Puff

Dragon's Breath logo

WHO wants to live forever? Well, OK then, apart from Wogan. Far away in the land of Anrea, where presumably Queen has yet to play live, there are three people to whom the idea appeals not a slight bit. In fact these people - though I use the term loosely - are quite prepared to subject the surrounding countryside to terrible war and devastation just to gain access to the talisman which will admit them to the Great Throne Room.

The cunning plans they have drawn up are all based around the latest in hi-tech aeronautics, the dragon. Each will start with one bog-standard flying reptile. By the use of its advanced weaponry they will be able to occupy, control and frighten to death local villages.

Taxes can be collected from villages in your character's control, the major source of income for a tyrant. Further supplements may come as presents donated by villages at war with ones just levelled by your flying beastie.

Each character has a backup supply of 20 unhatched eggs. You'd better bung one of these in the oven sharpish - you'll need it pretty soon. The dragon incubator can be set at one of eight levels of power. The time it takes for your little darling to come out of this shell is determined by how high you set the incubator, but so are the fuel bills.

This is really a management exercise. A careful eye must be kept on your cash supply, because if it runs out you won't be able to afford the terrible fuel bills which result from using the dragon incubators. Of course, you have to use the incubators because without them you can't hatch dragons, and without dragons it is impossible to win the game.

The main aim is to find the talismans. Only when you have all three guarded by your dragons can you move them and get into the great castle on Dwarf Mountain. So you need at least three dragons to win the game.

It is possible to play without using magic, but I doubt if you would be able to win. Your dragons wouldn't last long for a start - a couple of decent bashes and they would be featuring at the top of the menu in some peasant village for a long time to come.

The magic in the game is a little reminiscent of A level chemistry. There are lots of strange bits of glass apparatus, a Bunsen burner and a rack of very dangerous looking substances in dodgey looking containers.

Consulting various complicated charts will tell you which substance to use and how to prepare it for a given effect. But be careful, make sure you check for possible side effects. It is all very well given your dragon virtually infinite strength, but if the potion reduces his speed to that of a Cub90 you haven't done him any favours.

On the odd occasion you may find your potion so good that it blows up. The graphics in this section are very good. It is quite easy to judge how well your spell is going by watching the yuck that drips into the beaker.

Spells can be used on villages for either friendly or hostile purposes. You might want to reduce the populace's combat ability, for example, or perhaps you would like to boost the population. All sorts of effects are possible if you research enough.

Excellent graphics and sound throughout make every stage of Dragon's Breath a pleasure. A wonderful strategy game, full of deep interaction between villages, dragons and players like a latter-day Balance of Power.

But there is more to it than that, as you'll find out when you see a dragon hatch and take its first breath.



Dragon's Breath logo Format Gold

PALACE £29.99 * Mouse and Joystick

In the land of Anrea stands a lofty peak known as Dwarf Mountain. Within the mountain hides a great castle and within the castle lies the secret of immortality. Three people wish to know the secret and so the governors of Anrea, the Great Lords, have granted the honour of entering the castle to the first person to find three parts of a smashed talisman scattered around Anrea.

That's your objective in this one to three player fantasy strategy game: find the parts of the talisman before your opponents do. It's not going to be too easy, though, because in order to find the pieces you're going to have to enlist the aid of dragons.

Each player starts the game with one dragon and a few gelds (money in Anrea). Keeping a dragon and incubating the eggs costs money and your only way of making money is to become a tyrant, using your dragon to conquer villages and towns of Anrea. Then you can impose a tax on the local population to fund your exploits.

The game is played in monthly cycles, each player using the icons at the base of the screen to decide the month's actions, such as sending out a dragon or putting an egg on to hatch. Once everything's organised, the dragons go about their business and then a new turn starts.

That's the basic idea of the game, but things can get a lot more complicated. For example, the simple process of incubating an egg is really quite difficult. Every egg takes several months to hatch, but the process can be speeded up by increasing the temperature of the incubator. This, however, increases the cost and will also make the dragon that emerges weaker than one that's taken longer to hatch.

Then there's attacking the towns. The physical distance between the town and your castle affects your dragon's strength and his effectiveness at wiping out a third of the population, a target of attrition which has to be achieved if you are to become controller of the town. Plus there are variable factor that come into play, like wandering barbarians, the town's defences and the amount of zeal you order your dragon to attack the town with.

