The Lord of Infinity
Episode 1: The Crypt
Review by Jen
The Valhalla Classics are the first part of an ambitious
project by a small British company called Vulcan Software. These
adventure games were originally released for the Amiga in the
mid-1990s, and according to Vulcan they were the first "speech
adventures" for that platform. Vulcan Software is using the
Valhalla Classics as a tool to show off its online community
application, the Vulcan Portal. Download of the Vulcan Portal
is free, and it is required to download and play the Valhalla
As of this writing (February 2002), three of a planned 12 episodes
are complete. It looks like the release cycle is about one episode
every two months. In the immortal words of the stereotypical playground
drug pusher: "The first one's free," and subsequent
episodes can be purchased for a measly $3.68 each (which fluctuates
based on the exchange rate for dollars/pounds).
First, let me talk about the Vulcan Portal. This is an extremely
cool little application. Through it, you connect with the Vulcan
server(s) and are able to exchange voice mail (yes, that's right,
I did say voice mail) with other community members, talk to Vulcan
staff members, and, most important, access the Valhalla downloads.
Check out the screenshots on the right. The various features of
the Portal are represented by the buttons on the top row. The
guy on the left is Tony, my Vulcan guide. You can choose from
several different guides, both male and female. Tony was by far
the hunkiest of the lot, one of those swarthy Italian Lotharios
that makes me melt.
This is a very small downloadthe Vulcan site doesn't specify
the size but does state that it takes only seven minutes to download
over a 56k modem. And yet it incorporates a speech synthesis program
where the "readers" actually don't sound Swedish! Yes,
the cadence and pronunciations are a bit off at times, and the
Vulcan people could benefit from a good spell-checker, but overall
it is amazing to me how well this works.
The green guy on the right side in the second screenshot is a
Lizardian, Scragg, who holds the keys to the downloads. Scragg
is not a very nice guy, but he's funny to make up for it. And
cute. I don't know what it is about them, but green guys really
do it for me. Other things that can appear in this rectangle are
your own skin (you can either design your own or choose from several
presets), the skin of another community member, and part of the
Anyway, on to the game. The Crypt is played in a teeny
window in the center of the teeny Portal interface. At first this
was off-putting, but it turns out you really don't need it much
bigger than that. The graphics are simple, and they are plenty
clear enough the way they are. I never had an Amigain fact
I've never even seen an Amigaand, much to my shame, I am
not even sure if it's a computer or some sort of device that hooks
up to your TV. I have, however, tried playing an original Nintendo
game on my big-screen TV. Each pixel is about four inches tall.
I'd imagine the original Nintendo's graphic capabilities are about
on par with what was available for Amiga. I'm sure some Amiga
nut out there will correct me if I'm wrong. I've gotten completely
off track here, haven't I? [Later, much later: My brain is completely
filled with Amiga lore galore, so I am no longer an ignoramus
on the subject. But keep those cards and letters coming!]
Okay, the nitty grittyyou play as the young prince of Valhalla.
Your uncle killed your father and took over the kingdom, and you
are trying to reclaim your birthright. "The Crypt" is
a misnomer since the whole episode takes place outside. You have
to recover four stones to open up a pathway that you hope will
lead you to a final showdown with your evil uncle but really just
leads you to a "game over, now buy the next episode."
Not in so many words, of course ...
Gameplay consists of straight inventory puzzles. You find an
item in one place, maybe figure out something to do to change
it to what you want, or perhaps hold onto it until you find a
location where you can plunk it down to make something happen,
or maybe you just leave it on the ground since your inventory
space is limited to 10 items. If you do have to drop something,
you can always go back for it later.
You move the character with your mouse. When you happen upon
something interesting, your only options are look, take, and operate.
If you select an inventory item, you can also consume, drop, or
insert. Perspective is from high in the skyyou are looking
down at the top of the prince's head. If he has something to say,
he will look up at you, just one of several whimsical touches
to the game.
You can die in the game, and you only get one save. You never
have to fight but you can fall in holes or get trapped in dead
ends by going somewhere without yet having the proper inventory
item. If you make an injudicious save (like I did once) and this
happens, you have to start all over again.
The game world is one giant maze, but don't let that put you
off. You start out with access to very few areas and slowly open
up new ones as you solve puzzles. In your progress, you get pretty
familiar with the layout and it's easy to remember where things
are. And generally you work only one or two areas of the overall
Crypt at one time.
There is no music, and the prince really has very few phrases.
There are a few well-placed sound effects, but mostly you hear
a lot of huffing and puffing as the prince runs around to the
various locations. (He walks, too, but it's ever so much slower.)
The Crypt was a lot of fun for me. As I was playing, I
was in turn reminded of the original The Legend of Zelda, sans
battles, and the more modern Ico for the Playstation 2.
I liked it well enough that I purchased the next two episodes,
and I certainly can feature myself playing through the whole set.
It took me about four hours to play through The Crypt, not
bad for a free download! If I can get four more hours of quality
entertainment for my $3.68, I will consider it money well spent.
All of these Valhalla Classics are leading up to a full
3D episodic adventure game, Valhalla 3D: The Curse of Infinity.
Visit the Vulcan
site for a sneak peek.
Release Date: October 2001
Four Fat Chicks Links
5 to 20 MB free hard drive space
133 MHz processor
4 MB RAM
DirectX 7.0 or higher
Direct 3D-compatible graphics card (optional)
Where to Find It