THE RAVING REVIEWER
By TIM REEKIE
By TIM REEKIE
The Return Of Heracles
6660 Reseda Blvd.
6660 Reseda Blvd.
This is not so much the "Return of Heracles" as it is the return of Stuart Smith to the software scene. After the successful release of "Ali Baba" in 1981, Stuart went into seclusion with what must have been a library full of Greek Mythology and history. The product of his toils is well worth the wait.
The GameThe Return of Heracles(Heracles, for short) is set in ancient Greece. Under the tutelage of Zeus, each player may guide as many heroes as he or she wishes to follow in the footsteps of Heracles(a.k.a. Hercules).
Before you lie the twelve tasks of Heracles from the Oracle of Zeus, your heroes receive instructions per your task. If you wish, you may travel to the Oracle of Delphi, deposit a contribution and receive hints and clues regarding your task. The more money donated, the better the clues will be (You pays your moneys, you takes your chances). When I say "heroes", I am not implying gender, nor even species, but merely describing a heroic specimen. For example:Pegasus,the winged horse, is, for our intents and purposes, a hero.
Now that we have our definitions straight, which heroes are the best choices? From our experience(The Adventure Duo et. al.), if there are less than five, players, multiple characters is a good idea. Throughout the game, unless played exceedingly well, some player is going to snuff it (that's part of the game folks) and the readying of new heroes is time consuming. What with the gathering of gold to buy a new sword and dagger (the originals are invariably cheap) among other things, the acquisition of new players takes up time. Therefore, the back up hero is a good idea, unless there are quite a few people playing.
That still doesn't clarify who the best choices are. I may hear arguments from the wings on these choices, but here they are anyway:
(1)Achilles:Achilles is the power-house among the heroes; he is not only fast, but also strong, healthy, and dextrous. He already has excellent armor (the River Styx etc.) and armed with a poisoned sword and dagger, he is almost invincible(more about this later). To further the argument, along with Achilles, comes his inseperable companion and cousin, Patroclus, who is also an excellent character.
(2)Thesus:Having inherited a fine suit of armor and sword he almost rivals Achilles. The rest of theheroes fall into the also-ran category with the Great Ajax and Perseus topping the list.
Furthermore, what the AdvenDuo has found to be good strategy, is to acquire two additional draft choices:Asclepius(the healer) and Pegasus. These two,heroes are basically wimps but their forte is not only the power to heal himself one point per round, but if he stops on top of a hero, or vice-versa, that hero is completely healed;a handy asset in a battle. Pegasus is a mule. Actually he is a winged horse, but he is not only able to carry great amounts of gold, but can carry alot of gold at high speeds.This, in effect, makes Pegasus a great pack-horse. A warning here, however: the more gold piled on, the slower any given hero will be able to move.
Even with heroes like Achilles, death at any time is possible. Besides the usual deaths at the hands of monsters (or antiheroes), there are needles in chests and the like. Fortunately, (or unfortunately) there can be no invincible characters for, along the way, there are "InstaDeaths". This is my name for the unavoidable slayings that include fates such as quicksand and intervention from the gods. We once had an adventure when Achilles (Played by J.S.D.) found a forgetfulness potion and inconviently forgot who he was, thereby wandering aimlessly for the balance of the game.The trouble was, because he was being controlled by J.S.D., no one noticed that Achilles was a mindless droid until we found J.S.D. listening to Guy Lombardo on his stereo and singing,"should old acquaintance be forgot...". We then began to suspect!
Unlike Ali-Baba,once a character dies in Heracles he/she/it can not be reincarnated. This keeps the game on a more realistic level, or, at least, as realistic as possible, because it encourages players to nurture their heroes along and protect them more.(unless,of course,your player is the worst and you want to kill it off as soon as possible!)
The game itself is played along the lines of Ali Baba. You move your joystick or keyboard and may attack enemies by wrestling(on same square) or swordplay (between neighbouring spots). The documentation includes the strike probability table used in Heracles,for those interested in such things. However, in Heracles, it is impossible(much to J.S.D. chagrin) to strike another player character.Hapless characters need no longer fear for their lives when the J.S.D's of this world are on the prowl. If it is at all possible to avoid encounters, I suggest doing so,as killing creatures brings no rewards except when 1)it happens to be a task or 2)you are a sadist and it makes you feel good inside. There are, however, a few beasts that block your path and must then "pay the debt which cancels all others".
There is, in Ali Baba,a feature called the Random Monster Generator, which enabled players to select the chance of a monster appearing in the room.It was generally agreed that this was an excellent idea as it made for better playability, but curiously was not incorporated into Heracles. Fortunately there are more than enough enemies to carve your way through, without having wandering monsters to contend with. What features does this game have then?, you ask. Someone must have sat Stuart down and said:
"Stu baby,Ali Baba is an excellent game but hey, between you and me, it can be deadly slow at times. In a room full of beasts, each one must move and/or fight. I mean, who cares what happens in a fight between a bear and a rat if we're ready to leave jump out the door,anyway?And the messages: When one comes up there is a barrage of button pushing to get back to the game!"
The result of this wee wordie is that in Heracles, there are two additional commands to control monster and message speed. These two features really speed up the game.
Besides the primary objective of completing the twelve different tasks of Zeus,there is also a secondary objective of getting the most points while doing these tasks. A score can approach but never reach 10,000 points. While we have achieved a score of just over 8600, Stuart Smith says he has gotten just over 9500.
Heracles has a different atmosphere than does Ali Baba. The music (I will not call it sound) reflects the Greek background as the music in Ali Baba reflected the Arabian background. Of course the graphics are basically similar, although Heracles does have animation of a sort.
If anything, Heracles is the further adventures of Mr. Stuart Smith into the world of myth and adventure.
Welcome back to the software scene, Stuart. I hope it isn't another couple of years before your next game goes on sale.
Return of Heracles
Overall Rating ...9.4
Return of Heracles
Overall Rating ...9.4