Myth logo Gamer Gold

SYSTEM 3 * £25.99 * 1 meg * Joystick * Out now

Barbarians are, as a rule, fairly hard blokes. It's in the job description. When you apply to be a barbarian at Barbarian Central HQ you have to fill in a little box that says "tick as applicable: Are you a) hard b) not the sort of bloke to annoy in the pub or c) Philip Schofield".
Tick the wrong one and you won't even get an interview. And if you're really unlucky, all the real barbarians find out where you live and beat you up every morning.

You can tell just how hard barbarians are because of their almost total disregard for normal clothing. Most of them just stomp around in furry long johns and leather sandals.

They might look stupid, but because of their near legendary hardness, nobody dares laugh at them. Not even Grant Mitchell from EastEnders. That's how hard barbarians are. Another thing that makes barbarians stand out from the crowd, apart form the fact that they're the only ones standing in the city centre wearing furry trousers surrounded by people studiously not laughing at them, is that they're always trundling off on quests and such like.

They can't sit still for more than five minutes without deciding to avenge some member of their family. As soon as the adverts come on in the middle of Coronation Street, they're leaping up, shouting things, and shaking their fists angrily at the boiling skies and then legging it into the distance to chop peoples head off. Yes they are a bit silly, but would you tell them? Thought not.

Our hero in Myth is one sch barbarian. Feeling a bit stuck for something to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon, he decides to go and teach the evil god Dameron a thing or two. Up he gets, stretches his legs, finishes his cocoa, sets the video for Lovejoy and pops off down to Hell for level one.

Our hero must then battle through Hell, beating up skeletons and harpies, finding time to face Cerebus the legendary three-headed pooch who guards Hades, and also Big Nick himself. Yup, El Diablo, Beelzebub, the big red dude, puts in a rather startling guest appearance. Moving on through Greek mythology, you also find yourself crossing swords with Medusa, the Hydra, Achilles and his famous heel and all manner of lesser baddies.

From there it's onwards to Norse mythology to battle goblins, giant dragons and Thor. Once you've plundered your way through that, a quick teleport takes you to Ancient Egypt to solve the riddle of the pyramids and negotiate loads of spooky traps. That done, you can zoom into an action-packed encounter with Dameron in a weird and wonderful metaphysical shoot-'em-up on the boundaries of existence. Or something like that.

Well, it all sounds fairly simple, doesn't it? Just a couple of different platform beat-'em-up levels to plough through. Wrong! Although at first glance Myth looks like your usual leap and slash game, there's a lot of puzzling going on in there.

A good working knowledge of mythology will make things more obvious, but even then a smidgen of brainpower will be needed to figure out how to defeat the various legendary beasts. Cerebus, for instance, can only be killed with a special trident. Where can you get this fabled trident? Well, you can only get it from a demon. How do you make the demon rise up from the pits of Hell? How do you kill it when it does appear?

Aha! That would be telling. You get the picture. Each big baddies requires some magic weapon to kill it, and to get the magic weapons, you'll have to put your grey matter into gear.

And not only is Myth blessed with deeper gameplay than other games of this ilk, it's also the proud possessor of some of the tastiest graphics and sound ever to thunder onto the Amiga. The bit when Satan looms up out of the flames with a spne-chilling laugh is absolutely gob-smacking.
And there's no disk accessing before he pops up either, so you can't guess he's coming. None of your "oh look the game's frozen while the computer loads in the big baddie graphics" here.
All the sprites are loaded at the start of the level, so each big baddie pops up completely out of the blue, causing many shrieks and squeals from little kiddies.

Sound is excellent as well, and it often plays an integral part in the game. As well as the eerie howls and crackling flames of Hell (which get louder as you get deeper), you also get a strange woman who beckons you forward, and then tell you to stop, then beckons you on again. If you fail her bizarre game of musical statues, she transforms into a gargoyle and kills you, but get it right and she'll give you a pressie.

The digitised speech is crisp and clear, but you'll have to pay attention as the slightest foot wrong results in much blood spillage.

I have to admit that I was a bit dubious at all the superlatives being heaped upon this game, as early demo versions were a bit simplistic. But it's come on leaps and bounds since then and is one of the best arcade adventures around. For once, a game that's worth all the hype that surrounds it. Buy it, or forever be giggled at by small children in the street.



