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.
[CU Amiga issue 49, March 1994]
[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 maneuvers. 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!
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…
[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.
[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.
[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 appetisReader’s letter caught red-handed in sourceless shocker!er, 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.
[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.
[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”.
[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.
[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!
[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 ratings 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?