Unreal logo

UBI SOFT £24.95 * Mouse

Hack, slash, slaughter, slay. In this ever-changing world, if there is one thing you can rely on it is an endless stream of sword-wielding arcade fantasies. Unreal is one such outing, but with the promise of eight lvels, both 2D and 3D graphics and interactive music it could be a cut above your average hack-em-up.

First, though, the plot. Your name is Artaban, and you live in peace with your beloved, Isolde, your people and a friendly copper dragon called Dracus. Then one day Isolde is captured by the Master of Darkness, Polymorph, and whisked off to his castle lair, where he insists that she marries him. News of the wedding gets out, Dracus is horrified, tells Artabun, and the two zoom off to rescue the fair maiden.

The game's eight levels divide into three 2D ones and five 3D ones. Now the promise of 3D action sounds good and, indeed, the first level is one of the 3D ones. It is basically a prehistoric Afterburner, with the dragon sprite flying into a screen populated by trees, prehistoric monsters and rock outcrops, which sap your shield's energy, and power-up crystals, which give you extra weapons or short-term invulnerability.

Play for a minute and you will think even the first level is impossible: play for ten and you will be defeating it every time with your joystick on autofire and your feet up.

Level Two is where it starts to get interesting. It might ony be 2D but it is inifintely better than Level One. Here you embark on a sideways-scrolling hack-em-up with lots of puzzles to sort out and some truly dazzling graphics. The same general principle applies - you have a shield which absorbs hits for just so long. When its energy gets to zero you are dead and it is game over time again.

UbiSoft have wisely built in a Save Game option, but laoding a game actually dumps you into a special training mode where you can progress through the game but do not actually amass any points. The very same training mode is offered when you lose your one and only life, so you can get to see what you have missed, but if you want to properly complete the game, you have to do it all in one sitting. Grrr...

After Level Two it is back to a 3D dragon-borne blast and then another 2D plod, this time through an arctic wasteland. Then it is back to the dragon... and so on. If it is all starting to sound a bit thin, it is made up for the sheer size of the thing and the range of opponents and puzzles along the way.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

In the dragon-borne stages the graphics are not good, but in the hacking stages they are frequently stunning. The attacking beasties are not always as convincingly-animated as they might be, but the landscape detail and effects are very good. The sound is a real mixed bag. Owners of half-meg machines just get a series of soundtracks which, apart from a rather nice title tune, are a cross between Jean Michel Jarre on a bad day and Stock Aitken Waterman on a worse one. If you have a 1Mb machine, though you get sound effects too. On the dragons stages these are naff, on the hacking stages they are quite superb.

LASTING INTEREST

It is all a bit frustrating, what with tedious dragon-piloting to get through and only one life between you and a complete restart, but the graphics, sound effects (if you have got the hardware) and puzzles on the hacking stages will keep you playing. You will rescue Isolde even if it takes you every night for a month (and probably will).

JUDGEMENT

You do not often get a game showing such a variety of standards in its different sections. The 3D dragon-flying parts make up five of the eight stages, but about one per cent of the game's fun factor. The real game is in the hack-em-up stages, but even here it takes a 1Mb machine to handle the sound effects. Players with more between their ears than the average psychotic will find the puzzles a welcome relief from the charnel-house style of most hack-em-ups.

All in all, a game of two halves. The dragon stages are graphically grim, tedious and undemanding. The hacking stages are often graphically breathtaking, challenging and addictive. This is one you will both love and hate.



Unreal logo Amiga Joker Hit

Wenn es nötig ist, extra nach Paris zu fliegen um ein brandheißes Testmuster für Euch zu ergattern, dann machen wir das halt. Und Ubi Softs Geniestreich von einem Action-Game war die Reise allemal wert: Drei Disketten, vollgepackt mit fantastischen Grafiken, trickfilmreifen Animationen und irrwitzigen Sounds demonstrieren die Fähigkeiten unserer "Freundin" wahrlich eindrucksvoll!

Ehe wir zur großen Lobeshymne schreiten, bekommt erstmal der Dichter der Hintergrundgeschichte einen dicken Rüffel: Die Story um ein liebreizendes Mädel, das von einem finsteren Obermiesling entführt und im Verlies seines düsteren Schlosses eingekerkert wurde, hängt wohl nicht nur uns schön langsam zum Hals heraus!

Gerade bei einem so perfekt gestylten Game wie Unreal ist ein derart stupides Blabla nicht nur unwürdig, sondern schon fast ein Verbrechen! Schwamm drüber, kommen wir zu Versöhnlicherm:

Schon der erste Blick auf den Vorspann sorgt für ein entzücktes "oohh". Über einem Lavastrom formieren sich hübsche Ray Tracing-Kugeln zum Titelschriftzug, während der Amiga eine fetzige Melodie samt hörenswertem Windrauschen erklingen läßt. Bereits hier gilt: Wer den Sound in seiner ganzen Pracht genießen möchte, muß zumindest über 1MB Speicher verfügen.

