Behind the Iron Gate logo

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

Doom on the Amiga would be a dream come true for many owners out there. If you aren't particularly familiar with Doom or anything identical, I will explain. It's a 3D shoot-'em-up where you control a character who has several mission targets to destroy or complete. The main attraction to Doom has to be the graphics, with hugely detailed sprites used alongside very fast gameplay and tremendous depth.

I can understand the fact that Doom on the PC shouldn't be compared to anything similar on the Amiga due to its technical superiority, but it is obvious what these games are based on. Behind The Iron Gate is an attempt to re-create Doom by using the same methods - only cutting down on the parts the Amiga simply cannot cope with. Is it possible? Black Legend seem to think so.

The idea is to accomplish various small mission objectives. Unfortunately, it doesn't entail anything as involved and exciting as switching off tractor beams and escaping thermal detonators. Behind The Iron Gate seems to consist only of putting the add the key into a lock, which appears to open other gates to take you through to the next level.

On your way through the game you will come across a series of mechanical adversaries which can range from small mobile tanks to mechanically operated helicopters. To help you overcome these obstacles you can search the area for weapons, such as pistols, shotguns and lasers. You will also come across keys and scanners which are all essential pieces of equipment.

...and as for sound effects, there is the odd gun shot and scream here and there...

As you pick them up you can select which hand to put them in. For example, you can have a pistol in your right hand and grenades in your left. This becomes much easier when you are attacking the enemy because it enables you to switch between each one with the utmost of efficiency and ease. A password system is also included to gave you a little more help, so you can note it down and restart whenever you feel is appropriate.

The graphics are surprisingly fast - smooth too. Most people believed the Amiga wasn't fast enough to accommodate Doom, but going off this you do begin to think it could be possible. However at times it tends to zoom off at a horrific rate, leaving you with no control whatsoever and facing the wrong direction.

The music is fairly atmospheric, suiting the action reasonably well, and as for sound effects, there is the odd gun shot and scream here and there but nothing too exceptional.

The colours are simple, with blue walls for the first level which gradually become a dark red. There certainly isn't an abundance of colour leaping out which makes it look very boring - and it actually is.

It doesn't really boast any action-packed adventure, and after a good while the actual playing part will become nothing more of a chore. Inevitably boredom will set in.

Final word

From the screenshots shown here your first impression will be Doom. You must wipe that thought from your mind completely and hope for a more realistic version in the future. I will warn you that if you do decide to invest you will be wishing form Doom as you play it.

Behind the Iron Gate logo

Doom, Doom, Doom and Gloom - Steve McGill dons his Death Mask and Fears that he'll meet something nasty (and well-armed) in the next room...

Keep a firm grip on the nearest mini-gun, strap on some Kevlar body armour, stock up with as much medicine cabinet medication as it's humanly possible to carry, and brace yourself fo the war of first-person perspective dungeon explore-em, collect-em, hatch-em and despatch-em shoot-em-ups.

The quest for the top definitive Doom clone is gaining compulsive momentum among Amiga developers, game reviewers, owners, politicians et al, and it's getting more intense with every passing second of the clock.

Today, right this minute, AF's looking at Behind the Iron Gate from Black Legend. Thankfully, it's not trying to be Doom - more an improvisation on the theme of Wolfenstein, if you treat the word 'improvisation' with a bit of artistic licence.

Naturally enough, Iron Gate places the nondescript character-you-never-actually-see in a 3D maze. Control is through a combination of mouse and keyboard: up to four different modes can be chose and it works well, so anyone not finding a method they find easy to use probably has trouble with the foil seal in coffee jars as well.

Your missions revolve around exploring the maze, collecting whatever lies in yoru path - weapons, keys, ammo, armour, food etc - and using the keys to access areas previously blocked off by iron gates or force fields.

This eventually leads to the main task, which is setting off a bomb to blow the whole level up and then making a slapdash mad rush to reach the exit before it explodes.

Doom clones are flavour of the month and with Fears and Gloom to come this faces stiff competition.

