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PSYGNOSIS * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

Princess Lucanna had nust turned 18. In fact today was her birthday. But today was the day that Thanatos decided to rise from his "pit of anguish", depart his prison of torment and take revenge for whoever had trapped him in this interminable prison. He deserved it though - he was officially classed as evil.

The rulers of Honschu, where Lucanna lived, were the nice chaps who had put him away, and it was them that Thanatos, or Thanny for short, was after. To cut a long story short, one full of needless long words and sentences (see manual). Thanny kidnaps Lucanna and intends to use her life force to feed his own and ultimately destroy Honschu.. Leander is the palace guard who's been bonking Lucanna on the quiet. They both reckon it is undying love, but listen to an old hand, it is pure lust.

The emperor summoned Leander and told him he knew about the illicit trysts in the garden but would forgive him if he rescued her. Better to have a live shotgun wedding than a dead daughter. Assuming, of course, that Leander could manage it.

Well it sure sounds like a beat-'em-up to me, and, gosh, I'd be right. The game is made up of three worlds each consisting of four levels, where a single quest has to be completed. This will usually involve collecting something from one end of the level and trekking back to the exit point at the other end with it.

Well it isn't quite as simple as that. The levels aren't linear, they go in all directions and need a lot of exploration and mapping before they can be conquered with ease on a regular basis.

The game is populated by numerous assorted creatures, from elves to dragons to huge spiders that would put the willies up any self-respecting arachnophobia. These can be slain with a few swipes of the sword but they are cunning little devils, and it takes a lot of care to get away without being hit at least once as you try and kill them.

Fortunately though, as you leap and bound across the graphically superb backgrounds, there will be a load of chests and trunks littered around. A few sword swipes will open these to reveal some kind of bonus, be it money, points or armour improvements.

These armour improvements will take you to the next armour strength level. You begin on purple armour which only takes one hit point - take a hit and you die. Green provides two hit points, with the protection climbing one hit point per level through blue, silver, gold and finally black at six hit points.

The money can be used in the shops that you will occasionally stumble into. You could blow it all on a huge weapon but it is worth thinking about building up your armour first - you stand more chance of getting further the stronger your armour is.

Rune bombs can be bought in the shops too, or collected from the chests. Theses are essential because if you make the mistake of not picking up something that comes out of a chest, after a short period of time it will turn into a skull.
If this is accidentally collected, the ethereal presence of Thanatos will appear, with thunder and lightning all about. Only rune bombs stand a chance of thwarting him, but it will take six hits to get rid of the ugly little bleeder.

It is fairly slow-paced initially with little frantic action - the emphasis is on exploration, and accuracy with the joystick as you try for the fifth time to catch that moving platform. Skill with the sword is crucial though - you won't be able to get away with auto-fire in Leander. A far more thoughtful game than some.

It takes on a medieval atmosphere almost as soon as you enter the first world. The graphics have an almost musty feel about them that puts you right back in the golden age of virgins and dragons.
The background colour-slitting and all that techy stuff is excellent and some of the foreground stuff occasionally beats First Samurai, but there isn't enough variety to do this on a permanent basis.

The sound is by a team led by one Jon Burton (apparently he's quite famous for this kind of thing), with a typically spooky Psygnosis tune, and violent effects that, believe me, go some way to bringing out the armoured aggressor in all of us.

It is definitely a serious beat-'em-up, well implemented, quite gorgeous to look at, and a treat for the ears. Pretty top.


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Psygnosis * £25.99

A mythical tale of Oriental mix-deeds and epic dragon-slying battles, Leander is just what we've come to expect from Psygnosis. An almost feature-length intro sequence, with graphics and sounds to match, sets the scene for what is, essentially, yet another platform game.

Leander is well-polished: fluid character animation, coupled with easy controls and a gallery full of classy graphics. But it's as derivative as they come - if you've seen Strider, then you know the story already.

However, what Leander lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in gameplay. It may be a bit of a 'pattern-learning' experience, but it's one you can get your teeth into straightaway, getting better with every go. And on your way you'll meet some stunning sprites - both friendly and dangerous - set against huge backdrops that carry on the Roger Dean-style tradition that Psygnosis are renowned for.

