Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve logo

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

This is the third speech adventure from Vulcan Software, the team responsible for the previous two Valhalla games, not to mention Timekeepers and Hillsea Lido.
Most people, especially other workers in our office, remember Valhalla, but not because of its excellent plot, smooth graphics and superb gameplay. It's simply the fact that it was extremely annoying. I think everyone know knows it featured a small bloke who just wouldn't shut up. Every time you picked up an object he'd gladly inform you "I've got it." Also, to make the things worse, if you turned the volume down it lost some of its appeal, so everyone just had to put up with it.

It looks like our staff are in for even more abuse because Valhalla - Fortress of Eve has arrived. Well, it had to happen didn't it. The actual plot takes a very strange turn because the King is getting sexually stimulated(?) and his attention is beginning to turn to some lovely ladies (and here's me thinking it's going to be a proper yawn fest).

So that's the plot. The little King is after a bird. That is, as they say, the bottom line. But he's in for a big surprise because his plan is going to be tougher than he thinks. Firstly, he considers himself handsome even though he looks remarkably like the back of a donkey and, secondly, his island is absolutely birdless. Consequently, his chances are looking pretty slim at the very least.

The evil Queen has kidnapped all the ladies off the island, leaving several of the peasants looking very unhappy indeed. The Queen has carried out his evil act because she wants you to marry her daughter, Ezmerelda. However, she's not the raven-haired temptress you'd expect, although I still think he's setting his sights too high.

You can't fail to be impressed with the amount of sampled speech - and there aren't many games which take advantage of the Amiga's ability to do this

Anyway, the game starts with a surprisingly new angle whereby the young Valhalla bloke doesn't have to strain his neck muscles to let you know what's happening. It's amazing - you can actually see his legs! The game is now viewed from a 3D side view.

As you'd expect, your job is to tour around solving puzzles along the way, gaining information by talking to everyone you see. You'll be given loads of clues throughout your adventure, but most of them won't make sense until you complete the first part.

The main display for the game is in the centre of the screen, as usual, your status bar is situated down the left-hand side of the screen, and your inventory is placed along the top of the screen. You can also scroll through the various action icons at the foot of the screen. You can view the map of the area, look at things, talk to people, pick up objects, use objects and save the game. The most effective method of moving the King is by using the mouse, with a pointer popping up to show you where you can move to.

As with the rest of the Valhalla series, you can't fail to be impressed with the amount of sampled speech - and there aren' t many Amiga games which take advantage of the Amiga's ability to do this.

Reverse angle play

The only gripe I have is about the graphics. Even though the change of playing angle is a completely new challenge, I always liked the top-down view, although that's probably just me. The graphics always seemed really good in the past versions, but maybe they just fancied a change or something. If you think about it, if another versio of the game had been released with the same graphics and samples, everyone would have probably complained. So it's all just a matter of opinion. There will always be someone who won't like it.

Final word

The good thing about Valhalla is that there are more than enough levels and challenging gameplay to warrant the price tag, and it's certainly one any Valhalla fan shouldn't miss. It looks like the Portsmouth-duo has come out tops once again!

Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve logo

Andy Smith doesn't need an excuse to go chasing the girlies, so when that's the storyline to a game, he gets to indulge in both his fave pastimes.

To be perfectly honest with you all, I haven't played either of the earlier Valhalla games, which is a good thing really because it meant I could launch myself in to the third in the 'Mini Series', with a clear open mind.

Apparently, after years of peace, the King of Valhalla has decided he's bored with running the kingdom and wants to concentrate his energies chasing some totty (all you outraged feminists out there, don't worry, I'm working in an office with four very PC girlies who are all angered at my use of such terms to describe nubile members of the female gender - and they've slapped my legs already). And why the devil not eh? Summer's here (you remember that week we had back in June?) and it's what young single men were born to do.

So, off trots the King, only to discover that for reasons best known to herself, the Queen of Eve has gathered up all the available crumpet (ouch! That one really hurt Linda!) and locked 'em away. Thus the King has to go through four levels of traps and puzzles in an attempt to free the girls and choose one for his wife.

