Brave bandits

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EMPIRE has changed reality. The world has become cubic, kobolds are good guys, it isn't really that far to the chemists and God isn't dead, merely having forty winks.

Unfortunately, during his omnipotence's slumber a wicked arch-mage has taken over the world and several others besides. Now he has prevented the Sleeper from ever waking up.

You don't know what you are going to do but you must stop him, otherwise... Well, it'd be terrible, wouldn't it. He might privatise water. He might introduce Poll Tax. Yes, you must stop him at all costs. That only leave you with one problem. How?

Fortunately at that moment some half-dead kobolds appear at your door, just back from a similar expedition. Before they die they give you a device which will aid you in your quest.
Now it's up to you to brave the bandit-ridden roads, the freezing hills and snow demons, the trained archers in the capital, the denizens of the dwarven tunnels, the airborne attack of seagulls, the fiery fury of dragons and the terrible mind-pummeling wrath of (gasp!) the giant mice. Privatisation is beginning to sound better all the time.

The game, like some starborn software offspring between Dungeon Master and Mercenary, gives you the three-dimensional character's eye view of the terrain and relies solely on the joystick or mouse for all operations.

Unlike most of this genre, there is no fiddling about with icons, and no text entry. If you come across a location with the correct objects in your possession the game assumes you know what you are doing and completes the actions for you.
This is a great bonus since not only can you sometimes get things right by mistake, and you are saved all that tiresome fiddling about typing and clicking and clicking and typing, typing to find the right combination of actions or phrases to bring out the desired result.

Of course this might not appeal to the purists, but if you're after mono text-only sagas, why didn't you stick with your ZX80?

Weapons. There are lots of these. You start off lobbing small stones and pebbles at people end up blasting them with lightning bolts. Ammo is usually collected from baddies you blow up on the way. Yes I did say blow up. Yes, with pebbles. No, I don't know why, but it's fun. Listen to me, here you are prancing round a cubic planet - it's no good going on at me about realism.

Whenever you meet someone they're almost sure to be a bad guy, unless they look exceptionally old and feeble or exceptionally cute and helpless. Anyone else, waste 'em.

The joystick, or mouse if you prefer, controls a crosshair in the viewing screen. Targeting with the cursor and pressing the button will fire the current weapon. When you pick up a weapon, if it is more powerful than the one you are using it will replace the current one.
The weapons' ranges vary considerably. With a simple sling you may be able to detect a baddie's halitosis, but with a longbow you can probably dispatch them to that Rubick's Cube in the sky before they've even noticed you're in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately some of the larger weapons can take an age to load, so you may have to resort to hurling shuriken at an irate dragon or lead shot at a master magician. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

It is vital to save the game every time you achieve something or pick up something new. The program has a very good load/save screen and it is possible to store upwards of about 20 positions on the data disc supplied - the disc that the program runs from - a definite one- up on those adventures that have you swapping discs continually.

The graphics are fairly good, and reasonably fast considering some are quite complicated. The people and creatures you meet are well drawn, although their movements can be jerky, which is very annoying when you are trying to ambush someone and he mysteriously transports right past.
The explosions are good and are accompanied by agonising screams. The fact that they seem to be emitted by throttled pigs is neither here nor there.

The puzzles are quite difficult to solve, but to be honest they often solve themselves. You will be aimlessly wandering around some barren plain when you trip over a molehill and discover some magic boots. Serendipity isn't in it.
This also means you have to investigate every molehill, every rock and every dragon dropping in every kingdom. Some things are not very important and only help to keep you alive (not important?) but others are vital to your quest. There is no way of going back when you suddenly discover on the last level that you are missing a magic toothpick.

There are some good underground sequences and a tastefully decorated castle, both wisely placed to break the monotony of all those wide open spaces.
It is a good idea to get inside before nightfall unless you've been eating lots of carrots because the sky gets dark. As a matter of fact, it all gets dark, including the bad guys. Doesn't stop them from attacking you though.

Sleeping Gods Lie may lack some of the strategic though of the more conventional adventures, but it has a certain playability that prevents boredom and frustration setting in.
Although much of the game involves endless traipsing over the countryside, there is still something compelling about it which makes it all seem worthwhile, an elusive quality which can turn an otherwise mediocre offering into something unusual which deserves a look.

