Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I've always been told, and plagiarism is the key to success in almost any field. Why else is it that so many companies over the years have tried to emulate the success of Doom by trying to take the idea and put a new spin on it? To be honest, I'm sick to the back teeth with the thing. First person perspective, 3D worlds are all well and good, but once you've been through one stone-walled maze, I think you've been through them all. What the world really needs is a new use for this kind of technology. Something that takes the atmosphere and excitement of 'being there' and actually gives you a purpose. It's something that will certainly engage more than your trigger finger in a quest to unbalance your equilibrium.
Oxyron think they have just the thing in Trapped - a fantasy role playing game set in a 3D world, in which the player must use cunning and initiative to negotiate their way through thirteen levels of mazes, monsters, traps and puzzles as they attempt to make their escape from the dark lord Tarnak. All of this takes place in the kingdom of Kaldrion, and I think the rest of the plot could be figured out by buying half a dozen pulp fantasy novels and gluing random pages together.
So what about the game? Well, what we end up with is a blend of two different styles of gaming which has resulted in a rather shallow game. To explain what I mean, let's first take a look at the role playing, adventure side of the game. At the start you are offered the choice to be one of five characters, from a knight to a barbarian, taking in fighter, hunter and dwarf along the way. Each is skilled with different weapons, and has varying magical abilities, and that's really as far as the role playing element works.
The essence of role playing, as defined by the name itself, is that you adopt a persona, and play the game through the eyes, actions and limitations of that character. I don't want to nit-pick, but not being able to name your own character seems to show a certain lack of thought.
The other side to role playing and adventure games is the actual adventuring. What kind of challenges are you likely to find? What kind of puzzles will you be called upon to solve? Well, in the case of Trapped, nothing particularly challenging. Find the keys to open the locks, and throw switches to open doors that are usually very close by, almost always in visual range. So there aren't any real puzzles, as such.
So what about the Doom side of the game? The engine itself is competent enough, as you would expect given the number of excellent titles that have already appeared. The frame rate is more than adequate, with the main 3D screen taking up about two thirds of the main display, surrounded by useful information such as your health and strength. There are a couple of innovative windows that show maps and suchlike, if you happen to have collected them. The way your head bobs is quite fun to watch, as the coders have replaced the usual up and down bounce we are all used to seeing, and have added a slight side to side tilt - all we need now is a whistling sound effect, and you have the happiest warrior ever.
It's not my son
All walls, floors and ceilings are textured and light sourced, as you would expect, although I must admit to having a bit of a gripe when it comes to the use of light in this game Obviously the coders have worked long and hard to create realistic lighting effects, and flickering candles do wonders to brighten up another long stone corridor. What I don't understand is why, after spending so long making the lighting work accurately, is it used so badly? Many of the rooms are dark and bland, while some corridors have so much light in them, it's like walking into the centre of the sun. A little planning and some more subtle lighting, and this game could have looked fantastic. Thankfully this seems to be something they've corrected in time for the sequel (preview on page 36) Glitches in the light sourcing also result in floor tiles lighting up as you walk over them, just like they did in that famous old Billie Jean video by Michael Jackson,
So how does it play I hear you all ask? Because at the end of the day, that's the thing that matters the most, and I'm extremely sorry to say that the playability is the biggest bugbear of all. What should be an involving and exciting adventure ends up being rather bland. There is very little in the way of action, so you do end up spending a lot of time wandering around identical looking corridors, looking for keys and switches, and very occasionally you find something to fight and the combat I'm afraid is just about the very final nail in the coffin. Very badly drawn sprites walk directly towards you and then stand stock still in front of you. Judging by the way your health drops. I can only assume that they are still attacking you, but just out of shot.
The combat control in Trapped is extremely unresponsive. Too many times you'll find yourself backed into a corner waiting until your character is ready to strike again, which can have you waiting for up to a couple of seconds after your last stab or slash. This is, of course, ultimately frustrating. Still, at least the bad guys aren't particularly intelligent. Get one behind the other, and they will wait in an orderly queue to attack you, rather than all rushing you at once.
The concept for Trapped is a good one. Having said that though, you'll find the idea of mixing a first person perspective world with a role playing game was done to excellent effect some years ago in Kevin Bulmer's Legends Of Valour. It's therefore nothing short of shameless that this version hasn't succeeded in taking any real steps forward. Having said that, the fact that this has been done on the Amiga at all belies the fact that graphical 3D engine is technically very advanced. The game actually scores well here, but with a little bit more structuring of the adventure side of the proceedings Trapped could have easily been a superb game. As it stands, it's technical status is much, much higher than the game's depth.
Now that's magic
One of the more interesting features in the game is the use of magic. Where lesser games will allow you to collect health potions, fireball potions and aphrodisiacs to aid you on your quest, Trapped simply gives you the recipes and leaves you to find the ingredients for yourself. Not that any of them are particularly taxing, and simply involve mixing one colour gas with another and then drinking it, but it does allow for some freedom later in the game when you have a plentiful supply of gases to play with. Like so many other things in the game, this could have been used to excellent effect, allowing the player multiple ways to solve puzzlers, but as it is all you have is a selection of health restoring and combat spells. A little more imagination is needed, I feel.
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