So it's a puzzle adventure game then. You collect things from on location, take 'em to get a little further in the game. And here's where I encounter my first problem with the gameplay. The puzzles are just so bleeding illogical. Let's take the first puzzle in the game (which took me a couple of hours to figure out). You wander around collecting bits and bobs and meeting the odd character including a slug. What you actually need to do is to find the bowl (or bucket or whatever it is) of sea water. Take this to the billycan and put the sea water in it. Bingo! You're left with a handful of salt.

The smart ones amongst you will already be way ahead, yep, you take the salt and put it on the slug! This causes the slug to disappear and be replaced by a key! Of course! Then take the key and unlock a chest where you'll find some spectacles. Take these, along with the dog collar you've found already, and put them on the tomb of Reverend Squint who then gives you a rose petal! Put the rose petal in a barrel of distilled water and, hey presto, you've got a perfume potion! But how silly of me, I just wasn't thinking enough!

The problem is, you can see this sapphire that you'd quite like but every time you try to grab it you get hurt and your stamina takes a tumble. Swallow the perfume potion you think, as any logical person would, but no, that doesn't work at all.

Yes, I know lots of people like this sort of game, but I can't for the life of me understand why. As I mentioned at the beginning, and if you read the last couple of paragraphs and imagine them being screens of text, you'll understand what I mean about the gameplay actually being the same as an early 80s text adventure.

It's all very tedious. You spend ages trudging around from one place to the next, desperately trying to get someone to do something that's going to get you a little further on in the game, and this usually means trying to put whatever you've got in your inventory on, in, over, in front of, next to and so on, just about anything you come across. And nine times out of ten you can rest assured that it's going to have no effect whatsoever.

Take the man who informs you he's got a sweet tooth for example. Will he take the honeycomb that you found earlier? Will he heck.

Okay, so the game has got some lastability, it's going to take an absolute age to complete but I really can't see who on earth would want to persevere with it. There's just no fun to be had from it.

Al-right so there is some sense of joy and fulfilment when you do actually manage to solve one of the puzzles and get a little bit further on in the game but there's more a sense of 'blimey, I never expected that' when a puzzle gets solved rather than working the thing out logically as you should.

If you've, against our better judgement, enjoyed the earlier Valhalla games, then I dare say this is going to be right up your street (remember, I haven't actually played the earlier games so I don't know if this is just more of the same or a whole new angle, but I suspect it's rather more similar to the first couple than different from them). But don't be tempted by the game otherwise.

Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Pick up Bowl with Sea Water
1. Right here we go then. Take up this bowl or bucket or whatever it is that's full of sea water.
Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Put Sea Water in Billycan
2. Take your sea water and put it in this billycan. A billycan by the way is a device for boiling water in over a campfire.
Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Place Salt on Slug
3. Of course, once your sea water's boiled away, you're left with a load of salt. Which you should put on this poor slug here.
Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Slug is replaced by a Gold Key
4. And once the slug dies you're bound to find a gold key! Pahaw! How ridiculous of me not to have seen such an obvious clue.

Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve logo

Die redefreudigen Bewohner des Königreichs Valhalla melden sich zum dritten Abenteuereinsatz mit einer echten Überraschung zurück: Trotz der leicht überarbeiteten Grafik hat sich am Gameplay auch diesmal wieder so gut wie nichts geändert.

Seit der junge König im ersten Teil sein Land von der Herrschaft des tyrannischen Lord of Infinity befreit hat, sind einige Jahre vergangen, in denen er mehr oder weniger friedlich vor sich hin regiert hat. Nun entdeckt er, daß es im Leben außer Amtsgeschäften auch noch das andere Geschlecht gibt - aber wie es der Programmierer haben will, sind plötzlich alle heiratsfähigen Frauen in seinem Reich wie vom Erdboden verschwunden.

