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Conan: Hall of Volta

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Eric Robinson & Eric Parker



Copyright 1984, SE Software

Datasoft’s Apple II classic Conan: Hall of Volta is one of the best cross-genre action games I have ever played, bar none. I remember spending countless hours on our rickety Apple II, staring at the screen with bleary eyes night after night until I was able to beat the game. Ever since this classic, very few action games without a save function have enticed me to play to completion. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what make Conan so addictive – my best guess is the inimitable combination of action, puzzles, variety, and cleverly designed levels. Andrew Schultz describes it very well in his reader review for GameFAQs:

Conan is almost certainly one of the best games ever written for the Apple IIe. It’s got seven different levels on a double-sided disk, which increase roughly linearly in toughness, and each one is so markedly different that you get the sense you’re on a real adventure. At the very end of the game, you’ll need to kill Volta, but the first few levels will keep you occupied as well. There is also an amusing epitaph, a graphic about sixty pixels wide and high, should you die, and it is adjusted for each level.

You control Conan with the standard AZ/arrows(the arrows also toggle if Conan runs/walks) and also can hit Q to jump(jumping or falling makes you somersault) and space to throw a boomerang axe. The number of boomerang axes you have is at the bottom of the screen, and you can pick them up (it’s possible and advisable to hoard them for later rounds) or, if you control them well enough, you can hit enemies, and the axes will come back to you. The axes don’t come into play until level four, after the game has run through some interesting challenges where you must evade your enemies. Discerning between running and walking allows for some neat puzzles, but on level two, it can be annoying to have to have such quick fingers(“‘I know how to do this, already!”) after having failed on level six the previous two games.

The graphics are quite well-done. Conan doesn’t jump, he somersaults (it’s a full-scale dive if he falls off). From ants to birds to strange machines and Volta himself, the other characters are believable. The boomerang axe even rotates, and the backgrounds are diversely colored. As for the sound, it can sometimes provide clues, but it’s kept to a minimum and is usually apt (dragons breathing fire, a platform moving).

Despite the lack of a game-save feature, I attacked Conan until I’d solved it and didn’t mind playing through it again and again, especially since there is some potential intra-level strategy, and there are ways to get extra lives that are easy to overlook. There may be some tedious waiting (level three), but the only potentially unfair level is number four. Each level is so radically different, though, that the game requires the thinking found in a minor text adventure, but there’s real-time action and great graphics. It’s hard to find serious fault with this game.” If you consider yourself a veteran action gamer, you simply must play this timeless classic. Two thumbs up, and an induction into our Hall of Belated Fame.

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