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Ocean Software Ltd
1984
Arcade: Adventure
£9.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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54,55
Chris Bourne

One of the happier notes in our article last month on the crash of Imagine, was that megagame programmer John Gibson was working with a brand new software company called Denton Designs, largely financed by Ocean. Gift from the Gods is their first game (they are now busy on Frankie Goes to Hollywood), and the team who created it is John Gibson, Karen Davies and Steve Crane (graphics), systems designer Kenny Everitt and graphics artist Ally Noble.

Gift from the Gods is a multi-screen strategy/adventure game which is joystick driven in a rather novel way. More of that later, first the storyline. Set in the Palace of Mycena in Ancient Greece, it follows the trials and tribulations of Orestes who, under the directions of the Gods Zeus and Apollo, must avenge the murder of his father, King Agememnon. Orestes must fulfill his destiny by trial in the Labyrinth beneath the palace and find the solution to the puzzle, or perish in the attempt.

Hidden in 16 special rooms are objects, known as Euclidian shapes, geometric designs based on triangles, circles and squares; six of which, when correctly positioned in the Guardian's Chamber, reveal the exit. Orestes has some help from his sister Electra, who has been imprisoned in the Labyrinth, and she can guide him to where the shapes are hidden, but Orestes has to decide himself what shapes he must take to the Guardian's Chamber. Illusionary creatures created by the Demi-Gods try to sap Orestes' strength, but in certain rooms, life-giving water drips from the roof, replenishing energy and stamina. The Demi-Gods have also created illusory Euclidian shapes as which sit beside the real ones, and although these do not fool Electra, she isn't always around to help. The other problem is his mother, Clytaemnestra, who has learned of his task and has entered the labyrinth to kill Electra.

Orestes is able to walk or fly and protect himself with a sword. All these functions would normally require loads of controls, but Gift from the Gods has an innovative 'intelligent' joystick feature, which effectively 'knows' what you want to do next. Whether it really 'knows' is another matter, but depending on the circumstances you are able to walk, fly or fight all from the four directions of the joystick.

The screen display is elegantly simple. Each room of the labyrinth is decorated in appropriate Greek style. It is possible to walk or fly vertically or horizontally between linked rooms. As Orestes disappears from view, there is a fast scroll to the next room into which he then appears. Some rooms are blocked by purple walls, through which he cannot go. Others have doors in them, and when positioned correctly, Orestes may move through them either into other rooms or into the secret hiding places of the Euclidian shapes. The only other detail is the stamina figure and a scrolling message line where Electra, Apollo and Zeus may talk. The labyrinth is a confusing place but Orestes may take some small comfort from the seven Tears of Icarus which he carries. Dropped sensibly these can help mark his passage, but wicked Clytaemnestra is likely to pick them up if she comes across them.

CRITICISM

'I haven't seen a game like Gift from the Gods before, with the possible exception that graphically and sometimes in feeling there is a touch of Alchemist to it. However, where Alchemist was pretty easy and shallow, Gift from the Gods is more detailed and complex. The game is simple enough, but getting anywhere with it is another matter. I liked the pace, which is slow, but in a thoughtful way, and I liked the way the complexities of the game grew as I played it. At first it seems there is little to do except walk or fly from room to room, but the labyrinth is huge and confusing. It's a game to map as you go along or you'll soon lose your way. The shapes you have to collect are often false, illusions created by the Demi-Gods to confuse you further, and the reason for attacking the monsters, which can usually be avoided, becomes apparent. By destroying the illusion, the illusory shapes are also temporarily destroyed. The graphics are excellent, especially the character of Orestes, who moves convincingly - I especially liked the way he adopts a Greek tragedian's pose after stunning himself. The joystick/keyboard selection menu is not accessible after choice, a drawback which is thoughtfully mentioned for once on the inlay card instructions. Gift from the Gods is a highly unusual game, definitely more adventure/strategy than arcade, but you can have fun with the monsters and the dual action sword.'

'Gift from the Gods is without doubt the best game that has ever come out with Imagine connected somewhere to it. The graphics are very good and the animation of the various monsters and yourself is excellent. The game is colourful and the overall presentation is marvellous. Gift from the Gods is fun to play and, offering challenges to players of all sorts - you don't have to be an arcade wiz to get from room to room, but you have to be quite good at games if you want to complete the game. The only thing that really lets the game down is that it's a bit expensive, though it does come in a very attractive box. Overall, Gift from the Gods is a very good game at a steep price.'

'This somewhat stylish arcade/adventure has more of the adventure than the arcade in it. The market for arcade/adventures seem to have expanded a lot recently, whether or not this has been due to the pre-Christmas rush to get products onto the market, so there seem to have been more, or whether it's due to a genuine desire for different and more complex games, I don't know. Finding the Guardian's Chamber is the first trick. It isn't easy. When you do find it, you realise its refreshing in more than the trees that line its sides, it also replenishes all your stamina - a bit quicker than standing under a dripping roof filling up. There are six receptacles in there, all waiting for the six shapes you are going to bring - hopefully. Finding your way back to it when you've collected the first shape with Electra's help is the second trick! Your mum is not really seen, and the murder of Electra at her hands, should you let that happen through inattention, is mercifully done out of sight. The only way you know that she's slinking around the place is by the puffs of talcum powder she trails behind her - extremely sinister! Gift from the Gods has a curiously mesmeric feel to it which is hard to describe and I would unreservedly recommend it to anyone, were it not for the high price. If you can afford it, get it.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: top row - fire, second row - up, third row down, alternate keys bottom row left/right
Joystick: Sinclair 2, Kempston, Cursor
Keyboard play: very responsive, with sophisticated control possible, clever use of fire to stop movement, pick up/drop and fight. Eight directional movement
Use of colour: excellent
Graphics: large, smooth with excellent detail and imagination used, first rate scrolling
Sound: very little really beyond the odd spot effect
Skill levels: 1
Lives: 100 points of stamina - you need it all
Screens: what do you expect - it's a labyrinth!
General Rating: An original, enjoyable game with a wide range of playing options, generally excellent, pity about the higher price.

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Screenshot Text

A puff of talcom powder indicates that Mother has the way been.

A monstrous pile of snake-filled skulls, leers at Orestes.

In a side room, Orestes comes across some Euclidian shapes, but which is the real one, and which are the illiusions.

With winged boots, Orestes takes to the air thankful for his GIFT FROM THE GODS.