The Chaos Engine 2 logo

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

The Bitmap Brothers is probably one of the most respected software developers ever in the comptuer game industry. We have been brought delights such as Xenon, Xenon 2, Speedball, Magic Pockets, and Gods, amongst others.

At a time when the Amiga games scene was only just getting itself together producing the odd playable game, The Bitmap Brothers lifted high above everyone else especially in terms of graphics and playability.

Although Xenon was an excellent vertical scrolling shoot-'em-up, Xenon 2 was the biggest hit, it even managed to acquire a score of 108 per cent, believe it or not, in one of Amiga Computing's early issues.

After that, the games just kept coming - each one slightly better than the last, and in my opinion, the best was most definitely Speedball which was certainly beyond my expectations.

The Bitmap Brothers' last contribution was Chaos Engine, and then there followed an absence from the gaming scene - the company was still around but weren't producing anything. However, that's about to change.

When I heard that Chaos Engine 2 was supposed to be released, to be honest I was really surprised. The games market is slowly but surely disappearing, but a major developing team has come up with a major title. Blimey, things must be looking up.

As with all of Bitmap's releases, the graphics are excellent with smooth animation, making Chaos Engine a pleasure to play

If you played the original Chaos Engine you will realise that the second in the series looks remarkably similar, apart from some new levels. As far as the basic sprites and levels go they are almost the same, but the gameplay is different. This time more emphasis has gone into a two-player option where you can challenge each other.

The basic idea of the game is to pick up a key to open the door to the end of the level, and the first to do this wins. It's a simple idea which works superbly for a game like Chaos Engine. If you're playing by yourself, you will be working against the computer. You can pick up various power ups and weapon boosts to help you in your goal but, failing that, you can give your opponent a knock round the back of the head to stun him, giving you enough time to find the key and run away like hell.

Instead of coming out with your guns blazing, you can simply play cat and mouse and hide from your opponent - although not for long because there is a handy map which will point out your position.

Even if your opponent gets to the exit before you, you can still beat him because the game is based on points and as there are various bonuses lying around you can constantly increase your score. However, the biggest point bonus is finishing before your opponent.

During the later levels, you will have to encounter some robots and other obstacles which will do their best to stop you and your opponent, therefore making it much harder.

The main change you will undoubtedly notice in the game is that you can lean up against walls to dodge enemy fire. This is a simple but effective touch which gives you an extra second to think about your next move. Also, you can walk up and down stairs and jump off platforms which add more of a maze element to CE 2.

Sight and sound

As with all of Bitmap's releases, the graphics are excellent with smooth animation, making Chaos Engine a pleasure to play, and the tough challenge your opponent will present you, be it either human or computer, will increase the longevity of the game.
Actually, if you beat the computer opposition during your first bout, his intelligence will be increased for the next round, so before you think you're an expert and play again, remember that simple point.

The sound effects have an added touch too. As you get closer to your opponent or the exit the music and the tempo will increase, therefore making it more exciting. Once again, it's a small touch but one which contributes to making another excellently thought out game by the software developers we have come to admire.

Final word

Whether you thought CHaos Engine offered enough to warrant a sequel at a full price I can't say, but if you never had the opportunity to purchase the original then Chaos Engine 2 must be placed at the top of your list - ahead of anything else.

The Chaos Engine 2 logo

Right, outside now! Hugh Poynton takes on four hard blokes. And loses.

It's a couple of years since the Bitmap Brothers released its smash hit The Chaos Engine and the game sold like hotcakes because of the blend of playability, superb graphics and sound. The long awaited sequel, cunningly entitled The Chaos Engine 2, will be released this Christmas, virtually assuring the Bitmap Brothers another runaway success.

The story is simple enough. Professor and mad bloke extraordinaire Baron Fortesque builds a time machine which he christens The Chaos Engine (it's got to sound sinister and scary - you couldn't be called your time machine The Luv Bug could you now?)

This cowboy contraption blows up because he's been using dodgy spare parts or something and four hapless characters are lost in time. The only way they can get back is to help Fortesque rebuilds his dodgy machine. The one who makes the greatest contribution and gains the most points is granted his freedom.

