So just what is a bee holder?

Eye of the Beholder 2 logo Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

US Gold * £35.99 * Mouse * Out now

What a clichéd world we live in. Everything comes and goes in such a predictable way. Take music for instance.
One minute everyone's wearing flares and listening to those Happy Monday fellas, and the next thing you know, it's all bleeping techno music, B&O dust masks and Vicks vapo-rub (and you call that predictable? - Ed).
And what about computer games, eh? That is, after all, what we're hear to talk about. Trends come and go in this cosy little world as well.
There was, for instance, a time when Ultimate were the grooviest company on the planet and any game worth its salt was an isometric 3D arcade adventure. Unfortunately, people eventually cottoned on to the fact that all the Ultimate games were the same, but with different graphics. Bye bye Ultimate.
And then there are shoot-'em-ups. They never really went away, but I'm sure we're all familiar with the 'lone spaceship against several billion enemy craft and a big end-of-level baddie'-type scenario.

Or how about the kidnapped girlie who sparked off a zillion beat-'em-ups? Or the ubiquitous cross country car race? Oh no! Total cynicism attack! Are there any new ideas left?
Probably not. And so we come to the very latest computer trend - the role-playing game. There are two distinct types. You've got the strategy-ish 3D version like Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, Elvira 2, Abandoned Places, Black Crypt, Knightmare et al.

And, well blow me down, just as the RPG bandwagon is picking up speed and all and sundry are leaping aboard, along comes the sequel to one of those original dungeon faves.
The trouble with the current overkill on RPGs is that there's very little imagination being used. Every single time, it's the same old story. Four adventurers battling it out deep in some dungeon or other, trying to vanquish some unpronounceable evil that's woken up with a bad attitude. It's nearly always the same story, it's always the same control method, and even the graphics look the same. It is, to be perfectly frank, getting a bit tedious.
However, each game is rather good, and that's the annoying thing. The same goes for Eye of the Beholder 2. It's chronically unoriginal, but it's also a splendid game in its own right. Let me explain...

EotB2 (as it shall be known hence forth to save my poor fingers) has all the RPG clichés you know and love. You select your characters, you name your characters, you fiddle with their attributes (ahem) and the you click on the direction arrows to move them around and on their weapons to attack. You cast spells, you find keys, you solve puzzles, and it's all very slick indeed.

The quest starts in a forest, and you must find your way to the Temple of Darkmoon and defeat the spookiness within. On your way to the temple you can hone you battle skills by beating up some wolves, and if you're lucky you'll find some hidden rooms with goodies in them.
Enter the temple, kill the religious nutters guarding the entrance and get adventuring. No surprises there really, although the forest section is quite a nice scene-setter and it does ease you into the game.

There's just not a lot you can say about EotB2 that hasn't already been said about any other RPG. Yes, it's got really good graphics and plenty of variety, from the forest to the swanky temple to the dingy dungeons, which add plenty of moodiness. The baddie sprites are well drawn, but not very well animated and they tend to lurch towards you. A pity, but not terribly important as the overall 'feel' of the graphics is very atmospheric and spooksome.

The sound is good too, if a little sparse, and complements the mood generated by the graphics. The ominous "it's behind yoo-oo" footsteps are particularly worrying and they genuinely make you feel uneasy as you prowl the corridors under the temple.
Some grinding noises for doors and levers, and some grunts and moans for combat just about make up the rest of the FX, but they do their job in a vaguely inoffensive way.

The playability is the tricky bit. There are so many similar games around at the moment that you've really got to judge them against each other to find the best. And I've done that, and on reflection I think that EotB2 is probably the best RPG so far.
All the others are certainly worthy of Gamer Golds on their own merits, but while this one just does the same old things as the rest, it does them with a style and atmosphere that actually makes it an exciting game to play.

There are problems though, not least of which is the way that combat becomes very stilted with more than two baddies on-screen. Selecting spells and swapping members of the party takes up too much time and you often get beaten to death as a result. It's also a fairly linear game, at least as far as I can get. You solve the puzzle which reveals a key which opens a door that reveals a baddie who leaves behind another key when killed which opens a door that leads into another puzzle. That sort of thing. This means that while you get a good feeling a progress, you also start to wish for a bit more freedom to explore by yourself.

