Friday, 15 July 2011

PowerSlave (PSX) - Guest Post

By request, this week I'm taking a look at PowerSlave on the PlayStation. This game is also known as Exhumed in PAL territories.

Trouble is brewing in the Karnak Valley. Armies of demons and the undead have sprung forth and wage war against the armies of the modern world.

The ultimate task force is assembled to take down the monster menace. Among them: Annie Lennox, a mustachioed Indiana Jones, a ninja and Duke Nukem. Apparently, this motley bunch is enough to contain the Karnak demon army. (Were the Boppin' cast busy?)

Sadly, you don't get to choose your character. You play as the fellow in the centre.

Before I can ask 'What's the big plan, here?', the plane gets shot down. We're on our own, armed only with a machete and with no way to call for help. Bogus.

It seems we've landed at the Tomb of Ramses. It's a beautiful day to fight off monster hordes. There's only one way out, and that's through!

First thing I find inside the tomb is a floating pistol. I help myself to it and hope that Ramses doesn't mind.

Little did I know that nothing gets past Ramses. There's dozens of bouncing scorpions all over the place.

These guys are difficult to hit, especially when they're close. Unlike Doom, the vertical auto-aim only covers the middle third of the screen. If the scorpions get within about three metres of me, they're too low on screen for me to shoot. PowerSlave doesn't use the PS controller's analogue sticks, so to look up and down, you have to hold Triangle and press up and down on the D-Pad. It's easier to back away, if you're sure you're not gonna fall off something.

The pistol I swiped packs one hell of a punch. Two shots, and the scorpions explode. I think it's some kind of magic gun: there's no reloads and ammo is only found in the form of glowing blue spheres formed of the souls of exploded enemies.

It's the spirit of Ramses!

Turns out he's not responsible for the monsters and he doesn't mind me swiping his magic revolver. He's decided that the best course of action if I want to defeat the monster armies is for me to head through the central part of Karnak in search of the first of six artifacts imbued with the powers of the Gods. He also refills my health bar. Neat.

If you're not interested, you can press X to skip this scene. Also neat.

Just beside where I talked to Ramses, a level exit camel. This guy's thought of everything!

Activating the camel lets me save the game and takes me to the world map.

I head East of the Tomb of Ramses and enter Karnak itself.

World maps are usually a good sign, but they're not a definitive sign of a good game. Donkey Kong Country has a world map, and it is good. Donk also has a world map, and it is not very good.

The entrance to Karnak is guarded by jackal-headed maniacs which throw blue fireballs and then run at you and claw you to pieces. If you shoot them, they explode like the scorpions.

Karnak looks a bit like an orange version of Quake 2. There's tunnels, staircases, corridors, locked doors, sliding platforms and exploding skulls everywhere. If you're lost, you can check the Duke Nukem-like automap. Unlike Killing Time, you continue playing while the automap fills the screen.

Beyond Karnak is the Sanctuary, home to a powerful ancient weapon:

The M-60 machine gun.

Now I've got some serious firepower to my name, there's multiple enemies around every corner. Once again, the ammo for the M-60 runs off the blue spheres. Picking up a sphere gives you ammo for whatever you're currently holding, so you're never completely stuck using the gun you don't like.

Deep within the Sanctuary lies the Sandals of Inkumpet, which turn the hero's already formidable jump into a ridiculous twenty foot leap. After bagging the sneakers, I'm whisked away to Ramses, who suggests I head North out of Karnak to find another artifact.

On the world map, I'm free to go to any of the places I've discovered. As long as I reach an exit camel (including the one at the start of the level which we arrived on), I can save the game and keep all the weapons and artifacts I've found so far. Every time I re-enter a level, I have to collect all the door keys again, but they're no big deal.

I didn't mention it before because I wasn't sure if the world map was going to be a cruel joke like those from Grandia 1 and 2, where you're given a choice between staying in your current town or advancing to the next town with no way back.