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EMPIRE £24.99 Mouse, Joystick or Keyboard

They're a troublesome bunch, these Archmages. The one that's presently controlling the once peaceful lands of Tessera certainly is. He's imposed all sorts of rules and regulations to make your average peasant's life a misery, and if things don't improve quickly it looks as if the whole kingdom is going to go down the pan.

Unless, of course, you can save the day. All you need to do is find and wake a sleeping god called N'Gnir, who is kipping somewhere in one of Tessera's eight kingdoms. Wake him up and he'll deliver us from evil and ensure life gets back to normal (at least until the next Archmage decides to upset the apple cart).

Unfortunately, you have no idea where N'Gnir is and your only clue is that a hermit to the north of your home (the start point of the game) may perhaps be able to help you.

The game is a solid 3D presentation, in which you view all the action through your eyes as you move around the land by positioning the cursor in various parts of the screen (up to go forward, down to reverse, and so on). Below the play screen is a text window that normally tells you what you're carrying and how much ammunition you have. When you come across a character, though, such as the hermit, lines of speech appear, giving you clues or asking you to help them and so on. Around the side of the play screen are various icons indicating the time of day,your stamina level and so on.

The majority of the people you come across though are bandits and agents, working for the Archmage, and they have a nasty habit of lobbing things at you, which causes you to lose vital stamina. The best solution? Lob things back at them. Piles of rocks (initially) can be found lying around as potential weapons, and you automatically pick up anything you walk over, including beefier weapons such as slings and crossbows. By destroying the nasty peeps you can also keep your ammo stocks up because they tend to leave behind piles of juicy throwing things when they die.

Obviously all this scrapping takes a toll on your stamina, so you'll have to keep topping it up by finding apple trees, berries or the occasional carrot and mushroom patch which you can scrump to replenish your energy.

The eight kingdoms of Tessera are comprised of various sub kingdoms, which you can move between (some are linked by secret passages that must be discovered) in order to solve a puzzle or help someone and so progress to the next. In fact, that's the way to play the game: find a person who needs your help, complete a task and receive a clue as to how to reach the next land. The Hermit, for example, needs a map: after wandering around for a bit, you'll come across a certain bandit who just happens to have one. Destroy the bandit, give the map to the hermit and he'll tell you how to get to the next kingdom: where you'll find a Prince who has lost his crown, and so the game progresses until finally you get to wake N'Gnir.

Sleeping Gods Lie is a straightforward real-time adventure. It's fun to play and will take a while to complete (thankfully there is a save game option), but it's not setting any standards and the number of bandits and monsters you have to kill tends to get somewhat annoying after a while. Still, it's well thought out and well worth a look at, especially if you like to solve classic adventuring puzzles.


The sound effects are more than a little limited and the animation is not so very hot. Most of the landscapes have little detail to them, so they can look rather bland at times. But on the plus side, everything moves quickly, and although the 3D is not the best ever seen it works sufficiently well.

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Price: £29.95

The old gods of Tessera have been deposed, and the evil Archmage has taken control, imposing his own despotic regime. The only chance Tessera has to regain a sense of calm is to revive the last remaining free god from his ice-tomb in the farthest Coratinian State. By an extraordinary chance, this fateful mission has literally fallen at your door, and so with four shuriken, a handful of pebbles and an earthenware bowl, you begin your journey of discovery.

The quest will take you through the eight kingdoms, each with various geographically distinct regions. Passage from one region to another is via doorways, sometimes open, whilst sometimes guarded or hidden. Within the regions you will encounter the Archmage's hordes, who come in various shapes and sizes, from the average minion armed with pebbles, to two-headed wolves and rodent-man, and this is just on level one. Often these encounters will result in a head-to-head battle with the vanquished foe leaving weapons or ammunition behind, which if collected will replenish your supplies.

In addition to the obvious arcade elements, a distinct adventuring element is also evident, albeit very simple. For example, one of the exits to another region is guarded by the aforementioned rodent-man. In battle he is practically impossible to beat, but if you approach him with a chunk of mouldy cheese, he is as quiet as a church mouse. The way the game runs also does away with having to type in endless streams of instructions, and in this particular example, if you are carrying the cheese when approaching the rodent, it automatically throws it to the rodent-man, saving a whole lot of hassle hunting for the correct phrase. In this way some of the depth of an adventure is included in the game, whilst the need for endless typing is done away with. Surprisingly perhaps, it works.

