Valhalla And The Lord Of Infinity logo Amiga Computing Bronze Award

An adventure game that talks to you? Tina Hackett wonders if she's going slightly mad as she explores the dingy depths of Valhalla.

INTRODUCTION

A game written in 13 weeks by a company that have never produced a game before sounds like a recipe for disaster. Being new to the scene and writing a game that they claim to be the first ever Amiga speech adventure is certainly an ambitious task for Portsmouth-based Software House, Vulcan.

But - against all odds - the result, Valhalla and the Lord of Infinity, looks to be a very competent and capable attempt indeed.

FLASHBACK

There is little to actually compare this title to. It is unusual in both the graphical style and being a speech adventure. In this aspect it seems to be creating a totally new genre and will lead the way forward.

Other adventures using the "type-in-text" will possibly benefit from using this new speech approach, especially the atmospheric, serious titles - imagine the kind of results possible in something like Beneath a Steel Sky or Darkseed if your main character spoke to you!


 

STORYLINE

The land of Valhalla was a peaceful town ruled by a fair and just King. All was well until his evil brother, wanting to take the throne from him, and started a war in which the King was killed.

His son was taken into exile and the brother ruled. The young Prince has now come of age and wants to avenge his father's death.


 

SOUND

Being the first Amiga speech adventure the game is likely to be judged, in the main, on the quality of the speech samples. However, despite having the excellent and original idea of replacing the usual textual information by the main character talking to you, the novelty does wear off very quickly.

Although he has a wide vocabulary of over 1000 words and his phrases develop over the duration of the game (for example, if you look at a wall he will tell you that it is a wall, but if you're still examining the wall later on he will say "You've seen this before" or "I'm not telling you"), it becomes irritating.

And while at first this is all quite amusing, it starts to come across as patronising rather than funny. His high-pitched tone of voice (strangely reminiscent of a winging Porky Pig) will also grate on your nerves after a while.

Other sound effects, such as the background noises, are very good however, and create the atmosphere well. From rippling streams to pounding footsteps, they are all authentic and would sound at home in any serious adventure title.

65%

 

GRAPHICS

Graphically unusual, Valhalla uses a mixture of styles. While the characters are in a rather light-hearted cartoon style, the backdrops have been created in such a way as to realistically convey the dingy atmosphere of the surroundings.

This works surprisingly well with the cute, nicely-animated sprites contrasting to the realistic backdrops, the overall effect being of an almost cinematic storytelling cartoon.
The limited colours used, with the murky browns and greys, create the setting of the castle well.

However, although the game looks attractive, the overall layout of the screen has been poorly designed with the main action area being obscured by the ornate, but impractical, borders.

67%

 

OPINION58%

Valhalla is one of those strange titles that is hard to really like or dislike. One the one hand the puzzle element has been very well executed, containing logical and unusual puzzles and graphics, while not absolutely stunning, are attractive and create atmosphere.

Where it all does fall down, however, is through the one element that is supposed to be the game's main selling point, the speech! Although it is an excellent idea, the fact it becomes so irritating cannot be forgiven. In some places the words are not easy to make out and have to be listened to a few times.

Another aspect working against it is the clumsy and awkward control of the character. Only being able to move your character in four directions sometimes results in falling down traps. This is a negative aspect because on some levels you cannot see the traps. This problem is resolved by using maps but you do actually have to find them first!

The icon panel is another unnecessarily frustrating part and is quite fiddly trying to click on the icons with the joystick. These are perhaps trivial points but they do hinder what could be really smooth gameplay.

The storyline is revealed through an intro sequence. At first this is quite charming as the little Prince character imparts his tales of woe.
However, this screen, along with the credits, cannot be skipped and every time a new game is accessed this increasingly irritating and long intro has to be watched.

The save game option and the way each level is cleverly contained onto on disk - saving your from tedious disk swapping - does give the game some credence though.

Overall the game is a very proficient attempt, especially when you consider that this is the developer's first effort.
The idea is fresh, the puzzles are fun but unfortunately the longevity is marred by the irritating features. It will certainly set an example for other games of this nature and it's great to see some new ideas coming forward.



