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Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Sacred Armour of Antiriad (Palace Software, 1986)

Programming by Andrew Fitter
Plot and graphics by Daniel Malone
Sound design by Richard Joseph
Originally released for the Amstrad CPC in 1986.

Converted for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 by Stanley Schembri in 1986.

Converted for the IBM-PC compatibles and Apple ][ in 1987 by Stanley Schrembi and Craig Seastrom. Converted for the TRS-80 CoCo by Jesse Taylor in 1988. The Commodore 64, IBM-PC, Apple ][ and TRS-80 CoCo versions published in North America by Epyx as "Rad Warrior".

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INTRODUCTION & GAME STATUS


Now, here's a game I have to admit having an almost complete ignorance on, even though I came across it plenty of times back in the day. The Sacred Armour of Antiriad, or just plain Antiriad, as it was often referred to, never caught my fancy due to its initially awkward controls and slightly more than usually restrictive flip-screen system. Only lately I have found out that there is actually more to this game than just walking around naked in a jungle, dying randomly on things I don't understand, and since a comparison of Antiriad was suggested a good while back in a blog comment posted by Brain Breaker in 2014, I thought I might as well try and learn to play this game now, almost 30 years after its release. Better late than never, right?

The most hawkeyed of you might have noticed that I didn't include the MSX version into the credits list above. This is because I was unable to find any proper evidence to prove its existence, but according to MobyGames (and some other sources), an MSX version is claimed to have been released in 1987. But since a fleeting mention is all I could find, it shall not be included in the comparison. Of course, if an MSX version surfaces eventually, I shall have to consider updating this entry accordingly.


Before we properly move on to the matter at hand, let's take a look at Antiriad's current scores around the web. At Lemon64, it has a score of 7.5 from 82 votes; at World of Spectrum, 102 voters have rated it 8.22; at CPC-Softs, the current score is 16.14/20.00, and Chris Lennard at CPC Game Reviews has given the Amstrad version a 9 out of 10. From the latter three conversions, only the DOS version had a score to be found anywhere - 1244 users at Abandonia have rated it 2.8 out of 5.0, and the editor has given it the full marks! Clearly, we're in for quite an interesting item, then.

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DESCRIPTION & REVIEW


The word "Antiriad" sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? Well, those of you, who have never seen the comic that comes with the original game, the plot goes something like this: in 2080, a massively destructive weapon destroys most of life on Earth as we know it, and some centuries later, when the post-nuclear humans are being attacked by aliens from outer space, a man called Tal is chosen to be the saviour of all humanity, and he is told of the Anti-Rad combat suit, which he must find, and with which he must conquer all evil. The reason why it has become Antiriad is due to the conveniently placed tearing in the schematic of the Anti-Rad suit. Of course, the suit is spoken of as a legend, and it has become a sacred item for the post-nuclear humans, hence the full game title.


So, in the simplest terms possible, what we're dealing with here is a side-viewed flip-screen action-platformer. The basic idea of the game is to find the suit along with some other helpful items, kill some monsters and eventually, destroy the aliens' base deep within a volcanic cavern with an implosion mine. Antiriad's control system is a bit unusual for its time, and by today's standards, inconvenient, but there is a notable resemblance to a Nintendo classic, which was released only a month prior to this - Metroid. Having said that, I still wouldn't call it a proper Metroid (or MetroidVania) clone, even though many people seem to like comparing the two, and I have even seen Antiriad described as the first MetroidVania game ever.

To be honest, I have never been a fan of Metroid, so it's quite possible I shall never be able to appreciate Antiriad in the way it's supposed to be appreciated. And since I have never before bothered to really take a good look at Antiriad, I cannot yet give a fair review of it, so you shall again have to wait until the end, so let's move on.