On balance, Eye of the Beholder 2 is the best RPG around. If you've already got an RPG then think twice about whether you want another just yet, but if you're still pondering over which one to buy then I'd recommend this one. Hardly original, but there's life in the old dog yet. Just.


Eye of the Beholder 2 logo

It's tat time again, folks. The seqel that the world has been begging for has finally arrived. Now's your chance to plunge yourself deep into monster-related magical trouble all over again, in... Eye of the Beholder 2: The Legend of Darkmoon.

When you think of fantasy role-playing games on the Amiga, the name which springs to mind is Eye of the Beholder - US Gold's massive hit from a year or so ago. According to many, this was the benchmark against which all successive fantasy games would be measured. But now US Gold are following in their own footsteps by launching The Legend of Darkmoon, part two of the Eye of the Beholder story. As a sequel to the best, you'd expect a multitude of enhancements and new ideas. Read on to find out just how far you can take a good idea.

By now almost all games-playing Amiga owners should be aware of Eye of the Beholder. If not, drop this mag now and grab a copy or you'll have missed out on a truly classic piece of software. The old EOB (as it was known) set the pace for in-game atmosphere, tension, plot and brain-stretching. Since then, though, many games (Knightmare, Captive and Black Crypt to name a few) have attempted to create the same level of excitement but all have fallen short of the mark.
Perhaps this was due to the TSR-approved Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rules, complete with tried-and-tested spells and familiar monsters. Certainly part of its success was due to the atmospheric sound effects and gorgeous graphics which really helped to put you deep in the dungeons.

Auld acquaintances notforgotten
The Legend of Darkmoon attempts to pick up where Eye of the Beholder left off. Indeed, you can transfer your original EOB party of adventurers over to the new game, complete with all their baggage. This is preferable to generating a new set of team members because your old crew are likely to be more highly qualified than a batch of newcomers.

Consequently they'll last longer when the fighting gets really tough (around level four). With an old team, you can storm through the first levels (which include a forest and the catacombs of Temple Darkmoon). Some monsters, like the wolves in the woods, vanish after a single good thwack.

But don't think The Legend of Darkmoon is easy - soon things get a good deal harder and you may not even be sure who you should be hitting. One or two of the monsters you meet may not seem evil or harmful at first. Usually, these suspicious cases cause a special encounter screen to be displayed. This shows a different view of the character you encounter and a brief passage of text explains what's happening. You usually have the choice of aiding or attacking the monster, but don't let looks fool you. Sometimes even good people are vile, vicious enemies underneath.


The Legend of Darkmoon is every bit as good as its predecessor (and a bit better in many places).

Real-people power
The Legend of Darkmoon also features some enhancements, but for my money there aren't enough. There are many more short 'cameos' which improve the story-telling aspect of the EOB system, but in fairness, they're not much more than the picture-and-words gimmick of old graphic adventures. One particularly useful enhancement is the new 'awareness' of your own party members. Now, when you pass a secret door or a hidden switch, one of your crew informs you (usually in cryptic terms) in another passage of text at the bottom of the screen. This helps improve rapport with your party. You start to think of them as individuals, which is a boon to role-players. But don't push it - if you walk past the trigger square too many times, the messages repeat, making your characters seem a bit fake after a while. At least you're less likely to miss the important, secret bits of the game, and the messages don't give too much of the game away too easily.

Beyond this, The Legend of Darkmoon is pretty much the same as Eye of the Beholder. The graphics are different but they are in the same style, and the sound effects are the same, even down to the twang of the bow and arrow. Magical stone portals can be found, just as they could in EOB, and they work in exactly the same way, and use the same graphic effects. The animation for the monsters is the same two- or three-frame jerky affair, even though many of the monsters are different AD&D beasties. The hideous floating Beholder (the star of EOB) makes plenty of appearances and is by no means the toughest creature you have to deal with.

Party till you drop
All in all, The Legend of Darkmoon is every bit as good as its predecessor (and a bit better in many places), but it's not quite the kickin', radically-different mega-game it could be. Pretty soon, the novelty wears off, and you're just playing the same old EOB, but with a different plot. OK, so the plot is bigger and better and the puzzles are harder and more time consuming, but you can't help feeling you've been here before.

