Entropy antics

Chaos Engine 1 logo Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

RENEGADE * £25.99 * 1 meg * Joystick * Out now

The Bitmap brothers are two of the most respected software producers of all time. Their releases include such triumphs of programming as Speedball and Magic Pockets and their latest - The Chaos Engine - looks to be no different. I liked the look of The Chaos Engine before I'd even clapped eyes on the game. The adverts in the press sporting the six psychotic looking weirdos sorted that out.

The story behind a game has always been very important to me. If the storyline is weak then the game becomes just that - a game. But if there is a good tale to get your teeth into, you're prompted to think about the game and become more involved in it that you usually would.

CE is set in a world similar to our own - not exactly free from trouble and strife. In a castle near to a town there lives a mad professor type. As per usual the experiments he is conducting are far from your average medical research.
Even so there is nothing that the locals can do, mainly because they are too scared and none of the experiments have really done any damage until now.

Everything went quiet at the castle for a while and the professor was rumoured to be dead. Some people in the surrounding area did know what was going on and the talk of something called the Chaos Engine, a weapon of massive proportions.
People in the village started being attacked by horrible mutations and eventually began to realise that it was the Chaos Engine which was warping space and time causing these freaks of nature. The machine, naturally, had to be stopped before it destroyed the world.

The players must battle through the four worlds, each of which contain four levels. To shut down the Chaos Engine you have to choose two reckless psychopaths to go in and kill hundreds of dribblling beasties.

Of course there are loads of people lining up to do this sort of job, but you have a shortlist of six nutters from all walks of life - a preacher, a navvy, a mercenary, a gentleman and a thug. Each character has different attributes and a special power (this is starting to sound like Street Fighter 2) but more about that later. Every two levels there is a shop. This is where you choose your local friendly psychopath. When you select one of the volunteers, measurement bars show health, intelligence, skill and speed.

On these measurement bars is shown the potential maximum of that particular aspect and the actual level. The potential level of the navvy's intelligence, for instance, will be relative low but this can be increased by "buying" him some intelligence when you have the option to go shopping.

Also on this shopping screen are facilities to buy extra lives, increase any of your attributes and buy other special skills like monster repellent and the like.
After you have chosen the character you want you have to choose one for the computer, assuming that you aren't playing with a friend. The amount of intelligence the character you choose has dictates how much he gets involved. If he is relatively thick then he will tend just to protect himself and ignore you. However, as the game wears on he will begin to get a little more involved.

You view the game from a slightly offset plan view. To progress through the level you must find silver sets of keys which will open doors and passageways. Just because there is a natural progression through the game with the existence of the silver keys, this doesn't mean it becomes uninteresting. Gold keys open up different sections on the games revealing money and special powers.

At the end of the level you are shown an appraisal screen which tells you how much of the level you discovered, what percentage of the gold you picked up and who did the most work. How much you do on your particular level decides how much of the treasure you get.

There are all manner of beasties from trolls to gigantic hands which follow you around but on the whole they are pretty easy to dispatch. Remember to hang around after you have bumped them off, though, because they always leave a bit of money lying around.

Graphically Chaos Engine is pretty flawless - no matter what all the other magazines say about it looking typically Bitmap-esque. The screen scrolls excellently around your character, plus you don't have to put up with waiting for your partner if he goes off-screen.

If you leave your partner well behind he will materialise next to you after a couple of seconds. This doesn't apply if he is a human character - if he wands off-screen, you have to wait for him to catch up.

To get through the levels, not only do you have to find all the silver keys ut you have to activate the nodes. These are large monolith-Like things which seem rather uninteresting until you shoot them a bait. Then they turn into massive pulsating marital aids.

You have to activate all of these to get the exit open to the next level. On later levels there is more than one exit so it can get a little confusing, but this doesn't detract from the fun.



Chaos Engine 1 logo

The Bitmaps are back! Famous for such Amiga classics as Speedball 2 and Gods, the Brothers have spent the last year in a country hideaway, only recently emerging armed with a strange box marked 'Chaos'!

"Node activated. Exit open." A sampled voice emerges from the monitor's speakers, and believe me, it's never sounded so good...
1991: Renegade brought us the Bitmap Kid, shade-wearing star of Magic Pockets, which received critical acclaim and won its star appearance on TV. After over a year in development, the next game on from Pockets which brings a whole Bitmap Gang to your Amiga.

This gang is cooler than cool, but they are not likely to show up on Saturday morning telly. No, this group of mercenaries are more likely to be seen on the set of Bladerunner than anywhere else. The Bitmaps are back with a vengeance, combining solid gameplay, atmospheric sound and that distinctive graphical style that adds their touch to each game.

Let's play catch up
The Chaos Engine revolves around two players, chosen from the six available characters, which are controlled either by two players or one human and your Amiga. Each character has different abilities and armaments; for instance, the Gentleman is quick but he can't take much damage, while the Navvie is slower, but can sustain loads of injuries.

The two chosen players run independently through the 16 levels, which scroll around so that both players are always on screen at the same time. If you're playing two-player, then each character has to wait for the other to catch up before he can move on, but in one-player mode the computer generally follows you around anyway, only taking the initiative if there are plenty of goodies to be had. Actually, this is just me being cynical - the Bitmaps have done very well building intelligence into the computer players.