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PLAYABILITY


You start the game from one of two possible locations in a jungle-like area at the bottom of the map. In order to get any sort of information about yourself, you need to locate the Anti-Rad suit, which is somewhere in the middle of the bottom area, which connects the jungle to a large temple-like structure. The temple is located at the bottom of a large volcano, which you will need to get into by eventually using the Anti-Rad suit, and pick up some objects, like the aforementioned implosion mine, which will be pivotal to your survival and completing the mission. The mine is located within an area, which you cannot enter while wearing the Anti-Rad suit, and your goal is located at the very top of the volcanic cavernous maze. Happily, there are only about 70 screens in the game, so it shouldn't be too much of a bother. Emphasis on the word "shouldn't". Each screen is occupied by all sorts of aliens or other nuisances, all of which you will need to learn how to deal with with your not very modern weapons, and all of which will respawn after you enter the screen you killed them in again. And then, there are the controls. Oh, boy.


Controlling Tal is a bit clunky, as a rule, probably because the developer team had graphics as their priority. Admittedly, Antiriad is a good looking game, but that's not what I'm supposed to talk about yet. It's just that the animations of Tal's turning, jumping, throwing rocks and other things take precedence over playability. Considering that this is an action-platformer, you are forced to spend time to observe each individual enemy sprite's movement patterns, so that you won't be running into your death as soon as you enter a new screen, which makes the "action" part of the equation less active. At least you won't be dying from just colliding with one enemy, because you have enough of energy to sustain a few direct enemy contacts, but later in the game, you will be facing with fire elements, spikes and sitting guards with projectile weapons, which are more hazardous. Merely standing still while wearing the Anti-Rad suit will replenish Tal's energy, but that's not much of a comfort in the jungle, since you cannot wear the suit there. The suit also has its own energy, which depletes on contact with enemies or other hazards, and the only way to replenish the suit's energy meter is to pick up energy cells. For me, one of the most serious flaws in this game is that when you jump ahead of you, you need to be spot on where you're going to land, because the game doesn't treat all structural graphics as solid objects or actual parts of them, and also because Tal always jumps similar lengths on the level, and similar heights as well, until he can actually use the Anti-Rad suit properly.

My own opinions aside, Tal is controlled mostly with a joystick, but some versions give you the option to use the keyboard. The keys for the SPECTRUM version can be user-defined, but the APPLE ][, TRS-80 and DOS versions have predefined ones. On APPLE, the keys are A and Z for up and down, comma (,) and dot (.) for left and right, numpad zero seems to act as the primary fire button, and numpad comma/delete seems to act as the secondary fire button (meant for diagonal jumps), both of which are a bit too far away from the movement controls for comfort. On DOS and TRS-80, you can more comfortably use the cursor keys and space bar.

Tal is controlled as thus, at least in most versions: left and right make him run or fly left and right, fire button throws a rock or shoots a particle beam, tapping the fire button while running makes Tal jump into the current direction, up makes him jump straight up, and down makes him duck as well as pick up any item he's standing next to. Once you find the Anti-Rad suit, you enter it by facing towards the camera, and leave it by going left or right. You can also fly with the suit, once you have taken care of a gravity-related problem. In the SPECTRUM version, merely pressing the fire button doesn't make Tal throw a rock, but he does get into the throwing position, so you only need to keep the button down, and then choose the direction, in which you will throw the rock. Also on SPECTRUM, Tal can throw multiple rocks at once, but in all the other versions, he can only throw a single rock at once, and wait until the rock is no longer in vision before he can throw a new one. Shooting beams happens similarly enough in all versions.

There are some other rather glaring differences in playability, which might be pivotal to your enjoyment. On AMSTRAD, every movement is slow, when there's more than one other sprite on the screen in addition to Tal, and most movements take many frames to complete, before the required action finally happens. The APPLE version is generally much slower than the AMSTRAD version at any point, so at least it's not as bad as it could be. Also in the AMSTRAD version, the screen flips to the adjacent one when you're 12 pixels away from the actual screen edge, which is a bit disorienting - and this was kept in the translations for APPLE, C64, TRS-80 and DOS. Again, for the SPECTRUM version, this has been made more logical, and you can actually walk to the edge of the screen before it flips to the next one. This does affect the game in a graphical sense, because now you cannot see those 12 pixels to the adjacent screens, but this makes very little difference, since you are required to learn the entire game map in any case. To its advantage, the SPECTRUM version also differs from the others by not making the Anti-Rad suit bounce off the walls like a maniac when you bump into them.

