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THE HEROIC LEGENDS OF HERCULES AND XENA

Multimedia CD-ROM for Windows 3.1 or higher
Software Sculptors Ltd.
29.99


Reviewed by Steve Damarell


Fans of SF and fantasy genre films and tv shows are a lucky bunch. We're spoilt for choice when it comes to software that will smarten up our Windows Desktop with flashy icons, wallpapers featuring our favourite stars, and screensavers that combine sights and sounds from our favourite shows. There are a plethora of Star Trek utilities available, several for Star Wars and Babylon Five, and The X-Files can only be just around the corner.

It's no surprise, then, that such a piece of software is available for Xena and Herc fans. Software Sculptors' 'The Heroic Legends Of Hercules And Xena' is slightly more ambitious than a regulation Desktop modifier, serving as a beginner's guide to both series whilst also providing two separate screensavers and over 100 video clips.

Upon loading the software, and being introduced to the rather tacky interface, we are provided with several modules from which to choose:
Tales From The Bard, Hall Of Monsters, Image Sorcery, Hard Bodies, To Err Is Human, and Character Profiles.

Tales From The Bard is, as you would expect, an episode guide - although obviously not the 'complete' product that the box proudly promises. Hercules fans will find guides to both the five tv movies and Seasons 1 and 2 of the series, whilst Xenites must content themselves with just the first year. Most episodes are accompanied by at least one video clip and still, most of which are well chosen - although some of the movies are painfully short (the ladder fight from 'Callisto', for instance, lasts barely two seconds!). It is noticeable that the latter episodes in the season have h ad less attention lavished on them, most likely due to production timescales for release of the software. The synopses provided are detailed and accurate but are presented in a tiny font against an unbearably bright background - just make sure you have the painkillers ready for when that headache sets in! Cast details are minimal and Writer and Director information is notable by its absence. I certainly would have expected th is side of the guide to be more comprehensive, especially given the blurb's proclamation that the CD is "packed full of all the information you ever wanted to know about two of the most popular TV series ever created". To be honest, you'd be far better off looking at Cathy's guide.

The Hall Of Monsters is almost exclusively dedicated to the creatures fought by Hercules on his legendary journeys, although the inclusion of the winged harpies and Graegus (The Gauntlet and Unchained Heart) is a token gesture towards Xena's own battles.

Image Sorcery is one of the more interesting modules, showing three Hercules clips both before and after the addition of sound effects, visua l effects and music. Xena doesn't get a look in here, but it is amusing to note that the scene presented from the Jason and the Argonauts episode, 'Once A Hero', has been set against a temp track from James Horner's 'Aliens' score.

Hard Bodies, despite (or in spite of!) its embarrassing title, is a gal lery of stills of some of the guest characters from both series. Hence, Ares, Ephiny and Melosa all make an appearance. No Callisto, though, which is odd. Oh, and there's a rather lovely picture of Alexandra Tydings, too!

To Err Is Human provides us with twelve bloopers, seven of which are from Xena. This is the section of the CD-ROM that I was most looking forward t o. Unfortunately, it's almost a complete wash-out. The video clips are murky and it's almost impossible to make out what is going on in some of them, which kind of defeats the object. This really is unforgivable. Another oddity also crops up when you explore the CD more thoroughly - there are more bloopers hidden away on the disc than are actually available through the software. Very strange.

Lastly, the Character Profiles - a misleading title for what is actually background on each of the stars: Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, Kevin Sorb o, Michael Hurst and Robert Trebor. What they amount to is little more than the standard MCA/Universal publicity blurb and it is extremely disappointing that they have not even given a complete run down of each actor's previous roles. Having said that, there is, no doubt, the occasional nugget of interesting information to be found. At the time I g ot the CD-ROM, for instance, I didn't know that Lucy had studied at the William Davis Centre For Actors Study in Canada. No wonder she gave up smoking!

Perhaps the one item that the software does provide which everyone will enjoy is the screensaver. There are two of them, but one - 'Fantasies Of The Gods', an 'original animation' job - is so dreadful that I can't imagine anyone giving it more than a passing glance. 'Visions Of The Gods ', on the other hand, gives the user the chance to choose from several pre-determined modules of video clips compiled from the episode guides. This is obviously much more fun than the standard Windows equivalents and is the software's major plus point.

All in all, though, this is a cheaply put together package which fails to deliver upon the promises made on the box. My advice - for what it's wort h - is to go out and get the Star Wars Trilogy CD-ROM instead. You won't regret it.

Steve Damarell
August 1997


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