Sunday, March 12, 2017

Beyond The Ice Palace

I think just about every ST nutter has played Beyond The Ice Palace at some point in their lifetime? Like many, I got it free with my first Atari ST and it's also one of those games I've been itching to feature here on AtariCrypt for a long while.

Much like Ghosts & Goblins, this is a scrolling platformer that involves travelling three rather large monster-infested levels to rid the world of evil. That can only mean killing lots of monsters and fighting weird demons that pop-up at the most inconvenient moments! The first level is my favourite, a trip through a scary woodland and is pretty much your typical horizontally scrolling platformer with lots of baddies and an end of level boss to kill. The second and third levels are, more or less, vertically scrolling through caves environments before eventually reaching a lame witch, who is easy to kill. The game then ends with an anti-climate well-done message.

I've always felt its graphics were quite extraordinary and captured the atmosphere very well, on level one anyways. Sure, I imagine most will gasp their last breath reading that, but there's a certain charm to this old platformer which I really love. Smooth scrolling, nice backgrounds with colourful and detailed sprites and I can't help but love the death effect as the soul floats upwards, quite amazing. Sound effects are beautiful with a sharp arcade-like quality but it is the music I adore even more, thanks to legend David Whittaker. It's utterly gorgeous and one of my favourites!

Ice Palace isn't a complex adventure but it can be pretty tricky due to some awkward mechanics which should have been thought out a lot better so, to compensate, nine lives are allotted and you should cherish every one of them! Sadly, a large chunk of the screen is for the status panel thus taking up valuable play area which can often mean accidently bumping into baddies when climbing ladders, for example. Many baddies are overly quick on the draw and there is also no easy way to kill the flying bats without hopping up and down like a fool, waiting for them to get insight. The blue demon, who cunningly appears just as you begin to use the elevating platforms, is quite frustrating and my advice is to leap off just at the moment they begin moving. Now you are free to kill the sucker before he follows. Thankfully, you're not alone and a spirit can be summoned to help clear the screen of baddies when you're feeling most vulnerable. However, he's pretty useless and can miss monsters as he zig-zags down the screen.

Beyond The Ice Palace is a love or hate game. Sure, it's no Ghouls 'N Ghosts but it's enjoyable and easy to pick up and play and I return to every now and then. A much-underrated platformer which holds a special place in my retro gamer's heart. (the swinging brick, as my wife enjoys saying!). Give the blonde guy in the green boots a chance...

LINKS

 - Many moons ago, I recorded a YouTube video and also a Midi tune of the awesome music.
 - Here's a piccy of my Hi-Score which I've just achieved. Can you beat this?
 - 8BitChip has adapted this game to run on hard drives and Old Games Finder has the floppies.
 - Here are the maps are for the ZX Spectrum game which aren't really needed but very nice to see!