Master of Magic review

Like I said in my previous review, this time we’ll take a look at one of my personal favorite games of all times and perhaps the most in-depth game I’ve ever played, Master of Magic.

Master of Magic is a 4X strategy game developed by Simtex and published by MicroProse. It was originally released in 1994 for DOS and ported for the PC-98 in 1996.

4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate) is a strategy/managerial genre that’s characterized by selecting a faction, building cities or bases, manage them, exploration, raising armies and fighting enemies by employing strategies in battle. Unlike in RTS games, this genre is usually turn-based. It came to prominence by two other titles also published by MicroProse: Sid Meier’s Civilization in 1991 and Master of Orion (also developed by Simtex) in 1993.

But before continuing with our review, let’s take a look at the cover, shall we?

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And they say that the eyes are the mirror of the soul!

The cover art is simply stunning, with the reflection of a demon in a stylized eye’s pupil. It gives a sense of mysticism and mystery and it can be considered sort of iconic.

But let’s not waste anymore time in conjuring this spell:

The intro depicts a magic duel between two wizards and that’s the main objective of the game: you play as a wizard and you have to battle and defeat other wizards, but the way you do it is where the real gameplay is at. One can say that Master of Magic took the mechanics behind Master of Orion and applied them in a fantasy setting, all the while building upon them.

Every time you begin a new game, you’ll get the game option screen where you’ll have 4 choices to personalize your game: difficulty level, number of opponents, land size and magic strength (to cast spells and summon creatures).

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Ooooh, sparkles!

Then if you choose the intro difficulty, you’ll get to choose between 14 pre-made wizards (although you can still choose a new name) specialized in different schools of magic and each one with a different characteristic. If you chose any other difficulty level, then you can customize your own wizard (although you still have to choose a portrait from the pre-made wizards), choosing spell books belonging to five schools of magic, each represented by a specific color:

  • Light, represented by white, specializes in healing and protection spells.

  • Death, represented by black, specializes in necromancy and decay spells.

  • Chaos, represented by red, specializes in fire and destruction spells.

  • Nature, represented by green, specializes in earth and counter spells.

  • Sorcery, represented by blue, specializes air and subversion spells.

There’s also a sixth school, Arcane Magic (represented by the color gray), which is a general magic school, available to all wizards. If you’re familiarized with the card game Magic The Gathering, it’s very similar to it and magic-wise, follows the same mechanics.

Also, depending on the points available, you can also choose a characteristic, which will define your play style and isn’t shared with any other wizards during that specific playthrough.

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A somewhat empty battlefield, no?

Depending on your choices, you can start in the world of Arcanus (your typical fantasy world), which grants you access to 9 races to select as your starting army, or the world of Myrror, a more dark and harder world (but with more mana and better treasure available) with 5 races to choose from. And then, the game world you selected is created and you can start your game.

The objective, as I said before, is to defeat the other wizard (or wizards) and conquer both worlds. For that, you need to expand your army, explore the worlds, build and expand more cities (or conquer them), hire or summon heroes and/or creatures, tap into magical nodes, research more spells and finally engage your rivals in battle or use diplomacy to negotiate truces and alliances.

You can only defeat your rivals in two ways: either attack and conquer their main capitals (where their wizard towers are located), which will prompt an automatic banishment, or research and cast the Spell of Mastery, which if properly cast, will banish all rivals and automatically win the game.

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“Do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks!”

While the gameplay in general is very reminiscent of Master of Orion, the city management and armies’ training is a bit more like in Civilization, in which you have to build specialized buildings in order to train more powerful and specialized units. But what makes Master of Magic special, is its unique fantasy setting and the wide range of spells available, which are divided in summoning, unit and city spells and global enchantments. All of this brings an incredible deep gameplay, in which there aren’t two playthroughs alike.

The game even comes with an item maker program, where you can edit all the magic items one can find in the game. And yes, although you can make a game-breaking item, it’s fun to create items based on famous fantasy weapons and like.

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Do you guys think my wizard tower blends in well?

The sprites might be a bit small, but they’re all well detailed and it’s easy to distinguish one unit from another. The game is very colorful throughout and the animation might be simple, but it serves the game well, especially the visual effects when casting spells.

The music (composed by Brian “The Fatman” Sanger) is superb and it serves to build a great ambiance without being too distracting. And there’s a good variety of it available, from simple tunes to epic battle themes. The sound effects are also quite simple and serve the gameplay well with the best ones occurring when casting spells.