By far the biggest complication, though, is the introduction of magic. Every player has the ability to cast spells at dragons, villages and towns and eggs, among other things, and the whole spell-casting process is a sub-game in itself.

There are a couple of dozen magic ingredients divided into two major categories: directors and affecters. Directors direct power at the target whilst affecters affect an attribute of the target (population, strength, disease and so on). To cast a spell, a director needs to be mixed with an affecter to get either a positive or negative result depending on the ingredients used and the method of mixing, so there are several tables to consult to see how best to use and mix the ingredients to get the best possible result from your spell.

The game is lost when you have no money or dragons and a game is won by the first person to find the three scattered parts of the broken talisman, and have a dragon guarding each piece.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

There's not too much animation because this is not really an action game. The rest of the graphics - maps, portraits and so on - are all very good. The atmospheric background music compliments the stunning visuals. Excellent stuff, especially when you take into account the strategic nature of the game.

LASTING INTEREST

Heaps of it. Just playing a game will take a very long time - tank heavens for game save options - and if you can find a couple of friends to join in the fun you're likely to be playing this an awful lot. The gameplay is such that you can come back to this time and time again and it won't lose any appeal.

JUDGEMENT

Dragons Breath is in serious danger of becoming a cult computer game. People who are fans of the D&D series of games or fantasy role-playing games in general are going to find this almost impossible to resist. It's very strategic, takes dedication to play well and will not appeal to those who just want to relax for half an hour or so.

But if you have a couple of like-minded mates who you can invite round for an evening every week, then you'd better prepare yourself for some engrossing, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable playing sessions. If you have to play solo, you'll still find it excellent stuff: the computer players are no pushover by any stretch of the imagination.


BURNING DOWN THE HOUSES
Dragon's Breath
Once you've decided which village to attack, set the dragon's zeal level and wait for the end of the turn...
Dragon's Breath
...and you can watch your dragon at work.
Dragon's Breath
You also get progress reports on the other players' dragons.
Dragon's Breath
Luckily for you, your first attack was against a village at war with a neighbouring village, and they're so pleased with your dragon's efforts they've had a whip round for you.


Dragon's Breath logo Amiga Joker Hit

Angesichts der opulenten Grafik wird sich manch einer zweifelnd fragen, ob das Spiel hält, was die schönen Bilder versprechen. Klare Antwort: Ja! Palace ist mit diesem Game eine faszinierende Mischung aus Strategie, Action und Handelssimulation gelungen!

Dragon's Breath entführt uns in ein weit entferntes Land namens Anrea. Dort gibt es den sogenannten Zwergenberg, von dem bösartige Kräfte auszugehen scheinen: Während in den weiter entfernten Gebieten eitel Wonne und Reichtum herrschten, verkummern die Ländereien in unmittelbarar Nähe des Berges.

Die Legende besagt daß im Thronsaal des grossen schlosses, hoch oben auf dem Zwergenberg, das Geheimnis der Unsterblichkeit verborgen sei.

Was läge also näher, als einfach auf den Berg zu kraxeln und ins Schloss zu latschen, um die Sache einmal genauer unter die Lupe zu nehmen? Doch das haben sich die Programmierer von Palace etwas anders vorgestellt: Zugang zum Saal bekommt nur, wer zuvor die drei Bruchstücke eines Talismans in seinen Besitz gebracht hat. Und das ist wahrlich kein leichtes Unterfangen!

Trotzdem machen sich drei finstere Figuren, nämlich Alchimist Bachim, Vampirlady Quered und die grüne Bestie Ametrin auf, im das Geheimnis zu lüften. Allerdings arbeiten sie nicht im Team - im Gegenteil, es sind erbitterte Feinde, die bei jeder Gelegenheit ihre Kampfdrachen auf die Hoheitsgebiete der anderen hetzen!

Zu Beginn wird entschieden, welche Charaktere vom Computer und welche von den Mitspielern geführt werden. Nebenbei bemerkt: Bei Bedarf steuert der Rechner auch alle drei Figuren. Egal welchen Modus man wählt, der Spielablauf selbst ändert sich dadurch nie. Abwechselnd treffen die drei verschiedenen Menüs ihre Entscheidungen, die sich immer auf einen ganzen Monat beziehen. Sobald alle an der Reihe waren, wertet der Amiga die Eingaben aus, und die nächsten vier Wochen können unter den neuen Voraussetzungen in Angriff genommen werden.

