Psygnosis Every month, the Amiga is subjected to wave after wave of shoot 'em ups, all of which boast even more technically-advanced weaponry and are much better than the others... honest. That's why Blood Money was such a breath of fresh air. The first game to appear from DMA Design (who went on to rear those oh-so-cute Lemmings), Blood Money is a four-stage multi-directional scroller which incorporates everything associated with the genre. Safe within the confines of your helicopter, submarine, or spacecraft, the player is set the task of blasting a path through the many creatures that inhabit the area. Every time a creature is killed, they relinquish a gold coin which, when collected, can be spent in one of the many shops that appear throughout the game. It doesn't sound particularly original, and it's not. But Blood Money is THE long-lasting shoot em up for the Amiga and has yet to be bettered.
Ocean With the shoot 'em up firmly stuck in a rut of horizontally and vertically scrolling clones, arcade manufacturers Taito wheeled out its biggest gun yet three years ago with Operation Wolf, a dedicated console with an Uzi mounted on the front of the cabinet - it literally blew the opposition away. Its conversion, however, couldn't do it justice, with far too much disk-swapping to give it the murderous flow it demanded. The sequel, Operation Thunderbolt, duly followed and by that time they had it cracked. The plot has barely changed, with terrorists holding the passengers of a DC1O hostage, but the available fire-power had doubled with a twin-player option and laser sights. The firepower is awesome and once you're caught in the thick of a firefight its compulsive destruction. Operation Thunderbolt transforms the most pinko liberal wimpo conchies into trigger-twitching psychotics. Recommendations don't come much higher.
Mirrorsoft Most sequels are simply cash-ins on the popularity of their predecessors, rarely, if ever, capturing their unknown pleasures. Speedball II is guilty as hell on the first count, but the last charge is dismissed. Who wouldn't welcome an update which makes the original redundant, and that's precisely what The Bitmaps' follow-up does. Speedball 2, like many of the other classics here, skilfully mixes two styles of arcade game - the beat 'em up and the sports sim - and instantly hit on a classic blend. Based on the '70s movie cult classic, Rollerball, it pitches two teams into a futuristic football match with a steel balIl body armour and full-scale violence without bothering to invent a rule book. The gameplay is furious and demanding, a sort of cross between body pinball and hurling, and the sequel simply steps it all up a gear with a bigger playing area and stormtrooper tactics. Add to this the awesome sound effects and a thundering techno theme tune and you have a twice-over winner.
Anco When Anco decided to take a strike at the terminal headache of football sims it found the terraces lined with gold. No one since Commodore's own International Soccer, which was invented around the same time as the 64, had come anywhere near doing the world's biggest sport any justice. Programmer Dino Dini's creation isn't much to look at, at first glance, but as soon as you master the creative but initially baffling control system, you realise it was created by someone who had an instinctive feel for the game. Kick Off combines awesome goal-scoring power and teasing ball skills with crunching, often illegal, tackles. There are glitches aplenty and the game is prone to seizing up at crucial moments, yet somehow this all adds to the flavour. And it's for that reason you might want to avoid the sequel, which tidies up many of the faults, adds the ability to curl the ball but loses some of the rawness of the original. It also cuts out the ability to stop, turn on the ball and walk it past a bemused keeper into the back of the net. Do you want the blood and thunder of the English Game or a continental namby pamby substitute, because that what the difference amounts to.
NEW ZEALAND STORY
Ocean Cutesy conversions tend to make it over to the Amiga better than the new wave of graphically and aurally amazing shoot 'em ups. New Zealand Story is the perfect example. It's one of those sickening cutesy game designs the Japanese specialise in, which for the most part are completely incomprehensive and glutinous. What saves the pathetic sight of a little yellow kiwi called Tiki hopping around the screen, flying and swimming underwater while trying to free its caged friends is the sort of devious gameplay national character generalisations stem from. The conversion is near faultless, but that isn't what sets New Zealand Story apart from so many others, it's just one of those unputdownable games.