Even so, if you were impressed by EOB, you're bound to be impressed by Legend of Darkmoon. If you only buy one role-playing game this year, make sure it's this one, because despite a lack of significant improvements, it's still the best. For more radical changes, you'll have to wait until next year - SSI and US Gold are planning EOB# and they're mumbling things like "auto-mapping" and "parry-member interaction". Oh, and by the way, angelic-looking priests are not always what they seem. Nuff said...


Eye of the Beholder 2 logo Amiga Joker Hit

Gemessen am üblichen SSI-Standard, hat der legendäre Dunkelmund den Weg zu unserer "Freundin" ja fast mit Lichtgeschwindigkeit gefunden. Aber was noch viel wichtiger ist: Gemessen am üblichen Konvertierungsstandard haben wir es mit einer absolut vorbildlichen Umsetzung zu tun!

Anderseits ist das auch nur recht und billig, immerhin war dem Erst-Beholder nicht umsonst soviel Erfolg beschieden: Erstmals wurde ein AD&D-Rollenspiel am Computer so präsentiert, wie wir das gerne sehen - toll animierte 3D-Grafik, Echtzeit-Rätsel und - Kämpfe, sowie eine rundweg geniale Steuerung. Natürlich gab es auch Beschwerden, etwa über den etwas niedrigen Schwierigkeitsgrad, die fehlende Außenwelt der reinen Dungeon-Wanderung oder daß nebendem prinzipiellen Gameplay scheinbar auch ein, zwei Monster direkt bei "Dungeon Master" abgkupfert wurden. Mal sehen, was sich bei unserer Rückkehr in die "Forgotten Realms", genauer gesagt in die Gegend des Städtchen Waterdeep, so verändert hat...

Anstatt der Kanalisation ist diesmal der Tempel Darkmoon Angelpunkt des Geschehens, zeichnen sich dessen Bewohner doch nicht eben durch übertriebene Heiligkeit aus. Es wird sogar gemunkelt, daß die Tempelbrüder am Verschwinden mehrerer Leute beteiligt wären, aber nichts Genaues weiß man nicht. Aufklärung tut also not, und nach Meinung des Archmage Khelben Blackstaff ist dies ein Job für jene Abenteuer-Gruppe, die sich schon beim Vorgänger so wacker geschlagen hat. Wer will, kann daher auch wieder genau dieselbe Party verwenden, alternativ dazu bietet das Programm ein fixfertiges Helden-Team und die obligate Möglichkeit zum Selbersticken an.

Etscheidet man sich für die kreative Lösung, darf man aus je sechs verschiedenen Rassen und Klassen (plus Mischvormen) sein personliches Quartett auf die Beine stellen und es später noch um zwei Non-Player-Charaktere zum Sextett erweitern. Wie gehabt lassen sich die Stammrecken mit einer individuellen Portraitgrafik ausstatten, zum Dank klettern sie auch fleißig auf der Erfahrungslevel-Leiter (bis zur 15 Stufe). Die NPCs sind diesmal wesentlich zahlreicher vertreten, außerdem zeichnen sie sich durch eine größere Gesprächsbereitschaft aus - Quasselstrippen à la "Ultima" sind es zwar nach wie vor nicht, aber den einen oder anderen Hinweis zieht man ihren schon aus der Nase.

Außer potentiellen Party-Kandidaten schwirren natürlich auch jede Menge Gegner durch die Labyrinthe bzw. die nun endlich neu hinzugekommene Oberwelt. Eine richtige Wilderness oder gar Stadtspaziergänge darf man sich davon allerdings nicht erwarten.

Auch in Beholder II spielt die Musik vornehmlich im Dungeon! Immerhin tummeln sich im kleinen Waldstückchen am Anfang ein paar Wölfe, die wohl zum Erlernen des Kampfsystems gedacht sind: Mit der rechten Maustaste wird einfach die gewünschte Waffe angeklickt, schon zieht der entsprechende Kämpfer Gevatter Isegrimm einen neuen Scheitel. Dabei muß lediglich beachtet werden, daß der Nahkampf den Front-Helden vorbehalten ist, die Hintermänner können ihre Meinung nur mit Pfeil und Bogen, aufgesammelten Steinen oder anderen Wurfgeschossen kundtun. Das Ändern der Formation (via Funktionstasten) ist jedoch ein Kinderspiel, genau wie der Kampf mit magischen Mitteln. Immer noch darf man sich ganz bequem seinen Wunsch-Spell au dem aktuellen Angebot im Zauberbuch herausklicken, immer noch findet man Sprüche in Form von Scrolls und lernt sie während eines Nickerchens.

