Spook city, ahoy! Welcome to Midian, home of mutants, beserkers and psychotic killers. Not the place you'd normally pick to get away from it all, but playing Boone this is where you are. Y'see Boone has been accused of a series murders he didn't commit and as he runs for the prarielands of Canada, stumbles across this long-forgotten necropolis.
But in the game there's no time to stand around like a lemon catching up on the storyline, because the colourful scenery is packed with vicious attackers. The assorted hordes (some almost human, though mostly a lot of huge ugly bugs) are trying to prevent you reaching Mask, arch enemy in the game.
Nightbreed is essentially, a beat-'em-up played across a huge map. Scenes are viewed side on, and the screen flips between areas as you control Boone's movement to the left or right. If a route is available up or down the screen, arrowed gateways mark the turning point.
Boone is unarmed to begin with and it's up to you to control his attacking moves such as punching and kicking. Most of the human-looking mutants can be defeated with a good few solid blows, as long as you lay into them before they pull out a gun or flamethrower! Midian's monsters are slightly more difficult to kill outright, though a swift sliding kick knocks them out of your way - giving you, at least the chance to escape! Some armed attackers, when knocked out, drop their weapons - pick 'em up and success should be easier to achieve (use sparingly: bullets are limited!).
There are three different levels to explore (above Midian, in Midian and the bowels of the necropolis), but, and this is the rummy thing, you don't have to complete one level before progressing to the next. Often you don't have a lot of choice - holes open up in the ground and downwards you plummet. If you collect secret pass codes you can enter one level automatically, instead of playing through others.
Sound's fun, eh? Well, this is where the most annoying element of the game comes in: it's a multi-load and every level is loaded independently of each other, and that - includes the main part of the program and the introductory screens. The effect is like playing a game on ITV: you just get into the action when you have to stop for the ads (here, the next part to load). So, in one game you could spend more time forwarding and rewinding the cassette and loading rather than playing the game!! Boo! The disk version makes everything a lot better because of the rapid access.
The gameplay is good fun and not as predictable as most beat-'em-ups - just as you begin attacking one enemy, a bomb, or another mutant flies onto the screen causing extra hassles. Though packed with colourful graphics from start to finish, the layout of a scene (you often walk behind objects in the foreground, disappearing from view) may make it difficult to see what's exactly going on. An enjoyable, playable action game packed with lots to discover, Nightbreed should hold your interest for a long time.
RICHARD ... 80%
'As colourful as Night Breed is, it 's a wee bit over the top. Both the character sprite and attackers are monochrome, and against a colourful background they're very difficult to see. Add to this the very, very annoying multi-load and I was turned against the game very quickly. But after a bit of perseverance (and a lot of peering myopically at the screen) I started to enjoy myself. Boone has a hard time of it initially as he only has his fists and feet to defend himself but later on weapons of varying effectiveness come into play. It's a shame the multiload is such a pain because after initial doubts I quite liked this - but not when you have to reload whole sections of the game.'
MARK ... 69%
It's deep-breath time here, I'm afraid. (Ah-haaaah!) Right, that's better. You see, I've just realised what an awful lot of explaining I've got to do - Nightbreed being one of those 'multimedia experience' thingies, you see, with a film, a comic, a book and all sorts to get through before we can even mention Ocean's computer games effort. In fact, I think I'll have to take another deep breath. (Ah- haaaaah!) Right, here we go...
Okay, to start off with you may remember us going on about the Nightbreed computer game quite a few times now (going back as far as a year or so ago). The whole kit and caboodle was originally meant to come out shortly after last Christmas, but the film's been put back and put back so many times now (with all sorts of new bits being added to it, old bits taken away and so on) that we'd more or less given up hope of ever seeing it at all. (Programmers Painting By Numbers apparently more or less finished the Speccy version six months ago, and have been sitting on it ever since.)
