Melbourne House
1987
Tactical Combat
£7.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

23
Jack Daniel
Chris Bourne

If you think Throne of Fire is something that happens after seven pints of lager and a vindaloo, kindly leave the magazine - otherwise read on, coz if you have been reading your SU previews properly (and name one hip entity that doesn't; you'll know it's the latest from Mike Singleton (as opposed to his really massively latest, Dark Sceptre).

The game is all about three brothers Princes vying to gain the recently vacated throne - their father the King Atherik having recently departed this mortal coil.

The game is either one player, with the computer playing the other two, or much more interestingly, two player, with the computer taking the odd one out.

The roles (supposedly with different characteristics, but actually the same) are chosen at the very beginning of the game, along with choosing key (redefinable if you like) and joystick options.

The idea is that you, assisted by your ten trusty men-at-arms, must force entry into the Throne Room (itself defended by the King's Guard), and then kill off your other brothers. Once you are King and they are dead - it's all over.

The castle itself is divided up into about 80 interconnected rooms. A portion of the castle is shown in silhouette on the bottom third of the screen. If a man is present in a room, a window will appear lit up with the colour of his side, otherwise - it's dark. It's vital to keep an eye on this scanner by the way, it's the only way you can watch what your opponents are doing. The display is actually split vertically down the middle, with player one having the left and the computer or Player 2 having the right - the layout is the same for both.

The bottom third shows the 'scanner'.

The really clever stuff though, comes into the top bit, which contains the location of the piece you are controlling at that time. Drawn in beautifully detailed perspective 3D, you move your man about the room, which may have exits left or right, and/or stairs up and down.

The gameplay is simple - you select a man to move (using a cursor that appears on the scanner) and until you choose someone else, he is directly under your control. You can move him from room to room (perceptively noting the smooth animation of the fabby graphics and the neat touches, like flickering candelabra) but if you encounter any of the opposition, it's out with the rapier and waggle that joystick, which will cause you to cut and thrust - hopefully with fatal results.

Combat will lose you strength though - which you can gauge by how fast your heart in the corner of the screen is beating, although extra strength can be regained by drinking potions that you might find scattered around the place.

Two-player is slightly better, but there's no question that the game doesn't have the depth of vision of Singleton's previous masterpieces.

Throne of Fire falls into the look-and-see category, rather than the essential purchase.

Label: Melbourne House
Author: Mike Singleton
Price: £8.95
Joystick: various
Memory: 48K/128K
Reviewer: Jack Daniel

***

Highly innovative concept and presentation marred a dodgy gameplay. Not one of Mike Singleton's best.

3/5