Am Monatsanfang erscheint eine Landkarte von Anrea: am unteren Bildschirmrand befinden sich die Icons von Bachim, Quered und Amertrin. Jeder der zweifelhaften Helden hat sein eigenes Schloss mit verschiedenen (Aktions-) Räumen: Einen Lageüberblick verschaffen sich die "Drachenmeister" z.B. in ihrer Bibliothek. In einem grünen Buch sind allemonatlichen Ausgaben, wie Steuern oder Einkäufe beim Händler, vermerkt. Außerdem findet man darin die Aufenthaltsorte der eigenen Drachen und der gefundeten Talismanstücke.

Das "Buch der Entscheidungen" beschreibt alle Aktionen, die der Spieler vornimmt. Dazu gehören die Schlachten in feindlichen Gebieten, sowie deren Eroberung. Es werden auch Geiselnahmen und die Gründung oder Zerstörung von Dörfern niedergeschrieben. Im "Buch der Vorrate" sind alle alchimistischen Substanzen aufgeführt, die ein zünftiger Drachenmeister zum Erstellen magischer Sprüche benötigt. Magie bringt mehr Geld auf's Konto, macht die Drachen stärker und ist überhaupt unverzichtbar im Lande Anrea.

Um an die Teile des Talismans zu gelangen, muß man Ländereien erobern und besetzen. Dies geschieht nicht mit schwerterschwingenden Armeen, sondern mit Hilfe besagter Drachen. Jeden Monat kann man den Zustand seiner Kampftiere überprüfen und ihre Eigenschaften (Weisheit, Sehkraft, Stärke, Alter, Gesundheit und Geschwindigkeit) durch magische Sprüche weiter hochpäppeln. Zu Anfang muß man mit einen windigen Feuerspeier auskommen, da man von den Biestern aber nie genug haben kann, ist es ratsam, in der Brutkammer ständig neue Dracheneier auszubrüten.

Auch hier sorgen wieder Zaubersprüche für eine möglichst rationelle Aufzucht der Lindwurm-Babies. Die Magie ist allerdings recht schwer zu erlernen, in einem beigepackten, 10seitigen Hoftchen wird diese Kunst erläutert. Zunächst muß man dier richtigen Zutaten beim Händler kaufen: dann mischt man das Zeug im Labor, und wenn alles geklappt hat, kann man die Zauberspruche schließlich auch anwenden.

Die Eroberung von Dörfern findet in einer feschen Actionsequenz statt: Dazu fliegt man mit einem feuerspeienden Drachen über das gewünschte Dorf und heizt den Bewohnern kräftig ein. Für jedes eroberte Dorf oder Land erhält man von dem unterjochten Einwohnern Steuern. Mit dem Geld läßt man die Brutmaschine für weitere Drachen läufen und kauft neue Kräuter für die Zaubersprüche.

Es dürfte wohl bereits klargeworden sein, daß es sich bei Dragon's Breath um eine äußerst aufwendiges Game handelt. Der Spieler hat unheimlich viele Möglichkeiten, in den verschiedenen Menüs Aktionen einzuleiten. Trotz des komplexen Spielablaufs ist die Grafik an keiner Stelle fad - Palace hat sich schon mächtig ins Zeug gelegt! Alle Menüs; die Landschaften, ja eigentlich alle vorkommenden Bilder werden in sehr eindrücksvollen Grafiken präsentiert.

Auch über den Sound kann man nicht meckern. Die meisten Pluspunkte gibt's aber für das gelungene Spielkonzept. Man betätigt sich als umsichtiger Kaufmann, magischer Chemiker und Ersatz-Mutti für den Drachennachwuchs und muß ganz nebenbei noch Länder erobern - natürlich möglichst Gbeiete, in denen ein Bruchstück des Talismans versteckt ist! Fans von komplexen Fantasyspielen dürfen Dragon's Breath also auf keinen Fall versäumen: Es ist einfach zauberhaft! (Carsten Borgmeier)



Dragon's Breath logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Palace
Price: £29.99

Should you go down to the woods today you're liable to be incinerated by a dragon owned by a Dark Lord who's out to find the secret of immortality. And these are ruthless wicked lords. If they're not spending their time breeding dragons or burning down chunks of forest, they're trying to give the townsfolk boils.

The secret of immortality is situated at the top of the mountain in the centre of the game map, and it's only accessible with a magic talisman. This in turn is divided up into three pieces and secreted around the land.

