Look back in anger

Chariots of Wrath logo

IMAGINE you are a strong-jawed blond hero type. Got that? Ok, now imagine that your favourite princess gets kidnapped by the local evil baron. What would you do?
You would hop right in your space chariot and get on over there, casually disregarding any thoughts of personal safety as you blast through heavily defended castles dispensing molten laser death to all who upset your sensibilities? What do you mean, no? Of course you would, you're a hero. Aren't you?

So much of the plot, what about the action? Chariots of Wrath follows the line of thinking that if you take a few old classics, spruce up the graphics a bit, work them into a plot and stick them all together you will get a great game. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it?
Funnily enough, in this case it seems to work. Perhaps not to the epic proportions Impressions may have hoped for, but then what do you expect using old ideas?

The different levels are held together by a map screen. This is a rather nice graphical parchment representation with a large X indicating where you are, and therefore which stage you will be entering next.

The first phase is a reaction timer. You have a cross-hair sight, things pop up in the corridor in front of you. Do the obvious. If you die you don't lose a life, so there is not much point to this level apart from amassing a large score to make you feel better.

Next you must break out of the castle. I wonder where the idea for this level came from? It has some nice touches to it though. The standard style Arkanoid bonuses are present, with a couple of extras. The bricks are all nicely aged and the occasional arrow wiggles down from the battlements, intent on making its point.

Taking a shortcut through the marshes leads you to shoot-' em-up land. Here you must pilot your spaceship through wave after wave of vertically scrolling marsh fiends. Sorry, did I say spaceship? I meant, of course, space chariot. Laser cannon, wingmen, shields and probably speed stripes can all be picked up by blasting the friendly orb that comes around every now and then.

There is a cunning programmer plot to this level - the backdrops are sometimes so stunning that you take your eyes off the baddies just at the wrong moment. Watch out for the trolls throwing blackcurrant jellies.

Later stages include a platform game and a version of Asteroids. All these stages are repeated, not in sequence but depending on which area of the map you are currently in.
This stops the game from becoming repetitive,as do the subtle changes in the layouts and graphics in each successive level of the same type, with the exception of the reaction test and the Asteroids game, which are always the same.

The backdrops and scrolling on the shoot-' em-up levels have clearly been done with a great deal of thought; there are even little retro-jet thrusts as you manoeuvre your ship. Disappointingly, the end-of-level monster is just an inanimate graphic which moves predictably and unrealistically, however nice it may look.

Games of this type generally tend to have one really good stage - the rest becomes annoying and boring as you have to go through them to get to the best parts, rather like a D.H. Lawrence novel.
Although undeniably the most effort went into the scrolling death stages, in Chariots of Wrath the other levels stand up quite well, giving it a nicely rounded and well constructed feel.