This is going to be a lot like common or garden dumpster diving, only here I’ll be plunging head-first into a skip of Amiga pulp fiction Scrooge McDuck style to see what kind of random nuggets of nostalgia I can forage and share with you.
I thought I’d approach the task by pulling off my best Linda Blair impersonation, swivelling my head erratically, teeth-gnashing in a haphazard blur until I chomp down on something interesting. Does that sound like a plan, or the ramblings of a lunatic? Welcome to another Amigos blog post.
Dark Horse’s foray into the gaming world actually came to pass, though sadly was a mere flash in the pan, only running for two issues beginning in March 1994. Just the first issue has surfaced online and includes comic strips starring two of our fave Amiga heroes; the Lemmings and Chuck Rock. Oh yeah, plus some Sega twoddle no-one cares about.
Sugar free max
It’s a well-known fact that many computer games players are big fans of the comic genre, so it comes as some surprise that it has taken this long for the two to really mix – if you forget things like the Sonic Comic and the Melbourne House game Redhawk. Max Overload is a new publication from Dark Horse International, the company responsible for Aliens, Star Wars, Predator and Robocop comics among others. The London-based firm have signed up the rights to Lemmings, ToeJam & Earl and Core Design’s Chuck Rock for their first issue, which should just have appeared on the shelves as you read this.
Max Overload promises ‘cutting edge comedy and a host of lively games-related features’, is a mammoth 64 full-colour pages tome and costs just £1.95. For more information, call Bastion Marketing on 071 490 1323.
CU Amiga issue 49, March 1994
With Betty Boo riding high in the charts comes news of a computer game based on her rise to superstardom. New label, Renegade, are behind the game which is at the storyboard stage and is not scheduled to appear until late next year. Renegade’s involvement is understandable as their parent company, Rhythm King, also handles Boo’s recording career. Rhythm King spokeswoman, Adele, commented: ‘She’s a perfect subject for a game. She has a kind of cartoonish image and is popular with the age group we’ll be aiming at.’
CU Amiga issue 9, November 1990
I don’t recall a game charting the life and times of Betty Boo ever materialising, unless you consider The Bitmap Brother’s 1991 platform game, Magic Pockets, biographical that is!
An instrumental rendition of Alison Clarkson’s no. 7 single ‘Doin’ the Do’ was used for the title music, however, and as foretold, it was published by the Bitmap’s in-house label, Renegade. It also appeared on Alison’s platinum-selling debut album, Boomania, which was largely written and produced in her bedroom. ‘Doin’ the Do’ and her follow-up single, ‘Where Are You Baby?’ are really fun, catchy tracks, though you won’t hear me admit that. I’m too cool.
Many UK readers may recall their first sighting of Magic Pockets being on the Saturday morning TV show, Motormouth, hosted by Neil Buchanan, Andy Crane and Gaby Roslin, amongst several lesser-known personalities. It featured in a prize-winning phone-in segment where you’d holler navigational commands down the blower, and some clot at the other end would attempt to translate them into joystick manoeuvres. It’s a clunky, sluggish game when you’re directly at the helm so you can imagine how much fun it would have been to control remotely!
A highly esteemed team
“Then there was Worms. Andy Davidson won a competition in Amiga Format to design a game, which Team 17 would publish. And what a game Worms turned out to be – certainly one of the best multiplayer games ever, and not at all bad as a one-player game. As with Lemmings, there have been plenty of clones and revisions, and it has appeared on a ridiculous number of other platforms. The latest version, Worms Armageddon, was never released for the Amiga, but Hyperion (who converted the excellent Heretic 2) have acquired the license and they are hoping for a release sometime this year.”
This snippet appeared in Amiga Format’s last ever issue (136, May 2000) as part of a notable developers retrospective. I couldn’t help noticing in the last paragraph they’ve rewritten the history books by declaring that Andy Davidson’s Worms won their own ‘design a game’ compo. First they ignore his submission entirely, later have no recollection of it ever arriving through the AF office doors, bury the competition results in some obscure area of an issue so far removed from the premise of the original challenge that everyone had forgotten it was still running, and now they decide that David won it after all! Now where did my biscuit go? I could have sworn…
Floppy disks and mass storage
The Amiga is just about the only major computer in the world that does not have a High-Density floppy disk drive as standard. In spite of the rise of the CD as the medium of choice, it is still difficult to see how the floppy disk will ever be completely replaced. CDs are useful, but you can’t write to them. They are certainty bulkier and more easily damaged than a floppy too.
The floppy is a cheap, easy and convenient way of storing data temporarily, or for transferring to other systems, between home and office or even around the world, by the relatively inexpensive postal system.