Überhaupt wurden der Screenaufbau, das Inventory, ja eigentlich die gesamt Bedienung praktisch 1:1 vom Vorgänger übernommen - was wäre da schon groß zu verbessern gewesen? In Sachen Abwechslung und Schwierigkeitsgrad hat der Beholder allerdings durchaus Fortschritte gemacht. So findet man nun etwa einen Höhlen-eingang hinter saftig grünen Büschen, und in den Katakomben oder den drei (mehrstöckigen) Turn-Dungeons von Darkmoon geht's dann richtig kernig zur Sache: Schier übermächtige Gegner, falsche Ratgeber, knobelige Rätsel, vertrackte Teleporter, tückische Fallen und hinterhältige Geheimtüren geben sich ein Stelldichein, und man stolpert über allerlei Equipment, wie rüstige Rüstungen, magische Gegenstände oder Scrolls mit brandneuen Zaubersprüchen. Rücksichtsvollerweise haben die Programmierer die praktischen "Heldenwiederbelebungs-Stationen" ebensowenig vergessen, wie ihre Pflicht und Schuldigkeit gegenüber den Präsentations-Freaks - die Amigaversion steht der Tollen PC-Fassung kein bisschen nach!

Erneut fliegen also die Wurfmesser, Pfeile oder Feuerspells im Echtzeit durch beeindruckende 3D-Grafiken, die Zwischenbilder und fesch animierten Monster haben gegenüber dem ersten Teil der Saga nochmals zugelegt. Man schreitet ungemein flott durch die Abenteuerlandschaft, das Nachladen hält sich in engen Grenzen - einfach eine saubere Leistung! Der Sound (Musik & FX) hat ebenfalls nichts von seinen atmosphärischen Qualitäten verloren, und die Handhabung ist eh ein Gedicht. Das Lob erstreckt sich auch auf die erträgliche Diskwechselei, ein Zweitlaufwerk und dazu vielleicht 2MB Arbeitsspeicher machen eine Harddisk-Installation fast überflüssig. Somit ist Eye of the Beholder II zwar nicht mehr so innovativ, wie es sein Wegbereiter war, kann jedoch mit vielen Verbesserungen im Detail aufwarten.

Schließlich und endlich der letzte Pluspunkt dieses prachtvollen Kerker-Opus: Unsere Testversion war zwar noch so englisch wie der Londoner Nebel, Ihr werdet aber eine komplett deutsche Angabe des Spiels in den einschlägigen Konsum- Dungeons finden! (C. Borgmeier/od)


Eye of the Beholder 2 logo

It was just over a year ago that the world went crazy over the first EOTB. Can SSI keep the fire burning, or does the fantasy role-playing backlash start right here?

The original Eye of the Beholder proved quite a hit when it was first gulped down the gullet of the role-playing fraternity a year or so ago. For many it is the established benchmark in RPGs - and the one to finally knock FTL's of-late-crusty-looking Dungeon Master off its throne.
Why is this? Well, EOTB's hard-core appeal is unsurprising, as it not only carries TSR's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons endorsement, but implements many of the second edition game rules. For the casual dungeoneer, less interested in the finer points of the AD&D game system, it's appealing too - featuring swish graphics, a funky plot and, above all, gripping gameplay. So gripping, in fact, that AMIGA POWER bestowed on it a very 88 percent in our first ever issue.

So, 'yum yum, can we have some more please?' being the verdict, what can its successor offer? It is billed as bigger, better and meaner than ever - no small claim considering its dad. Though senior associate producer Nick Beliaeff admits, "It's a tenuous sequel to the first one, as are most sequels," all signs are that's a bigger, better game than its predecessor. Hey - with 13 man-years of developed ploughed into it you'd expect something pretty damn expansive.

Plot-wise EOB II: The Legend of Darkmoon takes up where its forbear left off. You can even port your old party members from the first game into the second - along with all their hard-won accoutrements - provided you're still on speaking terms with them. Of course, we've not all player the original EOB, but not to worry - you can easily create a brand spanking new (and a suitably tough) party from the very comprehensive character generation section.

