Wicked logo

Activision/Binary Vision
Price: £24.99

This is a game with a lot of things to offer. It has one heck of a soundtrack, bedazzling graphics and a plot which comes straight out of the primordial soup.

Pure evil has impregnated the twelve constellations through the portals of doom. Naturally, its seed is of a particularly, unwhole-some, unholy, blue-green type, and it's hell-bent on smothering the Cosmos with the nasty stuff. There's quite literally the smell of burning martyr about your character. You are summoned to the Palace of Shining Thrones, strapped by heavy chains to a mighty oaken ring, set on fire and told to get on with the business of booting the forces of evil back to the place of Pandemonium. Why not indeed?

From here on the game is one of those cover-the-screen-before-it-covers-you jobs, a la Zoom; Wicked, in fact, is like Skweek's revenge. You have to go forth around the constellations, picking up good spores, blasting bad ones, multiplying enlightened growth (red-yellow patterns) and firing on the blue-green growth. When all evil portals - and not necessarily growth - have been destroyed, the screen is won.

But tackling fiendish fungus is only one of your tasks. There are the Guardians, such as the Devil or the Hand, with which to contend - and don't waste your bullets on these at night time, they won't work. Twice a day the central face opens revealing a Tarot card and a crystal bringing good or bad luck. You have to learn to read the cards and nab the crystals, if benevolent, before the Devil's worm does.

The screens look as if someone mashed up a million packets of Opal Fruits and done a Jackson Pollack with them. The colours seem so gushing and lurid that at first they distract you. But once you begin to pick out the spores, you can get well stuck in. Visually, in fact, the game is a treat and there are many nice touches. For example when you die, Pandemonium's symbol, the moon, breaks into replicas, like a million mad smileys on a bad acieed trip, and then the screen is filled with blood.

The same sort of care and attention has been devoted to the soundtrack. Each format will have its own theme and the Amiga's, scored by Richard Joseph, is a suitably Gothic spooky number with some nice, sampled backward speech on it.

And the down side? Despite giving you three game options ("strategy"-based game, arcade or mixed) Wicked does not have the type of gameplay which will make it a perennial fave; it simply doesn't have the depth. But it's certainly original, fast and visually and aurally addictive. And if you just fancy spending an hour or two as a righteous ball of flame, remember that this little number's in your softshop.

The most diabolically addictive game yet?

Wicked logo Zzap! Sizzler

Electric Dreams, Amiga £24.99

Abeautiful, South American Sun God charm was the inspiration for a game which draws on legends from around the world to present the ultimate conflict between Good and Evil. You have been called into the Palace of the Shining Thrones to meet the Lord of Light. You've accepted the ritual of the ring of flame; your wrists and ankles tied by chains to an oaken ring which is set alight transforming you into a flaming star hurled out into the night sky to fight Evil.

The game begins with the bloodshot Eye of Infinity staring out at you from the centre of a ring of astrological signs. The first three signs are green, meaning you can travel to Scorpio, Libra or Virgo to battle evil there. The further around the ring you go, the tougher Evil becomes, and if you complete Virgo then a further three constellations are accessible. Once you select a constellation a map unfurls showing the stars which make it up, click en a star and the first battle begins.

On the left of the battle screen is you, a star, along with yellow growth and portals. On the right is an Evil guardian (such as a triple-headed dragon or the Devil) and Evil growth and portals - which are blue. The aim of the game is to eliminate Evil portals by surrounding them with Good growth. It is portals that create growth, and spores that can be picked up and placed to create more portals. Good growth can only surround Evil portals if all the Evil growth surrounding them is shot away. Evil growth, by contrast can replace good growth relentlessly unless kept in check by being shot.

At the centre of the screen is either a Sun face or the Beast, these alternate to show night and day. Only during the day are good spores created, and the Evil guardian vulnerable to your shots. On the harder constellations the days become very short indeed.

Once every day and night a Tarot card appears on the central face and a crystal flies out - what you get by collecting it depends on the Tarot card. Learning to read the cards is vital if you want to defeat Evil before time runs out. If you find the standard game too difficult, then you can also choose to play either a Tactical or Arcade version.

Robin Hogg While the graphics are little more than average with spot effects to match, gameplay is so addictive this is of negligible concern. To match the Tarot atmosphere the music is mean, moody and superb (well, I thought so). The difficulty level is so well crafted you don't notice the tension building up. The pace soon gets ever more frantic as evil spores erupt all over the place with total disregard for my blood pressure (anyone got past Pisces yet?). Wicked is well wicked! (Sorry, I had to say it.)
Stuart Wynne First impressions are often misleading which is certainly the case here. Despite some good sampled sound effects and neat graphic touches, presentation isn't state of the art.
Similarly gameplay, which at first seems merely to be whizzing around shooting lots of stuff, looks unimpressive. But once you start playing Wicked it really comes into its own, becoming fiendishly addictive. Like all classic shoot-'em-ups simply blasting everything in sight won't get you far, you've also got to work out tactics - often subconsciously - to win. On higher levels, for example, it's vital you use the Good spores to go after certain clumps of Evil growth one at a time. Try to take them all on simultaneously and you'll be overwhelmed. Wicked may lack the arcade graphics of games like Forgotten Worlds, but it offers the superior arcade experience: unbelievable playability, an enthralling mystical atmosphere and unrelenting action. Buy it now!

Tarot cards are the West's most important system of occult, symbolic knowledge. Originating in Midieval times Tarot is made up of 22 trump cards (the Greater Arcana) and 56 other cards (the Lesser Arcaba) from which ordinary playing cards are derived. Like the Chinese I Ching Tarot cards are often used for fortune telling.
In Wicked there are eight cards:
The Sun - Fire in all directions.
The Moon - Attracts Guardian.
The Star - Multiple.
The Lion - Shield.
Tower of Destruction - Increase Evil Growth.
Death - Extra Life.
Hanged Man - Time Limit decreases.
Wheel of Fortune - Good and Evil energy reversed.