The only possible criticism I might have (although it’s more of nitpick actually), it’s the fact that the micromanagement can become somewhat chaotic when managing several different cities and units, even with option of appointed viziers that auto-manage the cities for you and the cities and armies screens, which show all the cities and units you have and their current actions and location.

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Apparently Mother Nature loves to push people off buildings

With all of these features, one would think that Master of Magic was a great success, right? Unfortunately the game was released with a bundle of bugs, crashes and terrible AI, which made it almost unplayable. The latest official patch (1.31) was released in March 1995, a half-year after its original release, which fixed most issues and made it much more playable. It was only after this patch that Master of Magic became a cult classic that’s still being played and discussed nowadays.

How do I know this? First there’s still a quite active fan community that produces mods and fan patches (1.4 and 1.5), that fix bugs left in the 1.31 patch and rebalances the AI. And there’s also a bunch of ports, fanmade remakes and spiritual successors. Here’s a few of them:

    • Civizard: Majutsu no Keifu, a Playstation port, made by Asmik and released only in Japan;

    • Leylines, a fanmade remake;

    • Caster of Magic, another fanmade remake;

    • The Age of Wonders series, a spiritual sequel by Triumph Studios;

    • Worlds of Magic, a spiritual successor by Wastelands Interactive.

So, with all of this, do I recommend it? ABSOLUTELY! Like I said at the beginning of this review, Master of Magic is one of my favorite games, not only due its high fantasy setting but also due to its depth and wide range of gameplay options. And where can you get it? Right here at GOG.com.

Phew! I know that this was one lengthy review, but after my absence, I figured you deserve it. Luckily, the reviews’ frequency should come back to normal and next time, we’ll take a look at another great classic. Till then, keep on playing and casting spells!

A small apology

I’m currently going through a bad patch and my computer is broken, so I have to take a small hiatus until I can get it fixed. Thanks for your support and again I apologise for the situation. See you around and keep on playing.

Ninja Rabbits review

Happy Easter! With all the painted eggs and rabbits and whatnot. So, instead of writing an article about Retro Easter Eggs (too much work and I’m lazy as hell), I’ve decided to just review a game with rabbits in it. And unfortunately, the first game with anthropomorphic rabbits that came to my mind is Ninja Rabbits.

Ninja Rabbits is an action game made by Microvalue and originally released in 1991 for Amiga, Atari ST and Commodore 64. It was re-released the following year for DOS.

And yes, this game was made to capitalize off TMNT’s fame back then. And no, it also has nothing to do with Usagi Yojimbo, an anthropomorphic rabbit SAMURAI.

But let’s look at the cover, shall we?

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It looks like they never saw an anthropomorphic rabbit with a karate gi before.

As one can see, the cover shows our titular “ninja” rabbit doing a weird Karate Kid pose and scaring a couple of punks, in the middle of a highway or bridge. Kind of uninspired, but it conveys well what the game is about.

Time to hop to this genin, shall we? I recommend turning off the sound, though:

For those brave enough to hear the entirety of the title theme, I apologize for the damage suffered to your ears. Don’t ask me what that aural atrocity was, but this is perhaps the first time I’m happy for a game NOT having any more music. The title screen might be the only good screen in the entire game, graphically speaking.

According to the game manual (a booklet actually), there was a toxic leak from a chemical plant that turns humans and other anthropomorphic beings into aggressive beasts, which prompts our protagonist to face them and travel to the plant to shut down the leakage. For that, he needs to travel from his home forest to the city and finally to the plant itself, facing all kinds of humans, other anthropomorphic animals, birds, etc.

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The game is only 3 levels long: the countryside (with good animations in the background), the city (full of punks, sewers and god-awful birds that will kill you in an instance if you’re not careful) and the chemical plant (with robots and some platforming).

You start with 3 lives and a carrot that serves as a life bar, which if fully depleted, you’ll lose a life. But don’t worry, there are some carrots distributed throughout the levels, which will grant extra lives.

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Underground versus other ninja… animals.

You control the protagonist with the arrow keys (if not using a joystick) and the space-bar for hitting your enemies with your stick. To perform other attacks, you need to combine the space-bar with any other arrow key. The stick attack is the most powerful attack but also the slowest one.

