No bones about it

Knights of the Crystallion logo

BORDERING on the games mainstream, many new genres are born - and die just as quickly. To survive on the fringes of popular alien-blasting, a game has to be something special - different and worthwhile.Knights of the Crystallion is an attempt to prove that there can be more to computer entertainment than laser death squads, alien invasions and end of level monsters.

Imagine a whole ecosystem evolving on the skeleton of a long dead sea creature, the Orodrid. Imagine the culture which would spring up on such an environment, where groups of families live on different ribs of the gargantuan carcass, each self-sufficient in terms of produce.

Imagine the local shaymen, controlling all the intellectual and spiritual concerns of this enclave, this protosyste for biocultural development.

You can stop imagining now - play Knights of the Cystallion.
The aim is, not surprisingly, to become a Knight of the Crystallion.
A crystallion is a clear crystal horse, born from the fossilised brain cells of the immense Orodrid.

The Crystallion is no beat of burden but a creature of strength, intelligence and beauty. Only the wise and the accomplished can have one as a companion. The friendship of such a beast is a high honour.

The enlightenment which leads to this goal is both on the mental and physical planes. You must form a spiritual bond with the Crystallion long before you meet it.
Play Deketa, a kind of Pelmanism, to sharpen your telepathic powers, and Bosu, a game which requires you to make the most of small resources.

Travel through the Veils of Tsimit to retrieve crystals from the skull of the Orodrid, before finally making your way to the inner sanctum and the Crystallion egg, from which your Crystallion will be born.

All this must not be at the cost of your ordinary existence however. As head of a family in one of the Orodrid cooperatives, or Hareshs, you have a great financial responsibility. Trade must be investigated and planned and the needs of your family well looked after.

Knights is completely mouse driven, from the menu selections to the movement of your character through the twisty mazes of the Tsimit. There is no formal structure to the game, play takes place in any of the parts you specify, so you can concentrate on different areas if you wish.

If I was to describe the graphics as atmospheric I would be doing the game a great dis-service. They are truly works of art. The opening sequences and some of the later frames have the tell-tale signs of being ray traced, and well ray traced at that.

Financial strategy, arcade acumen and severe powers in the old grey matter department are needed to make a success of yourself in this fantasy world There is quite a lot of thinking to this bit.

Making your way through the veils of the Tsimit is the only disappointing part. The maze and the shadow effects are good, but the hostile inhabitants are poorly animated.

Knights of the Crystallion represents a complete cultural simulation. Do yourself and your Amy a favour and buy this instead of the next "hottest" shoot-'em-up.



Knights of the Crystallion logo Amiga Format Gold

US GOLD £29.99 * Mouse

Long ago, when the huge reptiles roamed the Earth, a giant sea creature swam the oceans. This creature was the Orodrid, a beast so large that it had to eat constantly to say alive: and it was this outrageous appetite that caused its demise.

Once upon a time, the huge animal became wedged in a narrow canyon while chasing a whale and because of its size it couldn't turn around to escape. Time and the elements wore down the remains of the Orodrid so that all was left was its massive skeleton, lying lost and forgotten on the bed of the river Odruilen.

Ages passed, and a wandering tribe discovered the skeleton. They discovered that no matter how far they walked, they couldn't leave the shadow of the beast (where have I heard that before?) so they decided to carve into the bones themselves to create shelters. Throughout the generations the tribe grew into a giant community - the Orodrim.

In Knights of the Crystallion you take control of the Adreni family, part of an Orodrim Haresh (a type of clan). IT is up to you to control the budget of the Adreni family, keeping the other members of the Haresh happy and making sure that you don't go under.

The city of Orodrid doesn't live in the way of normal beings, however: there is much more to Haresh life than balancing the books.

Within the skull of the Orodrid skeleton, crystallised brain cells were found. The power from these cells flows though the whole city, giving its inhabitants telepathic powers. A few of the most gifted telepaths may even go as far as to ride their own Crystallion.

You may just have the necessary power for this honour, but to prove it you will first have to undergo a series of tests during which you must prove yourself...

