Wednesday, 7 July 2010

ZX Spectrum - Barbarian

Sinclair Spectrum
(I know it's the Commodore 64 box, but the art's the same. See that man? That's Wolf from Gladiators, that is...)

Harking back to the days of Mortal Kombat, where death-moves were really taking off and violence in video games was almost a necessity, blood and guts were a staple of the modern era of gaming. This has continued somewhat as more and more games receive age rating certificates akin to Hollywood movies, games become more realistic and immersive… but back in the “Good old Days”, when everything was made of wood, a game with shock value often found itself on the receiving end of more unfavourable press than Saddam Hussein buying his horde of PS2s to control his war machine.
 Such a game was Barbarian, a straight one-on-one beat-‘em-up on the humble 8-bit Spectrum. Whilst sword-fighting was nothing new, the sheer number of moves and combinations used on your humble joystick represented a huge technical battle against some of the tougher AI in the game. But it was the violence that really stirred things up. Some of it comic violence, like the way the little Gremlin would come across the screen to drag away the dead man’s carcass, but the ultimate triumph (or tragedy if you were on the receiving end) was the spinning neck chop. Whilst most fights were won and lost by the process of draining your opponent’s energy, you could cut a fight short by simply decapitating him with this move. Usually the first 2 opponents were easy enough to hit with this manoeuvre, after that it was nigh on impossible,

Amusingly, the gremlin that collects the dead body will kick a loose head along the floor, probably just as disturbing to the death blow just dealt, but in the mid to late 80s this was like heaven to any teenage (or pre-teen for that matter) boy.
 Unfortunately, this is pretty much it, 8 fights of increasing difficulty, followed by the final showdown with the evil Drax, who, by the way, once you’ve figured him out, is exceptionally easy to beat. But the combat system is very thorough, with lots of moves to choose, using a tried and tested system similar to Way Of The Exploding Fist, so whilst the 8 fights can feel very samey, they’re a challenge for sure, and to win them all requires some skill and smooth moves. The “rolling knock-over” attack is a bit of a cop out, but once you get the hang of jumping, blocking and retaliating with a variation of moves, you’ll be looking pretty impressive, especially if you manage to land the fatal head-lopper in the process.
On the plus side, there is a two player mode, so you can decapitate all your friends. Video game violence had never been so much fun. And until the dawn of Mortal Kombat, this was definitely the place to dispense that pent-up aggression.

1 comment:

  1. See that woman, that's Maria Whittaker from Page 3 that is.