own. The game creates an environment and offers you powers to affect it. The problems are proffered in the design of each map and the effects allotted for it, but the outcome depends on the strategies you conjure up in the heat of battle. 30 effects would be enough for any mere mortal of a game, but Populous 2 is a god game and escapes such frailties.

All the powers that can flash forth from the cursor have hidden depths. The tornadoes that you use to whisk the other gods' worshippers away have positive uses too. If there's a city wall that your troops cannot breach, then judicious use of a whirlwind can waft them over it and into battle.

Trees planted to please the population can become a deadly fire-trap if a forest fire spreads, fatal for any troops wandering through. Tornadoes that wander over water start land-eating whirlpools. These simpler tricks soon become obvious, but off the wall, hatstand combinations often yield unexpected benefits. Their discovery lies in an understanding of each power and the ability to prise yourself from the present situation and look the facts in a cold gameplay light.

So where's the catch? What's the downside? Well, there isn't really one. A few minor niggles could be labelled as 'faults' but only for pedantic reasons. The heavy weight of animation sometimes strains the Amiga so it slows slightly, but then so much is happening that your brain's reeling too. The real pain with it is that any free time is swiftly swallowed in play. You may not mind, but family and friends will be seeing an awful lot less of you once you boards this godly roller coaster ride to ultimate power.

Populous 2 is a sequel, but in the best sense. It takes an all-time classic and reshapes its essential elements into something new. The concept remains the same, with an almighty being able to change the world at the push of a button. But, the development and changes radically transform the game. In comparison Populous was a puzzle game, where each island had a solution and finding it was the challenge. Populous 2 is a game that poses a problem but expects no specific solution. The difference is subtle but vital. With the inclusion of more powers and a radically streamlined display that looks less cluttered, Populous 2 comes from the rich gameplay family of Populous and Powermonger, but is the wealthiest of them all.

Populous 2 stands a top of the games Olympus. It has everything a game should offer: it's fast to play but provides a long-term challenge; it balances control speed with tactical depth in a way that hitherto looked impossible; while excellent effects and swift moving graphics ensure that Populous 2 looks as good as it plays.

If you thought that your Amiga ran on mains power you're wrong. It was built to consume mana, vast amounts of it. Plug into the Populous 2 circuit and feel these god-like abilities flow through the mouse and onto the screen. Bullfrog invented the god game as we know it and have brought the full force of their skills to beat in the sequel. Kiss your weekends goodbye, the game of the year is here!

Mana is the source of gods' powers. The amount of praise on offer limits a god's power. The more mana available the more pokey powers you get. These powers are:
Populous 2: Man-powers 1. Raise/lower land.
2. Move Papal icon.
3. Create knight.
4. Plague!
5. Armageddon.
Populous 2: Earth-powers 1. Build road.
2. Build City wall.
3. Earthquake.
4. Lay barren rock.
5. Make earth here.
Populous 2: Man-powers 1. Grow trees.
2. Verdant.
3. Create swamp.
4. Creeping fungus.
5. Make nature here.
Populous 2: Nature-powers 1. Lightning bolt.
2. Whirlwind.
3. Lightning storm.
4. Create here.
5. Hurricane.
Populous 2: Fire-powers 1. Column of fire.
2. Rain of fire.
3. Make fire hero.
4. Raise a volcano.
Populous 2: Water-powers 1. Lay basalt rocks.
2. Start whirlpool.
3. Conversion pools.
4. Aphrodite.
5. Tidal wave.

Populous 2: Trials of the Olympian Gods logo Amiga Joker Hit

Wenn Götter mal 'ne Pause machen, dann aber gründlich - endlose drei Jahre hat Bullfrog die "Populanten" auf den heiß ersehnten Nachfolger warten lassen. Vergeben und vergessen, jetzt machen wir uns die Erde wieder Untertan!

Diesmal geht's zurück ins alter Griechenland, wo wir uns als Sohn von Götterpapi Zeus betätigen. Die Aufgabenstellung ist denn auch eines Gottes würdig: Runde 1.000 Digi-Welten umfaßt das Herrschaftsgebiet, doppelt soviel wie beim Vorgänger! Wer hat da gerade "Bäh, spätestens nach den ersten zwei-, dreihundert wird's langweilig" gesagt? Das wäre nämlich glatt gelogen, haben die "Ochsenfrösche" doch das Gamedesign kräftig umgekrempelt - neue Strategien braucht der Olymp!

Zwar gibt es immer noch die beiden Spielmodi "Conquest" und "Custom", genau wie die vier verschiedenen Landschaftstypen (Wüste, Eis usw.) doch sind jetzt einige hoch interessante Features hinzugekommen; Einmal darf man zu Beginn an der eigenen Identität stricken, dann hängt das Katastrophen-Gewerbe jetzt nicht mehr allein vom Mana-Vorrat ab - erfolgreiche Götter erhalten Erfahrungspunkte, die sich gezielt zur Ausbildung einzelner Fähigkeiten einsetzen lassen. Die Zahl der möglichen "Betriebsunfälle" wurde nämlich drastisch erhöht, das Spektrum reicht nun von Windböen über Wirbelwinde und Feuerregen bis hin zu tödlichen Seuchen und Flutwellen (die guten alten Erdbeben und Vulkanausbrüche gibt's freilich noch immer). Um das eigene Volk vor Ungemach zu schützen, können jetzt auch Wälle errichtet werden, wer zudem fleißig Straßen baut, ist dem Feind vielleicht einem Schritt voraus.