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

It is obvious right from the film-style intro that a great deal of effort has gone into making Knights of the Crystallion a truly impressive-looking game. The use of HAM mode gives the ability to use more colours to create a subtle and suitably 'mystic' atmosphere. The shadowy caverns of the Tsimit and the flickering candlelight of the Deketa game are a most impressive demonstration of what can be done to create a good feel with HAM graphics (rather than some more gaudy efforts such as Mandarin's Pioneer Plague).

The sonics department uses a blend of ethnic and synthesizer sounds to heighten the mystic feel of the game and make a nice change to the Hip-House variations usually on offer.

LASTING INTEREST

As is the way with many adventure/role playing games, you may find yourself initially baffled by the sheer volume of things you have to learn to begin playing the game, but if you manage to overcome the initial confusion you will soon be drawn deep into a magical world with a lot more character and depth than many role-playing games.

The complexities that seem rather off-putting at first soon become a way of life, with subtle shifts in the pattern of play making you bend your brain around the problems instead of just following clues. It will take quite a few failed attempts before anything of note is accomplished, but soon things begin to fall in place like pieces in a jigsaw. Having said this, there is absolutely no way that you will finish Knights of the Crystallion inside a week, even though the hypnotic quality will keep you playing for hours at a time!

JUDGEMENT

Not many games use HAM mode to portray the action, so at first sight it may seem that US Gold are just going for a gimmick. Even if this is the case, Knights of the Crystallion has enough depth and gameplay to stand up as decent game in its own right.

Sure, the beautiful graphics and haunting sound don't hinder things any, but there is much more enjoyment to be had playing Crystallion than simply watching a demonstration of the Amiga's capabilities, a fact that role-players, adventurers and even arcade adventure fans will appreciate once they play for themselves.


  1. THE TSIMIT
    This is where the Crystallions are born, deep within the fourth Veil of the Tsimit. You must negotiate the caves, collecting crystals and warding off the evil creatures that lurk in the dark. Sometimes, depending on your mental skilss, your unborn Crystallion will help you.
  2. DEKETA
    This is a game of 'pairs' played with magical cards to help you hone your telepathic skills to the utmost effect. The shifting patterns on the cards give clues to those with a strong mind. Keep turning over cards until you can matc pairs without mistakes, giving you powers within the Tsimit.
  3. BOSU
    A board game to test those who are successful at battling through the Tsimit labyrinth. A game ratehr like Nine Men's Morris, but the idea is to capture junctions. At the end of a Veil you answer a question on the Tocanon then play a game of Bosu. Your score affects whether you keep crystals and move to the next veil.
  4. THE PRODA
    A strange room where the most adept crystal-wielders can charge their crystal suits.

Knights of the Crystallion logo

Das ist kein Spiel - das ist eine Zivilisation! Der markige Spruch aus dem Presseinfo läßt schon erahnen, was hier auf einen zukommt. Bill Williams, Cinemaware-Designer und Schöpfer von "Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon", präsentiert für US Gold eine neue Generation von Computerspielen: die Kultursimulation.

Vor unendlich langer Zeit durchstreifte eine rieiß;sige Seeschlange unseren noch jungen Planeten. Wegen ihrer übermäß;igen Freß;gier dick und schwerfällig geworden, blieb sie in einem ausgetrockneten Fluß;bett hängen und verendete kläglich.

Jahrhunderte später zog das Volk der Orodrim dort vorbei und erwählte das von der Sonne ausgebleichte Skelett zu seiner neuen Heimstatt. Die Priester der Orodrim, die dem Gott Tsimit dienen, fanden in dem versteinerten Monsterhirn Kristalle, aus denen sie eine magisches Pferd formten: das Crystallion.

Nur wer sich in einer Reihe von langen und schwierigen Prüfungen als würdig erwiesen hatte, Ritter des Crystallion zu werden, durfte fortan die Regierungsgeschäfte der Orodrim übernehmen. Und genau das ist der Wunsch eines ehrgeizigen Mitglieds der Adreni-Familie, in dessen Rolle der Spieler schlüpft. Wie sehen die Prüfungen nun aus?

