Yolanda: Commodore Amiga

Yolanda: Commodore Amiga
Yolanda: Commodore Amiga

Insert Disk collects Yolanda for the Commodore Amiga.

Following from where Hercules left off, Yolanda ratchets up the difficulty levels once again to create one of the most difficult platform games ever made. Disliked by many gamers due to the difficulty level I’d like to set the story straight on why you should give Yolanda a chance. Discover why in this retro game review.

Since its release in 1984 Hercules had a modest amount of success but is now a rather forgotten title. As game collectors know though, the legend continued. It wouldn’t be until 1990 that from the ashes of Hercules a new challenge would be resurrected. Yolanda… the ultimate challenge.By 1990 8-bit formats such as the Commodore 64 were in their twilight years. Gamers had moved on to new systems such as the Mega drive/Genesis, Super Nintendo and Commodore Amiga. Having previously worked on Hercules, designer Steve Bak was now working at publisher Millennium Interactive. Perhaps best known for the James Pond series Millennium were a British publisher that enjoyed success with many independent games until their acquisition by Sony in 1997.

With the game design of Hercules easy to replicate Steve set about updating the game that came to be known as Yolanda on the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST. A game that would be relatively fast to hit the market. This was a remake of the Hercules game but even faster and harder. The manual sets out the game premise that Yolanda has offended the Goddess Hera. Jealous of Yolanda’s beauty, Hera has placed a curse upon the princess. She has told Yolanda that any man that she falls in love with will die horribly within a week of their meeting. Yolanda must re-enact the 12 labours of Hercules as this is the only way to remove her curse. From the very start the game was marketed as a challenge to gamers. Advertisements promised this to be…
“The fastest and most difficult platform game ever”. The back of the box itself starts by taunting the player.

The box is a standard size for the Amiga and has some great cover artwork. The rear of the box lets you know that you are going to be in for a hard time in terms of game difficulty. The box contains the all-important game disk as well as registration cards in English and French. The manual is a little disappointing as a collectable it’s only standard black and white text. There is a brief story of the game and a very short guide to get you up and running though. With the pre-knowledge of how difficult it’s predecessor Hercules was and the much touted challenge to be found in Yolanda, how did it do? It’s undeniable that the game delivered on its promise to gamers. Step aside casuals, this is a game that will push you to the very limit of your skill and timing, concentration to take you to the brink of tolerance for retro gaming.

As with Hercules you are greeted by exploding platforms, an onslaught of fireballs, disappearing platforms and an army of wild beasts to avoid. The goal here is simple, clear the platforms, hanging ropes, avoid all traps and monsters and exit through the gate. The genius of the game is it’s simplicity to explain but the high skill needed to execute as a player. For the first few attempts the game can only be described as utter chaos. The game is a real exercise in trial and error as well as mental attrition. The games learning curve is so steep that the designers felt it necessary to include a trainer mode just to help ease you in to the concept of the game. Yolanda is everything that Hercules was but with sharper detail and a terrifying soundtrack. There’s a real sense of urgency in the music as the countdown to burning platforms occurs. As you might expect, Yolanda received a mixed reaction from magazines and players alike. I think that it’s impossible to make a game with this premise and not divide opinion. Personally I played Yolanda in 1990 and appreciated the games relentless speed and challenge. I’ve often heard Yolanda referred to as one of the worst games of all time. I’d like to defend Yolanda though as it gave me an uncommon gaming experience. A game that I couldn’t just breeze through, put away and never play again. I actually had to practice to get better. Almost all of the criticism thrown at Yolanda is that the game is difficult. Well, yes it is. If only there were some clues. If only the advert said it was.

If only the box said it was.
If only the manual said it was.
If only the other game in the series gave us a clue…

You see my point is that Yolanda is a game that knows what it wants to be and does it well. At no point does the game set itself up to be either accessible to the casual gamer or targeted towards them. The operative word here is “challenge”.

It’s like buying a can of tomato soup and then complaining that it contains tomatoes. I’d be far more annoyed if I bought a can of tomato soup and it didn’t contain tomatoes in just the same way as I would be annoyed to buy a game called “Yolanda: the ultimate challenge” only to find out that the challenge hadn’t been installed at the developers. I’m obviously fond of retro games and feel that they are sometimes taken out of context. One of the major gripes I have is that it’s now so easy to load a game on an emulator, take a 2 minute look at a game out of context and rip it apart as part of a YouTube review. It really doesn’t do justice to the product or the spirit in what it tried to achieve. Like most mediums, video games need to be viewed in context. In the case of Yolanda knowing its origins, viewing the accompanying marketing and box descriptions is essential. This is one of the reasons I’m a passionate advocate of game collecting rather than downloads and emulation.

Yolanda is a game created for gamers looking for that special challenge and by all accounts it succeeds. This is why I don’t buy the argument that the game is bad just because it’s difficult. We look at more recent games such as the Dark Souls series and revel in the difficulty level because we understand the context in which it was delivered. Hopefully I’ve inspired a few to go out and look for the physical release of this one. In terms of pricing pay no more than £20 UK or $30 USA for this game complete in box. The game is reasonably scarce so tracking down an Amiga copy isn’t always so easy. As an alternative the Atari ST version is more easily found and slightly cheaper. Hercules and Yolanda leave me with one overriding thought and that’s that high difficulty does not equal a bad gaming experience. Come to these games with the casual mind-set and you will be very disappointed, come to these games with right mind-set and be fulfilled by the challenge that they provide.

What’s on offer here is a phenomenal duo of games that rarely get the recognition that they deserve. There’s no denying that the ultimate challenge isn’t for everyone but I think that we can all appreciate that these games fill a very special niche in retro gaming.

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