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© Erik 'Es of TEX' Simon

BARBARIAN II by Stefan Posthuma

An acrid wind was sweeping the desolate plains, polishing the
many skulls lying around with the sand it carried. The brimstone
vapours in the air made the lungs of the young warrior ache and
the dust made his eyes very sore. But he grimly wielded his
double-bladed battle axe as he approached the scorched hills.
Suddenly, he heard a growling sound behind him and he turned
sharply and faced a massive man-like creature which was carrying
a club as large as the warrior himself. Rabid with evil, the
creature attacked him. He barely evaded the first swing of the
mighty, iron-padded club which surely would have cracked his
skull like a newly laid egg being thrown against solid rock. His
fighting instincts took over and with a very sharp blow, he made
a large cut in the creature's upper leg. It howled and stumbled
for a second, but retaliated with such a might that he had to
retreat several steps before he could attack again. This time he
choose a more direct approach and swung his axe above his head
and hit the creature which was still regaining its balance after
the wild swing full in the chest. Blood splattered into his face
as the chest was cut deeply. The creature howled and stumbled
back. Quickly, the young warrior swept the blood from his face
and made the one move on which he had practised for so long. With
one fluid turning movement, he decapitated his opponent. The ugly
head fell spinning to the ground, and the large body immediately
exploded and disappeared in a thick, green mist.
"You must come up with more than that, Drax" he muttered under
his breath as he continued towards the desolate hills.

After the defeat of Drax by the mighty Barbarian, the
despicable sorcerer had taken refuge in the Southern Hills.
Deprived of all his powers, he disappeared and the Land was free
from evil for a long time. But Drax was not entirely defeated,
and slowly, very slowly he regained his ill powers. First, he
created an immense complex of caves and dungeons in which he now
dwells. After that, he started breeding large numbers of
creatures which were all infested with Drax's unstoppable evil.
They flooded the Hills, and exterminated all life from them. Once
a happy and lively place, the Southern Hills are now like an open
wound in the country, heavily infested with a dark disease. And
slowly, the evil started spreading, infecting the surrounding
lands.
Many have tried to destroy Drax, but none have returned from the
barren Hills. It is said that Drax has resurrected two of the Old
Demons who guard his private dwellings.

The young warrior had reached a crack in the ground which looked
like an abyss to the very depths of Hell. When he looked into it,
he saw far below him a sluggish river of red-hot lava plunging
through the crevice. The hot air seemed to reach out for him with
burning fingers and he quickly retreated. He took a few steps
back and with one mighty leap, he crossed the deadly cleft. When
he recovered his balance and looked up, he was confronted with a
creature so horrible that he nearly stumbled and fell into the
crack. Quickly, he regained his composure and with a hoarse cry,
he attacked the monster.
It was a large, green dinosaur-like creature with a long neck
which ended in a small head which was all mouth and fangs. It
stood erect on two large feet and the long tail waved
vigorously. With one blow of its paw, it threw its opponent
against the bare rocks. The warrior got up and swung his axe
towards the dinosaur. He hit it full in the shoulder, but the
thick skin was not easily penetrated. He stepped back and
delivered another blow with all the powers he could find within
him. This time he struck the creature in the softer part of its
chest and he felt the axe cutting the flesh, ripping apart the
tissue. The creature growled and stepped back. Then it happened.
Maybe it was a shriek from one of the large black birds in the
sky or it was the sight of a head on a stake, watching the
desperate fight with hollow eyes but the warrior was distracted.
The creature took its chance, and quickly stretched out its neck
to bite off the head of the unfortunate warrior. With one snap of
the jaws, the head was separated from the body which fell to the
ground with the life fluids streaming from it. The head was
swallowed by the dinosaur who burped loudly and pushed the body
into the fiery crack.

Giggling maniacally, Drax put aside the glass orb in which he
had been following the warrior ever since he entered the Southern
Hills. He was content. With one subtle movement of his arm, he
stirred the fires which burned under the figure who was captured
in heavy chains. The man writhed in his chains and his face was
twisted with pain.

