Elfmania logo Amiga Computing Bronze Award

Tina Hackett is away with the fairies as she dons her pointy ears and green jerkin to explore a magical land of the elves in Elfmania.

INTRODUCTION

There is nothing like a frantic beat 'em-up for a quick aggression-letting bout with a joystick. The premise is simple: beat the living delights out of your opponent.
A wealth of fine quality beat-'em-ups have hit the Amiga in recent times and the more violent the better. But now Finnish software house, Terramarque, are breaking the mould with a new non-violent-type beat-'em-up involving cute elves. But will this concept take off?

STORYLINE

According to the ancient magical laws of Muhmulandia (the land of the Elves) whoever challenges the Crown to an Honour Fight, and wins, will gain control of the country. Another, even great prize also awaits. This is the mystical Dragon Fan which will reveal the secrets of the Universe.

It is a prize worth fighting for but you must give the king reason to fight, and to do this you must hire your own fighters to conquer the Champion Fighters - representatives of the King.


 

FLASHBACK

Many beat-'em-ups have been released for the Amiga and in my mind Body Blows Galactic still reigns supreme. Granted, it may be more violent, but you do have a good choice of moves and characters available and graphically it looks superb.

Mortal Kombat, employing a different style altogether, also has more to it than Elfmania with regards to the action. Elfmania doesn't seem to pack quite the same punch as other games of this nature or give the same sense of satisfaction after a round well fought.

It does have a certain charm though, and if you're looking for a beat 'em up that has a strategic angle without the blood and guts then it's definitely worth buying.


 

SOUND

Music accompanies the fight scenes but it isn't particularly astounding - it's not one of those irritating, grating tunes but it doesn't really conjure up any atmosphere either. A more fitting choice of soundtrack could have really enhanced the theme of the game and evoked more of an atmosphere.

The usual shouts and yells that fit in with the moves are included and quite realistically convey the action. All the characters have catch phrases which they use at the beginning or end of a fight. These work well and do create the feeling of the tournament spirit.

54%

 

GRAPHICS

Graphically, Elfmania is absolutely stunning. The attention to detail paid in creating the backdrops is amazing. The scenes actually look three dimensional and with the backgrounds realistically fading into the distance, the overall impression of the setting is well conveyed.

Small details show the care with which the graphics have been made. For example, in each scene there is an animated object or character in the background. Doors open and spectators blink or move slightly.

Although only subtle details, which at first do go unnoticed, they work well, and unlike some games that try this approach it doesn't go over the top and distract from the gameplay.

70%

 

OPINION65%

While it is a nice idea having a 'less violent' beat-'em-up by using cute elf characters, it is at times a bit too twee and everything is a bit too nice.
Beat- 'em-ups bring out the more aggressive style of playing and when your opponent is a smiling elf it can become rather frustrating. The game redeems itself when you meet the tougher fighters later on and gets the real fighting feel back into it.

More moves would have benefited the game as they are quite limited. All the characters have very similar moves and although this results in a simple control system that is easy to get to grips with, it does become rather repetitive after a while. The special moves also take a fair amount of joystick bashing to get to work. And what can't be forgiven is all the disk accessing. The game is not hard disk installable and unless you have an extra drive you will be constantly plagued with swapping between disks after each fight.

It's not all bad though, far from it in fact. The game does have a lo going in its favour, such as an artificial intelligence system which means you can't just find one successful move and use it throughout the fight because the computer susses out what you are up to and will avoid your hits.

The control system is easy to get the hang of and the coin idea is excellent. When you hit your opponent he releases coins - you can then hit them back at your opponent to cause additional damage.

Two-player mode is also quite fun and you can choose from all of the six fighters available (in a one player game they only become available when you have earned enough coins). The strategic angle is a nice touch. The country is divided into 36 counties and via the mapscreen you must conquer six counties in a row to win.

But it's up to you whether to go straight ahead and try for the six in a row or build up your cash by defeating the easier opponents and going on to the Bonus Stage.

So, despite its 'cutesy' appearance and limited amount of moves and characters, this is a surprisingly playable and addictive title. The sprites are solid and well animated, the backdrops absolutely superb and the extra features add a novel aspect to it.



