Champion of the Raj logo

PSS * £25.99 Joystick, mouse, keyboard

Champion of the Raj is Level 9's attempt to capture the intrigue of Imperial India. This coding team have proved their expertise in the field of adventures, but Champion takes them outside this realm, into a strategy and arcade world. Has the style swap been a success?

Champions rule India via a map. Through it they talk to, try to impress and battle each other. It ties the disparate elements of the game together, from arcade-style elephant races to the full-scale battles. First, you identify the region on the map, the select one of the actions offered when the in-depth info is displayed.

Joystick jugglers
Champion equally stresses economic dexterity and battlefield ability. Firstly, India must be conquered by the force of the Red Coats, then kept law abiding, and industrialised and respected by competing rulers. The skills needed are juggling the tax expenditure through to waggling the joystick for the adventures - either arcade games or full battles.

The actual mechanics are simple in operation, but complex to plan. The states under your viceroy's command must be economically sound and military strong. Both industry and armies have to be built up, but bother both draw on the same resources. On top of these material elements comes prestige, which must be improved with pubic shows of wealth and valour. Undercutting these strategies lie the random element of the Thuggee cult, who lead rebellions and attempt assassinations.

Finding the correct tactics takes playing time, as you watch other rulers sweep to power. It then becomes apparent where cash should be spent, who to attack and when. It lets you get the feel of the sub-games, practice assures that they can be turned to your viceroy's advantage. A champion of the Raj has to be a jack of all trades, and a master of all.

Manual labour
The first hurdle for a would-be viceroy is the manual. It says much, but explains little. It lacks clear diagrams: it will readily give you a history lesson but shies away from a simple explanation, and advises players that hard disk installation improves game speed, but doesn't say what to do.

Champion is a melange of strategy, battlefield and arcade styles. All fulfill their avowed function, but, none of them are particularly strong. The arcade games are slow and are easily beaten, the battlefield allows little deep strategy above charge, retreat, encircle etc. The economy section lets you spend cash, but not determine how much is taxed in the first place.

All that glistens
Champion lacks speed. It loads each statistic screen for each state separately and takes time to switch between styles of play. Even the arcade sections lack speed, and getting in and out of these sub-games requires two more loads. It's annoyingly slow with two drives, but single drivers - - and the associated disk swapping - may feel the game's played in real time. And in Champion you've only one turn a year.

Graphically too, Champion falls flat. It tries to capture the colour of Imperial India using bright, single colours. Only 16 colours are used though, and while bright they appear flat. All the information is conveyed clearly, but when compared to similar arcade/strategy empire epics like Carthage or Centurion - Defender of Rome, the graphics don't make the grade.

Champion works as a strategy/arcade challenge, but is slow and uninspiring. It lacks the depth of a true strategy game and the speed of an arcade challenge. The graphics fail to convey the mystery and majesty of India. The slightly confusing manual works to frustrate the game when it should be looking to put its addictive hooks in.

Champion of the Raj works as a game, it simply doesn't play well enough or fast enough to maintain a viceroy's interest.

Champion of the Raj logo

Ein halbgares Spiel erkennt man daran, daß die Idee gut ist, das Gameplay aber mangelhaft - oder eben umgekehrt. Der Indien-Mix von PSS gehört eindeutig in die erste Schublade...

Anno 1800 ist Indien in mehrere Staaten zerfallen und wird zudem von einer Art Mafia, den Thugs, terrorisiert. Also schnappt man sich bis zu fünf Mitspiler, um als regionaler Herrscher für Ordnung im Lände zu sorgen (fehlende Fürsten übernimmt der Rechner).

Vom brittischen Statthalter bis zum Gurkhaprinz von Nepal tritt allerdings jeder unter anderen Voraussetzungen an. Sinn der Übung ist natürlich, sämtliche Ländereien zu erobern und schließlich die Thugs zu zerschlagen - eine Spielrunde simuliert dabei zwei Jahre.

Je mehr Teilstaaten man unter seiner Fuchtel hat, desto reicher fließen die Steuern und desto mehr Soldaten können finanziert werden. Aufgelockert wird das strategische Treiben durch sechs verschiedene Actionsequenzen, von der Tigerjagd bis zum Elefantenrennen.

So sehr sich alles nach einem typischen Cinemaware-Game anhört, so wenig wird deren Klasse erreicht: Die Bilder sind zwar hübsch und bunt, nur leider etwas grob, manche Animationen ruckeln wie ein kamel mit Schüttelfrost, und gelegentlich schleichen sich gar Grafikfehler ein.

Musikalisch tönt's ebenso vielfältig wie schrill aus dem Lautsprecher, und die Maussteuerung ist zäh wie Sirup (Stick und Tastatur schaffen sogar das Prädikat "Kaugummi"!).

