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The 100 Greatest Amiga Games
Bubbling Under to Varying Degrees - Games That Missed the Cut
It felt like a very big deal at the time to go from the Commodore 64 to the Amiga. There were some fantastic games on the C64 but the Amiga felt like a quantum leap and the full 'arcade at home' experience. Sadly though, as we know, the Amiga era was not destined to be the longest or most stable slice of home gaming history. In the end the competition was too much and the Amiga, not helped by poor business decisions and a lack of innovation, began to struggle in the market. One tends to feel that the Amiga never quite fufilled its full potential but what an amazing few years it gave us. I spent many happy hours and weeks playing all my favourite Amiga games. To this day I am still discovering interesting Amiga games which passed me by at the time.
Trawling through the Amiga years again I found there were many more great games than I actually remembered. In fact, this list was harder to compile than the one for my Commodore 64 book because there were so many great games on the Amiga. To give an example, games that did NOT make this list include Ambermoon, F-19 Stealth Fighter, King's Bounty, Pang, Gunship, Fury of the Furries, Second Samurai, Jetstrike, Wing Commander, Uridium 2, and so on. There are just too many good games on the Amiga to include ALL of them. It wasn't the longest gaming era but in terms of quality it was highly memorable and not found wanting in the slightest.
Now, the list that follows is of course purely subjective. These are just my personal choices and reflect my own personal tastes. Your list would probably be different to mine but then that's the fun of lists isn't it? The list that follows is - happily - eclectic and diverse. It would be a dull list if one genre dominated too heavily but the Amiga era threw up enough good games in different genres to avoid this pitfall. The book that follows includes racing games, shoot 'em ups, military simulations, platform games, licenced movie games, puzzle games, and so on. So, without further delay, let's sit back and take a look at the (in my own humble opinion) 100 greatest Amiga games...
ALIEN BREED (1991)
Label: Team 17, Designer: Rico Holmes
Alien Breed is a top down shooter much in the style of Gauntlet. The game is an unashamed riff on the classic 1986 film sequel Aliens. You move around a sci-fi environment (the space station ISRC-4 to be precise) as a Space Marine shooting aliens (who are clearly patterned on the acid blooded creatures in the Alien franchise - you even get face-huggers too) and must complete each level before taking the lift down to the next one. You can purchase weapons using computer terminals and - as ever in these types of games - must make sure you blast everything in sight and don't get trapped in any tight spots. You'll need keys to open certain doors and must watch out for some traps - like doors that are electrified.
The designer of Alien Breed said he was inspired by Laser Squad and Paradroid more than anything when planning this game and you can plainly see their influence. Alien Breed was very popular and one can see why. The graphics are crisp and competent, the sound FX superb, and an immersive atmosphere of dread and danger is generated. As far as these top down shooters go this was one of the best on the Amiga. Quibbles? Well, an unquantifiable number of people thought this game was too difficult. Ammunition is very limited at times and the pesky respawning aliens can test your patience. Be warned that Alien Breed is no walk in the park. It's definitely a good game though that most Amiga owners would have sampled at some point and most likely have good memories of.
Alien Breed became something of a franchise in the end with various sequels. Alien Breed II: The Horror Continues arrived in 1993 and while the gameplay is similar you get better scrolling, more levels, and can play as more characters. If you liked the first game you should like the sequel. 1994 brought the release of Alien Breed: Tower Assault. Once again you are tasked with investigating a space colony infested with aliens and once again you must blast everything in sight while escaping from numerous levels. There isn't much new on offer in Alien Breed: Tower Assault - save for the ability to fire your weapon while moving backwards. Still, if you liked the previous games you should like this one just fine. As ever though it is difficult to the point of being annoying at times.
Alien Breed: Tower Assault got a right old drubbing in the magazine Amiga Power but that seems rather baffling in retrospect because the game is merely giving you more Alien Breed capers. Maybe they wanted something a bit different. The franchise DID though give players something different in 1995 with Alien Breed 3D. This was, as the name implies, a first person shooter. By now we'd had the Doom phenomenon and so companies were tripping up over themselves to latch onto the FPS genre. I suppose then you'd probably be within your rights to say that Alien Breed 3D was part of the cavalcade of Doom clones that arrived like a tidal wave in the mid to late nineties.
Alien Breed 3D is a decent effort but the problem is that the Amiga just wasn't very good at FPS games. Compare games like Alien Breed 3D to the likes of Doom and Duke Nukem 3D. The difference is night and day. Alien Breed 3D seems horrendously blocky and primitive compared to classic PC FPS games of the era. The level design is good though and the game (mercifully) moves at a fast clip. The sequel Alien Breed 3D II-The Killing Grounds is generally felt to have been an improvement though some players thought it was a bit too difficult. The sequel is a mix of Doom and Quake (though obviously nowhere near as good as that synopsis makes it sound) and has a decent frame rate and some big outdoor levels.
