Testament logo AGA Amiga Format Gold

"The purple testament of bleeding war". Said Andy Smith, quoting from Richard II. No, we don't know why either...

Simple really, that's the only quote with testament in it in my Concise Dictionary of Quotations. Besides, girls love it when you can quote Shakespeare and I'm in serious training when it comes to trying impress girls. Maybe they'd be amazed at my display of courage, bravery and skill at playing Testament.

Epic's latest, and one of the first games to appear on their new Islona label, is this first-person action game. It's a Doom, but on the Amiga, clone - well, actually it's more a Wolfenstein, but on the Amiga, clone. For those not 'au fait' (girls love that French stuff too...) with the history of first-person action games, Wolfenstein was the forerunner to Doom.

We've had games of this type on the Amiga before, but Testament's slightly different. Heaven knows, what the plot line is (it's all explained in the game) but it basically involves finding a piece of scroll on each of the game's 16 levels.

Getting to the scroll piece though (which is really the level's exit) usually involves finding four different coloured keys which enable you to open colour-coded doors and access other parts of the level. The scrolls are usually somewhere behind the door you found the last key to. Simple. Find the keys to open the doors to get to the scroll/exit. See?

Let's deal with your weapons first: there aren't many of 'em. You've got your basic handgun, a machine gun, a kind of fireball gun thing and a thing called the Double which is a more deadly kind of fireball gun. Now, there may not be many of 'em but somehow it doesn't really matter. You'll be so pleased when you get the machine gun (and even more pleased when you get some ammo for it) that you won't mind that you haven't got a huge array of vaguely similar weapons.

When it comes to actually shooting the baddies (loads of different kinds from flying eyeballs to zombies to wizards and so on) it doesn't take long to realise that it's a very imprecise science. Most of the time you can just point and shoot vaguely in the direction of a baddie and after a few hits it'll crumble dead. This might sound like a bad thing, but it isn't. It works very well, primarily because Testament is not about precise and accurate shooting, it's about atmosphere and tension. And there's buckets of that.

A great deal of time and effort has been spent on the game's difficulty curve. The first few levels are very well paced - not just in the number and ferocity of the baddies you encounter but in what weapons are available and the amount of ammunition you can find. The size of the levels themselves is also spot-on.

Testament is one of the best games of this type - it's wonderfully fast and smooth...

There's never a load of running around for running around's sake and yet there's more than enough space to feel you can get lost very easily. Play it and you'll understand just what I mean.
But why's it not like Doom and more like Wolfenstein? Well, because a lot of the little features have disappeared - you can't side-step or run for example. These are features we've all come to depend on but it's surprising how quickly you learn new tactics for taking on baddies that are stood in front of you. Getting good angles to fire into rooms from doorways, for example, becomes a primary concern. The lack of features does little to detract from the enjoyment of the game.

Testament is one of the best games of this type - it's wonderfully fast and smooth, even on an unaccelerated A1200, although you might have to tweak the screen size and decrease the amount of detail or turn the textures off - but you probably won't need to because it runs nice 'n'' quick as it is.

The lightning effects are fabulous, the sound is used well - it's not brilliant but it certainly helps to give you the heeby-jeebies - and the whole thing hangs together splendidly. The designers know just where to put a baddie to cause the maximum concern and yet they haven't gone over the top.

Some of the levels are obviously harder than others (you'll be very thankful for the game's automapping feature) but with some patience, tactics and the occasional 'close your eyes and go charging in' you'll find they can all be completed.

Even the fact that you can only save your game at the end of the level (there are six slots so you can build up a decent progress sheet) is good because it makes your work harder to reach the scroll and you'll be massively relieved to find it when you've got about a pixel-width's worth of life force left.

Testament is an excellent game. I've found it very difficult to stop playing because it's got that 'I'd like to finish this game' addictive quality. Just the shot in the arm the game's world needs right now.