The Executioner logo

Somehow you just know that a game with the title 'Executioner' isn't going to be a very cheery game. However if you're expecting to be in control of a medieval head chopper, rolling heads into a hand-crafted wicker basket in the late eighteenth century, then you're in for a surprise.

Gravity of the situation
In fact it is a kind of warped space-trading game. The idea is to zip down to unfriendly planets, destroy alien installations, scoop up prisoners and then nip down to your local slave trader for a bit of human bartering. However mindless death and destruction isn't the only aim of the game. Dear me no, there are four pieces of an electronic key to collect with which you can catch an enemy leader.

The game is controlled by the mouse. Thus on static screens when you've got some bartering or torture to carry out, the mouse joystick simply moves to highlight choices. These static screens comprise of a shop, a bar, a map and a torture/questioning screen.

Once you've decided which portion of the galaxy to search for the key segments, you can then launch your ship down to the planet. At this point the game switches to a thrust-type game. You have an allocation of fighter droids which you can send down to destroy installations, capture prisoners and extra fuel.

The planet combat sections of the game are reminiscent of games such as Gravity and the recent Zarathrusta. Here the main problem isn't the attacking spacecrafts or the ground-based installations, it's the problem of controlling a craft which is affected by gravity.

It's very easy to get your orientation wrong with the droids, sending them plummeting down to earth. This isn't' the fault of the programmers, in fact to their credit, they've decided to make life a little harder for all you hardened shoot-em-up players out there.

If you spot something interesting on the surface then you can zip down and hove about it. Pulling back on the joystick initiates the tractor beam and you scoop-up prisoners or extra supplies of fuel. The exit from these planet levels is hidden until you find a transmitter pod, pick this up and an exit portal appears on your inadequate radar screen.

Talk you evil Gargaroth
If you manage to make it off a planet with a couple of droids to spare, you can head for home and torture the prisoners for information about the location of the key.

There's nothing terribly graphic about the torture sections. You have only four methods (he said distinctly sick). You can physically attack the prisoner, stretch them (old but effective), use electrodes, or offer them incentives (ciggies, chocolate, their life).

If you over do things in this portion of the game, the prisoner will die, so it's wise to keep an eye on the life-force indicator which registers exactly the kind of shape that the poor sod's in. If it all sounds a bit gratuitous and sick, then you're not far from the truth.

Being a space agent isn't all work, work, work. If you fancy a spot of relaxation you can go to the bar. Entering this screen shows you a graphics of the bar and ermm, that's it. Some absolutely moronic piano floats around while you prop up the bar. Dire indeed.

Should you save up enough money from selling prisoners you can buy add-ons for your ship. Four-way guns, extra droids or high-powered weapons are all stocked by the shopkeeper, who looks like a cross between Darth Vader and Mr Benn in his spacesuit.

Here's a game that offers little. All you've got is a game pretending to be a "combination of tense arcade action and mind-stretching strategic quest". The only good portions of the game are the planet sequences and even these are absolutely derivative. If it is "hugely addictive", then I must have the wrong version.


A Question Of Ethics

We are disturbed to learn of another game being marketed in which torture is presented as a fun way to deal with 'prisoners'. We are concerned that impressionable young people will, though this game, accept that torture is an acceptable practice. Toture is a fact of life in more than 100 countries, as the dossiers and photos in our files illustrate. Perhaps those who design, manufacture, market and distribute games such as The Executioner would care to consult our library, particularly the pictures of children who have been tortured, we feel sure they would then not be inclined to link it with what they describe as "gorgeous, tense action."
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL


The Executioner logo

Thrust with extra nastiness.

The box for this debut release from new label Hawk claims that 'The Executioner is a new concept in quality arcade games'. The justification for this patently untrue claim seems to be that it combines straightforward arcade action with a strategic element – well, pardon me if I don't get the flags out and call the newspapers.

