Lionheart logo

Adventure and action all the way in this swashbuckling slash-and-hack-'em-up from Thalion.

How many times have we, the games buying public, seen products arrive at the shops with amazing graphics and unbelievable sound, only to find that they play like a damp squid? Yep, far too many times for my liking. Psygnosis are normally the culprits - take Shadow of the Beast 1 and 2 as an example.
Now Thalion, the company behind such hits as A320 Airbus, have produced Lionheart, offering amazing graphics and unbelievable sound - but does it have the playability?

Destiny is a funny thing isn't it? Do you believe in the right place at the right time? Well, the hero of this platform hack-'em-up most definitely believes in destiny. His name is Valdyn, otherwise known as Lionheart because of his reckless courage and fierceness.

Valdyn might be brave, but that didn't stop him being put in prison for no reason whatsoever. A few days passed and he was taken from his cell and presented to the King who explains that the Showing Festival is on in less than three days.

At said festival the King has to show a holy jewel to his people to prove his right to rule. Of course the jewel has been stolen, and the king wants Valdyn to bring it back before the festival starts. Why Valdyn? Destiny that's why. The name of the jewel is The Lionheart.

Yes, unfortunately it's yet another platform game, but you never know, it could be different. I have to admit the graphics are truly excellent. Your hero is really well animated and drawn, although he does tend to look like a cross between Lion-O out of Thundercats and He-Man (and indeed, Biffa himself. It's the hair- Ed).

The backgrounds are superb and the parallax really gives everything that look of quality - mainly because it is displayed in interlace. This looks really good on a monitor, but could be a bit different on a television set.

In the tunes department there are a whole batch of top high quality Amiga musical ditties, but there isn't much to report on the sound effects front, although what there is is adequate.

Now on to the really important bit, playability. I was quite surprised, because I thought it would be exactly like Shadow of the Beast and suffer really badly. However this is much more playable than Psygnosis' over-rated effort.

There are a few niggles, because the controls don't respond as well as they should. Nevertheless you can't really fault the playability.

Lionheart is fairly addictive, but no great challenge on the easy level. There are two more difficulty settings, but instead of your enemies getting harder to kill, the whole set changes completely, which is a really good idea because you actually get two games for the price of one.

Lionheart is a great platform hack-'em-up - one of the best of its type. Top marks go to the graphics and music, and thankfully they managed to make it playable. In fact the only reason I mark it down is that for some reason it slows down in parts and then speeds up really quickly.

Also if you take the graphics and sound away you're left with a fairly bog standard platformer and some gamers might not be willing to pay for another one.
Lionheart is good but it's not Gamer Gold material. However, this might turn out to be a dark horse and shoot right up to the top of the charts. Then again, we all know how rightly picky some of you are.

So my verdict - Lionheart is worth it if you've got plenty of money to chuck around. If not, just admire the screenshots and wait for another platform game to come along. You won't have long to wait.

Lionheart logo

Behold! I am Lionheart, and by the power of Thalion I will bring arcade-quality action to your Amiga...

Console owner: My Mum and Dad bought me a console for Christmas, along with the super-sexy Sonic the Porcupine and Super Mario Shopping Trolley games. They spent a whole week's wages on them, but I reckon it was worth it - the graphics are just sooooo good. What did you get, then?"
Amiga owner: "I got a Commodore Amiga."

Console owner: "Aren't they dead boring? I mean, everybody rants on about how you can run serious stuff on then, but there are no games that can get any where near my Sonic cart - are there?"
Amiga owner: "That's where you're talking cack, actually. Yes, there are loads of serious applications for my Amiga, but there are some seriously good games, too."

Console owner: "Oh yeah, name one."
Amiga owner: "Lionheart. It's the new game from Thalion - you know, the ones who brought us No Second Prize and Amberstar.
It's a scrolling beat-em-up, with over 12 visually stunning levels. The main character and the enemies are really well animated, and the main screen ismade up from over 600different colours - and that's only by using my Amiga 600!"

"Oh, and did I mention the parallax scrolling? I tried counting the number of levels of parallax but I ran out of fingers, so I used my Amiga to calculate them. Oh sorry, I forgot - you can't do that on your console, can you?"
Console owner: "Mum, will you buy me an Amiga for my birthday?..."

He's right, you know
OK, that may be just a wee bit exaggerated, but if there was ever a game to match (and even better) the best console graphics, then it's Lionheart. The intro sequence almost makes your eyes pop out, with some amazingly detailed and colourful sprites mapping out the story of a big guy and his Conan-esque quest for the Lionheart (hence the name).

