Time:1 hour 10 minutes
Back when I was thinking up what I wanted to cover here besides FPS, there were about 5 titles I had in mind for what else I wanted to cover. Abuse, Catacomb, Heretic II, Postal and Star Wars: Battlefront. This reasoning all being that these are games that play like FPS games, but in a different perspective. Catacomb I have a very good reason for playing, its the start of the Catacomb series, which I already covered the FPS titles of. I plan on replaying those, so let's see the series before it went into the most famous FPS progenitor.
Now, the issue with this is that the Catacomb series is weird. REALLY WEIRD. The iD FPS, then the trilogy from the Blake Stone guys. These are the simple titles. The series starts with Catacomb on DOS, at least by year, then we have Catacomb II/The Catacomb. Sounds simple enough? Catacomb, Catacomb II, then Catacomb 3D. Only, the Apple II and II GS versions of the game are supposedly different to the original version. It gets worse, while SoftDisk was publishing the FPS titles as shareware games, they were also publishing Apple II & IIGS sequels to Catacomb with unusual names like Sylvan Idyll and Ether Quest. I applaud the effort, if it wasn't a pain in my ass.
I'm going to slowly work my way through these, but these are surprisingly obscure games. Sand Trap, the final game in the series period, is a colossal pain to track down. It was supposed to be released in SoftDisk G-S #72, but alas, that is not available to my knowledge. Supposedly it exists, someone has actually played it, but where is a mystery to me. Versions on the Apple II exist for all of these titles, so hopefully I can find them one way or another.
The story is, master wizard Petton Everhail is hired by Terexin, High Wizard of the Kieralon, to find all his treasure in the ruins of the Kieralon Empire. How all that treasure has remained there for 200 years? Because it is quite naturally held hostage by goblins, ogres, skeletons and gargoyles. All mainstays of the series, except for the gargoyles. Its been a while, but I don't remember any of those. There might even be a dragon!
Compared to twin stick shooters I find this control scheme slightly lacking, however, this had to work with joysticks and mouses of the day, alone. With that handicap in mind, its fine.
The other two attacks require various scrolls. The first is a bolt, which fires a series of fireballs at a much faster rate than you could possibly do without resorting to a rapid-fire button on a joystick. This is useful when there are large numbers of the bigger enemies.
Defending the treasure chests are the aforementioned creatures. Goblins are the simplest, they're the red enemies, they walk towards you, usually to a cardinal direction, and damage you if they touch you.
Skeletons are a pain in the butt. Unlike the goblins, they are aware that you alternate hands, and go in your corner areas. They also damage on touch and are incredibly annoying, but if you hug a wall they tend to just walk towards you.
There are a ton of strange references to the quality of disks. The version I'm playing was modified by an Australian floppy disk maker, so I guess they wanted to make fun of all their competitors. I can't say I've ever used a floppy that didn't come with a game already, so this is lost on me. Seems like typical advergame silliness anyway.
This game doesn't allow you to save to my knowledge, and if you die, that's it. This isn't something I care for, but the length of this game isn't long enough for that to be a terrible problem. I must admit though, I used the level select cheat a few times, simply because I got tired of the opening levels. Which is of course, the real reason why I hate not having save games.
What's curious about this game is that fighting enemies in wide open spaces is actually the worst thing that could happen. With basically unlimited firepower, all that really matters is your rate of fire, so having to deal with even two fronts divides up your firepower too much. If you're in a tight corridor, unless you're fighting against enemies with ranged attacks, your victory is assured.
Before the rating, here's some footage of the game in action. I make no pretenses of being great at this game, but I did try to get a full run of the game. Died on level 7 due to my own hubris.
The charge up basic fireball attack is neat, as are the two attacks that need ammo, but the game rarely gives one good chance to use them. 2/10
The variety and simple nature of the enemies is appreciated, but they move a mit bit too fast. 3/10
Its very clear that this is someone's first time making these kinds of levels, and it feels very...bleh. It starts off decently enough, but it feels the need to pad its meager length to obscene levels with the difficulty and lack of a save system. 3/10
Controls are a little loose, anything requiring precision takes longer than it should. Its also a bit tricky aiming at enemies who hit you at an angle. 4/10
You can shoot walls I guess. 1/10
This feels like an ugly version of Deadly Rooms of Death, somehow. 1/10
Somehow, this eye-searing pain is the EGA mode. Trust me, the CGA mode is worse. At least everything is distinct. Almost everything, anyway. 1/10
Take some treasure from an ancient forgotten empire or something. Nothing matters the second you open up the game. 0/10
Simple PC Speaker. 1/10
That's 16, the same score I originally gave Hovertank 3D.
I've seen this described as a Gauntlet clone, and that doesn't seem like an unreasonable comparison to me. The only reason why this is special is because this was one of the earliest titles from the boys at iD, and that exciting titles would result from their work. Its quite neat seeing the seeds of what would be their mark on the industry begin to form.