Arcade: Adventure
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

Jim Douglas
Chris Bourne

"Long, long ago, when dragons ruled the earth, and men and women were but helpless creatures.."

How many times have you read this sort of storyline at the start of an adventure game? Wouldn't it be nice, given that humans were altogether useless, to take the role of the dragon, and be able to stomp down villages, attack castles, and do all the rest of the reptillian repertoire? Durell's latest lets you do just that. And I can let you know that it is very satisfying indeed.

Featuring what must be the hundredth revolutionary scrolling routine to appear in the last 48 hours, the game has some rather splendid graphics.

Durell seems to have employed virtually every fantasy sub-plot in order to make the game as interesting as possible. Initially, you must wreak a bit of havoc amongst the local people, before moving on to find Eros, an enchantress who will guide you to more wonderful lands. Eventually, you will be taken to a book of spells, and a magic cauldron. See? it's all in there.

Obviously, the villagers don't take too kindly to having their houses burned to the ground, and their peace-loving community wrecked by a lumbering great lizard. As a result, at the first hint of a little pyrotechnics on your part, they're out on the streets armed to the teeth, slinging arrows and spears.

Occasionally, you will be confronted by A Mythical Creature. For the most part, these looked rather closely related to bumble-bees, but they were quite tenacious, and ended my games more frequently than I care to mention.

The graphics of Thanatos are really something. In the lower portion of the screen, your heart-rate and flame-capacity are indicated by a pumping heart and what looks like a glass full of fire, respectively. (Actually, I think it is supposed to be a belly of the dragon, but it's a little hard to tell.)

The graphics really come into their own when you see the dragon flying over the landscape. The wings flap with superbly convincing swooshing sound effects, and the dragon waves his head around too.

The graphics for the background, if a little sparse, are attractive, and the little characters on the ground hurl their weapons upwards in a most satisfying manner. Of course, the most fun can be gleened by scorching the little bodies, or picking them in a claw, elevating them to a great height, before releasing them, and watching their descent. I told you it was fun.

Although the game is really two dimensional, you are given an impression of depth 'into' the screen by the fact that a distant object will move across the screen slower than a nearby one. It works rather well.

It seems impossible to turn around once you have taken off in either direction, be it be air or on foot. It is possible to attain quite frightening speeds, but some realism is lost by the way in which you can slow down rather too easily.

There is one marvellous section in which you must fly through a flooded cave system. As you progress, an increasing number of rocks will fall from the roof of the tunnel, on to the dragon's back. If you are struck too many times, he will eventually disappear in a puff of smoke. There's also a really nice representation of water in the game. Should you land in a lake, or similarly wet area, your creature will sink up to it's stomach, but you can still walk around.

I enjoyed it all hugely.

Label: Durell
Price: £9.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Jim Douglas


Thanatos is entirely original. The you-as-Dragon role reversal offers scope for lots of fun. Torching things and so on. Fine stuff.