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