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Dark Vengeance: A Dish Best Served Accelerated
March 2nd, 1999

Randy: Hey, Gary, what are the tap shoes for?

Gary: I'm busking over on 84th street and Lexington to get some extra cash.

Randy: Uh…is your insurance company still covering you after that last dancing accident?

Gary: It wasn't an accident, it was a pirouette.

Randy: Whatever. It took out the token booth at the far end of the cave and put you in the hospital for three days.

Gary: I suffer for my art.

Randy: Trust me. We all suffer for your art. But what do you need the cash for?

Gary: After playing Dark Vengeance on your new VillageTronic MacMagic VooDoo card, I realize I have to have one for myself.

Randy: Which one? The game or the card?

Gary: Both.

Randy: Ha! Suffer unto you! But what say we talk about the hot new title from publishing powerhouse MacSoft and Reality Bytes, Dark Vengeance?

Gary: Yeah, baby!

Randy: Never call me "baby". Dark Vengeance is one of the hottest titles out this year from Reality Bytes. It is a third person adventure/combat game that uses groundbreaking graphics to transport players to a world of sorcery and evil.

Gary: Gamers who enjoy role-playing titles like Diablo will love this game.

Randy: And so will action fans who enjoy titles like Quake and Unreal.

Gary: And I believe adventure fans who like games like Riven and the Journeyman series will also like this game.

Randy: Dark Vengeance is one of the new games out that is working hard to break the boundaries between fast action shoot-'em-ups and puzzle twisting adventure titles.

Gary: They're trying. I think there is a way to go, but this game may be the best attempt yet at combining the two types of games into one. For starters, you can choose to play one of three characters, each with distinct stories to tell.

Randy: Well, they are all basically stories of revenge. You can choose to be either the thief, the warlock, or the gladiator. Each character has their different strengths and weaknesses. Choosing a character takes you on a unique mission for that character, adding some replay value to the game. Also, each character can use different weapons as they progress through the game.

In truth, the plotline for each character is on the thin side. A quick narrative at the top of each character's game explains why you are out for vengeance. From then on it's hack-and-slash heaven. However, you do get little bits of a deeper plot as you advance through the games levels. And these levels are lush and beautifully rendered, complete with great lighting effects and haunting ambient music that really sets the tone for the game. Many puzzles are in the style of MYST. Players must collect pieces of a device to make it work, or they must figure out how to make abandoned machinery functional again to complete their goal.

Gary: In my opinion, this game is the most successful so far in mixing creative puzzles in each level with first-person combat. Actually, Dark Vengeance is played from a third-person perspective, much like Tomb Raider II. Your view is directly behind the character, meaning the camera swings around to follow you, sometimes presenting confusing views. For example, if you back your player up against a wall to prepare for a tough jump across a chasm, the camera insists on facing the character, instead of focusing on the chasm. Tomb Raider II has the same annoyance.

Randy: While you can move the camera with the mouse or by chording the arrow keys with the "x" key, this style of camera control is not helpful in tight combat situations. The mouse is far too sensitive for subtle control and the arrow keys leave your camera in the last position you set it at. While this helps while you are against a wall, it doesn't let you see anything but your feet until you manually reposition the camera again. I found the camera controls useful for only quick peeks over cliffs when I had plenty of time to get the camera back into a decent playing position.

Gary: My kingdom for an auto center mode for the camera controls.

Randy: Your kingdom is a sleeping bag and a Farrah Fawcett poster, dude.

Gary: Hey! That poster is a collector's item. Don't badmouth the Farrah poster. You don't want to do that again, man.

Randy: Okay… Back to Dark Vengeance. Some people who have played DV have complained about the method of controls known as chording, or using keys in combinations to accomplish certain moves. We personally had no problem with this. While the characters are not as mobile as in games like Tomb Raider, we got the hang of dodging and fighting in just a few minutes. Unfortunately, the geometry that the game engine uses did give us some problems. Often, we found our character trapped behind a wall or barrel that looked to us like it was more than a foot away. Other times, objects in the rooms would stick to our character forcing us to stop and wiggle our way free again. We hope that future revisions to the game engine will clear this up.

Gary: But what about the game lab test?

Randy: Well, what about them?