And talking about speed, our protagonist might be a rabbit but he sure moves like a turtle. He’s incomprehensibly slow compared with the rest of the enemies. You need to properly time your attacks or you’ll die fast! I don’t know if the controls are unresponsive, if the attacks use too many sprites or if the rabbit was programmed to be slower than the rest. Anyway, it makes the game almost unplayable.

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Those birds overhead are the worst enemies in the entire game!

The game has very few sounds, but they serve their purpose, I suppose.

But the worst part for me is that the game not only lacks boss fights at the end of each level, but after finishing the last level, the game puts you right back at the start of the first level without any rhyme or reason. Not even a congratulations text or whatever!

With just 3 levels, you’ll finish the game in no time, even with the hard difficulty. In fact, this feels more like a demo than a proper game. It’s painfully obvious that this game was made with as little effort as possible.

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I assure you. You won’t find any turtles down here.

The Amiga version is slightly better, with a proper title theme and a difficulty select screen, which is absent in the DOS version.

In other words, not only I don’t recommend this game (not even to furries) but I strongly tell you to avoid it. It’s without a doubt, one of the worst games I ever played! AND SOMEHOW IT HAS A SEQUEL! HOW?! WHY?!

You don’t have to take my word for it. Here, experience this atrocity in your own browser.

So I apologize for this being my Easter present to you. To make up for it, next time, we’ll take a look at a much better game! Another true cult classic, I promise.

Until then, leave your comments below and have a happy Easter and keep on playing (just not this game).

Beneath a Steel Sky review

With the movie adaptation of Ghost in the Shell currently at the cinemas, I’ve decided to take a look at the cyberpunk genre and there’s quite a number of games belonging to that genre. But perhaps my favorite one is Beneath a Steel Sky.

Beneath a Steel Sky is a graphic adventure developed by British company Revolution Software and published by Virgin Interactive. It was originally released in 1994 for Amiga, Amiga CD32 and DOS. It was re-released for modern Windows in 2008 and for the Macintosh in 2012. A remastered version was released for iOS in 2009.

After the success of their first game, Lure of the Temptress; Revolution’s co-founder, Charles Cecil, decided to revive an old project he had with famed comic book artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, DC Comics, etc.) while still in Activision. Gibbons provided the comic that serves as the intro to the game and all the visual ambiance and backgrounds within it, while the rest of team worked using the game engine they made: the Virtual Theatre engine.

But let’s look at the covers first, shall we?

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Inspired by Metallica’s black album?

The first cover is the most well known and iconic one, with a simple white outline of Union City’s towers over a black background. Simple and effective at invoking the urban atmosphere of the game.

Then we have this cover:

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The logo etching in a rusty iron surface isn’t that bad, but I hate all the gray space. Either use all gray or all rusty, but not both! You know, like this:

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Now we’re talking!

Also, take a look at the CD case’s cover:

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An image of Union City taken from the comic book with a miniature of the original cover at the side. Also good at invoking the urban oppression in the game.

But let’s boot this sucker, shall we?

This is the intro to the CD-ROM version. The floppy disk version came with a comic book by Dave Gibbons detailing the events that lead up to the beginning of game: you play as Robert Foster (named after a brand of Australian “beer”), a man who has grown in a post-apocalyptic Australian Outback region called the Gap and one day, he’s kidnapped by Security forces from a dystopian city called Union City and brought back to said city, but in the way back, the copter he was travelling in crashes and he escapes. Now, Foster not only has to avoid the Security forces but he also has to find the reasons behind his kidnapping and his link to the city.

Like I’ve mention before, the game uses the Virtual Theatre engine, which gave more independence to NPCs by programming specific routines and tasks independent of the players’ input. This creates a more realistic game world in terms of characters’ relations and portrayals. And yet, it isn’t hard to find specific NPCs when needed, mainly because the game world isn’t very big, despite being inside a city.

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“I’m no Macgyver, but I probably can do something with this”

You see, the copter crash at the beginning, not only serves as a story element, but also as means to isolate the characters from the rest of the city. In fact, the playable areas are limited to just 3 levels of a single city tower (besides a fourth and final area), so it won’t be possible to explore the rest of the city and to interact with a lot of characters.

And talking about the NPCs, they’re all well written and fleshed out enough to help create a proper atmosphere. I find it funny that the protagonist and his companion, Joey, sport an American accent and the rest of the characters have British accents, despite the fact that the game’s story occurs in Australia. Still the voice-over is quite serviceable, despite some bad voice acting here and there.