Generally though, the FPS games on the Amiga constituted a small and largely undistinguished bunch. The Doom clone Gloom seems to have its fans (Gloom Deluxe cleaned up the graphics somewhat and is better) and 1998's Genetic Species was a decent effort. However, by 1998 you could play brilliant and ambitious PC FPS games like Unreal and Half-Life so why would you bother with Genetic Species? Anyway, to go back to the original Alien Breed, this game is solid Gauntlet style fun with a horror sci-fi twist. If you don't mind difficult games and like top down shooters then this game is pretty good for what it is.
Label: Psygnosis, Designer: Various
If you were being super nitpicky you might say that Agony is a case of style over substance but few games serve as such a visually stunning showcase for what the Amiga was capable of graphically. This is one of the prettiest games released on the Amiga and has a wondrous music score too. The game is a side-scrolling shoot 'em up but quite unlike anything else in this well worn and rather over familiar genre. Agony has the player as a ban owl flying through six monster filled worlds in an attempt to reach the Cosmic Power. The owl fires huge energy waves at enemies and can obviously swoop around niftily - much in the same fashion that a real owl would. The gameplay can't possibly match the visuals but it is decent enough and the difficulty ramps up with each new level - making this a considerable challenge in the latter stages.
Some felt that Agony is simply TOO difficult in the end but it all comes down to one's aptitude at these types of games I suppose. A lot of these old games seem to be quite difficult compared to newer games. In old eighties and early nineties games you don't get your hand held and be deluged constant onscreen instructions and tips. You are thrown straight into the action and it is up to you to sink or swim. That's why people still play the original Doom to this day. There are no cut scenes, preambles, or endless instructions in Doom. You are simply flung straight into the game and shooting zombie soldiers. That approach seems refreshing today when modern games sometimes take FOREVER to actually let you start playing.
The real stars of Agony are the amazing music and the lush graphics. The backdrops are absolutely stunning with forests, waterfalls, waves, red skies, puffy clouds. Agony is truly a work of art. Occasionally you'll find yourself drifting out of the game simply to gaze at the incredible backdrops - such is their ability to enchant and entrance the player. The animation on the owl is absolutely wonderful too. Agony is definitely a game that seems to divide opinion somewhat. Some believe it was a masterpiece and others seemed to feel it didn't have much gameplay depth beyond the pretty graphics. Maybe the real truth was somewhere in the middle of these two perceptions. Agony is definitely a unique experience though and one of the most attractive shooting games ever released on the Amiga. This was truly a game that showed the Amiga in a positive and highly stylish light.
ANOTHER WORLD (1991)
Label: Delphine Software, Designer: Éric Chahi
Another World is a platform action adventure game which was quite unlike anything else at the time. The game had beautiful cinematic cartoon style graphics and felt like a quantum leap forward from other similar games. While there have been cases where games looked great but didn't have the gameplay and depth to match the visuals thankfully this wasn't the case with Another World. The game was an immersive, atmospheric, and satisfying experience for gamers beyond the wonderful visual presentation. I gather that the designer Éric Chahi was inspired to make this game after being impressed by the graphics in the Amiga version of Dragon's Lair. * He felt if he used similar sort of graphics tailored to a story which blended all of the sci-fi he loved there might be a lot of potential in this. He was obviously right about that.
In the game you play a young scientist named Lester Knight Chaykin. Lester has an unfortunate particle accelerator accident (I hate it when that happens!) when a lightning bolt causes his experiment to go haywire. A hole in space and time is ripped open and poor Lester ends up trapped on an alien world. Lester is incarcerated and must escape. But navigating this hostile and strange world will not be easy. An alien named Buddy (who Lester befriends along the way) will become an important part of the story.
Another World is not an adventure game in that you don't interact with people or talk to them but it does have a depth beyond the usual arcade adventure games of this type. You can run, jump, fight, and even swim during the game and you get a blaster weapon later on which has different modes. There is a checkpoint system in the game so you don't have to start all over again if you get killed. The impressive graphics make this game feel like you are playing the central character in a polished sci-fi cartoon and the intro sequence is incredible and justifiably famous.
Where this game really scores though is in the sense of atmosphere. You really do feel like you've been plunged into a strange alien world. One can see some influence from Another World on an eclectic range of other (future) games like Unreal, Silent Hill, and even Half-Life (which has a similar sort of plot with its dimensional science gone wrong capers). Another World is a really unique experience and one of the most memorable games of the Amiga era.
I think you could reasonably argue that Another World is one of the most influential and ambitious games of this era. Very rarely has a game had such a rich and immersive atmosphere of isolation and feeling trapped in a weird far away place. Another World was one of those games that you simply HAD to sample for yourself just to see the amazing graphics, animations, and backdrops. Happily, there was also a very good game beneath the polished and impressive exterior.
