ST SOFTWARE REVIEW: BARBARIAN II BY PSYGNOSIS
by Richard Karsmakers
Two eyes peered at Crownioughs Woartsaild, mercenary annex hired
barbarian. They were red in a frightening kind of way, and he had
no reason whatsoever to like them even though he had no reason
for having no reason therefore. Nor, as a matter of fact, did he
have any reason at all to like the entire setting he was in.
It was a good thing for him that he was totally incapable of
wondering about where he was, and for what reason.
It was depressingly dark and he was in the middle of an enormous
kind of forest. Eerie sounds found ways of echoeing through the
many trees around him, and now and again red or green or purple
eyes would stare at him conspiciously as if waiting for an
opportunity to strike.
The worst thing of all was that he had left all his killer
gadgets at home. So he didn't have his trustworthy longsword with
him, nor his double bladed battle axe. Hell, he didn't even have
the commonest of knives on him.
All he had was a book. It was called "An Absolute
Beginner's Guide To Sorcery" by Egidius Bernardus Enezum, and on
its cover it had a picture of what could only be a sorceror in an
enormous shoe of some sort, with only his head and pointy hat
succeeding in peeping out of it.
"This book", so its previous owner had confided in him before he
had received all of Crownioughs' gold, "is all one needs to get
through any precarious situation relatively unscathed".
The warrior annex hired barbarian had been totally thrilled. He
had been extremely excited. He had also wondered what
'precarious' actually meant.
While walking through this wood, he had deemed the time fit to
leaf through this miraculous new acquisition of his. In the end,
he reckoned this might leave him with something to defend himself
should any of the no doubt strange and horrendous owners of those
conspiciously staring red or green or purple eyes decide to
He quickly leafed through to a chapter that sounded interesting
"CHAPTER XIII," he read aloud to himself, "Banishment of Forest
Demons (cheap method)."
This was the part where, should this have been in a film, the
soundtrack suddenly starts to go weird, trying to indicate the
beholder that something is about to happen soon. Something
interesting, possibly even scary.
As the mercenary annex hired barbarian walked on while
laboriously studying the book, one of the many pairs of red eyes
that had been eyeballing him had deemed it necessary to get quite
awfully much closer, looming up as it were behind the hired
barbarian in a rather unsettling fashion.
It was not before a deep and meaningful growl was uttered by the
owner of this particular pair of conspiciously staring eyes that
our hero noticed anything.
He looked around and stood face to face with what can not be
described to be anything else rather than a particularly nasty
kind of monster, that had probably also been the ugly duck of its
family - a very big duck at that, for it towered above
Crownioughs to at least twice his height.
"Hmm, interesting," was the first thing to enter the mind of the
mercenary annex hired barbarian, thereby taking up all place for
itself. It was quickly fighting for cranial dominance, however,
with thoughts along the lines of "Oh", "Oh dear", "Crikey" and
"Did I leave the gas on?"
Eventually, one thought managed to remain locked in the
barbarian's miserable excuse for brain cells: "Hmmm. Maybe the
book explains how to deal with 'Big, Strikingly Ugly Ducks That
Loom Up Behind You Without The Protagonist Knowing'."
He quickly turned to the next page. He was significantly
relieved to notice that it beamed towards him with 'Dealing with
Big, Strikingly Ugly Ducks That Loom Up Behind You Without The
Protagonist Knowing' written at its top in big, bold, capital,
red, underlined letters.
This discovery cheered him up for a short while - in fact it
cheered him up until the precise instant at which the monstrous
duck started to breathe directly into the hero's face, instantly
drawing the barbarian's attention back to the severity of the
situation at hand.
A satisfied grin formed itself around the bill of the big duck.
Finally. It feels nice to be appreciated, even when you're
fourteen foot tall and very, very ugly. It growled again, just to
make its point.
The barbarian quickly scanned through the page. It was quite
conveniently divided in paragraphs, each written with another
specific kind of weapon in thought. He skipped the ones headed
'Longsword', 'Double bladed axe', 'Bible - The One Volume
Edition' and some others, quickly reading the one headed 'None of
any kind whatsoever'.
"In case thou dost not haveth any weapon at thy disposal," that
particular paragraph considered proper to mention, "resorteth to
Swell. That was just great. Just great. And the monster was
getting impatient, too. It growled again, somewhat louder this
Resort to magic? That would pose a serious lack of ability to
get out of this somewhat awkward situation relatively unscathed,
for he had utterly and totally flunked all subjects related to
magic in his school days.
The monster licked its huge, frightfully yellow bill in quite a
revolting way with its frightfully yellow, revoltingly
disgusting tongue. It was going to end the life of this pitiable
According to the Monster & Violence Convention, it had given its
victim more than the lawfully required time that was considered
to be sufficient for the the victim to employ some serious
reaction - be it aggressive or defensive.
The barbarian thought hard. Something of all those lessons in
magic had better still be present somewhere! Scattered bits of
memories flung themselves at him, until finally he was able to
retrieve a long forgotten spell from a dusty drawer somewhere in
"Godverdomme teeringlijer! Nu ben je dood!" he yelled with all
the power he could manage, nearly finishing off his speech tract.
A strange kind of light was emitted from the barbarian's form.
This gently transformed itself into something like fireworks, but
bigger and more powerful, of which the flames mercilessly sped
towards the vile creature.
Before it had time to quack or protest against the fact that
magic was not allowed in a fair fight according to the Monsters &
Violence Convention, it was totally, utterly and effectively
"It's a kind of magic," the barbarian whispered softly in a way
that betrayed his Scottish ancestry.
Having completely regained his self confidence now he had
remembered this powerful spell, he briskly walked on through the
forest, merrily singing a tune about a poor lonesome barbarian
far away from home.