That isn't all though; the music is really deep and booming, and it changes in mood depending on where you are in the game, adding a real cinema-like air to it all...

Hang on, maybe we're getting a little carried away here. Let's not prejudge a game just on the strength of its graphics - after all, most console games are pretty, but that doesn't make them all good, does it? So, looking beyond the cosmetics of the game, how does it actually play?

Er, it actually plays rather nicely to be honest. Your character, Valdyn, is not only blessed with some ripplingly large biceps, but luckily he also possesses a rather large sword which you can use to merrily slash your way through the game.

The nasties that you come across on your way are suitably detailed and nicely animated, and they die in a particularly satisfying manner when they are given the brunt of your Gillette-sharp sabre. It's not just fighting that you man excels in; he can also run, jump, swing and climb bits of the scenery, which are conveniently set out so that you can quickly run through, collect a few things, kill a few things, and then get the hell out.

There's not much in the way of puzzles here, by the way; this is pure beat-em-up territory, where reflexes are all. You're given three lives, with two continue options, and then it's up to you. You'll come across levels which move or disappear at the most inconvenient moments: plants which spit poison at you, vegetation that mercilessly sucks you in, and some boiling-hot lava which just doesn't like you at all.

Cohen the Barbarian
It's all pretty much derivative of every other fantasy/scrolling platformer/beat-em-up, but it does it all so nicely that it's difficult to fault it. In fact, if you find the game a little easy, Thalion have kindly included a difficulty level known as Lionhard, which makes the whole game nightmarishly difficult. The layout is quite different to the normal game, so it's a bit like having another game running alongside the original. Full marks, Thalion.

Three points spring to mind which could have been made better: firstly, the way your character is animated leaves a little to be desired. It's not the smoothness of movement we're talking here, or the dynamics, or the number of available moves. No, it's the way your man runs - he just doesn't look macho enough.

Sad to say, but when a game pits a large Conan the Barbarian-style man against some horribly vicious enemies, you expect him to run boldly and confidently. Instead, he minces his way around the game, and it's only when he produces his sword he begins to look like a hero.

This is only a small gripe, though, because the fighting animation is excellent, particularly the motion blur on the sword, and the dynamic movements as he turns and slashes.

Kick the habit
The second, and most important, point is the low kick. This move is necessary to make mincemeat out of the shorter nasties, but it can be a little sluggish. You need to pull diagonally downwards and press fire to kick, and although it's fine at first, if you try to follow up with a second kick there is a slight, but significant delay. Annoyingly, all the short enemies seem to hang around in groups of at least four, so even if you kill the first one, the second can get you while you're still struggling with the next kick.

The last niggle is that the objects the enemies fire at you can get confused with the scenery and detailed background graphics, but Thalion have got around the problem to some extent by making the poisonous blobs shimmer as they fly towards you.

Even taking these three points into consideration, we are left with one of the best platform beat-em-ups ever - on console or computer. Switchblade 2 is its nearest Amiga rival, and graphically it knocks spots off that.

It is bettered only by the likes of First Samurai, but then that is a pretty high benchmark to be tested against. Yes, it seems Thalion have got a winner on their hands here, a graphically masterpiece with enough gameplay to keep you going for weeks on end - and that's just the first level...

Lionheart logo Amiga Joker Hit

Werft Eure Konsolen weg, Leute: Wer wirklich mal tobende Action auf dem Screen erleben will, braucht einen Amiga - und dieses Spiel! Warum das so ist, erfahrt Ihr in unserem topexklusiven Testbericht.

Was die Jungs aus Gütersloh hier auf die Beine gestellt haben, braucht keinen internationalen Vergleich zu scheuen - im Gegenteil, selbst Highlights wie "Turrican II" oder "Beast III" verlieren erkennbar an Glanz, wenn man sie im Licht dieses Action-Hammers betrachtet.

Tatsache ist nämlich, daß Thalion sich aus dem Metzel-Geschäft komplett zurückziehen möchte, weshalb die Programmierer zum Abschied noch mal alle Register ihres Könnens gezogen haben, um ein Game zu schaffen, das wirklich den derzeitigen Stand der Technik in puncto Amiga-Action repräsentiert. Tatsache ist weiterhin, daß ihnen das so gut gelungen ist, daß der Abschied nun erst recht schwer fällt...