Jetzt ein Druck auf's Feuerknöpfchen, und man darf im ersten Level weiterstaunen - ein furioser Drachenritt in unglaublich schneller 3D-Grafik ist angesagt. Während man versucht, das hübsch animierte Flugvieh an Felsen, Bäumen und Sträuchern vorbei zu bugsieren, ohne an einem der zahlreichen Hindernisse hängen zu bleiben, müssen noch haufenweise wilde Tiere (z.B. Eisbären und Mammuts) per Feueratem aus dem Weg gepustet werden.

Auf dem dahinrasenden Untergrund liegen vereinzelt goldene Dreiecke herum, die man einsammeln sollte, um seinen Flattervogel mit mehr Feuerkraft auszurüsten. Eine dunkle Grotte markiert das Ende des ersten Levels. Bis hierher ist die Sache noch ein Kinderspiel, selbst der ungeschickteste Action-Muffel dürfte diesen Ausflug halbwegs unbeschadet überstehen.

Dennoch sollte man sich Mühe geben, soviele Punkte wie nur irgend möglich einzuheimsen, denn die dienen als Energieeinheiten für den nächsten Abschnitt!

Nun geht es zweidimensional weiter, das Helden-Sprite muß sich seinen Weg von links nach rechts über den Screen bahnen. Das Böse lauert bekanntlich immer und überall; hier in Form von Vögeln, die mit Feuer-Eiern angreifen, riesigen Gottesanbeterinnen, bissigen Tigern, fleischfressenden Pflanzen und unheimlichen Seeschlangen. Zudem scheint sich auch die Natur gegen unseren Helden verschworen zu haben: Nur allzu oft schießen Speeren aus dem Waldboden, es fallen Felsbrocken von oben herab, und tückische Teiche können nur überquert werden, indem man auf schwimmende Baumstämme hüpft. Wer hier überleben will, muß punktgenau (und im exakt richtigen Moment!) über Hindernisse springen und seine Haut wacker mit dem Schwert verteidigen.

Die 2D-Level des Spiels erinnern in ihrer aufwendigen Gestaltung an "Shadow of the Beast", geben sich spielerisch aber anspruchsvoller; Eine brennende Brücke kann beispielsweise erst dann passiert werden, wenn man zuvor Holzkugeln mit dem Schwert zerkleinert und Wasserblasen aufgesammelt hat. Nur so läßt sich das Feuer löschen, so daß man unbeschadet über die Brücke kommt.

Ist auch der zweite Level geschafft, flattert man wieder mit dem Drachen weiter; diesmal aber über eine Flußlandschaft, 3D- und 2D-Level lösen einander weiterhin mit wechselnder Thematik ab (Lava, Schnee & Eis, etc.), bis einen der Flugsaurier schließlich in der siebten Spielstufe zum Schloß des Kidnappers trägt. Dort angekommen wartet das große Finale, wo eine ganze Horde von Widersachern gekillt werden muß, ehe letztendlich die Dame des Herzens wieder befreit ist. Bis einem die Angebetete freudestrahlend entgegenläuft und mit feuchten Augen einen Kuß auf den Mund drückt, vergehen allerdings viele spannende Stunden vor dem Monitor!

Aufregend, fesselnd, technisch brillant - all diese Superlative sind eigentlich schon fast zu abgenutzt, um sie auf Unreal anzuwenden: Das Spiel verbindet auf wunderschöne Weise solide Spielbarkeit (prima Steuerung, gute Kollisionsabfrage, langsame ansteigender Schwierigkeitsgrad) mit ausgefuchster Präsentation. Die Grafik ist eine Augenweide, das Scrolling herrlich sanft, und der Sound zählt zum Besten, was man je aus einer Monitor-Box vernommen hat. Es gibt da ein paar jazzig-bluesige Musikstücke, die würde ich mir glatt auf Platte kaufen! Bei so viel perfektion lassen sich die wenigen Schnitzer, die es zu finden gibt, klaglos wegstecken.

Also, rein der Form halber: In den 2D-Leveln hüpft unsinnigerweise der Mond mit, wenn die Spielfigur springt, außerdem wird alle paar Bilder nachgeladen (ist aber bei der Grafikmenge kein Wunder...). naja, kann man wirklich drüber wegsehen. Vergessen wir auch die flache Hintergrundstory und freuen uns stattdessen an einem Game, das für das Action-Genre neue Maßstäbe setzen wird! (C. Borgmeier)



Unreal logo CU Screen Star

UBISOFT
PRICE: £24.99

Press shots for Unreal have been whizzing round the news scene for the past ten months but little has been seen of the game itself.
It has one of those smoochy boyfriend-rescues-girlfriend plots, this time set in the chaotic world of Unreal. The girl has been kidnapped by an evil guardian, who's holding her prisoner for his master. Lover boy, Isolde, sets off with his dragon buddy to rescue the old girl from the clutches of evil.

