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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: July 19, 1998
What would happen if you took all the good stuff from the Tomb Raider franchise, combined it with a successful story line such as Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy series, and then added a multiplayer feature? That is, in essence, the question that begs answering when playing Eidos’ latest foray into the action adventure world, Deathtrap Dungeon. A few years ago a small game developer called Core, a sexy and sophisticated game heroine named Lara, and one hell of an aggressive marketing plan put Eidos Interactive on the map. The game, as you all know, was Tomb Raider. Soon after the original Tomb Raider’s release, Eidos affiliate Asylum Studios began working on Deathtrap Dungeon, a Tomb Raider-like game set in the Fighting Fantasy world. Eidos appeared to have the dog by the tail; they could do no wrong. However, last year’s release of Tomb Raider 2, although wildly successful, was received by many as lacking the style and overall design that made the first so innovative and fun. When Eidos failed to show Deathtrap Dungeon at this year’s E3, I was afraid it was because the game wasn’t living up to expectations. A few weeks ago, with some reservation, I picked up my copy of the game.
Licensing the world of Deathtrap Dungeon was a smart choice. Games Workshop founders Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone created the Fighting Fantasy series in 1982, which is where Deathtrap Dungeon gets its origins. To date, the books and related materials associated with Fighting Fantasy have sold over 15 million copies, and the transition to the computer screen couldn’t have been more fitting. The game begins with a rendered introduction sequence that sets the stage for what lies ahead. For a long time, the evil Baron Sukumvit has ruled the city of Fang. Years ago the Baron built an immense labyrinth of traps and snares, and then filled it with ghouls and creatures of unheard of evil; he named this place Deathtrap Dungeon. Anyone that opposed the Baron was immediately thrown into the Dungeon, and no one has ever escaped. Soon the Baron got bored. Having dispatched the dregs of Fang to the Dungeon, he needed some excitement. So the Baron decided to advertise, offering 10,000 gold pieces to the first hero that could conquer the depths of Deathtrap Dungeon. Offering an equal amount of treasure to those that would inhabit his house of horribles, many vile and depraved creatures have set up shop deep within the dungeon walls. The Baron has even attracted a Red Dragon named Meklor to serve as champion and guard over the treasure. The game begins by giving you the option of choosing between two characters. The female character, Red Lotus, is an obvious attempt by Eidos to ride on the coattails of Lara Croft. The male character is a Conan-like warrior named Chaindog. The differences in advantages of the two characters are as expected: Lotus is sleek and fast, but not as strong; Chaindog is all brute force, lacking the speed and grace his counterpart excels in.
The first level of the dungeon, Spire, gets you acquainted with your character’s movement; running, jumping, and fighting. From there you will navigate over 20 tortuous environments filled with countless fiends and traps. Navigating the dungeon is simple in premise; progress through each level of the dungeon by gaining access through locked doors and portcullises. The object is to find the exit to the next level, eventually leading to the duel with the Red Dragon Meklor. Sounds simple, right? The levels of Deathtrap Dungeon are as monstrous as the monsters that inhabit them. Thankfully, the game starts you off slowly. The are ten levels in the game, with most levels having more than one section; hence the 20 environments. The dungeon makeup is quite diverse. The transition from one level to the next can be stark, sometimes making the dungeon seem disjointed. I would have rather seen more gradual changes from level to level. This is however, a minor complaint, as it is something you get used to as the game progresses.
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