Myth logo

SYSTEM 3 * £25.99

Most games that use mythology are happy to stick to one particular mythos, but System 3 seem to have bunged in the whole gang, from Thor and Odin through Medusa and Athena to Mars, the Roman god of war.

The various graphic styles used to portray the different mythologies are very nicely drawn, and the sound adds a mysterious edge. However, the control and gameplay are a little stiff, giving the game very little depth of feeling. Apart from the graphics, you could be playing any beat-em-up. There is just nothing new to keep you interested.



Myth logo

Auf dem 64er kam dieses Actionadventure vor etwas mehr als zwei Jahren recht gut an, die Spielbarkeit hat einfach gestimmt. Jetzt hat es System 3 endlich für den Amiga umgesetzt - wir suchten nach Rostflecken.

Inhaltlich haben die Macher der "Last Ninja"-Reihe auch bei dieser Konvertierung nichts geändert, warum sollten sie auch? Nach wie vor muß sich ein namenloser Held durch fünf mythische Plattformwelten zum Obermythos Dameron vorkämpfen, den er dann in einer horizontal scrollenden Shoot-'em Up-Sequenz erledigen darf.

Soweit die Action, die Adventure-Elemente hat man sich etwa wie folgt vorzustellen: Um aus dem ersten Level rauszukommen, muß man den Höllenhund Cerberus (Gruß an Elvira...) besiegen, was nur mit einem Dreizack klappt.

Diesen wiederum bekommt man bloß von einem ganz bestimmten Dämon, der sich aber nur geschlagen gibt, wenn man ihn mit Feuerbällen attackiert. Auch diese besitzt der Held nicht von Haus aus, sondern ernst, sobald er die grünen Drachen ein paar Screens vorher abgemurkst hat. Alles paletti?

Auf alle Fälle paletti sind hier die ausgefeilte Joysticksteuerung und die feine Soundbegleitung mit ihren realistischen FX und der atmosphärischen Musik, ein bißchen Sprachausgabe gibt es obendrein. Die Grafik kann da trotz Acht-Wege-Scrolling nicht ganz mithalten, sie ist vor allem nicht so abwechslungsreich, wie man sich das aufgrund der thematisch verschiedenen Level (Hölle, Griechenland, Keltenreich, Nordische Sagenwelt, Ägypten) erwarten würde.

Somit hat Myth im Lauf der Jahre zwar keinen Rost angesetzt, aber für mehr als ein ganz nettes Spielchen reicht es heute halt nicht mehr. (L. Bunder)



Myth logo

Here's a game that's been under way as long as Epic, but now, just like Epic, it's finally here. This is the fourth version of Myth - but have they at last got it right?

System 3 are a funny bunch. Not ina laughably deformed banana-like way you understand, but because of their peculiar 'law unto themselves' modus operandi. The sad thing is that this is obviously a publisher that cares about providing value for money and having good products out there, yet which is having real trouble providing them.

The story can be told very simply. Old C64 fans will remember when System 3 were recognised as one of the top developers, with games like the original Last Ninja and IK+ scoring in the nineties everywhere - a remarkable record, but perhaps not quite so surprising when you realise the talent behind the games included such luminaries as Mev Dinc (of First Samurai fame) and Archer Maclean.

The move onto 16-bit has been a surprisingly tricky one, however, with numerous false starts - perhaps the big name programmers (who've since moved on) have proved impossible to replace, perhaps the games they've done have remained too 8-bit in style.

Whatever the past, this, System 3 insists, is the Amiga game that'll really crack it for them. To ensure this is what happens, the company has scrapped three versions so far, apparently due to their poor quality, and have decided to go with this fourth attempt. It's not a bad game, indeed there's much to praise about it, but I can't help feeling - especially in the light of rivals like Leander, Gods or, indeed, First Samurai - that they've still to hit the spot. And I think that's a shame. I really do.

