Time's a fairly abstract concept in Magazine Land, you know. For instance, even though this is the February issue, it comes out in the middle of January, and I'm actually writing this a few days before Christmas, this game being the last thing I've got to do on this issue before heading home to Wigan. And it being Christmas, I've decided to devote a little peace and goodwill to my treatment of this game. Believe me, it needs it.
Be left in no doubt though, even though I'm going to try and be fair and impartial and all that, I hate this game totally. I'm playing it in the last week before a big holiday, when I should be playing Gravity Force 2 or our Skidmarks 2 coverdisk demo and having a good time, but in fact am shouting at the screen, throwing my joypad at the floor and calling it a ("Melon fudding, chicken socket fridge" - Ed) of a game, while the menopausal lady who periodically sanitizes our telephones looks in shocked silence.
It's a time of peace and goodwill though, so nice things first.
The game does indeed recognise a second disk drive, and is handily arranged on the disk to cut down accessing. The game's split up into different locations, and you only have to change disks when you move from one location to the other, rather than fiddling around mid-level. That's good.
There's no tedious 18 page novella to lough through, or stupid animated opening sequence to explain the tired, worn out old fantasy setting. Instead of all that tosh, there's the slightly cryptic message 'torn from limbo' and then bam, that's it, you're in the game as either a scantily clad butch female warrior or a completely dressed and less butch male equivalent. That's good too.
The game looks a lot like The Chaos Engine, with the same forced-perspective almost-but-not-quite-Looking-directly-down view that means you can alk behind objects and be obscured only slightly.
It works well, and combined with objects casting shadows, gives a real depth to the playing area. What with this and the graphics changing every so often as you progress through forests, villages, mountains and various temples, there's plenty of varied a nice graphics to look at. This is also good.
Even with all the peace and goodwill on Earth, that's pretty much it for nice things to say about Dragonstone, so we'll move neatly on to bland, middle-of-the-road aspects of the game. Such as the setting, for instance.
Now, regular readers of AMIGA POWER, and Kangaroo Court in particular, will know that we're no great fans of settings that include elves, pixies and goblins, and Dragonstone's got more taverns, beards, rogues, Raxinfraxins and Saxinraxins than most. How hard can it be to set an adventure game in an alternate past where the Roman Empire never fell, or where the petrol engine was developed during the Dark Ages?
Not hard at all, so why this repetition of a world inveted by JRR Tolkien toe entertain his trench-bound son during WW1? If you like this kind of thoughtless mush, then take heart that since this is the season of peace and goodwill, I've not penalised the game for being set in a whole world of cliches. But be aware that you're a very unpromising individual.
Bad things next:
* The combat system sucks. You face your enemy and have to swipe the word at exactly the right moment so the baddie walks into your swipe. A few hits like this and they're toast. However, mistime the swipe, and the baddie closes on you, josties you and injures you.
To stop being hit, you need to run away to get some space and repeat the process, but if you're backed up against a wall, hedge or another baddie, you'll keep on getting jostled, hit and damaged. Sure, there's a psychic missile attack, but you have to stand still for five seconds while it charges up, and can't move until you've released it. Pathetic.
* Further compounding the agony of combat, baddies constantly regenerated in all the levels I played, meaning that after wading through a pack of bad boys and taking the arbitrary damage that this involved. I had to do the same again on the way back. Terrible.
* After searching all the visible areas fruitlessly for hours, I discovered a secret room accidentally, and was horrified to learn that they're an integral part of the game. Aaarghh! I've already witnessed the tedium-filled horror of having to search something like 60 floor tiles in Valhalla And The Lord Of Infinity to find out which one the scroll's under, and now I've had to push my character along all of the edges of the maze until he walked through the hidden doorways. This isn't entertaining, or clever, or taxing. It's a heap of clapped-out, rusty old offal.
* Talks with wizards. Exchanging herbs for scrolls and blokes gasping out half messages with their dying breaths. Yawn.
* Bugs. I've been playing a boxed copy and it'll consistently crash out when I try and examine a certain object in a certain location. Also, I can find my way into (but not out of) a secret room beneath the foliage that I can't get out of and that kills me slowly while I'm in it. That can't be right.
* There's a password system from hell. Not only is each password 20 characters long, not only are there numbers, capital letters AND lower case (causing immense frustration when it comes to the difference between, 9, O and o) characters, but to add to all the frustration, YOU CAN'T USE THE KEYBOARD! Incredibly, you've got to twiddle the cursor round the screen rather than simply just typing it in. Unbelievable.
* You encounter a broken bridge with a two foot gap in it, but you can't jump over. A mushroom blocks your path and you can't go round. Tiny streams and clumps of grass blcok your path, even though a real person could clearly step over or go round, and buildings are much bigger inside than out.
What's the point of having a realistic-looking setting if you're confined to the route chosen by the programmer and enforced by on-screen obstacles that a two year old could navigate?
Oh sure, there's loads of it, but so what? Ive only played through the first three levels and half-heartedly used level codes to get pictures of some of the others, as nothing in the first third of the game encouraged me to play on or explore further as it's entirely devoid of atmosphere, interest or appeal.
So do I want a dull sub-Zelda-esque arcade RPG with niggly problems, a dot-to-dot plot and terrible combat system?