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1988
Arcade: Action
£9.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Unspecified custom loader

50
Jonathan Davies
Chris Bourne

Karnov. Well, what can I say? Load it up, try and ignore the tatty options screen and weedy character set, and before you know it your screen will explode into glorious technicolour.

"Fwoarr!" you'll go as your character is zapped onto the screen. "Ooh!" as you notice that he's yellow with red trousers. "Phew!" as he runs around without a hint of colour-clash. And "Fnark!" as you notice that he hasn't got a weapon!

Well, that's where you're wrong, actually. Like all rotund Russians, Karnov is a fire-breather by nature, so to defend himself he can launch great balls of fire at the opposition. They'll chuck plenty back. though, so be prepared to dodge a wide variety of sticks, stones and even boulders.

Along the way you'll come up against all kinds of wacky sprites, ranging from skeletons sitting on ostriches, to mud monsters. Each requires a different tactic to get past them, although it generally involves bashing the space bar as hard and fast as poss.

You'll be glad to hear that all the effort put into making the graphics look nice, hasn't meant economising on the gameplay. Oh no. Once you've had a few goes at it you'll find that playing Karnov is one of the most absorbing occupations since flicking back the springy protective covers on 3.5 inch disks, and that's saying something!

In total you've got nine levels to battle through. They all load in separately of course, but we're all learning to cope with that now. Each level is packed with new monsters to beat up, new terrain to wander round, and new icons to collect.

Icons? Well, there had to be something you could pick up, didn't there? At the bottom of the screen is a series of little boxes, a bit like the ones that Creme Egg gift packs come in. As the game progresses, you'll come across little piccies that will fill up the boxes and give you extra powers. By far the most useful is the ladder. Get it up in the right position (oh dear, off they go again!) and you may find a few extra icons lurking about at the top of the screen.

The tremendous variety is probably what makes this game so addictive. It may take you hours to work out how to get past a certain point, but once you've found the technique you'll have no problem next time. You've also got the choice of alternative routes in some places, so if you find things a little heavy going, you can nip down a ladder and explore a few underground caverns.

At the end of each level, while the next one loads in, you're shown a picture of a map, with the pieces you've collected so far, stuck in place. The general idea is that when you've found all nine pieces, you'll be able to defeat the evil dragon Ryu and discover the lost treasure of Babylon.

The real snag is that you've only got five lives to get through all nine levels, and to get an extra one you've got to collect fifty (!) "K" icons. With Karnov biting the dust at regular intervals it's going to take a dedicated player to make it to the end. I'm sure many will try though, as the urge to find out what comes next is almost enough to drag you away from Cheers on a Friday evening.

Even taking into account the dodgy presentation here and there, and the feeble sound effects, Karnov is one of the slickest games around at the moment. It costs a bit more than yer average arcade game, but it's worth every rouble, I'd say.

Superb conversion of the coin-op which proves that colour on the Speccy isn't a thing of the past.

9/10
9/10
8/10
9/10
9/10

Screenshot Text

Ingenious to the last, Karnov launches a flying kick at an ostrich-mounted skeleton. Sadly he's forgotten that this isn't a martial arts game. Goodbye, Karnov. Had he been able to reach that boot-like icon floating above him, he'd have been able to walk twice as fast. No chance of that now, though.

Now, this bit's fun! You see the head at the top of that column? Until you tell it otherwise with your fire-breathing, it'll keep launching lethal missiles at you. Unfortunately you can't get to it except by shooting out the blocks from underneath it, at the same time as trying to avoid being zapped. Not easy, I can tell you.