But before I continue, let's take this brief opportunity to fill you in on the storyline. Fans of the (quite spectacular) 8-bit versions of the game from a couple of years ago will be familiar with the basics of it, though a few things have changed since them. As with the 8-bit versions, a Bad Good (Dameron) has corrupted assorted Good Gods from various ancient religions - the future of the human race is at stake (of course), which forces you on a mission to put things right, one spread across four time zones.

There's an Ancient Greek level, a Norse level, a Celtic and an Egyptian one, each presented as part of a three-disk, five-level mixture of four basic game styles; run 'n' jump romp, shoot-'em-up, beat-'em-up and arcade adventure. Each mythological period, or level, is split into three sections, while an extra fifth stage forms the eventual two-part showdown with Dameron, set somewhere in the timeless void.


All a little too linear for my liking

So how do these levels work? Well, first up is the Greek one, which concentrates on your jumping from one floating ledge to another and fighting different types and sizes of mythological beasts against a lava-strewn, hell-style backdrop. Level Two, on the other hand, is almost the opposite - there are no platforms, and the emphasis is on combat, set in a spooky Celtic forest.

The third stage, in which you eventually get to fight the Norse gods Thor and Odin, consists mainly of leaping around and hacking, while the fourth one, set in Egypt (and chiefly inside a labyrinthine pyramid) requires small amounts of mapping, the solving of logic problems, and a certain amount of combat and precision jumping.

Then there's the fifth and final shoot-'em-up section. It's action all the way here as - set against a backdrop of stars - you have to blast fixed attack patterns of Dameron's creatures before taking him (or it) on directly.

And that's it. One of the biggest changes to the game since the 8-bit originals - and one of the things that seems to have been modified with each (now scrapped) version System 3 have put together - is in the main character. Originally, he was a Michael J Fox-style everyman, in jeans and trainers, somehow dragged into saving the world. Then he was a squat, rather evil-looking console-game type. Now he's mutated again, into a slimmer, taller barbarian warrior, modelled to some extent, it would appear, on 2000AD's character Slaine.

One thing that hasn't changed, though, is System 3's basic way of structuring a game. At first glance you'd probably say the company is attempting to shake off its Last Ninja image with this game, and - certainly - it looks quite different. However, look beneath the surface and you'll see the structure is more or less the same.

In all but the last load the action is punctuated by a series of arcade adventure-style puzzles to solve. Here's one: how do you pass the big monster at the end of the first level, Hades? Look at the picture captions for some heavy clues as to the answer, and while you're doing so consider this - is this really a logic problem at all, or merely a question of trial and error? The solutions are usually so unobvious - much like those (eventually) found in the Ninja series - that you're more likely to stumble across the accidentally than really work them out. In doing so you'll probably find yourself dying many, many times, and we all know how frustrating that can be...

The problem is given further emphasis by the sizes of the levels - all fairly small - so a good deal of your playing time is likely to be spent mucking around with the three or so main puzzles you'll find per load. It all makes the game experience a little too linear for my liking - there's little of the flexibility needed to keep your on-going interest high. Once you've finished the game there seems little point in playing it through again.

GAME LOGIC MYTHING IN ACTION
So where does that all leave us? Well, with a disappointing game, and one where the whole tends to be less than the sum of its parts. In many ways Myth is too ambitious for its own good, falling between not two, not three, but four different stools. In short, there are too many different bits to it, each one is too short to really grab the interest, and the overly linear puzzle solving game style means it's a game you'll only want to play through once. It's a shame, considering how many good things there are in Myth. Like these, for instance:

For a start, there's over 700K of sound in Myth, and to be fair it shows. Almost every action or event has a suitable sampled sound, and most of them are a pleasure to hear. There's always some background noise for atmosphere - take the roaring flames and screams of tormented souls I Hades (which grow louder as you get near) for instance, or the thunderstorm in the Celtic forest. There's some speech too, and that works well enough.

Then there are the visuals. The main character alone has 175 frames of animation, used to show him running and umping and fighting (often while carrying an bject at the same time),. It looks nice, though I can't help feeling we'd better off without a few of the poses and with a bit more effort spent on making him move faster, and in less of a stop-start fashion too. Seeing our hero's arms pull back in preparation for a punch, or seeming to make a real effort to jump and land is all very well, but gets frustrating when he should simply be running faster.

