The “Archive Articles” series will be re-uploads of previous pieces that I did for other sites and platforms. Content will, as always, vary between retro games, films, pop culture and some politics/social issues.
The first is a review of the retro computer game classic The Sacred Armour Of Antiriad
The Sacred Armour Of Antiriad is a 1986 game by Palace Software, a British games company who were noted for their releases which usually featured something a little different such as ‘Cauldron’ and the brilliantly pervy box of ‘Barbarian’.
The game is a side scrolling adventure/performer in which you play Tal, a Savage member of a post apocalyptic tribe of humans sent to find ancient armour to defeat the hoards of aliens who have appeared out of a volcano. The Armour is actually a radiation suit built by us in the present civilisation but has passed into myth after the horror of nuclear war and the destruction of technological documents. The name ‘Antiriad’ being a mis-reading of Anti-Rad or Anti-Radiation by the tribesmen elders.
The story may sound like standard video game stock but the guys at Palace really managed to put this one on steroids and the result is a mega-polished and very fleshed out product.
The Amstrad always had slightly better graphical capabilities than other home computers of the time and it really shows. The colours are rich and vibrant and the Animation on Tal is actually gob smacking smooth for the time with many frames of animation going into his movements and actions (with the added immature chuckle of the graphic artists giving him a subtle but rather visible willy when he faces the screen). Everything has a mystical and ancient feel to it crossed with a healthy dose of sci-fi sheen. Some of the enemy design is a bit baffling, with monkeys and ghost like monsters appearing when it is supposed to be aliens and there is some minor slowdown when the screen gets crowded but these are minor flaws.
The sound begins with what is probably one of the most brilliant pieces of computer game music ever. The iconic title theme written by late Richard Joseph, (a jazz musician and sound designer for many other amazing games who sadly died of lung cancer in 2007) smacks you in the face with it’s epic opening melody and beats which conjure up images of ancient worlds and forgotten technological achievements. If you are a musician like me you will appreciate the song even more for it’s odd off beat basslines and percussion. Sadly there is no in game music but instead of taking away from the game it simply add more to the creepy atmosphere, though even some sort of low pulse could have elevated the proceedings a touch. The sound effects are well done and are more than just bleeps and blips with recognisable footsteps on leaves, stones smashing and lasers blasting.
As a game though ‘Antiriad’ is immense fun to play but it has it’s flaws. The over floaty jumping of Tal can land you in some bad situations and some of the enemy placement and movements are lazily programmed in and pretty much impossible to avoid which sort of takes some of the skill out of the play. I would have liked to have seen Tal possess the ability to throw his rocks while crouching or in mid air and the regeneration of enemies if you happen to go off screen then back again is a little frustrating. I also think that you find the actual armour itself a touch too quickly, even though you have to collect more items to mobilise and arm it it’s still a bit of an easy find. Some of the level design isn’t greatly thought out either but again this is some small factors as it IS great fun to play and you do get a little further every time. The great feature of radiation or energy belts in the game that Tal can pass through but not the suit is a fantastic inclusion and when you need an item that is blocked by one of these belts and when the radiation level is high it’s a mad scramble to leave the armour, pass through the belt, get what you need and get back into the suit before you die.
‘Antiriad’ is a one shot game and by that I mean that there are no ‘Levels’ to complete, you just keep going from the moment you appear until the end which is a bit frustrating when you die but it fully maintains the adventure side of the game.
The more I play ‘Antiriad’ the more it seems like a forerunner to Psygnosis ‘Shadow Of The Beast’. Both had stunning cosmetics but the game flaws let them down. Where Antiriad really shines is not really the game itself but the lore and the story. Palace actually commissioned a rather great 16 page comic (which can be found readily online in PDF format) to accompany the game depicting the run up to the manufacture of the suit and the nuclear war all packed with some delicious box art and great logos.
Interestingly the comics mentioned two suits of Armour which were constructed which would have made a fascinating addition but is not mentioned or included in the game.
I was blown away by ‘The Sacred Armour Of Antiriad’ when I got it in 1986 at the age of nine. It was brand new, slick, original and full of atmosphere and myth and I still love it to this day (So much so I have my own personal Antiriad T-shirt featuring the box art) and I still get tremendous joy out of playing it for both nostalgia and the fun playability.
Flawed? Yes, but just get sucked up in the story and enjoy this glorious release!