The story, then. Veterans will recall their perilous slog through the monster-ridden sewers beneath the city of Waterdeep but, for all that parties' brave efforts, evil still haunts the world of Forgotten Realms. People are disappearing from nearby villages and Waterdeep's Archmage Khelben wants your four heroes to get it all sorted. (Why he can't manage it himself, what with being an Archmage and all, is never made clear). One plush animated intro later, your merry band is teleported to the start of their quest - deep inside the dark woods near the Temple Darkmoon.

First observations first. Well, we find ourselves with a familiar mouse- and keyboard-driven interface which, while initially tricky to get used to (he smote the wolf with a mighty click on his inventory - oops) soon becomes second nature. As the party hops one click at a time through the wood, which must be a hoot to watch for the outside observer, vicious wolves prowl its regular avenues - obviously a land in which landscape gardeners abound.

Old parties will have little trouble wiping out the wolves, and even newly generated ones, which start off at around level six, are similarly tough. There are oddments to be found - rocks for throwing, an old drow (very naughty elves) hideout - but turning a wolf to mush with a couple of swift swipes is not what I'd call the most action-packed way to kick off a game. Considering how hard your characters are, I'd question this section being in the game in the first place.


It's not the huge leap we'd hoped for

ELEMENTARY MY DEAR READER
Things hot up fairly swiftly once inside Darkmoon, however. We're presented with the temple itself - plus catacombs beneath and three towers above - to explore, making this one huge mutha of a game. There are four levels through which to progress, each relating to the elements of fire, earth, air and water, and each colour-coded - pointlessly subtle, but I love it.

The monsters start off tough and get rapidly tougher, so you'll have to make sure the party rests up between progressively more violent encounters. This isn't easy stuff - so hard, in fact, that I think a hint might be in order, so here it is.: there's a room in the catacombs you can use as a bolt-hole when the party's feeling particularly pummeled, and there's a resurrection chamber not very far away too - if you can figure out how to work it.

What else? Well, pleasingly, non player characters make regular chatty cameo appearances - more so than they did in EOTB - by which the plot is carried along. These often amount to little more than a than a pretty picture and some words, but there are some interesting encounters in which you're not quite sure whether you should clobber who you've come across or help them out - some monsters will wibble on amiably just prior to stabbing you in the back!

Occasionally you'll chance upon someone - or something! - that will join your party and fight alongside you. An early encounter will see a halfling thief called Insal tagging along but, with his chaotic neutral alignment, you're never quite sure if you should trust him. This, along with the characters' new-found environmental 'awareness' - walk past a hidden door and someone in the party will mutter that they feel a draught - really helps to draw you into the game world.
It's not long before you start thinking of the party as individuals rather than a multi-legged killing machine (an accusation levelled at most multi-character RPGS).


It's billed as bigger, better and meaner

When you get into a scrap though, and there are plenty of them, it all goes bonkers. Deft mouse manipulation is needed to keep the front-rank fighters attacking,while the magic users lob spells from the back; it can get really frenetic as you see the party's hit points dwindle away while more evil creatures come piling in.

Animation during the fighting is pretty much the same as the original - jerky, three-frame sequences - but you'll spend more time whizzing your cursor around the weapons icons and spells lists than watching rheumatic monster grind through their moves.

The graphics, though differing slightly from EOTB, are of a similar high standard and the sound effects remain exactly the same, right down to the eerie, echoing footsteps that do so much to out the willies up to you. There are puzzles aplenty to contend with and ominous hints from the party about the likely outcome of pulling a lever or inserting a key in a booby-trapped lock. It all conspires to create a terrific atmosphere, so edgy that it's almost a relief to come across a monster for a good old cathartic trash.

A good solid game then, great even, but there remains a problem. The Legend of Darkmoon, while being just that little bit better and more involving than EOTB in almost every area, is not the huge leap for dungeonkind I'd hoped it would be. A new plot, a bigger game world, a wider variety of nasties and more mind-stretching puzzles: it's all there, but it's still more of the same.

That's not to knock it - fans of the original will love the game and it still sits head and shoulders above many other RPGs. I suppose I've been spoilt by the 260-degree animation and glorious auto-mapping of Origin's Ultima Underworld (sorry folks, it's PC only) - this is still one of the two or three best RPG's available for the Amiga.
Keep your fingers crossed for EOTB 3 then - which promises new and radical features for Amiga players - but in the meantime, enjoy this one. It's well worth a look and should take you absolutely ages to conquer.