Dazu kommen allerlei Verbesserungen im Detail, etwa daß nun Bauwerke nicht mehr abgerissen werden müssen, um an neue Kolonisten zu kommen, oder daß in machen Welten gegnerische Siedlungen nicht mehr angezeigt werden, was die Götterdämmerung deutlich anspruchsvoller macht. Auch die Ritter haben nun ausgedient, dank sechs sehr unterschiedlicher Helden (Achilles, Herakles, etc.) wird hier wesentlich differenzierter gekämpft. Ihr seht also, die Zeiten, da ein Gott nicht viel mehr zu tun hatte, als ein bißchen (Bau-) Land einzuebnen, sind endgültig Geschichte! Ach ja, selbstverfreilich dürfen auch wieder zwei menschliche Götter gegeneinander antreten...

Trotz der vielen neuen Features und Handlungsmöglichkeiten ist die Bedienung sogar einfacher geworden, da nun nicht mehr so viele Icons gleichzeitig am Screen sind. Die gesamte (Maus-) Steuerung ist wunderbar logisch, die Handhabung der Übersichtskarte fast schon genial. Der Sound und vor allem die Grafik haben ebenfalls zugelegt, alles ist super animiert (es laufen jetzt Männlein und Weiblein herum), die Gebäude sind im Stil der griechischen Antike gehalten, das Scrolling ist blitzsauber wie eh und je - einfach ein optischer Genuß. Ach was, Populous 2 ist rundum ein Genuß, ein göttlicher Geniestreich, der die Strategie-Konkurrenz reichlich irdisch aussehen läßt! (mm)

Populous 2: Trials of the Olympian Gods logo

There are good games, there are bad games, and there's Populous II. Years in the making, sequel to you-know-what it's obviously 'good' - how good's the real question...

It's hard to know quite how to approach a game like Populous II. It is, after all, the sequel to arguably the most celebrated and original Amiga game ever., and lots of you will know exactly what it's all about, have a fair idea how it works, and really just want to know out of a review is if it's any good or not. To impatient Populous fans with thirty quid burning a hole in their pockets then: yes, it's excellent, go out and buy it now.

For the rest of us, however - especially those who've not had their Amigas more than a year or so - some explanation is in order. Populous II - like its parent - is one of those games that sounds incredibly complicated when you try to explain it, but is (a few of the more sophisticated subtleties aside) remarkably easy to play. It is, in essence, an extremely action packed and varied strategy game, but one with a twist - instead of playing some earthbound general, stuck up on a mountain top somewhere directing the flow of battle, you play god.

This isn't God mind you, but merely a god - ancient Greek this time (in the first Populous the time and religion were unspecific) - with one clear mission in mind, to make his people the dominant race on the map. In each world scenario - and there are a thousand in the game - the randomly computer generated map places two settlements on the landscape: blue guys (that's your lot!) and red ones (boo!) who worship one of a series of rival deity's. The game evolves as a battle of wits between yourself and the rival god, the people on the map below mere pawns in your conflicting schemes of things.

Being gods there are, of course, hundreds of god-like things each of you can do to try and destroy the other's people - thrown thunderstorms at them, or whirlwinds, or tidal waves - but equally important is building up the strength of your own worshipers. The most important basic way of doing that is to give them enough flat land to expand onto - settlements can only grow on plains - which you do by raising and lowering the ground around them.

It really is as easily said as done - select an area of land with the mouse cursor and one button lowers it, the other raises it, in no time at all creating a nice flat plain. Already you'll see new settlements crop up and existing ones expand as your little computer people get to the business of (ahem) breeding - each time a house gets full up (shown by the height of the blue flag outside) a person leaves and starts a new one, though you can speed things up by clicking on the roots of houses to get people to leave before they're totally full. In no time at all you'll get quite a nifty city building up, at which point it might be worth popping over to the other side of the map to see how your opponent's doing - happily, the computer god you're put up against in the early games is crap at creating flat land, so you should be able to beat him on sheer weight of numbers alone.

For once £30 for a game doesn't seem a bit steep but an unbelievable bargain

Still, let's assume this is a half-way decent god we're up against. Over there the situation will probably be quite similar to your own - a number of settlements building up, his numbers increasing and so on. (You can check out how well the two of you are doing by looking at the people in the stadium on the top right of your screen). Time to do some damage, quite clearly - it's in the myriad ways that you can wreak destruction on your opponent's people that much of Populous II's appeal comes. As a beginner god you're fairly limited in the number and power of disasters you can control - abilities build up as you defeat more and more opponents, each rival god grudgingly allowing you a smidgen of experience as reward for having beaten him - but there's still a fair range available, and a lot you can do with each one.

Take the column of fire, for instance - you can set one of these going in the middle of the enemy's town, and watch as it burns up any houses or little people foolish enough to get in its way.
Unfortunately, columns of fire are fairly unpredictable - you can't decide with any accuracy exactly where it's going to ignite, or what direction it'll move in once you've got it going - and there is an easy defense against them. IF the defending god sets up a mountain nearby, the fire will head towards it (it's drawn towards high land) where it'll eventually fizzle out. Learning defenses and counter-measures to enemy attacks is much of the skill of Populous, but so is finding new ways of mixing your own aggressive abilities for more devastating effect - a lone column of fire won't be half as effective as one dropped on a largely wooded area, for instance, where it'll create a raging forest fire. (You might be wise to plant a few trees on enemy soil before you use one, in fact).

And that, in its basic form, is the game. Yes, it can get incredibly complicated - when things are going wrong you often find yourself caught up in desperate fire fighting attempts, running frantically around the map trying to save what's left of your people, while at the same time attempting to attack your enemy (and hopefully cause him enough problems to create yourself some breathing space). That the number and power of effects you can generate is directly dictated by the amount of manna (a product of the happiness and numbers of your people) you possess means that when things go wrong they go very wrong - you'll be hard pushed to counter a volcano, say, when you've only got three hut-loads of people left, and they're obviously not at their most relaxed and spiritual when there's white-hot lava bubbling through the carpet!