So wird beispielsweise während des Spiels zwischen Halfbrite- und anderen Grafikmodi hin- und hergeschaltet, das multidirektionale Parallax-scrolling arbeitet nicht nur mit Farbverläufen, sondern erzeugt auch richtige 3D-Effekte, und wer das Programm mit Turbokarte laufen läßt, kommt in den Genuß zusätzlicher (Explosions-) Effekte. Eine Installationsmöglichkeit auf Festplatte ist da quasi selbstverständlich, aber man hat auch die Sparefrohs ohne Zweitlaufwerk nicht vergessen und ihnen zuliebe die einzelnen Level so intelligent auf den Disks verteilt, daß sich die Wechselei in engen Grenzen hält.

Ob die endgültige Verkaufsversion drei oder vier Disketten umfassen wird, war zu Redaktionsschluß noch unklar: auch die Sound-FX lagen bei unserem Testmuster noch nicht in ihrer endgültigen Form vor, weshalb wir auf eine Bewertung dieses Punktes kurzerhand verzichtet haben. Daß das Game ein tolles Intro enthält, steht dagegen ebenso felsenfest wie seine satten 14 Level, die sich auf acht verschiedene Grafikwelten verteilen. Kommen wir daher zum Eingemachten:

Lionheart ist der Spitzname eines gewissen Herrn Valdyn, der anatomisch halb Mensch, halb Raubkatze und von Beruf Herumtreiber ist. Außerdem ist er gerade ziemlich verärgert, weil so ein Wicht von unterbösem Obersprite ein heiliges Artefakt geklaut und darüberhinaus auch noch seine Freundin versteinert hat.

Tja, damit wartet ein hübsches Arbeitspensum auf unsern Katzenmenschen! Neben dem verschwundenen Artefakt muß er ein Amulet zum Entsteinern der Angebeteten suchen, und zum Schluß steht natürlich das obligate Showdown gegen den bösen Ober an.

Doch sind das nur die Highlights der Löwenherz-Tour, die eigentliche Hauptarbeit besteht darin, dem ebenso riesigen wie tückischen Plattform-Dschungel mit heiler Haut bzw. heilen Fell zu entkommen.

Und das ist selbst auf der leichteren der beiden Schwierigkeitsstufen nicht einfach, denn einige der zahlreichen Gegner vertragen tierisch viele Treffer, und die meiste Abgründe haben eine absolut tödliche Wirkung auf die drei Bildschirmleben der menschlichen Großkatze.

Gut, daß an Continues nicht gespart wurde, schließlich wimmelt es in diesem Spiel nur so von kleine Gemeinheiten und Stellen, die man nur mit Nachdenken und/oder gehobener Joystick-Artistik meistert: nachfedernde Plattformen etwa, solche, die sich plötzlich drehen, oder unheimlich schmale, die pixelgenaues Springen erfordern - man darf schon fleißig üben, wenn man hier eine Überlebenschance haben will!

Ein bißchen Übung verlangt auch die Steuerung, aber sobald die Eingewöhnungsphase abgeschlossen ist, beginnt man ihre Qualitäten wirklich zu schätzen. Der Held kann laufen, springen, klettern, sich an Lianen etc., entlanghangeln, Fußtritte austeilen und mit dem Schwert in alle Richtungen schlagen - es werden sogar Sticks mit (echten) zwei Feuerknöpfen unterstützt, wobei dann der eine zum Springen und der andere zum Schlagen dient.

Überhaupt entdeckt man immer mehr nette Sachen, je länger man mit dem Kampf-Kater unterwegs ist. Etwa Geheimräume, ja, komplette Höhlensysteme, die sich plötzlich unter dem eifrig betrampelten Boden auftun. Oder verborgene Mauervorsprünge, auf denen man unerwarteterweise landet, wenn der Held an bestimmten Stellen scheinbar ins Nichts springt. Selbstverständlich sind auch Extras mit von der Partie, genauer gesagt, (drei) Schwerter mit noch durchschlagenderer Wirkung. Zusatzleben und Kristalle für mehr Energie.

Vom Abwechslungsreichtum der Grafik könnt Ihr Euch anhand der abgebildeten Bilder leicht selbst ein Bild machen - daß zudem all die Spinnen, Echsen, Riesen und sonstigen (Fantasy-) Monster genauso hervorragend animiert sind wie der katzenhafte Hauptdarsteller, müßt Ihr uns einfach glauben. Außerdem erklingt in jeder der acht Welten eine andere Begleitmusik, so daß auch akustisch so schnell keine Langeweile aufkommt.

