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Arcade: Platform
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Tony Dillon
Chris Bourne

For all you out there who don't actually know, Hercules is a Greek mythological character who was the son of Zeus, big man up Mt Olympus.

Gremlin have decided to make a game about the Labours of Hercules, and to be honest, the idea is a very good one indeed. Frenzied joystick waggling when fighting the Erymanthean boar, precision control in deciding just how much poop to scoop whilst cleaning the stables. Gremlin, given this rich plot, so full of life and vitality, have sensibly based the game around Hercules fight... with a skeleton. The 12 Labours are still there, it's just that you don't have to do them. I'll explain. The labours are represented visually by icons that appear in puffs of smoke and bounce around for a bit, then vanish. All you have to do is guide Hercules over to the icon and hit it. Simple, if it weren't for the skeletons, along with a spider, guard the labours.

Set in some Greek ruins, you and your enemy do battle in a very big and very well-animated way. To look at the game reminds me of nothing so much as Barbarian. The graphics are huge and of a very high standard, easily matching those of, say, Streetfighter. The animation matches the graphics in style and standard. The skeleton dying and then reforming itself is brilliant.

Sound is good too. In 128K versions, a tune plays throughout, though as seems to be the case all the time with 128K music, it does tend to be jingly and almost entirely without power. 48K owners can expect the usual 'Chhhk', 'bnk' and 'shhb' noises they're used to.

Unfortunately, Hercules - Slayer of the Damned falls down a bit on gameplay, and this is what makes Barbarian the superior beat 'em up. The game is sluggish, and most of the time you just can't get your figure to react in time to executive a defensive move, or kill the spider. All the labours you can collect go into a pot, and the spider's job is to climb into the pot and steal them. You have to hit him before he get in. I found this proves to be impossible.

Another niggle is the snake. You can keep on hitting the skeleton, but your blows only take effect if the skeleton is standing on the snake, which starts off quite long and get longer or shorter, depending on how well you're doing.

Label: Gremlin
Author: Cygnus Software
Price: £7.99/£12.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: Various
Reviewer: Tony Dillon

Attractive beat-'em-up but could do with some playability pepping.