Friday, 9 October 2015

Gruesome Games III - No.24 - Scarabaeus (C64)

Well, I don't want to jinx myself or anything, but I seem to still be on track to get through the list.....maybe due to having 70 or so less games to cover! Hehe...we'll see if that continues! I'm even finding time to actually look at other Countdown blogs as they post this year instead of catching up in November, and I'm liking what I'm seeing! Keep up the good work, Cryptkeepers! Right, on with the next game....

No.24 - Scarabaeus (Commodore64) :

The Scarabaeus of the title is a mythical diamond, created long ago by the Pharaoh and buried with him in his tomb. You, apparently, are an astronaut who likes shiny things...and shiny things don't come much shinier than mythical Pharaoh diamonds! So, the game starts with a lovely little animated intro where you see yourself arrive in a rocket with your little space pooch (who promptly disappears from the rest of the game) tagging along behind you...

What you don't see in the intro, is that upon entering the tomb you've been bitten by a poisonous spider, and now not only must you search for hieroglyphs to unlock the key to the Pharaoh's treasure, but also hunt down the medicines that can cure you of the spider's venom.

The glyphs can be found rather easily by chasing ghosts who appear in the mazes and capturing them. Doing so fills a square in the key you have in your hand. You'll use this key later, to recognise other hieroglyphs that will let you know the difference between the antidotes and poison, which has also been left bottled up in the tomb, and also to collect Zombie Traps....but more about them later!  

Finding the ghosts in the maze is made a lot easier by using the map, accessed by pressing down on the joystick. This will show you the layout of the maze and the position of the ghost will appear as little skull. After you've found all nine ghosts in the first level, you can head over to the lift.

The lift can be an awkward thing to control. You have to rotate the joystick to get the crank moving, but one wrong input and the lift will crash down to the next floor, seriously damaging your health! However you get there, level 2 is where things start to get tricky!

The information points that you'll need are hidden in alcoves along some of the mazes walls. These alcoves also house a spider, who'll stay put until you wander past, whereupon they'll hop out and start legging it after you. You have to lure the spider away from the alcoves, then run back round to them and try to use the symbols from your key to work out which antidotes and traps are safe to use before the spider manages to get back to you...

Then when you get to Level 3, you'll find these antidotes in similar alcoves. If you recognise them as being safe to use from what you learned on Level 2, you can pick them up and use them. If you get it wrong, you'll end up being poisoned and losing health! Oh yeah, the traps! You put these down to trap the zombies that are released when you access the alcoves on this level,,,they'll chase you around using the shortest possible route to get to you! 

Then once you've got all 8 potions and 4 zombie traps, the Pharaoh's Tomb will be able to be opened with the key, whereby you'll need to do another puzzle in 40 moves or less, or die horribly or something!

If all this sounds incredibly complicated, that's because it is! And to be honest, I really had no idea what the hell I was doing for most of the time playing this game...The puzzles, it would seem, require your head to be in a much better place than mine was after the miserable 4 hours sleep I'd had before starting! You'll need your thinking cap firmly screwed on if you're to get the most out of this game... 

Having said that, I still had loads of fun travelling around the wonderful scrolling maze! It really is surprising how fast and smoothly it moves around when you consider the age of the game and the machine it's running on! Atmosphere oozes from Scarabaeus too, with awesome breathing and heartbeat sound effects making your exploration of the maze a whole lot scarier! And there's even a tune if for some reason you want to turn these sound effects off!

So there you go...a brilliantly presented, atmopsheric, brain-busting maze game, that sort of feels like a C64-pacifist version of Doom crossed with some unused section from the BBC's Only Connect! Well worth giving a go, if you want spooked whilst also building your brain power! I'll personally be having another attempt once I've had a bit more nap time! 

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