A lesson has obviously been learnt by Psygnosis since Beast, as Agony contains the superb graphics of the Beast series, but can also claim to be a rather playable shoot ’em up, too. As one of the apprentices of Acanthropsis, a wizard who has discovered the mysterious Cosmic Power, Alestes (that’s you)must battle through six levels of nestles thrown at him by his rival apprentice, Mentor. However, in a weird twist, and to justify the main sprite. Alestes enters battle in the form of a heavily-armed Owl.
Power-ups are the heart of a good shoot ’em up, and Agony has them in spades. Periodically, icons tumble across the screen, and quick joystick-wiggling allows Alestes to swoop down to collect them. There are three types of bonus items: protective swords; potions to increase firepower: and scrolls which provide assorted effects. To use them later, the firebufton should be depressed to reveal the list of scrolls held. Using spells at the right time can have a devastating effect on the bad guys, especially the end-of-level nestles which make their obligatory appearance. The quality of the aforementioned main Owl sprite, and the superb backdrops, unfortunately make the enemy ones look rather weedy. They are, however, both original and amusing including creatures that look suspiciously like flying koala bears. Overall, there’s a vaguely Japanese feel to the game, keeping in with the graphical style of Leander. During the game, the monsters come thick and fast. but there’s no noticeable slowing of the action. However, the actual gameplay, whilst suitably frenetic, isn’t exactly original – perhaps Psygnosis were hoping that the unusual main sprite would disguise this? They also claim that ‘priority has been given to playability’ and for once it’s no idle boast. Things start out easily enough as you’d expect, but by the fourth or fifth level it’s serious mayhem on the screen shoot ’em up heaven, in fact. It’s a shame that autofire isn’t available (because of the scroll selection) but the action will soon have you ignoring tired fingers.
It seems that Psygnosis have finally got rid of the Beast-ghost and other ‘lookspretty- but-where’s-the-game’ products. The screen shots will indicate the quality of the graphics, but thankfully there’s more to Agony than that, with fast-moving playability putting it on a level above the vast majority of similar games released on the Amiga Perhaps not a classic, it should still be given shelf space by anyone devoted to blasting games.