At first it seems like fun. The full 360 degree rotational backdrop moves smoothly with no visible slow-down. But the monochromatic graphics quickly become disorientating and this can be disastrous in later levels, especially when you're desperately trying to make it to the exit before the bomb blows.

In an attempt to help, there are pictures of famous people and other objects on the walls, but they don't really help because they appear in clusters: when unfamiliar objects appear, all it really tells you is that you've reached somewhere new.

The biggest snag, though, is the lack of a map overview of the area you've explored. In later levels you can pick up a scanner, which at least gives a limited view of what's up ahead, but it isn't enough to save the gamer from complete exasperation in the crucial process of trying to plan a speedy escape route.

A quick exit is vital, so your only option is physically rehearsing the route. And that's very unsatisfactory, especially if you run into a wall and disorientate yourself. Get it wrong and it's back to the beginning of the level.

And the structure of the levels is such that you can complete an entire level and then be forced to do it all over again, just because you didn't quite make the exit in time. It feels too much like drudgery to even contemplate.

The game isn't a bad one, it's just not very good. Not terrible, but not memorable. It'd be fine as a budget release but at this price it's competing with Fears and Gloom. My advice is wait to see who good these two are before making a purchase decision.

Behind the Iron Gate Behind the Iron Gate Behind the Iron Gate Behind the Iron Gate Behind the Iron Gate Behind the Iron Gate

One of the elements of the game that keeps you mildly interested is the profusion of new and exciting weapons. Each one has a distinctive sound when fired (good effects, here) and kill rates vary. Ammo appears in odd places.

Beulen, Blech und Bomben

Behind the Iron Gate logo

Das hätte sich selbst der alte Stalin nicht träumen lassen: Hinter dem eisernen Vorhang verbergen sich der Welt erst Baller-Dungeons für den 500er - und man mag kaum glauben, wie verdoomt schnell hier gescrollt wird!

Wie bei allen vom indizierten PC-Vorbild "Duum" geklonten Metzeleien pa" auch die Hintergrundstory zu Black Legends Robot-Schlachtbacnk bequem auf die Rückseite einer Briefmarke: Anno 2184 schmoren einigen Blechkameraden die Sicherungen durch, dabei hausen die Silikon-Kollegen in einem Hochsicherheitsknast! Es ist also Zoff hinter Gittern angesagt...

Insgesamt 24 stufenlos scrollende 3D-Dungeons muß de wackere Peacemaker durcheilen, wobei ihm die Programmierer natürlich von Anfang an emsig ins Handwerk pfuschen. So fehlt von einer brauchbaren Wumme erst mal jede Spur, dafür packt der fröhliche Verschrotter Munition, Arzneikästen oder kleine Snacks in seinen geräumigen Kampfanzug.

Nur leider klappt das nicht so simpel, wie es gerade in diesem Genre sein sollte, weil bei der Steuerung die Laufrichtung und das Fadenkreuz voneinander getrennt zu handhaben sind. Es ist also Eingewöhnung erforderlich, wenn man mit all den Mini-Panzern, Flugdrohnen und feindlichen Blechtechs fertig werden will, schon weil sie das Feuer wirklich noch aus dem hintersten Winkel eröffnen.

Doch ohne Preis kein Fleiß, und deshalb lassen atomisierte Gegner das Bankguthaben anschwellen, von dem man sich in Shops zwischen den Etagen allerlei Extrawaffen und -rüstungen kaufen darf - was freilich voraussetzt, daß die überall verstreuten Schalter-, Schlüssel- und Codekarten-Puzzles ebenso souverän erledigt werden wie das "heiße" Geschäft.

Die anzutreffenden Sprites stammen (genau wie die arg spärliche Möblierung der Labyrinthe) geradewegs aus dem Renderer uns sind deshalb auch ganz nett anzusehen. Von den absolut untexturierten Zellenwänden in eintönigem Grau oder Braun ;äßt sich das jedoch nicht sagen, weshalb der optische Gesamteindruck abgesehen von der fabelhaften Animation eher bescheiden ist.

