Speris Legacy

a Reeeview item by J Nash (Wednesday March 10th, 2010)

JN says...JN saysFor AMIGA POWER. As the Amiga declined, the remaining game publishers increasingly abandoned the machine’s trademark homespun bonkersness and became mired in various attempts to duplicate other formats’ successes; a period AP faithfully covered with a typical nasal tweak as the X — But On The Amiga craze.
 
Easily the most popular rip-off was Doom — But On The Amiga, which gave us some terrific games from the stripped-down splatterblaster Gloom to the lushly elaborate Alien Breed 3D but also the time-wasting effort-clogging tech demo likes of Fears, Breathless, Alien Breed 3D2 and those sixty or seventy East European clones usually with robots in that were intended to prove the Amiga could EASILY MATCH THE CAPABILITIES OF THE PC! and that THE AMIGA WOULD NEVER DIE! and were never finished, much to the disappointment of reader Roy Nesbit of Crewe.
 
The second notable genre swipe was Zelda — But On The Amiga, which was altogether trickier to pull off because you couldn’t cheat by leaving out the game confident that idiots would still fawn over the raytracing or something. Speris Legacy was the hotly anticipated entry from popular Amiga veterans and whining childish hatemongers Team 17, whose often reliably solid games earned them an enviable lifetime review average of 73% from AMIGA POWER’s steely judges. Of course, the fact the game would be on the cover (an ace pic by perpetually overworked Wil From Super Play in association with money) would have no bearing on the review. What, didn’t every mag work like that? Pf. Two issues later, I also reviewed the Zelda — But On The Amiga game Legends, which was much niftier AS YOU WILL SEE. AT SOME POINT.

For: A1200
Publisher: Ocean/Team 17
Authors: The Jolly Brothers (design, graphics and music), Clive Minnican (code)

The Scaly Gripes, more like.

CUE TITLES: James Bond walking across screen, framed through barrel of gun. Pounding Bond theme. As silhouette turns, electronic effect of flag popping into the screen and unfurling to read, “YOU’RE FIRED.” Music segues into jaunty sitcom theme. Logo spins in from distance very fast – THE OLD BONDS. Logo zooms down to bottom-left of picture. Screen quarters to show unshaven Roger Moore in patched coat pushing shopping trolley; George Lazenby in frayed dressing gown slumped in room lit only by television set; and smiling Timothy Dalton immaculate in evening dress – camera pulls out quickly to show he’s opening a new electrical goods shop.

CAPTION: By Rik Mayall, Ben Elton and Lise Mayer.

CAPTION: Additional material by Alexei Sayle.

(Cut to shabby student house. George Lazenby is wearing his dressing gown and watching television. Roger Moore is cooking. He cuts a slice from a block of lard and plops it into a hot pan. It sizzles. He doesn’t add anything else. A weedy tape deck is playing We Have All The Time In The World from the 30 Years Of James Bond album.)

TIMOTHY DALTON (off): Hi, guys, I’m home! (He enters dressed as a friendly dragon. Puts down sheaf of leaflets for Toasty-Warm Double-Glazing.) Look, we’ve got some post. (Reads from postcard.) “Dear Guys, having a wonderful time making films and being serviced by groupies. Wish you were here. Love, Sean.” Oh. That’s nice.

ROGER MOORE (stirring fat angrily): Wiggy hippy.

(The song has finished. George Lazenby gets up, rewinds the tape and plays it again.)

TIMOTHY DALTON: Oh, it was one of my ones next. (George Lazenby glares at him.) Sorry.

ROGER MOORE: Dinner’s ready.

(They rush to the table. He serves three plates of watery fat. They look at the three plates of watery fat. Silence.)

ROGER MOORE (cracking): What’s happened to us? Even Desmond Llewellyn gets more work than we do. (Leaps up.) I can’t stand it. I’m going to kill myself. (Produces gun disguised as cigarette lighter. Points it at his forehead.) Goodbye, cruel world. (Presses button. Eyebrows alight.) Aaarghh! Bast! (Whirls around madly. Sees window. Runs, crashes through. Receding scream.)

(Others run to window. Look down. Deafening smash.)

ROGER MOORE (off): Another miraculous escape! Baasttt!

    But anyway.