It's a nice looking game then, and one which seems to have garnered rave reviews elsewhere, but I can't help feeling it's all a bit of a - and sorry about this - mythed opportunity. We're not going to be looking back of this as a classic a year on from now, and considering the high targets System 3 are (quite rightly) setting themselves, it has to be seen as some sort of failure. An okay buy, but little more.


OBJECTS TO HIT WITH IN MYTH

The Status Panel at the top of the screen shows not only your score and lives, but also which objects you currently hold, represented by the three icons in the centre. Briefly then, this is the sort of thing you can expect.

Myth
  1. Over to the left here is the icon to punch and kick.
  2. The object you can use is shown here - in this case the sword.
  3. While to the right here you can see the fireballs.
THOSE WHO LIVE BY THE SWORD...

Beasties, nasties and monsters parade all over the ship in Myth. If it isn't one legion of the undead trying to put paid to your heroics, then it's a winged dragon hurling balls of nastiness at you. Like these guys...

Myth
Anyone remember this scene from Evil Dead 2?
Myth
That's one in the eye of this spawn of hell!
Myth
Nidhog can breathe fire and shoot laser things.

Myth logo Zero Hero

Every culture has its own wealth of legends and folklore. There is a Chinese story, for instance, concerning a girl who receives immortality after eating the noodle-vomit of a gang of beggars (don't try this one at home, kids). Thankfully, System 3 have chosen not to incorporate this particular fable into the gameplay of Myth. Instead, they've plumped for some of the better-known ones from Greek, Norse and Egyptian mythologies. Martin Pond, a man with a legendary hairdo, checks it out.

THE PLOTTY BIT

To set the scene, all is not well in the heavens. There's a naughty god called Dameron who is the proverbial one rotten apple that spoils the rest of the barrel. He's been wandering around paradise, paying house calls like some supernatural Jehovah's Witness, and then twisting and perverting the other gods to bring out their moody, bad side.

Apparently, the gods' honour code prevents the other deities from taking Dameron out the back for a good kicking. So it's up to you, Ankalagan, a mortal warrior, to sort the toe-rag out. What follows is a tour of the human collective subconscious by way of a beat 'em up adventure.

ANCIENT GREECE

The story kicks off in Hades, the underworld of ancient Greece, with you facing an army of sword-wielding skeletons. You start off fighting with just your fists and feet, but you soon find a sword and then you can really kick some coccyx.

Once you've overcome the chimera (one of those mix 'n' match animals the Greeks were so obsessed by), you move on to a windswept plain containing hundreds of titchy Greek oi-boys. If you hunt around, you can find a shield belonging to Achilles, the geezer who, according to legend, has a dodgy ankle caused by wearing ill-fitting sandles in his youth.

Once you've got the shield, the Greeks kneel down in deference to you. Rather than walking past these prostrate warriors with a gracious smile, brain the little suckers while their eyes are averted and earn a big 500 points each.

The other big boon about the shield is that you can use it to take on the Medusa - a mythical creature with problem hair. If you're not hiding behind it when she flashes you with one of her Paddington hard-stares, it's curtains.

Without wanting to give out too many clues, once you've 'borrowed' her head there are a number of things you can do with it. You could used it as an unusual bookend-cum-conversation piece, you could take it to parties and be the life and soul with your turn-the-dog-to-stone gag, or you could use it to zap the three-headed Hydra which resides at the end of this world. Further than that, I'm not prepared to say.

HORSE LEGEND

Despite sounding like an idyllic picnic spot, the enchanted forest in this section is bursting to the seams with trolls and pesky little imps. The latter are more an annoyance than anything, but they do leave a throwing dagger behind when you despatch them to runt-heaven.

The trolls are a wee bit more butch, however. Luckily, though your sword gets swiped by a gang of imp steamers early on in the level, it is later returned to you, having been 'souped-up' with the addition of a towelling handgrip and a corkscrew tucked away, Swiss-army style, in the hilt.

To leave the forest, you have to get past the immortal dragon Nidhogg. By the way, just to save you time, that's 'immortal' as in 'undying', as in 'you can't kill it'. It's a bummer, I know, but you're going to have to use tactics.

