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© Bizkid

BLOOD MONEY by Richard Karsmakers

Cronos Warchild, mercenary annex hired gun, sat in his chair
holding the evening paper. A dim light shrouded his being into
what seemed to be ominous mystery.
Everything seemed to be quite normal.
But the fact that Cronos held the newspaper tilted by
approximately 180 degrees suggested that at least something was
not entirely normal. Some careful observation would reveal that
his eyes were not, as may be expected, aimed at the newspaper.
Not even at the cartoons.
Even more careful observation would reveal that his eyes weren't
aimed at anything, unfocused at something that seemed to be
beyond the paper, beyond his vision even.
Sounds were coming from the kitchen. The sounds were anything
but unusual: The sound of cutlery and the metal of pans, and the
burning of gas on which someone was apparently preparing a meal.
The only other sound was that of the clock that slowly ticked its
way in another corner of the room. Since the dim light near the
chair didn't suffice to shed light upon that corner, it is beyond
any means to specify what kind of clock it was, but the sounds
indicated that it was one of the standing type: A big one with
slow, heavy beats.
It tolled eight.
The sounds of cutlery in the kitchen ceased and there seemed to
be what could not be mistaken for anything but a muffled cry.
Another very careful observation would reveal that there was
nobody sitting in the chair near the dim light any more. A paper
lay there as if it has been abandoned in haste.
Which, to tell the truth, was exactly the case.
A strange sound, loud and penetrating, could be heard.
And a second.
Two large holes appeared in the space that was formerly occupied
by the somewhat squarely built, enormous body of the mercenary
annex hired gun. But since those holes weren't what one'd call
visible, another not so careful observation would probably only
notice two holes that seemed to have been created simultaneously
in the chair.
"Shit!" a silhouette spat. It held a smoking .45 in its hand,
and could be seen standing in the space that would normally have
been occupied by the kitchen door had it not been left open
earlier that afternoon by Warchild himself. The dim light coming
from near the chair with the two mysterious holes in it shone in
two orbs located at approximately the same height somewhere in
what was probably the silhouette's head.
Another sound broke the silence, but this time it was soft - the
kind usually caused by something very small flying through the
air rapidly.
For a moment, the orbs seemed to cease rotating around their Y-
axis, after which they grew dim with a blurry red substance. The
silhouette lost its former stance and sighed to the floor. When
the kitchen light fell on the face of the figure, it revealed a
small hole in the forehead. From the hole poured a red fluid that
had also extended its grasp into the holes where the orbs lay.
A not so careful observation would have revealed a small dagger
in the hole as well.

Cronos came from his hiding place and pulled the dagger from the
lifeless body of the assassin. He carefully cleaned the blade on
the man's shirt, after which he inserted it back in a sheath that
was hidden under one of his trousers legs.
A bit further in the kitchen an old woman, probably in her late
eighties, regained consciousness whereby she softly caressed a
bump on the back of her head.
"What happened?" she asked. Cronos was about to cock up a story
that would explain all this when he was silenced by some more
questions.
"Who am I? Who are you? Who is he? Why am I? Why do I wear these
ridiculous clothes? What's the time?"
"It's time to get ill," Cronos grunted, and knocked the old
woman out cold with a massive pound of his rather square, equally
massive fist.

First note:
Cronos Warchild is a somewhat primitive being, primarily trained
to fight and not to think, and he was (quite predictably) never
ever tought how to treat amnesia in the case of female housemaids
roaming in their late eighties. Therefore, he naturally assumed
that hitting her hard would have some positive effect. After all,
this treatment used to put most of his enemies out of their
misery, too.
He does not, I repeat NOT, hate female housemaids in their late
eighties who suffer amnesia - nor ANY females, ANY housemaids,
ANY people in their late eighties, or ANY people suffering
amnesia (should any of these read ST NEWS).
Let the story continue!
(End of first note)