Although you will always be the stronger force, the automatic player is certainly a worthy addition to a team, not just another spare part to have along for the ride. The monsters' intelligence is rather impressive, too: they won't walk into your line of fire, but instead they will manoeuvre themselves into a position where they can shoot you without being hit.

The levels are split into four worlds, each with a completely different graphical style. The differences don't stop there, though, because each world throws up entirely new challenges for you to puzzle and ponder (as well as loads of new monsters for you to blow to Kingdom Come). While playing you will often find yourself at a loss, because you seem to have done everything you can, and yet the magic words "level complete" have not been spoken.

On closer inspection of a set of gargoyles, or one of the strange rock formations, you will notice that there is something a little strange about them. Maybe it is facing a different way, or there is a subtle carving which doesn't appear on the others, but definitely different. This is part of the puzzle element of the game, where you don't spot the obvious until you've almost given up hope.

Then, a simple shot from your weapon or special ability will remove the strange object, uncovering a set of keys which enable you to move on. On first sight, the game seems like an out-and-out blast, and a very good one, but subtle puzzles such as this make it head-and-shoulders above anything in the genre.

The special ability is a specific weapon or aid given to each player, in order to help define his role I the game. The real hard-knock characters are given really meaty special abilities, such as bombs and dynamite, while the gentleman is equipped with a map, and the preacher has a first aid kit. Although this ability is already with them, you can't actually activate it until you pick up a power-up, cunningly titled 'special power'. These are strewn throughout the levels, and up to six may be stored by each player.

The special powers come in useful at certain points throughout the game, but not as useful as weapon power—ups. These can sometimes can be found in the game, or bought from the shop for a large amount of money, but either way you must arm yourself well for the later levels.

The first give your fire extra power, but later power-ups actually give you more bullets, so confrontations with the more vicious monsters are slightly less one-sided. Eventually, after parting with a few thousand credits, you'll be heavily armed, but fortunately your player doesn't slow down under the extra weight.


Solid gameplay, atmospheric sound and distinctive style

The money monster
Money may be gathered by several means: the monsters drop one of several currencies when shot, and these may be picked up for varying amounts of credits. Sometimes lucrative stashes of loot may be uncovered by picking up a set of gold keys, and then it's a race to see which player can gather the most cash. Often it becomes a real-life fight as well, with the two players trying to physically stop the other from being greedy - at least, it gets that way after several hours of constant play.

To make your way through the game, you must locate sets of silver keys. When these are picked up, a blocked passage will become unblocked somewhere on the landscape, enabling you t advance further into the game. Picking up keys will almost always activate other monsters, so watch out for quick ambushes after you've stolen your booty.

The main point of the game is a no-holds-barred shoot-em-up, where the object is to race around shooting monsters, gathering treasure and looking for the exit. But it's not quite that simple, because the exits are actually closed until you find and shoot the right objects to open them. These objects are called nodes.

Nodes are located in varying numbers at set points in each landscape. They look a little bit like totem poles, and when activated they turn into something resembling a chess-piece with a ring moving up and down the stem. Only when all the nodes from a level are activated does the exit open. Some levels actually have more than one exit, so shooting different combinations of the nodes opens different exits. If you manage to shoot all the nodes on such a level, you will find a small A or B above each exit, and you must take your pick.

Run the Gauntlet
As you may have gathered by now, The Chaos Engine is a complicated game. You can play it as a fast shoot-'em-up, but to get full enjoyment out of it some thought must be employed to work out the patterns and strategies involved.

The statistical panel which appears after completion of a level tells you just how much loot, keys and nodes were available, and just how many were actually collected - including percentages. You will sometimes be surprised at how low the percentage is, because you thought that you had collected everything from the level. This makes you want to play the level again and again until you manage a decent percentage.

The amount of work, playtesting and detail gone into the game is obvious from the start, All the usual stuff is there, such as the Bitmap metallic graphics and the Bitmap shop. But also, if there is such a thing, the Bitmap attention-to-detail is as obvious here as it was with Speedball 2. The way your characters move, the way their guns recoil, the way the monsters get knocked back when shot, it's very detailed and technically very clever.

Techno techno techno
The music always suits the mood, and while it's mostly techno, it never gets repetitive. The sound effects are superbly sampled; from the reassuring voice that informs you of your collections and exit status, to the satisfying 'chink' when you pocket some coins, they are subtle and fit the game well. Added touches, such as the cricket samples which constantly play while you're running through forests, add much to the already tense atmosphere.

If there was one criticism, it would be the lack of momentum on the characters, which worked so well with Speedball 2. It's obvious on later levels why this wasn't included - the amount of monsters, characters and fire-power the programmers have crammed on screen with hardly any loss of pace is incredible.

Yes, it's derivative of lots of games such as Commando and Gauntlet; but it's done so well, and includes so much detail, that all that is forgivable. On one-player mode, with just you and your Amiga against the nasties, it's a great game. Add a second joystick, with a mate attached to the end, and it becomes a classic.


