Gold of the Aztecs logo

US GOLD £24.99 * Joystick or Keyboard

Down and out in Mexico and Tijauna. That is the fate of war hero Bret Conrad. Penniless, he is forced to hang around his Uncle's pad soaking up the sun. But when the old buffer kicks the bucket, Brad does as any devoted nephew would: he ransacks the place, nicks the ancient Aztec treasure map and throws a party.

The morning after he jets down to the South American jungle aiming to steal the Aztec gold. That is where you take over. Armed with the 400-year-old map, a machete and an automatic pistol, Brad is yours to guide through an adventure that makes the Last Crusade look like a trip to Tesco's. In his way stand angry Aztecs, garish ghosties, terrifying traps and more alliterative antagonists than it is safe to say.

Essentially an arcade adventure, Gold of the Aztecs boasts bigness and clever coding. However, what they do not tell you in the blurb is that it is unfeasibly tough.

After cutting Brad loose from his snagged 'chute the danger is obvious, namely little head hunters and huge elephants. Hot on the heels of these come spitting vipers, man-eating plants, nut-throwing monkeys and collapsing bridges. Not a good start.

Needless to say, life gets ever more hazardous for the all-American grave robber as he progresses through the levels and nears the temple complex. There are remote crossbows set to shoot thieves, man-eating locusts, falling boulders and enough poisoned spikes to make a grown man weep.

Each screen of this flick-scroll adventure has its own distinct peril. The gold of the Aztecs has lain undisturbed for nearly half a millennium and only a fool or a courageous hero would dare to disturb them now. So which do you want to be?

There is one major problem with Brad's quest for Level Five and the gold of those pesky Aztecs: Brad himself. His movements are strange, a feature that gives the game a bit of personality, but they are also extremely hard to control with any degree of accuracy. Which makes negotiating the virtually pixel perfect traps a pain in Port Two.

You know just where it is safe for the lad to stand, you know exactly how to get the boy there. Can it be done? Can it heck! Only with luck and not with judgement, especially when he is trying to grab ropes, ladders and other lifesaving accoutrements.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Let us face it, Brad has an incredible silly walk. Not content with just putting one foot in front of another he has to go and put his whole body into the act. The animation has inspired moments of silliness which owe more to Mr Benn or Crystal Tips than Disney or Bluth. Amusing and annoying simultaneously, the graphics do not cause many giggles as Brad falls to his death for the 13th time in the same place.

His movement exhibits a few massively annoying factors that have no other purpose than to peeve. He also has a tendency to move unexpected ways, as joystick commands have to be perfect: not close enough, not virtually precise, but perfect.

LASTING INTEREST

If you like the hard stuff and dying billions of times then get stuck in. If you have low frustration tolerance then steer well clear or your monitor will have a fist-sized hole in it. Once into the game, though, the effort you have already put in commits you to continued play. You have to get some return on your investment of man hours spent playing the damn thing.

JUDGEMENT

Gold is a great game - there is masses of traps to avoid, loads of puzzles to solve - yet its appeal is distinctly limited. Only those who like their games with a mean sterak a foot wide should contemplate taking it on. The graphics are distinctive and deceptively approachable, but do not be sucked in. The Gold of the Aztecs is as safe as houses that have been encased in concrete and hidden rather cunningly in the deepest vault of Fort Knox.



Gold of the Aztecs logo

Bei manchen Spielen nervt es richtiggehend, daß sie so schön aussehen. Was?! Warum? Ganz einfach: Je opulenter die Optik, umso ärgerlicher, wenn sich das Game dass als spielerische Magerkost entpuppt...

Der Vietnamvetran Bret Conrad hat eine Karte geerbt, auf der ein geheimer Goldschatz der Azteken verzeichnet ist. Ohne zu zögern steigt er ins Flugzeug, hüpft mitten über dem Dschungel aus der Maschine und landet mit seinem Fallschirm recht unsanft in der Botanik.