Der Autor des Intros hält natürlich zu seinem Arbeitgeber Vulcan Software und macht deswegen die Hexe "Queen Eve" zum Sündenbock: Weil das böse Weib seine Tochter Esmeralda unbedingt mit einem echten König verbandeln wolle, habe es kurzerhand alle lästigen Konkurrentinnen entführt.
Der blaublütige Junggeselle legt sich jedoch quer und bittet statt dessen den Spieler, ihm bei der Errettung der gekidnappten Mädels behilflich zu sein.

Gesägt, tun, getan: Nur mit Hilfe der bequemen Maussteuerung und des natürlichen Charmes unseres jungen Regenten schlägt man sich nun durch dichte Wälder, das Dörfchen von Evesland, die Festung der Widersacherin und schließlich durch den Turm, in dem die vielen reizvollen Gründe für diese Reise schmachten.

Diese vier umfangreichen Levels sind auch beim dritten Teil wieder aus der Vogelperspektive zu sehen, allerdings hat man die vorher ziemlich gräuliche Grafik gehörig aufpoliert. Dabei wird zwar immer noch viel Platz für Inventory, Aktions-Icons und unnötige Verzierungen verschwendet, dafür tauchen in dem kleinen Spielfenster außer den sattsam bekannten Grautönen aber endlich auch andere Farben auf. Zudem wurde der Betrachtungswinkel leicht verschoben, was Landschaft und Akteure deutlich plastischer wirken läßt.

Optische Wunder sollte man sich deswegen freilich nicht gleich erwarten, denn die Animationen sind rar und (bis auf die Lippenbewegungen beim Sprechen) dilettantisch in Szene gesetzt. Zudem besteht die gesamte Umgebung aus einzelnen Blöcken, was überdies das Vorankommen erheblich behindert, weil so keine diagonalen Bewegungen möglich sind.

Zum Trost gibt's neben den sonstigen Soundeffekten und wenigen Begleitmelodien auch mit dem Untergrund wechselnde Laufgeräusche sowie die aus der Serie bekannte Sprachausgabe, welche den Spieler ständig über seine Fortschritte informiert. Die dabei benutzten Piepsstimmen gehen aber selbst dem härtesten Abenteuer bald auf die Nerven - nicht zuletzt, weil die Texte sich schnell wiederholen und trotzdem nur zum Teil abschaltbar sind.

Die eigentliche Handlung besteht vornehmlich aus dem Einsacken, Herumschleppen und wieder Verteilen vieler kleiner Gegenstände, von denen bis zu neun im königlichen Rucksack Platz finden. Die zahllosen Minirätsel sind jedoch leider bliß in manchen Fällen logisch, so leuchtet es etwa jedem Hobbygärtner ein, daß Schnecken kein Salz vertragen. Dafür erfordern die meisten Knobeleien aber überdurchschnittliche Kenntnisse der englischen Sprache, ein Wörterbuch oder einfach Glück. Und gelegentlich fragt man sich hier wirklich, ob man nun einen König oder nicht doch eher einen planlosen Laufburschen spielt, der sich bei seinen Botengängen verirrt hat.

Da trifft es sich gut, daß jeder Level per Paßwort zugänglich ist und der Spielstand jederzeit gesichert werden kann - allerdings auf Kosten des vorherigen, der dabei automatisch überschrieben wird. Na ja, zumindest braucht sich unser Held keine Sorgen zu machen, denn natürliche Feinde kennt so ein Blaublüter anscheinend nicht. Und sollte er sich doch einmal mit einem Stück Käse den Magen verdorben haben oder einem rotglühende Hebel zu nahe gekommen sein, liegen allüberall kräftige Pillen herum, die ihm umgehend wieder auf die Beine helfen.

Von Nutzen ist auch die jederzeit einblendbare Karte des Gebietes, die sich nach Belieben scrollen läßt und alle ortsfesten Objekte aufzeigt. Dabei kann man ohnehin viel verkehrt machen, da sich versehentlich abgelegte Gegenstände jederzeit wieder aufsammeln lassen. Trotzdem gibt es zumindest in den ersten Gegenden eindeutig zu viele unklare Passagen, die auch durch die einsilbigen und sich nie verändernden Kommentare der herumstehenden NPCs kaum klarer werden.