To my utter surprise, there are some small things about the TRS-80 COCO version, which makes it feel better than most of the other versions. For one, the "bouncing from walls when flying" effect isn't nearly as bad as in the other similar versions, and even more importantly, you don't fall through platforms nearly as often. The most interesting difference in the COCO version is the enemy respawn time, or trigger, or whatever. In most other versions, if you kill the enemies from one screen, then go to the next, and come back a few seconds later, the enemies will respawn. In the COCO version, it takes them a lot more time to come back, although I have no clear idea, how long does it take for them to respawn, or what triggers the respawn. But whatever the reason may be, it makes the game less arduous to play, and more possible to complete than most versions. In any case, I felt this version actually the second most playable one of the lot.

I can easily say which versions are the most playable and which the least, but I'm afraid this won't bring me any more Amstrad fans. In simple terms, Antiriad feels like one of these modern retrogames in that it was released too early. Later conversions give it more of the playability that it was direly in need of in the first place, although I cannot say the game is particularly enjoyable on any platform in the end. But as I said, I'm not a fan of these sorts of platforming games, where the jumping mechanics are severely limited, so my opinions will very likely colour my judgment here, and I can only recommend those versions the most that I think actually play well enough. Unfortunately, because the APPLE ][ version is so horribly slow, I cannot honestly recommend it to anyone.


1. ZX SPECTRUM
2. TRS-80 COCO
3. COMMODORE 64
4. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
5. AMSTRAD CPC
6. APPLE ][

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GRAPHICS


Now we get to the part where the Sacred Armour of Antiriad really made its name. And really, how could you ever go wrong with having the game title using the famous Iron Maiden font? Of course, the Antiriad logo has some anomalies to the standardized Metal Lord font, which itself differs slightly from the original logo design by Dennis Wilcocks, who made it in 1977. Furthermore, the US release having an alternative title takes some more liberties with the standardized font, but who cares. It's still the Iron Maiden font in an 8-bit game! Wooo!


Loading screens, left to right: Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 (unreleased), Apple ][.
Alright, some of you will already know that something is not quite right with the picture above, and I'm not talking about the Maxx Out loading screen, which is what you get in the APPLE ][ version... as well as the DOS version, actually, but I couldn't get a good shot of it, because the screen is corrupted in my copy. The C64 conversion doesn't officially have a loading screen, although it should have. According to Stephen "Sir" Robertson's C64 Art Gallery website, the C64 loading screen was never used due to miscommunications between Stephen and Peter Stone, the former boss of Palace software. It was drawn for the purpose in 1986, though, and it's as close to an actual loading screen that the C64 fans of the game can ever have. So, if anyone wants to have an official version of the C64 Antiriad, it's impossible, but you can make your own tape loader with the SIR'86 loading screen, if you care to attempt - there are some tape loader compilers out there. Anyway, the AMSTRAD version's loading screen looks the closest to the cover art.

Title screens, credits and options. Top left: Amstrad CPC. Top middle and right: ZX Spectrum.
Middle row, left to right: TRS-80 CoCo, Apple ][ x2, DOS.
Bottom row: Commodore 64 PAL/NTSC


Because the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions had such fine loading screens, the teams responsible for them must have thought that a credits screen is all the game really needs in terms of a title screen. The SPECTRUM version has an additional control options screen, which doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but it's there. These two versions are also the only ones sharing another similarity in having the info panel displayed at the bottom, before the game has begun. For the C64 version, someone must have thought of piracy, and how clueless those people with no instructions were to know what to do in the game. Instead of clearly written instructions, we get a nice, long animation, in which an alien scouts the area around the Anti-Rad suit, and while the alien is out of sight, Tal jumps into the suit and starts chasing the alien once it passes the area again. Only after the long intro sequence, we get to see the credits, although even there, Tal is chasing the alien in his Anti-Rad suit. Of course, the US version says Rad Warrior instead of Antiriad, and there are no statues on both sides of the suit, but otherwise it's pretty much the same as the European version.