Throwing a dragon into the plot obviously opens up several possible gameplay options. In the case of Unreal it's 3D flight sections, which account for two thirds of the game, with sideways scrolling stages making up the rest. That's an interesting mix of game styles: previous games which have attempted such a mix have been less than successful.

The flight sections are pure arcade action. The graphics are designed in the same style as Afterburner and Galaxy Force, though their execution is far superior. Each level is different, ranging from prehistoric swamps populated by dinosaurs to lava valleys filled with flaming geysers. One drawback is the speed of the dragon. It flies fast and its speed cannot be altered, so you need good reflexes. Arrows appear in the centre of the screen indicating the best direction for your dragon to take.

My only gripe with the 3D stages is their length, they drag on a bit too long, throwing up the same hazards again and again. Still, they're good fun to play and make for an interesting mix of game styles.

The 2D sections are completely different. Now you get a mix of arcade and puzzles. A lot of the time the difficulty comes from timing jumps and attacks on some of Unreal's less sociable inhabitants. Cracking the puzzles is just a matter of keeping your eyes open for anything which looks out of the ordinary such as gravity defying rocks which require a swipe from your sword to activate them.

What really stands out are the graphics. The design and use of colour is fantastic as are some of the effects like the fire and snow flurries. All this is couple with neat sampled sound which take the atmosphere of the game one step further.

Both of the game's styles could stand alone as above average products; together they make a great game. The graphics and sound are typically French. Drawbacks include a slight over-use of the 3D dragon section and some testing jumps in the 2D section. Apart from these minor quibbles the rest of the game is fantastic.

I heartily suggest a trip to your local softshop to purchase this sword and sorcery extravaganza.



Unreal logo Zero Hero

Swedes, eh? They're a funny old bunch. All those hurdy-gurdies, saunas and Volvos, not to mention pine furniture and Abba... Sorry, we got fed up with saying how weird the French are - and speaking of which, here's David WIlson's review of the latest from UbiSoft, the rather special Unreal.

Hello there, I'm Terry Wogan and welcome to the Euro-Computing Crap Scenario contest. Here's the French entry, it's called 'The scenario to Unreal' and it's by UbiSoft...

A long time ago (according to UbiSoft) the 'Mighty Sleeper' sent his faithful lackey Fragor to create new life on a planet with the unlikely name 'Unreal'. Pausing only to pack a change of clothes, some life-giving eggs (salmonella free), the four elements (fire, earth water and air) and two guardians to preserve the balance between good and evil, Fragor set off.

Unfortunately however, he was a bit of a crap driver (driving on the right, you see) and collided with a comet. In the resulting explosion, chaos settled on the planet. The two guardians fought (free from Fragor's control) and transformed themselves into elements.

Meanwhile, in a peaceful lost valley, unbeknownst to the corrupt guardians, one egg fell. Now , how an egg survives a collision with a 'gigantic comet', a 'resulting explosion', a fall through an atmosphere and the subsequent drop of several hundred kilometres is beyond me... but never mind.

From this, our hero Artaban (a long blonde-haired, wall-to-wall muscle bloke in a loin cloth) was born and also 'his other half' Isolde. The young couple grew up together in the valley (a bit like The Blue Lagoon really) and befriended a copper dragon. The dragon took to visiting them everyday, until (in a classic reversal of the Puff The Magic Dragon scenario) one day er... he didn't.

In the frantic search for their pal, Isolde climbs the highest mountain and shouts her head off for three days. Her calls don't go unnoticed (except by the dragon) and she is captured and taken to the Evil Guardian. Inevitably, the villain falls in love. So what does he do? Does he ravish her, then nuke the lovely valley? Does he shack up or slay her? No, he's far too evil for any of these options.

Amiga reviewDavid: Before I launch into my opinion of Unreal, I think we should pause for a moment to lap up the beauty of the screen shots... Lovely aren't they? But wait until you see them moving. The parallax scrolling in the 2D sections is smooth and convincing. Jump up and the screen scrolls up, exposing more of the sky and the moons of Unreal. There's rain, snow and even the odd blizzard. The sound is very convincing too, and when everything combines - if you're caught in a blizzard, you'll not only see and hear it but you'll even have to wrestle with the joystick to avoid being blow backwards(!) - Unreal really comes into its own.

Okay, so it looks beautiful, but how does it play? Well, again it comes up trumps. The game is divided into two different alternating sections - a pseudo 3D scroll-into-the-screen shoot/avoid 'em up along the lines of Afterburner (erm... vaguely) and a 2D view-from-the-side horizontally beat 'em up. In the former, you control the copper dragon in its journey to the airborne castle of the Dark Lord. The graphics are very colourful with huge animated monsters to shoot and avoid - but fast and playable through the five 3D sections may be, they pale into insignificance beside the four 2D sections.