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“Next to a mountain of scrap, that’s where we are, Rob”

The humor is quite sarcastic, especially at the beginning. But as the story progresses, the tone gets more and more serious, but it doesn’t get as depressing as in The Dig.

And about our protagonist Foster: despite speaking with an American accent, he doesn’t look like an outsider. In fact, with his long coat and slicked hairstyle, he perfectly blends in with the rest of the NPCs. In the intro, he immediately stands out compared with his tribesmen at the Gap.

The point-and-click scheme is simple and intuitive, with the left mouse button for examining objects and the right mouse button to pick and/or use them. Usually the mouse buttons are mapped the other way around in most graphic adventures, but you won’t have any problems adapting to this particular control scheme.

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Game over, man. Game over!

The soundtrack is quite good and is usually well tied to the game’s atmosphere, although I found the LINC Space theme a bit too upbeat for the sections it’s used. But the rest of the themes all fit in well.

The game graphics are also quite good, with most of the backgrounds drawn by Dave Gibbons featuring good animation throughout. It really conveys the urban oppression and decadence commonly found in the cyberpunk genre.

And talking about the cyberpunk elements, this game explores most of them, if not all (virtual reality, trans-humanism, nature vs. technology, etc.) The story is heavily inspired by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984 and it shows!

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Welcome to the Matrix, Neo.

The puzzles aren’t too hard, albeit with a bit of backtracking and pixel hunting, but any player experienced with graphic adventures shouldn’t have any problems with it. Also despite the playable areas not being too big, it still has a proper length to it.

Apart from all of these nitpicks, I highly recommend it, even if you’re not a cyberpunk fan. At the end, you can see why it became a cult classic.

In 2003, Revolution released the game as freeware, which made it possible for ScummVM to support it. You can easily find it almost everywhere in the Internet, but I recommend downloading it from the ScummVM homepage here or from GOG.com here. You can also get the remastered version for iOS here.

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“So Babs, do you come here often?”

And you can also get an enhanced soundtrack by James Woodcock to use with ScummVM here.

Recently, there have been some talks about a possible sequel by Revolution, but unfortunately they seem more focused on continuing the Broken Sword series instead.

So, what do you think about Beneath a Steel Sky or cyberpunk games in general? Leave your comments below.

Next time, it’s Easter! And you know what that means. Until then, keep on playing and surfing the cyberspace.

688 Attack Sub review

Like I said before, most genres started as computer games before being made for consoles. In fact, due to the limited fast action in favor of a slow, methodical gameplay, most simulations thrived in the computer realm in comparison with consoles. However some companies did try to port them to consoles, but most console players in the 80s and 90s preferred a more action-oriented approach to gaming. Today’s subject although more known in the Sega Megadrive/Genesis’ library, begun its existence as a computer game.

688 Attack Sub is a submarine simulation (or subsim) developed and published by Electronic Arts and originally released in 1989 for DOS. It was re-released a year later for Amiga and ported in 1991 to the Sega Megadrive/Genesis and PC-98.

But first, let’s take a look at the covers, shall we?

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Man, this envelope went through a rough patch, hasn’t it?

The first cover isn’t bad in theory, with a simple vanilla envelope with the word “CLASSIFIED” stamped on the front. But it doesn’t say anything about the game itself, except that it might be a military type game of some sort.

The consequent variants were a lot better and my favorite is this one:

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A bit better, right?

With a simple image of two Navy boats, it gives a better idea of what the game is all about, but I still don’t know if this a subsim or a Battleship videogame based only on the cover.

But the Megadrive/Genesis cover is totally different:

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Confirmed target destroyed!

Now this is a great cover! You don’t need anything else to tell you about the game.

But let’s launch this boat, shall we?

As you can see, the title screen shows nothing more than the image of a submarine resurfacing featuring an adequate theme music. It’s not bad and the theme sets a good atmosphere for the game.

Then we have the mission selection screen, where we can choose between 10 missions to play. We can take control between an US 688 class sub or a Soviet ALFA class, except in the first mission, where we can also take control of a 700 class (but it’s identical to the 688 sub).

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I just shot an E at the B!