Valhalla And The Lord Of Infinity logo

Here is a novelty. The 'first ever Amiga speech adventure' follows the fortunes of a little chap called the Prince of Valhalla who has vowed to wreak his revenge on the evil Lords of Infinity, who have destroyed his father's kingdom.

The action is viewed from a top-down perspective, with the prince looking up to you for guidance and to pass brief details about the objects he sees or collects.

The game features four levels of puzzles, traps and unusual characters, but it is the speech samples which really set the game apart - instead of having reams of text cluttering up the screen, Valhalla actually talks to you in a cutesy voice about everything that happens in the game.

In spite of this initial promise, Valhalla is a pig to play. The basic problem is that virtually all the rooms on each level are filled with unseen traps and even the odd scrap of map cannot save you from frequent inexplicable deaths.

This means you spend more time shuttling between the Load/Save Game screen and the main game area than actually playing the thing itself. Worse, for a speech adventure the game offers precious little in the way of useful information and - along with the frequent deaths and cumbersome controls - leaves you angry, frustrated and utterly bored. Avoid.



Valhalla And The Lord Of Infinity logo

Vulcan Software bringt sich mit einer simplen, aber originellen Neuerung im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes ins Gespräch: Hier beglückt man die Abenteurergemeinde mit dem ersten sprechenden Adventure-Helden!

Mit seinem vor anderthalb Jahren für den PC erschienenen Namensvetter hat dieses Spiel gottlob nur den Titel gemeinsam, hier geht es um Knatsch bei der Thronfolge: Garamond, Valhallas tugendhafter Landesvater in spe, wird vom bösen Bruder Infinity im Geschwisterkrieg getötet, worauf das propere Fantasy-Königreich finsteren Zeiten entgegenblickt - alle Hoffnungen ruhen nun auf dem Spieler in Gestalt von Garamonds Sohn...

Der kleine Prinz (das Heldensprite wirkt tatsächlich wenig heldenhaft, wie es da aus der Froschposition zum Meister vor Monitor aufblickt) wird nun per Joystick durch relativ kleine Bildausschnitte der überwiegend gräulich-grauen Abenteuerlandschaften dirigiert, die sich in Draufsicht präsentieren. Dabei strotzt der Retter der Gegerbten förmlich vor Tatendrang, den er in Form diverser Aktionen über zwei kombinierte Iconleisten am oberen und unteren Screenrand ausleben kann. Und auf den Mund gefallen ist er recht nicht: Jede Tätigkeit wird mittels Digistimmchen nett kommentiert, der Spieler bleibt also bezüglich seiner (Miß-) Erfolge nie im unklaren - egal, ob man nun einen Schlüssel aufklaubt und gleich am nächstbesten Schloß ausprobiert oder eine versteckte Karte entdeckt, stets hat Prinz Naseweis ein Statement abzugeben.

Hat man sich erst mal an die Micky-Maus-Stimme gewöhnt, versteht man die Texte auch recht gut, brauchbare Englischkenntnisse natürlich vorausgesetzt. Und so quatscht bzw. Schlägt sich unser Zwerg also durch vier umfangreiche Levels, in denen es neben allerlei Hebeln und Geheimfächern auch hinterlistig brüchtige Bodenplatten bzw. Fallgruben gibt. Da der Tod somit quasi zum Leben gehört, ist natürlich eine Save-funktion vorhanden, genau wie die genretypischen Items, welche erst gefunden und dann an richtiger Stelle eingesetzt werden müssen. Dabei wird das auf neun plätze begrenzte Inventory leider oft zum Hemmschuh, wenn erst mal ein Gegenstand abgelegt werden muß, um Raum für neue Fundstücke zu schaffen.

Die angemessen schwierigen Rätsel sind zwar meist recht logisch aufgebaut, aber dennoch nicht im Schnellgang lösbar - schon weil der Blaublüter zwar witzig animiert wurde, aber nicht allzu flott über den Screen dackelt.