WHAT'S IN STORE DOWN AT THE BITMAP SHOP?
Chaos Engine 1
  1. Your character's ability ratings: Skill, Health, Speed and Intelligence. The latter is only for the computer player.
  2. Here's where you adjust the skills of your characters. It all costs money, y'know - an extra life is £500.
  3. Two characters are in play - this is the one that's selected.
  4. Your money, along with the selected ability.
  5. When you're out of money, leave the screen here.
  6. Cash may be picked up in the game - this is how much you've got.
  7. The character currently selected.
  8. The number of available lives.
WORLDS APART

THE FOREST
This is a world of swamps, mud-pits and pond-life. This includes mutant frogs, swamp-monsters, and, if you look carefully, you can even see a mushroom...

THE WORKSHOPS
Pink, very pink - but don't let that fool you, this is far from a soft level. Here, you see the guys in a macho pose, waiting for some monsters to come along.

FORTESQUE MANSION
The two heroes come across some nightmarish brutes hell-bent on squashing them. Problem is, they are not on the same level, so shooting them is difficult.

THE CELLARS
The final level, complete with lethal ice-hockey pucks and phenomenally tough lightning balls. Oh, and there are some puzzles involving sewers too.

CHARACTER ASSASSINATION

Chaos Engine 1 BRIGAND
He's an all-rounder, with three special abilities. Don't be fooled by his big gun - it's not very powerful. First special - short burst.

Chaos Engine 1 NAVVIE
The strongest character, with a heavy gun so he's quite slow. Limited abilities, low intelligence. First special - dynamite.

Chaos Engine 1 MERCENARY
Another good all-rounder, with average speed and intelligence. He can have up to three specials. First one - bomb.

Chaos Engine 1 THUG
Stupid but strong, apparently based on Renegade's Project Manager Graeme. First special - Molotov.

Chaos Engine 1 GENTLEMAN
Very intelligent, but has a weak weapon. Very fast, with four specials. First special - map, so he's good to have around.

Chaos Engine 1 PREACHER
Smart and fast, but low stamina. First special - first aid. Similar to Renegade's Tom Watson, apparently, but with more hair.


Chaos Engine 1 logo Amiga Joker Hit

Es gibt kurze Verspätungen, und es gibt lange. Es gibt solche, wo sich das Warten gelohnt hat, und andere, wo man gar nicht erst gewartet hat. Und dann gibt es noch die Chaos-Machinerie der Bitmap Brothers...

...wo mit der chaotischen Verspätung von über einem Jahr ein Spiel auftaucht, das so gelungen ist, daß man glatt noch ein paar Monate darauf warten würde, nur um es zocken zu dürfen!

Mit Zeit hat auch die Story zu tun, mit dem Roman "The Difference Machine" von William Gibson und Bruce Sterling trotz etlicher Ähnlichkeiten angeblich wenig: Im viktorianischen England durchbricht ein Wissenschaftler mit einer von ihm erdachten Maschine das Raum-Zeit-Gefüge, um die Menschheit in eine bestienbeladene Dimension zu verfrachten.

Bevor man dem Chaoten nun das Handwerk legen kann, gilt es, am Charakterscreen ein digitales Alter Ego zu erwählen. Sechs Helden stellen sich zur Verfügung, wobei vom kampfgestählten Söldner bis zum grübellastigen Dottore jeder mit unterschiedlichen Waffen und Eigenschaften (Schnelligkeit, Ausdauer etc.) aufwartet. An ein Rollenspiel solltet Ihr jetzt aber dennoch nicht denken, schon eher an ein "Gauntlet" der Superlative...

Das Schlachtfeld umfaßt vier multidirektional scrollende und in Level unterteilte Welten: das Geschehen ist stets von oben zu sehen. Solospielern wird ein rechnergesteuerter Kumpan zur Seite gestellt, im Team ballert man sich ohnehin gemeinsam durch die Wälder, Industrieanlagen oder Kellergewölbe.

Aufgabe ist es, jeweils eine bestimmte Anzahl von "Knotenpunkten" durch Berührung zu aktivieren, wobei an phantasievollen Kanonenfutter ebensowenig Mangel herrscht wie an hilfreichen Extras, die für mehr Waffenpower, Landkarten, Smartbombs oder Zusatzleben gut sind. Derlei Goodies hält freilich auch der Shop am Ende mancher Abschnitte bereit, bloß muß dort halt mit barer Münze bezahlt werden - wie gut, daß Leistung hier über das anfängliche Startkapital hinaus finanziell honoriert wird.

Soweit, so "Crack Down". Was den chaotischen Maschinisten trotz der bekannten Grundidee vom Durchschnitt abhebt, ist das grandiose Gameplay: Egal, ob man den kürzesten Weg durch die Landschaft wählt, alle Ecken genau auskundschaftet oder sich aufs Ballern konzentriert, stets gibt es versteckte Level-Ausgänge, Schlüssel zu geheimen Bonuskammern oder neue und interessante Gegnertaktiken zu entdecken.

Sporadische Knobel-Einlagen sorgen dabei ebenso für Motivation wie die Bitmap-typische Grafik mit ihren perfekt animierten Sprites und den Pixelkunstwerken im Hintergrund. Fast noch beeindruckender ist die Begleitmusik, denn sie paßt sich in Tempo und Stil ständig der aktuellen Spielsituation an, so daß Gefechtspassagen von heißen Rhythmen und einsame Pfade von schmeichelnden Tönen beschallt werden.