Hewson The idea of the platform game is as old as the hills, and for that reason there are hordes of them out there, and you don't have to be told that 90 per cent of them are crap. One of the main problems with the genre is that just about everything has been done with it - vertical jumpers, horizontal hoppers, it's a completely exhausted style. That's when you come across something like Nebulus and you realise that there's no end to the interpretations and slants you can put on it. Nebulus takes the cutesy character angle and transports it to a rotating tower. A little pug-nosed beast starts at the bottom of a series of towers and has to make his way to the top jumping gaps, avoiding flying nasties, hopping on lifts before time runs out. It's so addictive, that if its properties could be synthesised whole countries would grind to a halt. Add to that beautifully coloured backdrops and smart sound effects, and you have to be very tough not to get hooked.
Ocean This is one game that nearly didn't appear after two companies fought it out. It was this kind of rivalry that continues to deny Amiga owners the double-edged joys of Nintendo's Mario. Fortunately Taito's conversion didn't get away. Once again it's another angle on the cute platform game, and this time you'd be hard pushed to find a brighter one. It makes a three-year-old's colouring book look complicated in its construction, but that, of course, is the beauty of it. Rainbow Islands is a sort of sequel to another old favourite, Bubble Bobble, but it transports the idea away from water to the clouds where a young lad can fire rainbows to use as steps to the top of each level. Naturally there's tons of bonuses to be had on the way. The attraction is not how quickly you do it in Rainbow Islands, but how well you do it. Style is everything.
GREAT GIANA SISTERS
Rainbow Arts That you can't actually buy Giana Sisters in the shops doesn't stop it being a classic. That it's a total rip-off of arguably the greatest platform game ever - the infamous Super Mario Brothers - doesn't detract from it either, but it does explain why you can't lay your hands on this clone. Once again Nintendo moved swiftly to put a stop to this game appearing on the shelves after it noticed the similarity. The German version substituted two punky girls for the famous New York Italians and gave the screen vaguely different layouts, but the gameplay is exactly the same. Brick-headbutting, bonus collecting, hidden doorways, nasties, and utter addictivity added up to a watertight case. Rainbow Arts were caught red-handed which is why you should do everything in your power to find a version.
Discovery If we're talking classic game constructions then it's impossible not to mention the brickbusters. Based on a near archaic arcade machine called Breakout, Taito's updated version sent quite a few people mad, and revived a craze years after it had gone out of fashion. It also started a landslide of clones and sequels which never caught the flavour of this Canadian conversion. The idea is simply to use a paddle to knock down a wall of tiles, but as the wall breaks down, so the ball speeds up. Bonuses make your job easier as the walls become ever harder to demolish, but trying to catch them can lead to disaster. The intensity of concentration needed to complete it at one sitting is awesome, but Arkanoid does wonders for your hand-to-eye co-ordination.
US Gold If arcade conversions find their way into this all-time classic list, then it's mainly because they invented a complete new genre or simply took it to the limit. Gauntlet did both. When it appeared in the arcades five years back it broke new ground as the first genuine multi-player game. Once again it was a skilful blend of styles, taking the ever popular D&D concept and throwing it in with maze exploration and tumultuous beat-'em up action. As many as four players - a wizard, a warrior, his female counterpart and a goblin - could take part in a level by level search for bonuses, and most importantly an escape route from the constantly generated ghouls that attacked you. Part of the fun was the whole buddy pact it engendered - you watch my back, I'll watch yours. US Gold's conversion of the sequel captured the style, action and, crucially, the sound its first efforts had missed.
Grandslam Quite who has the rights to this old classic isn't clear any longer. You can go a long way back, probably as far back as the Dark Ages and find people playing this one because it has that beautiful simplicity about it that makes it timeless. It can't possibly stretch the Amiga's capability (the graphics were simply downloaded) and it has as much depth as a page three model, but once you take control of that little yellow smiley and leg it round the screen it no longer seems to matter. Pacmania may look dated, but that doesn't undermine its appeal.
CU Amiga, August 1991, pp.66-68
Palace If you come home in a barely restrained bloodlust and you're not the kind of person to take it out on the dog, then Barbarian is the answer. Questions were asked about its suitability when it was released, and it has to be admitted that few more violent and graphic beat-'em ups have ever been created. It's simple sword combat is spliced together with a gruesome beheading sequence that so well done, you can't wait to find another victim and remove his head as well. Brawn triumphs over brain here every time, but Palace's sequel Barbarian II, followed the lead set by The Last Ninja and gave the game an arcade adventure slant that takes It into another dimension. Which one you prefer is simply a matter of your barbarism.
CU Amiga, August 1991, pp.66-68