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Activision Inc
Arcade: Gang beat-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes

Other Links

Phil South
Chris Bourne

Grrroowwlll! I'm an altered beast... but then again you already knew that. (At least those people who come into the office when I'm in a leg-bitin' mood know. And they still walk with a limp too!)

But this time it's all a game, and what a good sort of game it is too. Altered Beast was a corking, ripping, snorting game as a coin-op with all sorts of fab 'n' groovy undead beasties to beat up, not to mention a whole googolbyte of sound and graphics. And looking at its conversion I can but marvel (gasp, gasp) at the capacity of the average Spectrum programmer to shoehorn this much game into such a small memory space. Tsk! Y'know I still remember when 48K was a LOT. Still, enough of this foolish reminiscing... sniff... on with the review.

Once upon a time, a young bloke died and before he could even get comfy in his grave, some bleedin' wizard came along and raised him from the dead. "What do you want, you whiskery old goat?'' he shouted politely. "I wuz just gettin' settled in me grave, an' now you've blinkin' come along and resurrected me, yer big dimmock."

"You are to be my agent in this world," said the wiz, with a voice like an old wallet. "You shall take on the beasts of the night and rescue my daughter. Art thou worthy of the task?" He prodded a lightning bolt into the wretched dead-un's kidneys, making his eyes bulge out like mushrooms. Being brave about death but a complete wimp about pain, the lad accepted and trudged off through the Graveyard.

It wasn't much, a trifle overpopulated with zombies perhaps but it was the only home he had. He ploughed into the zombies without much ado, but soon realised, as he progressed through his next four picturesque locations of the Forest, the Cave, the Temple and then back again to the Graveyard, that something rather peculiar was happening to him. Whistling merrily along as he ker-splatted his fiendish foe he'd find himself turning into a flying dragon and a blue bear, and a funny humanoid tiger. Sometimes even a golden werewolf! That wizard's got a rum old sense of humour, he would mutter to himself. Ha... ha...

Hey, YOU, wake up! It isn't a bed time story, you prannock, it's the game. Ahem. Right, sitting comfortably? (Chuckle.) Then I'll continue.

On the Speccy it's easier to do a monochrome version of a blockbustin' coin-op beat-'em-up game, because it's less hassle than finding out new ways to bamboozle your way around the attribute problem. I think this is a bit of a cop-out, personally, especially when the one thing that the Speccy actually does rather well is fast colour graphics. Okay, so it's not many colours, but with care and attention you can achieve a multicoloured game which moves at something like a realistic speed. Which is exactly where Altered Beast comes in.(Lumme! At last! Ed)

It's a multi-coloured game, a bit like Karnov in design and execution, in which the sprites all have their own colours. The technique works better if you layer the colours and do calculations to match the sprite colour with the background colour but that all takes up processing time, so the backgrounds take on the sprite colour as it moves across the screen. It's easier to do, faster to play, and so much closer to the original game in looks and speed. Altered is as fast as it can be for the amount that's going on, and it rates a higher score for that, but it does judder a bit. The graphics are first class, and the sounds are none too bad either although a trifle annoying if we're talking about the theme tune.

The game is quite satisfying as beat em ups go, and my only real criticisms are a) if anything the levels are too short b) shame the players look like they re doing ballet kicks rather than karate, and c) with the background and 400 bits of zombie flying around it's hard to see what's going on. But Altered pushes the Speccy to its limits, and although it's a flawed execution in some ways, I'd still say it's a good game.

Little niggles here and there but very adventurous (and gory).


Screenshot Text

At the end of the levels there are the usual Big Baddies, but, this being a Sega game, they're sicko nightmare rock creatures. It is possible to kick them to death but easier if you're a fire-flinging werewolf.

In the Swamp section you have to watch out for the wiggling tail of the Dragon. If you can kick it you get a pile of points. If you miss you better jump out of the way!

When you kick the zombies on the Graveyard level, they first lose their heads and then blow apart like this.