[Acorn Gaming]



[ 4/5 **** 4/5 ]

[Inferno craft construction]Inferno costs just £9.99.

Cheap games tend to be cheap either because they are old or because they aren't very good. But Inferno falls into neither of these classes.

Inferno is games writing group Paradise's first release, although the same team were responsible for the visually and aurally beautiful, but sadly gameplay-challenged, Burn 'Out (published by Oregan).

When I first received Inferno the first thing that struck me about it was the packaging. It may not affect the game, but virtually no home-grown Acorn game has ever come in decent packaging. The Fourth Dimension charge forty pounds for their games and yet just send you a regulation plastic packet with a boring sleeve, and use cheaply photocopied manuals and disc-labels. But not Paradise. Inferno comes in a very neat little disc-sized plastic case, with a well-designed full-colour sleeve, and a disc-label printed directly onto the plastic disc itself (like Krisalis used).

[Game packaging]
Inferno game packaging

Good packaging may not make a good game, but in this case it is indicative of the quality of presentation and attention to detail that Paradise have put into this game. From start to finish the whole game has clearly had lots of time and care lavished on it. Complete a level and you get an excited bit of soundtrack with a nice little results window opening up; start an area and you get a little introductory story complete with small picture; get to the end of the game and you suddenly get a big surprise boss to defeat!

Too many games are presented in what seem to be two wholly separate chunks - "game" and "the rest", with this latter including the title page, menu screens and in-between level bits. Inferno, however, gives a wonderful feeling of continuity between the main game and "the rest" - the sound never stops, and there are no pregnant blank screens. As a result the action always flows smoothly, and the game feels 'finished'. I should also add that the game seems completely bug-free.

[Side-on view of craft]Presentation is very important and all too often it's neglected, but playability is the most important aspect of any game, with Tetris being a good example of simple graphics and great gameplay. Fortunately Inferno manages to deliver here, too. The control method often makes or breaks a game, but when you play Inferno you really do feel in control. You steer a craft around various maze-like levels putting out fires, but rather than opting for a lazy 'instant acceleration' model Paradise have made the craft understand the concept of inertia. The whole game is slick and a pleasure to play.

There are a variety of enemy craft and gun emplacements, and several different power-ups to collect, as well as lots of objects which just gain you more points. Some levels require you to collect keys to progress, and you are often working against a tight time-limit which can be extended by collecting suitable objects, this last action being the key to completing the level. I found the time-limits were nicely paced - just short enough that they are a challenge, but not so short that little mistakes prove fatal.

[Screenshot 1]
In-game screenshot of Inferno

There is an attractively cluttered status panel at the bottom of the screen, which is initially a little overwhelming although you soon get the hang of it. It certainly makes the game seem busy, and you don't even need to read the instructions because the game helpfully speaks the name of each power-up you gain as you collect them! Animation of the various craft is minimal, but they all move smoothly and little bits of attention to detail such as the small 'wake' your craft leaves contribute greatly to the game. I also like the way the 'results' panel you get when you complete each level rises up out a section of the status panel. This game never takes the lazy route of just a plain screen blank!

When you start up the game a sparkling loader screen is displayed whilst a piece of music plays as you wait for loading to complete, and from this point on the sound never stops! [Screenshot 2]The music is great, suiting the game perfectly - this was also one of Burn 'Out's strongest points - and there is a reasonable variety of it. The sound effects are also similarly satisfying.

So is Inferno perfect, then? No, of course not. I found the password system poorly structured - you have to play for hours to get a password at one point - but then the majority of players will never get far enough into the game to discover that, and at least there are plenty of levels to ensure you don't finish the game too soon. A more important complaint is that once you get about half way through the game there is no longer enough variety between successive levels, but then what do you expect for £10? Also, I personally found that the whole game never got challenging enough, but I'm assured that I'm alone in this complaint.

[Wire-frame view of craft]Little imperfections included, Inferno is exceptionally good for its price - I have never come across any game on any other platform which was better than Inferno for the price (not including previously more expensive games which are later discounted). Certainly Inferno can hold its head high against similar games on other platforms.

If you like action games then you should buy Inferno right now. That's now. And even if you don't I'd still get it anyway, because for less than the cost of three Acorn magazines what have you got to lose? It beats any cover-disc software hands down!

Review by Gareth Moore, ©1997

[ 4/5 **** 4/5 ]

Contact Details

38 Marlborough Drive, Sydenham, Leamington Spa, CV31 1GD
Tel. (01926) 315907; Email info@paradise-uk.net

...this page last updated: 3/7/00 (review text last updated 3/4/97)...
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