Vor allem aber bietet Lionheart mit seiner Mischung aus Jump & Run, knackigen Schwertkämpfen und kleinen Knobel-Einlagen spielerisch neue Herausforderungen.

Auf zwei Dinge wurde dagegen bewußt verzichtet: Einmal auf ein Zeitlimit, damit man sich in Ruhe durch die ganzen Höhlen, Urwälder, Türme, Vulkane und das Luftschloß am Ende kämpfen kann; zum anderen auf einen Kopierschutz, weil Thalion das Bewußtsein bezüglich Raubkopien ein bißchen schärfen will. Sollte es gelingen, überlegt sich die Firma den Ausstieg aus dem Genre nochmal - es liegt also in Euer Hand!

Wenn Ihr uns fragt: Wir würden uns lieber die Hand abhacken lassen als zu riskieren, daß wir zukünftig auf Sahnestückchen vom Schlage eines Lionheart verzichten müssen... (C. Borgmeier)

Lionheart logo

Thalion are fast becoming the software house to beat if you want to produce technically ace games.

Steroids. That explains everything. They say it helps athletes perform like superhumans, and I reckon it is what Thalion have been feeding their programmers over the last year. Just look at the evidence - No Second Prize, and now this. I mean come on guys, you are just going to leave all the other Amiga programmers red-faced. How can they compete?

Sit down, Mark. Take a deep breath, and do not get overexcited. You are a professional. Unbiased. Able to offer both sides of the story. What is needed here is separation of personalities - let the positive and negative sides argue about how just good this game is. Still with me, readers? Gosh.

Nice Mark: So we have had loads of great cartoon platformers such as Titus the Fox, and fantastic coin-op platformers Rainbow Islands and Parasol Stars, but the only outstanding hack-and-slash on the Amiga is Switchblade 2. Until now, that is.
Nasty Mark: So what. I mean, isn't Switchblade 2 enough?

Nice Mark: No, frankly. Switchblade 2 is getting a bit creaky, and visually it is certainly dated. It is fairer to compare it to Wolfchild, and let us face it - there is simply no competition.
Nasty Mark: Okay, Mr Sycophantic, just what is Lionheart all about then? Convince me.

Nice Mark: In a nutshell it is a scrolling platform hack-'em-up over more than a dozen levels - give or take the extra hidden bit. The game follows a big guy as he attempts to recover the Lionheart and save his girlie into the bargain. What this means is nine levels above and underground, then a bit of beastie-riding and some dragon flying. After that it really gets spectacular.
Nasty Mark: Yeah, well it does not sound too spectacular to me.

Nice Mark: But I have not told you about all the neat touches yet. The bad guys are fantastic for a start - all with animation and action almost as fluid as the main character's. Plus, as the levels progress, new ones appear which actually serve some purpose. Some bird-like creatures can be used as temporary platforms for instance.

It is all very clever. Nasties on later levels have enough moves to appear in a beat 'em-up. And that end-of-swamp level baddy is a real scary bitch. And - hey! - that beautiful scenery is not just any old beautiful scenery. The programmers did not just buy it at the beautiful scenery counter in Tesco's, you know. It is their own special kind of scenery. There are vines to slide down and swing on, and platforms which bounce, spin and cause all sorts of mischief.

Visually it knocks hell out of any other game

And there is even foliage to cut a path through. And the character interacts with it all - sliding down slopes, running slowly up banked bits, hovering precariously on ledges. The later concrete levels meanwhile have those swinging platforms so beloved of console owners everywhere. It is right smart.
Nasty Mark: But what about all this technical tedium? It cannot be that good.

Nice Mark: You want to talk technical? Try a couple of hundred colours on screen, parallax on practically every single line of the screen, and some of the best character animation this side of Prince of Persia. That guy is versatile too.
Nasty Mark: Yeah, but he minces his run.

Nice Mark: Ah. You do have a point. But just turn that volume up and listen to that music. One person actually thought I had the Amiga hooked up to expensive stereo speakers (the kind you can win in our fab competition this month). It is damned impressive.
Nasty Mark: It is not very ravey though, is it? And that is quite enough shameless compo plugging, by the way.

Nice Mark: Let us face it, it is a complete groove to play, and it visually knocks hell out of any console or Amiga game. I find it hard to believe that it is actually possible for a game like this to exist.
Nasty Mark: Oh please.

