(Originally posted on the defunct Blistered Thumbs community blog in 2012)
The archer once again finds himself entrenched in a battle with horrible boss monsters. Is the return to 8-bit action horror worth the re-visitation? Or should you skip this trip down scarred memory lane?
PROS: Omnidimension 4D. The soundtrack. The fatalities. An ending!
CONS: New play control scheme takes getting used to. Arrow system is unnecessary.
WTF?: Google search some of the box art for non domestic releases.
Paul Norman certainly succeeded beyond his wildest dreams with the original Forbidden Forest. Cosmi was becoming a noteworthy publisher of home computer platform games, and had tasked him with creating more content like Caverns of Khafka. With the big numbers FF was putting up for such a small publisher, a sequel was inevitable. Beyond The Forbidden Forest brings a host of wonderful improvements to the table, as well as a few baffling design decisions. Among the better things in the sequel is a new engine called “Omnidimension 4D” The new engine allows objects to appear as if they are going into the background, or coming into the foreground. Or growing or shrinking. Forbidden Forest II makes this a fundamental part of the gameplay, as you have to constantly move in three dimensions to escape, or engage the boss monsters.
Another major change to the game is how the quiver system works. Gone are the limited number of arrows you start with, and instead (To meet the needs of the game’s design) there are instead bars on the sides of the screen. You move these up, and down by holding down the fire button until you get it where you need it. Once you have it placed you can fire in whatever direction you wish, and the arrows will fly at the level of the bar placement. On paper this sounds like an awesome way to get around the fact that joysticks of the time were limited to one button. The implementation in practice however, leaves a little to be desired. The problem with this system is that sometimes you will end up raising or lowering the bar when you actually want to fire. Other times you’ll find setting the bar takes longer than you’d like because you have to manage setting it while running from the boss at hand. Thankfully, the game opens up with a practice mode where you can learn the new system without fear of being killed by a boss monster before pressing F7 on the keyboard to start the game.
In addition to the new firing system, the game introduces a new golden arrow system. In order to get to the second half of the game you need to collect a minimum of four golden arrows. Defeating a boss will summon an orb from the heavens as if it were a spirit or soul of sorts. This orb will grant you the arrows. However every two arrows can also be used to revive you if you are killed by a boss. Some players will want to revisit the first few bosses to store up a lot of arrows to be used for extra lives in the second half of the game. Others will want to speed run the game, and immediately enter the second half upon scoring four arrows.
As in the original game, BTFF has many wildly inventive boss monster stages.
Stage one is a giant scorpion.
Stage two is a man eating worm.
Stage three is a gargantuan mosquito.
Stage four is a violent frog like beast of some kind.
Stage five (Which begins the second half) is a wave of bats.
Stage six is a four headed hydra dragon that breathes fire.
Stage seven is the diabolical Demogorgon.
Just as last time, each of these monsters has it’s own theme music to instill another sense of dread. Every one of these themes is catchy, and has that signature sound only a Commodore 64′s SID chip can produce short of emulation. Parallax scrolling also returns as well as the changing periods of the daylight hours in the over world. The new fatalities are again, a sight to behold. From being mauled by a giant frog beast, to being drained of all bodily fluids by a deadly mosquito to the deadly eyebeams of old Demogorgon himself, BTFF is something that will still bring shock, and awe despite it’s antiquated visuals. Finally, Beyond The Forbidden Forest brings closure to it’s tale with a fitting end for those good enough to survive the seven stage onslaught. It doesn’t hang with the epic storytelling of a lot of other games from it’s time period but it fits the theme well.
You might wonder why I have to score this slightly lower than the original if all of these improvements are greatly lauded (And they are). It’s because of the aforementioned firing system. If not for it’s sometimes wonky behavior this game would easily have reached the lofty goals of a higher numeric score. But by no means am I telling you to skip this title. On the contrary, you should absolutely give this a go if you fell in love with Forbidden Forest. But I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out it’s one Achilles heel. As such, it’s certainly going to be a love/hate relationship for newcomers.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10 (For fans)