Alles in allem haben die Bitmap Brothers mit Chaos Engine ihrer Sammlung an Klassikern wie "Xenon II", "Speedball" oder "Cadaver" ein weiteres Prunkstück hinzugefügt - was anderes hatten wir von den jungs auch gar nicht erwartet! (rl)



Chaos Engine 1 logo

Another long-awaited game finally shows its face. Hurrah.

We're a couple of weeks into the New Year now, and it's time, I think, for some resolutions. We're all going to give up smoking for a start (er. Not that any of us actually do, but it's the thought that counts), and we're going to do everything we can in the pages of AMIGA POWER to promote peace, love and global understanding.

Most of all, though, this year, no more Magic Pockets gags. Never again will the office reverberate to lines like "Did you hear about the man who played Magic Pockets with his Action Replay slow-Motion device on and went back in time?", no more pointing at slugs in the car park shrubbery and going "Ooh look, the Bitmap Kid's shades have fallen off". Nope, apparently poor old Eric Bitmap's a bit of a nervous wreck and a shadow of his bright and breezy former self on account of our good-natured japery over the 12 last months or so, so we're going to be nice to the young chap in '93.

And it's nice to see that, in the spirit of goodwill and reciprocal chummery, Eric and his Bitmap Boys have made things easy for us by releasing the kind og game that I honestly didn't think they had in them any more. Ladies and gentlemen, The Chaos Engine.

For almost certainly the highest-profile game programmers ever, the Bitmaps have been very quiet for a very long time. Since Gods, reviewed in our first issue there's only been Gods rewrite Magic Pockets, and we've already promised to stop making fun of that one.

You'd hope then, that they'd have spent all that time coming up with something pretty damn special. Usually in this business when you hope things like that you're only setting yourself up for horrible disappointment and disillusionment, but this time, blow me down if that isn't exactly what they've done. 1993's only weeks old, but if this isn't in my top 10 come December you can be assured that we'll just have had Amiga software's best ever year. I like this game. Her's why: it's fun.


The artificial intelligence is impressive

We see a load of games here, and most of them are technically competent. Very man of them are technically 'good', some of them are nothing short of programming genius, in terms of what they make the Amiga do. If you want an extreme example then the Dragon's Lair series (number three is reviewed elsewhere in this issue) is the most obvious one, but there are dozens, hundreds even of less glaring cases.

I'm thinking here of stuff like (just plucking a few names out of the air) Assassin, stuff like Nigel Mansell, stuff like Troddlers, stuff like Wolfchild (remember that? Thought not), stuff, indeed, like Gods and Magic Pockets (oops). You give 'em a play, you go 'Yes, yes that's all very nice', and you seize on the first possible opportunity to stop playing and go and do something else. Why? Because they're No Fun.

Then, of course, you get the stuff that isn't technically impressive (Asteroids, say, or Monster Business or Exile), but is great fun. None of it ever wins awards, of course, because your average punter goes 'Oh yeah, I remember that, it was great fun to play but it didn't sell as many copies as Street Fighter II so I can't possibly vote for it or people will laugh at me and I'll lose all my street credibility', but it's great fun all the same. And isn't that the idea? Isn't that what we're looking for? Entertainment? Fun? Blimey, everything looks really weird from up here on this horse.


The artificial intelligence is impressive

The point I'm desperately trying to wrestle to the ground, here though, is that just occasionally, maybe half-a-dozen times a year if you're really lucky, you get a game that does both. The Chaos Engine thing's been 'on the way' for so long that you really ought to know it backwards by now. Besides which, it's the plot, it doesn't matter. Not mattering is its job. The only reason plots exist is to provide employment for down-on-their-luck writers desperate to earn a crust knocking out instruction manuals. So I say 'yah boo' to the plot ('cos I'm a crazy dangerous guy like that, and besides, plots can't hit you). You run about and you kill stuff, that's all you want to know.

Still, without going into the plot reasons for it, there's a pretty significant difference in the way that you run about and kill stuff in The Chaos Engine. It's not just you, y'see. In The Chaos Engine (have you noticed the fantastically subtle way I keep repeating the name of the game a lot, to burn it so indelibly into your brains that you won't be able to sleep until you've gone and bought a copy? Of is it just that I'm compensating for not mentioning it at all for the first page and a half of the review? Who can tell? Not me, I'm mad. I am. Gratuitous exclamation marks!!) you're accompanied on your stuff-killing antics by a second player.

'Hang on', you cry, 'doesn't that mean I'm going to have to go and get my socially-challenged mate Spotty round to my house every time I feel like a quick go? He smells funny.'Well, no. The clever thing about The Chaos Engine (Are you being sponsored by The Chaos Engine ? - Paul Merton is that even when there's only one of you, there's still two of you. (You've been drinking at lunchtime again, haven't you? - Ed) This seemingly-Unlikely state of affairs comes about because when you play, The Chaos Engine in one-player mode, the computer controls a second team member (you select a two-man team from a party of six characters with varying attributes), using an artificial intelligence routine which is, well, Technically impressive, to say the least.

The computer character is only allowed to do certain things (kill baddies, pick up treasure, shoot the nodes which open the level exits, but not use special abilities or collect the keys which reveal the various routes through each stage), but it does them is such a way as to be a pretty damn convincing substitute for another human being. In addition, in one-player mode the computer player brings added tactical depth to the game, as you can switch special abilities between the two characters and lots of other stuff that I'm not going to tediously shopping-list my way through now.


