Put on deep, doomy voice. "Transported to a strange forbidding land, Athena, a bold oriental princess must battle for survival to reach the Dark Overlord who brought her to his realm as a pawn for his macabre games..."
Being naturally prone to scepticism (Being a miserable old sod, you mean. Ed), I didn't expect an awful lot from this conversion. Athena's very much the sort of multi-screen platformerama that sits so happily on 16-bit machines, but can struggle so dismally on the Speccy. And the original coin-op is such a mammoth piece of programming that it looked a dead cert for the ever-growing scrap-heap of Conversions That Should Have Been Tried.
But no. Although the amazing pretty colours have gone for a burton (as usual these days), the game itself has remained intact. And what game! You play Athena as she battles through a scrolling landscape towards her eventual confrontation with the Dark Overlord. Nasties attack her from all sides, and as she moves along she must upgrade her weapons and her shielding picking up various useful bits and pieces. Not that these are just lying around. All are in fact hidden behind rocks which need to be battered away with whatever weapon you have to hand. You can dodge some nasties by jumping over or crouching beneath them, but you'll need to kill more than one of the big fellers who charges towards you before you get an axe powerful enough to start bashing down rocks. It's terribly easy to get killed very quickly in the early stages - if you can survive this part and pick up some effective shielding, things get slightly less frantic.
Its not quite as simple as battering your way through screen after screen, though. You can also drop down below ground, and ramble around down there - part of your task is to find the route that passes by the most useful weapons, the strongest shielding and the most useful other bits and bobs. For in Athena, the placing of the goodies is not random, as in most similar games - it's fixed, with just one exception. And that's that the first thing you'll find is a pair of winged boots that'll help you jump higher. Otherwise its up to you to remember where things are, 'cos that's where they'll be. (Very profound. Ed)
As part of the game's challenge is to find out what the various icons you collect actually do, I don't want to give too much away. I will say, though, that K stands for Keep (for one life at least), and that you should pay attention to what's written on the bottles, 'cos' ones poison and tho other's its antidote.
There are seven worlds in all, all with really sparkling graphics. Not surprisingly it's a multiload, but it's hard to imagine how they'd have done it otherwise. The important thing is that it accurately reproduces the pace and detail of the onginal, and if you ask me it's even harder. Expect a few letters in the Clinic - map, hints or cries for help will be gratefully received!
Cracking conversion of the coin-op classic from SNK - and it'll keep even the hardiest gamer battling for months!