And then - suddenly - the film was on for release again! It should be out in September sometime (ie in a couple of weeks from when you're probably reading this) and of course all the merchandising is geared up to follow suit. Let's just hope the delays haven't been because the movie is hopelessly crap, eh, Spec-chums (as has rather unkindly been suggested around this office), because Ocean have actually done a rather spiffing little job of the conversion.
SO WHO EXACTLY ARE THE NIGHTBREED THEN?
Basically, the idea goes something like this. There's this big underground city (Midian) stuck out in the Canadian wilderness somewhere, which is kept totally secret from the outside world. And why? Well, because that's where all the monsters live, of course - the twist being that most monsters (who call themselves 'Nightbreed' - hence the name of the game etc etc) are actually quite shy and peace-loving and would like nothing better than to be left alone, unhounded by humans. Of course, as you probably guessed, that is not to be.
Nightbreed tells the story of what happens when a rather disturbed young man called Boone (the chap you play in the game) searches out Midian (for reasons I'll explain in a minute) and in doing so unwittingly leads a bunch of redneck neo-Nazi types to its door. Of course, at this point all hell breaks loose, with 'The Sons Of The Free' (the rednecks) breaking out a secret stock of military weaponry (flamethrowers, rocket launchers etc) and doing their best to destroy the Nightbreed, while Boone attempts to rescue them all. Yep, the whole thing's a big, giant fight in other words, with Boone rather awkwardly caught in the middle (throughout most of the game, both humans and Nightbreed are out to kill him).
This being the case, what sort of computer game do you think they came up with to best illustrate it all? That's right, it's a beat-'em-up, though it's not a straight beat-'em-up a la Shadow Warriors, but more of a slightly cerebral, walking-around-a-bit, mapping-the-mazes-of-rooms, picking-up-the-odd-weapon sort of thing. (In fact, the gameplay reminds me more of Last Ninja than anything else.) All in all, it makes a welcome change from those film conversions where you have to plough your way through loads of multiloading sub-games which have precious little to do with each other.
A few paragraphs ago I said i'd explain what Boone's doing in Midian in the first place. Well, he's a bit of a confused young chap, you see, who's got some sort of dodgy past and happens to suffer from a series of blackouts (or something) when he can't remember where he's been or what he's done. This being the case, his psychiatrist has been trying to convince him (and just about everyone else) that he is actually (without knowing it) The Mask, a mass-murderer who's been running around terrorising the neighbourhood - and Boone has fallen for it! That's why he's done a runner - a) to get away from his girlfriend (in case he chops her up in his sleep or something) and b) to find the mysterious Midian he keeps hearing about, because that's where monsters go, and being a human sort of a 'monster' that's where he belongs (or something). Of course, you and I know he's not the killer at all - it's really Doctor Decker, Boone's creepy psychiatrist, who's trying to set him up!
Phew. But enough of this plot stuff. Let's talk about the game itself, shall we?
AT LAST - THE GAME!
You, as Boone, have a handful of tasks to complete. First, you've got to collect the three keys to Midian, one located on each level, which will involve defeating or avoiding lots of Sons Of The Free and an equal number of hostile Nightbreed. You've also got to free the Beserkers, a bunch of homicidal and totally uncontrollable breed normally kept locked up in the dungeons of Midian (since they're as likely to go for you as anyone else I'm not quite sure about the 'why's' of this one), then get baptised by Baphomet (the living god of the Nightbreed), free the 'breed from getting trapped underground and kill The Mask to rescue your girlfriend Lori. (Phew.) The game works by setting you a task (for instance, finding Baphomet and getting baptised), then when you achieve it giving you a dinky little animated reward sequence which tells you what you've got to do next. (Oh yes, I forgot to mention it before, but keeping yourself alive long enough to manage all this wouldn't be such a bad idea either.)
It's quite an uphill task trying to depict the rollercoaster, plot-twisting effect of a film like this in a computer game, but they've done pretty well actually. The play area - a fairly colourful flip-screen affair with big sprites and some nice touches (like lightning flashes Myth-style on the surface screens), initially takes place in the graveyard that lies above Midian. It's, say, five or six screens wide, but three or four deep as well-you move into the nearer or further row of screens by walking backwards or forwards through the various arches you find littered around the place.