He directed his attention back to the unfortunately deceased
person that was now zealously soiling the crisp and clear tiles
of his kitchen floor with his foul, red blood. The color didn't
quite match the orange of these tiles, Warchild was shocked to
establish. He searched his jacket and found a piece of paper.
Apart from the fact that it was wrinkled, its primary feature was
some writing on it. Although Cronos was as much a reader as he
was a doctor, he was still able to decypher some of what was
scribbled on it. Enough to know what was happening, anyway.
Well...enough so that he thought he knew what was happening, for
starters.
"20:00 h. Kill Cronos Warchild," he read aloud to himself. He
lifted his eyebrows.
"21:00 h. Report at ASP." He lifted his eyebrows even more. He
was probably lucky that there wasn't anything more on the note,
for otherwise his eyebrows would probably have popped right off
where he stood.
He searched another pocket. There, he found that the guy was
called Spondulix, living on a planet called Multifizzic Omega.
The latter name rang a bell, and it suddenly seemed as though the
foulest smell imaginable penetrated the air. But Cronos shook his
head and the scent vanished as quickly as it has seemed to have
arisen.
Further, he found a brochure of Alien Safari Promotions Inc., a
draft ticket for an examination on Venusian Accountants and 200
Thanatopian credits, as well as a brief user manual for something
called a 'Compact Universal Nuclear Teleporter'.
"Hmmm...." he said.

Second note: Being raised on a planet called Sucatraps, some 92
million light years away from earth, Cronos Warchild is someone
trained at not portraying splendour in developing exciting
dialogues. The above is one of the typical examples. More of
these will, no doubt, follow shortly.
(End of second note)

"Hmmmm....." he said again.

Third note: What did I say?
(End of third note)

The female housemaid in her late eighties seemed to regain
consciousness once more - at least, her moaning and moving seemed
to indicate this. This drew Cronos' attention off the dead man
from Multifizzic Omega.
"Winston? Where are you?" she asked with a powerless voice that
seemed to utter each word as but a sigh, "Winston? Winston?! Are
you sure you will go on 'till the end? Are you sure you'll never
surrender? And can't you ever stop smoking those bloody stinkin'
cigars?"
Since Warchild was not aware of the fact that the old woman had
been Mrs. Winston Churchill in an earlier life (nor was he aware
of the distant possibility of reincarnation or, for that matter,
of anything pertaining Winston Churchill, the Battle of Britain
or even the entire happening of WW II and III), he once more had
his rather squarely built, massive fist collide on the back of
the woman's head.
Before she passed out cold again, she muttered something about
an invasion in Sicily and some kind of Italian food called
Mussolini - probably some kind of pasta with Parmezane cheese.

Demonstrating an amazing capability of handling difficult words,
Cronos read the entire Alien Safari Promotions Inc. brochure
(then again, there is no way of being sure that he didn't only
look at the pictures).
As he closed the leaflet and seemed to sigh deeply, the fact
that the man's hand was much closer to the dim light near the
chair than the heavily ticking clock meant earlier made sure that
the mercenary annex hired gun noticed something flickering.
A ring.
At first sight, it was a very cheap brass ring with a small
button on it.
At second sight, it remained a very cheap brass ring with a
small button on it.
But since Warchild had this weird attraction to anything but
valuable objects, he took it off the deceased's hands and tried
it on himself. In spite of the fact that his hands were much
bigger than the corpse's, and correspondingly his fingers were
much thicker, the ring seemed to fit like it was forged specially
for him.
He pressed the little button on it.

He found himself laying in a bed. The bed was tidily made, and
the distinct odour was that of ether.
He immediately knew this place. It was the only place he feared;
a place he loathed even more than dog's excrements stuck under
his shoe.
The Ambulor Eight Hospital of the Very Very Splattered.
He now also recognized a nurse sitting in the far corner of the
room, reading a cheap doctor's novel by James Hamilton. She
didn't seem to notice him, and instead seemed to be truly
absorbed by whichever female who was kissing whichever doctor in
whichever hospital, thereby possibly contracting whichever type
of orally transferable disease.
A graphical presentation of his state of health was located
above his bed. It was shaped like a mountain range, which ended
in a negative peak stretching beyond the lower limits of the
paper. The line was continued on the wall, but obviously the
doctor responsible for the graph had given up his attempts when
eventually the plinth was reached. A wreath of lilies was
nonchalantly draped on the chair to the right side of the bed, at
which a thin banner stating "Bye, Honeypie" was attached.
He was dressed in a white pyjama, but was glad to discover that
he was still wearing the ring - which was obviously some kind of
Teleportation device (and a very compact one for that matter!).
He pressed the little button once more.

