Insert Disk collects Barbarian for the Commodore Amiga.
Today’s retro game review is Barbarian for the Commodore Amiga. This retro gaming classic is a well- loved action / fighting game. Palace Software created a simple yet effective game in which you must battle 8 Barbarians and the evil wizard Drax to rescue the princess. Just watch out for that flying neck chop.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. I’ve got a bit a short but sweet classic Amiga game for you today in the way of Barbarian for the Commodore Amiga. So, pick up that sword and join me as we battle our way through the dungeons to defeat the evil sorcerer Drax.
To give the game its full name we’re looking at Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior. Not to be confused with another game of the time simply known as Barbarian by Psygnosis. For my friends in the US you may also know this one by its alternative name “Death Sword”, renamed as part of a licencing deal with Epyx. Initially released back in 1987 Barbarian was welcomed by the game magazines and gamers of the day. You could find editions on the microcomputer formats such as the Commodore 64, BBC Micro and ZX Spectrum, right through the power houses of the day such as this Commodore Amiga release. Even DOS had an edition of the game.
The eagle eyed of you will have spotted the game was developed by British software house, Palace Software. If you’ve previously seen any of the channels Halloween episodes you’ll remember my certain love of their other great classic, Cauldron. Palace Software may only have had a small library but between Cauldron, its sequel Cauldron 2, The Evil Dead and Barbarian they managed to produce a fairly decent hit ratio focussing on quality rather than quantity. The 1987 release of Barbarian may have been missed by some Amiga gamers. However, it’s perhaps the reason that most will recognise this 1988 packaging of the game from the now legendary ten star pack. Including such classics as Amegas, Buggy Boy, Ikari Warriors, Terrorpods, Mercenary and Wizball the pack was an instant hit with gamers. A little bit of something for everyone no matter their gaming tastes.
Personally, Wizball and Barbarian were always the stand out games of the compilation in my opinion.
So, lets take a look at this one. The packaging explains that the evil sorcerer Drax desires Princess Mariana and has sworn to wreak unspeakable doom on the people of the jewelled city unless she is delivered to him.
Thankfully the city has put forward a champion, you. To defeat the 8 guardians before a final showdown with Drax. There’s always a princess.
For an older fighting game you’ll notice a decent amount of moves here set out by the manual. Including, head butts, body chops, kicks, leg chops, overhead chops, The web of death, Neck chops and of course the flying neck chop. Oooh, that escalated quickly.
Yes, Barbarian had a bit of a gimmick in the way of its decapitation move. Either score 12 hits against your opponent or gamble for that single fatal blow. It really adds some strategy to the matches. You may find yourself on the ropes but can pull the fight back from the brink with a single swing of the sword. It’s not quite Mortal Kombat but it wasn’t far off. See here for my artist’s impression if they had thought it through a bit more. Editing skills. And yes this thing here is believed to be a goblin that clears up the body after the fights but for the life of me I’ve only ever been able to see it as a giant frog.
So, we’re all set up for 8 rounds of action. The game is essentially a one screen game but with the backgrounds changed including a forest clearing, a volcanic landscape, dungeons and the pit. It’s a nice mix and the general style of the game is still quite pleasing even after all of these years. The opponent barbarians also go through somewhat of a sprite swap but do have different attack patterns. I found rolling in to them so that they fell down like a sack of spuds and then kicking them in the sensitive parts was a fairly solid go to strategy. Of course every fighting game needs a big boss, of which you’ll need the culmination of all you speed and skills to defeat. Or not. Simply avoid Drax’s tiny glitter balls and roll in to him too. You’ll receive the message “Thanks big boy” and that’s about it. As far as princesses go, she’s also a little on the pixely side. Oh well, it was the 80’s.
I do mention this briefly as the looks of the in game princess are quite a departure from the former glamour model Maria Whittaker who is depicted on the games cover. Back in the 80’s it was always important to have a great game cover and I think that the designers achieved this here. Whilst we’re on the subject the barbarian himself is none other than Michael Van Wijk. For those in the UK, we all know him much better under the guise of Wolf from Gladiators. Gosh, I miss the 80’s and 90’s.
As a package, Barbarian really is a strong retro game. The limitation of only 8 rounds is easily offset by the difficulty level later on in the game as well as the superb two player duel option. All in all you’re in for some great duelling here. The sound of the clash of swords, slices of flesh and the screams of pain, it all makes for a wonderful gaming experience. It’s simple, fun and has some great nostalgia value for the older gamer. Small touches such as the announcer really set the tone of the game and the overall experience is very solid. Whether you played this one back in the day and are looking for some nostalgia or just interested in playing a decent retro weapon fighter, Barbarian really does hold up well and will have something to offer most gamers. Incidentally I will be uploading my long play of Barbarian on the channel in due course so watch out for that if you are interested in more sword clashing action without having to pick up a joystick yourselves.
Don’t worry the channel will still focus on collecting aspects of retro gaming and be the same style of show and tell as it’s always been. However, I do get quite a few requests in the comment section along the lines of “Why didn’t you show this bit”. So as a bonus you’ll also be getting the long plays on selected games that I’ve mastered over the years. Until next time, happy gaming and don’t lose your head.