"You might have hoped that this game gets its dismal reputation because of poor graphics, the complexities of the AD&D rules, or something equally asinine. Hope is the denial of reality."
TO ARMS, my heroic brethren! This is no time to be drinking your steel away in the company of flirtatious barmaids; nay, not even the winsome lasses with massive jugs (of ale). Prithee buckle on that trusty scabbard instead and extend your battlemace to the heavens Ė the insidious agents of villainy gather in our midst! Capering about as if in unholy pantaloons stitched from naught but 100% EVIL, these rapscallions dare to style themselves ďHeroes of the Lance.Ē Bah! Everyone knows that real heroes are all about justice, honor, and armor that leaves practically nothing to the imagination! Ours, on the other hand, have been unceremoniously dumped into some moldy old ruins to ďrunĒ around in circles and all too frequently enter ďcombatĒ with vicious midgets that kick them in the shins. By the shining tears of Paladine, enough of that and Iíd probably fall to the side of vile wickedness myself!
Word of these scoundrels and their ignoble deeds has already spread far and wide amongst the peasantry, but then peasants are mere rabble and given to blindly follow popular opinion. Therefore if you were familiar with Pool of Radiance (awesome) or the rest of the Gold Box series (also awesome), you may have secretly been hoping for an excellent computer-style RPG fused with the epic tone of the Dragonlance saga. You might have hoped that this game gets its dismal reputation because of poor graphics, the complexities of the AD&D rules, or something equally asinine.
Hope is the denial of reality.
What you get is a wretched arcade maze game thatís presented in the form of horizontally scrolling hallways rather than the proper first-person dungeon favored by distressed damsels and nude midgets the world over. Mind you, the visuals are terrible and the music repetitive in the extreme, but such things are barely worthy of mention when the actual gameplay is more slovenly than a goblin tribe at the royal ball. Youíre supplied with a party of eight characters, but the leader is the only one who appears on the screen and actually does anything . . . excepting of course his invisible companionsí remarkable ability to take damage in battle without inflicting any of their own in turn. Naturally the two flimsy spellcasters have to be in the front row in order to work their craft, because the best place for a magic-user to stand is obviously right in harmís way. Thus your lineup is always going to consist of Sturm Brightblade (the noble knight) or Caramon (the brawny bodybuilder) in the lead, closely followed by his brother Raistlin (the cynical sorcerer) and Goldmoon (the healer hottie). But letís not neglect those remaining four hardy heroes tucked away in the back row! Oh . . . wait. You wonít use them. Ever.
And so your one playable character is left to navigate this ugly labyrinth of remarkably similar hallways and doors littering both background and foreground alike. Watch as Sturm ponderously spasms across the screen with an ungainly jerk, his curious stance perhaps indicating that the good knight splintered his jousting pole whilst adjusting his codpiece that morn. But fear not Ė after a few steps heíll suddenly begin to charge forth into a jerky and uncontrollable run! Forsooth, now that youíve steamrolled your way towards one of the foreboding doors of mystery you merely have to jam down on the crosspad for twelve or so seconds, that you might at last cross over into the next door-ridden hallway. Unless, of course, it was one of those imaginary doors that donít actually lead anywhere. Egads! Even in the (mostly) probable event that a door actually turns out to be, in fact, a door, youíll still have to check your on-screen compass if you care to figure out where in the Abyss youíre actually headed. But remember to stay on your guard lest you blunder into a fiendish trap; a few stones might fall from the ceiling.
Staff review by Sho (March 19, 2005)
Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.
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