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SCREENPLAY THROUGH TIME

There's just time for a final look back at some of the finest games to have graced Screenplay before the final credits roll...

L ike everybody who works for Amiga Format, I'm very sorry to see the magazine closing. There probably isn't a good way to go out, but we decided that it would be best to focus on the positive, so here are my thoughts on some of the titles that made the Amiga such a great games platform. I hope you'll forgive my self-indulgence in getting all dewy-eyed about the games of yesteryear, and be able to understand that this is a strictly personal retroperspective. I'm sure that each of you will be thinking of at least one game that I should have mentioned, but have left out. The chances are though, that most of you will be thinking of different games. There were so many, you see. You might notice that sports and simulator games aren't mentioned much here, which is simply because I've never really been into them, which isn't to say that there weren't damn good games in those genres; it's just that I didn't notice them at the time.

The first game I remember playing on the Amiga was Robocop 2, which I suppose means that I entered the market rather late. Having been used to playing Spectrum (and before that Dragon 32) games, I was dumbstruck. What I remember most about that game was the quality of the sound, especially the ker-chunk of Robocop walking about. It seemed to me that the main sprite was huge, and fantastically well animated. I'm sure that Robocop 2 used a picture of a face becoming more scarred the more injured you became well before Doom.

At this time I was staying with my sister and one of her flat-mates had an Amiga and I saw much more of him and his games than I did of my sister. A few days later we went into town and bought Z-Out, which was fatal. We were there until the wee small hours playing a superbly fast shoot-'em-up which allowed two players to play at the same time. It's a surprise my sister still talks to me. Eventually I got kicked out and had to find a way to buy my own Amiga.

Turrican 2 - See? Less arm waving, more action equals more fun. One of the mail-order catalogues was daft enough to give me credit to buy my own A500+ Cartoon Classics pack, and while Bart Simpson vs the Space Mutants was a distracting enough romp around Springfield, it was another game that held my attention most (see Ridiculous Rodents). Since I was making repayments for the computer it was some time before I had the money to buy full-price titles, so I'd make do with budget re-releases or compilations and playing all the demos available on coverdisks. I seem to recall Turrican 2 being available cheaply, and playing it solidly until I'd completed the game. Huge end-of-level baddies, a great combination of weapon powerups (what was there? lasers, spread shot, lightning bolts and that fantastic weapon that could shoot through 360 degrees), loads of stuff to collect and distinct level design kept me going. There were probably too many extra lives available, but it was still a great game. My father gave me Strider 2 for Christmas, which is a Turrican-esque game, but not nearly as good as the first Strider game.

At some point I bought a Psygnosis compilation, but the only game I remember spending much time playing was The Killing Game Show. This was a very fast, very tricky platform game involving much jumping, shooting and puzzle solving. When your little robot got blown up, you could fast-forward through the level that you'd just played until you got to the point where you'd messed up and then resume control, which was a very novel way to approach game saves that I've never seen repeated.
James Pond flounders all over the plaice in Robocod. Staying on the subject of platform games, but skipping a few years, I thought that all three of the James Pond games were excellent, most especially the second installment, Robocod - highly addictive, very colourful and gloriously silly.

Game shows are a lot more fun if they're on a pinball table. Coverdisk demos remain a great system for try-before-you-buy, and one that I remember very well was for Pinball Fantasies. The first game in the series, Pinball Dreams, had been rated very highly by most reviewers but I remained unconvinced that I wanted to go out and buy a pinball simulator. A crafty move by Digital Illusions was to release a demo of the Partyland table that cut off after a few minutes play, and then you'd have to reboot and reload to play it again. The trouble was that it was so damn addictive that you just had to play and play, until you eventually gave up and went and spent your money on a copy of the game. Those pinball games were sheer genius in their application, and I'm sure many a shift key got irreparably damaged by careless pounding.

Sim City gave you the chance to be a town planner. You just didn't get paid. Back in my youth I never really had the patience for resource management or god games, although I do remember really getting off on causing earthquakes, floods and moving mountains in Populous. Not to mention sending off those little knights to burn and pillage. Sim City held my attention for a while, but I'd make a terrible town planner. Even worse that that, though, I have to confess to never having played Civilization. Shocking isn't it? Suffice to say no game gets a reputation like Civ's without good reason, and I'd offend far too many people by not mentioning The Settlers, on the other hand, I played a lot. The woodcutters and foresters doing their thing, the pig farmer delivering to the butcher, the miller milling about. Lovely. Such a therapeutic way to spend a few hours.

Monkey Island still gives some readers problems all these years later. Point and click adventures are always fun until you get completely stuck. If you were lucky you'd find a solution in Amiga Format, if not, you'd probably wander about racking your brain for a while and asking your chums. But figuring these things out always paid rewards with such splendid titles as Monkey Island, Beneath a Steel Sky and the ever-popular Simon the Sorcerer (will we see the sequel soon? Let's hope so). Humour, lateral thinking, exploration and imaginative locations were the elements that gave these games their lasting appeal.

An action replay in Sensible Soccer allows goal scorers to gloat. Back to the violence. Cannon Fodder was one of the most controversial games to reach the Amiga, with the British Legion insisting that a disclaimer be added to the game because poppies were used in the game to commemorate fallen comrades. It's hardly surprising with a theme tune that ran: "War never been so much fun". But the game was fun a lot of fun. With a control system that was near perfect, vehicles to commandeer, grenades and rockets to throw about, four different types of terrain and loads of missions, it was fantastic. Mind you, I think the sequel was better because it was a little bit easier, so I managed to complete it. So, nice one Sensible Software. And while we're on the subject, Sensible Soccer. I'm not a big fan of sports games, but this one was one of the most popular series of football games ever and deserves a recognition as such.