Rather than play a do-gooder you take the part of one of the oppressive lords. There's no difference between them, bar physical features and castles; s there's no advantage in playing any particular one. With his in mind I was transformed into six-and-a-half foot of green scaly flesh, the proud owner of a castle overlooking a suphurous desert.

Setting about my first day of business as a 'bad guy', with the aid of my pet lizard I successfully wiped out a third of the population of the village of Xain (a small, Croydonish backwater which deserved no better). Following up that daring move I moved a dragon egg to the hatchery (yes, I wanted an army). After purchasing some noxious chemicals from a traveling salesman I entered the alchemy room and found the essential spell book.

Spell ingredients fall into two main categories: directors and affecters. A director determines the target and the affecter decides the affect. All the ingredients perform different tasks. The whole process is extremely complicated, with different applications, heating, condensing and several tables in the manual which need to be chewed over.

Several backfires later and I came up with a potion designed to change my dragon into a sleek killing machine. And transformed it was, super strong and super fit. Unfortunately, I also managed to completely erase what intelligence he had, so the next half hour was spent working on a spell that would let him remember his ABC.

It took three months for my new dragon to hatch, and respectfully I named him Mike after the Ed and, thanks to the wonders of alchemy, I mutated him into a weedy shrimp (the dragon, not the Ed) who was no good to anybody.

Everything went downhill from there, and pretty soon I'd run out of cash, and magic ingredients, and dragons. In fact my performance was so poor I was told it was game over time. There you go, I was never cut out for this overlord lark.

Dragon's Breath is a complex game. Throughout the game all the villages and towns are constantly at war with each other, while you conquer a few yourself. As some get wiped out, new villages appear, so the map is permanently changing. Another well constructed feature is the spells. An almost infinite combination are made available to you, and the ability to test them out on villages helps no end.

Predominantly an icon controlled strategy, the game has a feature which allows you to master your dragons when you go on raids. This opens out to a Dragon Spirit style arcade game, which I must say is pretty tasty. Several tunes and weird effects match the excellent graphics, giving a great overall feel and depth to the game.

Dragon's Breath is excellent, perfect for people who enjoy nothing more than indulging in a spot of casual genocide.



Dragon's Breath logo

We've been waiting for this one with bated breath - Dragon's Breath to be precise. Tim Ponting starts his own battery farm as he sinks his fangs into Palace's long awated fantasy strategy game...

Anrea is the perfect place for a good-time dragon. Up at around lunchtime, a leisurely stroll down to the egg incubators to see how junior's cooking and off for a bit of gratuitous rape and pillage. If only the master would lay off the whip and those barbarians would bog off and stop eating everyone...

Dragon's Breath gives you a chance to manage a stable of winged wonders in a quest for the secret of immortality. In the centre of its fantasy world lies Dwarf Mountain, a place more evil than number 10 Downing street. Legend has it that the throne room contains the secret of eternal life. But before you can pop over and scoop the manufacturing rights for whatever is to be found there, three pieces of talisman must be found and guarded by your dragons.

Since you only start the game with one beastie, it's time to get breeding. At the outset, you have 20 eggs, up to four of which may be put in the incubator at any one time. But as in real life, nothing comes free and to breed dragons an income must be generated. This is done by conquering villages and generally extending your sphere of influence. The more unscrupulous you are, the more dosh you'll rake in.

Dragon's Breath Is a three player game. Alternatively, the computer can be co-opted to take the place of any or even all the three central characters: Bachim the alchemist, Ouered the she-vampire and Ametrin the green beast. The computer is a pretty hot player, so it's probably wise for the beginner to play all three and deliberately kill two of 'em off. You perish when you have no dragons and no money - it's a bit like being a professional horse breeder without a stud and no money to buy one.

An important part of the game - and certainly the most difficult part to master - is the casting of spells. These can be used to increase your wealth, affect your dragon's powers and bring fame, fortune and disaster to various villages in the Anrea arena.

Spells are not predetermined, which gives you free rein or a headache depending on how you look at it. The process is phenomenally time consuming and complex and although you can play without casting magic, erm... you'll lose.

Amiga reviewTim: At first glance, Dragon's Breath is fearsomely complicated. You have to juggle dragons, eggs, money, pieces of talisman and plan world domination all at the same time. But because every action on screen is icon-driven, it's pretty easy to get into quickly. Well, erm... perhaps 'quickly' is really the wrong word to use, but we'll get to that in good time.