Nach dem Vorspann, der mit Ray Tracing-Grafiken aufwarten kann, gelangt man in das Hauptmenü mit fünf verschiedenen (Spiel-)Optionen: Ein Mausklick auf "Haresh" befördert einen an den heimischen Herd der Adrenis; hier legt man die Preise für die Waren fest, die von der eigenen Sippe produziert werden, beteiligt sich an Hilfsaktionen für andere Familien und opfert dem Tsimit (sehr wichtig!).

Kurz gesagt, handelt es sich bei diesem Teil um ein einfache Wirtschaftssimulation - die verschiedenen Einstellungen können (be Bedarf) auch dem Wechsel der Jahreszeiten angepaßt werden;

Aber wir fühlen uns ja schließlich zu, höheren Dingen berufen, also kehren wir wieder zurück ins Menü: Um die telepathischen Fähigkeiten zu schulen, muß das "Deketa"-Spiel geübt werden; das ist im Prinzip nichts anderes als das gute alte "Memory", nur mit Zahlenkarten. Wenn die telepathischen Kräfte dann zunehmen, kann man die Ziffern nebelhaft durch den Kartenrücken schimmern sehen.

Leider steigt auch der Schwierigkeitsgrad ständig an: die Karten werden nämlich untereinander vertauscht, und zwar umso schneller, je besser der Spieler Wird. Überhaupt fangen alle "Einzelspiele" sehr einfach an, werden dann aber fortlaufend schwieriger - man kann allerdings alles erstmal in Trockenübrungen ausprobieren.

Zur Stärkung des strategisch-logischen Denkens dient "Bosu", ein entfernt an "Mühle" erinnerndes Brettspiel. Jeder Spieler (du und der Amiga) erhält sechs Glaskugeln, die abwechselnd auf das Brett gesetzt werden; wer zum Schluß die meisten freien Verbindungen zwischen seinen Kugeln hat, gewinnt das Spiel.

Man sollte schon ein bißchen Zeit in die Erlernung der besten Strategien investieren, da das Bosu-Brett im weiteren Spielverlauf mit schöner Regelmäßigkeit wieder auftaucht. Aber wer erstmal den Dreh heraus hat, gewinnt praktisch immer (zumindest dann, wenn der Gegner den ersten Zug hat).

Bevor wir nun endlich zur Hauptsache kommen, werfen wir noch schnell einen Blick auf "Proda". Ein einfach gemachtes, aber schwierig zu beherrschendes Geschicklichkeitsspielchen, bei dem man Kristalle zu kleinen Gruppen ordnen muß. Natürlich wird das (unter Zeitdruck!) kunstvoll aufgebaute Werk andauernd wieder durcheinandergebracht, so daß man dabei ganz schön ins Schwitzen kommt. Aber auch hier ist wieder Übung die halbe Miete, und wer keine Erfolge vorweisen kann, hat auch keine Chancen, jemals Kristallritter zu werden.

Bleibt noch "Tzmit" übrig, gewissermaßen die Höhle des Löwen. Zunächst gilt es, den örtlichen Wächter zu überzeugen (Bestechung!), dann erhält man seinen Kristallanzug, der dreimalige Wiederbelebung garantiert.

Sodann durchstreift man ein urzeitlich anmutendes Höhlen-Labyrinth und sammelt soviele Kristalle wie möglich ein. Mit der rechten Maustaste wird eine Laufmarke gesetzt, um das Sprite zu bewegen, mit der linken feuert man Plasmakugeln ab.

Fliegende und watschelnde Gegner tauchen anfangs selten, später dafür in rauhen Mengen auf. Diese Sammeltour muß insgesamt viermal absolviert werden; hat man schließliech alle Prüfungen erfolgreich hinter sich gebracht, gibt's zur Belohnung eine zauberhafte Animation des freigewordenen Crystallion-Pferdes.

Knights of the Crystallion ist tatsächlich etwas anders als die anderen Spiele - eine (merkwürdige) Welt für sich. Wenden wir aber trotzdem mal unsere althergebrachten Bewertungskriterien darauf an: Die Animationen sind fließend, die Grafiken hätte ich mir etwas detaillierter gewünscht.