He was kneedeep in what he thought was mud.
Of course he was wrong, for he was trained to fight and not to
think.
It was quicksand.
He discovered his error very quickly, when the depth started to
pull slowly but certainly at his legs, sucking them into the dark
abyss that could only mean death. If there ever was a time when
he wished he was a Magogrux, it was now.

Fourth note:
A Magogrux is a creature much like the common lizard that is
still alive on the earth we know today. Whereas many of these
lizards, when taken by the tail, let go of it, a Magogrux can let
go of any extension or part of any extension of its body -
including its head. It grows back, only to become smaller and
quite different.
There is a devastating rate of criminality amongst Magogruxes,
since they can not be recognized after they have committed a
crime: They simply pull off their heads after which it is
gradually replaced by another - which is quite different.
There are only few Magogruxes who don't have peculiarly small
heads.
(End of fourth note)

Unfortunately, however, Cronos was nothing near to a Magogrux.
He was but a mere human (be it a somewhat squarely built,
exceptionally strong specimen). And, thus, the grip of the
quicksand was gaining upon him.
He already saw his entire life reflecting in the moments that
passed before he was entirely submerged in the murderous trap. He
closed his eyes and held his breath.
Then, suddenly, he opened his eyes and saw a man clad in a black
robe, wielding an enormous scythe. He made beckoning gestures at
Warchild, crying: "Come! Come!"
Cronos shook his head, immediately filling his eyes and ears
with mud.
He was dying. Suffocating.
There was no doubt about it.
He grasped for his right hand, and felt something panic inside
of him when he couldn't find it. He regained his senses when he
found out that it was quite impossible to grasp a right hand with
a right hand, and instead tried to grasp it with his left one.
He succeeded in locating it, and felt a cheap brass ring on one
of the digits.
He pressed the little button located on that cheap brass ring.

He stood upright, shaking his head in wonder at what had once
again seemed to have happened. He was afraid to open his eyes,
fearing what he might have teleported himself to this time.
Then, he gathered a tremendous amount of courage and opened them
- irrespective of his fear.
There was nothing around him but a restaurant and some people
eating in it.
First thing he could actually distinguish in focus was a sign
hanging above a stage, which stated "Milliways".
Next, he saw an excited couple of beings talking about time,
past, present and perfect with a waiter. There was a man dressed
in pyjamas, another man dressed in what would appear to be normal
clothes, a woman, and a man that had something distinctly odd
about him.
Cronos tried to think hard what actually was so distinctly odd
about the man. Then it got to him. The guy had two heads.
Apart from this aforementioned rabble, that was still talking
about the aforementioned topics quite agitatedly with the
aforementioned waiter, Warchild saw some people clad in white
robes chanting about a Great White Handkerchief, and a big fat
man dressed in black leather sitting at a table - looking quite
angry and not uttering as much as a sigh.
Cronos was startled to hear someone speak very close to him.
"Good evening, sir," something that had been a green blur (but
that now was a waiter) asked him while trying to suppress a cough
and looking rather disapprovingly, "do you have a reservation?"
"Reservation?" Warchild said weakly, and decided to give it
another go at pressing the little button located somewhere on the
cheap brass ring he wore.
Just before he left the time and space of Milliways, he thought
he heard the waiter ask: "Can't I at least get you interested in
ordering one of our quite excellent Pan Galactic Gargle
Blasters?"