SPELLBINDING STUFF

One gripe I've always had with AD&D is that, under the normal rules, you can't go making up your own spells - it was this obvious failing in the SSI stuff that helped make Mindscape's Legend (also reviewed this issue) look so good, for instance. EOTB2 looks very sorry in comparison - you're limited to a selection of mage and cleric spells (depending on which type of character you're dealing with at the time) which becomes wider as the characters go up in level.

So what happens? Well, a mage character will memorize spells from a set list while the party rests - it's a bit of a bummer, for as soon as he or she casts a spell, it's instantly forgotten. (And I thought there ultra-powerful mage types were supposed to be a bit clever!). Clerics, meanwhile, pray for spells (high-level paladins can do exactly the same trick).

It doesn't end there though. Mages have a rather more offensive arcane arsenal, with fireballs, disintegration and ice storms all available at higher levels, while clerics fall more into a nursing and personnel role and are able to cure wounds and pray for better combat ability during a scrap - though they can still give you a nasty flame strike if riled.

All this firepower places some restrictions on a magic user's resilience. Mages can wear no armour and clerics can only use blunt weapons, so it's best to keep them out of the front rank as much as possible.

THE GENERATION GAME

One of your first tasks when playing Eye of the Beholder II is to sort out a party of adventurers for yourself. Character generation is by the good old AD&D method - take a racial type, give it a bunch of attributes and fiddle them. The usual motley assortment of Tolkien-esque races are offered: human, elf, dwarf, halfling, gnome (OK, so Middle Earth had no gnomes) and various mongrels, along with a number of different alignments - the philosophy, if you will, by which the character deals with the world. Lawful good is a complete goody-goody while, at the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum, chaotic evil represents the attitude of a computer magazine publisher with a hangover.

Then there's a variety of jobs, or character classes, to be had: fighter, mage, thief, cleric, paladin or ranger. Alignment has some bearing on this lot, as does race - you can't have an evil gnome doing the job of a paladin for example - but the greater consideration is a character's ability scores. Fighters obviously need great strength, while mages need intelligence and clerics need huge dollops of wisdom.

To create a character, you get the computer to randomly roll for attributes and, going on whatever attribute has the highest score, that will determine what kind of job the character will do. However, it's possible to bodge the figures. Just select the appropriate attribute, hit '+' a few times and you've got a bunch of superhumans/ elves/ dwarves/ halflings/ gnomes with more muscle, brainpower and personality than a team of Olympic weightlifters solely comprising Carol Vordemann. This, as you may well have guessed, is exactly what I do every time I play the game...


Eye of the Beholder 2 logo CU Amiga Screenstar

Not since Knightmare has a game got RPG fans in such a flurry. Steven Keen, armed with anything he can get his hands on, believes that beauty is indeed, in The Eye Of The Beholder...

LONG TIME NO RPG...
It's been over a year since we first immersed ourselves into the fantasy role-playing world of Eye Of The Beholder, and just as most seasoned adventurers are coming to the end of the first game, U.S. Gold proudly release the long-awaited sequel.
Heralded as the best and most faithful representation of a Dungeons and Dragons RPG since FTL's all-time classic, Dungeon Master, Eye Of The Beholder held the number one spot in adventure land until Mindscape's Knightmare appeared - but the TV licence's reign is now set to come to an end, as SSI/U.S. Gold unveil the all singing, all dancing sequel...

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL...
Emerging from the festering sewers beneath Waterdeep, your trusty friend, Khelben, gleefully expresses is gratitude for your efforts in the first adventure, and his ecstasy of the news that you've volunteered for the next one.
Things go from bad to worse when he also informs you that, in a fit of extreme generosity and blind stupidity, you've donated all the artifacts, scrolls and valuables you fought so hard to obtain underground, to the city - did they see you coming, or what? People have been mysteriously disappearing in the North and West of the town and it's your task to find out why.