You can choose to be one of four characters: The Gent - a pretty swish looking character with a pony tail (always a sign of quality) and a trench coat. Despite being armed with a pistol, he relies more on his sense of cool to keep him out of danger.

Then there is the Navvie - a bloke who looks like Bob Hoskins with a Zapata moustache and a lanky mop top. The slightly boring Brigand just looks shady and nondescript and finally, there is the Mercenary. It's not easy describing this guy because he just looks plain bizarre. The closest I can think of would be a grown up Charlie Brown with a psychotic grin and a pair of extremely thick Coke bottle bottom glasses.

Many things remain relatively unchanged from the original Chaos Engine. However, unlike the original, CE2 puts more emphasis on having two players competing for the same prizes which adds considerable pressure and excitement to the game.

The aim is also pretty much the same as the original - pick up as many bonus points as possible and find the key that enables you to leave that level and exit before your opponent. Sounds simple? Well it's anything but - when you're going head to head Quakewise with another opponent in a battle arena already packed with bad guys, the game gets very challenging.

Your success in the game is now much more dependent on tactics - you can play the game with all guns blazing making sure your opponent is constantly under so much fire he won't pose much of a threat. Alternatively you can hide and mug the guy when he steps in your direction.

Chaos Engine also includes a number of those little touches that add to a game. For instance, when your character runs out of ammo and you press your fire button, the little bloke faces the screen and gives a big comical 'ah well' type shrug.

If you are trying to dodge enemy fire, the characters can flatten themselves against walls in a 'Starsky and Hutch in a gunfight' fashion. Another touch differing form the original Chaos Engine is that you can run up stairs and jump down from parapets, adding (literally) another dimension in the game.

Chaos Engine 2 is a great game. If you don't have the original, go and buy this. If you do, it differs sufficiently from the original to make it worth the money, so go and buy it anyway. There is everything you'd want from a game here. The graphics are smooth and flowing, the action non-stop and there is a huge amount of playability.

The Chaos Engine 2 logo

Mention stabbing someone in the back and Andy Smith's eyes light up. He's erm, 'mad' for it. Or something.

Total competition, that's what this is all about. You versus the other person (who could be the computer if you so desire) in a frantic battle to reach each level's objectives. None of this co-operation nonsense. Just stab 'em in the back and stab 'em good. They're going to do the same to you as soon as they get the chance, so get in there first.

But back to the basics. You and a mate (or the computer) each control one of four characters who must run around a small area, attempting to collect things and complete small puzzles in order to reveal the exit.

Let's take the characters first. The main differences between them are their speed and their level of intelligence. Some will rush around the place getting to all the objects before you, while others are more concerned with trudging around desperately trying to kill you at each and every opportunity.

Basically, which ever one you pick as your adversary should dictate what kind of game you're going to have. The differences between the characters though is not marked as we'd hoped, certainly in the levels at least, it seems to make very little difference who you choose as your opponent.

Obey the Baron
The Navvy Onto the game tasks. Before each level starts you're told what you have to achieve in order to open the exit. These tasks range from pushing things from one place to another (never very far), to throwing switches, to destroying specific baddies. Points are awarded of your opponent and it's these points around which the game resolves.

In order to progress through the game you have to amass more points on each level than your opponent. Points are won by destroying baddies (including your opponent) and completing tasks. Points are lost when you are killed. And you will often be killed as all it takes is a couple of shots to polish you off. Even if your enemy has run out of ammo (each character is armed with a different weapons, but none of the weapons can fire more than a couple of shots before running out) if they manage to stand next to you and smack you in the mouth a couple of times you'll bite the dust.

The good thing about dying is that you're never dead for long and you can be dead as many times as you like during a level - all you're losing is points. The very bad thing about dying is that you drop all the items you've collected through the level and when they're on the floor your enemy can run over 'em and scoop 'em up. And yes, this does mean that in two player mode especially you can spend bloody ages stuck in the same room with your opponent as you each take it in turns killing and being killed over one key!

Three worlds
The two player mode is significantly different in that you pick a set number of levels to play (4, 8, 12 or 16) and these levels are selected from each of the game's three worlds: Medieval, Aztec and Chaos.

