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The Antstream Arcade Archive: Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior

In our latest Antstream Arcade Archive feature, we take a look at another specific game from the

Antstream Arcade retro gaming vault, giving you all the detail on its plot, gameplay, tips and more. This month we proudly present Barbarian, the classic one-on-one slash-‘em-up from Palace Software that revolutionised its genre and enthralled gamers everywhere with its violent and bloody gameplay.

That big guy on the cover looks familiar!

Indeed, it is none other than the mighty beefcake Michael Van Wyk who achieved fame shortly after Barbarian’s release as the moody Wolf from TV show Gladiators. Sharing cover space with Van Wyk is page three model Maria Whittaker in an image that caused considerable uproar in the UK due to both characters’ state of dress, or rather lack of it. Whatever your views on Barbarian’s art campaign, it succeeded in propelling the game into the limelight, and Palace Software even included a poster with the game.

Moving swiftly on to the game… what’s it about?

Barbarian’s single player mode – we guess you’d call it campaign mode these days – concerns the evil wizard Drax. Drax has kidnapped the comely princess Mariana and eight of his most powerful warriors are now guarding her. The player must enter the wizard’s lair and take out each one in turn before facing off against Drax himself if Mariana is to be saved. Barbarian was the brainchild of Palace Software designer Steve Brown, given free rein to create his own vision following the success of his Cauldron series.

It all sounds – and looks – like a certain Cimmerian.

That should come as no surprise given that Barbarian’s designer took influence from the most famous barbarian of all, Conan, and the fantastical artwork of Frank Frazetta. In particular, the second Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan movie, Conan The Destroyer, had just rampaged through cinemas, impressing Steve Brown with its crowd-pleasing sword combat. When it came to Barbarian, he worked tirelessly to include as many of Conan’s sword moves into his game as possible.

Show me the moves!

Barbarian has a two-tier movement set, activated with or without the fire button. Shifting the stick on its own moves the barbarian back and forth, makes him jump, crouch, roll and defend. When the fire button is pressed, the warrior either attacks with their sword or kicks/head butts their opponent. Without doubt the most dramatic manoeuvre is the flying neck chop, a devastating blow that usually results in a bloody decapitation. It’s a health and safety nightmare.

Hey, who’s that little green fella?

That’s one of Drax’s minions, a hunch-backed goblin who makes sure any dead bodies are removed before the next battle commences. He’s also skilful with his feet, kicking any errant heads firmly off the screen. What a helpful chap.

Any advice for this trainee gladiator?

A good (if cheap) way of defeating the computer enemies is to box them into a corner before

relentlessly attacking them with a mixture of body and leg chops. If you’re after a high score, the ear enemies can be milked for points before finished off with a flying neck chop for a juicy bonus. The game also has a practice mode which is useful for building up your skills against the various enemies. Finally, watch out for Drax – he hurls shurikens at the barbarian which can be ducked under or jumped over.

My blade is keen and so am I – how’s the high score table on Antstream Arcade looking?

Barbarian is an extremely popular Eighties game, so expect lots of competition on Antstream Arcade. Chief head chopper position is presently occupied by Hyeron Tukur with 21000 points, shadowed closely by redfalcon10000 and CPL with 20500 and 20400 respectively. Looking to slice into the top 10? Then TheLaw’s total of 11600 points is currently the score to beat.

What similar games are there on Antstream Arcade?

We also host the sequel, The Dungeon Of Drax, as well as one of Barbarian’s biggest influences,

Melbourne House’s famous beat-‘em-up, Way Of The Exploding Fist. Speaking of Melbourne House, Fighting Warrior is another sword-based fighting game instilled with mystical characters.

One more pic of princess Mariana before we go?

Sure, here she is in all her pixelated glory!

Thank you for reading - watch out for another blast from the Antstream Arcade Archive soon!

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