Agony. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by David Sears
Cosmic power--everybody wants some. In this world we can't change ourselves into spell-casting owls to get it, but in the imaginations of Psygnosis authors, nothing's out of the question. Agony, one of the most radiant scrolling shoot-'em-ups to wing its way across the Atlantic in some months, takes an avian approach to the cross-country quest.
Not only does this game glow, but it doesn't miss any opportunity to show off how gorgeous graphics on the Amiga can be. Alestes, an apprentice sorcerer and sometime owl, flaps by in mystic shades of blue and gray. The hordes of baleful demons summoned by rival apprentice Mentor exhibit detailed shading, though they're not animated as well as Alestes. Some flap leather wings while others glide past inertly, dropping deadly glow bombs of enchantment. Mentor's tour appears three-dimensional, courtesy of the seamless parallax scrolling. The forests full of swaying trees, rotting corpses of dragons, and fantasy-novel naturalistic scenery all vie for your attention, and you'll hope to survive long enough just to see everything. Fortunately, this bewitching diversion isn't that hard to complete. Just learn the behavior of your myriad foes and stay out of their way. Unlike some of the more difficult Psygnosis offerings, this one doesn't move too fast, so hard work will see you through to the end in short order.
Along with the exquisite graphics you'll enjoy a powerful soundtrack, one that begins with a haunting piano introduction. Action sequences see orchestra hits and more aggressive themes. Sound effects suffer in comparison to the music, though. The destruction of your enemies elicits an unsatisfying pop instead of the crackle and boom that you might expect from this otherwise altogether stunning audiovisual partnership.
Alestes must complete each level sequentially, and his approved flight plan won't take him above the treetops. The owl might save himself--and you--a heap of trouble if he'd just fly over all the gray bugs and fire-breathing reptiles and straight to the end of level 6, but we all know that games don't work that way. Agony falls miserably short of innovative gameplay; throughout each level Alestes gathers weapons and spells to aid him in fighting not only his lesser opponents but the tougher-to-kill level guardians found at the end of each earth-hugging flyby. No surprises here, but to its credit, Agony will. never bore you. This game, after all, revels in its unearthly beauty.
Copy protection is of the normal Psygnosis sort--the type that thwarts the best loading efforts of my aging Amiga 1000's internal floppy drive. Agony loads and runs fine on a 1MB Amiga 500, though, and the load time seems quite brief. The program treats you to moody original music as well as sumptuous still pictures of the Agony landscape during disk access. An explanatory introduction animation mentioned in the brief manual didn't ship with the three game disks. Too bad--the designers did such a fine job with overall game presentation that the missing traditional Psygnosis preliminary could have only ranked as spellbinding.
New Amiga owners looking to fill the action-game niche in their fledgling software libraries should definitely feather their shelves with Agony. While there's nothing new here, classic arcade formula rendered with mesmerizing elegance and gratifying style guarantees hours of play.