Now that I've got those super sneakers, I can go back a level to Karnak and jump up this staircase-like structure I found last time. At the top lies another exit camel allowing me to travel to Sobek Pass.

Sobek Pass on the map is beeping, which I'm hoping means there's some kind of secret to be found there.


Sobek Pass is a vast canyon filled with irregular shaped and stepped platforms, repeating textures and hundreds of birds. The birds are more difficult to see than they are to hit, because they tend to fly at head height. Best thing to do is to wait for them to shriek and fly at you. Then spin around until the incredibly loud wing flapping sound effect is ahead of you and open fire with the M-60.

There's hornets here, too. They're just as brittle as the birds, the scorpions and the jackals. They worst thing about these guys is that they like to hit you once and then hide behind you. Their sprite nature means it's difficult to determine exactly which way they're facing and how far they are from you. Sprites stop getting bigger within a half-metre of the player. That's not a bad thing, because it means you don't get a screenful of scary hornet every time you turn around to blast them.

To get through Sobek Pass, you've got to deal with a series of difficult fireball traps. Being struck with a fireball is instant death. Up there is two locked doors, but there's no way for the player to know this beforehand. Boo.

Because they know I've got the super sneakers, the level designers have decided it's time to place every key on the far side of a jumping section such as this. The sneakers let me jump higher, but they don't affect the falling damage. I can jump to the pillar or the doorway from here, but the fall would probably kill me. Touching the lava is instant death.

Believe it or not, these jumps are quite easy to make with a PlayStation controller. The speed the player character runs is incredibly fast and you can see exactly where your feet are if you turn on the automap.

Courageous players are rewarded with pieces of the Chronoscepter transmitter. Collecting them all gives you... something... good! Almost certainly!

I make my way back to the starting camel and save my game. Falling in the lava or getting hit by a fireball trap would mean I'd have to repeat the level and find the piece again.

Hold the phone... this came out before Turok: Dinosaur Hunter!

Later, there's whole rooms full of fireball traps. In this room, there's fireballs firing in all four directions across the floor of the room. My solution was to take a running jump and use my super sneakers to safely clear the entire length of the room.

Oh for heaven's sake.

There's no checkpoints of any kind within the level. You'll either make it to a camel and keep the things you've found, or die trying.

Oh for heaven's sake. Again.

To be fair, this one isn't as difficult as it looks. That platform on the left moves up and down, and to a small secret room with a full ammo powerup in it. If you try to jump to it from here, you'll probably take a lot of falling damage. With some trial and error, I found that you can simply leap the entire slime pool if you take a run up. Touching the slime is instant death.

It was all worth it for the Amun Bomb. I was worried it might be a single use weapon at first, but it runs off blue just like the pistol and the machine gun. Infinite grenades!

So much fun! Lets take a break.

This game has defied almost all the assumptions I had about PlayStation games. I assumed that first person shooters on the PS would be ugly, slow and completely impossible to control.

As you can see from the screenshots, the graphics are bright, clear and easy enough to 'read'. It's not encased in the gloomy fog of Turok. The frame rate is smooth. The player slides around the levels like a caffienated rabbit, but that only adds to the fun. Exploring previous levels with the new equipment hasn't got old yet. Even with the PS pad, which I usually consider to be an awful pad, the game responds both predictably and consistently. You can skip the cutscenes and you can freely reconfigure the buttons.

It absolutely and completely destroys Killing Time in every way.

This game has single-handedly made the concept of first person shooters on the PlayStation a credible one. I liked this game so much, I didn't mind when I fell into the lava a couple of times, or misjudged the slime pit in the mines, or got hit by an instant death fireball. I didn't even mind replaying the game and retaking all the screenshots when my capture stuff didn't work as well as I wanted. Go PowerSlave!

1 comment:

  1. I wish the PC version guns also ran on blue magic spheres. This is an awesome game!


Semi-Random Game Box