The Sacred Armour Of Antiriad is a 1986 game by Palace Software, a British games company who were noted for their releases which usually featured something a little different such as ‘Cauldron’ and the brilliantly pervy box of ‘Barbarian’ featuring a scantily clad Maria Whittaker and oiled up Wolf from Gladiators.
The game is a side scrolling adventure/performer in which you play Tal, a Savage member of a post apocalyptic tribe of humans sent to find ancient armour to defeat the hoards of aliens who have appeared out of a volcano. The Armour is actually a radiation suit built by us in the present civilisation but has passed into myth after the horror of nuclear war and the destruction of technological documents. The name ‘Antiriad’ being a mis-reading of Anti-Rad or Anti-Radiation by the tribesmen elders.
The Amstrad always had slightly better graphical capabilities than other home computers of the time and it really shows. The colours are rich and vibrant and the Animation on Tal is actually gob smacking smooth for the time with many frames of animation going into his movements and actions (with the added immature chuckle of the graphics artists giving him a subtle but rather visible willy when he faces the screen). Everything has a mystical and ancient feel to it crossed with a healthy dose of sci-fi sheen. Some of the enemy design is a bit baffling though, with monkeys and ghost like monsters appearing when it is supposed to be aliens and there is some minor slowdown when the screen gets crowded but these are minor flaws.
The sound begins with what is probably one of the most brilliant pieces of computer game music ever. The iconic title theme written by late Richard Joseph, (a jazz musician and sound designer for many other amazing games who sadly died of lung cancer in 2007) smacks you in the face with it’s epic opening melody and beats which conjure up images of ancient worlds and forgotten technological achievements. If you are a musician like me you will appreciate the song even more for it’s odd off beat basslines and percussions. Sadly there is no in game music but instead of taking away from the game it simply add more to the creepy atmosphere, though even some sort of low pulse could have elevated the proceedings a touch. The sound effects are well done and are more than just bleeps and blips with recognisable footsteps on leaves, stones smashing and lasers blasting.
I would have liked to have seen Tal possess the ability to throw his rocks while crouching or in mid air and the regeneration of enemies if you happen to go off screen then back again is a little frustrating and should have been thought out better. I also think that you find the actual armour itself a touch too quickly, even though you have to collect more items to mobilise and arm it it’s still a bit of an easy find. Some of the level design isn't greatly thought out either but again this is some small grumbles as it IS great fun to play and you do get a little further every time. The brilliant feature of radiation or energy belts in the game which Tal can pass through but the suit can't is a fantastic inclusion. When you need an item that is blocked by one of these belts and when the radiation level is high it’s a mad scramble to leave the armour, pass through the belt, get what you need and get back into the suit before you become pan bread.
Antiriad’ is a one shot game and by that I mean that there are no ‘Levels’ to complete. You just keep going from the moment you appear at the start until the end which is a bit frustrating when you die but it fully maintains the adventure side of the game.
The more I play ‘Antiriad’ the more it seems like a forerunner to Psygnosis ‘Shadow Of The Beast’. Both were scrolling adventure type platform games which had stunning cosmetics but the gameplay flaws let them down somewhat. Where Antiriad really shines is not really the game itself but the lore and the story. Palace actually commissioned a rather great 16 page comic (which can be found readily online in PDF format) to accompany the game depicting the run up to the manufacture of the suit and the nuclear war all packed with some delicious box art and great logos.
It's odd that the game never received a sequel of any kind as it was seemingly quite popular at the time although it's standalone status does elevate it somewhat more to legend. Regardless it would have been cool to see a follow up with some more streamlined playability and added features. They could have continued the comic as a tie in as well although I'm unsure how cost effective that would be as it was a pretty bold move in the first place for an original release.
I guess it just wasn't to be!
I was blown away by ‘The Sacred Armour Of Antiriad’ when I got it in 1986 at the age of nine. It was brand new, slick, original and full of atmosphere and I still love it to this day (So much so I have my own personal Antiriad T-shirt featuring the box art) and I still get tremendous joy out of playing it for both nostalgia and the fun playability.
Flawed? Yes, but just get sucked up in the story and enjoy this glorious release!
Striding forth from his lair at Castle Stareskull one morning, Prototron decided to not reign down terror on the villagers, but instead go back inside, crack open a beer and load up Streets Of Rage 2. One hundred years later, he's still there. A avid music maker (of TERROR!) and retro gamer, he can be found whooping any and all heroes at all manner of SNK-based challenges.