When she heard about the fate of young Huor, son of Dagron which
was the captain of the Palace Guard, Queen Mariana made up her
mind. She decided that Drax had to be stopped. But this time no
young warrior had to be sent to his doom. She would go there
herself. Filled with grief she retreated to her chambers as she
thought of the fate of her husband, who was the first to perish
in the Dungeons of Drax. He was the one who had defeated Drax
many years ago and now he was either dead or captured by the evil
forces. Slowly, she opened the large chest in which she kept her
most priced possession; a sword forged by the masters of iron-
lore in Mount Thunder itself. She patted the gleaming blade and
thought about the many years of training she had gone through.
Her father, who had passed the blade on to her, had said that it
contained unknown powers that could be lethally dangerous if the
one who wielded it was unworthy of such a weapon. Even her
husband, the mighty Barbarian did not dare to use it. But she had
deciced.
She would leave the next day.

Two weeks later, she was standing at the edge of the Southern
Hills. She had sent back her horse because the terrain was too
dangerous for the fair beast. With the sword in one hand, she
took a deep breath and started towards the hills.

Drax laughed aloud as he beheld the frail figure in his orb.
"It seems like your little wife has decided to seek her death in
my realm" he said aloud, not taking his eyes off the orb. Behind
him, the chained figure shuddered and groaned softly. "No,
Mariana", he uttered softly.
"Let me have some fun", said Drax as he cast a small amount of
green powder into the fires. Immediately, a large cloud of a
sick, green gas erupted from the flames and disappeared through
a hole in the ceiling.

Mariana heard a sharp, hissing sound and saw a large cloud of
green mist erupt from a small crack in the ground. The mist
instantaneously formed itself into a small, broad ape-like figure
which immediately attacked her. But she was not affected by it at
all, and with one mighty blow of her sword, she struck the
monster. The blade came alive as soon as it hit the monstrous
shape. The ancient powers put in it by the forgers sprang alive
and it seemed to consume the ill flesh. With a sharp pang, the
creature was reduced to a quickly dissolving cloud of green gas.

Drax startled as he saw his pet being destroyed. He recognized
the Old Powers immediately and retreated into his chambers,
searching for a way to counter the unexpected forces.

Creature after creature was slain by the swordsmanship of
Mariana. She quickly advanced deep into the Hills and soon after,
she found the entrance to the caves. Without hesitating, she
entered the dark mouth and disappeared into darkness.
But the caves were not entirely dark. The very rocks themselves
seemed to glow with evil, casting terrible shadows on the many
pillars, stalactites and stones. Mariana was assaulted by many
creatures, from giant lobsters to large, eyeless lions. But they
all were slain by the ancient blade she wielded so skillfully.
Smeared with blood and dirt, she advanced through the eerily
luminated halls.
After a long time of searching, crossing large hallways as well
as small tunnels and fighting the foul creatures of Drax, she
finally found the entrance to the Dungeons. Drax was becoming
desperate. He could feel the might of the Old Powers each time
one of his creatures was destroyed. He had searched the countless
books in his possession, but none of them revealed how to counter
the forces hidden in the blade Mariana was carrying. The only
thing he could do now is to rely on the two Demons that guarded
the entrance to his home and to charge his personal powers if he
had to face Mariana himself. He cursed the figure in the chains
and hurtled a small glass ball at it. The ball exploded when it
hit the wall next to it and a yellow, steaming liquid splashed
over the tortured body of the man. Groaning with pain, he endured
the burning pains. But he could stand it not much longer.