Gary: I'm glad you asked that, Randy. We were able to test Dark Vengeance on a variety of machines. In software rendering mode, with the Rage Pro chipset, and with the MacMagic VooDoo card. We were disappointed to find out that while Dark Vengeance does support the VooDoo chipset, it does so only through RAVE. There is no Glide for us.

Gary: That means that there was not much of a difference between the two forms of hardware rendering, except for the brightness level. The Rage Pro chipset is well known for rendering scenes too dark. Sometimes this adds more ambience, but sometimes it makes games next to unplayable, as you wander blindly around, hoping that something good will happen. Much like Randy does all day long. He is such a loser.

Randy: Uh, Gary, I'm right here. I can hear you.

Gary: I know.

Randy: Here's a quick run down of the machines we played Dark Vengeance on and how playable we felt the experience was.

Our low-end machine was a Power Computing, Power Tower Pro 180 with 32 megs of RAM and a 604e processor running at 180 MHz.

After lowering the screen resolution to 512x360, performance was playable with noticeable frame dropping, especially when there was a lot of AI onscreen. Music skipped occasionally. I was able to scorch Gary in a few death matches on this machine, and I was pleased that some of the smoke and light effects still worked -- even in 8-bit software rendering mode.

Next, we fired up DV on a UMAX s900 with 160 Megs of RAM and a XLR8 220 MHz G3 card. We played DV both with and without my new MacMagic card.

Without the MacMagic card, the game played in 8-bit software mode with disappointing results. The screen size had to be brought down to 512x360 again for a playable frame rate. Music played smoothly on this test, but overall it was comparable to the Power Tower Pro.

With the MacMagic card: Whoooooo Boy! Very sweet performance! Super smooth frame rates and music at full screen (640x480). The accelerated RAVE rendering looked incredible. Light and smoke effects shined, leaving fantastic sprays of sparks and smoke streamers everywhere.

The next machine was Gary's Power Macintosh G3 266 minitower, with 224 megs of RAM. Unfortunately, the beige box has only a RAGE IIc chipset onboard, so no acceleration modes were available. However, full screen gameplay in 8-bit software mode was much smoother than our other test machines. Music also played perfectly on this machine.

And last, but not least, we tested it on Gamey, Gary's schweet 266 G3 Series PowerBook. This book boasts a Rage Pro chipset for graphics, so we were able to take advantage of RAVE acceleration. Once again, Gamey showed himself to be a great game machine. The main problem with the Rage Pro chipset, as we mentioned before, is the problem of overly dark scenes. Some areas of the game were completely black. At times, we could only spin around hoping to see a light and run towards it.

Gary: Our conclusion about hardware versus software acceleration…

Hardware is a must. The game is certainly playable on a wide range of machines but you miss so much without some type of hardware boost. Whether you choose Rage Pro or VooDoo, Dark Vengeance will look a million times better than software-only rendering.

And I am not exaggerating at all.

Randy: And our conclusions about Dark Vengeance…

A great game! Great graphics and music. Compelling game play and spooky environments immerse the player into a world of magic and medieval swashbuckling.

Gary: While the overall plot was thin, the adventure elements kept us playing. Camera controls need some refinement, as does the geometry of the game engine. We hope Reality Bytes continues to improve this engine for future games. All in all, I think Dark Vengeance gets a thumbs up and a three-stick rating.

Randy: I agree, some groundbreaking graphics and fun interactivity are only slightly marred by some inconsistencies in the game engine. But still a must have for adventure and action gamers alike.

The number shall be three…, not four…nor shall the number be two…

But being the number just after the number two and coming directly before four.

Gary: You done?

Randy: Thou shalt not count to five in thy holy wisdom, for five being too high, and thou shalt not count to two for that number is to low…

Gary: Now is the time for me to kick the holy crap out of you.

 

Dark Vengeance gets

Dark Vengeance
Macsoft
MRP: $49.99
System Requirements:

Mac OS 7.6.1 or newer
PowerPC 603e at 180MHz or greater, or 604e at 132MHz or greater
32 MB RAM
50MB hard disk space (300 MB recommended)
256 color monitor
3D card recommended w/ at least 4 megs of VRAM
QD3D/RAVE compatible
Open Transport required for multiplayer gaming

 

The Idiots use a four stick rating system to rank the games we play. Here's how it works:

= Lame = Sales Bin Only = Pretty Cool = Excellento!

Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.

The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.

You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .


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