It can be an incredibly frustrating, tear-your-hair-out experience - but then, it's meant to be. Happily things are paced beautifully, so how well you do against each god dictates just how tough the next scenario will be - when you're in trouble it's because you've mucked things up, not because the game's being incredibly unfair to you. If there's one thing Populous II boasts, it's a lovely learning curve - progress is just tough enough to keep you guessing, just easy enough to make every new opponent seem at least potentially beatable.

It's just about the closest computer games have come to a genuine competitive sport

But hold it a minute! Describing things in terms of progress though the game does this no favours at all - it makes Populous II sound like something with set levels, set ways of solving puzzles, set objectives and a finite end. It isn't. Perhaps this is one reason why many people respect Populous but have never actually played it, why so many reviews of it are so unfocused and woolly as soon as they've got past the "you play a god" bit. Perhaps it's easiest to think of most computer games as a set series of puzzles linked together - there's an argument to say they're are not actually true 'games' at all. There's always a 'right' way to do it, whether that be by working out the correct route in an FRP game or the exact correct split second to move your joystick in a shoot-'em-up - it's practice that makes perfect to a large extent, rather than skill.

Populous isn't like that - it's more like chess, or football, or running around shooting paint-ball pellets at people in a forest, or any other 'real' game you happen to fancy. By that, I mean it forms a game structure with various things you're allowed to do and various things you can't - what happens within those constraints is really up to you. You can solve any one 'problem' = defeating a certain rival god - in a so-close-to-infinite-it's-not-worth-counting number of ways, such are the number of effects and tactics you can juggle.
And things are even more open when you take on a human opponent (through linked machines) - it's just about the closest computer games have come to a genuine competitive sport, head-to-head flight sims perhaps excepted.

And that - more than any of the slick programming, or the spectacular visuals, or the very rightness of the whole idea - is what makes it a dead cert as one of the few games it'd ever be worth the bother of taking to a desert island with you. You wouldn't ever complete it as such, and even if you got tired of it after a while, you could guarantee you'd be reaching for it again eventually - it's just not the sort of game you'll never fully exhaust the possibilities of.

When you add to that the resurgence of interest that's bound to happen when Bullfrog get around to releasing the inevitable World disks (ideas currently being kicked around include a Norse gods disk or an Egyptian gods one - though the fact that Bullfrog claim not to know the first thing about either culture, coupled with the wait we've had for the Powermonger disk, makes us suspect it'll be later rather than sooner), you've got a game that people won't just be playing for the next six months, but for years to come.

Yes, existing Populous fans may balk a bit at the idea that Populous II is in many ways just Populous 1 writ large, not genuinely a new game at all (though every component that goes towards making it up is new), and the more dedicated arcade heads might find it a little bit too cold blooded to be interesting (their loss), but the fact remains that there'll be few better ways to spend your time this Christmas.

For once £30 for a game doesn't seem a bit steep (or worse) but an unbelievable bargain, and you can't really praise it more than that.

SPECIAL EFFECTS Or god-like powers (and how to use them)

Populous 2: Columns Of Fire
Columns Of Fire
These move randomly across the countryside, setting alight anything in their paths. However, they will head towards high ground - here one is stuck on a small hill and looks set to harmlessly burn itself out.

Populous 2: Whirlwind
This doesn't actually hurt people, but picks them up and scatters them around the landscape, disarming them as it does so. Even nastier, it creates a whirlpool when over water which will eat its way into the land.

Populous 2: Lightning Storm
Lightning Storm
Burns people and houses with bolts of lightning. Hard to direct, and many people will just shrug their shoulders and walk away from weaker bursts. (Having said that, the little guy here looks pretty charred).

Populous 2: Earthquake
Easy to control, but equally easy to clear up - you just have to place fresh land on top of the holes. You can't deny it's excellent at swallowing up people and buildings though.

Populous 2: Rain Of Fire
Rain Of Fire
A devastating effect, causing a whole swarm of fireballs to drop from the sky onto houses and so on. Don't forget your umbrella!

Populous 2: City Walls
City Walls
Not so much a special effect as a very man-made defense against the same. They can be destroyed, but they'll helpfully prevent the raising and lowering of land around them, say, and plenty of other things too.

Populous 2: Basalt
This horrible looking sludgy thing is basalt, volcanic rock which you can't grow anything on, but can be used to form useful bridges and so on. (Not very exciting looking though, isn't it?)

Populous 2: Baptismal Font
Baptismal Font
An interesting one - it creates magical wells in the ground which convert anyone who falls into them to your side (unless it's some of your folk who do the falling, of course).

Populous 2: Fungus
Gives anyone who falls into it a deadly disease. Whether your fungus fades away, remains stable or spreads like wildfire over the countryside depends on the pattern you pit it down in.

Populous 2: Volcano
A powerful effect, sending streams of lava over the countryside, sweeping men, buildings, and even Papal Magnets away, rendering the land underneath infertile.

Populous 2: Tidal Wave
Tidal Waves
Moves in all four directions and swallows up anything at ground level - pretty impossible to stop, unless it comes across land that's too high for it.

Populous 2: Whirlpool
Very powerful - eats its way into the land like nobody's business (that house looks a bit precarious, for instance). It's unwise to go swimming when one of these is around too!

Populous 2: Pimple Rocks
Pimple Rocks
Make a scattered growth of rocks spring up out of the ground, leaving it useless for building on (or anything very much at all, really).

Populous 2: Plague
Hard to see here, but one of the most powerful effects, setting a contagious disease - marked by black crows flying overhead - amongst the enemy people. Makes them infertile too.

Populous 2: Forest
One of various 'green' effects, it plants lots of (quick-growing) trees. These can be good or bad - they make your people happy (hence more manna_, but can be a big fire hazard!

