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© Dave 'Spaz of TLB' Moss

ST NEWS SOFTWARE REVIEW: CADAVER BY IMAGEWORKS
by Richard Karsmakers

The fog was still thick around them, but the two figures at the
oars of the small rowing boat realised that they could already
smell the dampness of the castle they knew was ahead of them -
somewhere ahead on an island hidden in this damned fog.
"What to do once we're there?" one of them asked the other. The
voice was probably that of a middle-aged man, but was remarkably
low in spite of high pitched hints of fear that were hidden in
it.
The other person seemed to sense this.
"Just be quiet," a very low voice that sounded as if its owner
smoked three packets of cigarettes a day said, "we will see once
we're there."
The first muttered a bit, but decided not to ask further.
The sound of the oars in the water sounded muffled. The fog was
getting increasingly impenetrable.
Suddenly they hit something. Land. The island on which they knew
the castle lay.
"Karadoc," the very low voice muttered, "get out."
The other obeyed, but his "Yeah" had its fair bit of trembling.
A huge shape left the boat last. Even through the fog, it could
be seen that this shape was disproportionately bigger than the
other, broadly built and even...even...well....quadrangular.
Its deep, threatening voice spoke again: "Come on."
It was now obvious that the leader was not only big, but his
follower was very small: A dwarf, rather, with a short and sturdy
body, as well as a beard. Also, he wore a shiny harness.
They stalked as they went ahead, when suddenly a vast
silhouette loomed up in front of them: The castle of Dianon the
necromancer, evil reincarnated.
The dwarf cringed as he saw the black outlines appear.
"Er...er...," he muttered, "I'd really prefer going back if you
don't mind."
The leader turned around, and it seemed as if his eyes flashed
temporarily.
"Like hell you won't," the low voice said resolutely, "I been
paid to train you and I want to get it over. Fast. I don' do
this for fun. I do this for dosh. Shut up. Follow."

As you, dear reader, probably already guessed, the leader of
this two-man party was none less than mercenary annex hired gun,
Cronos J. Warchild, also sometimes respectfully named 'The
Cumbersome' (and, sometimes, less respectfully and only behind
his back, 'The Absolutely, Totally and Utterly Stupid').
It had been only weeks ago that he had woken up after some kind
of nightmare involving a hole, lots of water and the utter lack
of any scubagear.
He had looked around him, and had wondered why there were three
suns shining above him; obviously, his previous adventures had
caused him to get stranded on yet another planet that he had
never been to before.
Instinctively, he had searched his pockets. All his killer
gadgets had disappeared, and his money and American Express
Traveller's Cheques as well.
He had wondered what could have happened to them. But, as he was
paid to fight and not to think (or wonder), he had decided to
conclude that he had lost them in the flood.
Why were those friendly people all running off suddenly,
leaving a trail of green pieces of paper and American
Express Traveller's Cheques behind?
He had stood up and felt his head. It had still been there, but
it had surely hurt like hell.

Karadoc stumbled after Cronos as they approached the castle.
There was something inexplicably ominous about it - even Warchild
sensed this.
Was it the wall, that looked very solid and overgrown with moss?
No.
Was it the gate, that looked equally solid as the wall and
slightly mossy, too?
No.
Was it the caped silhouette of a creature with red eyes
standing on top of the battlements, laughing satanically?
That must have been it.
"Hey, dipshit," Warchild yelled up towards the creature, "open
the gate!"
The laughter ceased instantly. From inside its cape, the
creature retrieved what looked like a crystal. It yelled a
couple of obscure words in a dialect Cronos nor Karadoc
pretended to understand.
Karadoc dashed for a rock behind which he wanted to hide, but
Warchild lifted him up by his harness.
"No you're not," the mercenary annex hired gun said.
At that very instant, the rock turned into a frog. A large,
green one, with slime drooling from its jaws and many repulsive-
looking warts on its back. It used its long tongue to lick its
teeth, which were blindingly white and looked as sharp as
needles.
"Holy potato!" Karadoc cried, "a Gorf!"

It had been nigh the evening as a village announcer had found
his way onto the market place of the town where Cronos had
discovered himself to be. It had been a town on a planet called
Ostrich, and it had been like any terrestrial town, with but one
peculiarity: It had been distinctly mediaeval.
He had occasionally wondered about why the planet had been
called Ostrich, for he hadn't seen any ostriches around, nor any
pictures of them. Indeed, he had felt he had enough proof to
state that the entire planet hadn't had one ostrich living on it.
The announcer had cleared his throat several times, and had
started to read what turned out to be some kind of mediaeval
equivalent of "The Sun". The first two pages had been very
uninteresting, and had mainly been filled with prophecies
involving Holy Wars and Environmental Disasters. Page three had
had no words on it. Instead, the village announcer had turned the
picture that had been on it towards his audience, which had
caused several women to look at themselves rather embarrassed.
Some men had seemed to readjust something.
On page four, the small advertisements had started.