Searching the Dungeons, Mariana was surprised to see a very
small green orc running towards her carrying an axe which was as
large as the creature itself. It giggled loudly and tried to hit
her with the axe. With one swing of her sword, she splitted the
creature in two parts which disappeared in a gust of green mist.
Then she heard a low, buldering laughter. When she looked up, she
saw a giantish man coming towards her. He was dressed as a
wrestler and was empty handed. Awed by the size of the man, she
hesitated for a second. With unbelievable speed, the man kicked
her full in the chest. She was thrown back and hit the floor with
a painful crash. The man laughed again and started towards her.
Mariana quickly scrambled to her feet and assumed a fighting
position. But the giant was not impressed by the blade which was
gleaming, almost humming with the powers concealed in it. He
swung a foot-thick arm in her direction, but this time she was
prepared. With one quick and fluid movement, she evaded the blow,
turned and hit him full in the chest. Once again, the blade
seemed to explode and penetrated the body with unbelievable
power. The impact was so great that the heart of the giant was
cut out and was send reeling through the humid air of the
dungeon. The large body fell to the ground, and like every other
slain creature, disappeared into a green cloud.
She took a deep breath and heaved up her head. With a grim look
upon her face, she started down the corridor and towards the
large door in the other end of it.
When she passed through it, the door immediately disappeared and
was replaced by solid stone. The chamber she was in had only one
door at the other end of it which was occupied by a creature
which was enveloped in a cloak of fire. She recognized it
immediately. It was one of the Old Demons. Fear fell upon her
like cold rain and she clenched her sword until her knuckles were
white. Suddenly, the creature stirred and hurtled a bolt of fire
towards her. She heaved up her sword in an instinctive reaction
and the bolt of fire hit the blade with a massive blow. The two
powers clashed with a loud explosion of sparks and the very air
seemed to burn. Mariana could do nothing but hold on the blade as
she slowly advanced towards the doorway. Bolt after bolt hit the
sword and the violence was immense. But Mariana was preserved by
the Powers in the blade and when she reached the Demon, it
disappeared with a piercing scream. She fell through the doorway
when the chaos suddenly stopped.

Drax was beyond himself. He had witnessed the defeat of the
first Demon and was overcome with rage. But he was working on
something. With trembling fingers, he pulverized small pieces of
a clay-like substance in a small pot. After adding some other
ingredients, he heated it above a fire and then he draw a small
dagger from his cloak. He dipped the dagger in the already
boiling poison and walked towards his prisoner. Slowly, he carved
a pentagram in the chest of the man. His victim struggled feebly
and fell silent. Drax giggled nervously as he felt the pulse of
the Barbarian. It was totally gone.

Mariana was alone in a small chamber which had only one door at
the other end of it. But she felt a presence. Unspeakable evil
was there without any doubt. The blade in her hand gleamed like
it was being forged at that very moment and the air was thick
with malice. Very slowly, she advanced towards the door in the
other end of the chamber when she suddenly noticed a round
opening in the floor.
She froze as an immense figure slowly emerged from the pit. It
was the second Demon which was climbing from its lair. His skin
was scaled and hellish red. When he opened his mouth, a gust of
fire sprang forth from it and he fixed Mariana like a cobra
hypnotises its prey. When he had fully emerged from the pit, he
blew another gust of burning air towards Mariana. She heaved her
arm to protect her eyes from the scorching fire. She was forced
back by the immense heat until she was standing with her back
against the solid wall. Slowly, the Demon approached her and his
slithering tongue was licking his lips like he already tasted her
sweet flesh. With one blow, he knocked the sword from her grasp.
With a sharp ring, it hit the dungeon floor.
But he did not strike immediately. Mariana was a very beautiful
woman, and the Demon was somehow fascinated by her features. With
one claw, he slowly stroked the forehead of Mariana who could do
nothing but press against the cold wall. Then his attention was
slowly drawn towards her breasts and his yellow eyes became
radiant with lust. Mariana quickly reacted as she noticed the
distraction of the Beast. With one movement, she pulled the cord
from her hair and slung it around the neck of the Demon. The
monster was startled by the sudden actions of its victim and
reacted too late. Mariana had already positioned herself behind
the creature and was pulling the cord with all the strength she
could find within herself. The creature raged and immense jets of
fire emerged from its mouth. Mariana was lifted from the floor as
she held on to the cord. Then the Demon made such wild movements
that she could no longer hang on and was thrown to the wall. But
she was not defeated. With a swift movement, she grabbed her
sword and sprang towards the creature which was still struggling
to release itself from the choking cord around its neck. With a
mighty blow, she struck it right in the face. Flesh was ripped
apart by the solid metal and blood was spilled richly. Deprived
of sight, he creature raged through the room. When Mariana struck
again, it stumbled and fell into the pit. Bones crushed as it
struck the rocky floor, six feet below. Mariana fell to her knees
and recollected herself. Now she had to face Drax himself.