The TRS-80 version has no useless decorations, just the title logo and some info text. The DOS version has a more static version of the European C64 screen, but the Iron Maiden font is gone for some reason. Also, the graphics are quite pink and cyan due to the CGA mode, which is the only graphics mode available in the DOS version. The APPLE version shows only the suit under the title logo, and no extra animations, but at least it does have a credits screen, unlike the DOS version.

Screenshots from either possible starting screen. Top row, left to right: Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64.
Bottom row, left to right: TRS-80 CoCo, DOS, Apple ][.


The game starts abruptly, with no "Get Ready" screen or anything, which is just as well, because there is practically no separate "Game Over" screen either. There are two possible screens to start your game in, which are the opposite ends of the jungle area. These two rooms look almost like each other's mirrored images, containing very much the same elements in a slightly different order. Exclusively in the SPECTRUM version, you can see a pile of rocks at the bottom of the screen, which you need to pick up before you can throw them - in all the other versions, you can throw rocks without picking them up. This is really only a visual ingredient that happens at the very beginning of the game, and offers no drastic differences to gameplay, other than your having to pick them up before you can defend yourself without getting hurt, and as it takes all of five seconds to perform this action, I cannot count it as anything more than a graphical addition.

What's more interesting about the beginning of the game is, that your info panel is turned off, and the first thing you need to do is to locate and enter the Anti-Rad suit before the info panel is turned on, and you can start dealing with the mission. In hindsight, perhaps it would have been even more effective not to feature the info panel at all, until the Anti-Rad suit is found, but since the original AMSTRAD version necessitated such a feature due to the different graphics mode where the info panel is, it's just as well that we can see it powerless in the beginning.


As it usually happens, the AMSTRAD version has wide-pixelled multicolour graphics all the way through, which make for nice shading, but the details get a bit lost in the wideness of the pixels; and the SPECTRUM version has single-coloured hi-res sprites, which will cause some attribute clash, but which do look otherwise prettier than the AMSTRAD graphics. Well, to be honest, Tal doesn't look very as well as he could. The C64 version, for a change, features the best of both worlds, with hi-res backgrounds similar to the SPECTRUM version, but with more shading, and some multi-colour sprites, such as our hero and some other, less often seen aliens. The TRS-80 version features lo-res graphics everywhere, even though some things, like the purple monkey you see in the screenshot, are definitely single-coloured. I have not enough experience with the CoCo, so I can't say whether this sort of thing is the graphical norm on it. The DOS version looks much like the C64 version in terms of multi-colour sprites vs. hi-res backgrounds, but due to the CGA colouring, any attempt at shading looks awful. And finally, the APPLE version proves itself incapable of doing similar shading as the C64, and all the graphics look messy. If you choose to have 50% scanlines in emulation, it starts to look closer to the C64 version, but the lack of detail is still notable, and it's still a bit messy.

Screenshots from the screen where you find the Anti-Rad suit.
Top row, left to right: Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64. Bottom row: TRS-80 CoCo, DOS, Apple ][.


A few screens to left or right, depending on your starting point, and you will find the Anti-Rad suit standing on a shelf behind some sort of a force field. The screen itself consists of two different areas - part of the temple and a bit of the jungle, the colouring of which alter surprisingly significantly on different versions. Once you enter the suit, it changes colour - the way you see them here in the screenshots, apart from the AMSTRAD screenshot, in which Tal is merging with the suit. The final colour is as much blue as it is in most of the other versions, not counting the SPECTRUM version, in which is magenta all the time apart from the few small moments of flashing in all different colours as you enter the suit. But just in case, I'll show you the suit in its two basic forms - occupied and unoccupied - and one shot in which Tal is entering the suit between the two.