Schade also, daß die Grafik gar so trist ausgefallen ist, ein paar Farbtupfer mehr hätten hier wahre Wunder bewirkt. Doch letzten Endes vermag auch die an sich lobenswerte und sicher noch ausbaufähige Idee eines "stimmgewaltigen" Helden nicht darüber hinwegzutäuschen, daß Valhalla wenig mehr als ein biederes Actionadventure ist. Alles recht nett und ordentlich, aber meilenweit von genialen Klassikern wie etwa "Cadaver" entfernt... (ms)



Valhalla And The Lord Of Infinity logo

Is this really where all heroic Vikings went? We think not.

Here are just a few short arguments to support the continuation of strict gun control laws in Britain:
1. One out of every three police cars has been adapted to carry firearms. An armed policeman can be on the scene in less than 30 minutes. The general public do not need weapons to defend themselves.
2. Tight control on existing firearms makes it hard for criminal elements to get their hands on untraceable weapons.
3. I was forced to play this game. It is my job. Installing it onto a hard drive was no problem, and I thought it would save me the hassle of swapping the seven disks around. I found that I could not jump past the intro, but there again, you always watch the intro on your first play of a game. You watch a little kid walk onto the screen, his flyway hair bobbing around in an exaggerated manner. He stares up at you (it is a top down adventure throughout, did I mention that?) and starts to talk.

I'M SCARED
He explains that his dad used to be a top king, but his big brother (the unbelievably named Lord of Infinity) took over in a bloody revolt that left the squeaky-clean monarch dead. So now he has come of age and returned from exile to avenge his father's death. Seeing as how he looks remarkably like a certain 'spoilt' character from Viz, and he speaks in an annoyingly pre-pubescent squeak, I found his boasts of maturity to be a tad misleading.

So blah blah badguy, blah blah castle, blah blah quest. It is one of those dungeon romps isn't it? This time, this hook is that (gosh!) the child speaks. "I'm scared", he informs you from time to time, which is a bit crap considering his previous statements about righting wrongs and destroying evil. "It won't fit", he repeats, time after time after time as you wander aimlessly around trying to find something, anything, that the keys will fit. If you see a book and look at it, he informs you: "it's a book." If you see him pick it up, he tells you: "I've got it." No, really?


His dad used to be a top king

GIVE ME BLOOD
You amble through four levels pulling levers, picking up torn pieces of paper that say things like "if you want to survive, you have got to look out for the..." and generally try and find keys that fit the doors, which curiously enough look exactly like barrels. It is barren, it is empty and I did not run into any other living thing all the time I played it.

I'VE GOT IT
All this is irrelevant, because after 20 minutes, you will only be aware of one thing, which is the number of times you die. Have you read Kangaroo Court on the news pages yet? Well do so, because it is all about how crap games are made harder by instant and unavoidable death. In this game, if you move onto the wrong floor tile, you die. It does not wobble and give you a second to jump off or anything, you just die. Now in some levels, the danger areas are obviously marked by cracks or hinge lines, but in others the pits are identical to the solid floor, and seeing as many rooms have only a single safe path through, gameplay is reduced to moving, saving the game, moving, falling your death, reloading the saved game, and so on.

So what is all of this got to do with gun control? Well, the thing is that I love guns. I admire their flawlessly functional lines, their engineering and their power, and if someone stuffed a Browning Hi-Power in my hand right now after I have played this all day, there is a good chance I would go out and do very Bad Things with it. I really am that wound up.



Valhalla And The Lord Of Infinity logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Vulcan Software have created the world's first talking adventure. Tony Dillon discovers that it's just like having your own friend.

Things have changed drastically since the good old days of the Castle Valhalla. Once the land was ruled by a fair king, with his son the Prince by his side. However, not everyone was happy. The King's brother, otherwise known as the Lord Of Infinity wanted the throne, and as time went on, he became more and more obsessed about it, until one day he killed the King and took his place. The young Prince escaped and went into hiding, while the Lord Of Infinity slowly took over the land.

That was then, and this is now as the song goes, and the young Prince has come of age. He has returned to the castle to reclaim his rightful place on the throne. However, he's still only a little fellow, and not the brightest of lads. As a result he needs you to guide him through the rooms of his previous home to stake his claim. A simple plot, and some might even say it's a little twee, but it sets the scene for a ground breaking piece of software because Valhalla is the world's first floppy disk-based talking adventure.

