Review: Wrath Of The Demon (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 21)

Equipment Used/Recommended

  • MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 – you can replicate this with the Steem emulator.
  • Superior 58 A/B/C – note that none of these worked so I had to use the hard drive image linked by Pezz82 in his Atari ST MiSTer guide video. Go subscribe to him, he’s excellent.
  • Speedlink USB Joystick

My Review

So here we are in March 1991. Readysoft have so far seen fit to release Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair. Both games are undoubtedly a treat for the eyes and ears, but they forgot to be games. Instead, each game consisted of a cut scene playing out and having to move the joystick the right direction at the right time, for up to three movements in a scene. In modern terminology it was QTE, the game. Now it was great for demoing what your Atari ST could do, and it might just entertain you for the hour it might take you to guess the movement combos and complete the game, but replay value is zero. The games further diminish with time compared to their less graphically sophisticated brethren as technical excellence tends to stand out less over time while the value of a game’s mechanics only grow if they’re good enough. With that, the value of Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair is pretty diminished today, but even then some were wising up to their awfulness with ST Format rating Space Ace a mere 58% and Dragon’s Lair a mere 43%, while later Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp would get 58% and finally Dragon’s Lair: Escape From Singe’s Castle would get 31%.

Wrath Of The Demon represents their attempt to do something about that reputation, they decided to make their competitor to Shadow Of The Beast. Wrath Of The Demon. It even sounds a bit similar. Just like SOTB the focus is on graphics in a hack and slash side-scroller with large beautifully-drawn enemies.

Now the story is your fairly standard wibble. A wizard names Anthrax (yes really) brought forth a demon, hoping the demon would overthrow the king on his behalf. The demon, as demons are prone to doing, chose to do his own thing, deciding to kill the king and have his realm for himself, but first dealing with the wizard in what proves to be the end of a poorly-thought-out plan. The demon then set fire to the land, leaving a ruined mess. The demon slept and men returned, creating their new kingdom. The demon had slept to recover his energy and found a new kingdom, just as powerful as before, in its place, which wasn’t part of his plan. Our quest begins as the demon is preparing to attack and the king has been warned of the coming danger – our job is to rid the kingdom of the demon.

The game opens with some suitably SOTB intro music, with its mellow pan pipes, and you get an intro that bears more than a passing resemblance to that of SOTB 2 (which had already come out on the Amiga at this point).

It then throws you into the game, at full speed, on horseback. You are tasked with riding a horse and having it jump over the obstacles and leaning down off it to pick up potions, not the most sophisticated gameplay in the world as it amounts to a reaction test to press up or down on the joystick. It does however feature some impressive parallax scrolling, not necessarily the smoothest but impressive nevertheless. Sound has at this point reverted to chip music.

Controls are simple enough, up on the joystick allowing you to jump or enter a door, downward diagonals to roll, down to crouch or pick something up, as the horizontal lets you walk. Fire punches. In a fight diagonals hit high or low, verticals smash or hit downwards. F1 will use a shield potion granting 3 seconds of invisibility, F2 will use a Zap potion (think the rocket launcher in Streets Of Rage) and F3 a healing potion. Ctrl-S saves.

So having got off your horse you are next attacked by a couple of goblins who must be dispatched with a sword in a single-screen non-scrolling section that features some beautifully-animated clouds, but this does little to hide mediocre gameplay of rock-paper-scissors level combat. Hits have no feeling of heft, and the combat is boring and repetitive. The next set-piece sees you battling a dragon, a huge beautifully-drawn beast, even if his animation has insufficient frames to be convincing. The backdrop here is 100% static, presumably for performance reasons, though again it’s well-drawn. A scrolling section follows with some green balls attacking you, some impressive parallax as foreground objects move faster than the main backdrop, but gameplay remains repetitive.

Verdict

Honestly this is not a good game. ST Format were very generous in giving this 81%, perhaps wowed by the graphics or just relieved it wasn’t Dragon’s Lair. Whatever the case, while an improvement over Dragon’s Lair it’s still very much a tech demo with deeply unsophisticated gameplay that belongs back in 1988.

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