Occupying modes of the Anti-Rad suit, left to right: unoccupied, entering/exiting the suit, occupied.
Top row, left to right: Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64. Bottom row: TRS-80 CoCo, DOS, Apple ][.


As you can see, only the SPECTRUM version stays the same, which only flashes for a while as you enter the suit - all the others change their look one way or another. Anyway, the third thing of interest in the screenshots above the suit pictures was the suit info panel, which is now turned on. Significant differences are in the font of the text scrolling in the message screen (it's super-wide on TRS-80), the style of noise shown on the item scanner screen (SPECTRUM, AMSTRAD and TRS-80 have more random noise, while C64, DOS and APPLE have more clean white noise) and the basic colouring of the panel - whether it's blue or pink/purple. There are also some differences in the actual design of the panel, although you need to look really close in order to notice any. Basically, the DOS, TRS-80 and APPLE versions are based on the C64 design, and the AMSTRAD and SPECTRUM versions have their own, slightly different designs.

Two more screenshots from different areas in the game.Top left: Amstrad CPC. Top right: Commodore 64.
Middle left: ZX Spectrum. Middle right: DOS. Bottom left: Apple ][. Bottom right: TRS-80 CoCo.
I will not be showing any more areas from the game, because there is only so much you can learn from showing areas. These two rooms consist of some area-specific things, such as a sitting droid constantly shooting in front of it (within the temple), and the thing on the wall with the dragon head breathing fire (within the volcano). The other screen shows one of the suit upgrades lying on the floor - in this case, the pulsar beam gun, which is your only possible weapon for the Anti-Rad suit. In the SPECTRUM screenshot, the item has just been picked up, and it's showing on the item scanner screen.

Otherwise, there isn't much to tell. From what you could already tell from the earlier screenshots, there are some minor differences to certain versions. Some are room layout alterations, and some are item-related additions or removals. If you happen to be a veteran of Antiriad, you might notice some slight advantages and disadvantages to having certain items in certain places, but for me, none of them have any particular meaning, because I'm unable to finish the game on any version without either a cheat mode or save states.

Death poses and rejuvenation animations. Top row, left to right: Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64.
Bottom row, left to right: Apple ][, DOS, TRS-80 CoCo.
This is only one of the dozens of animations I could make a comparison of, but this is the only one that made any sense to do, since there is no separate Game Over screen in Antiriad that I could end this section with, and the death/rejuvenation animations differ the most. The game will end when you have no rejuvenations left, and you die for the last time. The death pose is always the same in each version, of course, and the only addition to Game Over is a text scroller at the bottom of the info panel. In fact, the rejuvenation segment is much more entertaining to watch than the Game Over segment, which is kind of a rare thing. In the original AMSTRAD version, Tal only lifts himself up from the ground, with no effects or particularly interesting animations. The SPECTRUM version adds a colourful flashing animation to the process, but contrary to other versions, Tal is also facing left on Spectrum. The C64 version puts Tal in a notably different pose, makes his dead body flash in a different way when rejuvenating, and due to the lower pose, it also adds another frame to the falling/rising animation. The APPLE and DOS versions take the easy way out, and don't feature any effects in the rejuvenation animation, but they do have the additional low pose copied from the C64 version. Last, but not nearly the least, the TRS-80 version goes with the same colour animation idea that's on the C64, but covers the whole body in striped colours instead, and Tal's rising from the dead happens uniquely in a sideways pose.

Enemy has fallen and crashed to the ground. (TRS-80 CoCo)
The TRS-80 COCO version has also something exclusive regarding the animations, which is just as well, since it doesn't have anything special for the title screen. Here, some of the enemies have an additional death animation - they drop with a shaking motion and crash on the ground in a surprisingly big way. All the other versions make all the enemies just gradually vanish when they die.

