Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 147 / DECEMBER 1992 / PAGE 104

Gods. (computer adventure game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Alfred C. Giovetti

Gain immortality by battling your way through mazes and returning control of the City of Legends to the gods in this action-adventure hybrid.

Beads of sweat glisten on your bronzed, corded muscles as you make your way through the ancient City of Legends, once the playground of the gods. Now in decay, the city is overgrown by weeds and inhabited by the denizens of evil. You recall the challenge laid down by the gods for a champion to free their city from the grip of evil. A massive warrior, you favor quick wits and flashing weapons over the protective covering of armor. You know the price of failure is death. But you are no ordinary hero--your name is Hercules. And your mission is no ordinary quest: to attain godhood and immortality.

Gods, by Bitmap Brothers, is a game which combines many of the best aspects of adventure games in an arcade-game environment, including puzzles, shortcuts, secret rooms, treasure chests, and keys not seen in most other arcade games. All these plus communication, character interaction, hints, and a limited save-game utility combine to make Gods a very effective and enjoyable hybrid adventure-arcade game that must be played to be appreciated.

The side- and top-scrolling display of the City of Legends has a third-person perspective that shows your muscle-bound Hercules and the monsters within the stone Greco-Roman maze. At the bottom of the display are several windows which show the number of lives you have remaining, guardian and character energy levels, the item inventory, the point score, a message scroll box, and the amount of gold you've collected. The amount of energy remaining in your current life is shown as the fullness of a beaker.

The city is divided into four sections: the city proper, the temple, the labyrinth, and the underworld. Each section is divided into three worlds, and each world may be composed of multiple levels. Success in traversing the levels involves a combination of throwing the correct switches and levers, collecting the correct artifacts, and killing off all of the monsters--all within the time allotted and with the least damage to your character. Extra lives, more powerful protection, and more powerful weaponry are the rewards of the correct sequence of play.

Within the city you must defeat many enemies, which can appear out of thin air, accompanied by a flash of light. The basic monster types come in many interesting and varied somatotypes and weapons capabilities, making combat an interesting, ever-changing occupation. They are of four basic types: killers, fliers, thieves, and guardians.

Gods is a game of planning, not just a game of knee-jerk reflexes. You must locate switches and determine their functions via experimentation. The game's limited save-game resources require you to repeat portions of the maze over and over again, until you find the ultimate path through each city section.

Like an adventure game, Gods has progression and reward puzzles. Progression puzzles aid or hinder your advancement to the next level; reward puzzles provide you with better weapons, protection, and life power. To solve the puzzles, you'll have to get the right keys for the right doors and be able to select the correct path through the mazes.

A message scroll box at the bottom of the display announces the ultimate goal of a set of puzzles and offers hints to solving puzzles or explains the effects of artifacts. Determining the meaning of these messages is the source of another puzzle.

Gods has an inventory, another adventure-game feature. The three-item inventory holds items such as keys and other artifacts. Items in Gods have an existence of their own. When they're dropped, they appear on the city floor. If a thief picks them up, they can be retrieved later when the thief is killed.

Over 30 distinct types of artifacts, including six different types of keys, are hidden in Gods. There are also many types of weapons, artifacts of protection, magic potions, and weapons' arcs, which control the trajectory of the thrown weapons. As with characters in other adventure games, Hercules needs to know what to discard and what to keep. Many items disappear when used and so don't take up room in the small three-item inventory. Most gems add to the gold counter. Food replaces lost energy.

A shop appears at the halfway point and the end of each level. Some weapons, armor, food, weapon arcs, and other artifacts will perform specific tasks better than others. Some weapons kill monsters effectively but do little damage to the breakable blocks. Your choice of weapons will ultimately affect your ability to successfully traverse the dangers that lie ahead.

Potions have many effects, such as increase in health, weapon potency, and defense effectiveness. Those acquired in shops act differently than ones found in the city, providing an additional set of strategic choices. Shop potions can be saved as inventory items that are dropped from the inventory when used; city potions take effect on contact with Hercules.

Gods incorporates a new system called the Player Monitor mode. This mode keeps track of your skill level, making the game easier for the uninitiated and more difficult for the skillful. Clever solutions and skillful maneuvers reap higher rewards, while the inexperienced player is encouraged to improve in a less lethal environment. Player Monitor mode ensures that every game is different, since most of us don't perform with the precision of a computer.

Upon your successful completion of a world, the program constructs a personalized code for you. By inputting the code later, you can return to the beginning of the next world with the Player Monitor mode reactivated at exactly the same level as when you left the game. Gods is different from other code-based save games in that it remembers and lists the codes on the startup screen, thus eliminating the need for you to keep notes.

The interface can be most effectively controlled by a joystick, but it's also supported b a keyboard option. Joystick control is somewhat awkward and takes time to get used to. Keys allow you to pause or escape to the operating system. For selecting items in the shop or inputting alphabetical characters, the mouse and keyboard would've been a more effective combination, but the developers chose not to support it. The numeric key-pad is active for inputting the copy-protection code, a four-digit number recovered from a nearly illegible red code card.

The graphics in Gods are crisp and tight, dazzling the eye and somehow seeming to squeeze out more than 16 colors from its 16-color VGA palette. Animation is incredibly smooth, with the monsters gliding along the screen without a hitch. The theme music was composed by Nation XII's John Fox, a former member of the popular European band Ultravox. Renegade, which produced the game with Bitmap Brothers, is a founding partner with Rhythm King Records, which produced the music in its studios. Sound effects show the same professional origins and are used sparingly to great effect.

Gods is much more than just another arcade game. By combining some of the best elements of adventure games in an attractive arcade-game format, it transcends the fast-reflex arena and becomes a game of intellect. It joins other Bitmap Brothers award-winning games as an innovation that goes beyond earlier hits. You won't want to miss it.

Circle Readers Service Number 303