Drax had prepared himself fully for the battle. He had pushed
his personal powers to their limits and his hands were glowing
with might. The prisoner was hanging limbly in his chains, the
last bits of life had left the body and it was slowly being
consumed by the fires. Then the wooden door was knocked in and
the slim but proud figure of Mariana appeared in the doorway.
"So we meet again", said Drax as his eyes met hers. "I can still
remember the fun we had together in the old days".
Mariana shook her head as she suppressed memories of her
captivity. She could never forget the terrible things Drax had
done to her. Then she saw the Barbarian hanging in his chains.
"No!" she cried and started towards her husband. But Drax waved
his arms and fires blazed from cracks in the floor, blocking the
way to her loved one. Turning sharply, she faced Drax, cried
aloud and attacked him. Blind with rage, she ran towards him. But
Drax stretched out his arms and silver sparks emerged from his
hands. They struck Mariana like a sledgehammer. She was almost
knocked unconcious and fell back. But she was still holding her
sword, and Drax was afraid of it and did not dare to approach.
From a distance, he kept on hammering her with blows of his dark
magic. Mariana was hurt deeply. Black specks appeared before her
eyes and life seemed to leave her body. Then she noticed the heat
coming from her sword. As she looked at it she saw that it was
red-hot but when she touched it, it felt as cool as rain on a
summer night. The contact with the blade pumped new force into
her and he heaved herself upright. With the last of her powers,
she raised the sword and threw it at Drax.
Hell broke loose as the blade hit the evil sorcerer. It pierced
the body which immediately caught fire. Within seconds, Drax was
enveloped in raging flames. He fell to his knees and his body
started emitting pulsating rays of energy which crushed the rocks
as they struck the wall violently. Racks of books and pots were
splintered and massive pillars where blown away like straws. Then
the body heaved itself upright again and started spinning. Jets
of fire sprang from it as it spinned faster and faster. It
crashed into rocks and pulverized them and when it hit the wall,
it exploded so violently that the floor cracked open and the
ceiling started caving in.
Mariana crawled towards her husband and with the last of her
strength, he released him from the chains. Then she dragged the
body to a small chamber where they were still safe from the
falling boulders. Then she noticed the pentagram carved in the
chest and when she felt his pulse, she knew that life had left
him. Overcome with grief, she stumbled out of the chamber. Tears
blinded her as she entered the hall. The floor had cracked open
in several places; huge boulders were falling from the ceiling.
Screaming aloud, she ignored the danger. "DRAX! I HATE YOU!!".
She ran around madly, stumbling over rocks and time and time
again she was struck by falling stone. Then she noticed the
handle of the sword lying on the floor. The blade was gone but
the gem set into it was blazing with a white fire. She picked it
up and when she looked into the gem, she saw clearly some dark
and very sharp lines forming a pentagram. Gasping for breath, she
dashed towards the small chamber were the body of her loved one
was lying. With trembling hands, she placed the gem on the
pentagram in the chest. The flesh hissed as the gem touched it,
but still she pressed it to the body like she wanted to push it
through it. Then she felt him tremble and she pulled back the
handle. It fell from her limp hands. The light in the gem was
gone and it shone dully like it always had. But the Barbarian
moved. He started breathing again and stirred like somebody
having a bad dream. Mariana laid herself besides him and held him
closely while life returned to him.