Populous 2: Papal Magnet
Papal Magnet
Indicated by this, erm, thingie, you place it on the map and then watch your leader (and if you want, all your other little people) head for it. Sounds crap, but can prove very useful indeed.

Populous 2: Hercules
The little man you can just about see in this pic is Hercules, one of the strongest of your heroes. Turn your leader into him and he'll run about all over the place breaking enemy heads. Beware though - he's pretty stupid...

Populous 2: Aphrodite
Alternatively though, you may prefer this 'comely' wench. Pied Piper-style, she'll lead a whole trail of men (and even women, such are her charms!) to their doom, by the simple act of walking into the sea...


Broadly similar - there's still the isometric 3D scrolling centre section, but the 'book' effect of the first game map has gone in favour of a slightly less obtrusive 'islands floating in the void' look. Layout of icons makes a bit more logical sense, and you can now swap between the normal view and a (slightly slower) full screen look at will. Actual in-game graphics are far faster, more detailed and more varied too - with the new adoption of an actual historical time period giving them more cohesiveness too.

Again, the basic idea is the same, but there's far more to the new game. The custom game option is new for a start, but there are more worlds, more varied enemy gods and far (far) more in the way of special effects to play with. The whole thing moves that much faster too - "like it's been written by a real programmer this time, instead of dustbin man" says creator Peter Molynex - and the vastly increased number of effects makes for more variety in gameplay (less emphasis on merely raising and lowering land) and a much more spectacular visual look.
"The most important point though" says Molynex, "is that every effect you use is now much more of a double-edged sword - sometimes it will, or can be made to, hurt your own people as much as the other fella's. It's a more frantic game."

Populous II can be played in one of two ways...

The Conquest Game.
This is the way of playing Pop II outlined in the body text - your task in life is to manipulate your people so that they defeat (in fact, entirely wipe out!) the other people on the map, provoking the rival god (who influenced their actions) into giving you the gift of more experience. There are 1000 progressively harder worlds to try your hand at, controlled by 32 Greek gods.

The Custom Game
The same basic game, but you can make up the rules of conflict before you start. You can change the abilities of your opponent (or indeed yourself) too, weighing things heavily in one of your favours. Alternatively, you can balance it so your task is to try and create a nice environment for your people to flourish in (Sim City-style) rather than defeat any baddie. The choice, as they say, is yours...

...is quite clearly your oyster (or whatever else you might want it to be) when you're a god. There's such a lot going on here it takes some getting your mind around, so if you're sitting comfortably...
Populous 2: Main Screen explanation
1 & 2. Your scanner thingie, showing the overall map. The little arrows around the edge help you scroll your way around the whole thing, loosely based on the Greek islands (at a guess).
3. Hard to see black crows (or whatever they are) indicate these guys have got the plague. Much problems all round really!
4. Your people (the little blue ones) and theirs - neither side are doing well at the moment but (oh dear) it looks like the baddies are winning!
5. A batptismal font - it'll convert to the other side anyone foolish enough to step into it.
6. One of the enemy houses. The style and size depends on how much flat land it's got surrounding it, while the little flag at the side shows how full it is. In a few more minutes this one will be full and someone will set out in search of a fresh, empty plot to build on.
7. A whole bundle of secondary controls - this lot don't actually create effects or anything, but do allow you to much about with Papal Magnets and so on.
8. One of the little enemy men running aound looking for a suitable bit of flat land to build on. Each bloke represents a couple of hundred or so.
9. Each of these icons selects a certain range of effects - fire based ones, air ones and so on - the specifics of which appear in the row below.
10. Lumme! What are they doing here? Lots of little blue men in the middle of this red settlement (plus assorted heroes, Papal Magnets and the like) mean we've got a big fight on our hands. COme on the blues! (Ahem).

Populous 2: Trials of the Olympian Gods logo CU Amiga Superstar

Following the immense success of Populous, plenty of cheeky developers have produced games heavily influenced by this award-winning release. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but it doesn't pay the electricity bills, so for the past eighteen months, Peter Molyneux and the rest of Bullfrog's programmers and graphic designers have been busy working on a seqel. Can die-hard megalomaniacs dare to ignore Populous II?

Let's make things clear right away. You don't have to be a fan of the original game to enjoy this bigger, brighter, and better omnipotent outing. The basic core of the game remains exactly the same. As a divine being, you have a group of followers from whom you derive power in your quest for ultimate greatness.

As Vic Reeves, Britain's top entertainer and roundabout Populous fan, recently revealed in an interview, you basically just raise and lower land so your people can spread out, build cute little houses and generally prosper. Gods can also have some fun, though. If your followers have produced enough power, known as manna, you can invoke the odd catastrophe, such as an earthquake or volcano. The latter disaster is the nearest Populous comes to a smart bomb. What's the downside? Your godly opponent is doing exactly the same thing. The winner is the one who totally wipes out the opposition first.

Dedicated Populous players are probably shouting: "What's the difference, then?". Well, for a start, there's a new storyline. You are the mortal offspring of Zeus, out to prove you can handle absolute power. Every level of the original was essentially the same - but you now can face an epic struggle against over fifty Greek gods, titans and mythological creatures. With this kind of tough challenge, it's a good job Molyneus and his gang have carefully invented a hefty Pandora's Box of horrible calamities to inflict on those poor unsuspecting mortals. Not only that, the actual playfield itself has undergone a complete facelift.

At the start of play, you can customise the face of your god. Want to look like a beautiful woman or shifty scholar? No problem. This isn't just graphical nicety, the game alters depending on your portrait. If you design a mean-looking geezer, for instance, you're going to encounter more aggressive opponents. It doesn't mean that it's any easier or harder, it's simply different.