The programming and presentation of the game is very slick. A first person perspective view takes up the majority of the screen, within which the scrolling is extremely smooth and fast. Exteriors are a little bland, with the horizon and the occasional tree or building providing the only relief from the bowling green terrain. The figures within the landscapes move fast, and the solid shading of the figures makes the action much more realistic and convincing. Interiors, similarly, are colourful, and the scrolling fast.

Around the main screen are various icons which indicate health, the time, magic power and other relevant information, whilst under the main area is an inventory, which changes to a dialogue box should someone you encounter want to talk to you rather than kill you. This screen layout is well thought out and effective, providing a lot of information in a very clear form.

Unfortunately, the sound is not up to the standard of the graphics, being limited to a tune at the start, and various spot noises throughout. I am sure that a little more sound, well placed and utilised, could have added tremendously to the atmosphere of the game.

On the playability front, the game does not score as highly as the presentation. Within each region, there is little to do apart from slog around bashing minions and hunting for a building or any exits to the next levels. Should you find a building, it is simply a matter of entering and picking up whatever happens to by lying around. Initially this proves a little discouraging, although as time goes on, you progress, building up weaponry and strength and solving puzzles. This begins to increase the addictiveness of the game, and eventually I found the game rather stimulating and engaging. Definitely a slow burner.

An unusual game, which does score in marrying an arcade game with an adventure with pleasant results. It is not going to appeal to every adventurer or arcadester, but I am sure that it will have its devotees, and I suspect that it will feature in Play to Win quite prominently over the next few months.

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Empire, Amiga £29.95

Tessera is a world abandoned by its creator gods to a harsh fate; as famine and plague ravage its people the tyrannical Archmage rules with an iron first. But you are no insane hero, pitting your puny resources against his legions of henchmen, you are keeping your head down.

Then there is the knocking at the door, at first you fear the Archmage's troops but once you open it you find a fatally wounded Kobbold - a race of creatures that used to deal with the gods. In the few minutes left of his life he whispers a few, laboured words. The Kobbolds have been trying to wake a sleeping god - N'Gnir - but their attempt to find the necessary device has left many of them dead. The Kobbold passes you this device, and intricate bracelet, and his fever. To wake a god - now that is a quest wouldn't shirk, would you?

Tessera is divided into eight Kingdoms, each made up of up to six landscapes. As you search for the sleeper you must work out how to move between landscapes and Kingdoms - and once you move to the next Kingdom you cannot return. The Kingdoms range from the lakelands of Delanda (beware of the ferryman) to the capital city of Morav to the deserts of Sunderabad.

Your perspective of the game is first-person, allowing you to freely explore this 3-D mappable landscape. Objects are picked up by simply walking over them, enemies killed by firing objects at them (weapons include a slingshot and even lightning). You need no other actions to solve the game.

Thankfully, for such a massive game there is a good save facility, allowing you make numerous save files.

Robin Hogg Normally this type of deep and involved adventure game is just my cup of tea, especially if it is in a 3-D world vein. Sleeping Gods Lie though is an odd game. The puzzles are in there just waiting to be found and the game has considerable depth but to its detriment there is a heck of a lot of wandering around vast, barren terrain as well. The slow moving pace put me off initially but once I got down to some serious mapping it became quite a compelling adventure romp. The accompanying sound effects are surprisingly poor but the title screen music has a certain charm. Sprite expansion is well implemented but I found the character animation and movement occasionally a bit messy to look at. In short, a little long-winded but enjoyable all the same.
Stuart Wynne Well over a year in the writing, Sleeping Gods Lie boasts an immediately impressive graphic style, seeming to offer huge landscapes, lots of creatures and smooth movement. It is a pity getting too close to the sprites show their blocky construction but at distance, they are fine. What is more dubious is the uneasy mix of arcade and adventure elements. Constant attack from well-armed enemies is initially exciting, but soon proves a bit irritating with so much else to see and do. The limitation of interaction to just shooting and picking up objects is also disappointing. Still, if you have the time and patience for such a big challenge, Sleeping Gods Lie could be just the offbeat kind of hit you want. Less committed adventurers however, are probably best advised to try before buying.