REVIEWS COURTESY OF ZXSR

Shackled
by Choice Software Ltd
US Gold Ltd
1988
Crash Issue 51, April 1988   (1988-03-31)   page(s) 24,25

Kein is not a happy man. Seven of his best friends have been captured, and are being held in a maximum security prison. His mission: to rescue and lead them back to safety.

The game begins with the armour-clad Kein standing on the first level of the prison. As he travels through the maze of corridors he comes across barred prison doors, opened simply by blasting them. Behind these are either one of his friendso a guard, or more often than not an empty cell.

On discovering one of his friends, Kein takes charge of the weapon they are carrying. These include grenades, shuriken stars, disks, shock waves, boomerangs, cushion balls, and fire balls. Each character holds a different weapon, and once gained are displayed as icons which can be scrolled through and used as desired.

Sword, axe, and spear-wielding guards make their presence felt, and Kein loses energy points whenever they attack him. Bonus items are available throughout the dungeons including coins to boost Kein's energy level, keys to open doors, rings that increase shot speed, necklaces which speed up the player's movements, and diamonds that kill all adversaries on-screen. Also to be found are treasure chests, barrels, lamps, and crowns, which bestow a hefty points bonus.

Once all of the cells have been searched on a level, Kein must collect the correct key, and lead his freed companions to the exit. The next level is then entered and Kein continues his quest until either his energy runs out, or he has liberated all of his companions.

COMMENTS
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: miniscule characters on a plain and simple background
Sound: very few atmospheric spot effects
Options: one or two players


'There have been plenty of Gauntlet variants over the last few years, but unfortunately most of them have been pretty poor affairs. Shackled on the other hand, although not graphically brilliant, is at least playable. The dungeons are nicely drawn and although the scrolling is jerky and character movement slightly wooden, this didn't spoil my enjoyment too much. In fact, I found the game quite entertaining. It's not exactly the new Gauntlet - but it's better than most of the other imitators.'
MARK

'Gauntlet has spawned so many clones ft's hard to muster any enthusiasm at the prospect of another one, but at least Shackled has added the comparative sophistication of 3-D. Dashing around the mazes in a desperate attempt to find your friends and keep them sate (disorientated prisoners have a tendency to wander off) has a realistically frantic touch. The battles sequences themselves are reminiscent of a comic strip as and bodies disappear in a cloud of dust. The scrolling is jerky, and you don't get more sound for your money than one or two (admittedly atmospheric) spot effects. With a little more attention to detail this merely good game could have become an excellent one.'
KATI

Coming from US Gold this game is a bit disappointing. The tiny graphics and frustrating movements don't exactly make the game addictive. It's very similar to the rest of the Gauntlet clones that litter software shelves around the country, all of them exactly the same in graphics and ideas. Shackled does however have some fresh things in it: the way you rescue people from their bonds and then inherit whatever weapon they had is a new idea, but the two player mode is terribly frustrating when player two gets left behind and player one has to stop while he catches up. Shackled is well presented and has adequate sound effects but there are simply too many similar games on the market.'
NICK

Presentation68%
Graphics65%
Playability73%
Addictiveness69%
Overall72%
Summary: General Rating: A convincing arcade licence, but lacking originality and content.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 28, April 1988   page(s) 90

I made a new year's resolution never to allow another duffo computer game to darken the circuits of my pet Spectrum again. Obviously, this ambitious and foolhardy resolution was brought about by an over indulgence of journalistic inspiration (ie alcohol), because here I am with yet another prime example of the way-not-to-make-Speccy-computer-games.

Actually Shackled is a bit of an ugly duckling. It has the potential to be a cracking game, but the poor programming and lack of polish has forced me to chain a message of disapproval to the remains. A waste of a valuable arcade licence, and largely a waste of everybody's time.

Shackled is a conversion from the coin-op, which itself was a rip-off from one of the greatest arcade games of the known, (and probably unknown) universe. That's Gauntlet to you dumbo! And yeuk, what a simply squalid conversion job the US Gold programmers have made of it. Hang on, 'cos before I lay into the programmers again, let's have a butchers at the action.

The action, such as it isn't, revolves around the brawny duo who decide to combine talents and rescue their buddies from a maze like prison. In game design, play and basic plot this is Gauntlet City Arizona all the way. To be fair, Shackled does attempt to break the well-used mould by introducing elements from games like Nemesis. So, walking over certain icons will give you extra powers.

Collecting one of your mates from a cell, adds further fire power to your own - bit like the famous 'multiples' in Salamander. This was the only highlight of the game for me, and that's not saying much!

So where did they go wrong? I could write a book (but this review will have to do! Graphically, its uninspired. Just black and white is used on screen -boring, chaps. The sprites are tiny and very badly animated and sometimes lose each other in crowd scenes. The collision detector is far out (man), and the response to the keyboard is sluggish.

Worst of all the gameplay is slow, clumsy and only a mite entertaining (a very, very small mite may I add). With far better Gauntletesque programs about like Avenger, Ranarama and the big 'G' itself, why part with good money to own this?

Some people may wring playability out of the two player option, and good luck to 'em, but for the rest it will be disappointing. I'd have to be chained to the Spectrum to play it again. Recommended only for people with more money than sense (hang about, that includes me...)!


