Hegor the Barbarian walks from screen to screen laying waste to his enemies, in the Psygnosis sword-and-sandal saga Barbarian. Dismiss this as 16-bit Euro-trash at your own peril. As hinted by the psychedelic cover art by Roger Dean (who designed Yes album jackets), Barbarian is an exercise in outlandishness. Showing off the Amiga's abilities, Hegor defiantly smashes his chains in the kitschy opening cinema scenes -- one of the first for home computers.
As in many European games that emphasized vivid style over substance in the mid-'80s, Barbarian's game world is fairly small, but gory. Walking from scene to scene, you somersault over deadly traps while slaughtering one undead foe at a time. The rippling muscles and digitized grunts were fresh at the time, and there's a pulpy quality to the art.
What makes Barbarian a real historical curiosity is the loony control scheme. To make Hegor fight, jump, and climb, you choose from a toolbar of icons at the bottom of the screen. Yet not all of the things you need to do can be displayed at the same time, so you have to toggle between two screens of options -- and fast. It's like Karateka crossed with Microsoft Excel. This approach was also used in the cyborg-themed follow-up Obliterator, but didn't really work until Psygnosis' Lemmings.
Had a terrible day? In Barbarian, you can release your built-up aggression on the nasties in this underworld. This can be done by various methods, everything from chopping them limb from limb to pulverising with Herculean blows.
You play the barbarian named Hegor, not unlike a man called Conan in the same profession. Hegor, with his long blonde hair and athletic profile, is son to Thoron. Thoron and his brother, Necron, were given special powers when young by a kindly druid who warned them both that Necron would turn to evil while Thoron would oppose his brother, and stand for good. The guts of the story is that Necron fled to the underground and built the world of Durgan - which you must enter to locate and destroy him.
The packaging of the game is of very high quality and the presentation is superb - included are a poster, story outline, reference card and of course, the game.
On-screen play is controlled by a panel which sits on the bottom of the screen, accessed with the left mouse button. The panel includes directions (left, right, up and down), stop, jump, attack, defend and floe. When the right mouse button is pressed another panel is displayed with the current men status, number of arrows, timer, objects carried and three actions to manipulate them (get, use and drop).
Each screen of Barbarian has a problem or problems which must be overcome in order to move to the next frame. The most hazardous tend to be the varied nasties, which are beautifully presented animated sprites/blobs. The trick to Barbarian is timing and memory. Since there is no save facility on this game the beginning scenes must be played over and over to continue the search for Necron. This lack of a saving facility is the major drawback of the game.
Barbarian is a very well presented game which will keep you entertained for quite some time. It has enough game play to keep non-adventurers happy, and for the true video-adventurer this will surely be a treat for your senses -the dungeon-style atmosphere is excellently reproduced. The graphics are impressive; animation can become quite jerky, however, if a lot is on screen at once. The sound is adequate - a series of grunts and groans from our hero as he climbs, jumps and hacks.
Oldstyle beat 'em up game where you play a Barbarian and have to kill your enemy with a huge sword. Also was released on Commodore 64.
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