Elfmania logo Amiga Format Gold

Can Renegade's beat-'em-up really be better than Body Blows, slicker than Street Fighter and more playable than Mortal Kombat? Rob Mead puts on his fighting trousers and heads for the streets of Elf City...

You can imagine the scene, can't you? There are these two elves in the pub and one says: "Are you looking at my ears?" "Yeah," says the other. "They're stupid and pointy." The first elf pulls himself up to his full 3ft 6-inch height and says: "Are you calling my ears stupid and pointy?" "Yeah," says the second, "and you're deaf and ugly at well."

All hell breaks loose - tables are overturned, chairs are smashed and pudgy limbs are ripped from green jerkined bodies. It's how wars are started in some places, y'know. And it's how wars are resolved in the mythical land of Muhmalandia..

The storyline goes something like this: the plucky king of Muhmulandia is the subject of constant challenges to his authority thanks to a set of arcane magical laws. This means that whoever can defeat the king or his chosen champion in an Honour Fight can become the new ruler of the elven kingdrom.

As an added incentive, the challenger also stands to win the Dragon Fan, a mystical object which bestows the secrets of the universe upon its owner.

Muhmulandia consists of six regions - castle, pirate harbour, dungeon, waterfall, king's hall and ice village - each one occupied by a different champion fighter (see the Float Like A Butterfly box). The six regions are further divided into 36 counties or squares.

It's a knockout
You have to challenge the king of Muhmulandia by conquering six counties in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line across the kingdom. You do this by hiring a series of fighters who have to take on the King's champion in a series of six knockout bouts. You only have one chance to win - defeat in an honour fight at any stage means you have to begin your challenge again.

Because your success or failure in Elfmania depends entirely on your ability to hire bigger and better fighters, it comes as no surprise to learn that the whole game centres around your ability to make money.

At the start of the game you only have 75 coins to spend - unless you're in two-player mode - and your fighter's energy levels during combat are directly linked to how much money is shaken out of him during combat. This means you lose money when you do badly and make money when you do well, since your opponent also keeps dropping readies every time you deliver a well-aimed thump.

The other way to make money is by converting the prizes heaped on the victor at the end of the bout and by fighting in as many counties as you can before you start on your crown-chasing line of six. It's as tough as it is simple.

There's no doubt about it. Play Elfmania for a few hours solo and you'll be hooked. Play it for a few weeks with a pal you'll want to emigrate to Finland and get a job in the Helsinki branch of Iceland just so you can stand like a groupie outside the programmers' door.

Simply the best
Elfmania is brilliant and it knows it. The graphics smack you round the face with their loveliness, the controls knee you in the nether regions with their slickness and there's enough long-term playability here to go 12 rounds with Lennox Lewis and come out smiling.

For too long we've put up with shoddy beat-em-ups with dodgy sprite routines, abysmal joystick controls and a bit of titillating gore. Only Team 17's Body Blows series has offered anything like the playability we deserve. No longer. Elfmania is the best Amiga beat-em-up yet.


FLOATS LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STINGS LIKE A BEE
Elfmania's motley collection of six fist-fighting supremos are all highly skilled with different motives and moves. Here's the lowdown...

Elfmania: Janika JANIKA THE PIRATE ELF:
Elfmania's token girlie Janika is a fast, supple fighter whose abilities should not be underestimated. Raised among cut-throat pirates, her special move is the devastating spinning middle kick.

Elfmania: Kosken KOSKEN THE EXECUTIONER:
Kosken's bulk makes him a formidable opponent in or out of the king's dungeon where he lives. In fact Kosken's so tough the ground trembles when he walks. His special move is a deadly high punch.

Elfmania: Matik MATIK THE FAT KING:
Lord monster Matiki has already conquered Elfworld with the help of the Victory Hammer. Now he's about to do it all over again with his special move - the shocking hammer swing.

Elfmania: Seven SEVEN THE GUARDIAN:
This turnban-headed warrior is the king's guard and he's equipped with an enormous bendy sword. Mmmm. His special move is a 360-degree spin for slicing opponents in two.

Elfmania: Taiki TAIKI THE ICE ELF:
What looks like a noncy feather boo around Taiki's shoulders is actually a snug sheepskin coat for those chilly nights in the Elf Mountains. Taiki's special move is a spinning jump kick.