Superb arcade adventuring antics

It's not only your companion who's an individual character, though - the bad guys have a real feel of intelligent malice about them. There's no wandering dumbly into the line of fire here - the enemies all behave differently, and it's not rare to see one poke round from behind a tree and take pot-shots at you without ever leaving himself open to your return fire. What this means is that you get a real satisfaction from offing the little bleeders, and a near-overwhelming sense of triumph from actually completing a level.

Which brings me to my only real gripe - as far as levels are concerned, there are only 16, divided into four worlds of er, four levels each. While there's a huge number of different routes you can take through them, and a huge number of secret rooms and hidden bonuses and so on to discover, I'm a little worried that your average player will finish the game (albeit only having played maybe 50% of it) in a few days, especially since the password system it uses gives you infinite continues in all but name.

But no, I don't really care, I'm only trying (unsuccessfully) to create an illusion of critical balance. The bottom line is that, for a thousand tiny reasons which I haven't even begun to touch on (partly because I don't want to spoil the fun of discovering them for yourself and partly because I spent so much time at the start wibbling on about something else altogether), this is utterly excellent computer game entertainment. Even better than Magic Pockets.


NO I'M SORRY, I'M CONFUSED. WHAT'S GOING ON?
Chaos Engine 1
  1. Currently available specials.
  2. Current character status.
  3. Number of specials
  4. Special in use
  5. Weapon strength.
  6. Weapon in use.
  7. Buy extra life
  8. Increase skill
  9. Increase health
  10. Increase intelligence
  11. Increase speed
  12. Specials carried
  13. Name of special
  14. Current characters
Chaos Engine 1
  1. Current and maximum intelligence.
  2. Current and maximum speed.
  3. Current and maximum health.
  4. Current and maximum skill.
  5. Different specials available. Uses of specials are distinct from possession.
  6. The character's default weapon. It can be powered up, but you're always stuck with it.
  7. The current special. You can carry several, but you can only switch between them in shops.
  8. Characters available. Each of these charming and pleasant individuals has a different set of characteristics, different weapons, different strengths and weaknesses. They're just all pretty different, basically, is the concept we're looking at here.
MALE ORDER FROM CHAOS

Chaos Engine 1 This chap's the brigand. He's got a big gun that fires big bullets.

Chaos Engine 1 The Navvie. He's got an absolutely huge bazooka.

Chaos Engine 1 The Mercenary has a big automatic and throws bombs.

Chaos Engine 1 The Thug. He has molotov Cocktails for breakfast.

Chaos Engine 1 The gentleman. He carries a map.

Chaos Engine 1 The Preacher. He, er, preaches, actually.


Chaos Engine 1 logo

A Victorian steam-driven computer has run amok in the latest game from the Bitmap Brothers. Dan Slingsby gets all steamed up.

YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS
Remember Gauntlet, the arcade puzzle game were you had to run around a series of mazes, solving numerous puzzles, picking up a vast supply of keys and food, and blasting millions of nasties to smithereens? The Bitmap Brothers certainly do, as they've taken the aging coin-op classic as the basis for their new game, The Chaos Engine.

That's not to say it's a direct copy - no sireeee! What they've done, instead, is to revamp the gameplay, introduce a few new twists, incorporate some tasty-looking graphics, an excellent soundtrack and spot effects and generally beef things up all round.

What's more, they've also been taking a look at blasters such as Core's Warzone and Team 17's Alien Breed and introduced a two-player option, a huge number of special weapons and power-ups and a maze of interconnecting screens stuffed to the gills with all manner of mutated nasties to blast. There's even a Speedball 2-style equipment screen for increasing the stats of your two on-screen characters and enough tricks and traps to keep even the most hardened puzzle-fanatic happy.

The game's scenario bristles with inventiveness, even though it does owe a big debt to William Gibson's sci-fi novel, The Difference Engine. Although the action is ostensibly set in the Victorian Age, it's an era unlike anything you've read about in history books. The steam engine's power has been harnessed and used to create the world's first ever supercomputer. Unfortunately, the new steam-driven machine has run amok, its creator has disappeared and the local populace have been transformed into malformed mutants. And, as if all that wasn't enough, you've been given the task of clearing the whole mess up!

YOUR FUN TO BE WITH FRIEND
The first thing to do is decide whether you want a one or two player blast. The single player option teams your character with a computer-controlled buddy, while the two-player choice gives you the chance to race around the levels with a friend, helping them out of dangerous situations or leaving them to meet a grisly fate by sitting back and doing nothing.

After you've made your choice, it's then that you have to select your two men from a party of six battle-hardened mercenaries. Each character has their own special attributes and weapons, and it's only by experimenting with them all that you'll find the ones that best suit your playing style. For example, the Preacher is a bit lacking in the big gun department but is surprisingly quick on his feet. On the other hand, the Navvy is like a stampeding tortoise at the best of times, although he does pack a tremendous punch with one of the game's better weapons.

The other four characters - the Brigand, Mercenary, Gentleman and Thug - also have their own stats. Although these can be increased as the game progresses, their different attributes and skills vary immensely at the start of the game and can only be increased within tightly defined limits.

