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Krull (Arcade) artwork

Krull (Arcade) review


"Krull "



Krull

Ah, such a wondrous movie, such a tragic and convoluted tale surrounding it, such an arcade game. Gather round everyone and listen to the story...

I'll start off by telling you that Krull is one of my favourite movies in this universe.

People typically raise their eyebrows when I tell them this, since they can't believe that someone whose greatest passion is film and who seeks to make films would ever place such a critically-thrashed movie in their top ten. The enormously-scaled fantasy adventure of 'Krull' from 1983 was such a box-office disaster that the mere fact of its existence almost single-handedly killed the genre (as far as major studios were concerned) for a good number of years. But I loved this film when I first saw it as a kid, I still love it, and anyone with an eye for the extraordinary is guaranteed to REEL from the eye-widening, almost inexplicable imagination and rich atmosphere which saturate this film!

Paramount pictures obviously thought the film was going to be the next Star Wars, because the licensed Krull merchandise came thick and fast. I am still the extremely proud owner of the Krull card game. And I dare to imagine that the guys at D.Gottlieb and Co. (the makers of Q-bert) were moaning and licking their lips at the prospect of producing the tie-in game for this movie which all concerned thought was going to be an absolute smash hit...

Gottlieb did make that arcade game. And what a curious vixen it turned out to be! The strangest part is that it's guaranteed to completely baffle anyone who has not seen the film.

''What's with this army? Why the hexagon fetish?? What the heck does 'Krull' mean anyway? My weapon is The Glaive?! I thought those were pointy stabby things! No, wait, don't roll boulders at me, ARGH THE BEAST KILLED ME. WHY???''

And yet this game is also weirdly faithful to the feel of the film, from the style and appearances of the characters right down to the attractive and instantly memorable musical stings from James Horner's score. That's right, more than a decade before he was penning Celine Dion screamers for the soundtrack of Titanic, he gave us the lush and chill-raising score for Krull.

Purge yourself of brain-hurting confusion now as I take you on a tour of Krull the arcade game in tandem with the scenes and elements from the source film which inspired its 5 orangey levels, each with their own unique goals.

The story so far...

'Beyond our time, beyond our universe
there is a planet besieged by alien invaders,
where a young king must
rescue his beloved from the clutches of the Beast.
Or risk the death of his world.'


That's from the movie poster, and tells you much of what you need to know. Now I'll flesh out the rest: The name of the planet is Krull, dashing Prince Colwyn is the king, gorgeous Princess Lyssa is his betrothed, and the Beast is a diabolical 10-storey tall mutant giant who's soooooo huge you can only fit him on a movie screen with anamorphic lens tricks. In his castle the Black Fortress he flies from planet to planet, touching down, unleashing the Slayers to conquer the world, and when it's destroyed he moves to the next one. Scary eh?

In the Krull game you get to do what is surely everyone's dream.

YOU GET TO PLAY PRINCE COLWYN!!!

You better be excited or I will send the Slayers over to conquer your house.

As Colwyn, you'll venture endlessly through a repeating cycle of 5 hard levels which more or less touch base with scenes from the movie. We'll save the princess as many times as we can and pine for that ever-elusive high score. I am aware of a guy who has actually scored 6 million points in this game, but my best efforts average at around 100,000. Hmph!!!

Level 1 - Dances with Boulders

THE FILM: The first thing Colwyn has to do after the Beast and Slayers have torched his castle, his people and his wedding all at once, is take the advice of Ynyr, aka 'the Old One', who tells him that he really needs The Glaive if he is going to make any headway in this revenge business. What's the Glaive? It's a magnificently jewelled 5-bladed magic throwing star which also comes back like a boomerang!

Colwyn climbs some scarifyingly craggy peaks 17 years before Tom Cruise wussily hung off a rock with one hand, evades a landslide of boulders he dislodged, and finally plucks the Glaive from a flaming lake.

THE GAME: No flaming lakes here, but the Glaive has been split into fragments spread over the mountainside which we view frontally/ overhead. An endless avalanche of boulders both large and small rumbles down the slope and with the joystick we have to guide Colwyn around to grab the pieces of Glaive.

Now this is pretty cool! The boulders make an authentic rumbling sound and move at different speeds. The mountain logically gets wider towards the base, but to nab some bits of Glaive you'll have to venture right up to the narrow and dangerous top where the boulders appear. Colours are saturated with the deeply orange mountainside contrasting with the deeply blue sky, and it really smacks of the film. There's also green scrub and a few small trees to liven up the scenery but they don't affect your movement. Colwyn is a neat looking hero especially given his small size onscreen. You can pick out the different colours on his clothes, the way he wears his tunic, and his ambling motions are fine.

The scoring trick on this level is that while you're right in front of a boulder (as if to evade it) your score rolls up incrementally, even more so for a big boulder. Thus by holding off on grabbing the last piece of Glaive and letting boulders chase you down the slope, you can leave the 1st level with an impressively boosted score. What's hilarious is that the game will get pissed off if you spend too long dawdling, and suddenly starts cranking out heaps of VERY aggressive boulders (inasmuch as a slab of stone can be aggressive). When you see this onslaught coming, it's time to grab that Glaive.