These take the form of an arcade adventure with a large puzzle-solving element as well as the obligatory bags of baddie bashing. Some of the puzzles and pitfalls are pitched at quite a high level, so it's a good job that there's a save game feature. There are bits where you'll need to find something in the scenery in order to progress, sometimes retracing your steps to adjust your path ahead (trying not to give anything away here) but apart from this, the hardest bit I encountered was trying to cross moving logs and slippery ice floes. It really is impressive when your sprite interacts with the ice. Not only do you have to time your jumps perfectly, but you also have to 'balance' to avoid tipping up the ice!

There is a price to pay for all this and this comes down to three disks (on Amiga only!) and slight accessing between each screen. Still, to their credit, the Ubi's have minimised the amount of mid-game disks swopping (and if you're lucky enough to have two drives, there's none at all). Unreal is a state-of-the-art treatment of a tried and tested formula - yet full of original twists. If you liked Shadow of the Beast you'll love Unreal.Stop


TIGER HEAT
Unreal

Unreal is here. After the fat preview in last month's issue, the finished game has finally arrived, and pretty impressive it looks too.

  1. The condition of 'The changing sword'. It's charged with fire at the moment but it'll need recharging. Conversely, it can also collect water shots for extinguishing fire.
  2. A bonus crystal.
  3. A long haired poof in a loin cloth... er... sorry, you.
  4. This tiger's called Norman Hunter. He bites your legs!!


Unreal logo

UBI Soft, Amiga £29.99

Unreal was once a barren planet. But then the Sleeper awoke long enough to send a servant to create life there. The necessary ingredients were life-giving eggs, the four elements (water, air, earth, fire) and two guardians to maintain the balance between good and evil. Unfortunately, the servant was killed by a meteor and his possessions scattered, bringing chaos. The guardians soon become all powerful, controlling everything from dinosaurs to the smallest bee. The only exception was life in an isolate valley where a life egg fell which the guardians missed.

It was here that Isolde and Artaban were born. As they grow up they met a friendly dragon. But one day the servant of a guardian was here. He took Isolde to his master, who was instantly captivated by her beauty. Isolde agreed to marry him to save the valley.

But Artaban, after arming himself with the 'changing sword' (which can shoot fire or water if dipped in these elements), climbed onto the dragon and set off to rescue Isolde.

The game has eight levels: five have Artaban riding the dragon in a super-fast 3-D arcade game. Three are horizontally scrolling arcade adventures. Level one is 3-D with the dragon zooming though a forest packed with trees, bridges to fly under, huge dinosaurs and swooping bats. Pressing fire will destroy many of the creatures, useful when you dive down to pick up bonus objects, shields and improved firepower. Points are vital since they contribute to energy. Lose a lot of energy and you pause as if you'd lost a life. If you lose all energy you can continue in 'training mode' where no points are scored.

If you survive this level Artaban gets off the dragon, draws his sword and gets into arcade adventuring. The objective is simply to get to the end of massive horizontal-scrolling level. But it's far from easy. This forest is inhabited by sabre-tooth tigers, fire-spitting plants and much more besides. Simply hack 'n' slaying isn't enough. There's magical walkways which fall from air, form and then disappear. There's flaming logs which must be put out, vines to swing on and moving logs to cross rivers on.

Subsequent levels include a snowy wasteland (with wind which pushes you backwards) and a superb rotating castle which sends out zillions of dragons -the final confrontation takes place inside.


Phil King This is a quality product which uses the Amiga to the full. The horizontally scrolling stages are reminiscent of Shadow of the Beast but I found the graphics more attractive in their subtlety while the gameplay is more varied with plenty of simple puzzles to solve. The 3-D levels are very impressive technically with their incredibly high speed, though the simple blast-it-all action gets a bit repetitive after a while. Still, Unreal is a superb package, good value for money.
Scorelord Unreal is obviously designed to outdo Shadow of the Beast as a superlative demonstration of the Amiga's graphics and sonics. In this it succeeds brilliantly. The arcade-adventure levels have superb graphics, full of detail and imagination. The huge palette of colours, smooth scrolling and speed at which large creatures are whizzed about are something only an Amiga could do. Plenty of thought has gone into it, as is shown by the way the floating dip when you land on them. Gameplay is tough, but very satisfying. The mini-stages making up the huge levels all contain puzzles, usually fairly simple though some are quite nasty.
3-D sections feature some superb background graphics, with numerous levels of parallax scrolling working flawlessly. The actual graphics of obstacles and enemy creatures are a bit blocky close-up, but they're huge, fast-moving and imaginative. Playing it gives a real arcade feel.