Love it or loathe it, you can't deny that Vulcan Software's debut into the market last year -the first ever talking Amiga adventure, otherwise known as Valhalla caused a bit of a storm. Created in a living room, with a copy of AMOS Professional and a sampling cartridge, this top-down view adventure used speech where only CO based games had gone before, along with a little imagination and creativeness to build one of the most characteristic games ever seen on the Amiga. Some people didn't like it because they found it too slow to play, others just didn't find the logic in the layout of the puzzles. Many, though, thought it was great. I was in the latter group.
Valhalla, however, wasn't without problems. The fact you couldn't skip through the opening animation once it had started was a constant bone of contention. The fact that the little guy always said something when you did mundane things like collect an object soon became grating. Although the flaws in Valhalla were only small things, collectively they tended to put some people off. Something Vulcan Software are all too ready to admit, as they release the prequel to that game (that means the story that comes before, whereas a sequel is the tale that comes after). Valhalla Before The War tells the story of how the Lord Of Infinity came to rule Valhalla, and a very enjoyable tale it is too.
The game itself is pretty much the same sort of stuff as we've already seen. The main character occupies residence in the centre of the screen, and his little world scrolls around him as he walks. He needs to collect objects, interact with other characters and solve puzzles by use of both of these methods to progress through the four huge levels. This could be something as simple as placing a stick in a hole to make a switch, through to arranging giant pieces on a chess board to solve a Kasparov conundrum
Fans of the original will be happy to note that the original game engine hasn't been tampered with much at all. The same rows of icons run along the bottom of the screen, only now you have instant access to a complete map of the level from the word go, as well as an option to turn off all superfluous speech. No more will he say 'I've Got It' and 'It doesn't fit' every time you experiment with an object. In this mode. Infinity only speaks when asked to, and it makes the game a damn sight more playable for that.
Other than that, the playing area has been increased to show more of the surrounding world, there are far more characters to interact with than before (with all voices supplied by programmer Paul Carrington - even the female ones!) and the puzzles, while being just as devious as the first game, are a lot more logical and straightforward, although that doesn't mean the game is much easier!
Valhalla Before The War has all of the charm of the first game, retained by carefully pruning out all of the things that caused the original to get one or two less than 80% marks, while keeping the little looks up to camera and all the small touches that made Valhalla 'cute. It's a very enjoyable game for those who want to spend a few hours lost in a story, and there's enough here to keep you playing for a couple of weeks. If you liked the first one, you'll love this.
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