Each of the thirty-something gods have their own strengths and play characteristics. Ares, God of War, isn't very intelligent but has great power and strength. You'll have to be cunning with him instead of brutish. You don't have to be Einstein to guess Poseidon, Lord of the Seas, is going to cast some watery effects. Demeter, Goddess of Fertility, can obviously call upon a fast-growing number of followers, so make sure that you wipe them out. Luckily, there's a briefing before you confront every new opponent.

Not all the gods are invincible colossi. Things start out with the likes of a God of Shepherds and Epimetheus, the weedy titan in charge of Afterthought. Prometheus, brother of Epimetheus, stole fire from the sun to give to mankind for which Zeus had him chained to a rock while an eagle ripped out his regenerating liver every day. I don't believe he's going to be that interested in your empire building, right?

Your godly skills will be stretched every time you play the game. As there are 1000 worlds to journey through, be prepared for a few surprises along the way. The best players are the ones who use common sense and take a few risks.

The worlds of Populous are alive with ocean, coastlines, fertile and barren lands, swamps, hills, mountains, trees, buildings, people and the sound of music. Well actually, it's the sound of a heartbeat which starts off slowly and calmly, but becomes erratic during the heat of the battle.

Settlements range from primitive huts and workshops to intricate villas, fortresses and temples. You're able to make entire towns complete with city walls, gate-houses and roads - but this takes plenty of manna. The flag on each building denotes how many people are inside and whose side they're on.

Of course, the more followers you have and the greater their achievements, the more power you wield. Your people mainly look for unsettled flat land. Once there, they will build the largest settlement possible. Like real lfe, people grow tired from exhaustion and lack of vital supplies. Terrain makes a difference. Grassy fertile lowlands are the easiest to populate but far more susceptible to tidal waves.

A deity can only influence the behaviour of its people and perform occasional divine intervention. The Papal Magnet acts as a beacon for your followers and can be placed anywhere on the Map. However, a leader is needed to relocate it. You can command your people to look for enemies to attack. If none are in the vicinity, they will go back to their favourite hobby, home improvement. Added to this, mortals have a higher degree of freewill than before. There are old men, young buxom blondes, soldiers, etc.

During play, your attention is split between an overall Map of the world in the top-right section of the screen and a Close-up isometric-3D representation of the events. All the game command icons are situated around the side of this Close-up, which takes centre stage. This is the area of the world where you directly influence the populace using icons for adding or removing layers of terrain, invoking a catastrophe of godly proportions, and so on.

With the default mode, a pointer is placed anywhere on the Close-up to raise and lower land, although in some worlds you should already have a house on the screen. A right click of the mouse while the pointer is on one of your settlements instructs some of the people inside to move house. The more manna you gather, the more commands you can execute. Keep an eye on the red manna bar to check the current status.

If you're having difficulties, you might try letting the computer give you a few handy hints and prompts. A coliseum under construction in the upper right-hand portion of the screen is the final ingredient. This indicates the size of the two tribes as they grow, and it also displays other useful information.

Experience gained can be attributed to six elements: People, Vegetation, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. You therefore decide what sort of power you can excel at. Effects become more and more powerful as the game progresses. Casting a volcano will produce a wimpy effort at first with just two lava flows. Later on, if you put all your experience into Earth, it will create a monstrous structure that takes up a quarter of the world.

So far, so good. What about these new effects? One of my favourites is Plague. This causes your opponent's houses or people to become riddles with an infectious and fatal disease. These people will no longer give manna to their god and spread the plague to anyone they touch. They're identified by a screeching black bird circling high above. Another neat trick is to place down some fungus. The way it spreads is determined by the pattern in which it was sown.

Most of these effects can backfire. Your people are just as susceptible to plague as the opposition. Creating forests is great for the environment but these can quickly be turned into infernos.

The knight in the original Populous has been replaced with six Heroes, one for each element. A Hero allows you to turn the leader into a more effective killing machine for a limited amount of time. Heroes like Hercules are masters at breaking bones, chewing gristle and all sorts of horrible things. Perseus, the people's hero, is very similar to the original knight except he is far more intelligent. Bellerophon is a half-man, half-tree beastie. Whenever he wins a battle, Bellerophon splits into two and causes double the trouble. Earth-champion, Hercules, is super-strong and capable of taking on many an adversary, while air-head Odysseus is the swiftest of all the heroes. Achilles, the arsonist, is surrounded by a mantle of flames and will burn anything he comes into contact with. The strangest of the heroes is Helen of Sparta. She is very beautiful and anyone who sees her will follow Helen wherever she goes, even to their watery doom.

Armageddon is the most devastating effect and requires a tremendous amount of manna. Make sure your population heavily outnumbers your opponents because once Armageddon has been called into play, you cannot alter the flow of events.

The best parts of the original game have been retained, while the gameplay has been further enhanced by some stunning special effects and more in-depth challenges. The result is, in a single word, incredible. Populous 2 unreservedly receives my vote for game of the nineties. But don't just take my word for it...