Finally, you reach Valhalla, where all the good little Vikings go to when they pop their clogs, and you can't spit without hitting a platform, dragon-pup, or triffid-thingy. Again, a throwing knife is left each time you kill a dragon, so it pays to embark on a bit of a cull. Make sure you keep the triffids well pruned too, or they'll be budding off like jiggery.
As if things weren't bad enough already, every so often Thor (the Norse god of hand-tools) turns up for a regular 'hammer time'.

Once you've found the gate, you can enter the 'halls of slain', where Odin (head honcho of the Norse Gods, after whom we get our word 'Odinday', incidentally), spends eternity stuffing his face with roast boar and partying with the souls of dead warriors. Suffice to say, you have to overcome Odin to gain his respect and move on to the next bit.

THE EGYPTIAN BIT

Next, you have to negotiate the windings catacombs of an Egyptian pyramid. This is definitely the hardest bit, with booby traps and mummies around every corner. Anyways, without giving too much of the game away, it turns out that Pharaoh was buried with four 'canopic' jars in which his favourite pets had been preserved, you know - Hayward's Pickled Gerbils, that sort of thing.

That rotten swine Dameron has pinched the jars and hidden them in the labyrinths. Get them back to curry favour with Pharaoh and then blow this joint.

DAMERON'S REALM

If you've completed all the tasks thus far, you'll have acquired enough good karma to reach a state of true enlightenment. When this happens, you become almost a demi-god yourself and you can enter Dameron's shady netherworld. Now, I myself have reached a state of enlightenment (usually after a skinful), but it never looked like this.

It's a fast and furious sideways-scrolling shoot 'em up, set between dimensions, with you flying along while sat in the lotus position. And who's that spooky old figure waiting for you at the end of all this surreal, New Age weirdness? Oh, bloody hell no - it's only flippin' Damaron!

Amiga reviewMartin: The one reservation I have about this game is that if you were a complete star and finished the 8-bit version, you'd find no new plot twists to tax you in this one. However, apart from that, the puzzly bits are well pitched so as to be not too obvious, nor completely off the wall. And as for the rest of the game, well it's just dreamy...

The game's beat 'em up aspect is very entertaining, mainly thanks to an Olympic-style scoring system. Extra points are awarded for style and artistic interpretation, so should you pull off the backhand decapitation with a half-twist, you'll be raking in the bonuses.

The sound is just scrummy, and there's loads of digitised speech. When you're in Hades, for example, there's a constant background noise of the screaming and wailing of tortured souls, while the crackling of flames eternally licking at the buttocks of sinners gets louder the further down you venture.

Background graphics are well smart. Take the pyramid's interior for instance. Although it would have been easier to do out the Pharaoh's last resting place with a bit of wood-chip wallpaper and maybe a dash of artex on the ceilings, it's been lavishly decorated throughout, and very pretty it looks too.

But best of all is the animation - the movement sequences of the main sprite are beautifully fluid and fast. If you lop the head off an opponent, he slumps to his knees, there's a tasteful splattering of blood, and his head spins off over the boundary for a soaraway six. Art, sheer art. Stop


THE HISTORY

Visit System 3's offices in Harrow, and there are two things you'll notice immediately. Firstly, the enormous, four-lane Scalectrix layout (which the staff use, supposedly for 'research'), and secondly, the mantelpiece packed with awards for the 8-bit version of Myth.
Yup - the game was adored by one and all and a 16-bit version has been in the offling ever since.

The leading man in the game started out on the 8-bits as the kind of clean-cut, well-presented young man you could quite happily take home to meet your mother. This latest incarnation, however, is an altogether meaner, harder, smellier sort of hero who'd be just as likely to headbutt your old mum as she handed him a tea, and then french-kiss te cat. Oh yes, now he's got a blue-rinse hairdo too.



Myth logo CD32

Myth (System 3, 081-864 8212, £14.99) is a game where a Wolf (of Gladiators fame) look-a-like battles a variety of characters who mainly resemble extras from Jason And The Argonauts.

It's a hack-n-slah beat-em-up platformer. Only it's not as good as Second Samurai, which incidentally isn't out on CD32 yet, so the comparison is a tad pointless. The sprite suffers from incredibly stiff joints and the gameplay suffers accordingly.


