Norse to see you... to see you Norse.

Heimdall 1 logo Gamer Gold

Core Design * £30.99 * 1 Meg * Joystick/Mouse * Out Now

Vikings have a bit of a reputation. You see, they're generally considered to be a bit "hard". Not just hard as in "Come on you ponces, I've had 23 pints and I'll tek youse all on", but hard as in "plucking rusty nails from their kneecaps with their teeth and enjoying it". Yes, it's official, Vikings are "hard". Or at least they used to be.

Somewhere along the line, those powerful noble Vikings suddenly became Abba and Roxette. I ask you, what can have gone wrong?
Did some horrendous twist appear in the DNA of the Norse warriors that resulted in Scandinavia being famous for Lego and crap disco music rather than hairy hammer-wielding killing machines and boats with dragons on them? Personally I think that it was those pesky Norse gods have a laugh. Sort of like a divine Jeremy Beadle Prank.
The Norse gods were famous for stupid things like that, you know. Come with me ona swirly trip back through time, and I'll show you what I mean...

WoooooOoooooHoooooo. Wibble. (One quick swirly trip back through time later). Well, here we are in Finland, home of the Vikings. Or is it Sweden? It could be blimmin' Durham for all I know, but take my word for it, this is definitely the home of the Vikings.

If you look over yonder you'll see a lovely little Viking village, and a small boy hurling axes at a little girls head. OK, settle down. It isn't what you think. Well, actually, it is what you think, but there's a bloody good reason for it.
Young Heimdall, for it is he, is the laddie in question and the reason he must abuse greased up animals and throw sharp objects at young girls is because he is a God in human form. Or a human in Godlike form. Either way, he's destined to be the saviour of all the Vikings when he grows up. No snogging on the back set of a longship for Heimdall I'm afraid. But before he can go on to fulfill his majestic destiny he must prove himself to be a worthy warrior, and apparently Vikings proved their manhood by worrying farm animals and threatening your lasses. Nothing's changed really has it?

There are three tasks which young Heimdall must complete for him to gain the respect of the villagers. First he must sever an incarcerated girl from her pigtails by flinging axes at her, then me must capture the infamous greasy pig, and finally he must retrieve a bag of gold from a ship, while everyone tries to beat him up.

How well you do in these sections will directly affect your chances in the proper game, because obviously the village warriors aren't going to join up with a little squirt who can't even keep control of a pig.
Therefore, if your performance in these sections is especially crap then you won't have as many crew members to choose from in later life. On the other hand, if you're ace at these bits then everyone'll be wetting themselves to be in your gang, just like Garry Glitter. Once you've proved your manliness, we fast forward a couple of decades to when Heimdall is a strapping viking warrior, so it's time for another of those spooky swirly trips through time...

WoooooOoooooHoooooo. Wibble. Blimey. This time travelling lark's fun isn't it? Anyway, it's now about, ooh, ten or fifteen years later and the time of Ragnarok is nigh.
It is prophesised that the evil god, Loki, will have a punch up with the good gods and will scatter the weapons of the gods throughout the viking lands, so the good gods don't stand a chance. Luckily, the good gods thought this might happen and so they created Heimdall yonks ago to find the weapons for them. Forward planning, you see. Highly efficient fellas these god types.

So, Heimdall sets off to find all three of the god's weapons so they can give Loki a good trashing and then all will be well with the world. Unfortunately for Heimdall, the weapons are protected by many bogus monsters and traps and such like.

Without a second thought, Heimdall selects his posse from the village macho men, and leaves behind the comforts of dangerously potent ale and the tender recesses of well oiled pigs and heads out into adventure and excitement. And lo, it is written that it would come to pass that in the year 1991, the gamesmiths of Core Deisgn would take the great and (not entirely) true legend of Heimdall and transform the tomes therein to forge a video arcade game of truly trouser rending magnitude. And they did as well, you know.

Yup, Heimdall is corkier than a badly opened bottle of wine. It's gorgeous. It's fruity. It's like Cadaver without the control problems. It's like Dungeon Master with an arcadey feel It's not 'alf bad, if the truth be told.

In the main part of the game you control Heimdall, and two of his six strong crew, as you explore all the islands that make up the viking world. The world is divided into three separate lands, the land of men, the land of giants and the land of the gods. In each land you'll find one of the lost weapons, but you'll have to solve plenty of little quests and puzzles along the way.

Of course, vikings being vikings, there's bound to be loads of scrapping going on And there is. Combat is very much in the style of Elvira. The mouse is used to click on the weapon you wish to use and then on the ATTACK icon. You'll see the combat from first person perspective in a little animated window and the results of your attack. Timing is of utmost importance, as your enemy can easily dodge a badly planned attack.