Elfmania: Tenko TENKO THE FOREST ELF:
This mohican-haired chap spends all his time in the woords and smells of dam leaves and badger urine. A good all-rounder, his specialty is the spinning high kick.


Elfmania logo Amiga Joker Hit

Vergeßt "Mortal Kombat" mit und ohne Blut. Vergeßt auch die aktuellen Lokalmatadoren "Street Fighter 2" und "Body Blows Galactic", denn Renegades neues Prügelspiel verweist sie alle auf die Plätze - und erscheint exklusiv für den Amiga!

Nicht mehr und nicht weniger als die beste Amiga-Prügelei aller Zeiten sollte dabei herauskommen, als sich die finnischen Entwickler von Terrramarque (für dieses Projekt entgegen anderslautenden Gerüchten bzw. den schlampigen Recherchen weniger genauer Kollegen übrigens ohne die legendären Kultcoder Stavros Fasoulas) zusammenfanden, um Elfmania zu programmieren. Und das dürfte auch gelungen sein - zumindest, wenn man etwas für originelle Fantasy-Recken übrig und seine Seele nicht gänzlich dem Blutrausch verschrieben hat...

Laut Vorgeschichte handelt es sich hier um den mehr oder weniger friedlichen Wettstreit von Elfen, wodurch auch das Gameplay geprägt ist: Nicht Brutalität war den Herstellern wichtig, sondern ausgefuchste Spielbarkeit im Stil eines Klassikers wie Archer MacLeans IK+.

Dementsprechend setzen auch die Computergesteuerten Spitzohren weniger auf die genretypischen Fatality-Moves, statt dessen stellen sie sich sehr intelligent auf die Taktiken des Spielers ein. Im Kampf um die Krone des Fantasyreichs Elfmania darf denn auch kein Gegner getötet werden, vielmehr soll man nacheinander die Elfen dieser Welt in aller Freundschaft ihrer Balkenenergie berauben und so auf die Matte schicken.

Eine ungewohnte Rolle spielt hierbei das liebe Geld, denn bereits im Ring fallen den Kontrahenten bei einem Treffer schon mal Münzen aus der Tasche, die sich während des Fights als Waffe verwenden lassen und danach in einer Extrarunde eingesammelt werden dürfen, um vielleicht sogar gestärkt in den nächsten Kampf gehen zu können.

Ungewöhnlich ist auch die Tournee selbst ausgefallen, zu der man hier wahlweise mit Eiself, Waldelf oder einer Piratenelfin (wobei sich alle Charaktere stark unterscheiden, was Stärke und Geschwindigkeit angeht) startet. Denn anstatt bloß von Austragungsort zu Austragungsort zu reisen, muß man eine Partie "Tic-Tac-Toe" für sich entscheiden, wodurch die Gegner alle (kostenpflichtigen) Reisepläne wortwörtlich noch durchkreuzen können.

Von ihnen gibt es übrigens drei Sorten, die man eingangs nicht für sich selbst reklamieren kann: einen orientalisch angehauchten Wächter, einen Scharfrichter mit Sumo-Touch und den fetten König. Dabei sind selbstnuschelnd auch Duelle gegen einen Freund möglich, der Sieger darf, wenn er mag, dann solo weitermachen.

Die Sechs Arenen von Elfmania sind stets größer als ein Bildschirm und scrollen perfekt in verschiedenen Parallax-Ebenen (besonders beeindruckend: der Kampf auf einem schwanken Schiff), drei weitere mit drei zusätzlichen Kämpen sind bereits für eine Szenariodisk geplant - am CD32 sollen später alle neun Hintergründe vertreten sein.

Der optische Eindruck ist schier überwältigend, selten sah man derart große Kämpfer vor derart schön gezeichneten Kulissen derart flüssig agieren! Am schönsten aber ist, daß diese Prachtgrafik auf jedem Amiga zu bewundern ist, auch wenn viele eine solche Qualität bestenfalls vom AGA-Modus erwarten würden, zumal das Game ja zunächst ausschließlich für den A1200 angekündigt war.

Die Steuerung ermöglicht vielfältige Bewegungsabläufe, ist aber dennoch intuitiv zu beherrschen; der Sound wartet mit ebenso abwechslungsreicher wie astreiner Musik und herrlichen Effekten auf: Man hört die Elfenknochen förmlich knirschen.