Once again, I have to apologise for not having a good video showing all the animations of the game properly, because animations is really where the game shines. That's not to say the background graphics aren't pretty, because they are very much so. Particularly if you take the time to compare the details and variety of Antiriad's graphics to, I'd say pretty much any old game for the NES, but Metroid in particular, since it's the one people like to compare Antiriad to.


But in the end, Antiriad is the only game Antiriad should be compared to, because we want to have some sort of an order for the six versions. In simple terms, here's what we have: the SPECTRUM version offers the sharpest graphics, but the least interesting visual effects, as well as a good amount of colour clash; the AMSTRAD version has the best shading, but for some part, the least advanced animations; the C64 version has the best of both worlds from the two previous versions with hi-res backgrounds and some enemies as well as nice shading, but the winning factor over the previous two is really the better visual effects; the TRS-80 COCO version has as big graphics as the Amstrad version, but colouring more towards the C64 palette and more animations; the APPLE version has sloppy colours, occasionally bad details, as well as slow and lacking animations; and the DOS version has bad colours, but otherwise it's fairly close to the C64, AMSTRAD, TRS-80 and APPLE versions - basically a compromise with bad colours. I'm going to have to give the number one spot for the C64, pretty much because it has such a great intro sequence - the COCO version is that close to it in overall quality, and the AMSTRAD version, while certainly more composed overall, if a bit slower than the other regulars, and it really has no properly neat tricks up its sleeve.

1. COMMODORE 64
2. TRS-80 COCO
3. AMSTRAD CPC
4. ZX SPECTRUM
5. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
6. APPLE ][

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SOUNDS


While Antiriad's graphics may well be some of the most atmospheric and impressive of their time, its sounds certainly added a lot to make the whole thing worth experiencing. The theme tune brings to mind some of those early 70's sci-fi movies with more attempt to be epic and massive than they had the abilities and money for at the time, but the music was mostly as epic as they could get. The full version of the theme tune features three distinctly different parts: a gloomy beginning with a triole beat, an impressively strange mid-part with plenty of irregular melodic tricks and nice effects, and a more straight rocking third part with very nice harmonics. Apart from the title tune, though, there is no other music in the game. The full title tune can be heard only on the AMSTRAD and C64 versions, and naturally, the C64 version of the tune sounds more fine-tuned with all the filters and effects the SID offers for use.

On SPECTRUM, the theme tune is played through the beeper, and getting both the bassline and melody into the tune is achieved by alternating voices quickly. The tune loops indefinitely from the point where it should go to the strange middle section, which is really the more natural choice for the Spectrum. The APPLE version has a similar loop as the SPECTRUM version, but in the APPLE version of the title tune, you get to hear the harmonics sort of properly throughout the shortened version of the tune - only, since it's played through the basic speaker, the horribly tinny high frequencies will destroy your ears before the tune has played once through, so I wouldn't recommend to listen to that one without very good ear protectors. And what I meant with "sort of properly" was, that it's not a very faithful interpretation of the tune - lots of rhythmic mistakes and some harmonics as well. The DOS version of the title tune gives us even less to listen to, as it offers only long single notes playing the main melody part, and even that is played only once through before the game starts automatically. At least it doesn't kill your ears as badly as the APPLE version does. The TRS-80 COCO version doesn't seem to have any music whatsoever.

The original version of Antiriad has a huge amount of different sound effects, which range from subtle and quiet to harsh and noisy. I actually have no idea, how many different sound effects are there in the AMSTRAD version, but I could count almost twenty different ones before I lost count. Those would include Tal's feet tapping quietly, picking up objects (a short worbly pip), entering and exiting the Anti-Rad suit (worbly crescendo done with three inharmonic sounds), a crash-like sound for everything taking a hit, a nicely sharp "ptewww" from the sitting temple guard's weapon, the scrolling messages playing a worbly constant beep, etc. etc. In any case, the game has a surprisingly rich sound environment.


