Those who always wanted Asterix dead or were desperate to use the word 'phalanx' had their prayers answered when the original Cohort was released. That was a tricky little strategy game with Legoland graphics and a nice imperial feel, let down by a disappointing lack of playability.
With Cohort II there's no real storyline - it's more of a military exercise than a campaign. But while it introduces a fresh set of manoeuvres to be conquered one by one, the game can also be linked to that great autocracy simulator, Caesar, as a datadisk, which is a great bonus. Ten new arenas of combat are unveiled by the sequel, each with their own distinctive terrain to which you and the enemy must adapt your strategy.
Basically the aim of each battle is to slaughter the opposition by whatever means spring to mind as you adopt the stiff jawline of an ancient Roman general. Sadly, even if you try to bring this game to life yourself, all the enhanced graphics and sound in the world won't save a flawed formula.
Mounting an attack is a simple, but monotonous, procedure for a start. You can manipulate your army either by controlling each individual soldier or by moving units. Alternatively, you can charge the army in one mass into the enemy spears, hoping that they will steamroller everything in oblivion. Surprisingly, this strategy is preferable after a while, simply to avoid a repetitive sequence of selecting and clicking. This sort of strategy game does demands a step-by-step, and ultimately boring procedure, but why stick with a board game formula to begin with?
The artwork in the game is a slight improvement on the original style, but even with due respect to the number of soldiers on the screen at once, animation is poor and Roman Legomen still fight barbarian Legomen on a Legoland playing field; but you do not get to build anything. The sound is tinny, unrealistic and simply not what you'd expect to hear from a thousand sweaty Italians beating merry hell out of each other with swords.
Cohort II seems to waiver between strategic influence and full player-participation without the sparkle it needs for a successful balance. The battles differ only because of the armies who fight in them and when opponents are equally matched, the conflict can really take ages. Devout fans of Caesar who will play for a full-price game on a datadisk may find this interesting, but for the rest of us the game has limited enjoyment.