Ziemlich unauffällig plätschert auch der Sound aus den Boxen, wobei im Hauptmenü düstere Melodien das Ohr umschmeicheln, während man in den Korridoren der Vollzuganstalt mit passablen Ballergeräuschen vorlieb nehmen muß.

Was ist unter dem Strich also von dieser Premiere zu halten? Nun, wer bereit ist, für blitzschnelle 3D-Animation grafische Abstriche in Kauf zu nehmen, muß sich nur noch mit der fummeligen Steuerung anfreunden, um seinen Spaß zu haben.

Das Gameplay ist jedenfallsüberzeugender als beim direkten Konkurrenten "Deathmask", der sich zudem bloß im 90-Grad-winkel zu drehen vermag.

Und weil verdoomte Highlights wie "Fears" oder "Alien Breed 3D" ohnehin nicht für kleine "Freundinnen" vorgesehen sind, wird der Blick hinter den Eisernen Vorhang wohl die einzige Möglichkeit bleiben, am 500er verblüffend sauber scrollende Baller-Dungeons zu erhaschen! (C. Borgmeier)

Behind the Iron Gate logo

Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads into life, and few there are that find it...

Two things spring instantly to that lumpy bit at the front of my brain whose name I've temporarily forgotten but which deals with piping images to that other bit of my brain whose name evades me at the moment but which is all to do with, erm well, remembering things. Two things - Streetfighter Two the movie, and Embryo the game.

SF2 the movie reminds me of Behind the Iron Gate Because it's a film that chugs through 90 minutes at a single pace. From start to finish, each scene's as speedy as the previous, so the climax goes unnoticed amid this blur of action, and therefore scores a very low mark on the thrill-ometer.

So you could argue that it's not Kylie, or the terrible script, or the bad acting, or the pitiful fight scenes, or even the shoddy production values that make SF2 a terrible movie, it's the pace that kills it.

The pace kills Behind the Iron Gate for exactly the opposite reason, as it's either frantic or grass-growingly slow. Most levels start fast and funky, with monsters running around all over the place and you desperately trying to find a quiet moment to pick up some extra ammo or reload a gun, which is fun.

Once you've shot everything (usually within five minutes), that's it for excitement and you're left with the tedium of finding keys, unlocking doors and generally finishing the level. After ages of this, you've got the final task of activating a bomb and rushing to the exit. In theory this is an exciting finale, in reality, it's just too much to handle. Start, stop, snooze, rush - it's not a fun pace.

You've got mere seconds to reach

Embryo (AP43, 62%) was a game also by Black Legend that I reviewed last year. It should have been a stonkingly fast and furious 3D shoot-'em-up, a sort of flight sim without the technical side, but because all the enemies needed a stupid amount of hits before they blew up, it was just too hard. Any nine year old child could have told them that, but I guess, like most software companies, the game was tested by in-house playtesters who were far too close to the game to realise it.

I suspect the same's true of Behind the Iron Gate, which contains a whole host of glaringly obvious problems (what software producers call "unique gameplay features") that hit you the very first time you play it. It'll never be a great game, but a little more thought could have improved this massively.

The idea's simple - pick up guns and ammo to snuff the monsters, pick up keys and security passes for gates, pick up food and armour to stay in shape. Run around, find a bomb, find the exit, then set off the bomb and dash out. I'll take them one at a time.

Like real life, the weapons are great, with great sounding lasers and shotguns. With four options for arrow key/mouse combinations, you can find one to suit you, although I favoured moving with the arrows and waggling the gunsights around with the mouse.

By the time you get to level four, you're loaded up to the eyeballs with guns and ammo and ready to face anything, but due to a dumb pass code system, if you want to restart from a later level rather than playing through, you're only given the option to buy one of everything, including ammo packs. This is a moronic oversight.

Each key will open any door once, although the passes only work on what appear to be swing-bins. The problem with the keys is that it's possible to open the wrong door and be unable to complete the level because something vital's hidden behind the door you should have opened, so you're left wandering around the maze until you realise this, or die of boredom.

