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Heed the Call

  • nhubi
  • 08/26/2014 12:36 PM
The game begins with our unnamed shepherd arriving at a tower stretching away into the heavens, dark and foreboding, with no windows or decorative features, just a monolithic slab thrusting skyward. This gigantic edifice is obviously the goal of our hero, though what has forced him to travel far from his home and flocks is not yet known, though his emphatic declaration at the gateway to the tower is a bit of a clue.

Hmm, makes me think the game should be called Revenge ON the Genie

Once inside our hero, if that is indeed what he is, is faced with a series of almost identical levels, bookended by a save and heal point, which is a pleasant and important addition since saving within the tower is disabled and there appears to be no healing potions or herbs in the inventory, in fact there appears to be nothing in the inventory at all except a cane. Not even the clothes on our poor shepherd's back. Still the cane appears to be a pretty effective thwacking weapon and we have a group of spells at our beck and call, named conveniently The Fire Move, The Ice Move, The Heal move etc.

Monsters are random, of course, this is RM2K, and the battle system is front view turn based, as is to be expected. As each level is reached the frequency and ferociousness of the monsters increases at a rather steep curve, so much so it's a good idea to spend a few minutes at the lowest floor grinding up a few levels before attempting the next, as whilst you can hold your own at the beginning if you advance too fast you'll soon run into something that can one shot you with ease. However elemental weakness has definitely been employed here as each of the multitudes of monsters you face has a particular elemental disadvantage, most of which are fairly logical. The dusty wrapped mummies being weak to fire, whilst the ghosts being non-corporeal are affected adversely by the pure energy of a lightning bolt for example. There is also a multi-enemy spell learnt later but its hit ratio is so low as to be a waste of precious MP.

Not sure why the save point is a hatchet and log, but as long as it works.

The level of your character is capped at 10, which whilst high enough to deal relatively easily with the majority of the monsters during your trek, it does make fighting the later level denizens of the tower feel a little worthless since the only thing you gain from the combat is experience and you can no longer apply that to your growth.

As you trudge up the stairs between the levels, the story of your journey to this dark and dangerous place is relayed via a series of greyscale flashbacks, starting at the earliest part of your tale, back when you were a simple happy-go-lucky shepherd tending his flocks and generally minding his own business, until a certain Genie decided to interfere in your life that is, and your troubles began.

Well that's just rude.

So after realising that all of your precious sheep have been taken by the nefarious ne'er-do-well for his own, well, nefarious reasons you conclude you have no choice but to journey to his Tower of Doomâ„¢ and retrieve them from his clutches. So off you travel, across great expanses of the land, over hill and dale, river and stream and bizarrely hitting game over screens along the way for no readily apparent reason. Eventually after facing swamps and treacherous rapids, whirlpools and mirage towers you eventually stumble wearily into one of the most annoying puzzles I've ever had the misfortune to run across. Having had your character's speed artificially increased you are then meant to navigate a one tile wide path through a waterfall, one step too far and you get thrown back to the beginning, it soon becomes an exercise in frustration and chicken pecking at the arrow keys to make sure you don't go flying off the edge and into a watery abyss.

After that little 'puzzle' fighting your way through the Genie's Tower to the top-most level to beard the beast in his den is a doddle.

Of course you know, this means war!

It is to be noted that all along the way there is some nifty custom music playing, most of it probably lifted wholesale from other games, but it's been a fairly long time since I've played most of the commercial games that were around when this game was developed and released. I only recognise one of them; from Golden Sun though it does appear to be playing at an increased tempo the higher into the tower the shepherd goes.

So eventually you face down the evil Genie just to find...in a rare and entirely unexpectedly navel gazing moment that you're actually fighting yourself, and you'd better win, or it's game over. There are three possible endings at this point; you lose and it's game over, you win and it's game over, or you win after having witnessed something earlier and it's the 'good' ending, though given what happens after the fight that designation is a little farcical. Suffice to say, no-one gets out of this alive, it's a bit like life in that way.

In the end, Shepherd's Call is quite a fun little game, dated of course but for its time it was a bit of a subversive little trip, a dungeon crawl with a great, if 'borrowed' soundtrack and an underpinning of dissident thought processes and the ability to laugh at itself, something that seems to be in ever dwindling supply these days.