Boot up and move through the stunning opening screens. To business. Select the players and you move to the Main Game Screen. Each player takes a turn before clicking on the egg timer to move the action on by a month.

To plan your turn, click on the player icon to take you to your real estate: the Castle Screen. Each player has their own pad, complete with dragons' lairs, map room, library... everything in fact that the self-respecting rich oppressor could wish for. Take Bachim for example. (Preferably somewhere a long way away). This is what the poor dear did in Rhintrim ora (month to you) 2045.

A MONTH IN THE LIFE OF A BORED RICH PLAYBOY
1st: Up early (midday). Went to the library. Checked out my accounts. What a smug rich dictator I am. Looked at current affairs. Those dratted peasants are all at war (what a surprise, yawn) and Xian has taken hostages. Hold on, Dinon's offering a reward for their return. (Greedily rubs hands.)
2nd: Went to the hatchery. Put an egg on the boil, low heat. When he hatches, I'll call him Clifford. That way I might flog him off to Listerine when he's old and decrepit.
3rd: Went to the lab to cast a spell. Cocked it up as usual but it smelt nice so I drank it. Wow!
4th: Visited Calgor in the lair. He wanted to go and burn up a few peasants but I've got a hangover after drinking that gargle blaster.
5th: Wandered over to the map room. Tried to decide who to invade next and chose Xian because it'll earn me dosh, it's not too far away and 'cause I don't care for the name.
6th: A bloomin' trader woke me up at 10 in the morning and tried to flog me dodgy, black market spell ingredients for making Clifford big, fast and strong. Decided Calgor would be jealous so I told him to stuff his Tius up... (Snip. Ed.)

PLAYING UP
Okay, so it was a silly diary but it gives you an idea of the sort of thing you have to do every month. You have to keep an eye on current affairs, accounts and spell inventory in the library. This helps you plan who to conquer and how much you're likely to get out of it. A visit to the lair lets you take a close look at your dragon's powers and cast spells to increase them. You have the opportunity to buy ingredients off traders (when they call) if you're short.

Keeping an eye on the hatchery is essential. You need to know when a dragon is going to be born and adjust the heat according to these requirements. But the crucial activity takes place in the map room: sending dragons on assignments...

VILLAGE PILLAGING
The main map shows the whole of Anrea. Flags of the three different colours show which player owns what. At the moment it's just their own castles. Clicking on the magnifying glass allows you to look at a specific area. Using the arrows to scroll around, you can place the cursor over villages to see their population details. The colour of the box around them denotes their race: different races wage war against each other. You can even click on the village to look at a picture of the settlement close up.

Once you've found a suitable village to annexe, you click on the dragon icon to arrange a sortie. You have the choice of just attacking or of trying to conquer and keep the village.

The actual attack can be handled by the computer for you: the easy way out. Select how much Zeal you want your dragon to use (not much for an attack on a tiny village, maximum to conquer a large settlement) and quite the screen. It doesn't happen straight away; all the dragon missions are resolved at the end of the move in turn for each player.

The computer-controlled sequence is nowt short of pathetic when it finally arrives. A dragon appears at the top left, glides across the screen spewing fire and disappears off the right. Fortunately, it only takes a few seconds: just enough time to locate a tinny and crack it open for light refreshment.
Alternatively, clicking on the training option lets you play the attack yourself in the form of an arcade sequence...

THE BAD BREATH SHOOT 'EM UP
A bit of a disappointment on this front. It looks pretty enough, but the play is not stunningly original. The screen scrolls vertically, with your dragon flying either up or down depending on which ay you're yanking the wibble stick. The four rails of the abacus on the right show dragon's health, breath power, village population and the technological sophistication of their defences.

Aerial objects have to be burnt up at close range, the ground detail from a distance (dragon breath firing diagonally downwards, that makes sense).

Since losing dragons is bad news (it takes ages to incubate new ones) it's fortunate that you can quit the arcade sequence while the going's good. If you do die on either computer-controlled attacks of the shoot 'em up, you get taken to a nifty dead dragon screen featuring a bleeding dragon's head and an angst-ridden owner.

