This looked so promising, like what Conan should have been. A nicely drawn, well-storied game with lots of hacking and slashing. It didn't pan out in the end.
The story works something like this. In some alternate reality or what have you, a group of not-really-nice wizards decide to summon a demon, and make him into the ultimate weapon--a sword--so that they can rule the world. The demon has other ideas, especially after the wizards fail to check all the clauses in their contracts. The Deathbringer winds up in the hands of a barbarian by the moniker of Karn, who promptly decides that this is a good thing (the sword, which lives on souls, certainly doesn't stop him), and that killing sounds like fun. Especially sorcerers, argh. It's a really funny intro, if a little overlong and completely devoid of graphics (you read text on a scroll).
The graphics themselves aren't that bad. Even though you're in 16-colour VGA, the colours are used well. There's some nice parallax scrolling in the background, too. The 'camera' is a little vexing, though; when you switch directions, it tends to continue on in the direction you were headed, only to lurch back suddenly and fix itself. There are two health metres to deal with: the Deathbringer sword must kill something every so often, or it'll turn on Karn and kill him. His own health is an issue, too. Don't ask me how to get more; I didn't figure it out.
The controls, though, are simply agonizing. For a game of its era, the setup is simply unforgivable. You steer your hero with the arrow keys, as expected, jumping by pushing up and ducking with down. However, to swing your sword, you must STOP, hold Space, and push a direction. You -cannot- move and attack simultaneously, except with a jumping swipe (which is a laborious task--run forward, gain speed, push up, then hold space and hit a direction before you hit the ground). Karn has three strikes: an overhead smash, a forward poke, and a sort of 'underhanded' swing. There are no ducking moves, either. Space with down does the underhand swing. As soon as the third screen, little dragon whelps gain the ability to shoot firestreams which are -just- longer than your sword, requiring you to inch in and manage to knick them with a hit.
For the life of me, I can't get past the third screen. The first screen isn't very hard, so long as you can kill the enemies before they run over you (if they 'clip' onto you, you can't hurt them, but you constantly take damage with no 'invincibility period'). The second sequence, however, is a joke. I'm not sure what the programmers were smoking. Basically, three giants have decided not to let you go on any further. You must dodge one's foot along with three hands in order to move on. The issue is the knock-back effect--the third striking point tends to knock you back to the very left of the screen. There seem to be 'safe spots', but if you stand still for a second, you may get a 'delayed' hit. And after the you get knocked back once, EVERYTHING seems to do it. You can't jump over anything, since Karn jumps both too short and slowly; neither can you walk under it, since you're too tall. I have yet to see a solution other than sheer brute force, resulting in pounds of damage. Since you don't get an HP back from screen to screen, the quest ends suddenly.
Continues are a pain, too. You can go back to the last screen you got to, but with the same health you had when you first arrived. This leads to a lot of dying in the same exact place.
It's a nicely written intro, and it might even get better (it couldn't get worse). This is a REAL DOG, in a lot of ways. Avoid it if you can, please. I beg you.Reviewed by: Magnificent Linnard