It's only a bit of fun

North and South logo Amiga Computing Excellence Award

NORTH & SOUTH said the manual. Aha, I thought. Redefined ladies with swirling dresses and cleavages that you could drive a steam engine down? Rakish young gentlemen and army officers attied with mud stained trenchcoats? Horse and traps racing through burning cities? Passionate embraces? Scandalous gossip?
Unfortunately, North & South is nothing like an American TV mini-series starring Jane Seymour (pity). Instead, it's based on a French comic book series called Les Tuniques Blues, but only vaguely. The influence of the books stops at using the characters to set the skill level for the arcade sequences.

When a mad bugler and a neighing horse gallop on screen issuing a wild discordant tune, you know that this isn't quite an SSI wargame that's coming up.

Moving around a very simple map of the USA - you can play against a friend, which is enormous fun, or the computer - you must direct your forces in an attempt to rid the country of the opposing army.

As a secondary objective it is necessary to capture land to bring in tax revenues, which can be used to buy new troops and secure territories through which the railroad runs.

If you lurk around until the opposing army's train is about to set off, you can intercept it by severing its route. This leads into one of the arcade sections - a frantic race along the roof of a moving train, reminiscent of Harrison Ford in The Last Crusade.
With enemy soldiers popping up and a timer rapidly decreasing, you must make it to the engine, stop the train and capture the gold. The scrolling is incredibly fast, your character very responsive and the animation distinctly dodgy. Still, it all fits in with the general pace of the game.

The second arcade section, where you try to capture a fort, is exactly the same but has you racing along the battlements towards the fort's flag.

War breaks out when the armies meet. The men line up on one of three types of battlefield, often punctuated by a river or chasm that necessitates trying to cross a narrow bridge while being shelled.

If you're playing the computer you'll notice that you are at a slight disadvantage here. You control each element of your army one at a time. The computer, of course, can have the cavalry charging with sabres slashing, the foot sloggers marching and firing, plus the artillery rolling around all at the same time, turning your side of the battlefield into the Somme.

True, you can set the cavalry off and then switch control to another unit, but you can't have two units firing and slashing at once. It makes playing the computer very difficult. The trick is to eliminate the other side's artillery first, which then gives you an almost unbeatable advantage. If this happens to you, start retreating. Fast.

Come to the end of the war, each side is rewarded with a well animated picture of the boys marching home in victory or a field full of corpses, one of which grins at you.

North & South is unlike any wargame or simulation that you have ever played. The graphics are cartoons and there are numerous engaging touches that add flavour. Best of all, the sound effects and music are fabulous - demented bugling, explosions, horses neighing, and charges, victory and catastrophe are all perfectly accompanied.


North and South logo

INFOGRAMES £24.95 * Mouse and Joystick

Just another game based on the American Civil War? Not quite. It is an interpretation of the cult French comic Les Tuniques Blues, which is absed on the US Civil War.

It is a simple one or two player wargame in which the ultimate aim is to destroy the opponent's armies. Both sides start with two armies (each made up of six infantry, three cavalry and one artillery unit) and more armies are gained by primarily occupying territories which form a rail link from one major city to another. This way trains can run between the cities and trade can occur which earns you money in the form of sacks of gold: once you have five sacks, you automatically gain another army.

The only other way of gaining an army is by owning the state of North Canada, because every five turns or so a ship will drop off into that state an army of whichever colour happens to own it at the time. From a strategic point of view, one of the first things to do is try and stop the enemy from receiving more armies, either by occupying North Carolina or cutting his rail routes (or preferably even both).

Cut the rail route and you enter the first of the game's three arcade sequences where you control a soldier as he rides alongside the train. Jump onto the train and make it to the engine before the time limit expires, without being killed by falling off of the train or being hit by the enemy soldiers, and you cut the route and take the other player's gold.

The other arcade sequences include capturing an enemy fort - which is similar to taking the train - and battles. During a conflict, the player has direct control over one of three types of unit: control between the units is simply switched by hitting a key. You must try to wipe out the enemy, before they do the same to you.

