Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Boo! Hiss! That nasty Queen Of Darkness has unleashed hordes of monsters to roam the land of Krynn. As well as dealing with these the Companions of the Lance (they aren't Heroes yet!) have to stop Queenie emerging from her dingy abyss by finding the Disks of Mishakal.
Golly gosh! There's so much to do, isn't there? Fortunately in this AD&D game, anything is possible! Just be prepared to face the consequences. Ifs a hard job taking control of a group of trusty fighters with individual characteristics. Some are experts at casting spells, others are skilled when it comes to using particular weapons.
The opening sequence is helpful, with nicely detailed shots of the heroes whose brief biographies give clues to their skills. They all have really nice-sounding names like Goldmoon and Riverwind, exotic or what? One of Goldmoon's hidden talents, for example, is that she can detect invisible objects.
First thing to do is select your lead character to control in the arcade window above the RPG menu. Characters can be switched to suit the current situation. On screen, all can walk/run left and right, most can jump and duck too. However, the heroes are slow-moving and I found control sluggish. Turning around is cumbersome, as is leaving an area — exits appear on screen, highlighted by a compass which flashes available routes.
Nasty minions can lurk round any comer. These are many and varied, including various winged beasties; the big, blue beggar is incredibly hard to shift. Even little old men with high hairlines take great pleasure in kicking your shins. Four-and-twenty bonks on their balding bonces should see them right!
A word of warning to warriors: keep a check on your current status! Called up via the menu, this shows your Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity and Charisma. Every battle affects these scores and your hit points, all displayed by diminishing bars on screen. If a character loses all his hit points, a little gravestone appears where he once fought. An infuriating factor is how easy it is for several gang members to be killed off in a trice. A character killed in battle is swiftly substituted by another, and if you're not quick enough the replacement is slaughtered too!
If you're not up to combat, various spells can be selected from the easy-to-use menu including a Missile that zaps a baddie in one fell swoop, the Web and Detect Magic — great for finding hidden charms. If a member of your bunch holds a staff more specialist spells are available such as Protection From Evil and Locate Hidden Traps,
Other menu options enable object manipulation with the usual Use, Take and Drop functions Objects such as gems, scrolls and weapons are hidden in the chests dotted about. Certain artefacts car only be used by certain characters that's where the Give option comes in handy.
You can also keep tabs on what monsters you've slain, and check on your party's experience — gained from successful combat and collected objects. With top-notch organisational skills you should be able to explore the hundreds of rooms and corridors without losing too many gang members. But it'll take a lot of skill and dexterity to find the Disks of Mishakal, hidden in the lair of the Dragon, Khisath. He's huge and black and enjoys nothing more than gobbling little warriors whole!
The key to Heroes Of The Lance is perseverance. It's a huge game with a lot of depth. D&D fans would have an advantage in gelling into the game, but whether they'll like it is another matter. D&D is played in the imagination and a simulation approaching the depth of the real thing would probably have to be text-based. Heroes has all the trappings but not the essence of D&D. Realism is severely hampered by only one character appearing on screen at a time — having to pretend everyone else is standing to the person's right is silly. The arcade action is occasionally fun, with impressive graphics to admire, but you lose the D&D sense of actually being that character.
Another flaw is the lack of a save-feature According to US Gold the game is massive but once you've worked out a route and practised you attack method it can be completed in a single session. Fair enough, but it does lead to repetition going over the same opening sequences and moves again and again.
Heroes is an interesting hybrid, but not particularly successful. It's got an arcade perspective, but there isn't much arcade action, just a lot of walking around. It's not a bad game, just a bit dull and disappointing. Newcomers to D&D might find it a simplistic introduction to the subject though, and the challenge is certainly impressive for a console game.
It's like I said to Adrian just after he pulled my ear off, this game just isn't D&D. The roleplaying element is small, the combat system standard arcade material, and the problems almost nonexistent. There's nothing wrong with releasing an arcade adventure such as this, but US Gold shouldn't pretend it's something it's not.
Even without the unused licence, Heroes isn't much of a game. The action is slow, and I found it very tedious. Without a save game routine or a password system, the early stages get very boring very quickly — I can't see anyone playing this weak simulation for long.
Not entirely successful in merging D&D with arcade-adventuring