"Academy of Adventurers seeks Practical Tutor."
Cronos remembered it well, and only wished he had never
applied for this particular job. Not without any of his killer
gadgets, that is.
He found the feeling of a Gorf gnawing grittingly in a gross
gamble at his gonads not a very exciting nor a very pleasing
one. He just felt immensely lucky that his Mega Absorb Groin
Protector was switched on this time.
As the Gorf's gnawing went grudgingly closer to the on/off
switch, Cronos felt some kind of alarm and decided it was time
for some interactive intervention.
He connected his fist to the back of the enormous head of the
monster.
For about one or two milliseconds, the Gorf didn't quite know
what had happened. Then it suddenly discovered that its skull
had been split wide open and its miserable excuse for a brain
was now being played with by a couple of maggots that just
happened to pass by.
It decided to die.
In a puff of smoke, it changed itself back into the rock it had
been before, which caused a couple of very young arthropods to
assume a state of physical being that would even make the nurses
in the local Hospital for Very Very Splattered Maggots look away
in disgust, swallowing back processed food.
Karadoc hadn't seen any of this, for he had dug his head in the
ground, assuming this would keep the monster from seeing him.
It appeared to work, for the monster had given only Warchild
its undivided attention.
Warchild wondered about this, but not for long (you know why).
The creature on the battlements looked around.
"Where is the dwarf?!" its voice of doom bellowed.
Cronos wondered again. The dwarf was clearly at a very short
distance from him, and his shiny harness was plainly visible. Yet
the creature didn't seem to see him.
Cronos would not have been Cronos if he wouldn't have been able
to count one and one together.
The result was seven, and therefore he decided to head back to
the Academy to get his fee. The dwarf had arrived safely at the
castle and that had been his job. Furthermore, something seemed
to indicate that the dwarf was no longer in immediate danger.
As Warchild rowed off again, the creature disappeared off the
battlements, laughing in triumph.

As Cronos glanced at the island for a last time, he saw
Karadoc's head appearing again.
The nitwit dwarf would be OK, he knew.

*****

The latest Bitmap Brother game is called "Cadaver", again
launched by the people at Imageworks. And a very nice game it is.
In "Cadaver", you become Karadoc, dwarf and part-time thief, who
has a rather simple goal: Finishing off Dianon the necromancer
who lurks in his dark castle. The game starts as you get to the
shores of the island on which the castle is built - when you
examine your boat you see that you have succeeded in making is
unfit for further use somewhere during the docking.
Tough shit.
Now, an enormous isometric 3D complex stands before you, filled
with monsters to kill, objects to collect and puzzles to solve.
At the end of the quest, there lies a treasure beyond description
that Karadoc would just love to get his grumpy little hands on!

"Cadaver" comes supplied on two disks, with a good looking
manual (although the text is rather small and slightly difficult
to read) and a 'Certificate of Completion' that can be sent in to
Imageworks upon completion of the game (which will then be sent
back by them, supplied with a mark of authenticity).
After loading the boot disk, an intro with some good multi-voice
digi music appears. There, the player also gets the chance to
read the background of the story - should he not already have
done so in the manual. Leaving this intro (which, remarkable
enough, does not scroll at 50 Hz) is the prelude to quite a bit
of loading once the second disk is inserted (loading,
decompressing, loading, decompressing....etcetera). Well, at
least you don't have to swap disks. A good thing, too, is that
the player can determine here whether he wants to play the game
using English, French, or German.
But then, the player is met by some positively breathtaking
graphics - definitely some of the best ever made on a 16-bit
computer. I greatly respect the Bitmap Brothers for their
graphics artists and good game design, and "Cadaver" was once
again a solid reason to continue doing so.
The player controls Karadoc with the joystick. He can walk
around and jump, and when he collides with an item he
automatically gets into what I'd like to call 'Icon Mode'. From
now on, the game freezes and the player can move a bright border
around various icons at the side of the playfield using the
joystick.
When he collides with a pick-axe, a 'get' icon will appear; when
he collides with a barrel of water a 'drinking' icon will appear.
The appropriate icons for the current object always appear
automatically, and the default icon to appear is always the most
useful (really handy, bros!). Pressing the space bar allows you
to select the items that you already have. It is then for example
possible to 'wield' an axe, or to 'read' a scroll (to name but a
few).
Apart from the monsters - which are so astoundingly well drawn
that it's almost a shame to kill them - there are more things in
the rooms. There are switches on the wall, for example, that can
unlock doors. A 'switch' icon is present there. Objects that lie
around can be dropped anywhere (even on top of monsters, in which
they will move together with them), and objects can also be
pushed around (like in "Get Dexter" from Mastertronic).
The possible icons include in "Cadaver" are 'search', 'take',
'drop', 'drink', 'read', 'wield', 'cast spell', 'press', 'open',
'insert', 'drag', 'eat' and 'give'. Quite an adventurous arcade
game, thus.
It is also possible to save/load game settings, for which an
extra disk is required. Up to 10 'saved games' can be stored on
such a disk. Loading times are quite hefty, though, so I guess
that's quite a bit of a hassle factor there. Each time you die
the entire level disk is loaded again (loading, decompressing,
loading, decompressing....etcetera, etcetera). But that's about
the only 'bad' thing about the entire game, which is compensated
eloquently by the rest.

"Cadaver" adds up to an extremely well designed, well thought
out and well programmed game. Once again, the Bitmap Brothers
have conceived a piece of software that will win them several
awards - and that will probably also supply them with multiple
reasons to walk with their noses in the air. Its graphics now
definitely have to be referred to as 'art'. If "Xenon II", was
excellent, "Cadaver" is surely beyond excellence.
Playability is also high. From the very instant the player
starts, he is swept along on the paths of an enchanting story
that breathes an incredible atmosphere. "Cadaver" is almost no
computer game any more - no, it's more like a computer
experience, and one of the best!

Game rating:

Title: Cadaver
Company: Imageworks
Authors: Bitmap Brothers
Graphics: 10
Sound: 7+
Playability: 8+
Hookability: 8+
Value for money: 8
Overall rating: 9-
Price: £24.99
Hardware: Colour monitor required
Remark: As Tina would say: Simply the Best.

Thanks to Karsten Köper for generously letting me play his
"Cadaver" for this review. Cheers and hail to you!

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.