All the arcade sequences can be turned off at the start of the game if you wish to play the strategy game, and the outcome of battles and the rest is decided on the size of the forces and the competence of the leader.

There are several difficulty levels in the game, to suit most players' abilities; for example, starting the game in the year 1864 as opposed to the default 1861 gives the south a distinct disadvantage. You could also have Indian and Mexican intruders who get upset when there is too much commotion coming from their neighbouring territories and so occasionally join in the fray.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Both are great. The cartoon book feel of the game gives it immense appeal and everything is well drawn and animated. The high-quality sound effects do their bit to complement the action.

JUDGEMENT

It is simple stuff, but very enjoyable. The computer opponent is not the world's smartest, so it is not too difficult to beat. Play against a human with the arcade sequences turned on and things becomes a lot more interesting.


North and South logo

Wer schon immer der Meinung war, dass der amerikanische Bürgerkreig völlig falsch geführt wurde, bekommt in Infogrames neuem Strategie-Epos Gelegenheit, die Geschichte neu zu schreiben.

Bereits bei dem blau in blaue gehaltenen Vorspann wird klar, dass dieser Western aus dem Land der Gitanes-Raucher kommen muss - das Spiel ist denn auch an eine französische Comic-Serie angelehnt.

Wahrhaft europäisch dagegen die Anzahl der angebotenen Landessprachen, immerhin fünf stehen zur Auswahl. Aber das Anfangsmenü hat noch mehr zu bieten: Für zwei Spieler konzipiert, kann jede der Parteien menschlich oder aus Blech (Computer) sein. Somit kann man den Rechner auch gegen sich selbst spielen lassen, was natürlich bald langweilig wird, aber zu Studienzwecken durchaus seinen Reiz hat. Den Schwierigkeitsgrad wählt man durch Anklicken der verschiedenen Dienstgrade, die vom einfachen Schützen bis zum General reichen. Weiter bestimmt man das Jahr, in dem man in den Bürgerkrieg einsteigen will, und entscheidet darüber, ob Rothäute, Mexicaner oder das Wetter mitmischen dürfen. Ist das geklärt, muss man noch festlegen, ob die Truppenverstärkung auf dem Seeweg erfolgen soll, und schon kann's losgehen - jedenfalls beinahe, denn vorher wird die getroffene Auswahl schnell vom Kriegsphotographen festgehalten, stilgerecht mit Pulverblitz und in Schwartz/Weiss, versteht sich!

Zu Beginn haben die beide Seiten je zwei Armeen zur verfügung. Vorrangiges Ziel ist es, eine Eisenbahnlinie zu kontrollieren. Damit ermöglicht man Geldtransporte an die Bank, und mit diesem Geld auf dem Konto kann man wiederum die eigenen Truppen verstärken. Das funktioniert naheliegenderweise umso besser, je mehr Bundesstaaten man durch geschickte Truppen-verschiebungen im Hauptschirm in Besitz nimmt. Leider verfolgt der Gegner natürlich dieselben Ansichten, sodass kriegerische Auseinandersetzungen im wahrsten Sinn des Wortes vorprogrammiert sind. Diese Kampfszenen orientieren sich ganz an den historischen Vorbildern, es wird also fleissig mit Kanonen über den Fluss geschossen, bis der Joystick qualmt. Dabei können plötzlich feindliche Indianerstämme auf dem Kriegspad auftauchen, oder ein schweres Unwetter zwingt die eigene Streitmacht zum Rückzug.

Die Actionszenen, insbesondere das Erobern eines Forts oder das Kapern eines Zuges, sind besonders gut gelungen und zudem nicht leicht zu bewältigen. Während des ganzen Spiels kann jederzeit zwichen Action und Strategie umgeschaltet werden, Sieger ist, wer als Letzter übrigbleibt - logo!