Nice Mark: There is no denying it. Lionheart has crept into the football pitch of Amiga software in the dead of night, and then quickly and quietly moved the goalposts by quite a way. I am finding it difficult to avoid playing the game long enough to write this review.
Nasty Mark: Get a grip, you moron. I have seen dried-up puddles with more depth, and...SMACK...Ouch!

Nice Mark: Right, that is the last we will be hearing from him. Trust me readers, it is a tasty feast of hacking, slashing and lushness. In the long-run the gameplay might be a tad basic, and there is a scarcity of monsters to bash in some places, but nothing is perfect, you know? This is just a different league to practically any other Amiga game around. But how the hell will anybody follow this?


Press fire and move the joystick in the direction you're facing for a side swipe. It's real neat stuff.

Fire and joystick in the opposite direction for a spinning slash.

Another overhead smash - we love 'em.

Fire and joystick up for a head pounder.

Joystick up, fire and joystick down and they'll certainly get the point.

Crouching kicks are useful for the cave spiders.

Jump on vines and slide down them. Great fun.

Have you ever tried doing this? It doesn't half hurt your hands.


The swamp world is full of lush vegetation and hideously deformed creatures. A bit like the AMIGA POWER office, really.

Lava World - lava is a hot flowing liquid and is not to be confused with lager, which is an alcoholic drink. If you drink lava you will die.

Ride through the woodland on the back of a small dinosaur in search of an airship. Well it doesn't happen every day, does it?

Mount your trusty steed and take on that monstrous thing with the big claws. Alternatively, go home for a nice up of tea and lie down.

Lionheart logo

Everyone loves a hero, especially if he moves well. Garth Sumpter blunders around with the latest...

Valdyn, known to his friends as Lionheart, isn't your old-fashioned hero. He's got more in common with Oliver Reed than Errol Flynn. But that's the reason that the king has now contacted him - he's been singled out for his reckless courage and his known fierceness - to recover a holy relic that has been stolen by Norka, an enemy of the king. What makes his task so crucial is that the relic proves the king's right to rule and is due to be shown publicly in just three days' time.

Just by coincidence, the relic happens to share Valdyn's nickname, and the king informs him that it is his destiny to recover the Lionheart, thereby absolving himself of any regal guilt, and Valdyn of any excuses for not taking part in this mission. To reinforce his commitment, the king tells him that his beloved Ilene was turned to stone in the raid and the only antidote lies within his enemy's castle.

And so, armed only with a sword, determination and seven continues, Lionheart sets off to find Norka. At the beginning of play you can set the difficulty level, try out the different tunes and even determine the joystick controls - you can set the game up to use a two-button joystick if you prefer.

To take out his frustrations, our hero is equipped with a sword which he draws with a flourish when ever you hold down the fire button. Moving the joystick now has him make various sword-swinging attacks, but any successful attacks by the enemy reduce his energy, which is depicted by bright red hearts.

Valdyn's energy can be increased by picking up crystals as you go through the game, and even his original sword can be replaced with a better one as shown by the numerical value that appears next to it in the display. But combat is only one of his concerns - to traverse the various levels, he must use his athletic abilities too.

Scattered around Norka's land are energy crystals that are normally found in the trickier recesses of what ever level you may be on. There are platforms and steps, cut into trees and rocks, which Valdyn must ascend by jumping and climbing ropes. His jumps can also be measured for different heights and lengths. If you hold the joystick up longer, he jumps higher; if he's running down a slope when he jumps, he jumps further.

Each level in Lionheart is stacked with danger and puzzles, all of which show off the character's animation. Small monsters, like the green maggots from the giant fly, just move along the ground and cannot be hit with a sword but must be dispatched with a squelching sweep kick. There really isn't anything new here - so why is the game so good? It's the attention to detail and feeling of quality that you get when you play. Animation is excellent.

Valdyn's teetering on a ledge when he needs to jump not only looks impressive but also becomes an integral part of the game. The fighting when he's actually hanging from a rope and especially when he's climbing onto the top of it to either turn tightrope walker or jump for an otherwise unattainable platform are all excellent and worthy of note. If you're a fan of arcade adventures, this game will be a welcome addition to your collection.


Animation has some very nice touches. This sequence of shots can't hope to show the fluidity of movement, but on screen it really does look impressive.

1. 'If I can just...'

3. 'I should be able to pull myself onto the rope...'

2. '...get my leg up here...'

4. '...and make the jump onto the tree over there.'