Thursday, 3 June 2010

Classic genre video games #3 - Barbarian II

Another golden oldie from my C64 days, Barbarian II: The Dungeons of Drax was the sequel to the surprise success that was Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior (a game that amusingly caused outrage over its cover artwork, which featured a scantily-clad tabloid model by the name of Maria Whittaker - a cover that by today's standards is utterly tame).

Barbarian II, like most games at the time, had a highly-complex storyline: the player, as either a buff barbarian or a lithe princess, had to trek through three levels (a desert region, a cave network, and a dungeon), battling various critters along the way, before confronting the evil wizard Drax in his lair and giving his sorry ass a good kicking.

When you're a six-year-old kid though, you don't much care for storylines - you're far more interested in killing things. And in Barbarian II, you got to do that quite a lot. Every level had different enemies to face, ranging from mere critters to larger, tougher opponents. Some of these enemies were fairly conventional, while others were...rather odd. The first level, for example, had hulking neanderthals wielding clubs, as well as apes and dragon-like creatures. But it also had EVIL CHICKENS (Terry Goodkind, eat your heart out) and these bizarre things that looked like giant peas on legs, which attacked you with what appeared to be a large, yellow penis. Hmm.

On a more serious note, the animation of the barbarian sprite was actually pretty advanced for the time, and you could pull of various moves - including a dramatic spinning axe slash, which if you timed just right would decapitate your enemy, and their head would fly through the air and then bounce off the screen. Naturally, to a six-year-old boy, this was the COOLEST THING EVER. Interestingly, the Kung-Fu masters on the last level were so huge that your axe only hit them in the chest rather than the head, so their heart would fly out and flop around instead. Almost as cool was the fact that enemies could decapitate you as well - the dragon-creatures had a nasty tendency to bite off your head and swallow it.

A Kung-Fu master, shortly before having his heart CHOPPED OUT

Sadly I never managed to finish the game (this was an age where computer games were a couple of quid, so you could buy a new one every week, leading to short attention spans) but nonetheless the experience of battling mutant apes and evil chickens - and squealing when I managed to pull off a successful decapitation - are still very clear in my mind...


Iain said...

I will never forget the look on my mate's face when I beheaded him for the first (of many) times.

Great fun. I also remember my teenage genes getting all afluster at the model who adorned the barbarian in the marketing campaign...

James said...

Are you thinking of the first Barbarian game, Iain? Because you could play two-player in that one, whereas I think the second game was only single-player.

Iain said...

Yep, number 1 way back in the mists of the mid 1980s -- on an Amstrad. Then a Spectrum 128K. I never did play the second one though.

Speaking of classic games, I am having a go a Deus Ex again. Trying to crawl from a host of bad-tempered bad guys with two broken legs, a knackered left arm and a gun with one round is very challenging. An exceptional game with a terrific look, well thought out plot and just plain fun to get lost in.