Gescrollt wird nicht, die Screens werden jeweils umgeschaltet. Die außergewöhnliche musikalische Untermalung erzeugt eine Stimmung wie auf einem orientalischen Basar - abschalten läßt sie sich nicht, wem's auf die Nerven geht, der muß halt am Lautstärkeregler drehen.

Die Maussteuerung funktioniert tadellos, zur Handhabung fällt mir auch nichts Böses ein. Da man das Spiel auf keinen Fall in einer Sitzung beenden kann, ist eine Save-Option selbstverständlich.

Auf den ersten Blick mutet diese "Spielsammlung" etwas konfus und zusammenhanglos an, doch nach einer gewissen Eingewöhnungszeit kommt man sehr gut mit allem klar: Die grundverschiedenen Einzelteile fügen sich dann zu einem logischen und unterhaltsamen Puzzle zusammen.

Fazit: Endlich mal eine wirklich neue und ausbaufähige Spielidee - hoffen wir, daß noch mehr dieser "Kultursimulationen" auf uns zukommen! (wh)



Knights of the Crystallion logo CU Amiga Superstar

US Gold
Price: £29.99

This game is different, to say the least. It is a 'Culture Simulator' the PR people claim. Well I am not sure about that, but what I do know is that it is one of the most impressively designed Amiga games I have seen.

The opening sequence details the death millions of years ago of a gigantic creature, the Orodrid. Now, four thousand years in the future, its bones have been hollowed out to form a gigantic city, which is controlled by several large families. As the head of one of these families it is your ultimate goal to find a Crystallion egg and then hatch it out. This can only be completed by successfully managing your family, and overcoming several difficult tasks that lie in your way.

The Crystallion egg is contained within the bottom of the Tsimit, the skull of the Orodrid. Inside the lower half of the skull is a maze of twisting passages, home to some rather vicious creatures, and resting place of the Mystical crystals. These crystals can be used to charge up your armour, and when you have collected enough allow you to pass onto the next level.

It is only now that things really start to get confused. You need to develop your telepathy with the Crystallion egg. To do this you need to become proficient in the use of Deketa cards. Self dealing, these cards contain mysterious swirling patterns and constantly reshuffle themselves as you try to match the pairs. An old and simple game, but with these cards difficult. Mastering their puzzles gives you the power to teleport out of the Tsimit with any Crystals you have found.

On the later levels of the Tsimit you have to beat the computer at Bosu, which is a strange game involving marbles, a wooden board and lots of planning. The objective is to capture as many intersections on the board as possible - it is a game within a game. Failing to beat the computer means you get sent back to the beginning. However you do get three attempts, and there is a tutor mode.

Another of the tasks is the Proda. In this you need to place pairs of crystals in the Proda room, which causes them to produce light beams. These beams need to connect with the manic Cripids (tube-like creatures), who amplify the beams so they recharge your suit of armour.

But the most complex part of the game is the marketplace, or Haresh. Here you set the family budgets, buy food, cloths, books and other materials essential for the family's survival. You must also set a price on your family's produce, being careful not to undercut or overcharge other families. If you feel really daring, money can be invested in expeditions to find other communities. Success in this means new trade routes and a cash bonus for the family.

From time to time you need to donate money to the Tsimit. If you do not give enough cash you will be banned from entry. Not a wise move considering most of the game centres around that location. Inside the Tsimit the passages twist in every direction, with some of the screens in almost complete darkness. Apart from your protective suit you are also armed with deadly plasma bolts. Providing you have been successful in the Deketa the Crystallion appears from time to time showing you which path to take.

I do not think a game has made such an impression on me before. The graphics and the ideas behind them are really amazing. A combination of digitised backdrops, and carefully hi-res pictures have to be seen moving to be appreciated. Musically KOTC is something else. Programmer Bill Williams (ex-Cinemaware) has done nothing short of creating a new music style that is so weird, distinctive and well-produced that the game seems to draw most of its feel from it. It is good in fact that US Gold have included it on an audio cassette in the packaging.

Knights Of The Crystallion is an experience in itself. A not to be missed game which was designed just for the Amiga, and gives more than a whiff of what the machine is truly capable of.


