Begob and Begorrah. Prepare for a blast of the blarney from your man in Ireland, Chris Cockayne as he casts an emerald eye over Dun Darach, the new wan from Gargoyle Games.
From the coves of County Cork to the hills of Connemarra comes a strange tale that's shrouded in mist and mystery. Can it be true that Gargoyle Games has come up with a game that's identical to their previous hit, Tir Na Nog? Well, the hero, Cuchulainn the Great is the same, the graphics are the same but there are many more characters and the story has moved from the country to the town.
We start with our hero stalking the streets of Dun Darach seeking his faithful friend, Loeg, who's been abducted by the sorceress Skar and imprisoned somewhere in the town. While doing the rounds Cuchulainn comes across the inhabitants of the place, most of whom seem intent on ripping him off, visits innumerable shops and almost certainly ends up with a bad case of sore feet. Excluding your friend Loeg there are ten independent characters to meet but don't expect to find them all that easily. Some of them are out 'n' out thieves like Kara and her sister, Keli but others will do you a good turn if you find what they're looking for. When you meet Bren, for example, he'll offer you a map for a fur - if only I could find a fur! Similarly, the courtesan Pita is obviously open to bribery but whenever I offer her money, she takes it saying 'Oh, how generous' then turns tail and trots off. It certainly is pretty generous of me, so how about something in exchange? Now my big problem is with the names - I don' t know if they're Celtic originals but they sure as hell are difficult to remember. Every time someone approaches I have to go scuttling back to the booklet to see if he or she's a goody or a baddy. Why couldn't the hero have been given a good Irish name like Kevin? (Cor, what a crawler I am!).
You can bone up on the background history of Dun Darach with the aid of the introductory booklet. There you'll find an extract from Dinn Nemeton, 'an anonymous, ancient and secret writing which may not be published in full' - doubtless because it's so silly! But do read it, along with the rest of the intro as there are a few clues to be gleaned and you're gonna need all the help you can get.
The animation of the characters is once again excellent as they walk in a very realistic though somewhat round-shouldered way - but then you'd be pretty round-shouldered after all that pavement pounding. There are also some nice touches that you can't see in the pictures like the bouncing locks of hair and the flickering torches on the walls. The character set is also kept in line with the general Celtic theme and is doubtless copied direct from the Book of Kells. I can't make head or tail of that either and it certainly becomes tricky trying to make out the Celtic script on the Speccy. What is it this shopkeeper wants to sell me? A sting? A sling? Or is it a string?
The game can be played as a sort of medieval Minder. Buying goods at one price and flogging them off at a profit. And of course, a nice little earner is to knock stuff off ('fell off the back of a horse and cart, guvnor'), though you'll still have trouble holding on to the goods even without Sgt. Chisholm's presence. Only by building up a good deal of cash through stealing, selling, gambling or working (though don't ask me where yet), can you hope to get anywhere in the game. And if you take my advice it's an idea to duck into the nearest bank at the start and deposit your ready cash while you're finding your way around. The interest's not bad and you really can't trust anyone on the streets these days.
The game does lack a certain degree of excitement. There are no duels to the death and there are times when you long for the hero to break into a run - just this once. But no - plod, plod, plod. It's brain not brawn that's needed to conduct all the bartering, bribery and thieving necessary to complete the game. If you like Tir Na Nog and were left wanting more or you're prepared to put in a good few hours cracking this, then you could do worse than give it a go.
Here's where your quest begins But where exactly is it? Read Square? Mead Square? Or is that Nerd Square? Ah. well!
The flickering red flames of the torch is a neat touch and it helps you monitor the passage of time as they are lit and put out again as the days pass.Here goes trouble! If you bump into Kara - and you just have - you can wave goodbye to your cash 'cos she's a practised pickpocket. And the bad news is that, yes, there are more just like her at home - a twin sister called Keli, equally as bad.
All of the shops are laid out on a similar plan with the shopkeeper behind this counter. You can either pay him for the goods you want or rush past with the hot property Fortunately, he can't follow.
Here the torch is out, signifying that it's now evening - a bit cock-eyed that, as you usually light lamps as it gets darker. 'Tis Ireland begob!
This is Ryde. He's friendly enough when you're 'clean' but if you're carrying nicked goods around he'll have them off you as quick as a flash. So, watch out.
You've just made a deposit inside the bank. A wise move at the beginning of the game as you start with 2000 iridi (the unit of currency) that you can easily lose to the first person you meet. And the rate's not bad - 1 per cent per day. Now why don't Barclays pay that?
Each of the doors is numbered to help you identify it again. There's a certain logic to the numbering with similar numbers clustered together down the same street but some numbers appear to be repeated, so be warned.
You were warned - this is Keli so start legging it out of here. All the characters are represented by one female and one male type but to help you identify them, their names appear on screen with them.
The nature of each shop's business is displayed on a sign outside. The whole city of Dun Durach is populated by artisans from armourers to wine merchants so there's plenty to explore.
You can leave anything you're carrying on these shelves inside buildings and then return later to pick them up. There are also safe deposits dotted around town just for this purpose.
This is the art gallery. Presumably, there's some significance behind these paintings but we can't say we've sussed it yet!
Welcome to the gambling den - the easiest way to make a fast buck or lose the lot! Place your bet (min stake 200) on this counter for 2-1 odds on the following numbers 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12.
Will you take the risk/ You'll get evens here but only if the numbers 5, 6, 8, 9 come up. And what's happened to 7? Perhaps there's a clue there.Here are the dice built into the wall. They spin automatically whether or not you place your bet.
This is a portal that'll carry you quickly from one side of the city to the other. Usually the portation fee is 200 iridi but there's also a free one.