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JadeDragon's game reviews and playing tips: Pocket PC games

Ancient Evil by Pocket PC Studios, Price: $24.95

Reviewed August 2005 by Marc Morgan

For years, people have tried to become heroes by making their way through the Crypt of the Ancients, which was supposedly made 5000 years ago for the Ancients, who made the world. Only two people have made the journey through the crypt and come back alive: Jetraal the Heroic, and Alaric, who now controls the crypt. Alaric is offering 50,000 pieces of gold to anyone who can make their way through the crypt, which is guarded by powerful spirits. However, Jetraal's spirit has returned, to tell that the world is doomed unless Alaric is stopped, but from what? It is up to you to explore the 25 level dungeon and stop the evil!

When you first start playing Ancient Evil, you will have to create a character. You first name your character. Then, you will need to choose an appearance. There are eight appearances, four of them female, and four of them male. After you choose the appearance of your character, you will need to choose a career. There are four different careers: the warrior, who is best at close combat and brute strength, the spellcaster, who is more powerful with spells than with weapons, the ranger, who is skilled with projectile weapons and healing items, and the thief, who is skilled at sneaking around, avoiding traps, and picking locks. After you choose the career, you will have to generate their abilities. The abilities are: strength, toughness, dexterity, intellect, health, and spell energy. Strength determines how much damage will be done to enemies, dexterity determines accuracy, toughness determines how resistant your character is to damage, intellect affects the power of spells, health is how many health points your character has that will run down when injured, and spell energy is used up by spells. As soon as you have selected everything required for your character, you will be placed on the first level of the dungeon. You will notice that there are objects you can interact with, and enemies to fight. There will also be items on the ground to pick up. To pick them up, simply tap on the image of them in the top-right corner of the screen. You can them equip the items (if applicable) to your character by pressing the button you have assigned to the character profile or tapping the symbol that looks like a person, and selecting the item from the bottom of the screen. To learn a magic spell, you tap on the bottle symbol above the character profile symbol, select what level of spell, and then which spell. The bottom of the screen shows how many points you can use. Each spell has a set amount of points that can be used on the spell to be used in combat. Once you use the spell in combat, you will get a point back to use on another spell. For example, your character has 15 points. The spell "Light Heal" has a maximum of six points. You fill three of those six points, leaving you with 12 points. You use the spell in combat once. Now only two of the six points for that spell are filled, and you have 13 points to use on spells. It sounds a little complicated, but it is very easy to get used to. With this method, you would think you could cast an unlimited number of spells. However, each spell uses up mana. The amount of mana you have is shown by the blue meter in the left corner of the screen. Also, your health is shown by the red meter next to the mana meter. Your mana will regenerate itself slowly. You can gain health back by using items such as health potions and bandages. You can also get mana and health back by sleeping in a bed. You also have a hunger level. If you are hungry, you may become too weak to attack or use magic. To solve this problem, you simply eat, by using food that will show up as an item in the inventory. As you progress through the crypt, the monsters will become harder to defeat, and smarter. Ancient Evil possesses many of the same traits as other adventure games, but things like sleeping in the bed to heal, and the hunger system add a whole lot to the game.

When you first start up Ancient Evil, you have the chance to set up the controls you want to use, from the Key Mapping option on the main menu. You can set up the buttons on your Pocket PC to cast a spell, attacking with a weapon, character portrait, (statistics, weapon selection, etc.) and the in-game options. To move the character, you can either tap where you want them to go, or use the D-pad. However, controlling the character using the D-pad can prove difficult. You have to turn your character using the left and right buttons, and move forward and backwards using the up and down buttons. It would have been a little easier if you could simply point the D-pad where you wanted the character to go. Also, when you are browsing any menus, you can use the D-pad to bring up a cursor to move around the screen. This can be useful if you are playing without the stylus or don't want to pull it out, and need to browse the menus. The controls can be a little hard to adapt to, especially the D-pad, but after playing for a while, you will get the hang of them.

 

screen shot:

screen shot

 

QVGA
VGA

 

Ancient Evil is presented in a 3D isometric view, which is similar to games such as Diablo for the PC. There are tons of visual effects, including shadows, and 3D objects such as fire and smoke, among others. All of the characters and enemies are also 3D models, so if they turn around, you will see their backs, sides, etc. All of these effects are computed in real-time by your Pocket PC. With all of the effects happening in real-time, there would probably be a fairly large load on the processor. To test this theory out, I changed the power settings on my Dell Axim x30h from High Performance (624 MHz) to Power Saving. (208 MHz) I noticed that all of the effects were shown fine, and there was only a slight lag when the character was running. However, most Pocket PCs now have processors with 400 MHz or more, so it should run fine on most Pocket PCs. There are two versions of the game, one for QVGA devices, and one for VGA devices, such as the Dell Axim x50v. Keep in mind that the VGA version will be more work for the processor, but all VGA Pocket PCs should be able to handle the load fine. The game looks absolutely stunning in VGA, but also looks great in QVGA. However, in the QVGA version of the game, the text is a little small, and it can be hard to tap on letters if you need to, such as when you set your character's name. Other than that, the graphics are definitely revolutionary for a Pocket PC game, and the game can still run on basically any Pocket PC.

Ancient Evil features both sound effects and music. The music has an eerie theme to it, which matches perfectly with the game theme and storyline. There are sound effects for just about everything, from walking, to attacking, to being attacked, and more. Both the music and sound effects are high quality, and sound great, even on the small speaker on a Pocket PC. The sound effects can also help you during the game, as you will hear if you are being attacked, etc. The sound really adds to the creepy atmosphere of the game, and you will probably want to keep it on during gameplay.

There are not many RPG/Adventure games out for the Pocket PC, and with it's amazing quality of storyline, graphics, and sound, Ancient Evil is definitely a must-have game. Playing Ancient Evil is basically like playing Diablo on the PC, and it would not be surprising if, like Diablo did on the PC, Ancient Evil becomes a hit on the Pocket PC. Although the controls are a little hard to get used to, pros of playing Ancient Evil definitely outweigh the cons.

Playing Hints and Tips

* If there are items that look useful, (gold, weaponry, etc.) be sure to pick them up.
* Make sure to save frequently.
* Use magic every once and a while, as it can be more powerful to attack with than hand-to-hand combat, and it is safer to be further away from enemies.

 

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

The graphics are definitely a breakthrough in quality, especially considering they are rendered in real-time. All of the visual effects are stunning as well!

Sound

The music and sound effects in Ancient Evil relate perfectly to the theme and atmosphere set by the story and gameplay. The sound effects all relate to what is happening around your character at the time.

Fun Meter

Ancient Evil is definitely one of a kind, and it would not be surprising if it becomes a best-seller. The story and gameplay is excellent, and is very identical to games such as Diablo for the PC.

Addictivity

Once you try Ancient Evil, it will be hard for you to put it down. It is very easy to play for hours on end, and it can be played for short amounts (ex. waiting for someone) easily as well.



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