Impressions used to be a fun little software house, who released spiffy little arcade titles alongside more serious strategy games. These days, however, they have become committed to releasing the best in Amiga strategy titles, a standard they have yet to full achieve.
Although they all look wildly different, strategy games really fall into two categories. Large scale, whereby an experienced player gets to try their hand at some complicated international battles, or small scale, where the objective is local, and played more or less man for man and is generally far more manageable for the general player.
Samurai falls into the latter and casts the player as a Japanese lord, and ruler of half an island. Your ambition is to conquer the entire island, and to do this you must go against another lord, who just happens to want the same thing.
HAVE A CROSE ROOK
The game is played on two levels. The first depicts a large map of the island, where most of the overall strategies are carried out. From here, your five cities can be viewed, as can your opponents. In addition, any mobile armies you or he may have roaming about can be located and watched, too.
Clicking on the cities reveals details on how much money that particular city has, and how many soldiers are in your army - and the more money each city has, the more soldiers you can afford. This part of the game is played in turns, and here lies the first real fault with the game. Although this is an extremely important part of the program, and is integral to your continued survival, there is almost nothing to do once your armies have been created. There's something mind-boggingly tedious moving about five squares for twenty minutes.
The second level comes into play whenever two armies come into contact, whether it's through two mobile armies meeting or an army attacking a city. A close up, semi-overhead view of the battle is given, leaving you to issue orders to individual members of your army or as groups.
After that, you sit and watch the battle unfold in true Impressions style (remember Rorke's Drift? This is virtually identical). All commands are issued from a small group of icons in the bottom right of the screen, and include such classics as retreat or surrender, and move units.
The problem is, nowhere in the confusing manual does it tell you which is which. There is an illustration of the icons, and a list of commands, but their order seems to have no correlation, and I found myself doing nothing more than examining an enemy tree when I was actually trying to fire an arrow. After ten minutes of such trial and error, I managed to work it out. It isn't an overly important aspect but it does make initial play more frustrating than is necessary.
Playing Samurai, I found myself getting bored rather quickly. There's no real tension and the simple game system indicates how the battle finishes before you start. Thus, most of the time combat is simply a case of watching a screen with very few men on it for five minutes.
Whilst on the subject of little men, the graphics are actually quite good for the most part. There are stacks of Eastern stills which pop up whenever something important is happening. Sadly, though, the sprites look a little cute and, as a result, out of place in the hardened battle scenarios.
The biggest problem Samurai has is that it's a very simple game laid out in an overcomplicated way. There is nothing new here, and what there is has been done a million times better before. It's by no means terrible, just very bog standard in design, and only just saved from mediocrity by some attractive presentation.