Als "Hilfefunktion" kann man sich zu seinen Sammelobjekten die Meinung seiner (verstorbenen) Eltern anhören, doch auch sie schweigen sich über viel zu viele Items aus. Apropos schweigen: Wer auf die nur von Hand mögliche Festplatteninstallation verzichten will, sollte die Bemerkungen seines Protagonisten nach Kräften einschränken, da bei jedem neuen Spruch der alte aus dem Speicher gelöscht und somit das nächste Mal wieder von Disk geladen wird. Dafür läuft das Spiel aber auch im Multitaskingbetrieb sauber, und Diskwechsel am Levelende an.

Wären die Aktionsmöglichkeiten des Helden also nicht so stark eingeschränkt und wäre der Schwierigkeitsgrad nicht gleich zu Beginn höher als in der letzten Ebene, würde das Spiel sicherlich stundenlang Spaß machen. So jedoch ist man ob der reichlich ermüdenden Sucherei bereits nach kurzer Zeit verärgert - und geneigt, seinem Protagonisten eine simple Heiratsannonce im Ausland ans königliche Herz zu legen. (mz)

Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve logo

Welcome to church, will you all be seated?

Today's sermon, brethren, is inspired by the Book of AMIGA POWER, Issues 1 to 63.

"And The MIGHTY BEINGS spake forth, saying unto the multitude, 'Listen to us, for we know the TRUTH. The playing of games is our meat and drink. We have played more games than any among you have seen in your lifetimes, for yea, verify. WE HAVE PLAYED THEM ALL. We judge them. And we pass those judgements on to you. Because we're nice like that. And we know what aspects of games are Good, and know we also those which are Bad. And when we point them out it is our fond hope that designers and programmers will take heed as much as punters. For it is our aim to make the World a better gaming place. But despair is often upon us, for many do not heed and continue to make the same mistakes time and again."

I think, brethren, that what AP is trying to say here is that we can all learn from our mistakes. I can think of an example of my own life where, by failing to follow the advice of The Good Mag, developers released a series of three quite appalling games. They refused to learn from their mistakes.

First there was Valhalla. Cam Winstanley reviewed it in AP39. It was an adventure game with a pointless plot and it involved walking around, picking things up and then using them to solve puzzles. He hated it so much he was afraid he might commit a terrible act of violence. It was a 'talking game', but he hated the inane chatter. "It won't fit", the character would say. Again. And again. It annoyed Cam. He hated the pointlessness of the puzzles. Most of all he hated the arbitrary and unfair way it killed him every once in a while. He gave it 19%.

Second there was Valhalla: Before The War. Jonathan Nash reviewed it in AP47. He hated the still inane speech. He hated the way levels were made to seem unnaturally large by spreading the objects and puzzles over a wide area, often requiring the player to walk from one side of the map to the other to collect the items needed to solve a simple problem. He hated a great deal more besides. He gave it 19%

Happily there are only four

Now there's Valhalla: Fortress Of Eve. Tim Norris was supposed to be reviewing it for AP63 but such was the frustration caused by the game that he felt compelled to re-program the office A600 with a softball bat and shan't be able to concentrate on writing for some time. It seems, from what he said as he began to belabour the poor computer with heavy blows of his trusty aluminium bat (a 34 inch, 30 ounce "Bomber" by Louisville Slugger), that no one involved in the Valhalla project has learned from their mistakes.

There is still, he ranted, no atmosphere. Neither of the first two had any, and nor does this one.

The speech, he yelled, as dangerously large shards of cream-coloured plastic splintered off the A600 and ricocheted round the room, is still annoying. It's still cleverly implemented, but it's still annoying. And when you reach the later levels (happily, he says, there are only four) it stops telling you what everything is, just as it did in BTW, and says instead "You know what that is." Plainly, since you asked, you didn't. Pah.

The levels, he screamed as we tried to prise the bat from his grasp, are still made to look artificially large by spreading everything over a wide area. Solving a problem is as much a matter of patience and perseverance as of intelligence and ingenuity. And it's all made worse by the tediously labyrinthine design of the levels. And you're provided with a map, so even finding your way about is just a test of will power.