Myth logo CD32

Auch dieses Actionadventure kommt von System 3, hat seinen Ursprung am C64 und die Umsetzung auf Amiga-Disk längst hinter sich. Und auch hier hier erhält man für wenig Geld nur wenig Spass.

Traurig, aber Warzenschwein: Wo man anno Brotkasten seinen namenlosen Helden noch ganz gerne durch die (für damalige Verhältnisse) optisch und spielerischen netten Fantasy-Gewölbe eines finsteren Dämons scheuchte, kam dann am Amiga schon deutlich weniger Begeisterung auf. Und angesichts dieser 1:1-Konvertierung für das CD32 kann von Begeisterung nun wirklich keine Rede mehr sein...

So sitzt man eben vor einer Grafik, die sich vom betagten 8-Bit-Original nur unwesentlich unterscheidet (u.a. durch noch ruckeliges Scrolling!), und fragt sich, wo die über 200.000 Farben seiner Multi-media-Maschine abgeblieben sind bzw. wofür es eigentlich die CD als Speichermedium gibt.

Zudem fragt man sich, warum das Leben im allgemeinen und dieses Gameplay im speziellen so ungerecht sind, denn nur Millisekunden nach dem Spielstart haben die aus allen Richtungen angreifenden Gegner dem Myth-Frischling meist schon das erste seiner drei Bildschirmleben geraubt.

Viel fairer geht's hier aber auch später nicht zu, außerdem ist die Pad-Steuerung überkomplex - erst nach einigen Übungskämpfen weiß man sich mit Faust, Schwert, oder begrenzt vorrätigen EnergieProjektilen der Skelette, Fledermäuse und dicken Medusen halbwegs zu erwehren.

Ob die locker eingestreuten Rätsel somit ausreichen, um sich mit dieser Software-Antiquität anfreunden zu können, darf bezweifelt werden. Selbst wenn das Teil mal ein Renner war - wer will schon ernsthaft Grafik, Sound und Gameplay in 64er-Qualität auf seiner CD-Schleuder erleben? (rl)



Myth logo CD32

System 3/£15
Amiga version: 67%, AP15

We played this a lot in Your Sinclair, you know. When it came out on budget, we hunkered down around the crap TV (which eventually refused to display any colour but purple) and made appreciative mouth noises, confounded its lack of a save game facility by copying the entire memory to a fresh tape whenever we got to a new level, and awarded it a characteristically overpowering 95%.

And here it is again, and I've not played it before on the Amiga, and no doubt you're expecting me to compare it unfavourably with the microscopically-graphiced original. Well, we shall see what we shall see, but don't assume I'm that shallow and predictable.

Amiga Myth is structurally identical to the old 'un, but the gameplay differs substantially. You're some bloke dragged through time to fight the likes of the Medusa, that dragon from Lord of the Rings and the giant statue from Jason and the Argonauts. Beat up minions and you can steal their weapons, use these to knock off the demonic middle-management and then loot their fabulous powers to destroy the overlords - you know the drill.

Disastrously, the CD32 version uses - no! But yes! - 'up' to jump, which, coupled with the unfathomably sluggish response, means you'll spend more time leaping screaming into monsters than poking at them with swords.

Unfathomably sluggish, in fact, sums up the game as a whole. I'm all in favour of splendidly grubbly graphics with flames a-go-go, Greek tragedians morphing into unpleasant flying monsters and large blokes on thrones waving their beards, all to the accompaniment of some gruesomely neat sound effects, but if it means that the characters move like they're trying to break free of Jupiter's gravitational pull, something really should be done.

That's more or less it. The impressively atmospheric puzzles are still there (use the gorgon's head to turn the hydra to stone, attack Achilles in the heel - that sort of thing) although the manual has dispensed with the cryptic clues in favour of instructions like, "Use the gorgon's head to turn the hydra to stone and attack Achilles in the heel", but the slow movement, unfairly swarming and regenerating opponents, leaps of faith, intro screen crashes and, of course, fact it wasn't running on a Speccy, quickly eroded my interest to replace it in a dentistry filling sort of way with cold hate.