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R Theatre of Death emember that bit in Theatre of Blood where Vincent Price straps his victim into a chair and spears his eyes with a pair of rotating knives? That is what I feel like doing to the programmers of this. Theatre of Death combines arcade shoot-em-up and strategy elements based around the fictional Def Com Military Academy. As one of its keenest students you have been let loose on a military simulator to engage in a war of attrition against four ruthless commanders and their armies.

It divides 50 varied and increasingly complex missions among four zones (grassland, desert, snow and lunar). You can be called to launch troop assaults, jet strikes, tank attacks or helicopter raids on a series of enemy targets, blasting everything you see.

The action takes place across two different screens – the first is a map where you can move your forces collectively and plan your strategy, the second is an overhead-and-behind view where you control individual troops, vehicles or platoons.

If you are a fan of gratuitous pixellated violence you are in for a treat. Like Walker, Cannon Fodder and Syndicate, Theatre of Death gives you plenty of tiny blood-spilling sprites. Your chaps even get splatted by tanks, swallowed by sharks or suffocate in the swamps that cover the game area. Sound good? It’s not!

Pass the suicide pills
Theatre of Death is plagued by an almost insurmountable number of problems. The control method is incredibly fiddly; you move your troops and vehicles around using a mouse, but are forced to scroll around the Action Screen with the cursor keys, so instead of centring on your selected platoon, the game makes you chase around trying to find them. Worse still, appalling scrolling inevitably means fire-fights happen off-screen and you get caned by an enemy who is just out of sight.

Another major gripe is the game’s lack of artificial intelligence when it comes to moving your troops. Click on the Action Screen to give them a destination and they plough through rivers or swamps, drowning in the process. They also die if you move too close to your own vehicles. Why? Your tanks and APCs are little better. They manage to get themselves stuck behind every building, tree and hillock going, so you end up wasting even more precious time trying to negotiate obstacles, when the AI should work out where you want to go.

Graphically, ToD looks the part – the helicopters and jets are good, casting convincing shadows, the sound effects are good too with some convincing gun noises, explosions and spine-tingling screams. But it is all spoiled by some dodgy collision detection and flickery sprites which get stuck behind objects and then stay there. What a shame.
Rob Mead

Amiga Format, Issue 54, Christmas 1993, p.100

Dave Anthony
Psygnosis 051-709 5755
November 1993


06 out of 10
Too obviously derivative of Cannon Fodder and Syndicate, but decent-looking nevertheless.

06 out of 10
Some suitably gung-ho sound effects, a strident military theme and blood-curdling screams.

04 out of 10
Frustrating. You keep playing just to see if it gets better as you go along. But it does not.

03 out of 10
50 different missions, but the gameplay is so lacking you do not really care.

"This game tries to steal all the best ideas from Cannon Fodder and Syndicate

Theatre of Death logo

Wem Standard-Ballereien zu primitiv sind, der sollte mal einen Blick auf die militär-strategische Action Marke Psygnosis werfen: Bürgt nicht schon die Grafik im „Populous“-Look für anspruchsvolles Gameplay?

Theatre of Death Das Todestheater besteht aus 50 ständig schwieriger werdenden und auf vier Landschaften (Wiese, Wüste, Polarwelt und Mond) verteilten Missionen, an deren Ende der erfolgreiche Abschluß der Militärakademie steht. Je nach Auftrag kommandiert man bis zu vier Kampfgruppen zusammen oder getrennt per Maus, Icons und zuschaltbarer Karte. Ebenfalls möglich und oft sogar besser ist die Einzelsteuerung der Stahlhelme, weil die Jungs sonst blindlings in Sümpfe, haiverseuchte Gewässer, Minengürtel oder die Arme der Scharenweise auftretenden Feinde marschieren...

Die Gegner unserer Lemming-Landser werden durch simples Anklicken und mit je zwei von insgesant sechs Waffen bearbeitet – von Zielen kann hier aber kaum die Rede sein, so hektisch wie die Kerle herumlaufen. Herrenlose Panzer, Flugzeuge, Jeeps etc. Lassen sich entern, indem man einfach darüberläuft, ihre Feuerkraft unterscheidet sich jedoch kaum von der eines soldatischen MG-Besitzers. Dafür strotzen die sanft scrollenden Kampfgebiete vor Details wie Munitionskisten, Elektrozäunen, Gebäuden und Bäumen, die eine 1a Deckung abgeben.

Um so bedauerlicher, daß die Maus/Tastatursteuerung etliche Tücken hat und der rasend schnelle Spielablauf überhaupt keine Zeit für strategisches Denken läßt. Grafik und Sound sind also durchaus gelungen, das Gameplay eher weniger: Strategische Elemente haben nur eine Alibifunktion, und die Ballerei selbst ist ultraschwer – außer wenn Luftunterstützung kommt; die ist fast schon zu „bombig“ geraten... (md)

Amiga Joker, November 1993, p.98

Amiga Joker
1 MB

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I Theatre of Death t's always the same, just like buses – you wait for ages, and then a whole bundle come along at once. Theatre of Death could be described as Psygnosis' answer to Cannon Fodder, apart from the fact that Cannon Fodder is not out yet. Picture it as a kind of Commando meets Lemmings, with a little Laser Squad thrown in.
You and your little digital convoy have to raise hell in a series of increasingly-tough missions over one of the geographically tidiest planets ever.

Of course, there have to be differences between this and Cannon Fodder. For a start. It's nowhere near as polished, neither visually nor in gameplay. Secondly, it isn't an action game per se. Instead, it's a cross between your 'hold down the mouse button and follow the trail of death' blazer and a 'program the moves' real time war game, where you can shepherd your platoon into the danger zone, and then take over when the action starts. You have at least 10 men in your platoon to start with, all of which have an extremely limited intelligence. They will head in the general direction of the squadron leader - regardless of terrain, so watch out for quicksand and will all open tire on approaching enemy troops. They won't try to get out of the way of oncoming tanks or attempt to avoid grenades, so you're going to have your work cut out just keeping them alive!

At first glance, Theatre of Death doesn't look like it's up to much. An impression which was reinforced once I'd started to play. The controls are some of the most unresponsive I have come across – it is incredibly hard to move things around accurately. Just getting a tank to drive in a straight line is an effort!
The dodgy controls, plus the fact that the computer intelligence is so pathetic, just combine together to make a good game too unplayable to be fun.
Tony Dillon


CU Amiga, November 1993, p.69