NERYS
I’m baffled. After four days of playing, I’m on Level Five of Speris Legacy (I’m guessing the game’s following the usual path and has eight levels, but more of that later) and even having come this far entirely on my own (we do practise what we preach, so nyer) I’ve still to be comfortable with the way the game thinks. Specifically, I’m carrying a huge bomb that’s going to explode in ten minutes (in real-time; Speris has an individual grasp of time depending on the puzzle, but more of that later) and I have to pass a guard who’s obviously looking for the rebel hero I’m playing but doesn’t realise it’s me (I’ve sort of broken into this level by nefarious means), I’m not being allowed to tell him about this incredibly large bomb (Speris is noticeably fragile when it comes to dialogue, but more of that later), I’ve drugged the other guard and so’m waiting for the shifts to change but haven’t realised how to trigger this (it’s happened once before but I collapsed and died before I could investigate (it turned out the bomb had exploded in my arms, but, cheaply, there was no “devistating” explosion) and I’m suspicious the game may have crashed as it’s done four times before (but then always when it was loading something from disk) because I’ve tried both waiting until a specific moment and general time-wasting), I haven’t uncovered what the last switch I threw has done, I’m still fuming over having found the vital sleeping pills after scouring the entire level and trying my whole inventory on every roadside feature by pushing against a certain wall and finding a hidden room at a point where you can’t even see your character (Speris has an individual approach to secret rooms, but more of that later) and I’ve been temporarily thwarted in my attempts to return to Canada (but that’s in real life).

This, then, is the world of Speris Legacy. Contradictions abound, convenience struts alongside potty hamhandedness, sophisticated riddles nuzzle infantile bottom jokes.

You’d not be alarmed were you to meet Speris Legacy in a social capacity. You’d be impressed by its elegant appearance, soothed by its exclusively action approach to RPGs and would pleasurably chat to it for six minutes before your alert host swept in to move you away, perhaps to offer you a repulsive chocolate novelty. Speris Legacy, you would agree, is plausibly agreeable. But its head is a bone ball of seething wrongness. Trust AMIGA POWER’s mind quackery to reveal THE TRUTH. Lie down upon this couch, Speris Legacy. Let your mind drift. Concentrate on something empty and useless, like trying to remember when AP first did a psychiatry review.

It’s all about mental illness.

GEORGE FERRIS
REVIEWER: The first keyword is ‘speech.’

GOOD SPERIS: Whenever you approach a speaking character, I make a speech bubble icon appear above your head so you needn’t try speaking to scenery people. (I do this with examinable objects as well, except obviously the icon’s different.) I use a Monkey Island-style conversation approach – there are always more questions or answers to use than you need, and you can’t not get the information you require, but it’s all to enrich the atmosphere.

BAD SPERIS: But once you’ve finished a conversation it’s gone forever. The next time you speak to that character the only thing you can say is, “Goodbye. I must be going.” If you’ve forgotten what they’ve said – perhaps you’re coming back to a saved game – tough. Why should I give quick recaps? You’ll be wanting name-checks next so you needn’t go around the nondescript cast trying to find the one you need to give the twenty gems to. And you should count yourself lucky if you do happen to find someone telling you something new. I don’t see any reason for having consistent, sensible links between who a character is and what they know.

REVIEWER: The next keyword is ‘logic.’

GOOD SPERIS: I make sure that once you learn how to do something – say, which blocks can be blown up – the rules stay the same. And I have a special buzz to tell you you’re on the right track, but you need something else to complete a task – for example, a key to open that door. When there’s something complicated like throwing a series of switches, I make a pleasing bleep when you get the sequence right. And I certainly won’t be so obscure as to be unfathomable.

BAD SPERIS: I want to anger you so completely you smash up your disks. I don’t want to tell you things like you can’t use your bombs because you haven’t found a tinder box, or that you can’t open that door because you haven’t worn your cloak of invisibility to eavesdrop on someone mentioning they’re hiding a key in that room so making the door suddenly important, and hope you’ve spent ages trying all your weapons and objects to jemmy it open. I think it’s really funny to have you find a drill early on and describe it as strong enough to go through almost anything, when in fact I mean exactly one thing, incredibly further on in the game. I like it when you talk to people about plagues and suddenly half the village has died as if days had passed, but make you walk around for a certain length of time before a particular foreshadowed event will happen, like someone preparing a dinner. I enjoy immensely having a character break down in sobs when her husband dies, but forget her troubles entirely when you give her an expensive ring. It is pleasing to me that pages from a book are found separately in the same barrel, and you have to leave the level and come back for the barrel to rebuild before you can find the next page. And I find it hilarious that, while I sometimes point them out with discoloured walls, I make you press against every overhang in case of a secret door, all of which must be found for you to proceed.

