REVIEWS COURTESY OF ZXSR

Desolator
by Source Software Ltd: Ross Harris
US Gold Ltd
1988
Crash Issue 54, July 1988   (1988-06-30)   page(s) 84,85

The evil Kairos has kidnapped the entire infant population and imprisoned them in his castle. Mac, hero of the coin-op, Halls of Kairos, is called into immediate action.

His quest takes place over five levels (multiloaded on the 48K) within the monochrome passages of the vertically scrolling fortress, which are viewed from above.

A charm has imprisoned the children in the many mirrors hanging from the castle walls. They are saved by punching the mirror panels and collecting the toddlers as they are released.

Progress is impeded by Kairos and his cronies; henchmen absorb energy on contact, firemen fire flame shots and swordsmen throw a continuous volley of sharpened knives. Mac's dwindling energy is shown by a bar at the top of the screen.

Initially, Mac has no armour and can only fight hand to hand. By punching rolling barrels and collecting bomb icons, however, he can improve his weapon power. Picking up six infants temporarily transforms vulnerable Mac into invulnerable Machoman; for a few moments he can march through the castle without fear of harm.

Points are boosted by collecting a series of treasures. Points possessed on capturing these determine exactly how much Mac's score improves or the strength of enemy forces changes.

At the end of each level, Mac encounters a particularly daunting set of enemies. These have to be killed before he can move on to the next.

COMMENTS
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: monochromatic and very detailed - well animated
Sound: average spot effects, but lacking a tune
Options: definable keys


'Another maze game with little to amaze. The presentation is competent enough and the generally uninteresting graphics have one or two nice little touches. Unfortunately the gameplay doesn't offer much to get excited about - hand to hand combat soon becomes tedious but, other than a few bombs, there's no real alternative. A greater selection of weapons might have boosted the game's waning appeal. Exploration, another essential Ingredient of maze games, is glaringly absent here. The castle simply scrolls upwards, so your route through its forbidding chambers and passageways is more or less predetermined. There are plenty of excellent Gauntlet-type games around so there really isn't much excuse for producing one as bland and standard as this. If your quest is for a mazegame, seek elsewhere.'
KATI ... 58%

'Graphically Desolator is great. Every character is very detailed and moves around realistically. The game may be monochrome, but that doesn't detract from the smart visual Impression. Desolator does however lack the speed that is required to make it an action-packed game. It takes what seems like an eternity to cross the play area, and Mac's actions are very slow reacting to frantic keyboard presses. This is where Desolator, which could have been a great game, turns into a very average one. Less characters and more speed would have created a winning formula for Desolator. (Which is presumably why it was so successful in the arcades.) But it not only lacks playability, but also addictiveness - not really worth nine pounds.'
PAUL ... 60%

'The perspective in Desolator is rather strange, but although the playing area is entirely monochromatic, the nicely shaded graphics do create a feeling of solidity. There are plenty of well animated enemies to vanquish and the action is fairly frantic. Sound is unfortunately limited to spot effects with no tunes (even on the 128K). Despite all the various types of enemy, the gameplay is very similar for each level, simply punching the nasties while collecting treasure and extra energy. This repetition spoils the overall lastability. The game is fairly well presented but lacks that vital ingredient which would have made it more addictive.'
PHIL ... 63%

Presentation70%
Graphics65%
Playability60%
Addictive Qualities58%
Overall60%
Summary: General Rating: An attractive, but restrictive, maze game.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 32, August 1988   page(s) 30,31

What do you get if you take seven parts Ikari Warriors, three parts Gauntlet, mix them together, pull out all the colour and then slow down the action? Give up chumbles? Then I'll tell you: You get the latest coin-op conversion from US Gold. Known as Halls Of Kairos in the arcades, the home computer version is called, for some reason Desolator.

