The Commodore 64 has a version of Design Design‘s classic Halls of the Things and it looks and plays very similarly to the original Spectrum version. Which is no bad thing, because this is a challenging and fun little action game.
Halls of the Things is a maze game basically, and you play an explorer looking for seven rings, hidden among seven floors of an infested tower. Infested with Things… Things that are very aggressive and will kill you without a second thought. Of course you can fire at the baddies too, but it’s best done with caution, at a distance.
Your character has a life bar, which is shown as ‘wounds’, but you have to press a key (the ‘1’ key) to see it – it’s not on-screen during play, which is a bit of a problem, but thankfully doesn’t hurt the game too much. It just means that you’re constantly flicking to this screen while playing. The status screen also shows magic levels (rebuilt by collecting blue bottles), how many arrows you have, how many Things you’ve slain, and how many rings you’ve found. Since there’s a high score system in the game it seems like a bit of an oversight not to include scoring on the status screen as well, but I guess you can’t have everything.
Every time you start a new game there’s a wait while a new maze is generated, meaning: that each game is different to the last, but only really in terms of maze layout.
You begin in a neutral room and must choose one of the seven floors by stepping into the elevator. Actually: the first room is locked and can only be accessed when all the rings have been found. Inside there is a big room, full of trouble, and a golden key that wins you the game.
Opening doors and picking stuff up is simply a case of facing them and pressing fire. The same for shooting magic at enemies. You can’t actually fire until they’re in range and in view.
There are a few nasty traps that can trick you too, like Things disguised as food. You walk up to them and suddenly they turn purple and start shooting magic at you! It’s a dirty trick. Especially if it finishes you off.
The ‘death’ screen is immediately displayed upon losing all your health and the game unceremoniously ends. It’s abrupt. Sometimes you’ve got no clue what killed you because you were shot by something off-screen. Pressing Space centres the screen on your character, but it doesn’t help much of the time.
Some C64 fans might dismiss Halls of the Things as “another crappy Spectrum port”, but that would mean ignoring what makes the game good. There’s more to this game than meets the eye, and playing it – Spectrum port or not – is still fun. Which is more than can be said for some C64 games.