Beautiful graphics may be no guarantee of an excellent game, but they do help, and Firebird's Golden Path has wonderfully detailed and atmospheric pictures aplenty. Despite the game being an ST conversion, taking place over these 40 beautifully illustrated screens, and there being no text input required at all, it plays more or less as a straight adventure, rather than as an arcade game.
You play Y'In Hsi, rightful heir to the land. Before you can become the emperor, however, you must traverse the golden path, in order to achieve true enlightenment. In your travels, you find objects, and meet characters with whom you must interact, help, or fight. Solve all the 50 puzzles concerning what to do with each character and object, and you get to light the sacred incense and take up your imperial duties.
Collecting and using the objects is controlled in icon fashion - a series of boxes at the bottom of the screen show what you have collected so far, depicts the Book of Knowledge, which describes each location as you visit it, and shows your current strength, indicated by a flowering vine, which is rejuvenated whenever you eat or successfully solve a puzzle. Let the vine wither and you die a premature death.
Playing the game is largely a matter of noting where objects are, exploring (it is all mappable) and working out how to use what you have collected. Hence the similarity to a conventional adventure. Y'in Hsi is also capable of a few basic martial arts moves to ward off immediately hostile characters, but this takes up a lot of strength and makes the flowering vine wilt at a remarkable rate.
Beware, too, of hanging around for too long in any one location, or the improbably named Hoppy the Goblin appears and bites your ankles, which does not do too much for your strength either.
The puzzles vary from tricky but straightforward to very easy - if you have got a dragon with a thorn in his foot and a pair of tweezers lying around just a couple of locations away, it is not too hard to work out your next move. And your ability to progress is often determined by which puzzles you have already solved.
The gameplay, then, is very simple: a pictorial adventure game, and a program that will appeal far more to orthodox adventure fans than anyone else. However, it is an adventure dressed up in very fine clothes indeed. The mouse control and use of icons, once you have got the hang of it, mean that you can speedily move and manipulate Y'in Hsi and the objects in his pockets. The continual soundtrack is a classy oriental-style series of tunes with plenty of variation.
And the graphic backdrops are truly superb; lovely detailed scenes of budding mimosa bushes, ornate pagodas, animated flickering firelight, typically oriental looking landscapes. It all goes to make Golden Path probably the prettiest Amiga game yet. I have just one gripe on the graphic front - why did Firebird put the text location descriptions in dark blue on a black background?