Another World - the first of Delphine Software's classic titles. A few games stand out for their innovation. Another World and then Flashback were the first games I encountered that contained animated cut-scenes, and were wonderfully polished and involving. Hired Guns was outstanding for allowing four players all using the same computer to play simultaneously in a role playing game. What's more it remained an immensely playable game with just one player controlling four characters via a fantastic user interface.

Controlling four players in Hired Guns was relatively simple. In the ten months that I've been writing for Amiga Format, I've been lucky enough to review some very good games. The ones that spring to mind immediately (in no particular order) are Wasted Dreams, Superfrog, Phoenix Fighters, WipEout 2097 and Heretic 2. Richard reviewed Foundation the Director's Cut, but from where I was sitting it looked excellent, and Napalm was a bit before my time at the magazine I've not had time to play it, but I'm assured it's magnificent.

I hope that I've managed to muster fond memories here, and that I haven't offended anyone too much with my glaring omissions. Isn't the Amiga simply wonderful?
Paul Cavanagh

Amiga Format, Issue 136, May 2000, p.p,32-35

RIDICULOUS RODENTS
Lemmings - Let's go! They were so keen to get splatted. Like thousands of others, I was hooked on Lemmings. The cuteness, the infuriating difficulty, the way in which many of the levels could be completed in a number of different ways helped to make Lemmings the legend it has since become. Looking back now, it's difficult to remember how original the game was at the time. The trouble is that there have been so many clones as well as all the official add-ons and sequels (Oh No! More Lemmings! was followed by Holiday Lemmings, then Lemmings 2 The tribes and the disappointing All New World of Lemmings. Other platforms have seen Lemmings Paintball and Lemmings 3D as well. I must confess that I eventually suffered Lemming fatigue. But the fond memories of ripping the box off my first Amiga and playing well into the night remains with me.

Lemmings 2 introduced a load more skills for the lems to learn. Quite how DMA Design made such charming characters from tiny little sprites, and animate them so convincingly is still a mystery to me today. There were some superb details in the game I particularly remember the spurts of flame being wonderfully animated. And I can still hear the music, most especially that version of How Much is that Doggy in the Window with the cows mooing away madly fantastic. The Amiga version was the original and the best, and while the game has been ported to over twenty platforms including C64, Spectrum, Gameboy, PC, Mac and Playstation it will always be an Amiga game to most people.

BROTHERS IN ARMS
Xenon 2 had a very unique look and feel. In any poll of favorite Amiga games, you're sure to find a few by the Bitmap Brothers. Funnily enough, two of the games that need mentioning were sequels, and I'd never played the original in the series. Xenon 2 was a mightily difficult (I Thought) shoot-'em-up featuring bizarre organic looking bad guys, and some awesome music by Bomb The Bass. It looked and sounded great, but I was just too much of a wuss to stick with it for long.

Ice cream! Ice cream! So spoke the vendor in Speedball 2. Speedball 2 wasn't a game for the light hearted either. I got much more into this futuristic football game, where you could genetically mutate your team and inflict maximum damage on the opposition. Two player games were always a giggle, while a player on their own would have real challenge beating the game's own teams. The Bitmaps made a point of making their characters computer-controlled unpredictable and seemingly intelligent, which was also a major selling point for Gods along with some very slick presentation and mind-taxing gameplay. The Chaos Engine was rather like Gauntlet, except that if you didn't have a friend to play with, the computer would take over the second player and do it very convincingly indeed.

A HIGHLY ESTEEMED TEAM
There were numerous big name publishing/development houses for the Amiga: Gremlin, Psygnosis, Microprose, Electronic Arts, Bullfrog et cetera. For my money though, you couldn't get better than Team 17. As far as I can remember, they never released a duff game. And if I was going to spend money on a full price game it would probably have been one of theirs. They pandered to my tastes you see, releasing highly polished, involving, fast, arcade-style games.

The Alien Breed are coming out of the walls. Game over, man. Alien Breed was unforgettable, especially in two-player mode. The computer terminals where you could play Pong before buying weapons power-ups were great and have since been emulated in many different games. The way that you had to rush to the lift before the deck detonated at the end of a level, with the screen turned red because of the emergency lightning was a sure way to get your palms sweating. The guns, the aliens, the explosions, and the sound effects were all terrific.

A very pretty but dead tricky level of Project X. Despite what Ben had to say about T-Zer0, I still maintain that Project X was the best shoot 'em up to grace the Amiga. Sure, it was damn difficult, and until it was re-released on budget there was no cheat mode. But it was beautiful to look at and the music and speech effects were sharp, and really added to the gameplay. The weapons powerup system was great too, you had to save up icons to get the better weapons (one for speedup, two for guns, three for missiles et cetera) then waggle the joystick to activate your chosen weapon. I believe similar technique was employed in Team 17's Apidya, but I don't remember seeing it elsewhere on the Amiga.

When I reviewed Superfrog recently I really couldn't stop playing it, so if platform games are your thing buy a copy of Epic. There were just too many great games to fit in here, but Qwak (budget platform game), Arcade Pool, Assassin (like Strider) and Body Blows all deserve a mention for being great examples of the genres they represented.

Come on then! The Worms get nasty. 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 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.

Oh yeah, and Nightlong, expected from ClickBOOM any time now, was originally developed by Team 17 too.