Magic can also be used, to either protect your team or to assault your opponent. TO put it simply, the combat in Heimdall is great. It's just far too tempting to leap into a fight with some huge monster just so you can see what wondrous animation awaits you in the fight scene. Stupid, yes, but great fun!

The graphics are just amazing throughout. The animation on the opening trial sections and the fighting bits puts tripe like Dragon's Lair to shame, and the attention to detail on the walking around sections really brings the game to life. I can't really do the graphics justice, so look at those screenshots, get all overcome by the sultriness of them and then drink a pint of cold water. See what I mean? Brilliant.

The sound is limited, mainly due to the amount of memory that the graphics eat up, but what is there is good enough. Footsteps, creaking doors and a stirring theme tune are about all you're likely too hear.
But stop moaning, just be thankful what you've got. You selfish mongrels, spare a thought for the ST owners. All they'll get is some tinny scratchy noises. Mind you, that's their fault for buying a smeggy computer.

To sum up then, Heimdall steals little bits from Cadaver, Dungeon Master, Knight Lore on the speccy, and that crap cartoon Vikki the Viking and mixes them all up into a wonderful concoction that should have any self respecting adventure nut locked in a small room for donkeys years. A vast throbbing epic of a game.

Heimdall 1 logo

A good role-playing game with cartoon quality graphics? Core Design and programmers Eighth Day canot be serious, but they are...

Role playing games have had a good year, finally gaining the respect they've long deserved. Such success has seen the genre develop at a dazzling rate, with increasingly sophisticated game systems sporting ever-more impressive effects. Heimdall is the most eloquent graphic RPG ever, but is it just Dragon's Lair with dice?

Heimdall retells the Viking legend of Ragnarok: The Norse god's final battle against evil. The top gods' weapon (Thor, Frey and Odin) have been half-inched and hidden in the worlds of men, giants and gods respectively. An ancient code prohibits the three deities from leaving Valhalla to collect them personally, so they create the child Heimdall to recover the kit on their behalf. If the lad makes good then the gods will triumph in battle, but if he messes up...

The Four Norsemen
The game begins with Heimdall still in short tunics and still to prove his Viking mettle. Three traditional trials await him: axe throwing, greased pig catching and boat fighting. These are played as joystick driven sub-games and they decide the skills of Heimdall, your character, and the quality of the volunteers who want in on the quest.

With a minimum 50 per cent ability and 15 followers, a good performance does make life easier, but the game doesn't hang on the result. Once these trails are over, Heimdall selects five shipmates from the potential pool of 30 and sets sail to save the goals.

The three worlds where the weapons are hidden are played as sequential maps. Thor's hammer, hidden in the realm of men, comes first. Ahead lays a sprawling nest of islands, each with either a clue to the hammer's location or the means to overcome its guardians. Successful recovery of the hammer involves solving a series of interwoven sub-quests, each of which make the main objective just about feasible. Success in the world of men transports the ship to the world of giants where the hunt begins for Frey's spear.

The right profile
Heimdall is played via four different game screens. Travel between the different islands is conducted on a map, where the crew must be continually checked to see whether they're starving or not. The status screen, which controls the team's health and kit, is most prominent when three of the six-man crew explore any island. Here treasure and weapons have to be continually shuffled to ensure that maximum benefit is gained from each item collected.

The exploration that uncovers these treasures uses an isometric sprite display and is the game's dominant perspective. Fights with the creatures who guard the treasure are conducted one on one, in an icon and window environment, as the three man squad's nominated warrior steps forward to trade blows.

Dry, bland descriptions of the game's mechanics don't don this sweet system any justice at all. This stunning cartoon world comes alive during play as forced changes of perspective are kept to an absolute minimum. The map is the least impressive of the bunch of screens, but then again it is the one that is least used. The inventory displays effortlessly combines prettiness and practically - it's easy to use and understand.

The isometric world is Heimdall's main concern and while heavy on the style, it provides the instant addictive hook. It looks so good you have to play. Battling with other tribes of people was just what the Vikings did best though, and combat is Heimdall's strongest characteristic too. Just as the isometric sprite nears an opponent the screen fades into the fight phase. The opponent appears in a window and the bar graphs show the landing party's current state of health. The four possible actions that you have available to you are - attack, spell, defend or run - they are offered as small icons which must then be mouse clicked on in sequence with the character's weapons and spells.

By watching the creature in the window, all you have to do is judge when precisely to strike and swiftly click the correct combination to initiate an attack. Your brave warrior's hands are seen flashing out to attempt the blow and the outcome is integrated in the monster's animation. Gunfight style, you have to wait for the precise moment to strike using the animation for a cue.

