Under the Microscope: Heretic

posted in: Games, Reviews | 0

Heretic ScreenshotThe mid to late 1990s saw an explosion of first-person shoot ‘em ups very similar to that of Doom and Wolfenstein. Heretic, even though essentially a Doom clone, very much held its own and still holds a very loyal fanbase to this day.

Although visually similar to Doom and the like, Heretic very quickly becomes its own game, featuring a unique roster of demons and monsters as well as a plethora of maze-like maps designed to entertain the explorer in you rather than a rifleman.

Visually, Heretic looks great. The Doom engine which the game is based on has been tweaked and fine-tuned to a professional level, the 3D graphics are excellent and do a fine job of making an atmosphere.

The game’s sound is not great by modern day stands but it does the job, and provides an appropriate atmospheric effect where it’s needed. The soft background music draws you into the game, but there is an aural overload during monster attacks. The sounds of the hero grunting in pain combined with the sounds of the weapon firing can be distracting and annoying. Still, this is not a big drawback.

The game’s storyline follows a mythical theme. Three brothers, known as the Serpent Riders, have used their immense magical powers to turn the seven kings of Parthoris into mindless puppets. The kings, in turn, led their subjects in doing the Serpent Riders’ bidding. However, the Sidhe elves are immune to the Serpent Riders’ spells and had no allegiance to any of the seven kings; the Serpent Riders thus declared the Sidhe as heretics and launched a campaign of genocide against them. In comes the player, you must battle your way through hordes upon hordes of nasty baddies, to save the seven kings of Parthoris and maintain justice and peace.

Heretic is definitely the kind of game that you can spend many hours playing without realizing it. The enjoyment level is really high when you are doing well and drops slightly when you get lost in a maze of caverns. Heretic challenges your brain to figure out each level, it can feel a bit full on at times but ultimately it proves to be rewarding.

The game’s replay value is excellent, there are so many hidden passages to explore, and because few players will achieve success in one or two game sessions.

Heretic has a perfect combination of both intensity and inaction, one second you’ll be pitting your wits against a horde of red, flying ichy-things, then the next minute you’ll be wandering aimlessly through a maze looking for a sacred artefact.

So all in all, Heretic is definitely worth a play if you have a RiscPC, A7000 or a copy of Virtual Acorn at hand, unfortunately newer RISC OS computers are not compatible. You can purchase Heretic along with the equally action-packed Hexen from R-Comp, currently priced at 32.50ukp. Both a CD-Rom and floppy drive is required for installation.

UPDATE! Free ports of both Heretic and Hexen are nearing release and will be uploaded to riscos.info upon completion. You will require commercial copies of the games’ data files in order to play the free ports. The datafiles can be bought through a number of legal online game distribution stores. These versions are also compatible with newer hardware systems and RISC OS 5.

Under the Microscope: CashBook

posted in: Reviews, Software | 0

screen1A useful application that I utilise quite frequently is CashBook by Steve Fryatt.

Currently at version 1.23 (17/04/11), CashBook is a home accounts manager, which can be used to keep track of home or club accounts. It is free to download and is very well documented.

The application’s system is based around transactions, which correspond to those on bank, building society and credit card statements. These transactions transfer money between accounts, or to and from analysis headings.

My main use for CashBook is keeping track of my my main day-to-day accounts as well as my savings, detailing transfers between them, despoits and withdrawals etc. I actually stumbled across CashBook while looking for an application to keep track of my finances on my phone. The bulk of the apps that I tried were quite feature rich, but in general, were unnecessarily overcomplicated.

CashBook does a nice job of keeping everything simple, which is nice and as I don’t want to do anything overcomplicated, it works very nicely. Not that the application won’t be able to handle any complicated accounts mind you, there’s a plethora of different features and functions available and they are very well documented in the support documentation provided – which makes a really nice change for a free piece of software.

Account transactions, both in and out, can be documented and even reconciled against statements, so errors and suspicious payments will stick out like a sore thumb. A real-time statement view is available for all accounts and analysis headings.

As you update each your account details with transactions, your real-time system will update. Budgets can be set for transactions into and out of analysis headings, so that income and expenditure over time can be monitored and recorded in real-time.

Various reporting options allow detailed information to be produced on many aspects of the accounts and transactions; such reports can be viewed on screen, printed out, or imported into spreadsheets, graphing packages or wordprocessors for further manipulation.

screen2As well as manually entering in transactions, you can set up automatic updates for regular payments such as standing orders, direct debits and salary payments.

CashBook is 26-bit and 32-bit neutral, so it will have no problems running with pre-Iyonix hardware as well as newer machines such as the ARMini and Beagleboard running RISC OS 5. You can download CashBook free of charge from here.