Amiga owners have had a long wait to get a true 3D platform game. While the console market has had the likes of Mario 64, Spiro the Dragon and Croc, the Amiga scene has remained starved of such characters. Darkage Software saw the gap in the market and have spent years of hard work crafting Tales from Heaven.
What's really quite remarkable is that this game will run on an AGA Amiga, and doesn't require a great deal of processing power. There are two versions of the game on the CD, so if you've got a Retargetable Graphics board, you will be able to use its power to make the game run more smoothly.
However, while I'm immensely impressed that Darkage have managed to provide a perfectly playable game that will run on a A1200 (thus making it accessible to a greater number of people) I've found myself thinking that they should have made this a CGX (and possibly PPC) only game. Why? Well, I'll go into that later.
ZAAC AND HIS CAT
Tales from Heaven First of all, what's the game all about? You control this little boy by the name of Zaac, who's lost his poor little kitten. There's a daft plot concerning how said moggie got to be wearing an ignition key for a super-weapon around his neck and was consequently swiped by weird aliens who are involved in a war.
None of this, however, has any real bearing on the game, the objective of which is pretty simple throughout; you have to collect a key in each level and the go through a door to progress to the next.
There are four worlds with four levels in each. Sixteen levels seems a bit stingy, especially when you consider how many you'd get on a console title (this might seem an unfair comparison, but the blurb does call this the first Mario 64 clone for the Amiga).
To get to the key, you may have to jump on moving platforms or blow a baddy who is carrying the key. All the action takes place on floating platforms. If Zaac walks off the edge, it's curtains, likewise if he comes into contact with any of the aliens (wasps, dragonflies, spiders and a giant end-of-world grasshopper) in the first world and toys (spinning tops, aeroplanes, tanks) in the second world.
You can attack these aliens using bombs. Drop a bomb, run away and in three seconds it'll blow up, hopefully taking the enemy with it. It's hard to judge when and where to place the bombs, especially with the spinning tops, so most of the time it's easier to simply avoid the enemy.
The gameplay is standard fare, but lacks variety. As far as I've discovered there are no power-ups and, unlike other platform heroes, Zaac can't swim, fly or shoot. It's fairly challenging in places though, and I enjoyed playing for hours on end, though I've always had a soft spot for platformers, so I'm a bit biased.
STOP THE MUSIC
But while the gameplay is a strong point, the presentation lets this game down. The levels I've encountered so far (up to level eight) are all rather bland and all the polygons are very simple. I found the music too irritating to listen for more than a few seconds and there are only a very few (uninspiring) sound effects.
On an AGA machine, the graphics are drawn very slowly and there is an abundance of pop-up. The CGX version runs more smoothly with the draw time speeded up, but the polygons are no more complex and the game isn't any more attractive or colourful. If you're playing on a low-spec machine you can turn off the background and use lo-res mode, which speeds up the game considerably.
While I'm griping, I shouldn't miss out the appalling save-game system, which is the reason I only reached level eight. The game auto-saves every time you finish a level, which in itself isn't too bad, but if you accidentally begin a new game (easily done) your one saved game will be overwritten and you have to play right from the beginning.
I believe it's an archievement to get the thing working on such a low-spec machine, but the lack of polish, the poor sound effects, the lack of levels and variety really let this game down.
It's playable and reasonably addictive, but don't expect to be amazed -even if you're running it with a fast processor and Retargetable Graphics card.