The lighting icons next to the missions’ name mean that those missions can be played with another player, each one controlling a different sub. However I have to apologize because I couldn’t play any multiplayer match. These matches could only be played through a modem direct connection and this game was released before the existence of the Internet and I lack the necessary knowledge to configure it in modern computers. So consider this a single-player review only.

After choosing which mission to undertake, you then have access to the configuration panel, where you can dial up your modem for multiplayer matches (if available) and/or choose your difficulty level.

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Is the guy on the left smoking a pipe in a confined closed space?

As you can guess, this game occurs during the height of the Cold War and the majority of the missions are between the US and Soviet forces. The missions, while being only ten, are very varied, ranging from training to surveillance to open naval battles.

At the start of every mission, you’re required to go to the radio room to receive your orders and objectives and then you can properly start your mission.

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“So, where’s comrade Sean Connery?”

From a screen called the CONN (Conning Tower) depicting the inside of the sub and its crew, you can go to six control panels in which you have access to the different functions for operating the sub:

  • The aforementioned radio room, where you can review your mission orders and objectives. Also at the end of each mission, you always end up here in case of whether failure or success.

  • The status panel, where you’ll see all the damage done to the sub.

  • The control panel, where you’ll basically drive the sub, controlling depth, speed and direction.

  • The weapons panel, where you’ll have access to the torpedoes, missiles (only in the 688 class) and noisemakers.

  • The periscope panel, where you can use the periscope to take a look at the surface.

  • The navigation room, where you can trace routes to navigate through using the auto pilot function.

  • And the sonar room, where you can use sonar to detect and analyze your targets.

And during battles, if the panels suddenly turn red, that means you have a hull breach and you need to resurface before your sub sinks!

In almost every panel, you’ll also have access to a map where your sub is depicted by a square in the middle of it and all the other ships are depicted by color-coded letters. But using your controls at the left bottom, you can also have access to a rough 3D vision of the ocean’s bottom, but it doesn’t depict any ships. Which is great for navigating slowly at the bottom of the sea, avoiding any rock formations and other environmental dangers.

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“Luckily we won’t hear Amerikan pigs singing this time, comrade kaptain!”

There is basically no difference between the American and Russian subs, only cosmetically. The only big difference is the lack of missiles in the ALPHA class, but then again you only need to use the missiles in one mission.

There are no limits to what you can do while controlling the sub, whether it is to sail away or attacking your allies, but of course, you’ll fail the mission. I do like the little portraits of your crew almost every time you do something, like raising your periscope or arming and firing a torpedo. Usually it takes two torpedoes to sink any ship, but sometimes they might miss the target, luckily you can guide them remotely to any chosen target.

At the beginning of every mission, any targets you detect are unidentified and to properly identify them, you can either use the periscope (if they’re at the surface) or use your sonar analyzer, which will reproduce their sounds and no, nobody sings the Russian National Anthem in this game.

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No, this isn’t the mission success screen.

Due to this strategic way of playing, the game isn’t very action-packed and it might look very slow-paced to most gamers. But if you prefer this kind of gameplay, then 688 Attack Sub is right up your alley.

The Megadrive/Genesis version plays exactly the same, with all the missions intact. And although it has better graphics and the gamepad controls aren’t bad, it also has worse sound and music, even if it has more themes than the DOS version. Also it lacks the crew’s portraits of the other versions.

688 Attack Sub wasn’t the first subsim to appear in the market, nor the most influential and it was followed by SNN-21 Seawolf in 1994 and by Jane’s 688(i) Hunter/Killer in 1997.

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Select your pain!

I haven’t played a lot of subsims to properly compare them to 688, but from a general gamer’s perspective, it might be a bit slow-paced, especially at the start of every single mission, but it grows to a certain level of action at the harder difficulty level and the objectives’ variation gives it a small replay value, but after beating all the missions with both subs, you’ll hardly play it again.

So if you like subsims, give it a shot but it might be a bit complex to serve as an introduction to the genre.

So, what do you think of this game? Feel free to leave your comments below and next time, we’ll take a look at one of my personal favorites, in both genre and theme. Till then, keep it under the sea and avoid the Crazy Ivans.

Emilio Butragueño ¡Fútbol! review

Regardless of my Portuguese nationality, I love football (soccer to ya bloody Yankees!). And of course, I was over-enjoyed when Portugal won the European Cup last year!