So beginnt US Gold's neues Arcade-Adventure, das keine Geringener als Dave Lawson programmiert hat. Dave ist gewissermaßen ein Pionier der Softwarebranche: Als mit begründer von Imagine (einem der ersten professionellen Softwarehäuser) und langähriger Mitarbeiter von Psygnosis kann er auf einen umfangreichen Erfahrungsschatz bei der Entwicklung von Computerspielen zurückgreifen.

Leider hat er das im vorliegenden Fall nicht gemacht - Gold of the Aztecs ist eine recht zähe Mischung aus Arcade-Adventure und Plattformspiel mit spielerischen Macken.

Erstmal geht's durch den Urwald, bis man den Eingang zu einer Höhle findet, in der sich dann ein Großteil der nächsten vier Level abspielt.

Erschwert wird die Expedition durch giftige Schlangen, wilde Kannibalen, riesige Elefanten und allerlei sonstige Dschungelbewohner. Aber natürlich ist der alte Vietnam-Haudegen auf so etwas vorbereitet: Drückt man den Feuerknopf, zieht er seinem Revolver und knallt die Angreifer über den Haufen.

Für den Nahkampf hat er außerdem eine Machete dabei, die (genau wie alle anderen Waffen und Gegenstände, die man im Spielverlauf findet) per Space-Taste in einem Icon-Menü ausgewählt wird. Außer schießen und zustechen kann Bret auch noch Seile hinaufklettern, springen und sich ducken.

Keine Frage - grafisch ist das Gold der Azteken schon beeindruckend. Die Sprites sind zum Teil riesengroß, die Animationen könnten aber etwas flotter vonstatten gehen. Auch die verschiedenen Hintergrundgrafiken sind überzeugend, obwohl man hier über die Farbwahl geteilter Ansicht sein kann. Schade ist nur, daß nicht gescrollt, sondern von Screen zu Screen umgeschaltet wird.

Der Sound bietet weder Anlaß zu Kritik noch zu Begeisterungsausbrichen. Aber wo um alles in der Welt ist das Gameplay geblieben?

An unzähligen Stellen lassen einem die fiesen Gegner einfach keinerlei Chance - statt der anfänglich drei, bräuchte man zumindest 300 Leben! Hinzu kommt eine ungenaue Steuerung, außerdem greifen Fauna und Flora weiter an, während man umständlich in der Menüleiste nach einer neuen Waffe kramt.

Tja, bei genauerem Hinsehen entpuppt sich das Azteken-Gold denn doch als (fast) wertloser Plunder: Nicht ganz so unspielbar wie "Beast II", aber dafür auch nicht ganz so hübsch anzusehen... (C. Borgmeier)



Gold of the Aztecs logo

Spectacular claims are being made about this game. It is 'one of the toughest adventures ever devised' and just to prove the point, the manufacturers are giving away a trip to Mexico to whoever thwarts all-comers. Indeed, the way in which the game has been constructed is something of a first - on an Applemac, cramming 26 megabytes of graphics onto 2 three-and-half inch disks. But does this remarkable feat make for a remarkable game?

You control Bret Conrad, ex CIA agent, in this arcade-style adventure, as he treks through a horizontally scrolling jungle towards the tomb. In the jungle, there is danger in the shape of savage Headhunters, and you need to master the tricky joystick movements to help Bret jump and somersault out of trouble, without falling victim to any one of a number of horrible traps, ghosts and poisonous snakes.

Gold Of The Aztecs has a straightforward scenario, but the game itself demands lots of patience and practice. There is a 'show map' option at the beginning of the game; this scrolls along the entire length of the passages leading to the tomb, and shows the kind of fiendish traps lying in wait for our hero, and you can also save a game in progress onto disk.

It all sounds fine on paper, but playing the game is a totally different affair. It is very difficult, but not because of any puzzles or traps. The problem is it is just too slow to play. For example, to shoot anything you obviously have to draw your gun.