Graphics5/10
Playability3/10
Value For Money4/10
Addictiveness5/10
Overall4/10
Summary: Disappointing conversion from a passable coin-op game. Similar to Gauntlet and UCM but without the polish or panache of either. One to leave on the shelf.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 72, March 1988   page(s) 58

There are certain things that can be found in a computer game that are liable to make even this jaded SU reviewer sit up and take notice. What if it's a coin-op licence? Yes, I like a nice bash in the arcades, me. Supposing it were to be more than slightly reminiscent of Gauntlet? Yup, I go for Gauntlet same as everyone else. How about if tho hero of this coin-op licensed, Gauntlet-esque game were to be tall, muscular, well-oiled and fur clad? Phoar, nor'alf!!

Suffice to say then, that seeing as Shackled from US Gold manages to satisfy these three criteria in varying degrees, it's something of a success.

Shackled, for those of you who don't have the benefit of the simply enormous instruction booklet, is a Data East coin-op that promises to keep you 'shackled to the upright'. In layman's terms, I guess that all this means is that you're going to have to keep forcing little ten pences into it. Still, I digress, let's got on with the review.

Shackled is remarkably similar to Gauntlet gameplay-wise, which in itself is really quite acceptable. The blurb on the yet-to-be-seen packaging will no doubt tell tales of bearded warriors and long quests for truth, but the simple explanation is that the game revolves around rescuing prisoners from a large, multi-leveled dungeon crawling with armed guards and strange bonus symbols. Such symbols give you, predictably enough, bigger, better weaponry, more speed, keys to the next level and bonus points.

So gameplay-wise we're talking something thoroughly acceptable here. Graphically speaking though, things are a little disappointing. The graphics on Gauntlet admittedly weren't the greatest thing since sliced pumpernickel, but they were at least varied and colourful. Shackled is completely kitted out in tasteful monochrome. Don't be surprised if you find yourself slightly confused by exactly what your character is meant to be either. If you think you're playing the part of a badly drawn cartoon robin, no you're not going mad, but adjust your lateral vision slightly, and the chirpy little bird will take on the form of a hunky hero carrying a shield in front of him. A small point, but one worth mentioning if only to quell the number of telephone calls to the SU office that begin 'Here, you know that Shackled game? Well...'

Still, important points to note are that graphics are, if slightly ornithological, large and sprightly, and the levels are big, butch and complex. Finding the exits to each level is no easy task, there's quite often a lot of running up and down interminable corridors with large numbers of hammer throwing warriors up yer barkside. Once through the exit (and beware, you're really going to have to throw yourself at the door to get through) you'll be rewarded by a nice flashing screen, and the legend 'Free of the shackles at last.' Sounds like the byline for a hemorrhoids preparation to me, but there's no accounting for taste.

The important thing here, and this is a lesson for us all, is that although the pictures are not the sort of thing that you'd hang on your wall, the gameplay is marvellous fun and should keep you at it for hours.

Label: US Gold
Author: Choice
Price: £8.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Tamara Howard


Overall8/10
Summary: A fun-packed conversion that will keep all Gauntlet fans well entertained. Shame about the graphics though.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 11, August 1988   page(s) 48

US Gold's kid glove.

This Gauntlet derivative presents a series of over head-viewed mazes in monotonous, repetitive pseudo-3D style. You (and a mate if you want) manoeuvre your character through the mazes, blasting down prison doors, exploring blind alleys, unlocking gates, grabbing bonus objects, and doing battle with the ungodly.

On each level you'll find that certain dungeons contain your buddies, who will then follow you dutifully about the screen. Each buddy possesses a different firing style, which is adopted by the party until the discovery of the next amigo.

The ungodly are crude and unimaginitive in their behaviour so blasting them isn't very satisfying. Despite the appalling presentation, the game idea still has a certain charm, but whether that would be in evidence once you'd actually PAID for the game is extremely doubtful.

Reviewer: Steve Cooke

RELEASE BOX
C64/128, £9.95cs, £12.95dk, Reviewed
Atari ST, £19.95dk, Reviewed
Spec, £9.95cs, £12.95dk, Reviewed
Amstrad, £9.95cs, £12.95dk, Reviewed

Predicted Interest Curve

1 min: 30/100
1 hour: 25/100
1 day: 20/100
1 week: 20/100
1 month: 15/100
1 year: 10/100


Graphics2/10
Audio1/10
IQ Factor1/10
Fun Factor2/10
Ace Rating297/1000
Summary: The best thing to do with this curve is ski down it.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 9, August 1988   page(s) 34

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
Atari ST Diskette: £19.99

POOR CHOICE

This US Gold version of a 1986 Data East arcade game was programmed by Choice Software, who tend to specialise in conversions. Their previous games include World Games, California Games and Kung Fu Master.

For reasons that are less than obvious, all your friends have been kidnapped and imprisoned in the cells of a huge underground complex. Naturally you set out to rescue them and in the dead of night enter the complex. Viewed from a similar perspective to Gauntlet a second player can join into help explore the dungeons and rescue imprisoned friends.

A FRIEND IN NEED

Masses of stupid but heavily armed guards pack the corridors and dungeons of this strange place. Cell doors can be opened by blasting them with a weapon and if a friend is inside he will be freed to follow after you. Usefully your friends are all armed with special weapons - perhaps that's why they were imprisoned - which you may use once the friend is rescued. Once you have freed as many friends as you think are on a level you can leave it via the exit - usually behind a special locked door.

There are over 100 levels necessitating a sensible multiload system on cassette versions. To see them all fully use is made of various objects left behind by zapped enemy guards and big monster enemies. The objects include 'speed-ups', 'shot speeds' and 'extra defence'.


Overall43%
Summary: The Spectrum has minimal sound FX and graphics that are both monochrome and poorly detailed. This, combined with unoriginal and repetitive gameplay, makes Shackled a very unattractive prospect.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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