There are architectural difficulties in using a High-Density drive, but these could be solved without a great deal of trouble. The solution used in the A3000 and A4000 wasn’t ideal, because it slowed down the access time of the drive quite dramatically. As the basic means of data transfer, the Amiga of the future should be using a similar system to other computers, which means that the next generation Amiga should be able to make use of High-Density disks.
In the many letters we have received on the next-generation Amiga, a lot of readers mentioned the Floptical drive, a technology which has been around for some time. Optical head alignment means at least 20 times more data can be stored on a single, special 3.5-inch disk – but the unit can also access standard Double Density and High-Density floppy disks.
The only problem with such a drive is support for it. Although it may be a boon for users, the software industry is geared up to using floppies, and CDs. They are unlikely to embrace a new medium supported only by one platform.
The optical drive will probably never replace the floppy, but a hybrid is a possibility.
Amiga Format issue 73, July 1995
Floppy disks will live forever! They’re the past, the present, the future, the best there ever was and ever will be. Have I accidentally quoted a line from a long-dead WWF wrestler?
The A570 CD drive was released by Commodore in 1992 so it wouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to imagine in which direction data storage was heading.
Robots ad banned from kids’ TV
Time Warner’s tough-talking ad for Rise of the Robots has incurred the wrath of TV watchdogs.
The television advertisement for Time Warner’s Rise of the Robots has been KO’ed by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, the association responsible for vetting television advertisements. BACC took particular exception to a scene in the ad in which an imposing military droid from the robot combat beat-em-up taunts the audience with the line ‘are you religious?’.
As a result of the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre ruling, the Rise of the Robots advertisement has been banned from being transmitted during all religious broadcasts and children’s programmes although it can still be transmitted during less sensitive time slots.
The 60-second commercial features a Mary Whitehouse-like figure complaining about computer games and extolling the virtues of the innocent pastimes enjoyed by her generation’s youth.
Black and white 1950s images are suddenly shattered as 3D-rendered droids from the game crash into each scene accompanied by such headlines as ‘you can’t dance with broken legs!’.
“This advertising campaign has been designed to make people sit up and take notice,” commented Time Warner spokesman Jeff Tawney.
“We’ve combined some amazing graphics from the game with really aggressive and humorous captions. If some people find it offensive, that’s tough. Our customers love it!”
Turn to page 70 to find out why we gave the much-hyped Rise of the Robots a miserable 19 per cent.
Amiga Format issue 67, January 1995
We really had to go out of our way to find something to get our knickers in a knot over back then! Never mind the religious allusions, imagine how many trees had to sacrifice their lives to produce the boxes this monstrosity of a game was distributed in. Isn’t that traumatic enough?
This story hit the headlines in the same year Eric Cantona kung-fu kicked a Crystal Palace supporter during a Premier League football match. Surely he must have been inspired by the violently warped, Rise of the Robots. No doubt about it. Guilty as charged.
Wicked – a psychedelic adventure
As a regular abuser of nefarious substances I was looking forward to playing this game! Then I learnt it was released by an organisation called Health Wise and my excitement went out the window.
So I read the flimsy card wallet it came in and thought that this could be a good game. Kids take drugs (I’m sorry folks, but it’s a sad fact of a rapidly deteriorating society) and marrying an important issue with a medium all youngsters indulge in to teach them the evils is a good idea.
But it’s crap. Wrecked is a platformer that not only falls down on appalling gameplay, but also on the superficial information it gives about each type of drug and their effects.
You are Jo, a hopeless junkie, trying to get to the exit of each level. You have the choice of taking, stashing or getting info on the drugs hanging around. The only joy I had was when out of sheer frustration I took a cocktail of dope, acid and alcohol. The screen started to change… Whooo! I’m feeling giddy. What’s that pink elephant doing there? – Frank Bartucca
Programmers: KKOS | Publisher: Health Wise – 051-709 5505 | Price: £29.99 | Released: out now | Score: 25%
Amiga Format issue 59, May 1994
Wrecked was completed and bundled off to the magazine critics for assessment, yet the Amiga version has long since been missing in action, and pronounced legally dead. There is a DOS version which can easily be found online, along with some very grainy YouTube footage. I watched some of it and it almost made me turn to class A narcotics to blot out the pain.
Remember kids, “winners don’t use drugs!” …unless you’re an Olympic athlete with a coterie of surrogate pee sample providers.
I think that giving away games with magazines is a good idea. It does work out quite well for the software houses in question because the user may think “Hang on, this is a good game: what else have they produced?” Some say the old games are the best games and this is partly true. Interceptor, for instance, looks quite dated but the sheer playability makes up for it quite admirably.
