Elvira is awoken by an Old Wizard King and is sent on an unforgettable mission to re-inherit her lost QUEENDOM. During the quest you will help her to conquer ARCTIC EARTH, the FIERY UNDERWORLD and finally the TRANSYLVANIAN ENCHANTED CASTLE. In this challenging game ELVIRA will encounter some of the most STRANGE and EVIL creatures ever seen. Using SPELLS and WEAPONS, and occasional help from an Ancient TRADER, this is a game you will want to play AGAIN and AGAIN.
~ from the back of the box
Despite not having much of a presence over here in her original incarnation as a TV horror host, Elvira was still fairly popular in the UK in the late 80s and early 90s. I may have been too young back then to know much of her work, but I certainly knew of her and her ample assets. This was mainly in regards to the computer games, which reading articles in ancient issues of ST Format looked amazing in screenshots.
British game developers AdventureSoft (then going by the name of HorrorSoft) used her likeness in a couple of well regarded adventure role playing games, which you can now buy on GOG, but there was another one. A platformer seeped in fantastical pixel art that saw our top-heavy heroine go against demons, dragons and dinosaurs. An arcade game made by the Newcastle upon Tyne developer Flair Software.
Released in 1991, this gorgeous looking game came out with quite the fanfare being reviewed quite favourably. But what of its legacy? Does it hold up as well as those HorrorSoft titles? The answer is as confused as a young boy stumbling across the game's sexy cover art.
All of the trappings of a Euro-centric computer platformer are here; random enemies, cheap hits, dripping water of death - but more so than others I can mention, it's somewhat mitigated here. Elvira has a generous health bar which drains when she gets hit allowing her to absorb a fair amount of damage depending on the enemy type. Not only this, but the damage goes both ways so there is no risk of repeat hits before you can get to safety. Defeated enemies stay dead until a continue is used, freeing the path of danger up until the moment you died. It makes each of the large, sprawling and nicely drawn levels quite fun to explore.
Then again, there are only three of them. Two are selectable from the off; a fire world and a frozen world, with the castle world opening up once those two are completed. The aim in each stage is to find the correct spell and use it. There are loads of them everywhere, from healing spells to fire balls and fire damage resistance, but the one you're after tends to be placed behind a big gruelling boss fight. Other collectables include 4 types of standard weapon which are thrown underarm in an arch that takes a little getting used to. These range in power from the meagre dagger to the powerful flaming torch and each can be upgraded four times if you collect more of the same. Be careful not to pick up another projectile as all of your upgrades disappear, starting again from scratch with this new attack you've acquired. This differs from the usual collectathon that most platformers tend to be and adds a little bit of strategy to your pathfinding. Searching for ways that will not force you back to a level 1 dagger can be as difficult as that dragon mini-boss you passed by earlier.
I didn't play Elvira back in the day - too adult for my child-like brain. Or so my parents thought. For this review I mainly played on the Amiga, which is by far the best version. I have to concede that my trusty Atari ST is the inferior machine and couldn't keep up with it at all. I did try it out for curiousity's sake but the differance is stark. It removes any background art that isn't a repeating rock wall, enemy detail is drastically reduced and you can forget about anything resembling smooth scrolling. It also suffers from some massive slowdown too. On DOS, it performs a smidge better but still isn't a patch on the Amiga. Then there's the vastly underpowered Commodore 64. This port is surprisingly playable, even if it's missing entire mini-bosses, creatures and sprites. Your upgradable weapons will only feature a single thrown projectile instead of the spread of flaming torches the other versions have. At least here, you can understand the reason for the limitations.
While not the best game out there, Elvira: The Arcade Game is a surprisingly playable Euro-platformer which does enough with the unique licence to make it interesting for fans and newbies alike.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the PC version to modern systems and FS-UAE to emulate the Amiga version. The Atari ST and Commodore use Retroarch with the Hatari and Vice x64 cores respectively. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 160 Mb. Install Size: 393 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Elvira: The Arcade Game is © Flair Software & Queen 'B' Productions
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me