The food keeps your strength up (obviously) and that leaves us with that bob/exit thing. So long as the monsters don't kill you, you can take as long as you like to find everything, but once you've activated the bomb, you've got mere seconds to reach the exit. Unfortunately (and this is the crux of the game's poorness), due to the featureless mazes, if you bump into a wall or get momentarily disoriented in these blank-walled mazes, then the bomb goes off and you die. One slip up, that's all it takes, and it's game over.

Obviously this isn't Doom on the Amiga, but it is a vast improvement over Dungeon Master type games where you jump forwards a block at a time, and it also runs on all types of Amiga. The running speed's good, the monster graphics are good and despite being completely plain, even the 3D works okay, so all that's really missing is a good game. Ego have done all the hard work with this, so all that's left to do is wish them better luck next time.


Okay programming team, let's make sure we've done our best to annoy the players as much as we can. Ready?

Won't recognise a second disk drive?

Has a needlessly long passcode...

...that you can't type in, so have to revert to tediously scrolling through the alphabet...
Yup, got that one.

...and that if it's wrong, will instantly send you to level one, so you have to let it load and escape out again.
That's in too.

And even with all these digits, the code doesn't store what equipment you had your last game.
It's all in there.

You have done well my tiny minions. Punishment is withheld.
Oh joy, etc.

To help you negotiate around the textureless mazes, different sections have different pictures on the walls. It almost works.
Behind the Iron Gate Behind the Iron Gate Behind the Iron Gate Behind the Iron Gate

Behind the Iron Gate logo

Price: £24.99 Publisher: Kompart 01438 840004

Yet another Doom contender steps into the ring. Take your places gentlemen.

It's enough to bring a tear to even R2D2's eye. All his criminal robot mates have been banged up in UIS Facility 6, the world's largest robot detention centre, for some time now. It's home to a range of naughty robots, convicted for crimes ranging from blowing people up to stealing castor oil. Now the robots have turned, a full scale riot is breaking out and you've got to sort it out.

How? Why the usual RPG way of course which involves scrolling around a three dimensional world picking up some heavy duty weaponry and blasting the hell out of those errant robots. But, as in life, it's not that simple really. You've got to find your way around the huge complex, opening up the gates that have so far kept the robots at bay. Opening these gates involves flicking levers and finding keys and sliders to fit the locks.

Once you're through a gate and into a certain section of the huge complex you need to hunt around carefully to see what you can pick up in the way of weapons, bullets, keys, sliders or energy boosters.

Activating action
Once you've worked your way through each section picking off robots as you go, you need to activate any bombs that may be lurking around before you can progress to the next level. Did I say activate bombs? Yes because your boss has decided the best way to make sure that ll your robots are dead is to blow the whole place up. This can be a pain as the bombs tend to have a miniscule fuse which leaves you a nanosecond to get to the exit, or worse still it blows just before you get out, leaving you start all over again.

If you do manage to make through the exit, you're into the shop where you can trade in the robots you've killed for some extra weapons. And so you continue until the world is free from nasty varmint robots and law and order is restored.

A contender for the crown
As Doom contenders go, BTIG scores and fails on various points. It scores because the 3D graphics are fast and it's involving enough to keep you occupied for quite a while. But it fails when it comes to the control method. There are four control options, which are all different variations of using either a joystick or a mouse to control movement, to pick up and use items.

Alternatively you can use a combination of both the mouse and joystick. This involves using a joystick for movement and the mouse for clicking on items. However, firing at aliens requires some pretty quick hand changing action which can be infuriating.

Picking up items is also a bit of challenge. Who would think that a rather large key would take so many attempt to actually pick up? In some cases even though the item is right in front of you, you need to perform some sort of strange ritual two step to actually pick it up - bizarre.

The graphics are also quite blocky but RPG fans will agree that the gameplay is normally more important than flash graphics. The low throbbing noise in the background does nothing to add to the game either.

Behind the Iron Gate is involving enough but the complicated control method knocks a few points off.