Although you're still competing, you don't have to restart a level if your opponent reaches the exit with more points than you (which obviously means you do have to restart a level in one player mode), you simply move onto the next level. The winner is the person with the most points at the end of the set number of levels. It's much easier for your chosen character to be 'upgraded' as well and this means you can take more hits and your weapon can fire more shots before running out.

In one player mode it's a laff. It's not a rip-roaring belter of a gaming experience, but it's satisfying. In two player mode however, things are much better. Not simply because you're playing against an unpredictable human, but because the game works better. In one player mode you'll be lamenting the fact that when you kill your enemy they only stay dead for a few short seconds - not usually long enough to gain a decent advantage over them. This doesn't matter quite so much in two player mode because the emphasis is slightly different and you get much more of a chance to do the old fave sneaky things (standing next to the exit when you know your opponent has the key and blowing 'em away just as they get to you!).

Double the fun
Despite the fact that you have four characters to choose from, you'll find the computer manages to control its character with consummate ease. The Navvy, for example, is supposed to be thick, slow and hard to kill. After just a couple of game you'll realise that he seems to know where all the keys are and where all the short-cuts to the keys are as well. And as for slow, well, he manages to zip around the place well enough!

In one play mode Chaos Engine is very, very tough. That means plenty of challenge for you, but unfortunately I found the enjoyment dissipating sooner than I expected, simply because the computer seemed to have way too much of an unfair advantage. Two player mode? Great fun.

The Chaos Engine 2 The Chaos Engine 2

The Chaos Engine 2 logo CU Amiga Super Star

Price: £24.99 Publisher: Warner Interactive 0171 391 4300

We waited... then we waited some more... and then, as if by magic, the game appeared. Yes, it's true - The Bitmap Brothers have finally returned. And how!

Ah, The Chaos Engine. Decidedly one of the flagship titles from the Amiga's haydays. And, I feel, one that was left with a very "To Be Continued..." feel to it. Yes, after all this time, after all the changes to the Amiga ownership and market, the sequel is finally upon us - authored by no less than the legendary coders, The Bitmap Brothers.

So what of The Chaos Engine? Well simple really. As the twisted remains of the heart of the Engine exploded, the face of evil Baron Fortesque (boo hiss) appeared, spoke and faded. The scientist steps forward and, after examining the wreckage, concludes that the baron has escaped and the only way to catch him now is to use the remnants of the machine to follow him; back in time...

Indeed. And so it is that the Gentleman, Brigand, Navvie and Mercenary find themselves trapped within the Chaos Engine, with escape only possible by helping the Baron rebuild the engine.

However, the Baron will only reward the character that helps him the most with their freedom, so it's a competitive game, pitting character against character as they attempt to accomplish the tasks set by the Baron. Whoever has the most points when the fat lady sings gets out. And the others... DEATH! Good stuff, eh?

On paper the idea behind the gameplay is a simple one. Each of the twisted engine-built worlds has a number of levels to work through. On each of these levels you have to collect a set number of special items to earn a key to the exit. Along the way you'll be solving puzzles, killing various monsters and collecting lesser items for points and, once through the door, have all of the above added to your overall score. Ah, but then there's the OTHER player to worry about.

Two can play
Yes, it's split-screen shenanigans ahoy, as you compete against either a second human player or a (bloody intelligent!) CPU-controlled opponent. And what fun! Just when you think you've collected the necessary objects, along comes Jonny Amiga, who shoots you in the back and nicks all your items!

Of course you can do the same back, or - if you're feeling particularly clever - make use of the various power-up icons that appear around the level. Trap doors (anyone remembers Spy vs Spy?) turn invisible, teleport the annoying sod all over the shop, and even freeze him to the spot while you kick him in!

Looking at the screen shots you might be tempted to think that being able to see your opponent would spoil the surprises in store, but the reality is that you're generally too busy to watch what they're up to, and because the level decor is consistent, even if you do take a peek, you're not always sure exactly where they are anyway.

Good show
Probably one of the most commendable things about Chaos 2 is the fact that, though it works at its best as a cracking two-player game, the single-player game is just as absorbing and thrilling.

Of course, you'll never enjoy trapping, tricking and cheating a CPU-controlled character as much as a mate, but believe me, you'll shout and swear with just as much fury when the CPU does you up like a kipper!