THE PROGRAMMER

Bill Williams, KOTC's programmer, used to be the main sound man at Cinemawre, where he was responsible for such gems as Rocket Ranger and Lords Of The Rising Sun until the programming equivalent of the writers blocks et in. That lasted until he came across the inventive sci fi novel 'Always Coming Home' by Ursual K Le Guin, concerning the growth of civilisation which gave him the idea to design a culture simulator, a unique game that requires the player to identify with the cultural ideas in a game.

"I wanted to create a science fiction world with its own music, own poetry and own culture. This is, of course, a tall order for a computer game. It is a long journey to a true culture simulation, Knights Of The Crystallion is, I hope, a few baby steps in the right direction".



Knights of the Crystallion logo Zero Hero

"This is not a game... this is a Culture!" exclaims the press release about US GOld's new arcade adventure game. With an accompanying manual the size of a breeze block purporting to whisk you intoa whole fantasy world, who are we to disagree?! David Wilson canged his name by deed poll to Spig From The Whastes Of Elfinbuttock and embarked on a reviewing quest.

Knights Of The Crystallion, as the name suggests, is a huge quest set in a fantasy world of its own. It's a sizeable work of a similar ilk to Lord Of The Rings (but thankfully not as big) where the author has attempted to cover all apects of life in this world and specifically in the city of Orodrid.

Orodrid, as a digitised voice will tell you at the beginning of the game, is 'The City Of Bones'. It was built into the skeleton of a humungous sea monster. Each rib, as big as a tower, houses a 'Haresh', or commune of seven or so Orodrid families. The mountainous skull became the Tsimit, comprising a temple in the cranium and a cavernous maze system in its buried depths.

You get to play Master Adreni - now head of the Adreni family - with aspirations to become a Knight Of The Crystallion. This is a desirable position of influence in the city which entails hatching your own crystal stallion. (The Crystallion - geddit?)

To achieve this, you will have to convince the city's priestly class, the Keepers, that you are a worthy subject. This involves venturing into the aforementioned maze - the four veils of the Tsimit - in search of magical crystals (formed from the fossilized brain of the sea creature). This is the main part of Knights Of The Crystallion but apart from this there are several subgames to master in order to succeed.

As well as your quest, you'll also have to manage your family's economic affairs. This entails setting the price of the three commodities they produce whilst bearing in mind the prices of similar goods in the Haresh. This is done by clicking on the various pointers and icons on two main screens. You will also set donations to the Tsimit and there will be random opportunities to invest in different ventures, such as establishing new markets with neighbouring villages.

When you go to the Tsimit, a keeper will lend yo a Crystallion suit. This conveniently glows blue in the dark and casts some light on the gloomy veils. It also has three life-saving charges which is fortunate 'cos it 's a bit dangerous down there!

So, armed with meaty plasma balls, down you go and start collecting crystals. There are monsters to be zapped including the pesky Shorgi - flying things that pick up crystals. Once you've got enough crystals, you can either retrace your steps and leave or you can complete the veil. Erm... I'm making this sound easy aren't I? Well, actually, it's not...

If you decide to leave, then take your crystals to Proda in order to recharge your Crystallion suit. This involves laying them all out on the floor. In numbers they generate a charge which can be aimed at the 'Prods' in the centre of the room and then bounced upwards into the charge collector. You'll have to be rather careful of the Cripids, more crystal pilferers and also of stacking too many crystals together.

If you choose to move into the second veil on the other hand, then the keepers will give you two tests. The first is on your knowledge of the Tocanon - a collection of Orodrim verse that accompanies your game. The second is to beat them at the locals' answer to Triv, the board game Bosu. This is quite a complex single screen sub-game. Fail either test and you won't be permitted to continue, fail the first and you won't even get to keep your hard-earned little crystals! What reason is there to continue then? The fourth and final veil contains the crystal eggs from which the Crystallion is hatched.

Oh, and there's also a sub-game called Dekata. This is a card game to heighten your telepathic powers and the psychic link with your unborn Crystallion - which translates to you being faced with several face down cards from which you'll have to find the pairs.