He thought he sensed nothing but the distinct smell of a forest.
And, for once, Warchild indeed appeared to be right. Although he
did forget about sensing the equally distinct smell of the horse
which stood in front of him.
It was a horse as black as the night - black to such an extend
that it seemed even to be an obscure, very dark teint of the
utterly blackest black.
Cronos stood aghast, gazing profusedly at the horse. For it was
not only quite black, but also quite big. And, on top of that,
its eyes radiated with what seemed hot, red malice.
He had never felt any fear for any animals as long as they
didn't happen to be mice, and therefore he was somewhat stunned
by the fact that he now indeed seemed to sense some fear himself.
"Grrmmppffff..."
He looked up and saw a shape sitting on top of the black horse.
Dressed in an equally black robe.
From the hollowness of its cape, only two red eyes seemed to
glow with what seemed hot, red malice.
Yet the shape on the horse did not seem te be interested in him.
Instead, it looked intently at a group of beings that Cronos now
also saw: Four rather tiny creatures with hair on their feet, a
large man that was constantly fuzzing around with what seemed to
be a hearing aid, a dwarf with a long beard, another dwarf, and
an elf. The latter two seemed to be constantly arguing about
something, and one of the creatures with the hairy feet was
wearing something very similar to his own ring.
Only, it was golden instead of cheap brass.
And it didn't have any little buttons on it.
Warchild was therefore once again raising his eyebrows as he
noticed the person in the black robe eyeing the ring
conspiciously.
There was nothing there for a mercenary annex hired gun.
As the black rider turned his steed into an attack at the
little, harmless group of beings, Cronos lost interest and
pressed the little button on his Compact Universal Nuclear
Teleporter.

When he opened his eyes again, he thought to himself that he
wouldn't mind a single bit of dog's faeces whether or not he was
going to like what he would see. If he wouldn't, he would simply
press his ring again - and vanish to another time, to another
location.
But after he opened his eyes he was quite shocked (to say the
least) at the fact that the digit of his finger that had formerly
worn a cheap brass ring was now offensively nude.
He had, some way or another, succeeded in dislocating the ring.
Anyway, now he thought of it, the brief manual he had found in
one of what's-his-name's pockets did mention something: "Mini-
reactor power lasts for a maximum of five to six nuclear
teleportations only. Replacement reactors only for sale on
Thanatopia. Please dispose of old reactors properly, and
preferably do not litter locations where future cities might be
built. Do not dispose of improperly when environmentalists are
watching, either."
A common synonym for an animal's excrements passed his lips.
He looked up from his naked finger and found that he was
standing in front of what seemed to be a traveller's agency. In
large, coruscating letters he read "Alien Safari Promotions"
above the shop-window.
This couldn't be coincidence.
Especially the small print of the "Alien Safari Promotions"
brochure sprang back vividly in his mind.
"Alien Safari Promotions Inc. can accept no responsibility
whatsoever for any accidents that may occur on our holidays, nor
for any loss of limbs, eyes, internal organs or any other parts
of the body. Travel is entirely at the customer's own enormous
risk. It is not possible to arrange insurance for any of these
holidays."
A smile wrought itself upon his lips as he remembered it. There
were few things that would seem more appealing to a mercenary
annex hired gun who wanted to keep up his skills and achieve some
decent training.
He remembered more from the brochure. If he'd fail on one of
those space safaris, he'd die. It would become a holiday his
loved ones wouldn't forget. And nobody had yet returned.
Then he remembered. Apart from some people far, far away (92
million light years, to be more precise - give or take a couple
of million for the individuals), he didn't actually have any
loved ones.
He stepped into the shop.

*****

My fingers are acheing and I can truly barely control my
fingers' movements. I have just played "Blood Money" for a whole
bloomin' evening and I just had to stop because my joystick
became too hot to handle whereas me trigger fingers got kinda
crampy, sore and lame. Even as I type right now, I imagine
hostile ('psychotic!' - Psygnosis quote) shapes crawling across
the screen, desperately trying to allocate the cursor - and
destroy it. But my cursor and the word processing screen are
nothing when compared to the vessel you control and the various
background you get to see. And a word processor screen surely
doesn't scroll smoothly.