The first thing that strikes you about EOB 2 is its easy of entry. Although the game comes with a large and comprehensive manual, it's easy to pick up the rudimentary functions within minutes of exploration, and the more complex manoeuvres within an hour. As with most RPGs, your first task is to generate your fool-hardy party. If you're a hardened warrior from the first expedition, you can import your saved party - minus their collected goodies, of course - and use their experience and wisdom to your advantage. If you haven't got a saved party to hand, don't despair as a purpose-built 'Super Party' is included on the disk. Your party once again consists of four members, but there is also enough space to recruit two more team members.

A BETTER CLASS...
The character classes will be familiar to most, but the concept of multi-class heroes may need some explanation. Eye 2 not only incorporates different gendered adventurers, but different races as well. These fellow Earth dwellers have special abilities peculiar to their races and are therefore not confined to one class. For example, an Elf has excellent hearing, eyesight and dexterity and, although he could dedicate his life to being a rather spiffy fighter, he's more suited to the ways of a thief. Thus, incorporating his hereditary abilities with those he has studied and added to his capabilities, he can be made eligible for double-class status.

Likewise, some races can have up to three classes, depending on how many points they carry in these abilities. A fighter needs strength, so, as a result, his strength point must be a good one if he is to have longevity in battle. Used wisely, these characters are extremely adaptable, and as the initially-selected group are limited to the abilities of the founding quarter, the multi-class characters can muck in by making use of objects and spells that the others are unable to use.

It was EOB's perfect mixture of traps, objects, puzzles and monsters that made it such a success, and all these aspects have been improved upon for the sequel. Old favourites, such as giant spiders and wolves are represented, whilst new and even more fearsome creatures await the party in the catacombs. Such new fiends as the Basilisk - a leathery eight-legged monster, with a gaze that can turn a target to stone - and the Mind Flayer, which feeds on a character's psyche causing hallucinations and possession.

Additoinally, rather than keeping the game below ground in the original's dank and dark passages, the sequel takes us into the surrounding forests, too, paving the way for an even wider selection of nasties and acquaintances, including packs of Wolves and a weird old Lady who is searching for her lost child and will offer to help you if you ask her nicely.

STEPPING OUT...
The collected party explore in a set pattern of a square formation, with the most gullible pairing at the front, ready to take the brunt of the oncoming damage. Characters such as Mages and Clerics can't war armour, so it's best to let the macho Paladins and Fighters occupy the front-running slots whilst the Soothsayers lob their spells and incantations from behind. IF this method is used effectively this enables the Magicians to grow in power levels extremely quickly. The guys at the front can hack away taking all the hits and the magicians can heal them without incurring any wounds themselves - and all the time, they're collating massive experience points.

To begin with, spells are a bit thin on the ground, but with frugal usage there should be enough to see you through to the later, more taxing, sections, where they'll really be needed.

Whenever you think you're likely to get into a scrape, it's wise to have all your weapons at the ready. When battling in some RPGs, there's nothing worse than messing around with dull charts and tables, and one of Eye 2's greatest attributes is that there's no fumbling about with such tables during combat. The solution is also a very simple one: the screen is simply designed to show most of the characters' details simultaneously.

Each character possesses a very handy pouchpocket, and these are used for the storage of up to three objects. When an item currently held is dropped or discarded, the next item in the pouch automatically shifts into the player's grasp. This feature is especially useful for spell and scroll users as, once a spell has been used, it cannot be reused until the party has rested, effectively leaving the player defenseless. However, by filling the pouch with plus one daggers (a dagger which has been upgraded to cause more damage), the Sorcerers can continue to fight by throwing the knives with a machine-gun-like effect.

Such is the difficulty of the game, all the characters begin at experience level seven, and although a first level spell is pretty weedy in a lesser Mage's hands, its power increases manyfold as your experience increases. In addition, if your other hand is free, you can place another scroll or weapon in it and double your attacks per move.

MAGIC...
Eye Of The Beholder 2 is a logical, and very enjoyable, follow-up to the first game. It features extremely convincing graphics which are far improved over the first game, and the sound is of equally high quality.
There's nothing more chilling than hearing the footsteps of your enemy getting louder as they come towards you - a perfect example of the game's claustrophobic atmosphere. The animation of your attackers is first rate and the detail on the objects is both detailed and clear. At a ground roots level, Eye 2 is basically a larger and tweaked update, featuring a larger play area and a new scenario. However, I still challenge anyone to leave this adventure before they've finished it.

