Armado, the premiere game from Tricky Software, has much to recommend it as a casual action gaming title. I was first drawn to the title because the hero in this action game is an armadillo. Having lived in the southwest for many years, I found this both amusing and intriguing, never having viewed armadillos as possible heroes. Having played the game, I still find it amusing and the game even held the interest of my five year old son (who enjoyed it even though he thinks it's called Armo). The former Electronic Arts programmers who make up Tricky Software have made a promising entry into the world of Macintosh gaming, and we can only hope that there is more to come.
The premise of Armado is given in a nice set of cut screens using pan and scan to give the feel of motion. You, Armado, a young armadillo reaching adulthood, are beginning the traditional quest to visit the queen Eagle who rules the land. However, as you go through the land you hear of dark tidings and soon see the results. Giant ants and crows have taken over the land and imprisoned the queen. Your quest, given to you by a fox you meet while heading home, is to climb the seven sacred mountains and put an egg in the nest at the top of each mountain, thus freeing the queen. This is enough of a story to start the game and keep it moving along.
GraphicsThe graphics in Armado are really quite good, superior to what you may expect in an inexpensive shareware title. While not up to the level of the latest 3D action shooters, they are above what you can find in similarly priced shareware titles. Each mountain features a different type of environment such as desert and snow, and some occur at night. The quality of the graphics ensures that these different scenarios really do have a different feel. Armado's feet raise puffs of snow or dust as he runs, lava and sand flow, snow falls, butterflies and fireflies are nice touches of eye candy, and the ants, scorpions, and crows have a nice realistic look to them.
At several points you find yourself running along ledges or ridges, jumping over ravines, and facing similar obstacles. Even though you are on a predetermined path, the realism of the graphics works to add tension to these situations which might not be there with lesser graphics. While there was sometimes a bit of blockiness on my 20" iMac's screen, it did not detract from the enjoyment or attractiveness of the game. Even the map you see moving from level to level is nicely rendered, with an old-fashioned map look combined with three dimensional views of the mountains you are going to be climbing.
SoundSound in Armado is also a strong feature. While there is only one soundtrack throughout the game's levels, it is nicely done, fades into the background, and does not get annoying. The ants and scorpions make nice biting, stinging, and dying sounds, and the voice work in the introduction is well done.
More importantly, sound actually plays a role in gameplay. The rocks and logs that the crows try to drop on you make sounds as they're coming. You can hear boulders rolling down from above before you see them, allowing you to pause and let them cross harmlessly in front of you. When you're running back down a mountain, you can hear logs and rocks rolling behind you before you can see them, allowing you to prepare to jump and let them roll under you. This is nice attention to detail and adds quite a bit to the feel of the game. The only down side is that I'm often forced the play these games late at night with the sound turned very low on my computer, and with this game I couldn't do this. A small price to pay for an extra dose of realism.