Don't bother with Deathtrap if you're looking for an original storyline. How many times have you heard this one before? - "Valiant young prince enters magical labyrinth of evil sorcerer, armed only with a dagger, takes on horrific demons and terrifying deathtraps, collects treasure and magic potions, defeats hideous guardians and finally recovers the source of the wizard's powers."
Pretty familiar stuff, but Deathtrap is one of the better efforts along these lines, as you can tell from the excellent opening sequence featuring multi-level parallax scrolling backgrounds, excellently-animated characters, fine music, beautiful backdrops and convincing lighting effects. Once the Prince Abi, has entered the castle, you start off with a few simple enemies to dispatch to get you into the mood. The backgrounds of the five levels, including castle, catacombs, ice waste, Hell and Rot, are excellently drawn, and the multi-way scrolling very smooth (except, for some reason, when Abi crouches down to crawl through a tunnel). The action soon picks up and things begin to get on top of you (literally as well as metaphorically) as the monsters attack from all sides, and deadfalls drop from the ceiling and crush you.
The monsters include ghosts, giant frogs, fire-ball throwing phantoms, leeches, grabbing hands, stomping demons, volants (rock-dropping birds) and parasitic aliens. Each demands a different weapon or technique to polish it off, and some leave behind bottles of potions which you must collect; red for weapons, green for spells, blue for curative powers. You can also find potions and weapons in chests, though some contain nasty surprises.
Below the main display are panels showing the potions collected; the level of the labyrinth; the weapon in use and its strength; remaining lives; and the state of your health in the form of an orb, the colour of which changes from green to orange to red. If you die, you die messily, reduced to a heap of offal in the most nauseating way.
Press the space bar and you move to the menu screen where you can trade amounts of potion for new weapons, spells and cures. Weapons include fireballs, bouncing daggers, boomerangs, lightning, mind power which acts like a smart bomb killing all enemies on screen, and a magical Friend who will follow you around engaging smaller enemies while you deal with the big ones. A second player can control the friend, otherwise he's computer-controlled. Your friend comes armed with a short-range gun, but you can buy him extra weapons including exploding shots and mortar shots.
Spells can be useful too; a Wizard's curse can disorientate your friend and making him difficult to control, but blue potion will restore him. A green potion is useful to restore him to full power, while other potions can cure paralysis, de-curse weapons and increase shield strength. You can also become invisible, though this doesn't protect you from shots or hits.
Control is by joystick only, with the height of jumps controlled by the time for which the joystick is held in the up position. Leaping from level to level demands some skill and timing, but there's not much in the way of mapping demanded; the main challenge of the game is in fighting off the attacks of the monsters.
Though there isn't a single element of Deathtrap which hasn't been seen in dozens of other games, this one scores highly in all departments and can be recommended for fans of graphically sophisticated arcade adventures with the emphasis on action.
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