To keep players on their toes, Bullfrog has included fifty 'surprises' including monsters who randomly appear out of the ground grabbing people; there's the fearsome Kraken sea beast, Midas, who turns everything into gold, and a giant Bronzeman first seen in the movie Jason and the Argonauts.
Other neat effects include people doing moonies or walking around with their heads blown off,. It will literally take hundreds of hours to see every single one, and, even then, you still won't know if there is one more surprise in there somewhere.
Populous II is packed with options and can be customised to create a more difficult challenge. It's quite easy to smash your mouse against the wall when your opponent gets the upper hand. This is also one of the best two player games around. The presentation is faultless. The graphics have enjoyed a quantum leap in terms of quality. No mean feat. when you consider the excellence of the original game. In addition to the constant heartbeat, there are almost ninety sampled sound effects created, claim Bullfrog, by a 'mad Frenchman who is marred to an opera singer'. A low rumbling and a cracking of the ground denotes an earthquake. The actual volume depends on the power of the god and the total effect. You'll also hear all sorts of screeches and sword-fights as people are beaten up and killed.
GOD BLESS YOU A few hints for gods just starting out...
  • Make as much land for your people as possible.
  • Trees are a bonus but are defenseless against fire. Why not build a forest in the enemy camp, then strike a match?
  • More manna is needed to build settlements in the hills, but lowland can't handle swamps and floods.
  • It's only people in houses who generate manna.
  • Dealing with heroes is a problem. If a hero beats up a castle, you're going to lose a lot of manna. It might be wise to sacrifice a few of your people and reduce the class of buildings in a hero's path so they don't get too much manna.
  • Castle walls are a very good defence against heroes. You can delay them or stop them completely.
  • Try clicking on the hieroglyphic surrounding the Close-up to invoke a few cheats!
There are two versions of Populous II available. The first requires one megabyte of memory. The other runs on a standard 512k machine but has fewer frames of animation and sound effects. Apart from that, they play the same. Look out for a sticker on the packaging to buy the right one.
According to Greek legend, Titans were originally more powerful than the Gods. However, the underdogs became stronger by being worshipped by mankind and were eventaully able to overthrow the Titans during a battle on Mount Othrys.
1. Zeus
Lord of the Upper World. Randy father of the Olympian Gods. Seduces people, both mortal and divine.
2. Hades
Lord of the Underworld. Borther of Zeus. Herds the unwilling with a pitchfork.
3. Poseidon
Lord of the Seas, Rivers and Springs. Brother of Zeus.
4. Hera
Queen of Heaven. Very jealous consort and sister of Zeus.
5. Gaea
Earth Mother.
6. Ares
God of War.
7. Apollo
God of the Sun. Son of Zeus.
8. Athena
Goddess of War and Wisdom. Daugher of Zeus.
9. Aphrodite
Goddess of Beauty.
10. Hermes
Messenger of the Gods.
An honory mention goes to Dionysus, God of Vine and Ecstasy, who specialises in wild orgies.

Populous 2: Trials of the Olympian Gods logo Zero Hero

In the beginning was the game Populous and the game Populous was with God and the game Populous was God and... now there's a sequel and it's pasted all over the cover! Duncan MacDonald reviews it and, less impressively, the geezer himself, God, gives his divine opinion.


Mention Populous to most folk and they'll instantly be able to tell you more about it than you actually know yourself - it's that sort of a game. Everyone's got a copy, everyone's played all four trillion levels and everyone's an 'expert'. Everyone, that is, except the thickies - those people who never quite manage to get their finger directly on the pulse of anything. This resumé is for them. (Oh, and also for you newish computer users).


Populous, you stupid clot, happened about three years ago and was what you might call a computing 'event'... a totally original game, the like of which had never been seen before. IT actually created a new genre called the God Sim, and spawned a thousand imitations. (Utopia? Utopulous more like. Flag? Flagulous you mean. And there are plenty more).

The idea behind Populous was simple. You played a deity. A supreme being. You looked down over a landscape populated by loads of tiny plebians, and it was your job to make them worship you. All you needed to do to induce this grovelling behaviour was to create flat areas for your subjects to build houses on. Once the houses started springing up, the plebs could go inside, sing your praises, and then reproduce - bumping up both your 'powermeter' and their population.

Then, because of their increased numbers, you needed more flat areas for extra housing. And so on. It was a knock-on effect. But that wouldn't have been much of a game in itself, would it? So enter The Dark Forces in the form of an other God, either controlled by the computer or a friend (in two-player mode). This other God was up to exactly the same thing as you, flattening land, building up his adoring population and therefore his power. And that was the key to the game - the power (or Manna as it was known).

The more Manna you had at your disposal the more able you were to cause natural disasters. One after another after another. Floods, earthquakes, swamps and volcanoes. If your opponent's plebs were breeding like flies and you thought you might get attacked, then there was only one thing to do - hit one or more of his densely populated areas with a disaster. An earthquake for instance. Down would come the buildings while up would pop jagged bits of ground. Total carnage. He was jiggered basically, because his uprooted followers would be homeless until more flat ground was made for them to build homes on - and until they were given this flat ground, they wouldn't pray (losing their God valuable manna in the process and making a 'return attack' less likely).

After long protracted battles, one side would begin to flourish while the other diminished. A game would eventually be won by the God whose tribe had a population nearing that of China's, while the loser's tribe generally had the same population as Dixons in Croydon High Street. And that, in a very small nutshell, was Populous.


As Populous II seems to be the God Sim of the moment, we wondered just how realistic it really was. And there was only one way to find out. We popped to the local church and prayed a bit, eventually getting through to God. After a bit of apologising for our unclean thoughts, we asked how He personally would have improved over the original Populous... What would Populous II have been like if He, God, were in charge? When he'd finished telling us, we compared his design ideas to the actual game. Would they match?

ZERO: Oh Holy Father, er, hello. In the original Populous, nobody knew what you looked like. Did you mind?
GOD: (Clap of thunder). Yes! Most unfortunate that. It did annoy me actually. If I was designing the sequel I'd put in an option at the beginning where you'd design my face.

ZERO: Good idea. That's the opener, but what about the main in-game graphics your highness? What would you do with them?
GOD: Aha. Well, one thing that always struck me about the original game, good as it was, was that the sea didn't 'move'. I'd fix that for starters. I'd make waves. I'd probably even make it all tidal, with a sort of surge. I'd improve everything actually. I'd tart it all up like you wouldn't believe possible, with different types of buildings, rocks, trees - the works. And different types of people too - blokes, chicks, the lot. The way they walk, everything.

ZERO: That sounds excellent, Lord. But it'd still look similar to Popu......
GOD: It'd look similar, yes. The same no. It would be like comparing a Ford Cosworth to a Ford Anglia. I'm talking about different leagues here. Totally different leagues.

