Fatal Strokes

Who'd be a struggling artist, eh? Well, for a start, you're struggling - and nobody wants to be that. Secondly, you're an artist - which means that the loathsome, non-creative garbage who make up the majority of the uncultured rabble don't understand your work. You're making these broad, dazzingly original statements on the passionless, but multi-layered socio-sexual framework of human relations, by throwing some paint on to a canvas in a rather arbitrary fashion. And all people do is stare blankly, shake their heads and say: "It's crap, isn't it?"

Which leads us neatly to the game. Somewhere in the dark, universally misunderstood realms of the programmer's mind, there must have been a point to all of this. He must, at some time, have been visited by a kind of inspirational angel, who informed him that he was destined to write a computer game based upon the exploits of a struggling artist. Foolishly, he bowed to the angel's will... and Fatal Strokes was born.

Manic Depression
"For weeks", informs the manual, "I had suffered an overwhelming sense of depression that was like a dark, enveloping cloud of despair." Yeah, right. A dark cloud of despair not dissimilar to the one which will soon envelope those Amiga owners who stupidly waste £25.99 on this deeply tedious game.

Edwin Saxx, struggling artist, wanders into an art materials shop and is given a set of 'Special' paints by a mystical and strangely familiar, wisened old man. He paints three masterpieces in just a few hours and collapses from exhaustion. Then he wakes to find that he's been curiously transported into the domain of the paintings, and an evil sorcerer rules over all three of the picture worlds. He must collect the magic orbs, because they will restore the light to the universe, and banish the darkness into the eternal... oh, God. No, I'm sorry. I can't go on.

It really is rather naff. A fairly promising story rapidly descends into the old 'collect the sacred orbs and vanquish the evil one' wibble. Didn't this sort of thing go out with the Spectrum? Oh well, maybe the startlingly original and compelling gameplay will make up for the lack of plot interest. Here goes...

Nope. I'm afraid this really is garbage. The gameplay - using the term loosely - takes the form of a mind-bendingly tiresome platform game. The concept of which appears to have been publicly humiliated, tortured, mutilated and force-fed some bizarre, angular, badly drawn, tragically flickering graphics - before being convinced, in a moment of particularly hysterical drunken insincerity, that is is OK, it is loveable, playable even.

This is, quite honestly, the kind of game that Spectrum owners would have gladly paid £9.99 for in 1985. Just. None of the ill-conceived sub-games, or half-hearted attempts at gameplay quirks can save it. It looks like Ceefax on an off-day, plays like a dead puppy and is as appealing as superglueing yourself to the sofa, in front of videotapes of You've Been Framed, and between hearty swigs of Domestos, screaming the word 'noodles' every time Jeremy Beadle grins.

It's a fatality
Look - I tried. I really did try. Honest. I played it solidly for a whole evening - with the benefit of an energy bar cheat and all the sub-game codes. I picked up all the power-ups, tried the turps gun, attempted to make sens of the map screens and defeated end-of-level guardians. I came up with the conclusion, though, that should you have actually paid for this piece of junk, you'd surely expect to be entertained to some degree - without having to grit your teeth and hope it gets good soon.

It's a shame, though, because ICE seem to be a reasonably capable software house, with their previous release Fireforce, and their up-and-coming RPG Abandoned Places 2. Despite the occasional flashes of mild interest, however, Fatal Strokes is unplayable, unexciting and very, very ugly. State-of-the-art. Such a shame the art is actually basket weaving.


SUBNORMAL SUBDIVISIONS
Another downright awful aspect of Fatal Strokes is the stpefyingly unimaginative sub-games - the concepts behind which are nothing short of, well, familiar.
Fatal Strokes
Yep, it's a trip down to memory arcade, with a game not dissimular to Space Invaders. Of a sort. Move left and right. Press the fire button at appropriate intervals. Become interminably bored.
Fatal Strokes
A bit strange, this one. You have to jump and keep the balls in the air. Oh, you have to avoid the two floating guardian thingies. Not particularly exciting, really. Nothing different there then.
Fatal Strokes
This is more like it. You move the skull left and right and bounce the ball on to the bricks. When you've bashed away all the bricks, you've completed it. The snag is you have to stay awake.