TALISMAN HUNTING
Because you're so busy burning up villages, increasing your income, countering opponents' activities and breeding dragons, there's little opportunity to search for talisman pieces in the early stages. When other players are out of the game, there's the chance to send out dragons on search missions. The fragments may be in open country or villages, so there's a vast area to scour. Once you've found them, you need at least three dragons to guard the bits of talisman, at which point you get transported to the Throne Room. And the secret of immortality is... (Snip. Ed.)

AT THE END OF THE DAY...
As I explained earlier, at first play Dragon's Breath seems vast in scope. But it's soon clear what's going on, although it never becomes simple. Unfortunately, the gameplay soon becomes repetitive. Every month you end up doing much the same: nurturing eggs, going on raids, keeping an eye on admin and casting spells.

Whether you'll enjoy the magic system depends on your patience. The initial excitement of creating recipes soon became a drag in my case, but the system at least gives infinite possibilities.

The graphics are bootiful throughout, with a conscientious eye for detail. More animation would have been good but I s'pose you can't have everything. (Unless you're Paul Getty. Ed.) Sound is also of the quality you'd expect of the Amiga: the music is as atmospheric as the rumblings of the plumbing when the heat is cranked up in the hatchery.

However, there is one major flaw to gameplay in Dragon's Breath: Disk accessing. Virtualy every time you click on an icon to go elsewhere, it has to load all the screen data. It takes between about two and ten seconds depending on the screen, but in total you probably spend more time waiting than playing because it happens so often.

Yep, that's the price you have to pay for visual glory. If you happen to have the patience of Job, it may not bother you. But it sent me to sleep. "Let's look in the library." Click, whirr. "The green book." Click whirr... you get the picture - in both senses. There's not much disk juggling (plus there's a two drive option) but it hardly improves improves matters.

Strategy buffs will probably enjoy Dragon's Breath. And if graphics tickle your fancy, it could come high on the shopping list. But if you can't stand the waiting, then get out of the hatchery...


A SPELLING LESSON

This is where you rediscover your long lost skills, developed at the age of six with a Merit Chemistry Set. Alchemy's the same, only slower and a lot more difficult.

Looking at the screen, you can see the ingredients on the shelf. Click on and you get a picture of the bottle. They can be mixed or as they are. In addition, the bunsen burner and condenser may be turned on before you bung in the ingredients.

As you can imagine, the ingredients have different effects depending on how they are added. Some may have a negative effect if ground but positive if cut and so on. The same goes for the burner and condenser. All the information about effects is collated in the Dragon's Breath spell book; and it takes a good 15 minutes to work out a single recipe.

Each ingredient may be added either as Director or Affector. Director material aims the spell at either a village, a dragon, an egg or yourself. Affector material determines the characteristics of the spell; for example, you may add something to give strength, improve the mind or even lessen disease. Most chemicals have both positive and negative effects, so you have to balance everything out very carefully.
One warming: make a mixture too powerful and it explodes...


CLIFFORD THE LISTERINE DRAGON
Dragon's Breath
 1  Time to put an egg (*) on the back burners. The wheel can be turned with the mouse to increase or decrease the temperature. The hotter the incubator becomes, the quicker the dragon will appear (and the more money it'll cost to run the hatchery). But it'll be weaker to, so you have to decide whether speed of hatching or quality of final dragon is at premium.
Dragon's Breath
 2  After several months of wheel twiddling and observation, the egg is well and truly hard boiled. Ooops, here comes the cutie. Looks like a 'Clifford' to me.
Dragon's Breath
 3  Wow, dragons grow fast! Clifford only hatched 25 seconds ago! Moving the cursor across the dragon's body calls up boxes representing Wisdom, Helath, Disease, Age, Speed and Strength. Let's take a look at Clifford. Erm... I think he's a bit stupid. Strong, fast and thick. Obviously not yet sophisticated enough to take a princess back to his lair.
Dragon's Breath
 4  This is the site of Clifford's luxury penthouse suite. Don't think much of his taste in interiors. Needs a new caretaker too.
Dragon's Breath
 5  Time to give Cliff the chance to spread his wings and breathe his halitosis all over a bunch of puny, insignificant peasants. This village looks perfect. Notice all the nice half-timbered real estate. Well worth grabbing from under the noses of the opposition. Might even find a piece of talisman...
Dragon's Breath
 6  Wheee!!! Easier to fly than an F-29 Retaliator and more fun than exploding ants in the garden with a magnifying glass. In this sequence you control Clifford as he battles his way through the village defences and burns up the inhabitants. The bigger the settlement the more they throw at you.
Dragon's Breath
 7  This screen assesses your performance during the raid. Clifford was rather pathetic. The village is largely unscathed, unlike Cliff who is. Maybe all that listerine knackered his bad breath so he ended up spewing perfume rather than flame all over the peasants.
Dragon's Breath
 8  Clifford's either fast asleep with a terrible dose of slimy red snot or dead. I think I'd put money on the latter. Time to get back to the hatchery and cook up a nice meaty Puff...


