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God of Thunder (PC) artwork

God of Thunder (PC) review


"GoT (you’ve gotta admit, it’s one of the best acronyms in the world of gaming, ever: got GoT?) gives us a top-down perspective on the goings-on in the world of its hero, much like The Legend of Zelda. But don’t confuse the challenges of Asgaard with the strictly action–RPG swashbuckling of Hyrule; there is a lot more brainwork for Thor to do than bomb cave walls and pull tongues to open doors. "



The Scenario

You’ve always wanted to be Thor. You know, the guy with the big time hammer. Now’s your chance. God of Thunder isn’t really rich in Norse mythology, but it’s there in its way if you care to take notice.

You may also notice that GoT was originally a shareware game (now it’s freeware). One word of wisdom on shareware games of this type, if I may: the rule seems to be that the old school developers allowed the first chapter of their games to be free, expecting you to send away and pay for the remaining chapters. Invariably, the chapters of the games ending up being little games onto themselves, and I’ve found that the sum of the parts has never been greater than any one part.

GoT doesn’t deviate from this pattern. There are three chapters: Serpent Surprise, Non-stick Nognir, and Looking for Loki, and as fun as the play mechanics are, you can get away with playing only one and you’ll still have had the GoT experience (only this inability to really BUILD throughout the chapters keeps GoT's score down).

Now for a shareware pop quiz: remember Apogee? The company known for making such shareware hits as Commander Keen and Wolfenstein 3D? Well, they didn’t make this game! HA! You suckers. But as old school shareware efforts go, GoT is one of the most entertaining ever, arguably besting any of Apogee’s star studded line-up.

The Basics

GoT (you’ve gotta admit, it’s one of the best acronyms in the world of gaming, ever: got GoT?) gives us a top-down perspective on the goings-on in the world of its hero, much like The Legend of Zelda. But don’t confuse the challenges of Asgaard with the strictly action–RPG swashbuckling of Hyrule; there is a lot more brainwork for Thor to do than bomb cave walls and pull tongues to open doors. In fact, GoT is probably the most balanced puzzle-action game in terms of making its puzzley and action elements both feel equally at home in the scheme of things.

It’s true that you get to wield your mighty hammer, boomerang style, tossing it through giant insects and bats only for it to crush nasty elves and soldiers on its return trip. But once a given screen is cleared of its belligerent element - what then? What of the seemingly impassable amalgamation of environmental obstacles? It’s at this point, when you’re catching your breath from the somewhat simplistic but always harrying combat sequences, that GoT becomes more about solving single screen puzzles that allow you to move on to the next screen.

The Experience

Puzzles include pushing around blocks to obscure the INSTANT KILLING EYE of diabolically situated (and all-powerful) GROUND WORMS, or else running behind boulders you’ve set in motion to effect the same thing--and sometimes you’ll need to do both to complete just one puzzle! These bits exercise both conundrum cracking skills and finger gymnastics on the keyboard (or joystick), and luckily, the game is more than forgiving if you bollicks things up, restarting you from where you entered the screen you died on. This is a telltale sign of balanced game design: things can get difficult, but the game doesn’t punish you unreasonably for your inevitable cockups.

Some screens utilize arrow icons on the ground where you can only guide Thor in the direction of the arrow. Other puzzles confound you with spikes that rise up from and retract into the ground. Naturally there are magic orbs onscreen that you can touch to change the direction of the arrows and others to control the movement of the spikes, but often the orbs are beyond your reach! But wait! Your hammer acts as a boomerang does it not? Running perpendicular to it as it makes its return trip can have wondrous effects!

All in all, beyond the running amok and button mashing required to be a proper and manly god of thunder, inventive hammer tossing, careful orb-touching, and log and block pushing are your keys to the kingdom.

An even deeper look at GoT reveals its fun RPG side. I have often found the term ''fun RPG'' to be an oxymoron, but GoT is different. It doesn’t take itself very seriously at all, and the result is positively endearing. When you kill townspeople, your all-seeing mentor scolds you, yet FEELS for you: ''I know it is fun to kill people…'' Plus, when the inevitable townsperson appears whose job it is to provide you with the blue key for the blue door in order to advance the story, he or she will always joke about the silliness of it all. The game’s irreverent tone seems to poke fun at its own sub-genre’s trappings. It’s refreshingly fun to play a game with this much self-deprecating humour abound in an age of developers expecting gamers to take seriously such prospects as raising demons in the bandaged bodies of little girls and other such tripe dressed up as gaming sophistication.

Endgame

You simply must try God of Thunder. While it’s lacking sorely in graphic detail, it looks extremely sharp and colourful. It can’t match the cutesy beauty of a 16-bit RPG, but it weighs in heavy enough with charm and panache, easily outshining any comparable 8-bit offering. That is, if there were any comparable offering - I have not yet found any.

Practically any modern day PC can run God of Thunder - a definite plus in these days of madly escalating system spec requirements - and the sounds are quirky and laughable, the music, brilliant and joyous. Never in my life of gaming have I heard such rambunctious, celebratory tones as the ending music that manifests after successfully concluding each of the game’s three chapters. I thought to myself: ''I’ve really done something here!'' Hooray for me. And hooray to you too if you pick up this game, at no cost to you at all but your boredom.

Rating: 9/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 10, 2003)

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