Once you've chosen which characters you want in your party, it's straight into the action. In total, there are four stages to blast through, and each of these is made up of four levels. Each stage has its own specific graphics, nasties and in-game music, but the basic gameplay remains essentially the same.

The idea is to shoot your way through each level, collecting as many different power-ups, keys, food, coins and special tokens as possible while blasting away the hordes of mutated nasties. Of course, it's not that simple, as each level is a maze of interconnecting pathways and the patrolling mutants warp onto the screen with little notice.

In order to escape the mayhem, there is always at least one exit per level, and these are opened by first finding, and then blasting, a specific number of nodes. These are scattered around each level and activated by shooting away their concrete casing. Once the required number have been activated, the exit will open and you'll be able to enter the next level.

Watch out for any remaining nodes once an exit has been opened as this indicates there's another exit somewhere on the level. It's worth heading for the new exit once you've polished off the remaining nodes as this will take you to a more advantageous position on the next level.

A-MAZE-ING
To locate each node, you first have to find the right pathway. With each level resembling Spaghetti Junction, this isn't easy as it first seems. To make matters worse, many paths are merely dead-ends or take you back to where you started from. To help out, there are a number of silver keys scattered throughout each level, and collecting these will open up new routes and close off existing ones.

For instance, a new bridge might appear so your player can cross a chasm or some steps unfold so that he can reach a subterranean passageway. There are also a number of gold keys to collect, and although these aren't essential to completing the level, they do reveal hidden areas positively stuffed with treasure.

There are various other goodies to pick up during the course of the game. These include health-boosting food icons, first aid kits, which fully restore a player's lost energy, and special 'Death Zone' tokes that, once collected, act as restart points once you've lost a life. Best of all are the numerous special weapon icons, which can include anything from Molotov cocktails and screen-shaking bombs to dynamite and power-shots. Keep a look out for map icons, too, as these prove invaluable to finding your way around a level and also detail the exact location of the nodes.

The first stage is set in dense woodlands surrounding the mansion where the supercomputer is housed. Almost immediately you and your buddy will be surrounded by a welcoming committee of mutants that warp onto the screen. In no time you're facing an army of stone-like creatures, huge frog-shaped leapers, and lunging lizard men.

The second stage takes in the surrounding grounds of the mansion and features another batch of nasties to take care of. The dilapidated Victorian architecture adds another dimension to the game and instils a real atmosphere to the proceedings.

GAME OVER MAN
Stage three is set inside the sprawling mansion complete with pitted and scarred floors, crumbing staircases and cracked walls. The mutated townsfolk also begin to take on a weirder aspect, too, with huge grabbing hands and spider-like bugs infesting the stage's many corridors and chambers.

The final stage takes place in the mansion's basement where the mad computer is housed. Sewer rats, mechanoid droids and missile banks inhabit the area, which is made up of dripping sewer pipes, steam engines and other such artefacts. Once you've managed to battle through that lot, it's time for a final showdown with the supercomputer.

The game's many puzzle-elements help spice up the gameplay. Although most are fairly easy to solve, such as collecting certain keys or blasting objects to trigger specific events or functions, some are quite complex affairs. One involves a series of transporters and a clever mirror image of a level so that a player can quickly become disorientated, but is easy to work out once you realise what is going on. Fortunately, the puzzles don't detract from the action, but complement it.

Overall, The Chaos Engine is a competent, eight-way scrolling blaster with enough in it to keep you coming back for more. The graphics are up to the high standards we've come to expect from Dan Malone, as is the excellent in-game tunes which keep tempo with the pace of the action, slowing down to a more subdued sound when there's little to blast and speeding up to a thumping rave beat when the screen is flooded with nasties.

If you liked Gauntlet or Alien Breed, then you'll also like this. It's by no means the best that the genre has to offer, but it's a frantic blast all the same.


POINTS MEAN PRIZES

Don't forget to collect as much cash and treasure as you can, as all the money you collect is poured into a central kitty and shared out at the end of every two levels. How much you get depends on how well you've performed. If you've done most of the shooting and collected more of the keys and specials, then you'll gain a greater share of the loot than your cowardly partner who has let you do all the running. But having mountains of cash isn't any good if you've nothing to spend it on. This is where the equip screen comes in. After the cash has been divided, you'll be offered the chance to spend some or all of it upgrading your character's skills and weapons. Extra lives, health, speed, power-ups and specials are now yours for the taking - at a price!

MONSTER MASH

Each stage has its own specific collection of nasties and each one has its own intelligence routines to carry out specific tasks. For example, some monsters spit or shoot deadly projectiles with varying degrees of accuracy while others will pursue a character no matter how hard you try to throw them of your trail. Still others will doggedly protect keys and strategic locations, while many can soak up shots like a sponge before they keel over and die. Each different nasty has its own unique ability - for instance, frogs leap through the air and can cover huge distances while huge stone-men can warp into the screen in an instant.

YOU'RE IN THE ARMOURY NOW

No blaster would be complete without a huge amount of power-ups and different kinds of weapon and The Chaos Engine is no different. The Bitmaps have included a vast array of special weapons with which to blow away the opposition. Each character begins the game with their own unique blaster. As the game progresses these weapons can be upgraded by collecting or purchasing power-ups. These can affect the number of shots fired, the damage they do, whether they travel through monsters and the spread of the fire. The best thing, though, is that once you've bought a power-up you can't lose it, even if you lose a life. By the end of the game, you should have built up a near invincible super-weapon for the final confrontation with the super computer.
As well as your main weapon, each player can also choose a number of special abilities. These can be either bought and held in reserve until needed or triggered during the game by walking into their on-screen icons. Specials include such wonderful maiming and killing devices as multi-shot dispersal bombs and huge screen-clearing fireballs.



