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Virgin £24.99 * Joystick

Anyone who calls themselves Death=Adder just has to be looking for trouble! Which is just as well because there are three vengeance-crazed warriors on his trail. The tale of their little disagreement is told in Golden Axe, the brilliant hack-and-slash special hot from the arcades.

The plot is as basic as any blood-caked sprite slasher could wish for. Out of the three heroes you can choose two to fight their way across a horizontally-scrolling landscape in a bid to rescue a princess. Using a series of basic fighting moves they must overcome, by force of arms, the Armies of Death=Adder.

Different Strokes
The limited number of sword strokes (three) is supplemented with some sundry close-combat illustrations of kneeing, pummelling and throwing of enemies, Golden Axe's charm however lies in the variety of ways, other than sword play, of dispatching the evil horde.

As the team leap over bridges and chasms the ordinary foot soldiers of Death=Adder throw themselves into the fray with amazing frequency. These kiddies are easily dispatched with blades but it's their friends, dragon riders and giants, who cause concern.

The lizard mounted cavalry are fun, their steeds come in three flavours: tail sweepers, flame breathers and fireball spitters. These monsters require riders to be dangerous and that's where the fun starts. If a rider is unseated in the heat of battle you can hop on and take control of the scaley tank - with the breath weapon included. It's a trick that carries the risk of getting toasted, but it can swing the battle decisively in your favour.

Gigantic Problems
Top of the Death=Adder nasty chart are the giants. Like the normal boys and girls you hack to bits (and indeed the three heroes) each one can take a set number of hits before dying. But, the larger they are the harder their weapons are. This means that one swipe from a giant's axe can result in central damage. What is more, like the double-checker buses their size reminds you of, they always seem to come in twos.

To balance out these rather chunky chaps Golden Axe sends midgets running at regular intervals. If you kick them in the head they proffer magic-potion bottles that become personalised smart bombs of apocalyptic proportions. Used at the right time even the heaviest foe can be sent into flickering oblivion without you even taking a scratch.

The most dangerous element of Golden Axe are the backgrounds. The heroes have to jump over the occasional gap in order to proceed. Yet the flawed, pseudo 3D makes jumping dangerous - as was the case in the arcade. There is a disconcertingly high chance of falling into oblivion, and losing one of your three lives, if you misjudge a leap and fall off or in-between the scenery.
This is the one graphical black mark against a game which otherwise has a strong visual appeal.

Is Death-Adder a Wimp?
The biggest chink in Golden Axe's armour is its staying power. The weakness lies in an unexpected area, normally it would fall down on the formula nature of plot and game design, but the mindlessly aggressive charm lasts surprisingly well. The problem is that the game is too easy. Anyone who crossed swords with its arcade parent will have no trouble in polishing off the Amiga version - provide they can find a cooperative partner.

Golden Axe is identical in spirit to Double Dragon, with two heroes forced to fight as a team in order to overcome masses of bad guys. The strong graphics of the arcade have travelled well, as has the games spirit. Only the ease with which the game can be beaten and the annoying landscapes, hold Golden Axe back from the mantle of classic conversion.


Magic Moments
When the going gets tough, the tough cheat. Each of the warriors can collect small pots of magic from midgets, who inhabit every level, by kicking them in the head. If Death=Adder's men start to get the upper hand then these pots can be used to call down some magical assistance. Each warrior has their own peculiar blend of conjured napalm.
Golden Axe: Tyris Flare
Tyris Flare - She has the hottest magic in town, quite literally, they start off as pools of flame and range from fire demons right up to a blast of flame from an enormous red dragon and is used to kill tough guardians.
Golden Axe: Gilius Thunderhead
Gilius Thunderhead - He can call lightning down from the heavens to help him out. The effect ranges from a joft to total electrocution.
Golden Axe: Ax=Battler
Ax=Battler - His potions cause explosions. They range from small 'pops' to full blow 'nukes' depending on the number of potions he has collected.
Dragon Riding for Beginners
Golden Axe: Avoid the dragon First find your dragon. Proceed to attack the rider, remembering to avoid their special forms of attack: tail swipe, flame jet or fire ball. One solid hit will dismount the rider.
Golden Axe: Attack the dragonrider
After knocking the rider off, the dragon will crouch down. Stand over it and hey-presto you're aboard. You have to be quick though, they tend to run away!
Golden Axe: Control the dragon
Now you are in control of this fearsome beast. Remember but one hit will have you walking again, so be careful. To use the breath weapon or tail just press the fire button and 'Bosh' it's seriously-injured bad guy time.