I has been ages since Psygnosis did "Barbarian", the game that
was to be the basis for their later titles "Obliterator" and even
"Stryx" with regard to principle. Released mid 1987, it was
reviewed in ST NEWS Volume 2 Issue 5. The graphics got a 10
(sigh... those were the pre-Bitmap Brothers days), sound got an
8.5 and hookability got a 9 with an overall rating of 9.5.
Has Psygnosis succeeded in setting decent standards once more
with the sequel, "Barbarian II"?
We shall see.
In the game, you once again put on the shoes of Hegor the
Barbarian who has to rid the world from the evil reincarnation of
Necron (who, just to be complete, is the bad guy again).
Obviously the ol' evil man had not been properly discarded of in
the old game, so now it has to be done all over again. So the
background story is as naff as most sequels' (including "Lethal
XCess", so I put blame on my own contraptions too!). But it's not
the literature that came with the game that we have to discuss
here, so let's boot the game.
After the usual Psygnosis intro screen and a "Pandamonium
Entertainment" logo that stays on a tad too long, the intro can
be witnessed. It has to be said that the intro is really
brilliant. Colours are bright, animations are super smooth and
the graphics as such are up to a high standard. Apart from the
fact that it's got zilch sound, this is what intros should really
look like! After the enormous letdown of "Shadow of the Beast
II", this slightly reinstated my belief in the capacities of
Obviously, they are not only still talented, but they have
learned a lot in the design department: You can select languages
at the beginning (English/German/French/Italian) and you can
switch off the loading of music during the game and end sequences
after you've died. This speeds up playing a lot, even though the
end sequence really doesn't appear all that often as you seem to
be able to get quite far with one life (I got to the caverns -
level 2 - within a quarter of an hour or so). Also, the end
sequence looks very well. Further, the screen is never black.
There's always a picture or something on it (unlike, let's have
it, "Shadow of the Beast II").
Also, it seems that the programmer is somewhat of an ST freak,
as he subtlely uses the lower border for messages like 'pause'
and 'insert disk x'.
Oh my God!
I seem to have forgotten something.
What kind of game is "Barbarian II"?
Well, it's a hack'n'slash game with adventure elements. You have
to scavenge diverse sites on the lookout for treasures and better
weapons whilst trying to ward off various autochthons that seek
to thwart your efforts. There are several levels you will have to
negotiate: The Forest, the Caves Of No Hope, the Village Of
Thelston, the Castle, the Dungeon and Necron's Temple. Each level
(or domain, as the game calls them) has its own unique monsters
with specific characteristics and strength. I'm not talking
simple monsterlets that try to have a slash at you and that you
can kill, but quite advanced monsters as well. There are guards
in the village that throw spears at you that you can throw back.
There are Forest dwellers who can have themselves decapitated
spectacularly. There are archers that you have to get close to to
kill. There are even huge dinosaurs that are intent on biting
your head off. You're in for plenty of blood everywhere, as
monsters seem to have masses of it when they die.
The adventure element is introduced by the fact that you have to
find locations that contain treasure chests, specific weapons
you'll need to beat specific baddies, and keys that will divulge
yet more locations to you. It is even advisable to map the game,
even though this may be a tad difficult.
The visuals are still very attractive. Animations throughout the
game are nice and smooth. Hegor runs like an actual human being,
and the monsters he meets move convincingly and realistically.
Backgrounds are detailed and colourful, entirely setting this
game apart from games like (I can't resist) "Shadow of the Beast
II". I am glad to be able to tell you that Garvan Corbett (who
also did the original "Barbarian" graphics) is still one of the
best graphics people around.
The audio side of things is good, too. Although there is an
initial deafening lack of sound in the intro, the menu features
some good and very atmospheric digitised music by a chap called
Paul Summers. Whereas the actual game does not boast any
extensive music soundtracks, the sound effects are more than
Playability is good.
The player is now controlled solely by joystick, with the
occasional assistance of the space bar. I think this is quite an
improvement over the original "Barbarian" controls, which were
based around the mouse. Well, then again, I guess there will be
other people who considered the mouse controls better after all
but, hey, you can't appease everyone.
I think the joystick controls are well thought out, responsive
and quite intiutive. You only need the spacebar to take/drop an
object. Other keys are used to load/save a game (Yes! Nice!) or
pause your quest in case you feel a violent urge to do something
else for a short period of time.
The learning curve is just right, too. First time I had a go at
the game I got through the Forest into the Caves, and second time
around I already got through most of the Caves; I had found a lot
of keys and the device you need to get to platforms above you
where no ladders lead to. Initially, the monsters are quite easy
to beat - except for some particularly nauseating ones that jump
up at you all the time, or other ones that shoot spikes so that
you fall off any ladder you're trying to climb to get away from
There's also a particular hateful little green creature roaming
the forest that you cannot kill and that does no damage to you -
except for the fact that it pinched your gold when it touches
Concluding, it can be said that "Barbarian II" is a well
designed, well presented, well playable, adventuresque
hack'n'slash game. If you like the original game, this will
appeal to you a lot more. For starters it looks better, but it is
also a lot bigger. There are three disks that I suspect are all
double-sided and filled with the most nasty monsters and
challenging playfields. It surely belongs to the right one of the
two extremes (i.e. good and bad) that Psygnosis exclusively seems
to be able to produce software for in recent times.
Title: Barbarian II
Value for money: 8.5
Overall rating: 8+
Hardware: Double-sided disk drive, joystick,
Remark: A well done, good game
I would like to extend thanks to Mr. Nik Wild of Psygnosis for
sending me this game. It made my Christmas holiday more worth
while. I am really sorry about "Shadow of the Beast II", but your
other titles this time were well done.
South Harrington Building
Liverpool L3 4BQ
Tel. (international) ++44-51-7095755
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.