If you're looking for a bit of sparkle, and you're not bothered about going over the same ground a few times, Leander is definitely a platform game worth leaping for.


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Was hätte "Shadow of the Beast II" damals für ein Hit sein können, wäre es nur etwas spielbarer gewesen. Mittlerweile hat man das bei Psygnosis auch eingesehen und Versäumtes nachgeholt: Hier gibt's technisch hervorragend gemachte Platform-Action samt überzeugendem Gameplay!

Dabei sollte man sich von den makellos dahinscrollenden Landschaften und rund hundert Feindarten nicht täuschen lassen - für Leander zeichnen nicht die "Biester" von Reflections verantwortlich, es wurde vielmehr von den "Nobodies" Andy Ingram und Jon Burton programmiert. Damit dürften die Jungs die längste Zeit Nobodies gewesen sein, denn hier sind praktisch alle Gegner (bis zu 60 Hardware-Sprites gleichzeitig am Screen) Großartig animiert, und der Held selbst sogar noch besser!

Aber worum geht's überhaupt? Na, um's Übliche halt: Die liebreizende Prinzessin Lucanna wurde - wie könnte es anders sein - entführt, weshalb unser strahlender Held nun drei Welten mit insgesamt 22 Leveln nach ihr abgrasen darf. Für derlei heikle Aufgaben ist Leander standesgemäß gerüstet, und was nicht ist, kann ja noch werden. Will heißen, er kann in sechs Stufen aufgerüstet werden, wobei die "Stufennummer" anzeigt, wieviele Treffer man maximal verkraftet.

Dazu kommen allerlei Waffen vom Dolch bis zur sogenannten Löwenklinge, außerdem gibt's Runenbomben und schließlich noch was ganz Revolutionäres: so eine Art "Selbstmordbombe"!

Falls Leanderchen nämlich merkt, daß er keine Chance mehr hat, kann er eins seiner Leben opfern und damit sämtliche Feinde am Schirm vernichten.

Neben solch destruktiven Aktionen sind selbstverständlich auch wieder die allseits beliebten Sammeleien angesagt - vornehmlich Schatzruhen und verendete Monster spendieren die Münzen und sonstigen Extras, die sich dann in diversen Shops gegen Waffen, Rüstungen etc. eintauschen lassen. Gesteuert wird ausschließlich mit dem (gerade richtig belegten) Stick und in "Strider"- ähnlicher Manier. Einige der Gegner zeichnen sich zwar nicht gerade durch übermäßige Fairneß aus, dennoch ist Leander alles andere als ein unspielbares Grafiekdemo.

Ja, selbst daß manchmal nur wenig auf dem Bildschirm los ist, sieht man bei so viel technischer Perfektion gerne nach, sind die Schlußmonster doch wahrhaft formatsprengend und dennoch gut animiert, wie auch immer geartetes Ruckeln ist für das Programm ein Fremdwort. Bloß auf die Psygnosis-üblichen Intro- und Game Over-Sequenzen muß man hier verzichten. Auch die Soundeffekte wirken etwas mager, was aber die tollen Begleitmusiken problemlos wieder ausgleichen.

Hier haben die Liverpooler jedenfalls gezeigt, daß sie es auch besser können, als nach dem bescheidenen "Barbarian II" zu befürchten war. Gut, mit "Turrican 2" kann es Leander nicht ganz aufnehmen, mit so manchem Konsolen-Game aus Japan durchaus! (mm)



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The avalanche of Psygnosis releases continues with an arcade platformer free of any original features whatsoever. So how, then, is it that it's so darned playable?

Greetings, my excellent friends. Welcome to our 'Oh no! More Japanese-style Platform Games' slot. This month we're discussing Psygnosis' latest stab at bolting a game onto one of their crowd-pleasing parallax scrolling routines, Leander.
Another meaningless title, more nice parallax, but - hey! What's this? - there's actually an excellent game lurking beneath the dreaded two layer scrolling! What's going on?

