STARRY, STARRY KNIGHT
LAST MONTH, YOU SAW THE STORYBOARD. THIS MONTH, YOU'VE PLAYED THE DEMO VERSION. NOW IT'S TIME TO READ THE FULL REVIEW! RACHAEL SMITH RIGHTS THE WRONGS OF THE MAD RUSSIAN MONK IN FIREBIRD'S HOT NEW MEGAGAME, RASPUTIN.
Last month good ol' YS brought you a preview of Rasputin in the shape of programmer Paul Hibbard's Storyboard. Now, lo and behold, good ol' new YS brings you a preview of the game in the shape of four playable screens. And, give or take a pixel, it's not unlike the storyboard except for one detail - Paul neglected to mention how @*!!*! hard it is!
Of course you wouldn't expect it to be easy. Your quest is to destroy the jewel of the Seven Planets which has kept the soul of mad monk Rasputin, the kind of guy gets religion a baaad name, alive. The bauble is hidden away in the dimensions of the netherworld, a sort of supernatural housing estate for assorted nasties, spreading off a main courtyard and linked by spells cast by the Lords of Chaos.
Now this is some task - even for a Super Crusader who closely resembles the knight from the Daily Express's masthead. So, as well as dodging the best selection of oddballs seen this side of Castle Rathbone, there are secondary objectives, such as discovering the Eyes of Heaven spell that'll black Rasputin's evil eyes as well as opening further boxes containing magic to neutralise his power.
Not that sword play is neglected. In many cases it's a good idea to clear a screen of wandering monsters before exploring properly. Be warned though - not only do the greeblies return when you re-enter a screen but if you come into contact with them, or take a fall, they'll flock back too. And talking of falls, at some stage you're sure to find that the netherworld is cruising at 60,000 feet and you haven't got a parachute. Luckily the clouds act as lifts and whisk you back at the cost of a life.
Once you've hacked and slashed to obtain unimpeded progress, make for the boxes with suns on the side. Jumping onto all of them causes a psychedelic display from which emerges a four-headed monster (see, I said this was like Castle Rathbone) shooting rays from its eyes. Slay this and you get a new spell to add to your armoury. Then you can move off to seek one of the stones engraved with a letter of Rasputin's name but be warned, getting those makes everything else seem simple!
Rasputin is not an easy game to get into and you'll spend your first few plays just working out what can and cannot be done - as well as what lies behind some of the Seven Planets' more extraordinary masonry (Winner of the Infernal Architects Award 1985). In this respect it's very much like Ultimate's products - never giving anything away. It's also got the same sort of 3D view. Though seen from a slightly lower angle which can cause problems. Take good care of the squared floor and how many (audible) footsteps it takes to cross one unit and you should avoid making too many trips down to cloud nine.
So there's an unavoidable Ultimate comparison but before the boys at Firebird send me an ultimatum (Ho, ho), I must say that this is a decided advance, with larger sprites and some very smooth animation. There are some really amusing critturs in there, as well as some maddening nuisances plus the truly malevolent presence of the villain.
All that jumping may remind you of platform games but here the landscape is solid and incredibly well realised. Just as the dimensions of the netherworld spread from the central, circular highway the game has great depths. This one could take months to solve - it's certainly not for the faint-hearted. But most of you now have the opportunity to test your mettle against the infamous mad monk, and if the challenge of these four screens whets your appetite then rush out and buy the complete game because it's ten times as large and contains a whole host of nasty traps that'll test your timing to the limit!
Joystick: Kempston, Interface II, Cursor
Keys: Turn Left/Right - Q/W; Walk - O; Jump - P
The demo version of Firebird's Rasputin is only available with copies of YS sold in the UK. Unfortunately, it is impossible to send the tape abroad.