Let's compare the original's sound effects to the 48k SPECTRUM version first, if only because there still is no 128k Spectrum option. Naturally, this means blurpy beeping noises, so it's difficult to describe any of those without making comedy of the whole thing, but at least I can say that there are enough of different noises to make it interesting. Still, there aren't nearly as many sound effects as there are on the AMSTRAD (notable missing sounds: walking, crossing the force field, entering the suit), but for the 48k Spectrum, it's plenty.

On C64, we get the feet tapping again, which are softer; destroying an enemy results in a weird disintegrating farty sound; hitting an enemy with a rock, when it doesn't get instantly destroyed, results in a soft tap; the scouting alien sound is far more irritating and alarming than on either of the previous two versions; turning on the suit info panel makes even stranger noises than it does on the Amstrad, and the text scroller gives more random notes in a similar worbly sound, etc. etc. Basically what I'm trying to say here is, that the C64's sound effects are as plentiful as they are in the original, only more refined.

Sound effects from the last three versions are less difficult to describe, because all three utilise a beeper-like sound output thing. In the DOS version, the amount of sounds is fairly limited. From what I could count on a quick run, about half of the sounds from the original soundscape were missing, and most of the ones left in are kind of basic and strange choices for inclusion, such as Tal's footsteps and the scrolling texts in the info panel, which are surprisingly loud (but then, sounds from the beeper usually are), and some sound effects are too damn intrusive (scout alien, bouncing off the walls...) in contrast with some too damn quiet ones (hitting an enemy, picking up objects, entering the suit...), and that was very nearly an unintelligible sentence.

The APPLE version features even less sound effects, but surprisingly, there is a new "bzing" sort of a sound that plays each time you enter the next screen. At least the sound effects have been left in, have more character than those in the DOS version, as you can hear in the high-pitched upwards whirring noise when you get rejuvenated, or the proper low growl of anything getting destroyed, or even the relatively cheap-sounding line of sound effects, when you turn on the Anti-Rad suit's info panel. So, even with less sound effects, this beats the DOS version, simply due to their charm and relative quality.

This is where the TRS-80 COCO version gets its little butt kicked by even the worst of all the other versions. At best, you're going to hear some static whirring noise, but at most, it's just random non-descriptive pops and farts - no melodic noises of any kind. Since my knowledge of the TRS-80 CoCo's abilities was next to nil until this comparison, I had to take a look at some other random games that I knew should be pretty good on the audio side... and I have to admit, the machine is pretty useless there. So, the results for this section are easy to decide.

1. COMMODORE 64
2. AMSTRAD CPC
3. ZX SPECTRUM
4. APPLE ][
5. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES
6. TRS-80 COCO

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OVERALL


Well, I cannot honestly say that I still like this game, but I will admit that it's a grower. The more you play the Sacred Armour of Antiriad, the more you learn to maneouvre your way through the game's frankly unnecessarily thickly occupied and trapped screens, particularly considering that the controls are awkward at best, and utterly horrible at worst. Nevertheless, it is worth seeking out and having a few tries, because the atmosphere is really arresting in this game, and despite its harsh learning curve, it can become a good time waster, because while Antiriad is certainly not a very long game, it offers enough of a challenge to be considered such. Some of its versions are surprisingly good, too, but I'm afraid none of them can be called the perfect version. So, here are the unnervingly mathematical results, which might or might not have some seed of truth in them:

1. COMMODORE 64: Playability 4, Graphics 6, Sounds 6 = TOTAL 16
2. ZX SPECTRUM: Playability 6, Graphics 3, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 13
3. TRS-80 COCO: Playability 5, Graphics 5, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 11
4. AMSTRAD CPC: Playability 2, Graphics 4, Sounds 5 = TOTAL 11
5. IBM-PC COMPATIBLES: Playability 3, Graphics 2, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 7
6. APPLE ][: Playability 1, Graphics 1, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 5


For me, that's as good as any truth you might conjure up. The top three are most definitely in the top three, but depending on your preferences, each of them might easily be at any of the three spots. Maybe even the Amstrad version, if you're not so bothered about its playability. Honestly, my favourite version to play is the SPECTRUM version, but if I want to look at good graphics and listen to great sounds, I'm going to have to choose the C64 version. Too bad there's no perfect version out there.