Actually, it's nothing too out of the ordinary. In style and execution Leander's not really a great deal different to the bulk of Psygnosis releases over the past twelve months. There is still a dearth of new ideas or originality here, but happily things simply hang together more happily than usually.

Redeeming features abound - particularly in the areas of attention to detail and obviously player-orientated design (I know it sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised) - which carry Leander through.


It wouldn't be a Psygnosis game without a shop

RELATIVITY AND ART OF STYLE
If Leander has a cousin on the Amiga, then it has to be Switchblade 2, so that's where we'll stop for our first comparison. Both games give the first impression of being slick - but ultimately rather tired - efforts which sacrifice the fires of originality and enthusiasm for a sanitised Mega Drive-esque degree of professionalism. And yet, given enough time to prove themselves, both games actually manage to confound these impressions.

Reaching further afield in the Leander family tree, if Leander has a half-cousin once removed then it has to be Sonic The Hedgehog on the Mega Drive. Although less obviously styled on Sega's spikey mascot than Robocod, say, it shares a number of visual reference points (the swinging platforms, butter-smooth movement, and that undefinable 'vibe', for want of a better word).

This isn't a complaint at all - Sonic is a top game, and no mistake - and it looks unlikely to eery grace the Amiga. I've got no problems with other games borrowing little elements here and there. If the professional sheen of Sonic inspires other programmers to emulate the glitch-free console style, it would be churlish to complain.

Which brings me to the part of the review where I actually describe what the hell happens I the game. (To be honest, I could do this in one sentence - walk, jump, slice, collect, go to exit, go to next level - but I'd probably get sacked, so let's get a bit more detailed).


An excellent game beneath the parallax

Controlling a cute little sprite - something like a medieval knight crossed with Barbie doll, despite the Japanese style of the packaging - the action takes place over several worlds, each with a number of levels. An intro screen precedes each level, with a cute babe giving some simple directions on how to complete the set tasks, and so advance to the next one.
These are pretty simple affairs, usually along the lines of finding a crown or some such at one end of the play area, then making your danger-filled way to the glowing exit door at the other. Straightforward, huh?

Well, there are complications (just like in The Young Doctors). Finding the object in question isn't always quite so simple as it sounds - in addition to the fact that there are usually several dozen wooden chests lurking around (mm, I wonder which one the treasure is in?), the landscape is potted with caves, evil spikes, and the inevitable motley collection of sword-wielding nasties.

Subsequent levels add titbits like horse-drawn carts (jump on them as a useful way to reach higher ledges), airborne elves (with a sizable collection of bombs) and - hey! - it wouldn't be a Psygnosis game without a shop. It's here that all the coins gleaned from chests and dead nasties can be used, equipping our hero with better armour, a better sword, throwing daggers, and several groovy magic items.

So far, so typical. So where does that leave us? Well, the proof of the pudding (as Stuart Campbell's granny used to say) is in the eating, and, boy, does Leander taste good. It may be lacking in original ideas, and the graphics may be styled just like every other Psygnosis scroller you've ever seen, but there's thought behind the layout of platforms, minor puzzles to solve, and caves to negotiate.

Perhaps the secret of Leander's success lies in the unadulterated slickness of everything. Arcade (or at least console) quality in every aspect, it's the carefully developed little details which add up to a satisfying jump and slash adventure. The way, for instance, that the main sprite has a small amount of inertia which has to be taken into account when running and jumping (or negated by tapping the joystick); the ability to define the number of credits, lives, and access codes for later worlds; the sheer rightness of it all - these are a few of my favourite things.

Against all odds, Leander has managed to win itself a place in my heart. Whatever its faults it offers a decent amount of top platform action.