Wander round these enough (fighting or avoiding men and Nightbreed as you go) and you'll eventually come across one of the ways down into Midian, which is laid out in the same sort of way. Drop further down again, and you'll come into lower levels of Midian yet.
I'm not going to describe any more of the plot (working out what you've got to achieve and how you're going to do it is part of the fun of the game) but I will tell you what it's like to play. Um, it's good. Once you've sussed out the controls, and worked out using the Passkeys (inscribed tokens which let you into various areas of the game), you'll find Boone has a goodly number of moves he can use (kicks, punches, jumps, use of a gun should he find one etc) and the baddies, especially the weirder breed, are of suitably bizarre design, if occasionally a bit big and static. Visuals are all nice and large, and there are some neat little touches to them too (I like the Boone heads at the top of the screen which slowly get more skull-like as you lose energy, and the way he can temporarily change into a sort of vampire-thingie later in the game). This is a game that looks like a lot of time and effort has gone into it.
Negative points? Well, it is fairly hard (but then many people would class that as a good point, I guess) and the multiload can be murder in cassette format, but that's about it really. Midian could perhaps have looked a bit spookier, and the weirdo monsters aren't shown off to full effect in semi-monochrome Speccyvision, but that's just carping really.
It's actually rather clever, and this slightly puzzley beat-'em-up-type format seems to me a far more satisfactory way to convert a suitable film than one of these grab-a-few-action-sequences-and-build-quick-sub-games-round-them efforts. Mr Barker's inventive (if rather icky) imagination comes through very well too. All in all, I'd say Nightbreed is a bit of a success really. Hurrah! (Wonder what the film will be like though?)
Nightbreed is one of those rare occurences in the game world - a licence of a film with an interesting plot. The storyline of Nightbreed (the movie) revolves around a character called Boone who believes, thanks largely to his psychiatrist Dr Decker, that he is a schizophrenic maniac responsible for a series of Horribly Grisly Murders. Eventually he decides to kill himself, but duffs it up and ends up in hospital, where he hears of a strange place called Midian where all sins can be forgiven. He heads for Midian, and discovers it to be the last resting-place of a breed of strange creatures called the Nightbreed.
Meanwhile, his girlfriend Lori has found out that the Horribly Grisly Murders were actually committed by Dr Decker (gasp!), who planted the suggestion in Boone's mind that he was responsible during his therapy" sessions...
Unfortunately, Boone is followed to Midian by a gang of fascistic thugs called the Sons Of The Free, intent on killing him as revenge for the Horribly Grisly Murders. When they discover the Nightbreed, they decide that they too must all be wiped out. As the Nightbreed are mostly passive, harmless creatures, Boone has to find a way to save them from the Sons Of The Free, while simultaneously saving Lori from Dr Decker (who knows that she knows that he knows etc), and exposing Dr Decker as the real murderer. To do it, he's going to have to enlist the unwitting aid of the Berserkers, a race of insanely vicious Nightbreed who are kept locked up in Midian lest they tear any living thing they come across to shreds. Looks like a busy night...
Now you might be thinking 'Why doesn't he get on with the blimmin' review?' at this point, but there's a reason. You'd think with a wild plot like that, there'd be a bit of scope for something more interesting than the usual multi-level platform/maze/beat-'em-up routine with fuzzy graphics and a crap multiload, wouldn't you? Well, there is, but it's not in this boring game. What a waste.
Clive Barker has the most revolting imagination going, as you'll know if you've read any of his books or seen either of his films, the pukey Hellraiser or even pukier Hellbound. The poor lad just loves death, degradation and deformities, and his novel Cabal has now been turned into a film, Nightbreed, which celebrates all three. Whether this film is a fit subject for a computer game, you'll, have to decide yourself; it got an X certificate in the States, which is a step mor, restricted than our Cert 18.