The puzzles, apparently, are still irritating, but at least the game doesn't arbitrarily and annoyingly kill you whenever it feels like it. You can only save one position per level as well. Which is equally annoying. So Tim says.

It seems that SOMEONE didn't listen to the MIGHTY BEINGS. They were told what was wrong with the first game and then failed to put it completely right for the second. They were told, in some detail, what was still wrong with the second game and they have now failed to put it right for the third. The result is a thoroughly terrible game, made all the more dismal by the fact that we felt confident we could expect something better, especially after all the negative things AP said about the earlier instalments of the saga. At least it costs only £18. And the sound of your character's footsteps changes as he walks on different surfaces.

And the moral, oh most beloved brethren, is that you should always listen to the advice and opinions of those around you who demonstrably know what they're talking about. If someone says that a character saying, "It doesn't fit", in a whiny voice becomes extraordinarily irritating after the first 262 times, MAKE IT STOP SAYING IT. If someone says that problem solving is a test of mind power, not labyrinth navigation, PUT YOUR CLUES NEAR YOUR PUZZLES. If someone says that making pointlessly large labyrinths is dull, STOP MAKING THEM. And so on. There were countless other examples in Tim's rant, but we were too busy dodging the lumps of circuit board and trapdoor covers to be able to report them fully.

And that concludes today's sermon. The village fête will be held in the Church Hall this coming Saturday, or the vicarage garden if wet. I hope to see as many of you there as possible, and don't forget that you'll burn in Hell for all eternity if you can't make it. Go in piece.

1. The King stands on tiptoes when you ask him to look at something.
2. The sound of the King's footsteps changes as he walks on different surfaces.

Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve logo

Price: £17.99 Publisher: Vulcan Software 01705 670269

The king is back and this time he's got a cool new look to help him in his quest for a wife.

Hormones and a woman's biological clock have a lot to answer for. The crusty old Queen Eve, obviously fed up with her own aging libido, is determined to deny the young virile King any chance of happiness. She's locked up all the eligible young ladies to prevent him finding a wife.

This is too much for our young hero to bear as anyone who has played the previous two versions of the Valhalla series will surely agree. Hasn't the poor lad been through enough in his quest to rule his father's kingdom? Now he's finally got there shouldn't he have the right to settle down and make some little Valhalla babies? Queen Eve doesn't think so, she's out to make it as difficult as possible for the boy to get his oats. He's got four treacherous worlds to complete before he even gets within earshot of an attractive woman.

Before the cynics amongst you start muttering "stop dressing it up dear, we know what to expect - same old hackneyed game with a bit of different plot behind it" - I must tell you you're wrong. Though, I would have forgiven Vulcan if they decided with to stick with a format that has already brought them great success (if you read some other magazine's reviews you wouldn't believe this though). For the third instalment in the Valhalla series, Vulcan, in my opinion, have changed certain aspects of the game radically - all to the benefit of the gameplay.

The first thing you'll notice as you load the game is that the viewing perspective has changed from a top down one to a more sort of isometric type view. I think this is a Godsend. While I enjoyed the earlier versions of the Valhalla series it was very hard to actually find anything as objects and the Prince seemed to blur into one, leaving you trying to decipher where anything was.

With the new perspective you see a complete version of the hero, instead of the previous upturned pancake-like version. Objects and people are also easier to find. In particular, doorways are easier to distinguish. No more having to search for a minuscule marking on a square, they are now clearly marked out.

Another greatly appreciated cosmetic change is that each level is now more colourful than earlier versions. Vulcan seem to have waved goodbye to the awful boring brown-dominated colour palette of the two previous Valhalla games. They've injected a lot more colour to this version. Now there are lots of primary colours and each world is more distinguishable with its own indigenous graphics. Extra touches like changing the sound effects so that you can differentiate when the king is walking on different surfaces such as grass are also nice.

There are also background noises that you can either turn on or off for each level. These are here, I presume, to add some atmosphere to each world and vary from birds twittering away for the woodland scene (though it did sound very similar to the background music for Vulcan's business simulator, Hillsea Lido to scaryish organ-type music for the later levels.

