Trapped 2: Reincarnation of the Demons logo CU Amiga Superstar

Price: £19.95 plus £1 p&p Publisher: Weird Science 0116 2463800

The first Trapped stunned everyone with its 3D effects but the gameplay just didn't quite work. Trapped 2 is even more graphically impressive - but has the game got better too?

B

Before I go any further, let me make a quick point about the graphic engine. It's incredible. It's not quite up to the standard of ID's Quake or Interplay's Descent 2's engine, but then you'll tend to see these running on dedicated graphics hardware and high powered CPUs. The Trapped 2 engine can do an awful lot of what these engines do, and what's more it will run rather nicely on even a medium powered Amiga.

The concept behind Trapped 2 is an interesting one. New Generation software have taken a formula which was getting rather stale and tried to give it an entirely new challenge. The world is full of 'Doom clones', first person shoot 'em ups, and frankly it's beginning to get a little boring.

Trapped grafted the Doom concept onto an RPG to make something with a bit more depth. The problem with Trapped 1 was that the impressive game engine just wasn't matched by the game play.

There wasn't enough of a depth of challenge to the game, with too few puzzles and fights in too many corridors. Fine for showing off the clever lens flare techniques but not good for long term appeal. The monsters really looked like they had been tacked on as an afterthought: flat and badly drawn sprites which seems to have no spirit for the fight.

Anyone who has looked at the demo of Trapped 2 on the Aminet and on our cover CD a few months ago will know that Trapped 2 has been a real step up graphically, but what is important for a game rather than a demo is whether the gameplay aspects have improved as well. Fortunately they have.

The game is set in a fantasy realm of the type that keeps the trilogy merchants in beer and peanuts. You are, as you might expect, on a quest.

The story explains that "about two generations ago" your grandfather beat the demon Tarnak by locating the wheel of Talmar. Unfortunately the Demon escaped, killed lots of people and scared everyone away from the town of Kaldrion. You have to get into the place of Kaldrion and kick this demon back to hell, but you will need to locate his eyes before you can get into the palace.

I'd have thought he would keep his eyes inside his head, but some people have funny tastes. If the story sounds painful, be assured that English translation is worth the read. Fortunately all you have to know to play the game is that you want to get to this palace place to kill this monster and you'll need to find these eye things on the way.

Making your way around, you will find yourself coming across nasties rather more frequently than you did in Trapped 1. You can fight them with an assortment of weaponry or with some of your magic. People expecting combat to be like the average first person perspective shoot 'em up will be a little disappointed, as Trapped follows a more RPG approach. Each weapon has a different amount of power, but also a different speed. You won't get an instant response from any of them, a limitation to your fighting ability representing both the weight of the weapon and the level of combat skill your character has achieved.

The concept did not work well in Trapped 1, but for the sequel they have got it right, making combat more of a challenge and less of a bloodbath than similar games. Of course if you get bored of hacking things to death with your sword, you can always cast a spell at them, a ball of fire, perhaps, or an ice storm. Blasting glowing balls down the corridor at your foes, watching walls glow s the fireball passes and seeing your oncoming enemy rocked back by the blast is great fun, but you'll find yourself running out of magical energy rather quickly if you do this too much.

As you explore the mazes, you will find a lot of scrolls and potions. Many of the scrolls give you clues to your quest, while others give you the recipes for spells - for more of these see the box-out.

The potions come in four types, blue for health, red to renew armour, green for strength and yellow for a five second speedup. If life wasn't hard enough, Trapped 2 is littered with puzzles. There are switches a plenty in the game, as you would expect from a Doomy sort of game, but there is a lot more ingenuity and invention than you normally find. Expect to come across strange mechanisms, whirling blades, and traps a plenty as you make your way through the levels. Remember, this is not a game for mindless slashing, this game requires a lot of thought.

The presentation of the game is nicely polished. There are very nice FMV animation sequences, the game starting with a beautifully rendered wander around the inside of some kind of castle chamber decorated with demonic furnishings and coffins.

The music is effectively atmospheric if not stunning and the options screen seems to leave no stone unturned. It's a pity the cover art of the CD is so poor in comparison - a frame from the intro sequence would have done a much better job. The most obvious omission on the presentation side is the lack of a manual. You can get the key codes by hitting 'h' during play for the help keys, but there isn't any sort of printed manual, something I think professional games ought to have.

There is even rather strangely no readme icon to fire up some instructions, although there are some text files on the disc in a docs drawer. I guess most people who buy this game will be reasonably competent with their Amigas, and will no doubt be capable of finding these, but a click to read icon in the root of the disc would have been extremely easy for the author to implement and would have added extra professionalism. I guess this is the result of the demo scene background of the coders, something also displayed in the presence of the benchmark utility which tells you how good your machine is at running Trapped 2.

All in all its sounds pretty good so far, huh? Well there are a few down points that have to be made, and on the whole they are to do with collision detection. Everything in Trapped 2 is proper 3D. The monsters are, the furniture is, even you are. Making this kind of 3D environment totally convincing means a lot of work in getting object position correct in three dimensional space.

You will occasionally find that you get stuck going around some projection that looks as if it is a little distance from you, and objects have a tendency to pass through each other in a slightly ugly way. The most noticeable aspect of this is when you come face to face with one of those 3D monsters.

Combat takes place in a position strangely deep into your field of view. When an enemy lunges forwards, it is usually quite unclear whether they are flailing in your general direction or actually hitting you.

Graphically this isn't actually an easy problem to solve, but I feel making the positions from which monsters can land a blow on you closer to the 'lens' would have been a significant improvement. Your own weaponry is more visible in effect, often causing small spurts of blood, but even here it's often unclear if you're close enough to hit the monsters of you need to be closer.

Balancing positive and negative points is easy. The combination of a stunning doom type engine and a role playing game which works, is a winner. It isn't perfect, but nothing is. It is one of the most original games to come out of an overpopulated genre on any computer, and shows that while there's coders squeezing this kind of performance out of the Amiga, there's still life in yet.


Casting runes

The Magic system in Trapped 2 works very nicely. It is very much along the lines of those in RPGs, but the transfer to a Doom type game comes over very well. You start off with a few spells in your spell book, and will learn more as your journey progresses. Once you know the recipe for a spell, you need only select the appropriate runes to cast it from the spellbook screen, and then when you return to play you need only hit tab to cast it. As well as the old favourites such as healing and fireballs, there are a few projection and levitation which work very nicely in this environment.

The game engine

The first thing you will notice about T2 is that the game engine features a lot of things you will not have seen an Amiga do before. Complex lighting effects were a feature of Trapped one, although they are improved here. More revolutionary is the mip-mapping. This technique is designed to stop texture pixels going all blocky when you approach a wall, something which you would normally expect to see out of a Nintendo 64 or a Voodoo 3DFX. Next Generation have implemented a clever system of pre-rendered mip-mapping which makes up to 24 Mb of texture to keep the blocky pixels away. Add to that texturing and even blurring and you have a pretty sophisticated texture mapping engine. Nutters!

The impressive range of options allows this game to run on anything from an '020 with 1Mb chip, 4 fast and OCS up to a nice meaty Picasso IV and '060/66. Full screen mip-mapped play really calls for an '040 minimum, but drop the size down a little and it is fine on an '030 and AGA. If you must the lot and want it to run on your '030/50 you will find it playable even if you do not have a graphics card, though rather jerky. An '060 with AGA nips along at a very pleasant pace, not dropping below about 10 fps. A graphic card helps things fly, but by keeping the resolution down to 320 by 256 pixels, the data throughput problem with AGA isn't really a problem.