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Article #37 (74 is last):
Newsgroups: freenet.sci.comp.atari.product.8bit.reviews
From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: Necromancer / game / commercial
Posted-By: xx004 (aa700 - Michael Current)
Reply-To: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Date: Tue Apr 21 19:39:36 1992


Reprinted from the A.C.E.C. BBS (614)-471-8559

An Impromptu review of Bill Williams' Necromancer

by Dick Brudzynski (CIS SysOP)

Necromancer is now available on cartridge for all XE/XL computers and game
machines by Atari.

Necromancer author Bill Williams always found new ways to use a joystick.  In
an early APX game, Salmon Run, one had to pilot a fish upstream by a
combination of jumping and swimming movements that was quite unlike anything
ever seen before (or since).

In a later work for Synapse, Bill had an Alley Cat which the user had to keep
madly jumping on a clothesline trying to hit a target some distance away.
Unlike most "jumping" games there was an element of randomness,
unpredictability, and gravity in the joystick control.  The player could never
be quite sure of hitting the target.

Necromancer was Bill's most notable achievement in new forms of joystick
control -- the action was "spongy."  The user would move the joystick and it
would take a fraction of a second for the corresponding action to take place
on the screen, the action always lagged behind the joystick movement, and you
could return the stick to neutral and watch the action complete itself on
screen.

With a Bill Williams game, you knew you'd always have to learn to use the
joystick in a way that you hadn't used it before -- always interesting, always
challenging.

A second notable feature of a Williams game was the emphasis on romance as the
object of the game.  In Salmon Run, the player piloted his salmon upstream
and, if successful, was reworded by a big wet sloppy kiss from his lady fair
(complete with smoochy sound effects).  His Alley Cat was prompted in his
adventures by his desire to impress his girl friend.  Both the Salmon and the
Cat got the girl at the end of each level and were rewarded by increasing
levels of on-screen bliss.  I imagine that the successful completion of all
the levels of a Williams game would probably result in a degree of pure
ecstasy known only to the Finnish Commission on Eroticism and Public Health.

All of Bill's works projected a sense of joy and good humor -- they were true
"feel good" games.

Necromancer was a distinct departure from Bill's usually light-hearted style
and the closest he's ever come to a traditional blow-the-enemy-away game.  Our
necromancer protagonist is charged with the responsibility of restoring light
to a world from which the light has been stolen.  Actually there are three
games which are part of the larger game in Necromancer.

In the first game, we have to arm our Necromancer with the tools he'll need to
successfully complete the second game.  Our Necromancer must grow an entire
forest to use in the second game.  In the course of this process, he and his
forest are under attack by trolls and venomous spiders which grow ever
stronger.

Here is a really brilliant twist -- a gamer who tries to counter the
opposition by becoming increasingly stronger will lose badly.  The correct
strategy in this section of the game is to maintain and gradually diminish the
Necromancer's strength so as to finally expire at precisely the "right moment"
when the forest is at its most powerful.  A gamer who tries to "stand against
the wind" will lose his entire forest; a gamer who knows when to bend and
eventually break will pass on to the second game well-armed.

In the second game, our Necromancer has an opportunity to prevent his
adversary (an evil mage) from arming himself (with more venomous spiders).
The goal is to use the trees to prevent the adversary from hatching spiders
from five levels of crypts.  Each spider prevented from hatching denies a tool
to the adversary in the third game.

All five levels are basically the same game but as the gamer progresses
through the levels, he has to learn precisely when to change strategies in
order to preserve his forest and diminish the evil mage's minions to the max.

In the third game, our necromancer faces a duel to the death witx the evil
mage.  In this game, Williams presents the gamer with a difficult problem to
solve.  The necromancer is under constant strenth-diminishing attacks by the
mage's minions.  He can reduce the attacks by attacking the minions.  He can
regain strength by attacking the mage.  He can progress to the next level of
the third game by attacking the mage's hiding places.

The trick in the third game is to find the right combination of
attack-the-minions, attack-the-mage, and attack the hiding places so as to
pass onto the next level with the maximum remaining strength.  This is a
problem I've been unable to solve despite years of play.  Knowing Williams'
style, I keep playing because a real graphic treat awaits the player who
successfully completes the third game.

Necromancer is a true arcade game -- quick reflexes and an agile mind count
for a lot.  Nevertheless, strategy is also critical.

A Bill Williams game is always distinctly different from anything else.
Trying to describe it is a lot like trying to give a narrative description of
a Beethoven symphony, the Mona Lisa or a first kiss.  Atari deserves to be
commended for bringing Necromancer back from the grave.

>From time to time I wonder whatever became of Bill Williams.  A few years ago
I found a set of excellent 1020 plotter routines written by a "Bill Williams."
I like to think that Bill is still hacking away out there somewhere.

By all means, pick up Necromancer.  It's truly a unique creation that will
stimulate brain cells near death from too many mazes, shoot-em-ups, jumping
games, etc.  By the way, the graphics, music, and sound are impressive.

-- 
 Michael Current, Cleveland Free-Net 8-bit Atari SIGOp   -->>  go atari8  <<--
   The Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG is the Central Atari Information Network
      Internet: currentm@carleton.edu / UUCP: ...!umn-cs!ccnfld!currentm
     BITNET: currentm%carleton.edu@{interbit} / Cleveland Free-Net: aa700





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