Anyone expecting to be thrust into another 3D space shoot em up in the follow up to Ad Astra by Gargoyle Games will be in for a shock on two counts. One; because this is an adventure game, and two; because it possesses some of the most amazing animated graphics you’ve ever seen on the Spectrum. Greg Follis of Gargoyle Games says, ‘We like to think of Tir Na Nog as being a computer movie.’
And so it is. You play the hero Cuchulainn, a figure standing 56 pixels high and animated through no less than 64 separate frames. The result is a very large character who walks, turns and thrusts with his sword in liquid animation as good as a Walt Disney cartoon character could. On top of that, there are many other living creatures in the mythological Celtic game world created in Tir Na Nog, and they too are all fully animated and they all move and act independently. To create a sensation of three dimensional depth, parallax movement has been incorporated, so that when Cuchulainn moves the foreground, midground and background all scroll at varying speeds.
Perhaps the most astonishing visual treat can be seen whenever any of the characters walk in front of a detailed graphic like, say, a bush. We are normally so used to some form of colour attribute problem or clashing of drawn edges that it is almost taken for granted that something will go wrong, but that we won’t mind too much. Consequently, on first play, it may well go unnoticed that this doesn’t happen in Tir Na Nog. Characters move effortlessly across other graphics or each other without the least disturbance of either graphic.
On screen, Tir Na Nog is a richly designed game. It is played in a make-believe land and starts somewhere near the centre of this land. From the first frame all the land can be seen, stretching into the distance. The player must imagine that he is a film camera, which may point in the four directions of the compass — these are the four ‘camera angles’. From each angle Cuchulainn will be seen in the centre of screen facing away from the camera, towards it, or facing left or right. He is moved by facing him to the left or right. A series of interlinked paths cross the land along which he walks. Tunnels, caves and secret passages make longer journeys possible. Beyond him the background is also animated as flocks of birds fly to and fro, the trees wave in the breeze and clouds scud across the skies.
The game consists of many sub-quests and typical adventure problems to be solved. In addition to the cassette, the large box contains a map of Tir Na Nog, drawn in a style which will be familiar to those who enjoy Lord of The Rings or the Thomas Covenant trilogy of books. There is also a booklet explaining the game and its objectives as well as providing a detailed history of the fall of the Sidhe and the breaking of the Seal of Calum. It is the re-uniting of the four parts of the Seal which forms the main quest in Tir Na Nog. This is the work of a hero, and Cuchulainn looks tough enough to be up to the job. In the first locations you will soon encounter the Sidhe, once mighty warriors and protectors of the Seal of Calum, now shrunk with the destruction of the Seal to petty and annoying creatures. It is the Sidhe who may want to make you look for a sword with which to defend yourself. Cuchulainn is allowed to carry up to four objects at a time and there are some 150 throughout the adventure, so forward planning is required. The carried objects are listed in the information area below the playing screen, and their use is selected from the keyboard and indicated by an asterisk. Once selected, Cuchulainn may thrust with them in what can only be described as a thoroughly athletic manner.
Tir Na Nog is not a game for a few moments, and any suspicion that the highly detailed graphics have been accomplished at the expense of content will soon be dispelled as you set out to defeat the Great Enemy by seeking the fragments of the Seal of Calum. Details of pricing are still uncertain at the time of writing, but it may be around the £9 to £10 mark. I predict, however, that there will be very few who consider it unworthy.
Tir Na Nog is for the 48K Spectrum, written by Greg Follis and Roy Carter of Gargoyle Games.
And the Quest of Cuchulainn was this — to bring together the fragments of the Seal of Calum and to reunite them, for the lightening of the burdens of the world and his own lasting glory. So he took himself to the barrow of the Sidhe, and standing before the Altar of the Seal, he gazed upon the gateway to Tir Na Nog...