Schon der oben erwähnte Vorspann kann durch Witz, tolle Grafik und fetzigen Sound überzeugen, im Spiel setzt sich der Genuss ungebrochen fort. Da auch das Gameplay kaum Wünsche offen und Langeweile gar nicht erst aufkommen lässt, muss North & South als ganz heisser Tip für kalte Winterabende gehandelt werden! (wh)


North and South logo

Infogrames
Price: £24.99

The American Civil War started in April 1861 when the southern - or Confederate - states decided to withdraw from the union with the northern - or Yankee - states in protest over the abolition of slavery. Eight years of bloody battle followed. More recently, however, the TV miniseries North and South has gone down a bomb in France (as 'Les Blues et Les Gris') and I have a sneaking suspicion that Infogrames' game has been more than a little inspired by it.

North and South gives you the opportunity to relive in a wildly comical way the infamous interstate battles between the Union and the Confederates.

The main game is a map of the USA, divided up into two dozen large areas. Each of these areas can be one of four types: empty, Confederate owned, Union owned or occupied. Running through the map is a railway line with four stations. Dotted around the map at the start of the game are two Confederate armies and two Union armies. The idea of the game, like 'Risk' is to capture al the states on the map, or alternatively kill all the enemy soldiers on the map.

The game works in turns. At the start of a turn, all your occupied spaces flash. You can move all the troops in each occupied state, one space in any direction. If you try to move into occupied territory, you then have to do battle with the enemy.

As you move around occupying land, there are one or two things you must remember to do. Firstly, if you capture all the states between two stations on the railway line, the train will come along, carrying gold from station to station. With that gold you can buy new armies to replace all the old tired ones.

Also, there are one or two special locations op the map. When your opponent gets the train rolling, look where the train stops. That is his fortress. Raid it for lots of money. The state in the top left-hand corner is Indian country. Hang around there too long and those Injuns get annoyed and throw a hatchet in your direction. On the right-hand screen, about halfway up, is a boarding point. Every two turns, a boat rolls up the river and drops an army off at that point.

There is more than one way of playing North and South. On the surface you can play it as either a straight strategy game or an arcade game with strategy elements.
The strategy game is just a very simple game of Risk. All battles are decided by who has the largest army and all other events are determined by the computer. In the action game you are responsible for all battles, castle raids and train robberies. This is where the game comes into its own.
The battles are brilliant. You are shown a distant view of the battle and from this view you can control foot soldiers, mounted horsemen and artillery.

Both the fortress raid and the train robbery are played in the same way. Race at incredibly high speed along a scrolling play area leaping boxes and other obstacles, and punching, kicking or knifing guards away. All of these, including the battle, are done with the same degree of humour that really makes the game.

The graphics are of a very high standard, as is the soundtrack, and that is what makes the game an instant hit. However, I am sorry to say that the fun is a little short-lived. For some reason, the computer is very, very easy to beat. Rather than having any artificial intelligence, it seems to follow the same pattern of moves every game. Aren't strategy games the ones that are supposed to keep you going for years?


North and South logo

Infogrames/ST & Amiga/£24.99

Amiga reviewSean: Now before you get confused, let me just explain something. North And South is the British version of a French game based on a Belgian comic about the American Civil War. Everybody got that? Good. Now let's begin, but first, for all those of you dismayed at the thought of one of those strange strategy games that people with beards and letters after their name find so appealing, fear not. It isn't one of those games. Um, well it is, but not of if you don't want it to be. (Eh? Ed.)

Firstly, as it's based on the American Civil War, it can be played as a fairly straightforward but prettily presented strategy game. Moving your forces around the map, you must defeat the enemy, and victory is largely dependent upon protecting your rail network and the ports. Random elements can be integrated into the game, such as rainstorms (these prevent battalions from moving) and the arrival of boats at the port carrying soldiers (whose soldiers depends upon who is occupying the port at the time).

In addition, it can be played as a strategy game where victory depends on you defeating the enemy in various arcade sections. There are three of these, the first and most important being the battlefield sequence, in which you must fight the opposition. Obvious, really. In the next one, you get the chance to steal money from the enemy trains, by boarding at the back and working your way to the front.

