So first of all, I’m not writing about this game because it’s good… Oh Sweet Lord Satan No. But this game was a (incredibly vexing) part of my childhood, and it means a lot to deconstruct it. See, first of all it was the mid-to-late 1980s and I had a very serious fixation on hella buff dudes in loincloths for some reason.
Let’s face it, at no point in my life was I ever heterosexual…
Conan: The Hall Of Volta is a computer game by DataSoft, originally written for the Apple ][ and ported to other platforms. It was released in 1984 alongside the second Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan movie, although it has characters and scenarios independent of any canonical Conan The Barbarian storyline.
One of the main characters is a bird, for instance.
It’s a pretty straightforward one-hit-death side-view platform puzzle game, one of the first of it’s kind. Adding to the replay value, there were stage-specific death messages when you game over.
They were also terrible, just terrible, “puns” most of the time.
Getting through the stages takes some practice to get the timing right, but once you know what you’re doing, the game can be finished fairly quickly. Stage One gets you used to everything:
You climb the ladders to go up, and you kill the Giant Bat (1) as soon as possible because it has access to the whole inside of the castle and has no qualm with killing you first. Once you reach the top of the castle, jump over to the tree (2) for a free life from your bird friend. Any time you see him throughout the whole game means a free life. Stage 2 introduces a new element (keys), but keeps up the same pace as the first and doesn’t have any monsters.
You grab the key (1) to unlock the door (2). Pretty simple. You can also grab a free life from your bird friend (3) by jumping up to touch him at the end of the stage. Stage three brings in the third primary gameplay element (gems and gem holders) and is distinctly harder than the first two, the beginning of a difficulty jump that continues for the rest of the game.
In stage three you use the teleporters (1) to get the gem (2) to place in the holder (3). Once the gem is in the holder, a bubble forms in the lava(4) that you can use to jump to the end of the stage. Your avian friend is also here for the last time (5) to provide a free life, and keep in mind that the scorpions and ants on this level (6) are too low to the ground to hit with your weapon. The ants can also use the teleporter, which can seriously screw up any timing you were having for jumps and moving around the level.
In stage 4, the length of time you can spend at this stage is completely random. You grab gems (1) as they randomly appear, and once you put two in the holders (2) you get access to the key (3) to open the door. Extra weapons (5) appear on the stage randomly as well, and you should keep an eye out for (6) the fall-away white parts of the platforms as well as the middle platform that periodically rises from the geyser beneath it. You can also snag extra gems on this stage if you’re patient, which makes the next level slightly easier.
Stage 5 is a bastard. No way around it. Basically the best way to go about doing it is standing right around where pictured in (1) and shooting the dragons (2) until you get a key and gemstone for the door(3) and holder (4) on the top level. It might take a few tries to get it where you weapon comes back and you don’t lose it. With the gem in the holder, you get access to the other key (5) which you can use to unlock the door out of the stage (6). Hopefully the absurdly overkill number of gems (7) on the bottom level are clue enough that it’s a trap.
Almost over… To get through stage 6, you need to kill the floating eyeballs (1) until the ladder (2) appears that gives you access to cut down the chandelier (3) that will smash the power generator (4) allowing you access to the door to the final stage (5). Also, you can get your weapons restored on the bottom level (6) if you need to.
Final stage, and there is quite a bit going on. Your bird friend is in a cage (1) captured by Volta (2). Volta has some sort of device next to him that spits out gems and then turns them into green and purple magical bolts. Basically you wanna hit the green bolts with your weapon, which turn back into gems, and place them in the holders (3). With three gems in the holders, your bird friend goes free, throws Volta into the lava pit (4), and then flies you to the door at the end of the stage (6). If any of the bolts reach the lowest level, they can release one of the dragonflies captured there (7) which travel back and forth on that level. Also there is a pit in the middle of the stage (8) which drops you back to stage 6. Good if you’ve run out of weapons, not so great for any other reason. After this stage is the ending.
For some reason, the Apple ][ ending features a knight in full armor instead of the barbarian. This is possibly a throwback to the first draft of the game, when it was called Visigoth. You can also see initials of the game designer and programmer snuck in the background as well (bottom left in blue and on the right in green). Later versions included a character much more recognizable to the theme of the game.
This ending would have no doubt better satisfied the “burly barbarians in loincloths” fix I desired so much as a child “for some reason”.
Seriously, who the fuck did I think I was fooling back then?