Kurzum: Elfmania sollte in keiner Sammlung fehlen, selbst wenn die aktuelle Prügelwelle bereits wieder ab-ebbt. Denn ersten hat das Game doch allerlei neue Features in petto, zweitens ist es durchdacht gestaltet, und drittens kann man damit als Amiganer endlich wieder den Neid der Konsoleros heraufbeschwören. Die Hardware wird hier also wirklich ausgereizt, schade bloß, daß witzige(re) Special Moves und Bonussequenzen fehlen. Aber welche Elfe ist schon perfekt?


KURZINTERVIEW MIT DEM TERRAMARQUE-SPRACHROHR ILARI KUITTINEN

?: Wir dachten immer, Ihr Finnen wärt ein besonders trinkfestes Völkchen - daher die Vorliebe für Prügeleien?
IK: Finnen trinken viel, das ist wahr. Aber wir sind auch relativ ruhige Zeitgenossen mit einer Abscheu gegenüber Gewalt. Daher die Idee zu einem Prügelspiel mit schlagendem Witz.

?: Nun, das ist euch ja gelungen. Worauf seid ihr bei "Elfmania" noch besonders stolz?
IK: Daß es wirklich Pixel für Pixel mit "Deluxe Paint" gemalt ist - solche Handarbeit findest du im Zeitalter der Scanner immer seltener!

?: Elfen sieht man in diesem Zeitalter und Genre auch nicht unbedingt häufig?!
IK: Ja, aber in Rollenspielen. In Wahrheit gefiel uns zunächst einfach bloß die Name, dann haben wir die Sache eben konsequent durchgezogen.

?: Wie alt sind Leute, denen es ein Name wie "Elfmania" so angetan hat?
IK: Unser Nesthäkchen ist der Musiker, er war 16, als er anfing, dieser Jahr wird er 18. Unser Senior zählt 22 Lenze.

?: Letzte Frage - hat man im Land der Mitternachtssonne eigentlich besonders viel Zeit für Computergames?
IK: Also, wir sind hier ja nicht in Lappland. Heute ging die SOnne z.B. um 9 Uhr auf und um 7 Hur abends unter, ich möchte wetten, bei euch war es nicht so schön. Und solange es tolle Games wie meine Favoriten "Sensible Soccer", "Speedball 2" und natürlich "Elfmania" gibt, scheint die Sonne ohnehin überall Tag und Nacht...



Elfmania logo

It's fairly manic and there are elves in it. Hmm, it's not by a bonkers Scandinavian company by any chance?

Why do we bother? Month after month, year after year, we sit here desperately trying to help people make better Amiga games, because better Amiga games are all what we want. We point out obvious stupid flaws, we try to offer constructive criticism and practical suggestions, we stomp viciously on the metaphorical faces of games which fallow bellow the desired standards. But does it do any good? Do you lot actually wait the review of WWF European Rampage/Epic/Microcosm or whatever before you rush out and buy it? Do any programmers actually go ever go 'Oh right, I'm going to get roundly abused big-time if I don't do something about this control system, better sort it out'? Does anybody, in fact, ever listen to a word we say? Obviously not.

HELLO... HELLO?
Elfmania is a game that we'd originally expected to see before last Christmas, but that's been delayed more than once while the programmers tried to crowbar some gameplay into it. The graphics, which we saw for the first time way back in issue 31, haven't changed at all, which is to say that they're still absolutely lovely. All of the backdrops are extremely pretty, with several layers of smooth parallax scrolling, and some of them have a real feeling of depth and atmosphere.

The impressive speed's the same as eight months ago. But hang on. "The gameplay's not quite there yet", said Cam in his preview feature, "the sound needs beefing up and the characters need levelling out a bit and maybe a few extra moves would improve the gameplay." So, Terramarque took the chance of a bit of friendly advice and came up with a game that we'd find it impossible to criticise, yes? Obviously not.

Elfmania is a beat-'em-up, but it's a beat-'em-up with a difference. The difference is that when you hit your opponent, there's no sound. You glide weightlessly towards them with your arm sticking out (there's none of the kinetic force that so characterised Mortal Kombat, or even Amiga Street Fighter 2), your sprites overlap for a moment, then the other sprite recoils away with a pained expression and a coin appears from nowhere and starts bouncing around.