STICKING THE KNIFE IN
That suitably dynamic intro sequence thingie in full.
Our hero storms towards his foe, speed blurs, erm, blurring, his sword at the ready. Clash! Blade meets the shield! And, er, that's it basically. Oh well.
Leander: Intro Leander: Intro Leander: Intro Leander: Intro

SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN LEVELS AND HILLS
Leander is a whole new world. Well, it's actually whole new worlds. And within the worlds, what should we find but levels? And more levels after that. (Blimey, eh?)
Each one follows a recognisable style, but the problems become more devious, the landscape more complex, and the nasties that bit nastier as you progress. Here's just a taster of world one...
Leander
This is the very first screen of Leander. A wooden chest slides left and right to the east, while the very first bad uy lurks to the west. Having already been told that the treasure lies west, I guess it's time to leap into the arms of evil. (Don't forget to swing that sword!)
Leander
Having collected the treasure on level two, our hero journeys into the spooky caves, and what should he find, but the exit to the next level? Simply walk inside to get transported to the next level, while the world shakes, rattles, and rolls all around.
Leander
Lovely graphics ahoy! The dragon may not be very dynamic (his movement is limited to waddling back and forth, and sticking his neck out) but he sure looks handsome. A few swift swipes with a trusty sword are enough to make him disappear in a (ahem) puff of smoke.
Leander
By level four the map gets a little more complex, the balloon guys appear, and the caves become sheer hell. Platforms swing precariously above spike pits, plants send deadly spores flying all over the place, and our hero is faced with more evil knights than ever.

Leander logo CU Amiga Screenstar

A couple of years back, you couldn't escape the phrase 'looks good', but the gameplay lets it down' when ending a review of a Psygnosis game. Although they were graphical pioneers with the likes of Barbarian and Obliterator, it's only in the last year that they have started to bridge the gap between playability and quality presentation.
Leander brings them one step closer and whilst it still isn't perfect, it is one of the best console-style games to appear on the Amiga in a long while.

It opens with a coin-op quality intro, detailing the game's rather stale scenario of a Princess whisked away by the evil Lord Thanators who is about to drain her very life force. And enter, stage right, our armoured hero (the eponymous Leander) who, initially armed with a sword, must traverse the game's three main levels and thirty-odd sub levels in his attempt to free her.

Hardly original stuff, but then again the same can be said about the gameplay. Don't get me wrong, though. Even if Leander won't win any originality awards, it's playable stuff and offers a massive challenge.

Development team, Travellers Tales, have deliberately given the game a console feel - the gameplay is both simple and addictive and this also extends to the game's presentation. After switching between its three difficulty levels and selecting the number of continues, the game begins with our hero standing before an attractive rocky backdrop.

Leander himself is a nicely-animated large sprite who, using the usual combinations of the joystick and firebutton, can be made to run, jump and slash out at any attacking creatures. However, he also reacts to inertia which makes accuracy all-important.

As our hero explores his detailed landscape, the backdrops and horizon change using some of the smoothest eight-way parallax scrolling you're ever likely to see, and inhabiting this visual-stunning play area are all manner of energy-sapping mutants and guards.

Leander's massive play area is split into two distinct areas, with the main outer area and its tortuous platforms, rock faces and trees giving way to vast, dark cave systems which literally hold the key to completing each level. The path to Thanatos and the end of the game is divided by a series of time-gates which remain inactive until Leander collects the necessary keys to pass through them.

If comparison must be made, I suppose that Leander draws ideas from Capcom's Strider - particularly in the athletic nature of the hero - whilst 'borrowing' the graphical finesse of Psygnosis' own Shadow Of The Beast series.

Depending on your chosen difficulty level, Leander can despatch the marauding nasties with a quick slice or two from his trusty sword, which then reveals a health-replenishing icon or a coin for exchange at the local weaponry emporium.

Like the caves, shops are entered by pulling down on the joystick, and a stereotypical round-eyed girly shows you her wares. Depending on your skills with the sword, your new-found wealth can be spent on a variety of add-ons, ranging from stronger armour, to knife and sword combinations. However, the loss of a life returns you to your relatively weak state, so stealth is still needed if the later stages are to be reached.

Of all the accessories available to the player, armour is probably the most important. Initially, Leander can sustain three hits from the enemy. His armour changes colour to indicate its remaining power, and if the number of hits exceeds this then he explodes in a Strideresque effect.

The only fault I can find with Leander is that it doesn't vary a great deal and some of the action is a tad repetitive. However, nice touches include an interesting line in moveable platforms (a horse-drawn carriage, no less) and the Japanese 'feel' the game has, which is even carried down to a smart bomb effect where our hero can sacrifice a life by committing hari-kari.