Oh dear, it's blurb time, and bimbo here's only gorn and lost the blurb sheet. Still, I can remember the gist even if I can't remember all the silly names; here goes. You play a geezer called Mac and you have to explore a castle. Problem is that the castle happens to be owned by the most evil person in the whole multi-verse, Kairos the Great Satan. Crikey. And more - the castle is populated by his family and friends (and this is where I forget the names so I'll make some up) - Xaxixjex, Pippin the Wondermule, Ron Hardman and Major Binkie Smellybot to name but a few! They're all horribly horrible and try to stop you rescuing the 'babies,' for that is your quest.

Like Ikari Warriors, Desolator is a vertical scroller with a not overly generous horizontal playing area. The whole thing's monochrome (the five levels have different background colours,) but the sprites are all clear and easy to see. Also like I.W., you view from above and behind but, (and this is where the Gauntlet element comes in), there are rooms to be entered and certain routes to be avoided. Also more in the Gauntlet mould are the nasties: sword throwing knights, zombies, fire breathing wall thingies and, well, general 'evil castle' spookery.

There're end of level mega-nasties to kill (fiendishly difficult to begin with but sussable) and babies to collect. These babies, called Peters, are trapped behind various mirrors in the complex. Near each mirror is a shield which has to be punched to release the vile balms who can then be collected by contact. Now, here's a funny thing; in the blurb it says that picking up six of these horrid little yukkies makes you invincible for a bit. My experience was that picking up eight made the screen go red but there was no sign of invincibility - unless of course the power only lasts for thirteen picoseconds. Oh yes, your weapons: fists to begin with, but grenades can be picked up along the way.

Anyway, what do I think about Desolator overall? ... I think it's okay, actually, but I have got a bit of nitpicking to do:

Nitpick 1: Control of the main Character isn't 'crisp' enough for my liking.

Nitpick 2: Loading (especially on 48K), is a real pain - takes ages.

Nitpick 3: There are bugs. The game isn't riddled with them by any means, but it did freeze up on me twice forcing me back to Nitpick 2.

Nitpick 4: The sprite for the main character is exactly the same sprite used for a lot of the nasties. Can get confusing.

Nitpick 5: The heads of Kairos at the end of level one look exactly like a bloke I know called Frank, who's a social worker. I wonder if Kairos, too, drives a clapped out Renault four?

Actually, that last point was quite a smooth link into my end piece - yet another of my infinite supply of unbelievably hilarious jokes.

Question: How many social-workers does it take to change a broken light bulb?

Answer. None - they're all too busy trying to change the one that works.


Graphics7/10
Playability6/10
Value For Money6/10
Addictiveness7/10
Overall7/10
Summary: Birrova hybrid of Ikari Warriors and Gauntlet, quite good fun, but not as good as either of the above.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 75, June 1988   page(s) 39

For a vertically-scrolling medieval Ikari Warriors/Gauntlet clone-ette, Desolator ain't 'alf bad. Taking the role of fearless hero Mac, you have to invade the castle of the evil Kairos, the Great Salad (well, that's what it looks like on the press release, but I'm sure it's a printing error).

But why, oh why, would even the roughest toughest hero want to risk his life in such a foolhardy enterprise? Well, at heart he must be a great big softie, because it's all in aid of a group of spotty schoolchildren who have somehow become trapped in Kairos' magic mirrors ("Mum! Me head's stuck in this 'ere magic mirror!").

So, proceeding through the levels - loaded separately in 48K, or all together in 128K - what do you come across? The backgrounds are very nice, shown in perspective from above. You start off with no weapons at all, and only your mighty fists can ward off the enemies who spring up around you in puffs of smoke. Smack them on the nose and they collapse convincingly, but you won't deal so easily with the armoured knights who pop up later on. They'll throw streams of knives at you, and if you bump into them, just watch your energy meter plummeting faster than a sack of puppies in a lake. (Jenkins, I'm going to report you to the RSPCA if you don't start playing nicely right now! - TH).