ZERO: Oh, sorry. What about the disasters?
GOD: The disasters?Now you're talking my kind of language. The disasters in the original Populous were fun while they lasted, but there weren't very many of them - and I wouldn't really have called them 'major league' either. I'd fix that for sure. And while I was at it I'd make certain that they were more 'graphic' too. Do you know what I mean? More 'graphic'?

ZERO: More exciting?
GOD: Yeah. More exciting. That original volcano for instance. Boooring! I'd keep it, but in this game I'd make it literally blow its stack, just like I did with Mount St Helens. Lava all over the shop - rivers of the stuff burning everything in its path. I'd make the lava turn into smouldering basalt once it reached water too - and I'd probably make it so you could build on it.

ZERO: Er. So you'd keep the volcano.
GOD: Yeah. And everything else I suppose - although it'd all be improved - like the earthquakes would wrench the ground apart and form crevices for the plebs to fall into. Actually, on second thoughts I would keep all the original disasters. I'd just make them much much better.

ZERO: But you were saying you'd add disasters...
GOD: Yes. What I'd do would be this. I'd give the player the chance to control six elements. There'd be People, Earth, Air, Vegetation, Water and Fire. I'd make it so that if you clicked on, say, the Fire icon you'd be given several sub-icons. These would be your disaster icons and they'd pertain to the main element. Fire in this case. But you'd need plenty of experience and plenty of Manna before you could use them all.

ZERO: You're being a bit cagey though, what sort of disast...
GOD:(Flash of lightning). Being cagey? You dare to accuse me of being cagey?

ZERO:We beg forgiveness your worship. We just want to know what sort of disasters you could do with the power of fire. We are just squashy grapes in your supreme presence. Squashy grapes who humbly asks forgiveness for being worthless and stupid and ugly.

GOD: That's more like it. Right. How do columns of fire sound? Vertical jets of the stff? They'd spread through populated areas like a hot knife through butter. And how about firestorms - burning rain falling from the sky? You know about the volcanoes of course, and there'd be more besides.

ZERO: What about the other elemens? Would they be as devastating as fire?
GOD: Is Jeremy Beadle a slimebucket? Of course they'd be as devastating as fire. With air comes the hurricane and the whirlwind - not to mention the electrical storm.

ZERO: The electrical storm?
GOD: I said not to mention the electrical storm. Boom boom! The old ones are still the best!

ZERO: Er, yes... What about the element of water then, Lord? That doesn't sound very dangerous.
GOD: You'd be amazed what you can do with water. Tidal waves. Solid walls of unstoppable devastation. Bung in a few whirlpools as well and you're laughing.

ZERO: What other disasters would you include?
GOD: Plagues - plagues which actually spread from person to person if left unchecked. And fungus - moving fungal growths which follow strange biological laws. And how about strange pools, which switch the allegiance of any pleb falling into them.

ZERO: Sounds good. Very good. Any more?
GOD: Several more, yes, but I'm not going to tell you everything you want to know. Gods don't operate like that.

ZERO: What about pleasant things then Lord? Would there be any of those in your sequel?
GOD: I suppose you could plant trees and gardens for your plebs. If you wanted to, that is. They'd like it, and they'd worship you all the more for your troubles. You could make them little roads as well - they'd be able to get around better that way. I suppose I could include some city walls too. Indestructible city walls. Once they're up they don't come down again.

ZERO: Smart. What about the knights? Would you be able to improve on that part of the first game?
GOD: (Rumble of thunder). You dare to ask? The original game offered a paltry one knight. My game would offer six - one for each of the elements. Each with his or her own special powers. They would make the original knight look like Ronnie Corbett.

ZERO: Any more ideas, Lord?
GOD: How about this one, which has just occurred... If you were to win a battle I would award you points on your performance. You could allocate these points to the six elements within the game. Build up your fire skills, or your water skills, or your earth skills. Whatever. Build slowly on all six or quickly on a chosen favourite. The choice would be yours: Jack of all trades or master of one.

ZERO: Brilliant. Is there more?
GOD: Yes, there is more. But begone, fleas. You tire me with your nothingness. Begone or I shall smite you.

Blimey, they match perfectly. Populous II is exactly what God would have wanted.

Amiga reviewDunc: What a seriously skill game Populous II is. I could end the review there if I wanted to, but I'll continue anyway. Where was I? Oh yes - what a seriously skill game Populous II is. The original game was brilliant three years ago and this game is equally brilliant now. Some games date and some games don't. This one hasn't.

I was poised and ready to slag Populous II off for being too close to the original - but the trouble is that it isn't. It's not just more of the same. All your original playing skills can still be used, but they won't get you very far alone - before you make it to the twentieth landscape you'll be thinking, "Oh dear, what can I do to him now that he's done that to me?" There are all sorts of new tricks to learn. Ah. It's a joy. It's like meeting a much-liked old chum again. (You pseudy bast. Ed.)

You've seen a bit of Populous II for yourselves of course, seeing as there's a demo on the coverdisk - but just in case you didn't read the instructions properly, I'd better explain again that the full game is different to the demo. (A) There's no time limit, (B) there are about 200 trillion zillion levels, and (C) there are loads more disasters available - the demo only gives you one icon per element, where there are actually five. Got that? Good.

Hmmm. This is the paragraph that normally tells you whether the graphics and stuff are up to scratch. But you've seen them on the demo, so what's the point. Instead I'll say this - "Hey, the graphics and stuff are pretty good, aren't they." We've got a mutual point of reference you see. So how do I sum up when you know what you're going to expect anyway? I know I won't bother - I'll just repeat what I've said twice already: "What a seriously skill game Populous II is." Stop

Populous 2... ...The Challenge Games logo

Electronic Arts * 1 Mb required * £14.99

You can't keep a good idea down. Just look at Star Wars, at Robocop, and... oh... Friday the 13th. Luckily for us, the next instalment in the hugely successful Populous series has more in common with the quality of the former two films.