Stuart Balkwill, Leeds
I agree, but you won’t see any more free games on the front of magazines. Because there are so many good older games around, you can expect to see a lot more of them coming through as budget software. The Amiga budget scene is really taking off, which has to be ‘A Good Thing’.
Reader’s letter caught red-handed in sourceless shocker!
For a long time it was commonplace for magazines to give away older full games on their cover tapes or disks. The benefits of this were twofold; it boosted magazine sales figures, and showcased the talents of developers who would usually have something new in the pipeline to promote.
This was effective for the same reason TV networks will rerun an old movie when the sequel has just been released into the cinemas. The game publishers were priming their audience with an appetiser, bringing them up to speed so they’d be acclimatised to embracing the main course.
The problem was that people like a bargain, and too many gamers were holding off on buying the premium titles without having to endure a drought of entertainment. Easy, cheap access to top-quality games was eroding away their perceived value.
To get back on track, the magazine and game publishers colluded to instead deliver playable taster demos via cover media, and introduce the concept of the ‘budget’ game; older titles sold in the usual retail outlets for less than half their original price. Breathing rejuvenated life into forgotten IPs generated new revenue streams for the developers, as well as goodwill amongst the fans.
Demo Talent forms Games House
A software house with a difference has been formed – Team 17. They will produce games initially for the Amiga only, mostly for machines with over 1 Meg of RAM. The first two titles will be a beat-em-up, Full Contact, and a shoot-em-up, Alien Breed. Team 17 are bullish about their ability to exploit the Amiga fully because they already have a proven track record as demo writers on the PD circuit. The writing squad has been drawn from the ranks of Europe’s finest demo crews.
Amiga Format issue 2, March 1991
Team 17 emerged from the PD scene where they originally operated from an itsy 17-Bitsy, teeny weeny office located above an amusement arcade in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
Founder, Martyn Brown, cut his teeth cataloguing and distributing a public domain software library whilst working for Microbyte. Ever the entrepreneur, his ambitions extended beyond tracking other people’s work; his heart was set on publishing and even developing his own software.
Developers, Team 7, were in need of a publisher for their latest game, and so in 1990 sought out 17-Bit and dangled their kung-fu carrot on a stick. Martyn recognised their potential, took the lure and offered to bring them in-house – along with a number of rising stars from the demo scene – to further develop their talents. The promising collaboration became known as Team 17 and they released their first home-grown game, Full Contact, in 1991.
The rest, as they say, is Worms… well to be fair to them, their back catalogue encompasses a diverse scope of impressive titles. I was making a cheap gag at their expense because I’m a little, inconsequential man and it makes me feel big and clever, and for that I apologise wholeheartedly.
Team 17 would go on to produce Superfrog, the Alien Breed series, Body Blows trilogy, Overdrive, Project-X, Assassin, and are still – independently I should add – as active in the games industry as ever.
This is the end
I’m fed up with games that have amazing intros but abysmal end sequences. Take Shadow of the Beast 2, for example: great intro, superb graphics, fantastic game, but when it’s completed there’s a terribly feeble end sequence. It really annoys me when I’ve spent months trying to complete a game to be rewarded with a crappy graphic or substandard animation. C’mon, software houses, come up with something better than this!
Vaughan Shilton, Atherstone
To be fair to the software houses, end sequences of games are seen by only a small minority of players as most people never bother to play a game all the way through or are too hamfisted to get very far. It’s all very well having nice animation sequences but it eats up memory which could otherwise be used to improve the actual game and add extra features. I do sympathise though – I recently completed Golden Axe by defeating Death Adder and rescuing the two prisoners only to be greeted with ‘The End’ written over the Map Screen. That was very disappointing after such a great game.
CU Amiga issue 14, April 1991
For financial reasons, if a game could be crammed onto a single disk, it would be. If a game already occupied more, devising a worthy end sequence shouldn’t have been such a bind… yet they were often skimped on regardless.
11 disk point and click adventure games would rarely give you short shift, then they’re story-driven so pulling out the stops for the outro goes with the territory.
The holy grail would be to find a single disk game with an awe-inspiring finale. Can you name any?
Flood and Golden Axe were wrapped up with a witty, thought-provoking panache, without needing to lay on a smorgasbord of bit-hogging technical wizardry. They each demonstrate that there’s simply no excuse for Xenon II’s, “well that’s it viewers. Don’t forget to turn off your set”.
The next Millennium
Those Cambridge boys and girls have kept things a little quiet recently, but have just stepped out of the closet to unveil no less than FIVE new products in development. The shock news is that NONE of them have anything to do with JAMES POND. Not a fishy joke in sight. Not a single Piscean reference. For example, Mr Magoo, based on the popular cartoon of the same name, has no fish in it whatsoever, although the cartoon graphics make the game look decidedly similar to the actual cartoon.
