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This is a really obscure game that took me 11 years to get my hands on! As a kid I played the demo which came with an issue of "PC Format" in 1996. Ever since then I tried to find it. There was no trace of it on the internet, and I was really starting to fear the game was lost forever. After countless searches and postings on different forums over the years I learned that the game's title was "The Lost City of Atlantis" (hereby referred to as "Atlantis") and also that it was made by American developer "Noch software, inc" back in 95. That didn't help much since Noch was dead, but later still I finally got a hold of a demo through a German Abandonia member (demo was in English), and a month later he had also managed to obtain a German full version! Later still I came in contact with the actual producer of the game, Thomas Dumstorf, through an old fax number, and he told me that even he had no idea where to find the English version! So, what kind of game is this well hidden rarity?
Atlantis is a platform game where you control Raghim - a Phoenician merchant whose strength and valor were matched by an overpowering desire to travel far and wide. He buys an old map at a bazaar and takes on a voyage. The ship goes down in a storm and Raghim is washed ashore at a long lost land. Now with this totally nude male character (yes guys I'm afraid so / exciting, ey girls?), you must get through the labyrinths of Greece, Egypt and finally Atlantis, slaying the monsters in your path and seek out pearls to buy weapons to do so. The journey goes as much over water as below it, as Raghim can walk, run, jump, climb, swim and dive. You must avoid traps and watch out so that you don't run out of oxygen while under water. To precede to the next level you must find all the hidden Crystals (each level contains seven Crystals) and give them to a wizard who guards the exit to the next level. Greece, Egypt and Atlantis each have four sub levels, so the game has a total of 12. Nearly all the enemies are mythical creatures like Minotaurs, Harpies, Giant Scorpions and such (depending on which world you are in) and require different weapons and tricks to kill off. There are nine different weapons in total, and Raghim can have up to three in each world. These can be bought at small temples found in rooms both over and under the sea. Levels are challenging and long so "BEGINNER" is hard enough, but for those who make it through without many scratches the game offers a tougher "MASTER" mode.
The best thing about this game is that it's not just another typical platformer. The 50/50 combination of jump & run with swim & dive makes it somewhat special, at least for a PC game released in 95. Prior to that, Sega had released "Alex Kidd in Miracle World", Nintendo "Super Mario World", and Amiga "Traps & Treasures", all games that combined platform with swimming and diving. But the closest thing to this on PC that I know of was "In Search of Dr. Riptide" (where you're a sub) and "Scubadventure" (where you're a diver in scuba gear). These games also included limited oxygen so that you couldn't stay underwater as long as you wanted, which had been the case with the titles on consoles/Amiga. But neither of the two PC titles gave you the flexibility to walk around on dry land at the same time. The old PC game "Alley Cat" featured a level where one could swim/dive with limited amount of oxygen, but that was more of a one-screen "mini-game" within a bigger game. 90% of the time you were on dry land. So "Atlantis" had a unique or at least seldom seen concept, and ended up like a cross between "Prince of Persia" and "Scubadventure" with graphics similar to "Gods"/"In Search of Dr. Riptide". These graphics are rather standard for shareware titles from the mid 90's and shouldn't disappoint a fan of old school games. Atlantis' concept also allowed ancient civilization to mix with some high-tech elements (in the last episode) but I'm not gonna spoil it all for you by saying more about that. The ancient ruins and cities where the game is set are cool and the mythical creatures that inhabit them is a nice touch that creates the right feel. The levels are well designed, and Raghim's animations (especially while in water) are pretty good. Sound is present and the effects are ok but a bit few.
There isn't much story to this game, and it's a bit sad because it's ancient and mythical places/creatures provide a lot of background that could have been used better story-wise to create something more complex. The controls are a bit awkward, so be sure to check them out in the readme file ATLANTIS before playing or they will be the main reason for a lot of dying. An important one is that if you want to jump across a rift you must hold down the "up" key first and then press the "right" or "left" key otherwise Raghim will most likely leap and DIVE instead - sometimes right to his death. An annoying thing on the first level is that each time you lose a life you reappear at the beginning of the level and everything (orbs, enemies etc) return just as if you restarted the game, and all your weapons are gone. Be sure to save often. Finally, the lack of in-game music can become tedious, so if you use DOSBox (and most have to) run some music in the back...
Well you can probably guess it: the nude male character. Granted, he lost his clothes after a storm, but still... I guess the concept is somewhat "historical correct" since contendants of the Olympic games in ancient Greece where nude (no, women where not allowed to attend/watch), at least according to my old history teacher. Truth is that "Atlantis" was designed by two women, so it's understandable why this idea got through. Maybe it was meant as a joke or even a weird attempt to get notice. In any case it backfired, some rags or even better - a nude female main-character, could have turned the game into a famous underdog among 14-year-old boys back then, and perhaps sold more since PC-gamers where (and still are) mostly guys.
Raghim has no rags, but apart from that I personally don't think this title is any worse than other platform games at the time (like "Realms of Chaos"). Probably bad marketing and "so-so graphics" resulted in poor sales and it tumbled down into obscurity together with its maker Noch software, Inc. But I must say it's still weird that it took twelve years until it finally appeared in the abandonware-community. But now that "Atlantis" has finally surfaced I suggest you give it a try and make up your own mind. It runs like a charm in DOSBox 0.70.
Although this version of the game is in German it's easy to play even if you don't know the language. It's not a game with much text and there's no dialog so it's fully playable for all. The intro-text is in German, and one insignificant word is displayed during each level (see pictures). The menu is pretty standard so just go through the different options before playing and you'll figure it out. Download the additional "Readme" file in English (from the shareware version) to learn more about the controls and the game itself. If you still think a German version sucks you can always hope it doesn't take another twelve years before an English full version is unearthed. But don't bet on it.
And for last, and if you like this game, it might be interesting to know that Atlantis-producer Thomas Dumstorf mentioned that his crew later developed a title called "Fortune Cookie", released under the name Midas software. This was sort of an advanced version of Atlantis, with the same sort of idea of land and water searches but with more bizarre (if this is possible) adversaries. I have never played it and if it's as hard to get a hold of as Atlantis was, I probably never will.