You play a mortal mongrel - the son of Zeus and some poor female mortal who was deflowered by the dirty deity. Rightfully, you feel that you deserve a place on Mt Olympus. Zeus, however, doesn't agree. So, using Populous II's original tools and tactics, you have to fight 32 other gods in 1,000 worlds to prove him wrong. Each game has fewer objectives than Populous II games; like a quick rescue, or a one-off battle with a preset population.

For those who have already played Populous II, this latest outing is a treat. For newcomers to the genre, it's worth a go. A follow-up that adds to the fun offered by the original.

Populous 2... ...The Challenge Games logo

Für alle Nebenerwerbs-Götter, die inzwischen schon jede einzelne Tempelruine im alten Griechenland in- und auswendig kennen, hat Electronic Arts frisches Bauland im fernen Japan aufgerissen. Na, dann steigern wir mal wieder das Bruttomanaprodukt!

Eine Neuerung sticht sofort ins Auge: Zu den altbekannten Spielmodi "Custom" und "Conquest" hat sich jetzt noch ein "Challenge"-Modus gesellt, der vornehmlich dazu gedacht ist, die verschiedene Katastrophen einzeln und in Ruhe auszuprobieren. Ohne Rücksicht auf den Mana-Vorrat kann man hier eine Springflut, Feuerbrunst, Pest-Epidimie oder irgendeine andere hübsche Überraschung auslösen, und dadurch die richtige Katastrophen-Strategie für den späteren Custom/Conquest-Ernstfall entwickeln.

Alle anderen Änderungen sind rein optischer Natur und hängen direkt oder indirekt mit den 500 neu zu erobernden Welten zusammen. Das geht beim Konterfei des eigenen Digi-Gottes los, welches hier mit Haarzopf etc. Ganz auf "alter japanischer Bauamtsleiter" trimmen läßt. Fernöstlich gestylt sind auch die wandernden Helden, die dem Volk der Gegenseite Religionsunterricht erteilen: Der Koloß von Rhodos ist in der Rumpelkammer gelandet, jetzt stampfen Sumo-Ringer und Samurais durch die Gegend, in der nun keine Säulentempel mehr herumstehen, sondern Pagoden und ähnliche architektonische Groß-Asiatika. Nicht zuletzt schreiten die Töchter und Söhne Nippons selbst in hübschen Kimonos einher, und weil man schon dabei war, wurde die Benutzeroberfläche auch gleich frisch getüncht.

Aber sonst ist wirklich alles wie gehabt (Zwei-Spieler-Modus etc.), was bei einer nur mit dem Hauptprogram zusammen spielbaren Ergänzungsdisk ja auch kaum verwundert. Wundern solltet Ihr Euch deshalb auch nicht über die fehlende Bewertung - und den Preis, der mit rund 49 Deutsch-Yen durchaus im Rahmen des Data Disk-üblichen liegt. (rf)

Populous 2... ...The Challenge Games logo

So you can conquer all 1,000 worlds in Populous II and regularly trash your mates blindfolded but still you want more? Then you obviously need therapy - and a copy of Populous II - The Challenge Games.

Here are 500 new worlds to play, with the added bonus of "stunning Japanese graphics and sprites" and 42 challenges. Oh, and a new Divine Intervention thrown in for good measure. The 500 worlds are just that. Big deal. Apart from new oriental visuals (ho hum), there is nothing innovative on offer - and certainly nothing you could not put together in a time-consuming sitting with the CUSTOM GAME option. No, I am afraid it is standard expansion disk fare here.

The challenges on the other hand, all 42 of them, are more inventive and along the lines of 'Can you do this before the time limit expires but without that and the other ability available?". It is the sort of stuff I'd expect to see printed in magazines and not have to fork out 15 hard-earneds for, only it'd be tricky to create these challenges on the standard Pop II. The first handful of challenges are easy peasy lemon squeezy tutorials (with a HINT for the complete divs) to the point of being condescending. For example, in the very first challenge a lone subject wanders aimlessly on a small plot of basalt. You have approximately 30 seconds to realise that in order for at least 10 percent of your population to survive, the only option is to vegetate the land and get sproggin pronto (although how you are going to manage that with only one little chap, I am not too sure) to win.

In Challenge Number Two, it so happens that your chaps have erected walls to form three sides of a square. An enemy hero is attacking and he can stroll straight in and pummel your people. What should you do with that gaping hole?

It's standard expansion disk fare

Challenge Three: A tidal wave will wipe out your tribe unless you can move the people and ensure that at least 10 percent are saved. By the time you reach Challenge Six, the HINTs have dried up and your people have an impending sense of doom. Maybe it would be wise to move them. Why? Their tiny settlement suddenly bursts into flames. Oh dear. Get the idea?

The challenges get tougher, with more tidal waves and having to boost your people's morale after their leader's popped his clogs. But the time limits stay tighter than a fish's bottom.

In some ways it is a bit like having an Action Man ("It is NOT a doll.") and buying extra kit for him.

Fiddling around with icons at high speed is not a bundle of laughs. There is too much disk accessing, too, which hardly befits these time-sensitive challenges. It seems as if more time is spent waiting between challenges than is actually spent playing them. It is a bit cack, really.
Come to think of it, I never did fancy Populous' interface much. And I certainly never got off on the restrictions imposed. That is like learning to drive a car and then someone saying: wouldn't it be fun if you had to drive blindfolded? Or with no brakes?" No it wouldn't.
Populous II: The Challenge Games gets right up my nose, and you must be a Populous pervert if you'd pick it.