Eye Of The Beholder 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable and user-friendly game which finally lays that sturdy old horse, Dungeon Master, to rest. They don't come much better than this, so ready for the adventure of a lifetime.


CREATURE COMFORTS
There are over twenty different monsters to battle during the adventure. Here's a guide of what to expect...
Margoyle - ferocious magical predator which loves to torture there prey.
Salamander - huge flaming creature from the elemental plane of fire.
The Beholders - globular masses of plasma with countless staring eyes. Propelled by levitation they are extremely hard to hit.
CHARACTER ASSASSINATION
Not everyone you come across wants to spill your blood. There are characters who can be spoken to and will help you out. It's up to you to determine who's a Robert Maxwell and who's a Mother Teresa. Be warned, though, some are totally devious and will join your party only to rip you off and scarper when you're asleep.
SPELLING LESSONS
Use of magic is confined to Clerics, Mages and Paladins (who may use a few of the Cleric's spells). Cleric's spells come from scrolls and must be prayed for, whilst Mages must memorise their incantations. A powerful wizard of any sort is a great advantage to a party as they can perform such wonders as a Flame Strike.
These call down a column of flame causing up to 48 points of damage, whilst a Fireball is a red hot blast that causes six points of damage for every level of experience a character has.

Eye of the Beholder 2 logo Zero Hero

US Gold/SSI /£30.99/ Out now

A short Play starring Davey, Amaya, Patrick and Duncan.

SCENE ONE: THE FOREST
(Duncan is clutching the ZERO teapot.)
Amaya: Hang on a minute. When I left the office a second ago, there was no tree over there. And where did you get those clothes, Patrick? I mean, what a fashion catastrophe! (The initial laughter dies down as they realise they've all acquired the dress sense of Arthur out of Eastenders.)
Duncan: (Looking perplexed at the teapot.) Um, ah, I think, perhaps, this may have something to do with me...
All: What?
Duncan: Erm... well, I was just going to make some tea, you see, when I noticed this blemish on the side of the kettle...
Davey: That's the handle, you fool.
Duncan: Aha! So that's why I couldn't rub it off.
Patrick: That means we've got a magic teapot! Think of all the money we can make! Girlies will find me irresistible! I'll get free tickets to all the Cicero gigs... (Several savage and hungry-looking curs bring him down to earth.)
All: Yikes!

SCENE TWO: THE TEMPLE
Davey: Phew! That was close! Fortunate that I was able to construct a makeshift Allegro and bring us here. (Enter two strange-looking blond people.)
Strange People: All Allegros are makeshift. We are your brothers. Welcome to our temple.
Amaya: (Narrowly ducking an arrow shaped thing.) What the hell was that?
Strange People: That was the cursor, controlled by The Rodent Who Is All. He is everywhere, yet nowhere. We thought you'd have worked it out by now. You are in the enigmatic and mystical world of life and of death, of tragedy and of triumph, of Yin and of Yang...
Patrick: You're full of crap. Do you want a knee in ver nuts?
Davey: (Whispering to Amaya.) I think he's telling us we've been plunged into a role-playing game, with a mouse-driven system similar to Dungeon Master and the like. Judging by the way that pointer's nipping about, it's a pretty damn good interface.
Strange People: The one you call 'Patrick' irritates us.
Davey: (To the rest of the crew.) Quick! What should we do?
Duncan: We've got the teapot. We could make them some Horlicks. (Disgusted, the Strange People obliterate the ZERO team on the spot.)
Crap Message Box At Bottom Of Screen: Your entire party has died. Would you like to play again?

Amiga reviewToby:"Blimey," you must be thinking, "what a frightfully short review when one considers the length of the preceding text." And I'd have to agree with you. The problem, as Dunc said when he reviewed the PC version, is that it's not immediately obvious what to say about Beholder II. Sure, it's brilliant, but it's not massively different to Beholder 1.

However, the differences that are there are noticeable. This time you can interact with other characters with a simple yes/no system, and you're not confined to a dungeon - there are forests and towers too. The graphics and sound are great - much better than those in the recent Abandoned Places and Black Crypt, and the whole package is very atmospheric. The only niggle I found was that the mouse control seized up once or twice during fights - not amusing.

What else can I say? It's superb. Easily as good as Dungeon Master. Maybe even better.Stop