What happened, did you pick their pocket? There are no impact sound effects worth speaking of whatsoever, and it's completely ridiculous. The reasoning behind it is apparently that the game's supposed to be more light-hearted and funny than most beat-'em-ups, but if that's the case then why not have some comedy impact sounds - horns parping or cymbals crashing of something?

Most of the time in Elfmania you're simply not sure if you've scored a hit or not, and that's clearly a bit of a problem in a fighting game. But at least Terramarque put the other problems right, yes? Hmm. Look at the score. Obviously not.


Does anybody ever listen to a word we say?

TURN LEFT
At this point I'm going to have to diverge a little and explain how the game works, because it's a little different to the beat-'em-up norm. The objective is to win the game by completing a straight line of victories from one side of a 6x6 map to the other. You don't nominally fight in the various battles yourself, but hire a 'champion' from a maximum of six available according to how much money you've got.

You start with only enough cash to hire the three wimpiest characters, but you make money from successful fights until eventually you can hopefully take control of the huge fat king wit the dangerous sledgehammer. You have to be careful, though, because every hit you take costs you money (the bouncing coins previously mentioned) and if you win a bout but get badly beaten up in the process, you may well not be able to afford a good fighter again next time round.

You can either blow all your cash or hiring the hardest character for each fight - which means that if you lose, it's Game Over - or you can use a weaker one who'll obviously be harder to win with, but will leave you enough money to try again if you lose. It's a novel system, but you have to ask, is it a good one? Obviously not.

And here's why. For a start, the price of each character changes according to how much cash you've got, which is a bit of a cheat. The prices are fiddled so that if you choose a lesser character, you've always got an exact multiple of 50 coins left (50 is the increment between characters), which means it's possible to save up a few quid and get the chance to have a half-decent fighter in reserve in case you lose. Secondly, the difference in stamina and hit power between the characters is so great (another thing that Cam pointed out in his preview) that if you lose against them with a half-decent player, your chances of then winning with your crap back-up fighter are so tiny as to be non-existent - you might as well just quit the game and start again. So is there any point? Obviously, as they say, not.


Er, did I mention the graphics? They're really nice.

NO FUTURE
This pretty much kills the one-player game. If you're a weedy character fighting a hard one, you can score a dozen good hits and barely affect their energy bar while they wipe out half of yours with two good smacks. It's a waste of time.

However, most beat-'em-ups sell on the strength of the two-player game, so is Elfmania's up to scratch? Well, if it had been I wouldn't have embarked upon this ungainly literary device for ending the paragraphs of the review, so clearly the answer is 'obviously not'.

For the reason behind this, we have to look at the heart of any beat-'em-up, the special moves. Elfmania's special moves are accessed by repeating one of the character's six attacking moves several times in succession. This is all very well if you're playing the computer (although with some of the characters, especially the ones where the relevant move is on a joystick diagonal, it's pretty tricky to actually pull off), but against another human the system means that you're telegraphing your intended move anything up to six or seven seconds in advance, which obviously renders it useless.

The remaining half-dozen moves (or a couple more if you include doing them in the middle of a jump, which isn't as easy as it sounds either) don't give much scope for exciting 'combos' (as I believe the young people these days call them), or indeed anything else. Lots of two-player fun, then? Obviously not.

So what else has Elfmania got going for it? Er, did I mention the graphics? They're really nice.

A press release which comes with Elfmania details the 'huge difficulties' encountered by the programmers through the various delays, and talks in dramatic capitals about how trying to create the right control 'became a NIGHTMARE', before breathing a sigh of relief at the end and informing us that 'We feel that the NIGHTMARE has turned almost like NIRVANA'. All you Seattle grunge pop fans out there who play Elfmania will almost certainly agree.



Elfmania logo CU Amiga Super Star

The most unlikely named beat 'em up ever is finally ready. So we got a most unlikely named journalist to check it out. Alan Dykes puts on his plastic Spock ears and gets fighting.

