N o doubt about it, Firebirdís Black Lamp has one of the corniest plots I have read in a long time. Jolly Jack the Jester has always had eyes only for the gorgeous Princess Grizelda, but King Maxim, being the grumpy old git that he is, has always refused Jack the Princessís hand in marriage, due to Jack being little more than a medieval Jim Bowen. So all hope of wedded bliss seems lost for Jack until one day a gang of Dragons come along and nick the prestigious Crown Jewels Ė the Black Lamps Ė which cast a spell over all the animals in the kingdom, causing them to attack the innocent population of Allegoria. Sounds pretty ho hum, doesnít it? Well actually it isnít at all. There is, hiding inside this Amiga follow-up to the 64 release, a very nicely executed game.
You take on the role of Jack, your mission being to retrieve the Black Lamps from the Dragons and thus earn the Princessí hand in marriage. You view Jack side-on as he plods around the kingdom in search of the lamps. Rather than scrolling the screens, Firebird have chosen to use a flick-screen approach, so whenever Jack leaves a screen, you are presented for about a second with a close-up of him before he appears on the next screen. As well as exits at the left and the right of each screen, it is also possible to walk in and out of screens through doors.
Of course, all the wildlife in the kingdom who are under the dragonsí spell will attack you without a momentís thought, and they come in many and varied guises. Nasties include buzzards, werewolves, bats, dragonflies, crows and glowing imps who prod you with their forks (ouch). Luckily Jack has been bestowed with some magic spells by his olí China, Pratweezle the Wizard. Not only does he have five lives, he can also fire devastating laser bolts out of his keks. Real trouser tremblers they are.
To find the lamps you need to drop into the treasure chests to complete the game, you will have to go hunting through the kingdom, which means you can take in some of the beautifully detailed scenery along the way. There are serene rustic villages, dank castle interiors and some nice forestland. Do not dally too long, though, as the nasties are after you every step of the way, depleting your energy whenever they can.
To make things easier, several objects are littered along the way which you can collect to help boost your progress. By picking up a musical instrument, you can increase your Ďbounce factorí substantially and thereby protect yourself from harm when falling too far off a precipice (there is platforms and levels to jump on all over the place), while magical armour stops your energy from being depleted for a while.
In order to obtain all the lamps, you will need to battle the Dragons themselves who guard some of the Black Lamps. This is achieved by firing your trouser laser at the vulnerable parts of their body, while all the time dodging their fireballs.
I was very impressed by Black Lamp. Unlike a lot of Amiga games these days, this really does manage to provide a long term challenge that arcade adventurers and mappers alike should revel in. Well worth a look or a splurge, even.
CU Amiga, August 1988, p.p.58-59