Chaos Engine 1 AGA logo AGA

Already established as one of the all-time classic shoot-em-ups, The Chaos Engine finally gets an AGA incarnation. 10 months after its initial release.

You play one of two street-fighting mercenaries sent in to destroy a crazed machine and the plethora of nasties it has unleashed. There are four worlds and 16 levels to explore, plenty of tricky puzzles to solve and the usual selection of power-ups and bonuses to collect or buy at the end of every other level.

What made the original game brilliant was its extreme playability. A wicked two-player option, the eight-way scrolling, baddies pouring out of the walls and the pace of the action made The Chaos Engine one of the most addictive and thrilling Amiga games ever.

This AGA version retains all the original game's features and adds a 256-colour palette to the mix, so there has been quite a marked change in the way the backgrounds and sprites are coloured. The hulk monsters in World Two have swapped their orange glow for a healthy pink, for example, and there is a lot texturing and shading on virtually everything else. The rest is exactly the same as the standard version and, to be honest, you are only really going to need this if you are new to the A1200 or you have not got this fabulous game already.



Chaos Engine 1 AGA logo Amiga Joker Hit AGA

Die berühmten Bitmap Brothers haben hier eine Art "Super-Gauntlet" vorgelegt, das in alle Richtungen scrollt und auch einige Rolli-Elemente vorweisen kann.

In den vier von oben gezeigten Levels wimmelt es von lästigen Gegnern, versteckten Hintertürchen und kleinen Knobeleien - da hilt nur schneller schießen!

Weder das ausgetüftelte Gamedesign noch die stimmige Präsentation haben sich merklich verändert, auch die Paßwörter sind im Preis von 69 Schrauben immer noch mit drin. Folglich sind auch wir bei unser Meinung geblieben: Die Chaos machine ist ein Hit und verdient ihre 85 Prozent. (ms)



Chaos Engine 1 AGA logo AGA

Villanous Victorian shenanigans with enhanced graphics? Oh yes indeed.

Right then, this is another game in the continuing line of souped up, touched up or otherwise cosmetically enhanced games for the A1200. If you're already familiar with The Chaos Engine, or maybe on a bus with only two stops to go (and therefore pressed for time) then scan down the page to the 'Different is it?' section. If on the other hand you want the full lowdown on this steam-powered blaster, then read on.

VOYAGE
Taking off where Jules Verne left off, The Chaos Engine's set in an alternative Victorian era. Computers may be huge cast-iron things covered in neat little polished brass panels, but they're computers nonetheless, and someone's been using theirs to experiment with space and time. Like you do.

Needless to say, this has resulted in a huge rift in the space/time/thingy continuum, and everything around this mechanical monstrosity (the Chaos Engine) has been hideously warped. Enter the mercenaries, hired to reach the Chaos Engine and destroy it. Being Victorian, you've got a choice of suitably rogue-ish characters, from gentlemen and clergy to rough-and-ready navvies.

FULL STEAM
It doesn't take you very long to see that the game's based on a Gauntlet theme, which is a fairly tried and tested idea, but the game manages to pull it off by being just so damn gorgeous, you don't really care if it's a new idea or not.

For a start, the graphics are amazing. Rather than being a directly overhead view which means you see only the head, shoulders and feet of the characters (like in the Alien Breed games) you're looking down at an extreme angle. This forced perspective view means not only that you can see the characters faces and all their body, but also gives you a feeling of depth to the playing area.

The sound's not the sort of thing you can forget about either. A techno soundtrack blasts through the game and even gets excited with you as you get to the end of the levels. It's superb, and the deep and resonant voice that tells things like "Node Activated" and "Player Safe" isn't far from Mr Gravel-Lungs himself, Richard Burton.

And if that wasn't good enough, it's brilliant to play as well. In one player mode, the computer plays your companion in an astonishingly human way, and depending on which keys you pick up, you can wind your way through the levels a number of different ways. It's possible to complete a level and still have seen only half of it, so there's plenty of scope for playing it over and over again. Put simply, it's just all round total arcade brilliance.

DIFFERENT IS IT?
Not very, to put it bluntly. The expanded palette means that everything's zingier and better defined, and although this is a bonus over the original version, it's not enough to make you run out and buy both versions. The only other differences I noticed are that the passcodes are spaced further apart and the disk accessing time's shorter. Not much change at all, but then again, the original left little room for improvement.



Chaos Engine 1 CD32 logo CD32

Renegade * 071-481 9214 * £24.99 * Out now

Baron Fortesque as one heck of a clever chap. Last century, he built a machine which turned ordinary blokes, who probably went to work on the Clapham Omnibus into armour-plated killing machines. No doubt he would be flooded with freelance work these days. There are six of these fine fellows out there prepared to do or die in the World of Chaos and as luck would have it, you can be one of them. And your friend too. Or your Mum.