Beautiful, colourful or cute things can often be the most dangerous - they can lull you into a false sense of security and then striking out when least expected, stunning you like a rocket-charged python. Elfmania is such a thing. Who would have thought, after Streetfighter 2, Body Blows and Mortal Kombat, that what's basically a bunch of fighting fairies would inspire an office into aggressive bouts of one-on-one fisticuffs and high-pitched screaming.

I had my doubts when I first saw it. What are all these coins doing bouncing around the screen, eh? And what about those little bits of treasure? I mean, things don't happen like this on the street! However, once the action really started, I was hooked.

For one or two players, Elfmania is 'set' in the mythical land of Muhmulandia, a land of elves. The challenge is to be crowned king of the elves and to do so you have to defeat the current king. Muhmulandia is divided up into 36 counties and you need to (rather undemocratically I have to say) defeat fighters from only six consecutive counties to win the crown. But it's not as simple as it sounds.

In single-player mode you start off with cash in the form coins which buy the services of fighters. More experienced ones cost more dosh, so at the beginning you can only choose between one of three characters, who cost $75 each. Beating the hell out of each enemy (in a very nice elf-like fashion, of course) gives you more coins, allowing you to hire tougher fighters for later bouts.

Starting at any point on the introductory map you fight either vertically or horizontally in a straight line until you are beaten, then, because you need sic countries in a row to beat the king, you'll need to change direction. Until you're beaten again of course. (If this is difficult to get a grip of check out the map screen at the bottom of the very page.)

In two-player mode you can have a quick flick through the fighters and, well, I never knew that elves had such a varied racial culture. There's a sumo wrestling Japanelf, a vicious and contemptible sword wielding Turkelf and a king equipped with a fiendishly destructive mallet. These three constitute the toughest enemies, but because everyone is yours for a price, if you win enough bouts, you can hire these fighters later on in the game.

This last function is useful because although the initial three fighters will see you through the first round or two, you'll get nowhere with them later on, thus it's a good idea to move around a on the map and win as many fights as possible against weaker opponents, gaining cash in the process, and hiring a more advanced fighter before you move onto the next country in your line of conquest. Fighters' strengths are indicated by stars and, of course, by their pricetags. Remember, if you're crap enough to lose all of your coins (by having the stuffing kicked of you) then you lose the game.

If all of this sounds unnecessary complicated, then I'm sure Terramarque will be delighted - Elfmania isn't intended to be just another mindless beat-'em-all-in-the-correct-order game, it involves working out a strategy to win watching your cash flow and generally being a sharp-witted geezer.

There are no complicated hidden moves. The standard ones kicking, stabbing, defending and a host of others (including one of the sumo's that could be best described as 'bumming') are easy to execute and although each fighter has a special spinning move it doesn't involve amazing feats of joystick jugglery to complete. The coins which are dropped by each fighter when hit add an extra dimension to gameplay. After you've walloped someone, step back, hit the cash and it'll earn you extra points while damaging them even more.

Another welcome addition to the game is its artificial intelligence system. Some players (I'm not mentioning names, but you're bound to know one) tend to find a single move which works consistently. We all know the type: they find out how to make Blanka spin every time they even look at the joystick and so win almost every game. Elfmania has been designed to outsmart to this sort of japery, so tough luck sad single-move players, your time of reckoning has arrived.

But what would all of this be if the blasted thing didn't look and move in a top-class manner. Not only does Elfmania win hands down in the colourful and clear graphics stakes, it also kicks ass in the scrolling department. Example: the fighting area is about two screens wide, so what happens when one of the elven pugilists run for cover? Does the game into shake-ooops-disk access-ah-that's-better mode? No! And I mean that emphatically. You can follow him or her immediately and with a minimum of fuss.

The sound is excellent too. Running it through a monitor was okay, but you really do get some nice stereo effects and the full benefit of the music if you link it up to a more powerful stereo system. All of which leads me to believe that, despite its cutesy appearance, Elfmania has won its six fights, is about to collect a wagon load of real coins of the realm and become king of Amiga beat'em ups.

Okay, a cute beat'em up might sound perverse, but Elfmania has managed to prove two things:
1)Consoles are not the only place you can find decent beat'em ups.
2)You don't have to rip anyone's head off, have blood spouting everywhere and have special moves that are about as easy to execute as an American mass murderer to produce a top class, strategic and fun game. Very well done.