The more successful you are, then the numbers on the cards will start to glow through (this represents your telepathic powers being heightened). You can't access the Deketa in the middle of the Tsimit, so you are advised to do this at the start. Once you've established this 'psychic link' with your super equine chum, you'll find he will help you out as you proceed. In the maze and also in the economic scenarios. A crystal stallion's head will appear advising the route or course of action to take. Neat, eh?

That in a nutshell(!) is Knights Of The Crystallion. Your ultimate aim is to get to the fourth veil of the Tsimit, find the Crystal eggs and hatch your Crystallion. All along the route the Keepers will be watching you and testing you before you proceed into the next stage.

Amiga reviewSpig Of The Whastes of Elfin Buttock: Greetings. I am Spig and I am heavy with child. (You what? Ed.) Er, sorry, you see Knights Of The Crystallion is such pure fantasy escapism that I had difficulty 'getting out of character'.

Bill Williams, the writer, has gone to great lengths to create a whole environment, providing a manual full of insights into the Orodrim way of life and an evocative soundtrack. The graphics are very colourful and detailed and the control system simple.

Although US Gold claims that the soundtrack could stand on its own as a 'concept album'(!) (erm... I don't think it'd grace my record collection) it contributes greatly to the whole package and helps you immerse yourself in the world of the Orodrid. The game will include an audio recording of this which apparently if played backwards(!) will provides further clues!

As I said, the game controls are simple. Everything is controlled by mouse,w ith you moving an eye icon (your inner eye) and clicking to initiate an action. I liked the way the game knew what you were up to; I mean the seemingly innocent Deketa section almost gets you thinking you're telepathic!

Having tried to find my way around the Tsimit unaided, I was chuffed to find the Deketa paying off and a crystal stallion's head paying off and a crystal stallion's head suddenly appearing to help me out.

Some of the screens in the Tsimit are completely dark and your vision is thus eerily limited to a small circle around you, illuminated by your Crystallion suit. Fortunately the Shorgis also glow in the dark. Finding your way is tricky but the computer won't let you move over an edge. If you can't reach a certain position, then it'll make a complaining sound. You can also illuminate your path by lobbing slow plasma balls (yep, they've got two speeds). If there's a crystal on a dark screen, then grab it and hey presto, all will be revealed.

Incidentally you can access any part of the game (except the later levels of the Tsimit of course) from the main menu screen. This means that you can practice the sub-games before you get to a stage in the game where the outcome is crucial.

I found the Bosu game tricky to master even at the easiest of the four levels of difficulty but fortunately there is a tutor mode to help you and also the ability to pay this separately as a two player game! Since progressing in the game will hinge upon you defeating the Keepers progressively at each level of Bosu, you'd be advised to get to grips with it.

So you see, there's a lot of depth to Knights Of The Crystallion and it's a game that will require a bit of intellect. Makes a change from all that mindless zapping, doesn't it? Anyway, that, as they say, is that. A huge involved fantasy adventure offering atmospheric graphics and sound, with gameplay intricately crafted with enthusiasm.


PROGRAMMER'S CORNER

Knights Of The Crystallion was written by Bill Williams. His impressive softography includes programming sound effects for Cinemaware titles such as Lords Of The Rising Sun and Defender Of The Crown, as well as programming Sinbad And The Throne Of The Falcon, and Mandarin's Pioneer Plague.

I always suspected that people who were into this sort of genre were a tad on the weird side and Bill seems to be no exception. He lives in a geodesic dome in rural Michigan with his wife and two cats called Ira Gershwin and Mona Lisa. Oh, and his wife (Mrs Williams) was responsible for the illustrations that come in the Tocanon (a book of collected Orodrim verse included in the package). Spig From The Whastes Of Elfinbuttock is allergic to cats.

THE LOST VERSE OF THE ORODRIM
* * A ZERO EXCLUSIVE * *

We at ZERO are pleased to announce that we have uncovered some previously unpublished Orodrim rhyme. Here, exclusively for you, are some excerpts:

I wandered lonely in the Tsimit,
In the darkest veil of the Shorgi,
Blasting monsters of large posterial dimensions,
But not half as huge as Fergie.