Dragon's Breath logo Zzap! Sizzler

Palace, Amiga £29.99

Dwarf Mountain (a contradiction in terms if you ask me... oh, you didn't) has stood in the land of Anrea since the beginning of time and is the source of evil forces that plague the surrounding countryside with war and famine. The mountain's pinnacle holds the secret of immortality, a secret craved by three Anrean dragonmasters. For a spot of amusement (and 'cause there is only snooker on the telly) the Great Lords of Anrea permit these three to fight for entry to Dwarf Mountain.

Scattered across the land are three sections of a talisman which, when joined, form a key to the mountain. The first dragonmaster to successfully manipulate the dragons to find and keep all the sections will gain immortality.

Before play commences choose which dragonmaster you want to be; the remaining two are controlled by other humans (if you know any) or computer. Each dragonmaster begins with a single dragon, hence the basis of Dragon's Breath is to breed sufficient dragons to search, fight for, and guard the talisman pieces.

However, things aren't that easy; not only are you harassed by the other dragonmasters but also by monetary problems. You need dosh to finance the building of your dragon forces and to maintain a good supply of spell ingredients (more about spells in a mo'). You can carry out tasks for needy villages to gain financial rewards but most of your money comes from taxes on villages you own.

Once you've chosen a dragonmaster the Castle Screen is displayed, through which are accessed a detailed and very informative map of the countryside, your library, your dragons' lair, spell laboratory, egg incubator, and a back door.

The map permits a detailed study of areas and villages across Anrea and is the means by which you select targets for your dragons to attack, destroy, overthrow, or search.

The library provides info on your financial situation (overdrafts are not allowed), news of happenings in Anrea (even dragonmasters like a bit of gossip), and your current stock of spell ingredients.

Your incubator allows development of up to four dragon eggs at a time. Temperatures - set at your discretion - at which they incubate influence the strength of new-born dragons: the longer its incubation period the stronger the beast will be... and the more expensive to hatch.

Your back door is where tradesmen appear from time to time to sell spell ingredients. The door flashes when someone's knocking.

Your dragons' lair has cells for up to eight dragons, although you may have more spread throughout Anrea, guarding villages or pieces of the talisman. Selecting a dragon's cell allows close study of the creature, informing you of its health, strength, wisdom, eyesight, and whether it's diseased or not.

As you sit in the relative safety of your castle you dispatch dragons to perform your dirty work. Dragon missions are either undertaken by computer or, if you're feeling dexterous, grab the joystick and control the fire-breathing ferocity yourself as he tackles tasks given.

However, until you become proficient with control methods, personally directing dragons greatly improves their chances of dying.

Your spell laboratory is the nub of the game. The manual states that you can play Dragon's Breath without ever having to use a spell, but as your opponents (especially those of the computer kind) will definitely use them against you it's best to at least dabble in the mystic arts.

Spells are used to improve your dragons' powers, to affect villages (increase population of those in your control and decrease the population of those not), to enhance egg incubation, to increase your supply of eggs, and aid your financial position. They are prepared for casting by mixing ingredients from stock in your spell room. Each ingredient affects the spell in a positive or negative way, as does the method of adding it to a spell mixture (a fairly complex template helps you to sort out which does what).

Each player takes a turn doing whatever deeds he sees fit for success: raiding villages, buying spell ingredients, incubating, and so on. And when all three are satisfied you're returned to the start screen where time is moved forward one month. Now you sit and watch the outcome of players' deeds, unless you decided to control your dragon's exploits yourself - then it's waggle-that-joystick time.

Throughout the game highly detailed graphics and an extraordinary soundtrack accompany your efforts to gain entry to Dwarf Mountain. And although spells are quite complex and take some time to master they add excitement and adventure to what is otherwise a basic, if very pretty, strategy game. So ignore the idea that you can play Dragon's Breath without using magic and get casting; you'll get the hang of it... after a spell.