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The Black Skull
"Hand-to-hand combat amidst a world of turn-based
Get ready for some
classic sword-swinging action, because The Black Skull is a game that offers
medevil battles in the form of unit-to-unit attacks. Walk along the forest,
searching for missions that will bring you closer and closer to the Black
There are two types
of characters to choose from in the Black Skull. One character is a fighter,
a master of hand-to-hand combat. The other type is a mage capable of long-range
attacks and healing spells. A balance of these forces will be needed to
overcome the never-ending onslaught of skeletons and goblins.
The use of animation and visual effects to stimulate the senses
||I really hate handing out Very Poor graphic
ratings to QB programmers, who are usually more noted for their programming
skills than their artistic ability. But when I see a game that commits
technical and artistic flaws the way Black Skull managed to execute it,
I had no other alternative.
All the action in The Black Skull takes
place on what appears to be a 16-color, 640*480 mode. The hero, who is
tacked onto the screen like a black post-it slip, travels around towns
and forests while occasionally encountering other lowly-detailed enemies.
But what makes The Black Skull really difficult
to play is the flickering. Usually if the sprites within the game flicker
and the graphics are under average, that's still enough to give the game
a one-star rating. But in this game the whole TOWN flickers! There's no
fancy scrolling-effect. The game literally erases what's on the screen
and re-draws everything, causing a blinking effect that makes this game
very hard to enjoy.
The smooth blend of atmospheric sounds and original harmonies
|There's PC sound, but the music sure isn't
Beethoven; random notes that hang in Windows make the game's ambiance discomforting.
|Gameplay (n.)The precision of control
and involvement of character within its universe
||Black Skull is essentially a variant of
the good old Dungeons and Dragons formula for making an RPG. The first
step is character generation, which give you a few dicerolls to determine
how strong your character will be at the beginning of the game. Then, you're
brought to the first town. After purchasing some weapons and armor, you
begin to walk your merry way outside of town, searching for some heinous
creatures to attack.
This is where Black Skull takes a real
departure from the usual turn-based battles that make up QBRPGs. Black
Skull's battle system is inspired by a mixture of Zelda II and the FCI
Ultima games. Here's how it works: while walking around in the terrain
you can see the enemies walking toward you. You can try to walk past them
for a while, but if the enemies catch up with you the game shifts to a
battle screen. In that battle screen your character has to move around
a grid, battling enemies and making sure he doesn't get surrounded by too
Although the battle system is somewhat
intuitive, the rest of the game's aspects fall short. The enemies are ridiculously
strong, and you earn gold pretty slowly. After a while, the battles get
monotonous. Also, the interaction you have in towns and in battle is governed
by a clumsy menu system.
The creativity and presentation of the game's critical plot
||I tried playing this game for about two
hours, giving it a real spin and hoping that there would be some plot which
I could reward with some story points. But after much exploration, I discovered
that Black Skull lacks a plot, has only two towns, and has only a limited
set of enemies to attack. It was particularly disappointing that the game
laughs at you whenever you lose. Gigantic "Ha Ha" signs plop up on the
screen until an even bigger "You Lose" shows up in the very middle. I was
thinking to myself, "Well, if this is the most dialogue I can get from
this game, then this game deserves no story points."
|Replay Value (n.)
The timelessness of the gamer's delight, such that the experience
can be repeated again and again
||From Black Skull I noticed a serious lack
of depth. It would have been nice if Iodine Software added some dimension
in battle. Perhaps a magic spell or two, or some advanced battle tactics.
Alas, Black Skull does not have either.
However, Black Skull's lackluster effort
for visual effects is probably what hurts this game the most. The graphics
look too simple, especially for the seasoned QBRPG veteran. The flickering
problem doesn't help either, as it becomes painful just to look at the
To strike the mental nerve in such a way as to stimulate human thought
|The game's enemies remain a constant strength.
The key to beating this game will be purchasing the right weapons and armor
right off the bat (typically the most expensive available). If you're patient
enough to battle for a few more gold pieces, the armor will make you strong
enough that the game won't get much harder.
|Fun Factor (n.)
The overall entertainment value as maintained throughout the adventure
||It's really too bad that Iodine Software
isn't around anymore. The Black Skull is a representation of some ideas
that haven't been introduced to QB before, like movement-based battles
similar to Koei's Inindo and the early Ultima series within an original
looking world. But it's a shame that the execution of these ideas were
far from perfect. Most of the problem of this game lied in simple things
like flickering and graphic glitches. A lot of games can compensate with
an excellent story or some solid gameplay. Sadly Black Skull offers such
play options, but it's just too painful for the eyes.
||Genre: Role Playing Game
||To solve: 5 min Final Rating: 2/35
To download this game, click here.
run this game, you must have any version of Microsoft QuickBasic.
play Black Skull, unzip the file and run "BSKULL.BAS" from QuickBasic.
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