BECOME A WARRIOR WIZARD!

Not only is Germany famous for having a rather skill football team, but the land of the lederhosen also has a smashing software house which goes by the name of Rainbow Arts. Strange name for a software house, but the games are top quality! Remember Rock 'N' Roll, X-Out and the brilliant CRASH Smash Turrican? Yes! Dead good, weren't they?

Apprentice screenshot

So, what's next? It's Apprentice, an arcade adventure that follows the exploits of a wizard's young apprentice. It seems that this olde worlde YTS lad wants to join the Magicians' Guild, but the ruling council think that even at the age of 400 you're too much of a young whippersnapper to be considered!

Still, reluctantly, it's agreed to send you into six dangerous worlds, each made up of 32 levels, to set you a final test. Pass and you will be dubbed a Paul Daniels acolyte. Fail and you'll probably spend the next 400 years as a lackey, IF you survive!

Dragons on the whole are big, scaley fire-breathing reptiles who like nothing better than torching a few villages and kidnapping fair maidens (and who can blame them?). Fumo is just that sort of dragon and it's your eventual goal to locate his lair and kill him. The main problem is that you only have ready access to 16 levels, so if you want to locate Fumo a lot of searching has to be done to find the secret doors to the other levels. You'd better pack your winter woolies because the climate as you pass from world to world changes regularly.

Apprentice screenshot

On the way to spank Fumo's bottom you climb mountains, cross rivers, suffer from vertigo as you enter cloud world and sweat like crazy as you yomp across Hell. But you laugh in the face of danger (ha, ha, ha!), and chortle at the variety of creatures Fumo has sent to stop you (tee hee!). Even though you haven't gained full knowledge of wizardly ways, you have a few tricks under your pointy hat. By collecting money, ye olde shoppes can be entered and a variety of goods purchased. These include balloons (to cross chasms), energy bombs, extra lives and small spirits which are the spitting image of you and are used to explore dank, dark, spooky places. Though be careful - the more accessible a shop the more expensive the goods are, and it's better (but much more dangerous) to clamber around and find the less accessible shops.

Fumo's minions are all over the place as expected, and he's enchanted all of the inhabitants of the land. It may be difficult to kill all the cute little birds and bunny rabbits etc, but to reach your target they must be either fought or avoided.

Though unarmed to begin with, the enemy can be kicked or you can throw handy chests at them. Having collected weaponry from shops, the serious business of maiming can begin.

Can you earn your pointy Wizard's hat by defeating Fumo?

Find out soon when Apprentice is released priced £8.99 on cassette and £12.99 on disk.

A QUICK PROBE

The programming team responsible for this arcade extravaganza is East Croydon based Probe Software. Created five years ago the guys initially developed, marketed and published their own games.

But that venture didn't last very long, so they decided to become one of the UK's top development houses! And plenty of work has come their way in the past few years as they program for some of the biggest names in the software business. Games like Savage, Outrun, Mr Heli, Road Blasters and Sim City have done a lot to boost their reputation. We've already seen a playable demo of Apprentice, and although it's a few weeks off completion at the time of writing it looks as if it's set to be a winner. Expect to see a review next month.