As almost-isometric-3D-shoot em ups-with-puzzle-solving elements go, The Chaos Engine is in the A stream. The six characters all have their peculiar strengths and weaknesses - the Preacher is quick and smart but low on stamina, whereas the Thug (hurrah) is slow and stupid but ploughs on regardless.

The puzzles ensure that despite the outward appearance of an out-and-out shoot-em-up, there is always an element of strategy involved. Written by the Bitmap Brothers, The Chaos Engine is an incredibly polished and extremely absorbing game. It's easy to get into, but difficult to put down, it's simple to control, but not so easy to do well with.

There are four graphic worlds to tackle (making a total of 16 levels in all) and they all look superb. The sound effects and sampling are excellent as well. But playability is the key to a great game and this is something that The Chaos Engine has by the truckload.

Before you start playing, be warned, this game could easily lose you a day.



Chaos Engine 1 CD32 logo CD32

Nachdem der Amiga bereits in sämtlichen Disk-Varianten bedient wurde, gibt es die Chaosmaschine nun auch auf CD - und damit die mit Abstand chaotischte von allen!

Als Grundlage für diese Version diente die nochmals verfeinerte A1200-Fassung mit ihren 256 Farben. Zusätzlich enthalten ist z.B. ein schickes, handgemaltes Intro samt Sprachausgaben, das die Geschichte der Amok laufenden Erfindung des Barons Fortesque erzählt.

Zur Bekämpfung der so entstandenen Monster wird ein menschliches oder (mit einem Digi-Söldner) gemischtes Helden-Doppel durch 16 in vier Grafikwelten eingeteilte Draufsicht-Labyrinthe gejagt.

Die Anleitung ist nun teilweise auch ins Spiel eingebaut, und das sogar in Deutsch - im Gegensatz zum Rest des Games und dem Papiermanual.

Aber durch die Gegend rennen, Ballern, kleine Ratselchen knacken, Geheimgänge erkunden, in den Shops einkaufen oder Schlüssel und Extrawaffen aufsammeln kann ohnehin jeder.

Zumal man die Steuerung noch etwas verbessert hat und die Paßwörter der "alten" Versionen nach wie vor gültig sind, wodurch sich die Charakterwerte der einst liebevoll aufgepeppten Helden mühelos in die Gegenwart herüberretten lassen.

Erfolgreich Hand angelegt wurde auch an die Begleitmusik und -effekte: Teilweise handelt es sich um einen Remix, teilweise auch um komplett neue Tracks, die sich ungefähr so anhören, als wären Pink Floyd auf den Dancetrip gegangen.

Für Freunde der amiganisierten Schillerscheibe ist The Chaos Engine jedenfalls ganz klar ein Pflichtkauf. Ja, selbst wer die Diskfassung schon hat, sollte sich überlegen, ob er sie nicht verscherbelt und sich das feine Spiel nochmals in der verbesserten, silbernen Ausführung zulegt! (mm)



Chaos Engine 1 CD32 logo CD32

Renegade, £29.99
Amiga Version: 89%, AP22 (A1200 91% AP34)

Hopefully you all know about this one by now (it's only four issues since we reviewed the A1200 version, which this is basically a port of), so I'll just mention that the new joypad control system in CD32 Chaos Engine is a seriously useful and gameplay-enhancing addition to a game that's already superbly playable, and lifts it straight into the CD32 top five. But then I'm absolutely certain that the music used to be better than this, didn't it?
Oh, I see. Must be my imagination, then.



Chaos Engine 1 CD32 logo CD32 CU Amiga Screen Star

RENEGADE, £29.99 OUT NOW

The Bitmap Brothers have been around quite a bit of late, so too have Renegade, but it was not too lang ago that these two stable mates were the toast of the Amiga software world. When first released, Chaos Engine was one of the finest shoot 'em ups around on any home system, and since then it has been converted to just about every other Commodore machine.

The Chaos Engine is a gigantic machine invented to explore time and space - and it has gone horribly berserk. The gigantic structure has begun to disrupt time so badly that human evolution has been altered and the human population has been mutated into various forms of monsters. The only solution is to gather together a team of men to find the machine and blow it to bits. Enter the mercenaries.

Players can choose between six hardened guns for hire. Each party must consist of two characters, one either computer controlled or manned by a second player. Each of the six warriors has his own specialist skills. The Thug is incredibly powerful, but a little stupid, the Preacher has all the smarts and the ability to heal, but he is not too good in a fight, while others, such as the Gentleman, are intelligent and the Mercenary is a good, all round fighter.

There are four monster-infested worlds to explore, each with four sub-levels. What makes Chaos Engine so intriguing though is its artificial intelligence. Each level is stuffed with different paths so that even when a world is completed you can go back and discover new avenues to follow. By picking up different coloured keys you can move parts of the scenery to find hidden rooms and weapons or by activating the various nodes in different order you can reveal other levels. When monsters are killed they throw up all kinds of surprises, like weapons or special gadgets of destruction, allowing each player to have his abilities beefed up.

With improved graphics, a cool intro and brilliant sampled CD speech Chaos Engine more than stands tall on the CD32. In fact I would say it is one of the best games you can buy for the machine. A classic shoot 'em up that is even better on the CD32. Definitely not one to be missed. Let us hope that the team are working on some spectacular CD32 specific products - they will be monstrous!