Heimdall starts off slowly, but its glorious graphics are seductive enough to ensure continued play

Diversion ahead
Heimdall starts slowly, but its glorious graphics are seductive enough to ensure continued play. Once the game's system is understood, then the graphic grace is fast forgotten in a swirl of tactical thought. The straightforward search for each god's weapon is continually obstructed by the crew's need to eat and Heimdall's mission to fulfil sub-quests. You have to decide what priority each gets and the numerous strategic calls make the task feel immense in small chunks.

The game's three huge levels means there's plenty to discover, puzzle over and fight for. The question of long-term interest though, is raised by the effectively simple interface between players and characters. Does this, though, restrict the scope of character actions and player skill? Well the downside of this is that Heimdall's magic is a simple scroll system where only spells that are actually found can be used, so the player has no choice: combat stresses mouse speed as much as weapon choice; and that the painfully small inventories requires continual feats of item juggling.

Heimdall does ensure though, that the correct spell will be always available so solve specific riddles and that the magic system is learned; that combat is tense stuff; and that traditional adventuring kleptomania is knocked firmly on the head because the inventories force forethought.

Party size is the one problem Heimdall can't escape. The gang of three's initial lack of power always puts them on the brink of disaster. Once experience is gained and the character's vital statistics improve so do their chances, but one slip at the outset is fatal. These early frustrations fight the graphics' instant appeal.

Wolf Child
Heimdall has all the trappings of a major RPG. It's deliberately light on the actual role-playing, but high on strategy. Choosing the right combination of characters and the right combination of islands is vital, but so is a slick combat performance. The fighting provides the tension and the quests supply the puzzles while the graphics contribute with atmosphere.

Heimdall is the best looking role-playing game yet to grace an Amiga drive. The razor's edge balance of gameplay may prove too sharp for some, but anyone with a stubborn streak and sense of adventure is handsomely rewarded. Heimdall's perfect pictorial style is no gimmick, it's reinforced with a tight, tense, adventure that offers both strategy and action.

Fundamentally a game of simple structure, its elegant design continually challenges both players and characters. Advocates from the RPG school of thought that good graphics equals bad beware, Heimdall is a gameplay wolf in a cartoon clothing.

Heimdall 1 logo

"Torvak", "Car-Vup" und zoletzt "Thunderhawk" -unter Joystickartisten geniesst Core Design völlig zurecht einen guten Ruf. Bei den Rollenspielern sieht's da schon anders aus, denn "Corporation" war nicht jedermans Sache. Und das ist Heimdall leider schon gar nicht!

Traurig aber wahr, wass in der Vorabversion noch so vielersprechend erschien, ist als Endprodukt nur noch halb so schön: Zu unständlich ist die Misch-steuerung aus Maus, Joystick und einem seperaten Menuscreen, zu unfair das actionbetönte Kampfsystem, wo immer ein Character zur Zeit fighten darf und noch dazu jedem erst neu zu Schwert greifen muß!

Auch Grafikfehler machen keinen guten Eindruck, es kommt z.B. vor, daß bei Bewegungen der Hintergrund nicht mehr aufgebaut wird, so daß sich aus dem Party-Sprite eine lange "Krieger-Schlange" entwickelt, an deren Spitze sich der "wirkliche" Held befindet. Dann werden Requester nur teilweise gelöscht, es gibt reichlich Diskettenwechselei und beim Laden vom Spielstanden sogar gelegentlich ein Systemabsturtz.

Kurz und schlecht, die Programmierer haben bereits so sehr geschlämpt, daß die mies eingedeutschten Screentexte, das lückenhafte Handbuch und die schwerfällige Codeabfrage kaum noch ins Gewicht fallen...

Das ist umso trauriger, zumal die Story hier nach wie vor ausgesprochen originell wäre: Heimdall ist ein gestandener Wikinger, den die nordischen Götter ins Leben gerufen haben, weil ihnen die Waffen geklaut wurden. Die Welt der Menschen, Riesen und auch die der Götter selbst muß nun von ihm abgegrast werden, um Thors Hammer, Odins Schwert und Freys Speer wieder aufzutreiben.

Damit Wicky den männigfaltigen Gefahren nicht mutterseelenalleine ins Triefauge blicken muß, darf er sich nog fünf (vorgefertigte) Kollegen aussuchen. Und falls er zuvor bei drei witzigen Actioneinlagen (z.B. Schweinefangen!) besonders gut abschneidet, erweitert sich der Kreis der Partykandidaten noch um ein paar besonders schwere Brocken.

Per Mausklick auf eine schöne Landkarte konnen nun viele Inselchen besucht werden, die sich allesamt als verzwickte Dungeons in isometrischem 3D entpuppen; nicht ganz so detailliert gezeichnet wie bei "Cadaver", aber mit noch grosseren Bildern und recht hübschen Animationen. Optisch ist Heimdall also sehr gelungen, speziell das Intro ist eine Augenweide.

