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Barbarian (Psygnosis) – ZX Spectrum

Spectrum Barbarian

Hello my Retro heads, time for another review. With the gorgeous cold weather finally here, sit back with a hot drink and dive into Barbarian on the ZX Spectrum!

My my, a plot must exist for this game? well yes it does, and it’s so simple even a barbarian can understand it….here goes….

Hegor, a barbarian who must traverse several dungeons and underground habitats to defeat his brother, the evil sorcerer Necron.

I bet that took a long time to read didn’t it? haha, well that is the plot of the entire game, simple and to the point though, no 100 page novel to read before you get stuck into the hack and slash game ahead of us. But is it any good?…read on my fellow Retroists.

Upon loading you get a lovely loading screen ( see above ), and into an options screen which is very basic, keyboard or joystick control are accepted for this game. When you get into the game the first thing you will notice is a nice large play field and a decent sized sprite for the main character which I always think is a nice thing to have in a Spectrum game. OK, now you may notice the command bar that sits at the bottom of the screen, this is a very unique control method for this game and one that works very well as an alternative for lots of redefined keys. The way you control your Barbarian is done via the Joystick in pretty much every way, giving you the choice to use the stick’s left and right to walk in each direction, up and down is used to select the extra commands at your disposal including run in the direction facing, jump, slash, flee, pick up and drop, stop and swap weapons. You can see now how this gets around the 1 button Joystick issue this game would have had, and I think it’s genius. This is not a scrolling game, it’s a screen by screen affair which has you evaluate which action will be best used, some screens look innocent enough but can reveal a life crushing death that springs out of nowhere. Prime example is on screen two where everything looks pain free, but if you happen to walk the entire length of the screen, you will get crushed by a falling spike trap. So next life, you know what you will need to do. This is what I love about the game, it has to be thought about to progress, a lot of puzzles you encounter are self explanatory such as bad guy guarding some arrows for example…kill bad guy, take arrows, simple. Other traps are laid in nasty ways but can be memorized pretty well. For the Spectrum’s limited memory and capabilities this game is so well done, managing to get most of the Atari ST and Amiga screens squeezed in to form a mighty fine game.

Graphics:- Very good for the Spectrum, the main sprite animates very well indeed with all the enemy and trap animations being done very well in the process. Lacking colours but if you own a Spectrum you’ll be accustomed to this anyway. This is an A+ effort to bring the 16 bit version graphics down into the 8 bit machines.

Sound:- Sadly lacking in the music department and also in the game in general, but I guess a lot of the memory needed was put aside for the sheer size of the games graphics and screens. Shame but there are some incidental sound effects but nothing to write home about.

Overall:- If you enjoy a good sized adventure game that puts you in direct control of the character on screen then this game is for you. It’s an enjoyable romp through fantasy land with a unique control system that works very well indeed. The conversion from 16 bit to 8 bit is jaw dropping when you think how much more the 16 bit machines could push out. The sound is going to unfortunately cost this game a star, but don’t let that put you off having a go with this one.

four star rating

In game screen Barbarian

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