TERRACE
REVIEWER: The next keyword is ‘controls.’

GOOD SPERIS: I support two-button and CD32 joypads, and have keyboard shortcuts to move through the weapons and objects rather than going via the inventory screen. My save disks are special, so I let you format new ones from a menu.

BAD SPERIS: But I’ll let you format them without any checks so you’ll at least once erase all your saved games.

REVIEWER: The next keyword is ‘writing.’

GOOD SPERIS: Egad.

BAD SPERIS: I have made sure the text is extraordinarily badly-written, and in some cases “embarassingly” misspelt. I don’t want you becoming involved in the story so I’ve been sure to deal exclusively in stereotypes and have everyone act the same plot-convenient, often ridiculously unlikely way. I don’t want you to care in the slightest when I kill off half the cast.

GOOD SPERIS: But I do have Minsky the Clue Cat, who turns up to sell hints. He’s personable and quirky.

BAD SPERIS: But I’ll make him appear suddenly and inexplicably in a location you’ve already visited and have no cause to go anywhere near again.

REVIEWER: The next keyword is ‘puzzles.’

GOOD SPERIS: I have a variety of puzzles from pushing aside blocks to giving objects to people. Sometimes I’ll be extra-sneaky so you have to work out that to pass a laser barrier safely you must push a monster into it or shoot a magical block on the other side of a chasm to make a bridge appear. I pledge to play fair.

BAD SPERIS: But I’ll leave you completely on your own. I won’t provide a framework so you learn with my help a new skill. You’ll have to work it out yourself, no matter how difficult – for example, that shooting a magical block across a chasm puzzle; you’d have no reason to suspect it would work, or, indeed, to stand on the edge of the chasm in order to see the block, except through pure luck or (I’d hope) sheer desperation. Or, of course, you could walk around and try speaking to all of the characters.

REVIEWER: The next keyword is ‘size.’

GOOD SPERIS: I am gigantic. Each of my levels is a large, realistic map – say, a village with buildings, fields, ruins and rivers, or a mine with rock faces, miners’ huts and exotic flora – and I probably have eight of them, because that is what all action RPGs have. You can glimpse parts of my world you have not yet reached on my atlas screen, although I must admit rumours you could move around here freely are false. I am linear. But at least this gives a sense of advancement.

BAD SPERIS: My levels need to be huge. How else could I spread out my characters and objects so you have to move back and forth over great distances to make the game longer to play? A-ha ha ha.

REVIEWER: The final keyword is ‘additionally.’

GOOD SPERIS: Although you don’t have a choice, I believe you will enjoy my musical soundtrack. There are dozens of pieces, each in keeping with the theme of an area, and none are rave or rock tracks. Also, if you’re low on energy or money you can cut down the flowers for a random prize. And I’d like to point out I’m unique on the Amiga. Except for Dragonstone.

BAD SPERIS: I have altered my mechanics so although a message when you find a prize reads, “You have found 1 x gem,” suggesting you could find five or ten, you’ll never find more than one, so stringing things out further. I want to be so confounding and confused you’ll play me through hoping things will pick up, and while I indeed throw in imaginative set-pieces and have an underlying sense of fun, I have worked at least as hard as my goody-goody counterpart in dashing your hopes of seeing an action RPG – but on the Amiga. A balance has been achieved. I am cured! The key phrase is ‘speak now to a seeker of wisdom.’

REVIEWER: Oh no! I’ve suddenly resigned!

UPPERS
Huge, involved, outrageously rips off Zelda and Secret of Mana down to specific weapons, text and bits of business. Supports joypads. Hard drive-installable.

DOWNERS
Illogical, distancing (fatal for these things), plain unfair in places. I’m over halfway through and still don’t feel comfortable with it. And for a game that relies so heavily on story, it is a CRIMINAL ACT not to have employed somebody to rewrite the crap Speris Legacy makes you read.

THE BOTTOM LINE A1200
Stirring and bungling in equal measures.
50%

THE BOTTOM LINE A500
No. But there may, one day, be a Super Speris rejig.

FAT
(Pic of Cho looking fat.)
You play a hero who is obviously fat.

See also: Legends.