OUT OF THE CUPBOARD
Every now and then, a game smashes on to our screens from out of nowhere, blazing a red hot trail through the piles of over-hyped software before it. Risky Woods is going to prove to be just that sort of phenomena. The majority of code was finished more than ten months ago, but for reasons best known to the Spanish programming team, Dinamic, it's taken all this time for the game to come to light.
Risky Woods is an arcade beat 'em/shoot 'em up of incredible console quality. Looking more at home on a Super Nintendo, the game's amazing array of colours and detailed backdrops put most other Amiga offerings to shame. The game's hero is a young adventure seeking warrior by the name of Rohan. His habitat, The Lost Land, is a peaceful isle that generates a great power which has been entrusted to the holy monks for safe keeping. Fortunately this scenario doesn't last long and the evil demon, Draxos, turns all the brothers into statues and scatters them throughout the world in order to exploit the guardians' power. The world contains four zones, each with two stages of combat. In every stage you must free all of the monks before time runs out.
MAPPING IT OUT
Before you commence your journey you are presented with a screen that maps out in miniature the path ahead. The whole complex that you are about to slice, smash, burn and slash your way through is displayed in minute detail, but the latter stages are kept tantalisingly out of view beyond the edge of the screen. A tiny animated version of your warrior makes purposeful strides towards on the map every time you complete a level. From the outset you'll notice the standard of colours used. No pasty pale substitutes here. The backdrops and sprites are delivered in darkest blues and deepest reds as is the compound quality for every colour used throughout the spectrum.
Rohan's first route is through the dense foliage of the forest. In each of the lands you are given four minutes to come out the other side, although you can gain extra time by locating a tiny hour glass which appears occasionally. The first level won't give players of any standing any real problems as it's very easy to fight through. What presents the real challenge is picking up the many extras that are needed to make it through future stages. Rohan is armed with an unlimited supply of knives which he sends hurtling towards his adversaries with incredible speed. Anything less than lightning fast reflexes and your adventure will be short lived, as the forest's skeletal warriors look like contenders for the American 4x4 relay team. Most of the monsters are content with simply running straight towards you and depleting energy from your meagre supply by suicidal touch. However, others such as the fireball spewing plants and multi-clawed bats have more advanced forms of attack.
The compact score panel is packed with information and at first glance is slightly bewildering. There are really only three things you need to look out for: time remaining, lives remaining, and keys. Other information is important, but not for the initial stages. You have three lives, each divided into eleven segments, and when this health level falls out of the yellow and into the red it's a safe bet that death's just around the corner. Life can be regained in any number of ways. Most monsters you kill will drop ornate spinning coins which can be collected and used to buy extra weapons and energy at the end of a level. Alternatively You'll come across huge wooden chests that hide a multitude of power-ups and special features in a mixed bag of the good and bad Undoubtedly the most important items to locate are the two components to the level keys. These have two functions and can either be used as a weapon, clearing everything on the screen or to provide safe passage past the huge all-seeing stone monoliths that block your path. They are invariably found in hard to reach places and on cliff edges and the like. Before you are allowed to exit a level you must crack the stone casing holding the monks. Draxos, in his infinite cunning, has put several decoy statues in the world that hide his own servants. Although they look the same as normal priests, when they smash out of their restraints they throw up a dark red fire that scorches the ground and burns your bones.
If you're to get anywhere you'll need money. The weedy knives allocated to you at the beginning are not nearly enough to see you through every stage. There are four other weapons that you can turn your hand to, all available at the Olde Shoppe that appears amidst a dazzling sign at the end of the round. On offer are ball and chains, fire, axes and boomerangs. Each has its own special properties and can aid you in different ways during combat. For instance, the axe can be thrown straight up into the air and bounce around the screen until they hit their target or disperse. No matter what the weapon is, you choose you can also buy up to three power-ups devices for them and, if you decide to change them, the difference in price will be refunded to you.
Risky Woods is packed full of delightful game-play touches. From the multitude of humanoid and demonic monsters, all animated and coloured to perfection, to the special effects like the screen darkening when you go inside caves. The sheer beauty of its characters and the detail begs the question "why can't all games be as good looking as this". Every platform and pixel is a resplendent cacophony of colour and although we've seen the type before, never has it been presented with such class and attention to detail. It's a simple little game, but one that is utterly addictive.
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