I also like football videogames (although I do struggle with modern titles) and my introduction to the genre was through a Spanish football computer game, Emilio Butragueño ¡Fútbol!

Emilio Butragueño ¡Fútbol! (also known as Buitre) was developed by Topo Soft (kind of, read below) and published by Erbe Software (in Spain) and by Ocean (outside of Spain). It was originally released in 1987 for Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum and DOS. It was re-released a year later for Commodore 64 and MSX.

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I don’t know if the kid on the right is surprised or scared.

But perhaps more interesting than the game itself, it’s the story of its development and how it came to be:

Both Topo Soft and Dinamic (another Spanish developer) were after Real Madrid football player Emilio Butragueño, in order to license his name for a football computer game. Dinamic apparently had a verbal agreement with Butragueño for 1 million pesetas (Spain’s former currency, which equals to 6010.12 Euros), but Topo Soft with the help of their distributor, Erbe, managed to sway Butragueño away with 10 million pesetas (60101.16 Euros)!

But the story doesn’t end there. Three of Topo Soft’s main designers were unsatisfied with the company, so they form a new company called Animagic and did a unofficial port of Tehkan World Cup outside of Topo Soft’s working schedule (so it wouldn’t get claimed by Topo Soft) and sold it back to Topo Soft under Animagic’s brand. That’s why Animagic’s name appears in the Amstrad CPC’s version. But all other versions were ported by Topo Soft.

But let’s get back to the game, starting with the cover:

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Is he playing against Italy?

As you can see, that’s Emilio Butragueño himself in the corner and in the main image using the red kit. And you must be asking: “if Butragueño played in Real Madrid, why isn’t he wearing its traditional white kit?” Well, apparently Topo Soft decided to use an alternative kit as not to alienate non-Real Madrid fans, but I bet it was so that Topo Soft wouldn’t be forced to pay royalties to Real Madrid. And that’s not the Spanish National Team’s kit either.

But enough talk and let’s boot this sucker, shall we?

As you can see, the game starts with a very bad rendition of the box cover, without any title whatsoever, just the company’s logo. And then we get to the menu in Spanish. Fortunately, this is basically the only Spanish you’ll find in the game, so non-Spanish speaking gamers can play it.

In the main menu screen, you can choose between 1 or 2 players game, the duration of the match between 10, 20 or 30 minutes and the difficulty level between 2 options. You can’t choose which team to control, with player 1 always controlling the white team and player 2 or the CPU controlling the red team. In the other versions, it was possible to choose between both teams.

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Actually the white team looks more like Germany

And then you start the match and although you can’t see the teams’ names, it’s safe to assume that the white team is supposed to be Real Madrid but I have no idea who the red team is supposed to be. One could say it’s Real Madrid’s main rivals, Barcelona FC, but their jerseys are red AND blue. Was there a Spanish team using a full red kit back then? Anyway, just imagine a football team with traditional red kits, like Liverpool FC or something.

Because it’s a sports game, I highly recommend the use of a gamepad or joystick over the keyboard. The controls feel somewhat stiff, and because you can only control a player at a time, it’s easy to get confused which player you’re controlling, even with the flashing prompts. Also, there’s only 1 button for shooting and that’s what you’ll end up doing while in possession of the ball, since you can only shoot the ball high and nothing else. While not in possession of the ball, you can tackle other players for it, but be careful not to commit fouls (as you know, two yellow cards or one red card equals expulsion). Also apparently the match ends if any of teams scores 10 goals, but I haven’t seen it so far.

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GOOOOOOOAAAAALLL! Too bad it was from the other team

The CGA graphics leave a lot to be desired in comparison with the other versions (even the ZX Spectrum version with less colors looks better!), but the animations aren’t that bad. The bottom of the screen with the score, time and the overhead football pitch serve their purpose, but they could have been a bit smaller in order to make the top screen bigger. The sprites also serve their purpose, despite being seen through an overhead perspective.

And apart from the average sound effects, there’s no music whatsoever. Not even a title theme!

With the lack of choice between teams and just two difficulty levels, there isn’t a lot of replay value. It’s good for a quick match with a friend without the hassle of going between several options and menus, but little else.

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Corner kick.

However, because the game had the name of a very famous football player at the time, apparently it sold more then 100.000 copies, which encouraged Topo Soft to develop a sequel in 1989, which was only released for Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum and MSX.