Daß die gegner aber nur dumm rumstehen, bis man sich mit ihnen befassen mag, ist etwas befremdlich; dafür kann man uber die Rätselnüße nicht meckern. Ja, des öfteren sind sogar Kreuzfahrten von einer Insel zurück zu einer frühreren erforderlich.

Schließlich hören sich auch die zwei Titelmelodien wirklich schön an, darüberhinaus bietet der Sound nur sparliche FX. Tja, wenn man gewillt ist, drei bis vier Augen zuzudrücken, konnte Heimdall durchaus Spaß machen -aber wer hat schon soviele Augen? (jn)

Heimdall 1 logo

Since Space Ace et al this is the game we've been waiting for - animation-quality graphics with added game!

This is, perhaps more than anything, the game to really put Core Design on the map. As something to actually play it's good but really rather unremarkable - an arcade adventure in the purest sense, featuring much walking around of rooms, collecting objects to use, solving of little puzzles and fighting the various creatures you come across.

Some of the puzzles are good, some are rather annoying, and while generally the gameplay is well paced and designed, it has an "mm, that's quite good" quality about it rather than anything that'll knock you dead. Imagine a simpler, more arcade-friendly Cadaver and you'll be in the right territory. The fairly hefty amount of disk swapping tends to muck up how smoothly it plays too - without a second disk drive this could turn out to be a bit of a pain in the neck.

But of course, as one look at these pages will have told you, this isn't really a game that stands and falls on its gameplay anyway. It has that demo-like "Golly, look what my Amiga can do quality" - if anyone's still inviting sorry 8-bit Spec-chums or the like around to "show them what a real computer can do" this is one of the games you want to boast with.

More than anything, it's graphically reminiscent of those spectacular Don Bluth efforts (Space Ace et al), but with a proper game attached too - for Core this easily eclipses Thunderhawk as the most interesting, "Hey, look, we're doing games that are as good as anyone's" product they've ever done.

Of course, there's god reason for all that Don Bluth-ness - dropping his name was no accidental comment on my part. Graphic arts Jerr O'Carroll spent time working in Ireland at the Bluth studios on some of their feature length cartoons (All Good Dogs Go To Heaven et al) and you can seen a cartoonist's sensibility at work in the graphics here - heavy black outlines to the characters, bright colours, stylised figures (all big feet, gangy limbs and 'characterful' ways of walking), and interestingly lit backdrops. IF there's been a pretty Amiga game released this year I don't think I've seen it.

To be fair, though I described the gameplay as unremarkable earlier, I wouldn't for the life of me want to give the impressions that it doesn't work - this is more than just a spectacular graphics exercise. There's lots of it for a start - three massive worlds comprising of fifteen or so islands each, each built up of countless rooms. It's not something you'll be in any danger of completing for quite some time.

The general level of care and attention to detail put into the project is supremely impressive too - if the puzzling isn't quite of the standard you'll find in some of the old Ultimate games, say, the new FRP element, the addition of interesting sub-games, and the overall correct feel of the project make it equally as satisfying.

The Norse myths provide rich and so far relatively unplundered material for computer games and while Heimdall may play fast and loose with some of the details, the spirit of it all is handled well. IT provides a coherent background and atmosphere to the game that similar scale projects from the likes of Psygnosis (with their could-be-anybody heroes) have rather lacked.

If there's been a prettier Amiga game released this year I don't think I've seen it

But who, you're probably asking by now, is Heimdall anyway? Well those of you who know your Marvel comics will have some idea - he's one of the more important of the Norse gods, though traditionally a fairly limited one. In The Mighty Thor comics, as in legend, his job was to guard Asgard (the home of the Gods) from attack, which he did by standing on the Rainbow Bridge leading to Earth where his especially keen eyes could keep a watch on things below.

A bit of a boring idea really - the ancient equivalent of Alan Tracey, the dull one in Thunderbirds who got to sit in the space station all the time listening to radio messages - and happily thrown completely out of the window for the game. The new idea, says Jerr O'Carroll, is that Heimdall has been born of a virgin on Earth in a sort of semi-mortal stage - Ragnarok (the twilight of the Gods, when the evil forces of Norse mythology gang up on Asgard, and everything is destroyed) is coming, and the Gods need to recover various lost weapons for the battle ahead.

Loki, god of mischief, has hidden the sword of Odin, the hammer of Thor and the spear of Frey around the three worlds of Norse mythology (we'll get onto what those are in a bit) - it's up to the newly human Heimdall to recover them. "You're right, this isn't really what happened in the Norse legends at all," admits Jerr, "though to be honest we've found there are so many different versions it's hard to know what's definitive at all. The real reason we chose Heimdall to be our lead character is because we saw him in a book and liked the sound of his name."