Yo, see, the Nightbreed are the outcasts o, society, the deformed dregs and mutated monsters who, have been exiled to the underground kingdom of Midian, which is ruled by the godlike Baphomet. The gruesome special effects makeup used in the film brings all these monsters to life, and while I think the argument is meant to be that the intolerant humans are the worst monsters of all, like souvenir-hunters at an air-crash, Barker and his mates seem to enjoy the revulsion for its own sake...
The plot of the game follows that of the film fairly closely. Shapechangers, magicians and psychics, the Nightbreed are feared by humans, especially the neo-Nazi Sons of the Free, under the leadership of the sinister Dr Decker, known as The Mask. The hero, Boone, is convinced that he is a schizophrenic mass murderer, and seeks sanctuary in Midian; but Decker and the Sons pursue him into the caves. Your task is to reach the heart of the labyrinth, where you can save the Nightbreed; but Decker and the Bersrekers, wild warrior Nightbreed freed from their pens in the bowels of the earth, are out to get you.
After an introductory scroll explaining the plot, the game starts on the outskirts of Midian, on a black night with flashing lightning. Your first task is to find a Passkey, an inscribed token which opens a pathway to Midian - in this case, straight downwards, as you plummet into a crevasse and fall into the underworld.
The landscape of Midian is shown using a parallax scrolling system; the graphics are fair, with sparing use of colour, and the animation smooth if unimaginative. Strange columns, weird plants, carvings, archways and ruined buildings scatter the landscape. You can run left and right, and move in and out of the screen through archways, and climb ladders - this is certainly a game which requires plenty of mapping skill, 'cos everything looks very much the same.
The archways bear the same sort of icons found on the passkeys; if you remember the symbols, you can start at any point of the game by selecting the Passkey sequence from the main menu and building the correct symbol from the parts provided.
Hazards preventing you from exploring deeper into Midian include clutching hands shooting from pits, berserkers who leap from corners and savage you, monster insects, giant tailed demons, and the Sons, who look like some sort of Third Reich postmen. Some are armed with remarkably ineffective flamethrowers, others with more dangerous machine-guns. To start off, you are armed only with your hands and feet; you can punch your enemies senseless, or in some cases leap over them. Later on you will be able to pick up pistols dropped by defeated Sons; these help you to get past the stronger Nightbreed.
Watch out for bombs which fly onto the screen and which have to be deactivated, and for sights which follow you around and which indicate that a Son-with-a-gun is in the area.
If you lose a life, Baphomet will resurrect you twice; your current strength is shown by a decaying skull in the top right of the screen. Unfortunately you have to rewind the tape and re-load each time you lose a game.
Decent music and sound effects complete what is a faithful adaptation of the film. If you enjoy really horrible games, this is the one for you.
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Nightbreed. What is it? An alternative term for the Birds and the Bees? A group of sad people that only come out at night and drive their equally sad cars around one way systems attempting to impress the girlies? No it's the game of the film of the book of Clive Barker's Nightbreed. HORROR!
Boone has lost a few, if not all of his marbles. During one of his therapy sessions with Dr. Decker he learns that he is responsible for the odd murder here and there. In his desperation he learns of a place called MIDIAN where he will be forgiven of all his wrong doings. So off he sets to find it, but in the process he unleashes normal humankind on the hated Nightbreed. Ooops.
Graphically Nightbreed is quite good but it does have the problem of "what am I controlling" due to the main sprites and the backgrounds using the same colours. The different screens are not very different at all, and you could well get bored looking at them. Sound doesn't really exist there's just a few little noises here and there, not really the atmospheric push that a game like this needs.
Nightbreed isn't particularly playable either, the object of the game is just as confusing as the look of it. And so it doesn't take long before you get fed up trying to work this one out. That's the saddest thing about Nightbreed, it looks as though it could have been a really good title, it's certainly a massive game. But I don't think that many people will stick at it that long.
Label: Hit Squad
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Steve Keen
ED LAWRENCE: This is very much a scaled down RPG. These games depend on one thing essentially; ie, clear and simple game play. Nightbreed however has neither of these.
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