So there we are, after all this time; Chaos Engine 2 - an excellent game that proves the Amiga is still capable of producing products the 'wonder-consoles' and PC snobs will only ever be able to dream of. Cool.

Before each level the Baron's face appears to tell you about the task that lie ahead for the coming match. There will usually be a number of different sections to work through in order, with the completion of one opening the door to the next.

And remember; it's not just about who gets out first, but who has the most points, so don't think you can let your opponent do all the work and then simply nick the key at the end - you're gonna' have to get your hands dirty too!

Toys 'r' us!

Comparisons with aged classic, Spy vs Spy, are only further reinforced with the inclusion of special icons taht equip the player with various traps and special abilities. There are initially only a fw of these to play with, built as the levels progress and increase in size and complexity, each icon found becomes that much more precious. What say we go have a little look-see at but a few of the toys on offer?

Teleport: The little phone offers not the opportunity to call friends and family at cheap rate, but in fact teleports your opponent to that location a second or so after being dropped. This is superb fun if you're racing to the exit, as you can drop it on-route and cackle in a demented fashion as your nemesis gets transported back round the corner just as he thought was about to get through that al-important final door. Great.

Duplicate: An excellent 'confuse-your-enemy' toy that creates a clone of yourself that acts and thinks for itself. This is best if being chased (i.e. if you've got all the objects or a key) and you come to a split in the route. Drop a clone and watch as your opponent chases the empty-handed dupe around the level! BEst against human opponents (who you can then laught at when the copy dissolves).

Freeze: This is very good for taking control in a room full of creatures or for stealing keys without the risk of injury. Let this little icy-pop off and everything on the screen gets frozen solid for a few precious seconds. Particularly excellent for thwarting anoying little gits who like to wait for you to pop open the final door, then shoot you in the back and run through first. "Eat my Hotpoint, pants-face!

Trap: Probably the most 'Spy vs Spy' item in the game. Once activated, this icon 'traps' all objects on the screen (i.e. switches, doors, objects, etc.) This is a good for last ditch attacks if your opponent has all the items and keys, as you can rig the final door, hide around a corner (or turn invisible if you have another of the icons) and then run out a take the lot when he tries to unlock the exit (ina puff of smoke. I might add!)

A whole new world!

There are a variety of levels and worlds to play through in Chaos 2, each with their own unique graphical look and feel, and relevant baddies and objects. Though the idea and content remain the same no matter what the level, the levels do play very differently due to the changing attributes of the enemies, the designs of the later levels and the larger number of objectives for each location.

You might initially think it's all a bit too straightforward and linear, but believe me, once you get through the first few levels you'll have much more to worry about than simply shooting your opponent and getting through the door first!

Future World: The starting world acts as almost a training world (although training should never get so tough so fast!) and is particularly nice to start on as the layout tends to be very clear and obvious. As with all the worlds, there are tons of pressure pads to trigger, doors to open, rooms to explore, switches to, er... switch, and baddies such as robots, mad scientists and MORE robots to fight. The main objects to be collected on this world are circuit boards.

Mediaeval World: Here in the Mediaeval World the main collectible objects change from circuit boards to potions, but the theory behind it (Chaos theory, perhaps?) remains the same. The puzzles, however, start to come into their own on this world, with much more jumping between levels, and good use of power-up icons becoming necessary to mess up your opponent's progress. You've also got a larger number of knights and serfs to compete with here. Grr, let me at 'em.

Aztec World: As you'd expect from a world filled with secret temples and religious icons, the Aztec scenarios are heavily trapped and chock-full of puzzles. The main objects you're looking for here are large crystal gems, but you're not the only one on the jewel hunt, as large jaguars attempt to creep off with the goods while you and your opponent bicker over power-ups ad health! Watch out for bats hiding in the walls and various Chaos creatures roaming the tight corridors.

Chaos World: The warped Chaos Engine spews out its final scenario, including tons of damn-confusing teleportation, and weird organic creations that must be used to travel from one area to the net. It all gets a bit like the Techno-Adams Family at points, with huge automated robot 'hands' chasing you around, along with one-eyed, er... lizard-things! The much sought after items here are batteries. And then there's the end section to get though.. but that would be telling!