I don’t recommend this game mainly because it was quickly overshadowed by a true classic of the genre, Kick-Off, from which all other football games built upon afterwards. But that’s a review for another day…

So, did you enjoy the review and/or the game? Like and leave your comments below and tell me what your favorite football games are.

Next time, we’ll go under the sea. Till then, keep on playing (football and otherwise)!

Dungeon Hack review

Confession time: I never really got into tabletop RPG. I’m not saying it’s bad or something. I simply stating that I’ve never had the patience for it. However, I do love RPG videogames, whether they’re western computer style or eastern console style.

And my introduction to computer RPGs was also my introduction to dungeon crawlers and to the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. I’m talking about Dungeon Hack.

Dungeon Hack was developed by DreamForge Intertainment and published by Strategic Simulations Inc. (SSI). It was originally released in 1993 for DOS and re-released in 1995 for the PC-98.

Dungeon Hack is a Roguelike dungeon crawler made using the Eye of the Beholder 3 game engine, based in the Forgotten Realms campaign. This means that it creates random generated levels with each new gameplay with the option of a “real death” (in which if your character dies, all save files are automatically erased).

But let’s look at the cover:

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“The dark fire will not avail, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”

This cover was made in the style of a D&D gamebook cover, with gorgeous artwork. It depicts a large beast in front of a typical fantasy adventurer. It looks like something made by the likes of Frank Frazetta, Luis Royo or Boris Vallejo.

But let’s take a look at the intro, shall we?

As you can see, you play as an anonymous adventurer hired by a mysterious sorceress to find an orb in a dangerous dungeon. The intro is small but it serves its purpose as a backstory.

Then you go to the menu screen, where you can choose between several pre-made characters or create your own. Before you go into the character creation screen, I recommend reading the manual first because the character creation uses the Advanced D&D 2nd Edition rules and if you’re not familiar with those, then you need to read the manual to understand all the races, classes and spells available in the game.

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What? I can’t roleplay as a half-human, half-hobbit chimney cleaner? That’s racist!

After you choose your race, class (or classes), gender, alignment and properly reroll your stats, you can choose your character’s portrait from several options. Although the game doesn’t have a lot of character portraits (more male than female ones), it still has a basic range of portraits for simple characters.

And then you go to the dungeon customization screen and this is where the game really shines! Like I’ve said before, the game creates random generated levels, but you can customize your dungeon by choosing between several variables, like monsters’ difficulty level, how big you want the dungeon to be, magic traps, etc. The number of possible combinations is very large and quite impressive!

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So, I can create a dungeon based on Disney World.

Each level has more or less the some basic layout (apart from some exceptions): usually with 2 different monster types with a third type acting as an end-level boss (which can be a normal monster type in the next level). The monsters are all varied and based on the Forgotten Realms campaign. There’s even a bestiary in the manual, however it’s incomplete…

During the gameplay, you have access to an auto-map, which is probably the most useful tool in your possession. It not only marks your already explored path but it’s also useful for backtracking and locating monsters out of sight.

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OUCH! Asshole, that hurt!

You also have a limited inventory space, so you need to manage carefully your inventory during later levels. You also need to eat during your adventure and collect better weapons, armor, potions and scrolls. Careful though! You can end up with cursed items (although there’s a way for lifting said curses or identify unknown items).

Luckily, you can rest (when not surrounded by monsters) and recover health. But it does however reduce your food bar.

Although apart from the title theme, there’s no other music in the game, but there’s a wide array of ambient sound effects ranging from the monsters’ noises to every time you open a door. It creates a proper atmosphere when you hear monsters all around you, but can’t detect any at first glance.

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When camping used to be good.

The graphics are all quite good for the time but the view screen is somewhat small. The designers could perfectly re-arrange the size of the other screens (character items, movement arrows, portrait, etc) in order to make the view screen bigger.

Depending on your choices, the smallest dungeon is still 10 levels deep, which can create properly long adventures. And the wide array of variables during dungeon customization, creates very good replay value.

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The main menu screen.

So, not only I recommend this game as an introduction to dungeon crawlers in general or to the D&D franchise, but I also recommend it as test drive of sorts for possible characters you can imagine.

And you can buy it here at GOG.com bundled together with another D&D RPG, Menzoberranzan.

So, what do you think of Dungeon Hack? Like and leave your comments below.

Next time, let’s look at the world’s most popular sport. Till then, keep on hacking away.