The actual game itself then. It's a 3D isometric arcade adventure spiced up with a light-weight FRP element. The FRP comes from the fact that you're trekking around with a party of characters. Heimdall's quest takes himself and a group of five from island to island in search of the missing weapons - on each island you get to select which two will escort Heimdall as you search around the place, while the rest wait aboard ship.

Walking around the island you only get to see the one guy - the character you've got selected - which initially seems like a bit of a shame, though the excellent animation this has allowed for more than makes up for it. You hero (whoever you've got selected at the time) stalks around the place very purposefully, very characterfully and very - yes! - cartoonily, the animation working just as well whatever angle you're seeing him from. It's certainly enough to make the main hero of Cadaver look like the awkward, ugly, rather bodged job he was.

That the memory taken up by this animation appears also to have prevented any of the baddies from moving (save for jumping up and down on the spot) is more of a shame, though (beyond creating a sense of reality) it's hard to see what real improvement their running around the rooms would have made, especially when the game uses the FRP-style combat system seen here (see separate box).

It's a game that surprises, occasionally stuns

Heimdall comes on a mammoth five disks, the first containing a rather gorgeous animated intro sequence to set the scene (see another box) - it's well worth watching, but as far as the actual game's concerned we can safely ignore it. Onto the next disk then, and we get a character selection screen where you have to pick the crew you wish to accompany Heimdall from a number on offer - there are warriors, druids, shipwrights, navigators and the like, and you obviously want to go around with a good selection of types.

Before you actually do any choosing though, there's a series of three quick sub-games to get through (see another box) - how well you do on these not only determines the personal attributes of your lead character Heimdall (strength, agility, health etc) but how many potential crew members you get to chose between (if you do well you may be able to pick from all 30; not so well and many of the better ones will be dined to you).

And so to the main game. For each world you are given a map - you kick off in Midgard (or Earth), where Thor's hammer is hidden, before moving onto Utgard (the world of giants) and finally Asgard itself, home of the Gods, for Odin's sword.

All three worlds are made up of a series of islands - you and your people can set sail for any of them if you like, but beware: some are a lot more than four days or so's sailing away, and by the time you get there you'll be so weak you'll probably get killed by the first traps you come across.

Far better, instead, to island hop in nice easy stages - that way you'll be able to collect lots of spells, weapons and things that'll prove useful in your quest, as well as build up rune law, character experience points and so on that'll prove useful in your quest. The way things are structured there are a number of sub quests you'll have to manage before you get to the chance to recover any one weapon anyway, and a fair amount of travelling back and forth between islands is likely to prove essential.

All of which, pretty much, leads us to the actual day-to-day business of playing the game itself. This is a mixture of exploring rooms - things are big enough that some map making would prove very useful - collecting items (chests hold food, coins, better weapons and scrolls which contain spells of various sorts), working out puzzles (often of the 'if pressing block A shuts the first pit, and pressing block C opens the second pit, what will pressing blocks C and B do?' variety) and even solving simple riddle-ettes.

There are some bits here that Stuart Campbell and those of a similar persuasion will hate - invisible traps opening up beneath your feet to kill your character, say - which means there are plenty of times when you'll only learn what to do or not to do from experience. To my mind this is a legitimate piece of games design, but if you're the sort of person who'll get frustrated by it then, well, you're in for a very frustrating time.

How well you get on with the rest of it really depends on how patient and methodical you are. Some of the more frustrating puzzle elements - there was one vast maze section which took most people hours to complete - have been removed but you could still find yourself running around one small island collecting bits and pieces but being unable to find the way out for ages. The importance of keeping one magic uing character safe is obvious - if you've only a couple of dumb berserker-types they may be unable to read the very rune spell which would show the way out!

Basically then, a supremely ambitious and well thought out project, breaking new ground with the visuals, and coupling them to a perfectly absorbing and acceptable isometric arcade adventure (and there are far too few of these on the Amiga). This is a game Core are obviously very pleased with, and they've really every right to be. It looks excellent, it proves to be very playable, there's a vast amount of it, and the presentation and general thinking behind it is spot on.

If there's too much disk accessing, and a fair amount of plodding about, well, they're a fair price to play. It's a game that surprises, occasionally stuns - just check out the graphic when you (finally!) manage to recover Thor's hammer at the end of the first section, for instance! - and is sure to be Top 100 bound when we update the damn thing next spring.


...but not before we've made our way through the strength-earning sub-games. First up is the Axe Throwing Contest, where you, as the young and not-used-eo-his-beer Heimdall, find yourself roped into a pub contest - a barmaid has been put in the stocks, and you have to cut the eight pig-tails holding her there with your throwing axes to free her.