Brutal Soccer is the continuation of Brutal Football, and the only place you’d find a fish in here is in the shower room, though we doubt it.
Troll Island is an odd one, as a colourful collection of Troll Island inhabitants work through their daily lives. You never know, one of them might eat fish.
Motor Mania sees Micky the Micra saving the day when the bad fog of pollution send the factory into chaos, leaving him to sort out the mess in a brain-teasing time sort of way.
Neural World is the strangest of the lot. Remember Little Computer People, where you had to keep a little chap entertained? Take that (scream!), then add the fact that you have to educate them. Strange, and not a fish in sight.
James Pond 3’s coming too. Ooops. Call Millennium on 0223 844894.
CU Amiga issue 49, March 1994
Pie-in-the-sky Amiga Games that Weren’t. There were literally squillions of them and there’s even a dedicated web site documenting the status of the elusive critters. Often their tardiness has a curious background story; some are totally weren’t, others a smidgen weren’t, with caveats.
Here’s a medley of (mostly) ephemera, all from the same developer; Millennium Interactive who were best known for their James Pond series.
Brutal Sports Soccer – the sequel to Brutal Sports Football – was released, albeit under the guise of ‘Wild Cup Soccer’ to make it more palatable to the Germans. It’s essentially an early incarnation of Fifa …with lethal weapons, more stabbing, maiming and beheading.
Mr Magoo, Motor Mania, and Neural World vanished into the ether, failing to put in an appearance on any platform.
Troll Island (nothing to do with the Trolls game released by Flair in 1992) was certainly Amiga vapourware, though did grace the SNES with its presence as Super Troll Islands.
Incidentally, Super Troll Island was ported over to the Amiga in 1994 where it was foisted upon the unsuspecting public as Mr Blobby. It’s the same game only with a different licensed character attached. Your main objective is to traverse the platforms transforming their drab colour scheme from grey-scale to polychrome as you go. Think Q*bert without the isometric perspective.
Big C’s seal of approval
Commodore have launched a ‘Seal of Approval Scheme’. The scheme is part of the company’s plan to reassert their presence in the peripherals market, and to assure that quality peripherals are determinable from less high-quality products.
Amiga manufacturers and publishers can apply to Commodore to have their products tested and given the official Commodore thumbs up. Any item passing the rigorous demands of Commodore’s new testing program will then be allowed to display the Commodore ‘Seal of Approval’ symbol on their product’s packaging and promotional material. Manufacturers wishing to participate in the scheme should first contact Kieron Sumner at Commodore on 0628 770088.
Amiga Format issue 58, April 1994
The Commodore seal of approval was to be just the start. David Pleasance has revealed that had his takeover bid been successful, he would have licensed the name to be used to promote “anything with a plug” to create a steady new revenue stream with minimal input required from Commodore. The funds were to be injected back into the business to support future R&D.
Despite assurances that strict quality control assessments would have been enforced, I don’t think this was one of his better ideas personally. It’s precisely the sort of IP hawking exploit Amiga fans baulk at today whenever we see Commodore’s prestigious heritage being tarnished.
Lest we forget the Commodore ‘Gravel in Pocket’ or Smartphone!
What the industry says
We asked three top games people what they thought of the decision to introduce self-regulation in computer games. Here’s what they had to say:
Jon Hare, Sensible Software – I sincerely hope it means we can do what the f*** we want. Hopefully it means we can put proper things in games. There are a lot of adults playing games now and wanting entertainment so you’re going to be able to put adult stuff in there. I think it’s a brilliant idea. As long as it works properly, it gives us true freedom within the 18 bracket.
Keith Smith, Millennium – The self-regulation scheme, in theory, will work. What remains to be seen is whether the industry is prepared to abide by it and adhere to the letter and not the spirit of the system… Some software companies may include scenes which aren’t directly relevant to the game in order to get a more marketable certificate (an 18+ rating).
Charles Cecil, Revolution Software – I really applaud what ELSPA have done. I think it shows that the industry is very genuine about wanting to put itself forward and present a responsible face. I hope that all the publishers choose to stick by it. There will be situations where profits will be affected by this, but I hope they put their principles before their profits.
Amiga Format issue 58, April 1994
To (Mortal) Kombat the threat faced from violent video games, and (Night) Trap anyone caught flouting the law, in 1994 ELSPA introduced a new self-regulating rating system.
Jon Hare’s response gets an 18+ certificate for strong language, and a 10/10 for irony!
Well, mag-munchers, that’s all folks for this month. Your next issue of Amigo Scour (the August edition) will be on newsagent shelves on 16th July… or is it the Christmas edition in February up next? Who came up with this ludicrous dating system anyway?