Cynicism aside, what have we got here? Well, the game consists of two main sections. One is the Thrust-style sequence where you pilot a spaceship around a series of planets collecting fuel and prisoners and looking for parts of a key which will allow you to find and kill some really nasty bad guy or other, the other is the much talked-about torture section where you beat up or electrocute your prisoners in an attempt to screw information about the locations of the keys out of them.

You can also visit a shop to buy power-ups with the money you receive for selling prisoners as slaves – assuming of course that you haven't tortured them to death...

So far so unsound then, but the most unsavoury aspect of The Executioner is the amount of entertainment it provides. Both of the individual sections are done perfectly adequately, but neither of them ooze excitement, and the amount of disk-swapping you have to do between them was almost enough to make me think that Cinemaware had come back from the dead already.

The 'Thrust' section screams out for keyboard control, especially on some of the fiddly tougher planets, and the torture sequence is both superficial and slightly tastelessly executed (no pun intended).

There's also an 'entertainment' option included on many of the menu screens, which when selected brings up a tempting-looking shot of a bar with music playing and a little arcade machine running an attract sequence in the corner. Sadly though, after being led on in this way, you aren't allowed to actually play the little game, or indeed do anything else, which leaves me completely bewildered as to why the sequence was included when the disk space could clearly have been put to better use (like cutting down on swaps, for a start).

I'd only been playing The Executioner for about 20 minutes before I started to be distracted by some of the more interesting things going on in the office. Pat the cleaner came in and moved a few coffee cups around, Mark cleared his throat a couple of times, Gary said something vaguely suggestive and my BMX Bandits tape ran out in the middle of one of my favourite songs, as it always does. Pretty soon I wasn't paying attention to the game at all, and if that sounds to you like I'm implying it's a bit on the not-entirely-gripping side, then you're not far off the mark. In the end, it's all just too repetitive for me.



The Executioner logo

What was the last truly original game You’ve played? Think hard. Sim City? Populous, perhaps? What about Utopia? Personally, I would go for Space Invaders. How about The Executioner? It’s a ‘new concept in quality arcade games’. Sounds exciting and too good to be true? And, of course, it is.

Put simply, the game plan is to fly from planet to planet collecting parts of an electronic key. Once found, you must then confront the evil leaders of the Gargaroths, whoever they might be, and kick intergalactic butt.

From an overview of the whole galaxy you select which planets you wish to explore. In an unstable droid, equipped with a laser, you have to find and activate a transmitter pod, collect fuel and capture enemy pilots or stranded people.

There’s also a loose trading element where you can dock at a shop, and sell or trade captives to gain money with which to buy extra weapons and extra fuel. Captives can also be questioned or tortured for information.

It takes a few moments to learn how to control your unstable droids, drop down to the planet, turn quickly to blast the aliens who fire at you, or drop down gently to the surface for fuel or captives. Unfortunately, there’s no zip to the game and very little zap. The action is slow and rather pedestrian.

The planet landscapes are quite pretty and the musical introduction to the game is quite impressive. It’s a pity the skills used to create them could not have been grafted onto a more original game. There are really too many better games to buy with your money.

Sorry, but there’s no way this Executioner is a killer.


ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK

The Executioner is as original as Thrust, Gravitar, Choplifter and Oids. Prettier, perhaps, with some extra bells and whistles but essentially the same. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a great idea, improving and developing it. But with this game it's hard to see where the improvements have been carried out. That's sad, especially when you look at some of the other games reviewed this issue, such as Utopia, MegaLoMania and Magic Pockets. All three have taken a tried and trusted game formula and pushed it one step further by enhancing the gameplay, and adding something fresh and exciting.

The people behind The Executioner are new names on the scene. Design is credited to the mysterious Avant Garde, programming is by Andrew Prime, graphics by Stoo Cambridge and sound by Doug Boari. Although this game doesn't get the CU Amiga seal of approval, there are positive signs for future efforts. Let's hope the next project Hawk tackles will be truly original.