Unfortunately you're drunk, so the cursor wobbles all over the place - it's very easy to use all ten of your axes without severing more than two or three plaits (in the interests of good taste, the spectacularly bloody head-splattering that featured in early versions of the game if one of your axes hit her face has been omitted from the finished thing - a sensible move, but really a bit of a shame).

Next comes Pig Catching - you've got to run after a slippery, greased pig and hopefully catch it within the short time limit, your score dictated by how quickly you do it. Beware though - if you corner the pig it will turn around and charge at you, knocking your head over heels and wasting valuable time.

Finally there's the Longboat Fight - you must run down in the middle of the ship, dodging or fighting armed guards , in the hope of collecting the sack of coins tied to the bow. Once again, time is of the essence.


Heimdall uses a bizarre combat system using mucho frantic mouse clicking. Sounds odd, but it works...

Fighting the baddies is an interesting affair. You get into a fight situaiton whenever you approach one closely, at which point things flip to the battle screen (which helpfully allows for the possibility of running away). This presents you with an animated picture of the hostile character, a number of energy bars (for the baddie and for your three characters) made up of a neat slooshing blood effect, and a series of icons.

You'll have to click on your attack method (fist, the stronger sword, any special spells or weapons you may wish to use) and then the attack icon to inflict damage on him - most commonly you'll only be able to hurt him when his defenses are down because he's lunging forward to attack you. The whole thing consists of much frantic mouse-clicking then, and does succeed in representing the FRP hit points idea in a more physically involving way quite well.

Heimdall 1: Close encounter attack-screen
  1. Your enemy - here you see him recoiling from your blow. You judge when to hit by his own actions, gunfighter-style.
  2. The power of you - Heimdall - and your two companions, all looking quite healthy at the mo.
  3. You defend icon for warding off attacks. The one underneath is fairly self-explonatory too!
  4. This sword cursor is your control. As you can see, I'm about to click on the more powerful of my two attack options, then quickly whizz over to the attack icon to actually land the blow.
  5. Attack. Erm, says it all really. (And the spell option underneath is hardly more cryptic).
  6. Over here you see the sloshing blood of your enemy's power levels. (As you can see, this guy's nearly a gonner).

Heimdall 1 logo CU Amiga Superstar

Is Core's epic Nordic arcade adventure a gift from the Gods? Steve 'Thor Thumb' Merrett strapped on his chest wig and took a look.

The word classic is bandied around for virtually every new game that someone thinks is particularly good for its genre, and, as a result, has lost some of its meaning. Heimdall, on the other hand, has every right to claim the title, and represents a major move forward in the realms of game design.

The gap between cartoon-quality graphics and involving gameplay is diminishing all the time, but Heimdall is responsible for the greatest shrinkage yet. Imagine, if you will, the graphical and animation quality of the Sullivan-Bluth games coupled with playability to match the likes of such classic arcade/RPG games as The Immortal and the Ultimate series. This, in part, sums up Core's massive arcade/adventure.

It's been a while since a game has got me as excited as Heimdall - in fact, it hasn't been since Kick Off II and, before that, the original Impossible Mission, but, as far as I'm concerned, this is brilliant stuff.

Detailing the adventures of the titular hero, the game preludes the epic Battle Of Ragnarok - a battle which would go down in Norse legend as the final fight between good and evil. The devious evil God, Loki, has attempted to swing the odds in the favour of the dark forces by stealing three key weapons - Thor's hammer, Odin's sword, and Frey's spear - from the good side's arsenal.

And, once in possession of the weapons, he secreted them on Earth, ensuring that the other Gods couldn't break their cardinal rule and mix with mortal man to search for them. Using their limited resources, though, the good forces impregnated a young virgin with a child who will eventually fulfill the prophecy of a mortal redressing the balance - The boy-child Heimdall. Thus, it is several years after these events that we first encounter our young hero.

The main bulk of Heimdall is played over a series of isometric screens as our hero searches for the lost armaments. However, before our hero can accumulate the wisdom and stamina necessary for the journey, he must first undergo tests of his skill, agility and speed.

An unfortunate girl has her head wedged through the hole in the centre of a round table, and her pigtails apparently secured to its perimeter. Whilst a horde of drunken Vikings leap around in the background, the player must position a moving cursor over each of the pigtails, and pressing fire sends an axe spinning in from its off-screen throwing point. IN all, there are six pigtails to cut, and the original version's death scene has now been replaced by the girl pulling her head out in the nick of time - revealing the pigtails glued to her head!
Following that, Heimdall must then attempt to wrestle a greased Boar to the ground, before leaping across the bow of a longboat and using his swordsmanship to KO the assailants on board.