It is little touches like these, coupled with the addictive - if slightly repetitive - gameplay that raises Leander head and shoulders above most other platform games, and is certainly recommended.


TURNING JAPANESE

The Japanese have spawned some of the most original and challenging computer and arcade machines ever. Starting in the days of Space Invaders, whilst everyone else started churning out clones and variants, our Eastern friends were looking to the future and the next progression.
They also took brave steps with new equipment and ideas, creating the console boom and CD storate in the process. The key to their success with games comes from each title's simplicity. Rainbow Islands, New Zealand Story, the Mario games are all regarded as classics and all originated from Japan. In addition, when they want to avoid the cutesy market, they can turn their hand to creating some of the fastest and mind-blowing blasters a games player could want - although, admittedly, overkill often happens, as on the Megadrive.
That said, though, British development teams are now starting to exceed limitations created by our most popular machines, so maybe, in words of Colin Welland, 'The Brits Are Coming...'


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Patrick McCarthy has always wanted to play a beautiful princess. He thought this new platform puzzle and stab 'em up from Psygnosis would enable him to act out his bizarre fantasy, the poor deluded soul.

There wath once a princess called Lucanna, artfully-named daughter of Lord Lucan (Emperor Etoroshi, actually. Ed) and she wath fair of face, long of leg and fat where men like it. Despite hathing a chronic visible panty-line, she wath much loved by everyone (not in that way, you dirty-minded herbert).

She wath also the unfortunate owner of a smaller cheesy dog, with whom she wath exceeding fond of besporting herself in the garden. And there came unto the land from out of a 'filty pit of anguish' a nathy batht, fearthome as anything from the thcary Thooty Thow. (Eh? Ed.) and hith name wath Thanatos or thomethuchth - (spit) - somesuch, and he wath fond of a bit of roast dog so he didth grab the princess's cheesy dog and roast it. "Mmmm..." quoth he, "you can't beat a cheese hotdog," and he didth eat the dog and then make off with the princess tucked under one ranthid armpit

But lo, in the dithance wath Leander, the secret lover of Lucanna. He wath quickly roped into rescuing her by hith emperor, Lucan (Etoroshi. Ed.) "But", quoth he, "I am armed only with my short sword." "Fear not," they quothed back, "there are shops about for buying weapons and armour and stuff." "But I hath no money," he protesteth, quite reasonably. "Look about, dork,", quoth they, rather harshly in my opinion, "whaddya think all that stuff in the chests ith? Get out there and do thy stuff through 22 heckish and challenging levels in three different worlds."

Amiga reviewPatrick: "Is that a girl?" somebody said when they saw our hero, Leander. His fancy helmet does look a little like long, blonde tresses bouncing as he slinks his way across the screen. But he's all man, our Lei (despite the walk).

His little sword's out and hacking away at the drop of a hat. He's so hard he doesn't even carry it ready in his hand - it's out of his scabbard, across the belly of his foe and back in again before you can say: "Be careful where you wave that thing, it's pretty sharp." Leander reminds me a bit of Rick Dangerous II and some of the swinging platforms even look a bit like Sonic.

There are hundreds of opportunities to get spikes up your bottom if you're interested in that sort of thing. Alternatively, you can fight elves, dragons, giant insects and savage (and probably cheesy) dogs. The end-of-world basts are real muthas, and you'll need to be well-stocked with weaponry and armour before you can even think about dealing with the swines.

Although you're told what task you have to perform at the start of each sub-level by a winsome sire, there's still an element of exploration while you work out what the hell she was on about. Initially, levels are straightforward, but as you get further into the game a puzzle element emerges - platforms have to be moved at the start of the level to be in position later.

With 22 sub-levels, you certainly won't finish it quickly, and even if you do eventually finish it you can alter the difficulty level in a number of ways - your hit points, your lives and continues can all be changed. The password system helps you avoid having to go through levels you're over-familiar with again and again, the backgrounds are moody and the animation is good. It's just a fine game all round, really. Stop