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Retrospective: Knight Lore

Creepy castles beckon as we take a Golden Joystick-infused nostalgia trip...

Except for the very, very beginning genuine originality in videogames has always been distinctly lacking. So when we say Knight Lore - sequel to Sabre Wulf and Underwurlde and winner of the Golden Joystick Award's Game of Show back in 1984(!) - was the pioneer of 3D gaming... well that's saying something.

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No, not proper 3D granted, but rather isometric 3D presented through a series of flip-screen rooms. For gamers used to the 2D left-to-right level trotting pedalled by the likes of Pitfall, the titular castle of Knight Lore was a revelation. Platforming melded with lateral thinking, combat and item collecting (and even snazzy Werewulf transformations - yep, this game actually boasted day and night cycles!) to create a dizzying concoction that wiped the floor with its contemporaries.

Tasked with curing yourself of lycanthropy, you'll need to snag a cauldron-load of quirky ingredients hidden throughout the citadel. Hero Sabreman will also have to negotiate over 100 rooms - best pack pen and pad; there weren't any minimaps in those days - within the brutal time limit of 40 (game) days and nights. We still dig that whole: 'drop you in trouble and let you figure your way out of it' vibe of olde titles like this; unlike today you really had to scour the manual for clues back in '84.

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Sabreman's wolfish transformations were key to success (or failure), since certain enemies would act uber aggressive towards his human form and submissive around his canine form, and vice-versa. Sadly, transformation often occurred at the most inopportune moments, causing us to wreck more than one of our Competition Pro 'sticks... and that's without mentioning the guards, ghosties, spikes et al.

Out on Amstrad CPC-464 and Speccy, with the latter getting the superior version crammed with chunky, vibrant sprites and well-realised environments, Knight Lore was the Crysis of its day - gamers had never seen anything like it. It's also one of the titles that helped define the concept of videogaming. Nowadays, we toss adjectives like 'seminal' and 'genre-defining' around like confetti - but in this case they're well deserved.
So take a bow devs Tim and Chris Stamper (founders of Rare in later life), your place in the Golden Joystick's pantheon of winners is well deserved.

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