So you'll be wanting some well hard weapons, won't you? Just look for the symbols with the big bombs on them, and you'll get some authentic medieval hand-grenades to fling around. Don't waste them, though, because you'll need some to blast your way through doors and across drawbridges later on.

You'll also come across transporters which flip you to otherwise inaccessible sections of the castle, and giant urns, which, when knocked over, turn all the surrounding baddies into LOADSAMONEY! Pick this up to improve your score and your self-esteem. (Well, the more money, the bigger yer thingy gets, don't it)?

Every so often you'll see a magic mirror set into the wall. Stand in front of it and smash it, and lots of little weeblies run out. You must catch them before they disappear, and if you capture 9 you become temporarily invulnerable, and can walk happily through anything. I think this must be the solution to the chamber at the end of the level, where you find yourself trapped by dozens of floating heads which give you a good going over.

Other features include jolly land mines, happy flamethrowers and whizzo rolling barrels.

Plenty to see and do then, just like Chessington Zoo, but, also like Chessington Zoo, if you've seen it once, you've seen it a thousand times. Desolator isn't sufficiently original to earn a top score, and there are plenty of annoying points, like the baddies who look identical to the hero, and the ones who refuse to lie down even when you drop a hand-grenade right on their heads. Nay bad, then, but nothing to split your buskins over.

Label: US Gold
Author: Source Software
Price: £7.95
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins


Overall6/10
Summary: Action-packed cross between Gauntlet and Ikari Warriors, without the impact of either.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 11, August 1988   page(s) 52

US Gold crack mirrors.

Kiddies are in need of help, and you're on your way. They're trapped inside mirrors, in a castle bursting with things you'd avoid in dark alleys.

As you move up the screen it scrolls downward - obviously this is a very long, thin castle. Initially your only weapons are your fists, but later on you can pick up more dangerous devices like bombs (Spectrum) and boomerangs (Amstrad).

Mostly you'll encounter henchmen who look and behave much like yourself. There are also bigger, meaner-looking defenders who throw knives or fireballs, and hits from any of these deplete your energy. You face a more abrupt end if you run into a mine or water - you'll cash in your chips pronto.

At the end of each floor there's a tricky screen where disembodied heads bounce around the screen. You've got to let all of them have a bunch of fives in the chops to move to the next level.

On the way along you can pick up extras like money bags and energy. Warps will move you around the screen and jars act like smart bombs. Most important of all are the mirrors. Give them a good thumping and out pop the children for you to collect. Other objects on walls also come into play - clocks freeze the bad guys for a time - and some walls can be punched through.

The game's easy to get into, but ends up being frustrating because it's virtually impossible to stay clear of all the trouble. Random elements, like materialising baddies, rolling barrels and such, just make life too hairy.

Reviewer: Bob Wade

RELEASE BOX
Spec, £8.99cs, £12.99dk, Out Now
Ams, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Out Now
C64/128, £9.99cs, £14.99dk, Imminent
Atari ST, £19.99dk, Imminent


Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 65/100
1 hour: 60/100
1 day: 58/100
1 week: 40/100
1 month: 25/100
1 year: 15/100


Graphics4/10
Audio3/10
IQ Factor2/10
Fun Factor5/10
Ace Rating505/1000
Summary: Not big enough to hold you for long and too many random elements.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 82, August 1988   page(s) 43

MACHINES: Amstrad/Atari ST/Spectrum/CBM 64
SUPPLIER: US Gold
PRICE: Spectrum £8.99 cass £12.99 disk/CBM 64 £9.99 cass £14.99 disk/Atari ST £14.99
VERSION TESTED: Spectrum

US Gold's Desolator is based on the little-known Sega coin-op, Halls of Kairos (perhaps 'unknown Sega coin-op' might be a better phrase, for no-one I know has even seen the machine!).