When I read the "Blood Money" press release as well as the
eventual press copy of a letter coming with the review copy, I
could barely refrain from sticking a finger up my throat and
letting my fresh meal come out. Never ever before have I seen
such arrogance and immodesty before (and, believe me, since I am
an arrogant sucker myself, I know it), and I was planning to
principally write a devastating review.
But I am afraid I couldn't.
Even though I tried hard to find negative things about the game,
I simply have to admit that it damn good. And I also have to
admit that "Blood Money" was the first game that knew how to get
me off "Rick Dangerous" for a while. I now play games for about
three to four hours each day, and as I write this down I think
"Blood Money" is played more - probably because I'm momentarily
stuck with "Rick Dangerous" at what I think is the last screen of
level two.
But we're not talking about "Rick Dangerous" here. No! We're
talking about one of Psygnosis' recent releases.

As usual, the packaging looks slick. There's a poster, some
weird documentation, the bragging I mentioned before, and two
disks. Booting up the first disk reveals some presentation
screens and loads the major part of the actual game (I think).
All levels (there are four in total) are stored on disk two,
together with the music and sound effects.
Screen switching is nice to see (good effects) but tedious after
a while. The programmer must have known that there must be a
tremendous lot of people like me, so these effects can be turned
off (switching the 'patient' switch to 'impatient'). Further, you
can toggle between music and sound effects, and there is a
possibility to play on your own or with two players
simultaneously.
After selecting what you want here, you get a menu screen that
allows you to select one of four totally different worlds - of
which you can at start only select two, since you only get $200
each at start, and you have to pay $100 for the first level, or
$200 for the second. The others are more expensive, and I haven't
yet seen them except for on the screenshots. Each level ends with
a big 'end of level' monster.

Basically, as Psygnosis states, "Blood Money" is a 'staggering
blast of thrill-power that makes all other arcade games seem pre-
historic' (yuck!). A shoot-'em-up. You enter some intricate caves
or tunnels (or whatever you want to call 'em), and each enemy you
kill (well, most) will earn you $10 or $25 - that is, if you know
to catch the coins that drop from the explosions. That money
allows you to buy extra weapons at the special locations littered
around the screens. You can have extra shooters, far-shooters,
bombs, extra lives (cost you $250), and several things more.
At start, playing "Blood Money" is a bit difficult. But once you
get used to it, it becomes just easy enough to make sure that you
get a bit further every time you play it. And each time you get
further, you see more attack waves. You see more different
graphics. You see more guns shooting mercilessly at you.
And these are the ingredients, I am afraid to say, that an
addictive game has. "Blood Money" has 'em all. And therefore I am
sad to say that I am positively hooked. Each lost moment (and I
still have some of those) is instantly turned into a game playing
session that sets me cursing and yelling as I see more and more
of the graphics and attack waves of the game.

I just wished Psygnosis was a bit more modest - but then again,
I think their method does work. After all, their statements do
take care that people start playing the game to check whether
all those statements are actually true instead of wishful
thinking. And I have to admit that they are true. Except for the
highly occasional flicker of the screen, the game is a leap ahead
of "Menace" and "Baal" (said to be done by the same programmers).
The graphics could have been better and the music is extremely
sedate and boring (doesn't fit to the game AT ALL), but "Blood
Money" is one hell of a game.
This is the type of game an arcade freak needs. It's difficult,
but not as difficult as "R-Type" (when it comes down to it,
"Blood Money" is 'just' an enhanced version of "R-Type" that
scrolls horizontally and vertically instead of just
horizontally). And at £24.95, the freak gets every penny worth
it. Psygnosis calls it 'the gameplay event of 1989', but I'd like
to wait a while longer before I join their claim. It's at least a
title that is very close to it.

Game rating:

Name: Blood Money
Company: Psygnosis
Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 7-
Playability: 9
Hookability: 9.5
Value for money: 9+
Price: £24.95
Remark: A game that stands up to its hype.
The manual is clearly Amiga-
specific
Hardware: Color monitor and joystick (two
joysticks for two players)

Many thanks go to Psygnosis for sending the review copy (thanks
for wrecking my evenings, guys!).
For info, you should contact (please note the different
address):

Psygnosis Ltd.
122 Century Buildings
Tower Street
Brunswick Business Park
Liverpool L3 4BJ
England
Tel. (051)709 5755

With some pride, I'd like to acknowledge the fact that I have
indeed managed to play through the first three worlds already -
achieving a score of approximately 250,000.

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.