Yea, but the one tree of Odruilen,
I reflect and it,
and ponder on life's hamster
as it scampers about a bit.

(Actually these verses are so crap, they were probably best left 'undiscovered'.)


Knights of the Crystallion logo

US Gold, Amiga £29.99

Many eons ago the most massive creature that ever lived roamed the oceans, swallowing whales in a single gulp. But one day its immense hunger led it up a river, to become beached and slowly die. The elements soon rotted away its flesh, leaving bones massive enough to enclose a city. In time a tribe of humans found the bones and slowly went about creating that city.

The most important part of the skeleton is its skull, set aside for the priests who call themselves the Keepers of Tsimit. One of their many secrets is the knowledge that the brain had not rotted but fossilised instead, forming pulsing crystals. When combined they can produce dangerous beams of light. Some of the more powerful crystals can even create life, such as Crystallions. These crystal horses have incredible beauty and intelligence. They are companions for life, and only those who have bonded with one can sit at the city council.

To find your crystallion you must first find the well-hidden crystals. The quest begins with the Orodrid City screen, a menu page with the icon-options rotating over the city scene. You must prove your worth at all the various subgames:

TSIMIT: This is the most important part of the game, since it's here that the crystals are found. The Tsimit has four 'veils', or sections, each of which is completed by finding the door to the next. The Tsimit is a flick-screen maze, packed with monsters, and is shown at an angle from above. Control is via the mouse; move a cursor to the point where you want to move to or fire at, depending which mouse button you press. Protection is provided by a Crystallion Suit with three charges (or lives) - lose them all and it's game over.

BOSU: Once you've found the Tsimit exit door, you're challenged to a game of Bosu, a boardgame which you must win to get onto the next section. You have six stones to place on five rings split by eight rays. While difficult to describe in less than a couple of pages, it's fun to play and has two-player, difficulty and tutor options.

PRODA: Should you lose a lot of charges/lives in the Tsimit you can use your crystals to earn more in this subgame. Three cylindrical 'prods' rotate at the centre of a 3-D room. Using the mouse you can place crystals in special formations to collect bolts of energy. But watch out for the alien birds which try to steal the crystals.

DEKETA: Some cards are dealt; face up at first with numbers from 1 to 8, then quickly flipped over. You must then click on two cards of the same value, using memory, 'ESP', and observation (as the numbers can occasionally be seen). Winning can give you special powers useful in the Tsimit.

HARESH: This is the trading part of the game; fail to earn enough to support your family and it's game over. Make lots of profits and donations to the Tsimit priests might be useful. There are seven trading families, each involved in three trades ranging from meat and diary products to books and songs. You must set the prices for your three types of goods, bearing in mind the quality and competitor prices. You can also invest in opening markets in the wider world and make donations to families in trouble.


Phil King I think I know why this has such a bizarre scenario: it was the only thing which could possibly link together such diverse subgames. And, imaginative as it is, it still fails to really make the vastly different sections gel into one complete game. Nevertheless I was impressed by the very classy presentation with every-changing, atmospheric music. 'Carling Black Label'-sounding sampled speech, and plenty of pretty pictures to ogle (although these do suffer in definition due to use of the HAM mode). All the subgames are fairly playable - I particularly enjoyed thrashing Robin at the Bosu boardgame, even though I hadn't a clue what I was doing! Overall, Knights has plenty of originality, variety, and a big challenge, although it isn't quite the mega-game it could have been.
Robin Hogg So what, exactly, is a 'culture simulator'? It turns out to be a collection of oddball subgames surrounded by a better-than-average scenario. Presentation is indeed very weird, and (especially on the trading subgame) there's a good sense of an alien civilisation. As for playability, all the subgames are quite enjoyable with some excellent graphics and sonics which are obviously designed for the Amiga, not the ST. The most important game is Tsimit, an arcade maze game which, on the higher levels, improves graphically while using lifts to make virtually every screen a puzzle to be mapped. If you like the sound of this, the other game provide some attractive variety. But if you hate mazes and maps, Knights could be very frustrating. Still, a very interesting game which solidly establishes US Gold as an innovative 16-bit producer.