However, you cannot move when your gun is drawn, which leaves you slightly vulnerable. The controls are also painfully slow to respond - there were too many times where I saw danger coming, pulled the joystick to take evasive action, and watched as my character died in the oversized pause between joystick movement and on screen reaction.

The graphics look impressive until they start moving. The animation, though technically impressive, is far too slow to be realistic and only adds to the sluggish feel of the game.

Gold of the Aztecs looks like a straightforward enough arcade game, until you realise just how many puzzles you must complete to finish the game. And although they are ingenious, they simply do not compensate for the awful reaction time.

I sincerely hope that Kinetica can master their latest innovation. But who the latest Porsche be an 'intelligent drive' if you could only take corners at 5mph? Mutton dressed as lambs, I am afraid.



Gold of the Aztecs logo

US Gold, Amiga £24.99

Bret Conrad is another one of those Vietnam vets with a slight psychological problem. Apparently when bullets fly 'I kind of lose control' - a bit of a drawback in a Special Forces commando. His latest adventure begins in the USA: bored and penniless Conrad is staying with his great uncle Milo. Unfortunately the tension of living with a maniac who goes into a fit at the slightest noise gets to old Milo and he croaks.

Bret is a little upset at this, but with the apartment free it's a great opportunity to throw a party. A few days later Bret turns the apartment upside down in search for cash. Instead he finds some secret notes behind a framed Playmate picture!

Apparently Milo was really interested in the Aztecs and had uncovered the story of Don Juan, not the famous seducer of legend but rather a Spanish nobleman who invaded Mexico in 1615. He was as much a psychopath as Conrad, and slaughtered hundreds of natives on his way to a tomb dedicated to the god Quetzacoatl.

The tomb was brimming with treasure, but Don Juan's forces were decimated by a native attack and only he survived to tell the tale. Now Conrad's got a map and he's not hanging about, a vet friend promptly flies him into South America.

Conrad's quest is a flickscreen arcade adventure. He can walk, jump, make long somersaulting jumps, duck, climb ladders and ropes. He's also armed with a Browning pistol, drawn with a short tap on the firebutton; you can then swing the gun in an arc.

Other actions are accessed via the space bar: the icons at the bottom of the screen show the Gun option. Reload (usually automatic, but you might want to top up before nasty screens), Machete (hack at enemies at close range) and Pull Lever. There are also four special options which become available at certain places in the game.

Also at the screen base is the status bar, which shows treasure collected, bullets remaining in the gun, lives and percentage completed.


Robin Hogg Very reminiscent of Barbarian this one, not just because of the wealth of graphic detail but also the rather jerky animation and sluggish movement of the hero. Things happen a lot faster than it takes to move out of the way or to get your gun out and blast the approaching danger. I'm sure with time you can get somewhere in it but to be honest I was driven up the wall with frustration. It requires far too much precision to make for satisfying gameplay. Yeah, it's worth a look for the excellent and highly varied graphics, good tunes and all-round gloss but you'll need quite a bit of patience to stick with it.
Stuart Wynne This is the world's first 'Computer Aided Game' - 'Without the aid of computers, this product would not exist'. Fairly unique for a computer game that, isn't it?! More impressive is the claim that the game includes 4 Megabytes crammed onto two disks, 7,000 frames of animation and 140 different hero actions with 1500 frames of hero animation. So it's rather amazing he moves so slowly and jerkily. The graphics are generally very good, but you'd expect that of a flickscreen game and everything acts as it it's in treacle with even the bullets taking their time to move.
Of course, Psygnosis's Barbarian suffered from the same problem and was still extremely playable. Each screen was a puzzle requiring deft use of the icon system to beat. Gold provides the same feel of slow, but extremely tough and unforgiving gameplay which demands both careful thought and very fast reactions. Later levels provide plenty of graphic variety and fresh puzzles so it rewards persistence. Without a save game it would be much too frustrating, as it is this is well worth considering for Barbarian fans.