Not only are the boulder sounds cool, but when you collect a piece of Glaive you get a tasty musical sting from the Krull score and a flashing sky! I also enjoy the way the 1000 points signs hang in the air indefinitely where you picked up the item. And if you die, there's an echoing cry: 'OW! Ow! (ow!)...' All in all, level 1 is a fine start to the game. A swirl of Glaives fills the screen along with a cool vortexy sound as we move onto...

Level 2 - SLAYERS!!!

THE FILM: Colwyn has later assembled a rag-tag army, a veritable Motley Crue with which to seek out the Black Fortress. He has to follow the Blind Emerald Seer through a nasty swamp to reach a temple where the Beast won't be able to foul up the Seer's psychic powers, so that they can all learn where the fortress will materialise tomorrow. Yes, the fortress randomly teleports across the planet at every sundown! God was it hard for the good guys in this film.

As they move through the swamp, the dreaded SLAYERS begin to rise eerily and silently from the quicksand in an absolutely classic scene. 'SLAYERS!!!!' some guy screams. Before you know it, there's a hack and slash, laser-shooting quicksand-drowning festival of a battle raging.

To this day, when someone yells out, 'SLAYERS!' I still scream like a girl and bolt for cover. Okay, it doesn't happen very often.

THE GAME: We're looking at the swamp which is sketched out in the garish nuclear dust-orange colour beloved of this game. There are slicks of quicksand, pools and dead trees scattered about. Only the trees impede our movement. As Colwyn we have to rescue as many of our scrambling army mates as possible and kill all of the Slayers who emerge from the mire. It's an inspired take on Robotron game mechanics. It's also quite difficult.

Your friends run towards you initially, which is GOOD (I hate dumb friends). Slayers are imposing grey warrior figures with scary horned helms who begin to revolve up out of the ground all over the place - a very neat effect and faithful to the film. They fire blue lasers at you and can also kill you by touch. In the film, Colwyn had to hold off on lobbing his Glaive about until the climactic scenes. But here we can toss out up to 4 Glaives at a time to zap the Slayers.

Using a 2nd joystick you fling Glaives in the compass directions. Hit a Slayer and they'll spin and die, letting out a morose wail as your Glaive flicks aside and comes back. Glaives also come back if they travel too far without finding a mark. This is pretty artful stuff. Even if a Glaive misses, you can move Colwyn so that on its return path to him it might cut some Slayer through the back of the head. Also you can toss a Glaive into a close-knit group of Slayers and watch if bounce impressively amongst them, killing several at a time. Inversely if you miss with all your Glaives, you are a sitting duck for quite some time as you wait for them to come home!

Your friends kill the odd Slayer too, though their abilities are erratic and I'd say completely random. Sometimes they'll win and you collect the points, but more typically they get nailed. And this business is crucial because the more of your friends still alive when you complete a cycle of the game, the more bonus points you'll receive.

My verdict for level 2: Again it's a goodie, hard but more involving than level 1. Who wouldn't enjoy being in a frantic battle with lasers and Glaives flying everywhere and army guys scrambling for cover? It looks cool, sounds cool, plays cool.

Level 3 - Enter the Hexagon

THE FILM: I'll level with you. I'm not sure exactly what part of the film level 3 represents. I think it's another battle between good guys and Slayers in the rocky quarry before the Black Fortress.

THE GAME: 'Pickup your army - lead it to the hexagon', it says. The hexagon? The metaphysical implications are confusing. A hexagon also appears in level 4, where it seems to have no relation to the one in level 3. My interpretation is this: The designers were lazy or frustrated. They could have drawn something other than a hexagon, or used a phrase other than 'the hexagon' to convey what they meant. But they didn't pull it off. So when in doubt, they roll in hexagons to represent exits, fortresses, whatever job needs filling at the time really. Maybe hexagons have a good union, I don't know.

This level is easily the hardest, and very annoying really. You're in a rock-filled quarry with 5 main areas arranged like the pips on the '5' side of a 6-sided die. The central pip connects them all, but is also filled with a maze of stones which Colwyn easily gets caught on. The world is orange (surprise!) but the quarry walls are lined by a freaky pulsing glow which shifts through the spectrum of colours. Also pulsing is a threatening background tune which adds to the atmosphere.

Once again Slayers bore relentlessly up out of the ground, once again your friends are scrambling about and once again you need to collect them. On this level they can't be killed by Slayers, but you can and frequently will. Slayers replenish endlessly, and unavoidable diagonal laser shots in the maze will slaughter you.

The inexplicable hexagon will appear to let you beam your pals to safety. You can pick up as many friends at a time as you want, but they aren't evacuated until you get them to the hexagon. The arcade machine can be set to have a mobile hexagon or a stationary one. Pray it's mobile and chasing you around for instant evacuations, otherwise you'll be screaming when you die and all your un-evacuated pals are redistributed into the deadly quarry.

