Paul Rixon gets through a lot of games!
Gauntlet clones seem to be all the rage lately
and DRUID is clearly Firebird's attempt to cash in on the trend. I'm
not complaining though – this one's a real cracker! I'll briefly run
through the plot first, and leave the superlatives until later.
Peace and well-being are in jeopardy throughout the lands of Belorn
due to the likes of four demon Princes of Darkness, who have
appeared through an inter-dimensional gateway in the dungeons of the
evil Acamantor. As last of the Great Druids it's your duty to
destroy the four skulls of the Princes which can only be found in
the dingiest depths of the dungeons. Eight types of magical spell
are at your disposal. Fire, water and electricity spells may be used
in defence against the constant onslaught of hell-spawned 'dimension
monsters' and other evil-weevils intent on your disappearance.
Several other spells are available for unlocking
doors, for giving you limited powers of invisibility and for
creating a 'Golum'. A Golum is a yeti type character who kills all
adversaries on contact. He can be programmed to automatically wait,
follow or lead you around the dungeons or a second player can
intervene via a second joystick –clever stuff! A 'chaos' spell acts
to eliminate the skulls once you've found them, and can also be used
to escape from tight spots in the game. You only possess a limited
number of powers to begin with, extra abilities may be obtained from
chests, and here a degree of skill is required to select the most
profitable item. Nicely animated 'pentagrams' replenish your energy
reserves. Very useful these!
There are one or two further surprises awaiting you in the dungeons
but I'll leave them for you to discover. At the end, a rating system
labels you with one of sixteen titles ranging from 'Halfwit' to 'Lightmaster'.
I'm not going to tell you what it called ME though! You'll have
gathered by now that DRUID is not one of those simplistic 'thrown
together in five minutes' jobs. A lot of thought and programming
skill has obviously gone into the game.
DRUID excels in the graphics department. Bi-directional stairways
give access to eight levels of dungeon, each offering a different
blend of hi-res multicoloured scenery and ground features.
Information relating to the number and nature of remaining spells is
displayed in the top half of the screen together with an indication
of your energy level. Scrolling is excellent, as it should be on the
Atari, and although there isn't any music, sound effects are
This is truly an enthralling product and one that Firebird should be
proud of. It's more involved than Phantom and streets ahead of the
awful Gauntlet. No price accompanied the review copy although I get
the impression that it is not intended as a budget release. Even so
it should definitely be at the top of every arcade gamer's shopping