Naja, wenn man beide Augen zudrückt, mag die Sache gerade noch angehen - nur spielt sich es blind halt nicht sehr gut... (jn)

Champion of the Raj logo

A game set in my favourite Indian restaurant? Apparently not, as soon became clear when I studied the box more closely. It's actually set in India in 1800, when Queen Victoria was a mere twinkle in her mother's eye and the country was split into several warring kingdoms ruled by people like the British East India Company, the Marathas, the Sikhs and a few minor players like the French.

So, we've got a country divided into lots of territories, and they're all fighting each other. What do you reckon you've got to do? That's right, pick a side and try to conquer everyone else. As a true patriot, I, of course, plumped for the British (erm, actually they're the easiest to win with), and it's possible to have up to five chums playing the rest.

The battle takes place on the rather titchy map in the middle of the screen, which can be scrolled up (painfully slowly, and with much disk accessing) to reveal a set of icons underneath. Attacking a neighbouring kingdom is a case of clicking on it and selecting the 'attack' icon. Unless the computer decides otherwise you've then got to lead your army into battle, which means clicking on more icons as the battle progresses to tell them when to charge, retreat and all the rest of it.

As you might expect, there are the inevitable 'arcade sequences' which crop up every so often - sword fights, shoot-'em-ups, elephant races, I'm sure you know the routine. And I hardly need tell you that you'll need to keep an eye on your cash-flow in order to finance your operations, buying more troops when necessary.

The real question is: how is it actually different from Defender of the Crown, which it's obviously quite closely related to? Well, it's set in India (obviously), the graphics are a lot more garish (sorry, full of 'rich native colours') and the animated sequences tend to be a bit lumpen. Oh, and the music's crap. (It even slows down when a lot's happening on-screen).

That said through, the similarities are strong, and sadly one of them is Defender of the Crown's rather unfortunate playability problem- neither game has a great deal. The trouble is that buried underneath all the graphics and stuff (into which a lot of effort has obviously gone) is a very simple strategy game that doesn't really merit more than a few minutes play. (Well, certainly not more more than an hour or two, anyway). Shame, that.

Champion of the Raj logo

India: land of spices and sumptuous wealth. So full of riches that greedy nations, such as the British and the French, have been tempted to grab the spoils.

Champion of the Raj is about this historical struggle for power and possession. To complicate matters, the Thugs are on the rampage, sacrificing many victims to their voracious goddess, Kali. The plot thickens, and so does the brain. Now read on...

Champion of the Raj is fundamentally a strategy game with a few arcade sequences added to pull in the punters. Choose one of the six leaders which include Sikh, Mogul or European, to fight over strife ridden India. Why not carry on the colonies and select the role of Viceroy of the British East India Company. Nothing wrong with plundering is there, pip, pip!!?

And so to the heart of the action. The Headquarters Screen has a map of India. Clicking on a territory will summon up details concerning army size, wealth, and weaponry; useful for weighing up the pros and cons of a quick skirmish.

Depending on your mood, attack if you're feeling grumpy, or talk in order to negotiate. It may still come to a savage arcade contest, such as the tiger hunt or elephant race, to prove that you mean business. Or rest easy on your laurels and give the natives a taste of pomp and ceremony.

Hold a Durbah (you've got to be ethnic and trendy, haven't you?). This parade of elephants will have the tourists flipping their lids with gratification. You'll just love it if you have a yen for the Lord Mayor's show or a royal wedding. Beware, though, some of the 'graphic' sections take far too long to load and to run.

So much for your efforts to keep the unwashed happy. There are traitors amongst your disloyal soldiers. You can quietly oust them, but you'll have to dismiss about 4,000 troops to be sure of avoiding an armed insurrection. But if you take on the insurgents head-to head you'll have to swordfight with a loin-clothed rascal. A sorry end awaits the loser, who is forced into the dear blue waters of the Indian Ocean.

You'll have to keep your wits about you, as the advice from the so called gurus can be very unhelpful - here's a gem: An expert is someone brought in at the last moment to take the blame'. Taking advice of this sort of calibre will make you as popular with your fellow politicians as Adolf Hitler!

Champion of the Raj is excellent trainingground for budding evil despots of the world. The crops have been destroyed and famine is rampant. What will you do? Either let the people starve or save them by giving a donation of money. Another interesting problem concerns ancient temple treasures. The national museum wants them but it's oh so tempting to melt them down for your treasury!

Champion of the Raj is full of developed ideas and has a very entertaining storyline. However, the main drawback is the huge amount of disk swapping that is required and it's strongly advisable to have a second disk drive. Another tiresome feature is the time that it takes to load. Patience is something you'll need by the truckload if you're going to get into this game.

The graphics aren't bad, but one of the greatest shortcomings is in the sound department. For a game of this potential, melodies consisting of what sounds like an elaborate police siren just aren't enough. An enjoyable game to play nevertheless, although Mahatma Ghandi is probably spinning in his grave.

The word 'thug' originates from the Indian practice of Thugee, a form of highway robbery used by devotees of the Hindu goddess Kali. Thugs strangled their victims from behind with a cloth that had a coin consecrated to Kali knotted in one of its corners. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, more than 3,000 Thugs were arrested.