We are all used to the latest games featuring licensed music. Many games offering up a full soundtrack of various popular tunes of the moment to help make a race a bit more exciting. It’s not a practice that was introduced with the advent of games on CD though. The humble floppy disk was capable of offering the same audio treats (almost).
As we know, the Amiga’s sound capabilities were quite advanced when it was launched in 1985. Boasting 4 hardware channels of 8 bit audio, it was ideally suited to playing back sampled audio with the largest limitation being the amount of available memory. The system is known for some memorable soundtracks from its talented musicians but every now and then Amiga Games with licensed music would appear. Here is a short list of those games I could think of, staying away from theme tunes for movie or TV show based games.
Xenon 2 ( Bomb the Bass )
The musical track used on the game is so integral to it that it became the subtitle of the game itself. Xenon 2: Megablast is a 1989 vertically scrolling shooter that features the Bitmap Brothers trademark beautifully detailed graphics, fun gameplay and interesting features such as the ability to reverse the direction of travel.
It was released with quite a fanfare which I remember being mainly due to its soundtrack. The Bitmaps teamed up with Tim Simenon, the man behind Bomb The Bass. He was a fan of gaming and his musical style was a perfect match for the genre and the way the Amiga handles music. The Amiga version was put together by David Whittaker who is well known for music across multiple gaming platforms. Despite not featuring every sample in the original tune the game’s title tune is instantly recognisable. The cut down version used during the game keeps the energy high despite sound effects taking priority on one of the audio channels.
The CD32 version of the game features a CD audio track which seems be a remixed version of the original tune, perhaps made especially for the game. The Atari ST version features a lengthy and looped sample of a portion of the original tune at what would seem to be a low sample rate. Once the ST gets to the actual game the AY chip does a great job without any sample data.
Gods ( Nation 12 )
Another Bitmap Brothers game, this one from 1991. A slow paced platform puzzle game sees a warrior vanquish 4 invaders in the hope of becoming a god himself. The tune is provided by Nation 12, the name used by John Foxx at the time. His real name is Dennis Leigh which he uses for his graphic art work outside of music. He created a number of book covers and is know for his photographic work.
“Into The Wonderful” can be found on the album Electrofear and the version you hear during the Gods intro and title screen is remarkably faithfull despite having some some elements removed and featuring a slightly crunchy but appealing sound. This is one of my favourite tunes on the Amiga and instantly grabbed my attention.
The original tune is available to buy on Amazon for £0.99 if anyone is interested. If you just want to listen, here it is.
Nation 12 would also collaborate with Richard Joseph on the awesome tune for Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe. However, it seems that this was specially written for the game.
Magic Pockets ( Betty Boo )
Yet another 1991 game from the Bitmap Brothers, they really got into this licensed music thing. Still using the Bitmap Brothers traditional graphics style this platform game had a cuter look to than Gods. Also fairly slow paced the game does feature bike races and bubblegum balloon floating sections for variety.
For a cuter game the game designers approached an artist who generally favoured fast beats and catchy tunes, Betty Boo aka Alison Clarkson. “Doin’ The Do” was one of her most popular tunes and it was stripped of lyrics, shortened and is played over the intro sequence where the game’s hero, The Bitmap Kid, is seen getting ready for his adventure. You also get a few notes of the tune when you complete a level or get game over.
The tune remains one of Betty’s most recognised tunes from her hit 1990 first album, Boomania!, where you will find most of her popular tunes. Her follow up album in 1992 didn’t do as well despite also containing some good work. After that Alison wrote tunes for others such as “Pure and Simple” which eventually ended up being performed by Hear Say. She returned as Betty Boo in 2007 when she teamed up with Jack Rokka in “Take Off”.
The Power ( Snap )
Demonware published this game in 1991. It’s a game which has you slide your character and certain movable blocks around a maze so you can reunite Max with Mini. It’s a decent enough puzzle game which would be unremarkable except for its theme tune. I wonder if the game was written with the tunes title in mind or if the rights to the tune were sought after?
SNAP!’s “The Power” plays constantly ( unless switched off ) while you play the game. With the main lyrics missing the only vocals are the “I’ve Got The Power” sample. It’s a nice match up for the game title and the music has been converted over well. I admit to playing this just to hear the music.
SNAP!’s “The Power” was a huge hit and reached number 1 in many countries.
Ooops Up ( Snap )
Demonware teamed up with SNAP! once again for Ooops Up. This time the game must have been titled with the tune in mind. It’s such an odd name for a game, especially a Pang clone.
If you compare the game tune to the original you will hear that it contains added elements. This seems to be because there isn’t much of a tune here, it’s mainly just a backing for the vocals. Maybe its because the music isn’t screaming at you that it is possible to listen to it for a long time.
The tune plays throughout but sound effects are mixed in which is welcome although, like Xenon 2, they get in the way of the music.
Rise of the Robots ( Brian May )
When beat em up Rise of the Robots was announced it was going to have all the bells and whistles. Amazing computer rendered characters, adaptive AI to learn your play style and a soundtrack by non other than Brian May! Two tunes from his album Back to the Light were chosen. The game was a disappointment is just about every way though I suppose you could say it did look good.
Brian May’s soundtrack was trimmed. Trimmed some more and then eventually ended up being no more than a few repeated strums on his guitar. This longplay of the game contains the “music” at 2:20. The SNES version of the game had a better version of this short tune.
At one point Mr May was going to produce a full soundtrack but that doesn’t seem to have materialised. You can hear the short section that was used in this preview for Back to the Light.
Captain Blood ( Jean-Michel Jarre )
Thanks to z9k9 for pointing this one out.
Captain Blood was released in 1988 by Infogrames and created by ERE Informatique. It was initially an Atari ST title and ported over. From what I could hear, the title track sounds pretty much identical on the Amiga to the ST. Its made up of low sample rate samples and is one of the strangest tunes I think I have heard from a commercial game. It is a stripped back version of Ethnicolor, or rather a part of it.
Project X & Wizkid ( Tchaikovsky )
This is a sneaky addition. The particular piece of music is public domain so anyone is free to use it, no license required.
In Project X the tune is only heard on the high score screen. As space fireworks go off in the background a sample of the “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky is played on a loop.
In Wizkid the tune plays on the main title screen while Wizkid conducts a couple of cannons. This time the tune has been tracked. Things don’t end well for Wizkid. Again, thanks to z9k9 for this one.
Do you know of any more Amiga Games with Licensed Music? Leave a comment and let us know.