Hacking away in the arena

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CLEVER folk, these Actual Screenshots people. To live up to their name, they have only used graphics from the game on the box. And they are very fine graphics indeed.
Ancient Rome, some time only just AD. Ludicrus has a very important job - he cleans the lion doo-doo from the arena and the lion pens, thereby making the gladiators' path a little ssafer. I mean, one slip and you're really in it.

One Friday - or its Roman equivalent - Ludicrus is in the pub enjoying a few jars of Castermanus XXXX. It's been a hard week, what with that load of Christians a few days previously, so our Ludicrus gets faintly tiddly.
He then starts mouthing off at the local gladiators, claiming that anyone with half a brain and a blunt Stanley knife could do the same.
Via a long and complex story, Ludicrus gets dragged into the arena with nothing but a small shield and an even smaller sword. To regain his freedom he must fight the three current champions, plus several lions.

The first is the Gallic beauty Bon D'Age, whose speed and agility are legendary. The second, the Teutonic Herr Liss, is very fast and strong and utterly bald. The third, Bu Vyzr, is very big, incredibly strong and very stupid. The lion is of course very fast, very strong, yet so mind-blowingly brainless as to have been caught by the Romans.

You may have realised by now that we're talking combat game here. You have the standard 16 moves and opponents have their own fighting specialties. Bon D'Age carries a few fake attacks then does a quick low jab. Herr Liss charges fast, Bud Vyzr charges slowly, and yet both do enormous amounts of damage.

The lions take great bounding leaps across the arena, although it will stand there and take a good hammering. Told you it was stupid. Once learnt, the technique for beating each becomes mechanical and is the same from game to game.

The graphics are the high point, reminiscent of French comic books. Ludicrus is small and weedy, the lion looks more like a soft toy than a ruthless killer and Caesar looks overweight and disreputable.
The background graphics are nice, with a motley selection of grubby Romans, tall, thin, short, fat, spotty - the works. The fighters are very well animated, with neat facial gestures and movements.

Unfortunately, there is very little sound apart from Oww, Eek, Roar, Blat, Crunch. The crowd doesn't move or make and noise, so the neat graphics alone fail to give a good atmosphere.

I Ludicrus would be good if it wasn't so repetitive, for to beat each fighter takes several rounds. If you fail, you have several rounds with a lion and then some more rounds with the person who beat you. Interesting, huh? It does have a two player option, but that won't save it for long.

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Actual Screenshots

The idea is sound enough. The graphics are really nice and the animation is smooth, so what is the problem? The problem is, dears, that there is no playability.

You are a gladiator, and the most well built one at that. To earn your freedom, you have to go five rounds with three different opponents. If he manages to fell his adversary five times, he moves onto the next opponent. If they manage to fell him five times, he has to take on a lion. If he defeats the lion five times, he gets another crack at his previous assailant. Should the lion get him, it is game over.

As with lots of beat-'em-ups, you have a choice of sixteen moves. The only difference between this and say, Exploding Fist, is that in this all the moves take an age to do and you are always hit first. That plus the fact that the collision detection is not quite spot on, which means you have to hit slightly behind your enemy before a hit is registered. Bye bye gameplay.

The smooth animation and odd snatches of humour cannot make up for what is essentially a dull and unplayable experience.