Some of you might also be glad to know that there is an option to limit the King's dulcet tones. You can choose to turn the volume down and read the text explanations alone or you can click on the speech icon to limit the amount that the cheeky chappie says. While the option to limit how much he speaks may sound very appealing to these who can't stand to the whiny "I've got it" every five minutes. I found that you can miss out on vital clues if you pick this option.

For instance in the first level there is a chest surrounded by levers which if you try to operate will eventually kill you because you don't have the necessary potion before you can approach them. With the limited speech on you don't get to hear him saying "ouch that's hot". This message doesn't come up as text so it means that you miss out on the clue as to what potion you'll need in order to operate the levers. I think if the voice annoys you that much, turn the volume down on your Amiga, that way you won't miss out on any extra hints that are vital to getting on in the game.

OK tarting up the game's appearance is all very well but has the game itself changed much? Well, the essential elements are still there. It's still a walk-through adventure where you have to solve puzzles in order to get through each level.

The puzzles, though not dramatically different, seem a little harder, but it's still a case of find key, insert in chest to find some other potion or object that you need in order to progress. The puzzle solving element is still as strong as ever. However, the cosmetic changes made to the game make it different enough to make it, in my opinion, more enjoyable than its two earlier incarnations.

Word association and good general knowledge skills are required for this game. There's also a lot more characters in this version who have a bigger part to play. You get to try out your schmoozing skills with characters such as the milkmaid who will give you some milk if you tell her she's beautiful (works every time). I also found movement within the game much easier thanks to the new mouse-driven controls.

Slow death
It doesn't seem to be as easy to die in Eve. There's no instant death if you fall down a hole in the game. The only way to die is if you run out of stamina, or if you undertake to do something tricky like try to stand next to something like a bee-hive for too long without taking the relevant potion.

Yes the potions are still here, only this time you've got an extra helping hand in the shape of the ghost of your parents. There's actually a ghost icon which is your parents' ghost. If you have a potion in your rucksack click on this and they'll tell you what it is for.

There's also the option to load from the last saved version which saves on the frustration factor of having to trog through a level that you've already half way through. Though perhaps it would have been better to have introduced a save option like the one in Timekeepers where you had more than one point where you could restart from. This would help in case where you'd made a mistake but saved it at that point otherwise you've no option but to begin all over again.

A job well done
I think a pat on the back is in order for Vulcan Software. They could have rested on their laurels and stuck with a formula that seems to work judging by the amount of Valhalla fans there are. Instead they've improved an already good game and made it into a a very enjoyable game. OK I don't think that Valhalla is ready to compete against the likes of Beneath a Steel Sky but I don't think that it's trying to and the price of £17.99 reflects this.

The graphics have been improved within the constraints of a game written in Amos will allow. Whilst I wasn't a diehard fan of the earlier two versions of this genre I really enjoyed playing this one. The puzzle solving can become a bit tiring and repetitive after a while but there's still enough enjoyment there to last a few weeks at least. Needless to say fans of Valhalla will adore this latest version. Previous detractors, are advised to take a look, it might change your opinion.

Something old, something new
Can you spot the new icons? The top strip are the icons you get when you click on an item in your rucksack
Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Read-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Eat-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Drink-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Place-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Insert-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Parents' Ghost-icon
Read Eat Drink Place Insert Parents' ghost
Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Restart-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Load-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Save-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Text On or Off-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Speech Gauge-icon Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve: Atmos Tracks-icon
Restart (Naa) (Er) Load (Ah) save Text on or off Speech gauge Atmos tracks
Right back at ya!
Vulcan seemed to have taken any criticisms levelled at the two previous versions of Valhalla to heart and come back with a revamped playing area. And here it is.
Valhalla And the Fortress of Eve
Notice the new viewing perspective and colourful graphics. We've also got a full view of our hero now as well. The strip of objects at the top is your rucksack. Click on any one of these objects and you'll call up a new set of icons shown in the box on the left hand page. The rest is pretty much the same, stamina and potions bars at either side of you and the familiar row of icons at the bottom.