Thursday, August 14, 2014

Krull (D. Gottlieb & Co.,1983)

With all of the Episode VII rumors floating around these days, it's safe to say that Star Wars mania is back, or at least warming up. Given how influential these cinematic adventures in a galaxy far far away have become, it's almost forgotten that before 1977, epic sci-fi fantasy adventures were seen as a novelty leftover of the serialized shorts of the past that were thought best forgotten. The first (or 4th, depending on how you count such things) Star Wars film not only changed the expectations of film audiences, it also inspired a decade of film executives with dollar signs in their eyes to try to create the next big fantasy sci-fi epic!

Battle Beyond the Stars, Space Raiders, The Ice pirates, the list of forgotten attempts to cash in on this wave flowed out of the gates with seemingly little thought for quality control. One of my favorite from this scene was a movie called Krull. At the time, it was a box office flop. It's not that it did all that poorly, it just cost way too much to make and thus didn't come close to turning a profit. Over the years it's built up a following on video and on-demand streaming, but not so well remembered was one of its most unique bits of film promotion at the time, the Krull Arcade game.

These days just about every big budget action movie is accompanied by a cross platform game release, usually something slapped together with a short deadline by developers who have only a vague idea what the movie is about, and with mixed results as to quality. Back then, the practice was much less common, yet with results that were just as unpredictable. At the time, the Atari 2600 was pretty much the only real choice for home console releases (the rival Odyssey 2 got fewer licensed games than the Sega Master System), but the big goal was to get an arcade cabinet into movie theater lobbies to catch the eye of potential moviegoers.

As with the Tron arcade game, Krull is divided into multiple screens, each depicting a different scene from the movie (more or less). Unlike Tron's selectable mini-game approach, Krull's 5 screens are presented sequentially in more of a Donkey Kong inspired style. If you manage to complete the last screen, the game loops around and starts you at the beginning again. This has to be accomplished on a single credit though, as this was before the days of continues.

In this game you play as Prince Colwyn trying to rescue Princess Lyssa who has been kidnapped by The Beast and his army of Slayers. That might not sound like the most original plot for a game these days, but remember that this was two years before the release of Super Mario Bros. Krull's controls follow a Robotron: 2084 inspired twin stick shooter approach with the left joystick controlling movement, and the right joystick used to throw the Glaive (a 5 pointed switchblade boomerang-like weapon) in 8 directions. Most of the game is spent in some combination of rescuing your allies, killing slayers, and dodging obstacles. There's no actual background music, but many events trigger short musical cues along with the sound effects.

Krull doesn't follow the movie's story flow exactly, with having to assemble the pieces of the Glaive while dodging boulders on a mountain side, and the towering mountain of the Black Fortress represented as a color shifting hexagon. You won't be scaling the web of the Crystal Spider or riding through the air on Fire Mares, but for the era, it actually managed to represent the actions of the film better than most of its contemporaries. Remember that this was the same era as the E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark Atari games. Krull is a short fun game that has a unique feel to it. If you're the type to enjoy the simple games of the industries early years and you ever happen upon a Krull machine at a retro arcade, pop in a quarter, you might find it worth your time.

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