Wizards have invaded and brought with them a horde of monster followers who killed everyone, although luckily they ignored the unassuming slimy frog. So it's time for you to leg'it and deal these evil beings a hefty dose of revenge! Played through an overhead view, you crawl a dungeon battling the numerous minion slaves of the powerful wizards. First impressions are of another action packed Gauntlet clone and, although it looks aesthetically similar, it's quite different. Beginning in the upper area of this 8-level dungeon you must kill the baddies and defeat the wizards. Interestingly, only the places you have explored are visible and the baddies themselves are only seen when you’re within the same room. This makes entering new rooms an anxious moment and who knows what surprises lurk!
Monsters come in various scary shapes and sizes, starting with the humble Dwarf (I love those) leading up to the mighty Gargoyles. All can be killed with increasing efforts and wizards need to be defeated in a Countdown-style sub-game that has you rearranging letters to form the word "Ranarama". It's not easy and later wizzards are very tricky, but once won, he dies and leaves behind his rune goodies. Magic plays its part in Ranarama and can be a little confusing at first but good ‘ol Mervyn has four categories at his disposal: offensive, defensive, effect and other powers. Look after yourself, all monsters (and even your own movements) can reduce energy but fear not because you can cast a spell or collect the energy cells which are frequently available. Finally, use the floor-based glyphs to activated special features like a map, status and casting power spells. This game is far bigger than you first imagine!
The graphics are superb with such a fine attention to detail and great use of colour. The in-game Sound effects are very good and the music is by Dave J. Rogers, he of Exolon and Zynaps fame so is absolutely superb. Ranarama was one of the first Atari ST games (I owned) to feature speech, thus always delivers a happy moment each time I hear the fuzzy woman speak. Overall, if you view the screenshots and are expecting a typical Gauntlet clone then you might be disappointed. Ranarama is quite different and offers a long-term mix of arcade action with so many hints of role-playing as you venture through the cunning levels. This is a very difficult adventure but it's also extremely rewarding so expect lots of late nights in. An utterly fantastic Atari ST game, a legendary Hewson game!