Barbarian Plus - Head chopping classic enhanced gets an early Amiga preview

Barbarian....One of my favourite games since I discovered games. I wasn't introduced to it like most heterosexual males my age, via their hormones and a titillating poster. Instead, it was one of the loose tapes that came with my second hand ZX Spectrum, and it got played to absolute death.

It's well established that all the 8bit comp versions, from the C64 original with it's sharp visuals and music, to the nippier Spectrum port, and the big chunky sprites of the CPC version, are all brilliant. However, the later ST and Amiga ports, whilst still very playable, were never as good as they could have been considering the extra punching power of their host machines.

Barbarian Returns (Pc)                                      Barbarian (Flash)                              Cimmerian (Master System)
There have been some brave attempts to reinvent the game. Some ill-conceived like the poor PC game Barbarian Returns. Some nearly hitting the mark like the enjoyable Flash remake, and some not quite happening. Like the recent bold attempt to recreate it on Master System, Cimmerian, which has yet to be finished.

The team behind the latest revision, Barbarian Plus, have done something clever. They've re imagined how the 16 bit versions should have been handled. Taking it right back to the Amiga then building it from the ground up, and we've been given an exclusive playable version to decapitate each other with.

Barbarian Plus is almost ready for release. The copy we have is "a preview of the game, almost finished version" so there are some tweaks that still need to be made before its release in just a few weeks, but it is more than playable. I've been kicking shit out of it all night on UAE (highly recommended to use an emulator as you'll need no less than an A1200 to run it on real hardware, plus it's packed into 5 whopping discs).

First impressions are that this is exactly how the Amiga port should have looked. The sprites are fantastic and the scenery is beautiful. The new backgrounds are particularly effective with some fitting additions like moody castle gates and waterfalls of blood, as well as some humorous nods to that other classic 'Plus' game IK+ with the little submarine periscope turning up.

There's also some much needed character variety. There are some additional monsters on loan from Barbarian II appearing in the single player campaign who are more than welcome.

The players warrior also has some cool variations including the Princess from Barbarian II, a skull faced swordsman (possibly inspired by Player Two's helmeted variant in the ZX Spectrum port), and best of all a frigging Lizardman, because everything can be made better by adding Lizardmen.

The new customisation options are really cool. Its absolutely brilliant to finally be able to play as more than your standard Schwarzenegger. You now get Warrior Princesses and those bloody awesome Lizardmen, but in the games current form you are unfortunately only able to select them in Two Player Versus mode. In Single Player you're stuck in the old grey muscle vest.

The audio is also top notch. The music, particularly during the loading screens, is excellent and a perfect blend of that familiar Poledouris soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian mixed into that essential Amiga sound we all love. The character voice effects are also particularly good, especially the cackling laughter of the wicked goblin who drags away your corpse. The only issue with sound so far is an irritating points countdown at the end of each bout that really isn't necessary, hopefully the dev's will tone that down before release.

The game is not quite ready to be shipped yet. There's still some niggles to be addressed. You're currently unable to press down and attack simultaneously (the crouching sword swipe is essential for counter-attacking the whirlwind head-chop), the headbutt attack is no longer a knockdown which seems odd and the animation for it is a little too slow. All other attack moves are executed very fluidly and there's a nice addition of the rolling attack being reversed in corners, which stops the annoying repetitive rolling-trap in the corner that the original had. Sadly you can pretty much win every round by trapping the CPU at the edge of the screen using the 'web of death' spinning sword attack instead, but hopefully all of these issues will be tackled before release.

I felt genuinely awful writing that last paragraphs of critiques. Not just because this game will be free, but because I truly love what the team has achieved with this new iteration of Barbarian. It's quite simply the best looking yet, and although there's is genuine love all over this game as well as Lizardmen, It's within a single swing to the neck of being the definitive version and also yes... Lizardmen. 

Christmas Milling is on twitter @GamesInBits being awfully critical about awesome games that are free and he really has no right to be a dick about. Also, Lizardmen.

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