*****

After a somewhat lengthy intro (it's an inspiring game you
know), let me tell you something about Palace's latest release:
Barbarian II.

Barbarian I managed to raise some dust as several people
objected to the crude violence in the game. Especially the
decapitation scene made the Germans decide to ban the game in
their country. Still, the game was a success. It featured two men
abusing each other with rather nasty swords. One of the many one-
on-one fighting games around. But this one was extremely
playable, looked and sounded nice and was fun to play. The fact
that you could actually cut your opponent's head off didn't
bother me at all, it even increased the fun!
Now the long-awaited sequel has arrived and it will make those
who objected to Barbarian I very, very annoyed. In this game, you
can cut off various heads (and get your own bitten off) and even
remove the heart from one of your many opponents. So this one is
again extremely violent. Just a lot of hack'n'slash.
But it is great. Seldom have I seen a game with such an
attention to detail and such a variation in weird opponents. The
story is simple. Drax, the bad guy from Barbarian I, has returned
and you have to enter his realm and destroy him. Easier said
than done if you know that Drax' realm consists of a large maze
of hills, caves and dungeons inhabited by the most wondrous
creatures who all dislike you very much.
When the game starts, you can select your character. Either you
are the Barbarian who carries a huge axe or you are the beautiful
Mariana who is quite skilled in swaying a sword. If you take a
look at the packaging, you'll see Maria Whittaker and Mike Van
Wyjk (no, it's no typo) look equally impressive. The fist
scenario you enter are the wastelands, complete with smoking
volcanoes and vultures. You'll meet enormous neanderthalers, apes
and flying things with huge jaws. But the most wonderful are the
dinosaurs who can bite your head off effortlessly. Each monster
has its own (sometimes very convincing) digitized sound effects,
ranging from squeeks, growls, howls, laughter and even burps. You
have four moves, a low swing, a high swing, a kick and the
decapitation stroke. If you time this one perfectly, heads will
fly all over the place. Action is not limited to one screen as
you advance through the 28 screen landscape. A sword in the
bottom of the screen acts as a compass, always pointing north.
When you find the exit, you'll advance into the caves.
Here you'll meet lobsters, large orcs with swords, flying
creatures which sting you, small apes and eyeless lions which
will jump you if they can. When you make it through this level,
you'll enter the dungeons. Jumping worms, huge karate dudes (try
the decapitation stroke on them, you'll cut their heart out!),
strange crawling things and funny little (naked, they even have a
small ...) green men running around carrying large axes, giggling
and shrieking 'ouch!' each time you hit them! Also here are pits
inhabited by large monsters who grab you with their tentacles. A
huge mouth will appear which drags you into the pit. After some
noises, a neatly picked clean skull will be spitted out of the
pit! Very funny.
Along the way, pits and poisoned pools block your path. Running
and jumping around, you'll have to tackle these. Also in the
Dungeons, a key has to be found in order to be able to open
certain doors.
Finally, you'll enter the dwellings of Drax himself. First
you'll have to defeat to huge monsters and then you'll face Drax
himself who can do some pretty serious damage with his magic.

What makes this game so great is the enormous playability, the
variance in opponents and the great attention to details. For
example in the dungeons are several prisoners chained to the
walls. When you pass, they'll heave their heads and face you with
a desperate look.
The only thing that's not so great is the fact that you'll get
lost very easily and then you'll find yourself passing the same
screens over and over again, each time inhabited by a fresh
creature so you'll be fighting constantly. It can take a very
long time before you finally find the exit.

Barbarian II is great fun. Running around the dungeons, hacking
at your opponents and being amused by the various creatures and
details. If you like this kind of game, this one is perfect.

Game rating:

Name: Barbarian II
Company: Palace Software
Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Playability: 9
Hookability: 8
Value for money: 8
Overall rating: 8.5
Price: £19.95
Remark: Great fun, superb animation
Hardware: Color and joystick only

Disclaimer
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.