Once all three sub-games have been completed (or skipped if you so wish), Heimdall can then recruit for the all-important mission. In all there are thirty villagers to choose from, ranging from worldly wizards to weathered warriors, and each has their own particular skills and weaknesses - for instance, whilst a warrior can handle himself in the heat of a battle, their magical prowess is rather limited, and vice versa for the wizard.

However, the number of villagers actually willing to join you will depend on your success during the sub-games, so it may be a case of taking what's available. Once your choices have been made, though, the real task begins with a quick recce of the surrounding islands on one of three rather crumpled maps - the only clue to the weapons' whereabouts. There are thirty-five islands to explore, split over three levels, each of which is inhabited by all manner of creatures and people and contains the many spells and goodies needed to prolong the mission.

Heimdall's party begins with enough provisions to last them six days, and before the more distant islands can be accessed they must stop off and explore for further stocks - either that or die trying.

Thus, before they can reach the furthermost points of the map, the nearest islands should be scoured first. Each of the islands is represented as a series of incredibly-detailed isometric rooms, within which Heimdall can move freely. As in past 3D games, these rooms feature doorways to other areas and also play host to all manner of traps, goodies, and mysterious creatures and people.

However, unlike the aforementioned games, Heimdall's rooms are huge detailed affairs which occupy more than one screen and scroll in the customary eight directions with the Heimdall sprite kept central. When the party come up against an armed adversary, though, the screen swaps to a first-person perspective surrounded by a series of control icons.

Core have opted to play these scenes in real time, so the player is thrown straight in at the deep end. On either side of the battle screen both your part's and the enemy's bar. By selecting the requisite icon, punches can be thrown, spells cast, and whatever weapon you have to hand used, until one of you eventually stays down. However, whilst this sounds unwieldy, the moves are easily accessible and the enemy fighters extremely intelligent.

As mentioned, along the way Heimdall and his party can add to their already swelling inventories by opening and emptying any chests they find. On collecting or receiving extra goodies, the screen switches to that of an inventory screen detailing what each character is presently holding. In addition, from here the characters can swap, use or drop any collected items and replenish any lost energy by eating any food they have. Each character can hold up to eight items, but care must be taken not to waste any collected spells as further supplies are scarce. And it is from these easy-to-use screens that the game's many object-related puzzles can be solved.

Everything about Heimdall is geared towards ease of use, and despite any reservations a novice to the RPG genre may have, Heimdall is the perfect entry point. The large map area of the game allows a free reign of the play area, yet the limited supplies ensure that it isn't a doddle to wander through. Additionally, the 3D sequences require as much skill as a conventional arcade game, and the incorporation of a series of switches and puzzles keep the player on their toes and expand the basic adventure greatly.

The game's many colourful characters are well implemented, too, and everything seems to flow both logically and easily. As I have already said, there is no doubting that Heimdall is an instant classic. It has style, depth and some of the most astounding graphics you are every likely to see - easily up to the standard of the likes of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace.

The attention to detail is nothing short of amazing, with a variety of worlds, ranging from a land of giants to a island of the dead, and these are inhabited by creatures worthy of a Don Bluth or Disney cartoon. Even the backdrops are stunning, with stone floors broken up by clumps of moss and shingle. In fact, coupled with its massive and varied game task, I'd go as far to say that Heimdall is probably the most ground-breaking game since Ultimate released Knight Lore and Epyx completed work on Impossible Mission and Pitstop II - and that's the highest recommendation I can give.

LET THE BATTLE BEGIN... The tales of Norse mythology are even more complex than those of the Greeks. Stories regarding Loki, Frey, Odin and, probably the most famous of all, Thor have been passed through generations of Danes and Swedes, and their names still have a bearing in the countries' may village and town names. Legend has it that these Gods created the Earth and the surrounding planets as playthings, and they would tinker and guide its people. To this extent, the Vikings were created. Heimdall is set towards the end of their reign, and precedes the events before the Battle of Ragnarok, the climatic battle which saw the demise of the supposedly immortal race.

Apparently, all the Nordic legends were born to give explanation to sightings and happenings the primitive Vikings couldn't work out, and the story of Ragnarok is believed to detail the loss of belief in these Gods. In these convoluted tales there were three key figures on the side of good: Frey, Odin and Thor, whilst evil was covered by the utterly ruthless Loki. Details of the Gods are recorded in Snorri Sturluson's definitive poem, The Poetic Edda, which recounts the battle and the stories surrounding it and describe its many characters.