The Sacred Armour of Antiriad - remade for Windows PC's in 2003.

Ovine by Design remade Antiriad in 2003 for the Retro Remakes competition. For some reason, they don't offer it on their website, but then they left it a bit unfinished and unpolished. If you can find it elsewhere (it's easy enough, trust me), it's definitely worth taking a look at because of its new feature, that really affects the gameplay in a very positive way: you can adjust the trajectory of the rock by holding down the throw/shoot button, and simultaneously tapping the up or down key. Very useful, indeed.

That's it for today - hope that answered your hopes, Brain Breaker. See you next time with another special episode of Finnish Retro Game Reviews, but while you're waiting for that one, comments are as welcome as ever.

13 comments:

  1. The version of Sharp MZ800 is missing (at the beginning): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loRVZ4dnpTk

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    1. Well, I'll be damned. That's the first time I ever saw the MZ800 even mentioned in any context when doing this blog - frankly, I didn't even remember it existed. But it looks like a straight Spectrum port. Do you have any idea if that was an official release or an unofficial one?

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    2. There is always a first time :)

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. ....is a bad spectrum port, considering the HW of MZ800 (more colors, resolution, sound capability, ecc)

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  3. First of all congratulation for you review :)

    Sorry.....i don't remember exactly, time is not in my side :)
    anyway, this is my personal "old" review (sorry...only in italian) complete of all version (even 2 separate comments about C64, ) :) Unfortunately, tests were performed using emulator.....owning all these "old cars" would be too expensive for me :).

    http://altribit.blogspot.it/2011/09/rimettiamo-insieme-gli-altri-pezzi.html

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    1. Yeah, tell me about it. I have no immediate access for a proper Amstrad, Apple II or a TRS-80 from this particular comparison. Not because I didn't want any of those, but because apart from a CPC 6128, they're not important enough to have in my retro collection to waste any more space and money than I can currently come up with, and in most cases, emulators run the games well enough for what I need.

      Anyway, I took a look at your blog's old review with Google translator, since my understanding of Italian is practically non-existant. Interesting to see you came up with very similar results. =)

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  4. Google Translator is quite rough...
    translate from italian to english this doesn't return intelligible results

    unfortunately I do not know any more reliable

    anyway if you may be of interest here you can find all my reviews (if you like photos :))

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    1. http://altribit.blogspot.it/2011/08/altribit-manutenzione-e-piccoli.html

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    2. Hey, one can always have a bunch of educated guesses to approximate the meanings of each sentence in context, so even rough Google translates are better than nothing in that sense. :D But anyway, thanks for the link, seems like a great blog!

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  5. Great writing it is such a good and nice idea thanks for sharing your article .I like your post.
    Thanks.....

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  6. Nice cross-test as usual. This game was great to have on a CPC because of the sound and graphics it had (one of the best intro music and intro spashpage ever on CPC...). Playability is a bit rough in the "armour" parts, but this was part of the challenge. The graphics on CPC would use some clever software palette swaps for tiles and sprites, the 16 inks palette was sub-divised into 4x4 sub palettes (black+3 colours) so graphicss would be stored in 2bits per pixels (instead of the native 4 bits per pixels 16colours mode0) then rendered with one of the 4 sub-palette. Clever way to gain RAM space on 64k machines with otherwise heavy video modes. The HUD part (in mode1 "hires 4 colours) always stays on screen because it is fixed in RAM/video RAM to ease the tape loading or RAM refresh (would be better with 128k supported but hey). This game was great in its time because Palace software were great on those multi-format fantasy prods and had strong artistic identity.

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