Dateline 23rd April 2012


I’ve always been asked what sort of games I prefer. Do I prefer First Person Shooters ? Well I like the original Goldeneye on the N64 and the early Medal Of Honour/Call Of Duty games, but not the modern versions. I love sports games, although playing anything pre Kick Off is now nothing more than a retro chore (with the exception of Emlyn Hughes’ Football). Puzzle games are OK, but give me Tetris and I’ll be happy. I love good arcade conversions and original games but I am not the world’s biggest fan of film and TV tie ins. So this next batch of Amiga games from my youth cover a lot of bases with the usual predictably mixed results…..


Which game genre do you prefer ? Strip poker games not included of course......


GRAND MONSTER SLAM – Loosely based on the ancient arcade game Penguin Wars, Grand Monster Slam tries to be a number of things, with the final result perhaps not quite satisfying enough for all, it remains a jolly good effort trying to be something else. Taking part in what is a cross between a medieval and fantasy world, the basis of the game is to work through a league. Each opponent you face has the same goal as you – kick all their furry creatures (called Beloms) at your opponent, to clear your line, as quickly as possible. Do that and you run at your opponent for victory. You can aim your Beloms at your opponent to knock him down, whilst kicking them into the crowd will result in extra Beloms being added to your remaining ones. Work your way through the league and take part in some weird mini games, one being kicking Beloms into the mouth of waiting monsters, each slightly higher up than the last one. It’s a brave attempt at being different and was good enough to be in the very first Amiga Power 100. However, the sometimes clunky controls and samey gameplay might mean boredom sets in before too long. A good effort and worth a little look.


HYDRA – The Amiga was home to some pretty worthless conversions in it’s time, and this one is no exception. It’s basically STUN Runner on water, or those of you who remember the game based on the James Bond film Live & Let Die, its kinda like that. I actually played this back in the arcade once and it didn’t exactly grab me as being a great game. The whole chasing criminals thing had become a bit dull by this point – this version was around 18 months after Chase HQ had appeared – and although putting it on water is a slightly different approach, a great game it does not make. In fact it gets real dull real quick. The whole thing moves so slowly that any sense of speed the game should create isn’t there and thus it becomes another woeful racing/driving/chase the crims game of very low quality. At least the water effect is nice……


INDY 500 – We touched on Days of Thunder in the previous posting. That was a bad example of what the Amiga could do when it came to vector based racing games. Indy 500 is considerably better, providing you had at least 1MB of memory and reduced the detail in the graphics to the bear minimum. Being a simulation rather than a straight racer there are lots of details such as car set up, testing, practice, qualifying and of course the actual Indianapolis 500, based on the field that entered the 1989 race. Yes, you only get one race to take part in so the lastability comes into question. There is no denying it looks great and was way ahead of anything else at the time, but it might prove a bit too techy for those who just like to plug in and race away.


JIMMY WHITE’S WHIRLWIND SNOOKER – You always wonder with certain sports whether you can replicate the actual fun and feeling of playing it on a computer as opposed to participating in the real thing. Snooker had up till then had a fairly chequered history, with snooker games being basic coloured balls on a green background. The legendary programmer Archer Maclean took the game of snooker and did something rather marvellous – he made it interesting. This is one of the best sports games ever, with so many touches of realism included – cueing angles, needing to chalk the cue, backspin, positional play and even the odd cheeky ball suddenly having a cartoon face and sticking it’ tongue out at you. Throw in some excellent graphics and the ability to view each shot from every angle possible and you have a really excellent piece of software. Even people who hate snooker will love this.


KICK OFF – OK so it’s not Kick Off 2, but it seems only fair to look at the original game which revolutionised how football would be transferred to computers in the future. The big pluses from Kick Off are the sheer speed of how things move and the fact the ball doesn’t stick to your feet all the time. This allows for fluid movement and the ability to change direction with ease. You also get a grid which shows you the whole pitch and where your team mates are, allowing you to build attacks and protect yourself from being caught on the counter attack. It’s not the best looking game, the computer AI is suspect and some of the referees are total bastards, reducing some games to 8 v 8 in a flash if you are a bit twitchy with the old tackling. Kick Off set the bar for future football games and the sequel is the best football game ever made. It’s hard to play anything made before this now. It effectively rendered any other football game of it’s time negligible.


LED STORM – Now here is an arcade game you probably won’t remember – even I can’t recall this one. What I can recall is playing this conversion by US Gold on one of the many compilations I had at the time, and looking back now it’s still a lot of fun. It is by no means perfect at all – the graphics are small, the playing area is minuscule and it’s all a bit monotonous. It’s saving grace is the fact it does hook you right away and the music is pretty awesome. It’s sort of like Spy Hunter mixed with any racing checkpoint game you have played before. It’s not outstanding, it’s nothing special but it is a bit of harmless fun from an obscure arcade machine where can easily while away a couple of hours.


MERV THE MERCILESS – This is cheating slightly as this game was given away free with Zero magazine on the coverdisk. It’s a Public Domain game – games created by programmers that were cheap and cheerful, as long as you don’t expect too much from them. Kinda like the forerunner of PSN exclusives and WiiWare games. Anyway, Merv is a top down collect em up, with the added peril of having to move around a screen which moves in a totally random fashion (very much like having the walls close in on you). Get trapped in a corner, the screen will move in on you and kill you. It has fairly crappy graphics so perhaps the best thing about it is the music and sound effects – you can activate the Neighbours TV theme tune by running over the Neighbours icon, whilst being squashed by the moving play area will result in a comedy sound effect and suitably comical music. It definitely follows the Three C’s very closely – Cheap, Cheerful and Crappy. The only reason it’s included here is because me and my mates found it hilarious back in the day, but it has certainly lost that appeal some 20 years later !