YE GODS! Thor was the most respected deity, who was a Sky and Storm-God. The overseer of law and justice, Thor was a mountain of a man. Stories of Thor detailed his battles against giants and even the destruction of Loki's evil-spawned World Snake. However, defeating this creature (whilst fishing no less!) won his the accolade of 'Mankind's Champion'. Odin was a more complex character whose personality was split into three mannerisms, with traits taken from a warrior, a seer, and a poet. Just as Thor wields a hammer, Odin's spear is his champion and he also differed from Thor in that he actually toyed with the humans they created. Odin was reputed to tip the balance in the many wars on Earth's surface, giving chosen mortals special weapons before eventually leaving them in the lurch. After several years of doing this, though, Odin was branded the God of death and the gatesman to Valhalla - the Viking equivalent of Hell.

Frey was the god of fertility which the Vikings used to explain the growing of crops. Frey's stories aren't as well documented as those of Thor, Odin and Loki, but it is written that Freya, the love Goddess, was his sister and Njord, the God of sea-faring and wealth, his father. Frey was the only god to fall in love with a mortal, and is supposed to have fallen for the charms of a female Giant called Gerdm, who he lived with within her underworld domain. Finally, Loki was the main reason for the Battle of Ragnarok, and had a hand in Odin's death. On killing Odin, though, the other Gods took revenge and bound Loki with the guts of his children.

A central figure in Norse mythology, Loki fathered the World Snake (an evil sea beast) and Fenrir The Wolf, both of whom fought by his side before and during Ragnarok. He was also the father of Hel - the Mistress of the dead. He met his match, as did the others, during Ragnarok which the legends use as their variant on the Armageddon theme, with all the Gods meeting for a final battle and dying in the process. For further adventures, why not seek out copies of Marvel's superb Thor comic book?

Heimdall 1 logo Zero Hero

"This game from Core Design is crap," said Duncan MacDonald, "It looks just like an Amiga Workbench screen." From this we deduced two things: Heimdall will only work if you've got one megabyte of memory, and the reviewer is really incredibly stupid.

It's Norse legend time, and the Gods are in a bit of a pickle. Loki has nicked Thor's hammer, Odin's sword and Frey's spear and he's hidden them on Earth. So Thor raises a magical storm over the Viking lands and a boy is born to a young maiden (who until that moment hadn't even realised she was with child).

It's bit like the Bible really, except Jesus didn't have to search the planet for a hammer, sword and a spear. Heimdall, born during Thor's thunderstorm, does. So now you know 'The Task'. Lucky really, because an RPG without a 'Task' is like a marmite sandwich without any marmite in it.

Heimdall is not alone in his quest - he is allowed to take up to five members with him. There are 30 willing recruits in total, ranging from Ironmongers (hint: locks) through Wizards to Berserkers. But not all of them are particularly excellent. So how do you ensure your gang is a useful one full of chaps that won't bottle out and who can 'handle themselves' when the going gets tough?

The first thing you do is to determine your attribute score (which, if it is high, allows you greater choice when selecting your posse. Your attributes are decided by a three-stage test of mini arcade games, which are:

Axe-throwing: You're in a tavern and are given ten axes. You have to throw them and cut off barmaid Helga's pig-tails. Unfortunately for Helga, you're totally pissed. I'm not joking. Jocky Wilson Darts ahoy.
Pig-chasing: You're taken to a farm, where you have to catch a greased pig within a time limit. Hard enough in itself, but when you consider that you're still wibly from the ale in the tavern... well!
Running from one end of a boat to the other and grabbing a sack of coins sounds like a cinch, right? Wrong! There are several armed guards out to stop you.

Now it all really begins. A massive game set in three mythological Viking worlds: Midgard, the world of men; Utgard, the world of giants, and Asgard, the home of the Gods. Each world is split into islands which can be sailed to in turn - if you've picked up enough food to feed your party for the entire voyage.

But when you get to each island? Well, nightmare city! Lateral thinking problems, hidden traps, nasties a-go-go and the discovery of sub-quests which have to be completed if you're to get anywhere with your main task. Phew, eh? But it's an RPG, don't forget. RPG's are always like that.

If you leave everybody alone, you'll never discover if they were carrying anything. Besides, they're sometimes blocking exits and things. Approach and the fun begins. Fighting takes place from a first person perspective - a sort of cross between Dungeon Master and The Immortal. Click on whatever weapon/spell you want to use then wait. The enemy drops his guard. Hit him. Oh, he hit you. Hit him again. Oh, he hit you again. Die. And so on.

Yes, and so on. Like I keep on saying, it's an RPG. You are Heimdall (Almost - the real Heimdall wouldn't be able to save his 'position' to disk, so you've got one over on him in a way. Ha ha.)

Amiga reviewDunc: One of the shortest reviews in ZERO history? Class graphics - it's got 'em. Class gameplay - it's got that too, and heaps of atmosphere with brilliant fights. Heimdall shows that RPGs don't have to be boring - it takes the genre and puts it on a shelf where it's accessible to everybody. Right, have you got a 'Games I must buy' list handy? Yes? Well, put this one on it then. Stop