On a more positive note, it's really cool when you clear the level and all the Slayers onscreen instantly die to be replaced by glowing 100 point markers. But basically this level is a quarry's worth of frustration.

Level 4 - Hexagon II: Return of Hexagon

THE FILM: Hey I think I know what's going on this time, hexagon or no! We're right near the end of the film - Colwyn's inside the Black Fortress and there's a seemingly indestructible glass dome (it's almost a bit HEXAGONAL!) at its heart which seems to be the lair of the Beast. Aha! The Glaive can cut through the dome, albeit slowly. As Colwyn worries at the dome, Slayers dash from hiding places to try to take him out, but frankly only an idiot would take on a man with a Glaive.

THE GAME: Okay, this is a bit strange. I really do believe that the screen-filling hexagonal structure here represents the glass dome from the film. However it's outdoors and the world is... orange. Sound familiar? Forgetting the fetishes for both hexagons and the nuclear orange colour, this level is good fun and even novel. The hexagon has 4 'rings' of wall which you must shoot through with the Glaive. The foremost wall is only destructible when it turns black, and in the meantime Slayers are boring up on both sides of the hexagon and to the south of you. You have to hover about the walls, shooting through when they revolve to a black face whilst defending yourself from Slayers.

It's kind of random. The walls don't seem to revolve in any particular order. One game you'll have an easy ride, the next you'll be fending off Slayers for minutes. But mostly this is tense fun, shooting advancing bad guys from the cover of one side of the hexagon while you sweat and wait for the destructible walls to roll around.

Bust that hexagon open and your army pours out. To an outsider this would seem particularly baffling, given that we just saved them all a minute ago on level 3. Explanation: As I've said, I think this is supposed to be later in the film, and my theory is that they're clearing the area in readiness for Colwyn's battle with THE BEAST!

Level 5 - Unleash THE BEAST

THE FILM: Colwyn has tracked his nemesis down to his lair. This Beast has killed his family, kidnapped his betrothed, slaughtered %90 of his friends in grisly fashion and wrecked the planet. Understandably, Colwyn wants major payback. (GOOD LORD THE BEAST IS TALL). The Beast spits blue fireballs but Colwyn can repel these with the Glaive. The weapon begins to toy with the Beast, but eventually it ceases to mess around and dives STRAIGHT INTO HIS BLACK HEART.

Is it over? Hell no. That's right, you'd be crazy to think that the Glaive alone could really fell the anamorphic-lens consuming juggernaut of death that is The Beast. But you'll have to see the film to learn what happens next...

THE GAME: This scene is short but often quite nasty to the player. Then again, I really enjoy it because it's reverent to the film. No silly hexagons were used as props here. We have solid production values. You'll see the Beast stalking about, you'll see him spew blue fireballs, you can see Princess Lyssa hiding in the distance and you can see the curious seawave type structures that make up the Beast's lair fanning towards the top of the playfield.

Lyssa is at the top of the screen, you start at the bottom, and the Beast is inbetween you. He's tall but not huge, being a figure about triple your size. He starts striding towards you and you must evade both him and his fireballs to reach Lyssa. You have your Glaives handy but as in the film they cannot kill the Beast. They can however destroy his fireballs or stun the man himself for half a second if you hit him.

The blue fireballs are very nasty. If they miss initially and then bounce off a wall, there's no such thing as 'angle of incidence equals angle of refraction'. Those fireballs skip right off the wall aiming directly at your current position again! If you can ward off this brief but solid assault and reach Lyssa, the Beast will shamble off and your rescued army accumulated through levels 2-4 come out of hiding to reward you with bonus points. Extra flourishes on this level include the neat roaring sounds of the Beast and a new musical sting for if you get killed. It's a short but sweet level. You'll either win or be dead in about 10 seconds.

I WON!

If you make it through level 5, it's back to level 1 anew for another trip through the cycle on the quest to increase your score, now with jacked up difficulty. Faster more numerous boulders and Slayers, more flighty hexagons, a meaner Beast etc. There's nothing too new to see, and the game was pretty difficult on the first pass. Still, trying to accrue higher scores by dancing with the boulders, rescuing more men and slaying more Slayers is reasonably addictive. It's a weird game, garish to look at and quite hard - but basically I like the interesting levels and I like the variety. I like the artfulness of the Glaive! There are cool sound effects and musical stings, some novel ideas, and if you've seen the movie you'll get extra enjoyment out of it all. If you haven't seen the movie and you haven't read this review (I know you've done at least one of those things), well you'll just wonder what the hell is going on.

Krull - I love the movie, and I don't mind the game! It's not highly playable, but it is worth checking out both for its curiousness and for the attraction of seeing an 'early-days' film to videogame licence that is hilariously unforgiving to people who haven't seen that movie. And for all those foxy hexagons. And for the saturated orange colour, mmmmm oh I love it so.

-- Krull -- 6/10 --

P.S. Do yourself a big favour and see the film if you haven't!

Rating: 6/10

bloomer's avatar
Community review by bloomer (February 05, 2004)

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