Finally, there's a section where you must capture the opposition's fort. This is a race against the clock to reach the flagpole. Between you and victory stand enemy soldiers, booby traps, broken paths and dogs who attack you. Eeeek!

The one thing everyone in the ZERO office said about North And South was 'Cor... Dunnit look good' and there's no doubt that it's an incredibly slick game. From start to finish, the cartoony graphics and animation are brilliant. Even the opening sequence, where the options are set, is inventively designed and superbly presented. The sound is likewise unusual, but excellent, and perfectly complements the cartoony graphics. The arcade sequences are impressively presented and great fun, if a little difficult, and do actually play pretty well. North And South has also got some very original and very funny sound effects. For instance, you start the game by poking your cursor at a cameraman's derriere.

All in all, a pretty good mix of arcade sequences and strategy. I doubt if it will appeal to hardened strategists, but it does introduce an element of planning and organisation for those who are normally rabid joystick wagglers. However, I'm not sure that it will stay in many people's drives for long, as it seemed fairly straightforward after a while. Still, it's really good fun and well worth a look, but give it the once-over before you buy.


North and South logo Zzap! Sizzler

Infogrames, Amiga £24.95

The American Civil War - a time of hardship for the USA as brother fought brother in the main title fight of the 19th Century, Confederate versus Union, North versus South.

The great battle is played over the whole of North America with Blues in the North corner and the Greys in the South corner. Choose the year that you want to start the game (1861-1864) and the skill level of the side you want to play (Corporal, Sergeant or Captain). The year of the battle dictates the situation for both sides (with the Union obviously getting a better deal towards the end of the war).

North and South is based around the idea of gaining land. Put the cursor on a unit you want to move and info flashes up showing how many soldiers, cavalrymen and cannons it has. If it's one of yours press fire and the states it can move to flash. The more land you control the more money you earn - fill up your safe and you get a bonus unit.

To collect your money you need control of at least two railway stations for the train to run between. Gaining more stations to earn more money, as well as destroying your enemy's money making is a prime objective. To take a station move a unit onto it. If it's already occupied the scene switches to inside the station. A brave 'volunteer' runs across the courtyard dodging dogs, leaping over dynamite and fighting the defenders. Beat all this AND the timer and you gain control of the fortress station.

But if that proves too difficult you might try a bit of robbery. If you've got a unit in one of the states the enemy train runs through you might have an opportunity to board it. If you do your man is shown standing beside railway track; jump onto a carriage then run forward, leaping the gaps and dodging the enemy soldiers. Get to the engine and you might steal enough cash to get another unit. Another way of getting money is to control the port in Virginia, where ships come, leaving a very handy combat unit.

All this is great fun but to get anywhere, plenty of men are needed for the combat scenes. When two armies meet it's off to battle with cavalry and cannons towing along behind. Best to use the cannon to soften up the enemy and send in the cavalry to mop up any survivors. Watch out for rifle toting troops - they're good shots. If you don't want arcade combat, the strategy mode fights the battle automatically.


Robin Hogg Wargames are my sort of thing and while North and South won't see SSI quaking in their combat boots it's certainly a thousand times more fun to play. The option screen is a joy to play around with, as switching on different options is accompanied by little effects and sounds. What's more the in-game presentation is superb with humorous graphic effects popping up all over the place. The strategy may be a little shallow but with three skill levels per side, four scenarios, and numerous other factors to select there are plenty of options to keep arcade fans and strategists busy.
Stuart Wynne This really is a gem of a game. The sheer variety of gameplay, the many excellent details, like the photographer taking a picture when all the options have been set: it all adds up to an utterly irresistible package. The basic mix of strategy and arcade action is excellent, and to add spice you can turn on options for Virginia Port and Indian attacks. In truth the strategy may not be that complex, but the great arcade sections and wealth of options should make this a prized part of your software collection.