Involving the exploits of the imaginatively titled hero, Mac, the player is sent on a rescue mission inside the forbidding walls of the castle owned by the great Satan, Kairos.

The castle interior scrolls vertically down the screen as Mac wends his weary way through corridors and chambers of the stone fortress. The aim is to release the many tiny infants - or 'Peters' (!) - who have been captured and are held captive within mirrors adorning the castle walls. A press of the fire button sees Mac shatter each mirror with a mighty punch, allowing the children to escape and scurry about Mac then attempts to collect the rampaging kiddies before they disappear off-screen. On collecting six Peters, a temporary Power-up is granted, turning Mac into the invincible machoman and enabling him to cut a swathe of destruction through the castle without gaining so much as a scratch.

Castle Kairos is a veritable menagerie, containing a variety of weird and wonderful opponents to beat. Depending upon the version played there are up to ten different adversaries, ranging from moronic henchman who simply wander around sapping Mac's energy on contact, to the dreaded Kairos himself. Mac's punching abilities are not limited to inanimate objects, however, and he repels his aggressors with a single deft blow.

Further opposition is provided in the shape of laser-spitting ornaments, land mines and barrels which roll around the floor. According to the instructions, punching barrels turns them into weapons which Mac can then use. I tried this repeatedly but simply got rolled over: either this function wasn't working on the review copy - or it's incredibly difficult to affect.

Mac's mission is aided by activating a large array of devices which have differing, but generally destructive effects on visible characters. He can also collect a limited supply of bombs and perform acrobatic forward 'flips' - in practice, a totally useless activity.

The action offered by Desolator isn't the most original or interesting I've ever seen. Progress is slow and the gameplay is marred by niggling faults, such as the fact that Mac can't move and punch at the same time. The incessant hordes of enemies which constantly assail our poor hero also help to make this game a rather short affair.

Overall, Desolator is an average game that offers a reasonable amount of entertainment - take it or leave it.


Graphics7/10
Sound4/10
Value6/10
Playability5/10
Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 8, July 1988   page(s) 80

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £8.99, Diskette: £12.99
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £14.99

SO MACHO

The latest in the continuing wave of arcade conversions is probably unique in using an original name rather than the arcade game's. This conversion of Sega's Halts Of Kairos was programmed by Source Software, also responsible for Activision's Predator.

Mac is a heroic young adventurer destined to fight his way through the halls of Kairos rescuing kidnapped children hidden behind the castles mirrors. Punching shields breaks the power of mirrors releasing the children trapped inside, Once a sufficient number of infants have been collected, Mac transforms into Macho Man and with his boosted strength 'desolates' all in his path. Such magical transformations are vital in a struggle with an enemy as great as Lucifer himself.

BIG MAC FRIES

Desolator begins with Mac having just entered the enemy's territory which is segmented by numerous walls - these can be crossed by pushing open doors, punching down flimsy barriers and teleporting via warp tiles. Trying to prevent you reaching the final level is a horde of villains ranging from zombie-like Henchmen to Firemen who hurl fireballs and Armor who throws swords. Your fists can destroying them, but weapons such as bombs (Spectrum) or boomerangs (C64/Amstrad) may be found to more easily dispatch your foes. Alternatively Mac can do forward flips to pass by especially powerful opposition.

Scattered along your bloody route are money bags and question marks that turn your enemies into treasure chests - even the fire-spitting deers' heads can be turned to your advantage. At the end of each level there is a confrontation with Kairo's endlessly multiplying fire-breathing heads. If you manage to destroy all the heads it's on to the next level - and load.


Overall67%
Summary: Purely monochromatic, this version compensates with a more detailed, realistic 3-D effect. The satisfaction of sending the solid-looking enemies flying is much better than on other versions, but during the end-of-level confrontation with the heads, spotting the fireballs is harder, making success that much difficult - if not impossible. 128K owners benefit from a single-load game, even so this arcade conversion never really stands out from the crowd.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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