OOOH...
Yes, it might sound a little far fetched, but Valhalla is one hell of a game. Viewed from above rather than via the now traditional Lucasarts side on view, you have to walk the young Prince around the castle, solving logical puzzles in order to open the gate at the end to the next level. On paper that sounds considerably easier than it actually is in practice, but then you'll know that if you've played this month's coverdisk.

Most of the adventure is based upon picking up objects and using them in certain locations, essentially pairing up items to create new ones, which are then used to open doors, reveal traps or just solve other puzzles. The trick to the game is making the connection between objects. Everyone knows that you use a key in a door, but what do you do with the Eye Of The Beholder? Earlier on in the level you will have passed the Water Of Beauty, so it shouldn't be too difficult to work out what to do with the Eye Of The Beholder. (Hint: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...")

YOU LITTLE...
There are only four levels to the castle, but even so this has to be one of the largest adventures ever released. To give you some idea of the sheer size of the levels, the area you can see on screen at any one time is five tiles wide by five tiles deep. The actual map size is around 100 tiles across by a 100 tiles deep! Even if you were only visiting each location once there's still 400 screens per level to visit, and that's even before you've started to do any puzzle solving.

One of the nice things about this game is the fact that, although its huge, you can get straight into it without even glancing at a manual. The controls have been designed so that you spend as little time as possible figuring out how to do something and more time thinking of what to do with an object.

Moving the joystick in one of the four main joystick directions makes the character walk in that direction, and pressing the fire button brings up the very simple menu, containing only five icons. With these you can look at an object, pick up/drop it, use it on the object directly in front of the character and load/save the game. The icons are intelligent enough to work out what you mean when you 'operate' an item, for example if you operate a key and you're in front of a door, it will open the door for you, provided it's the correct key.

If you've already played the coverdisk demo this issue, then you're probably already sold on the idea of an adventure that talks to you. It's such a simple idea, but it works so well. Basically, all Vulcan have done is take out the little text messages you usually get in a game, like "It's a key" and "I can't do that", and replaced them with samples of the main character saying it. Although this shouldn't make really make very much difference to the actual adventure itself, it adds a whole new level of character to the game.

After a while, and I know this sound soppy, but you really get to like the little guy. He really does have his own sense of humour, although he does start to get cocky as the game develops. On the first level, for example, he'll tell you that he's scared whenever he open s a door. On the second level, he'll tell you that he's not really scared. On the third level he'll tell you that he's raring to go, and as for the last level, well I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise.

That said, the end sequence is of the most tear-jerkingly, heart-rending pieces of animation ever seen in a game. But you'll have to get there yourself if you want to know what happens.

BEAUTY
The game comes on six disks. which you might think would create all sorts of problems when running from floppy disk. Not at all, I say. The first two disks contain the entire game, which is loaded and held in memory from the start. The last four disks contain the speech for each level, and are only accessed when some thing is said. All the phrases are quite short, so the lag between selecting an icon and the Prince speaking to you is just under a second. When running from hard drive, the lag is unnoticeable. As the saved game files are saved on the speech disks you don't even swop disks when saving your position!

Although the premise is quite simple, the actual adventure is extremely taxing. After playing it for a week and a half I managed to get through the first level, and the second looks like it will take twice as long. And as for the later levels? Most of the puzzles are logical enough, provided you have all the information to make a logical guess. Very nicely presented, and extremely well written, Valhalla And The Lord Of Infinity is a game that will make Vulcan Software a household name and very rich to boot.


VERY DEEP
To give you some idea of how puzzle-deep the game is, here's the first few puzzles from level one, and the area they are played in. First of all, you are faced with a grill, a carnivore's head, a chest and a locked door. Looking around the room you spy a small hole in the files on the floor. Operating the hole opens it, revealing a chicken leg. If you pick it up and try to feed it to the carnivore, it isn't interested. So you drop it on the grill, at which point It turns brown. Collecting it from the grill, you try it on the carnivore again who accepts it this time and opens the door for you.
And all this happens on an area of the level no bigger than the screen. Not all puzzles are of this size though. Many are spread all over the level, and you may well find an object on the opposite side of the level to where it is meant to be used.