* Dragon's Lair was an unusual game that came out in the arcades in 1983. It featured animation by a former Disney animator named Don Bluth and was more of a choose your fate adventure than an arcade game. The player made a choice and then watched the next animation play out to see if they had made the right choice or the wrong choice. Dragon's Lair was popular at first but this type of game didn't catch on. Watching the game's hero Dirk the Daring get killed in cartoon animation simply became annoying (and expensive) for players. Even you eventually worked out the pattern of choices to beat the game you'd have little motivation to return to it again. I can't say that any of the home computing system ports of Dragon's Lair ever appealed to me much.
Label: Blue Byte, Designer: Various
An insect themed side-scrolling shoot 'em up in which you play as a wasp who used to be a man named Ikuro and now seeks revenge on the evil Hexaae for the death of his love Yuri. Wikipedia states the player is a bee while other sources say it is a wasp. It certainly LOOKS like a wasp to me. Maybe it would be better to play as a bee because bees are more sympathetic than wasps. Bumble bees are a comforting sight in the summer whereas wasps are a pain in the neck.
Anyway, the plot is not really important in Apidya and never makes much sense. Let us stop idly discussing bees and get on with the review. There are five levels in Apidya and the action takes you through ponds, gardens, and even the intestine of a rat - which is certainly novel to say the least. There are bonus levels to discover and a memorable boss battle at the end. That giant hornet is the stuff of nightmares. The game is tough but never outrageously unfair and the gameplay is polished with some nice weapon power-ups. Where this game really scores is with the amazing music and the lovely graphics. The backdrops are inventive and colourful and the scrolling and animations are excellent.
Apidya is a very stylish and unusual sort of shoot 'em up and it makes a nice change from the usual spaceship or military aircraft themed shooters which make up a large proportion of this familiar genre. This is one of those games where you simply wallow in the outlandish backdrops at first and become rather entranced by all the colour and detail. What is likeable about this game is that a lot of effort has gone into the design. They were patently determined not to make this look like any old cartoonish shoot 'em up and in this aim you'd have to say they succeeded with flying colours.
This game is very inspired by Japanese Anime but was actually made in Germany. It has a lot of charm and the eccentricity of the game serves to make it enjoyably distinctive. There are many fun details in the game like the way you can fire a missile that resembles a turnip. The backdrops are varied enough to stop the game from becoming visually samey or repetitive and there are some nightmarish flourishes in the game like cherubs (Doom 3 flashbacks may abound here) and maggots. This isn't quite the cuddly cartoon shooter it might appear to be on the surface. Apidya is downright strange at times and that's all part of the fun.
This is a beautiful looking and fun shoot 'em up that feels different from other games of this type. One thing I didn't like about the game though is that it would only let you complete the whole game if you chose one of the two highest difficulty levels. My own view is that it should be up to the player to choose whatever difficulty level they want without the threat of having access to the end of the game shut off. If you want to play on a lower difficulty that's up to you and you shouldn't suffer a penalty as a consequence of that decision. Apidya is a superior shooting game on the whole and one of the most attractive shooters of this type on the Amiga. Be warned though that it isn't an easy game at all.
ARCHER MACLEAN'S POOL (1992)
Label: Virgin Games, Designer: Archer Maclean
Archer Maclean's Pool is essentially a sequel to his successful snooker game Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker (a game we shall discuss later in the book). As you've probably deduced by now, Maclean simply replaces snooker with pool in this game. The two games use the same graphics engine and so have a lot of DNA in common. Both have excellent graphics and function as a pretty impressive facsimile of the respective games they are depicting. Both of these games ooze class in an early 90s Amiga sort of way.
Pool is a somewhat simpler game than snooker in that the table is smaller and games take less time to play. There is obviously a lot of skill in pool but it is essentially about trying to string pots together whereas snooker has more of a safety and tactical element. I'm no pool expert but I suspect you don't ever get a game of pool descending into a tense safety stalemate for half an hour in the manner that it might in snooker. Cliff Thorburn and Eddie Charlton could make a frame of snooker last for about ten years. Pool is a more immediate sort of game where the players are more attacking. Pool is not a game associated with safety shots.
For this reason some people found Archer Maclean's Pool to be more accessible and fun to play than Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker. It's all down to personal taste really. Both games are highly polished and enjoyable in my opinion - just slightly different because pool and snooker, while similar, are obviously not quite the same thing. Archer Maclean's Pool is probably a bit easier to get into than Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker because the cursor system is simpler. Once you get the hang of this the game is easy to play. You can play eight-ball and nine-ball pool in the game and there is also a tournament mode so you can play with friends. There are also twenty computer opponents to compete against.
The computer opponents can be pretty ruthless so they certainly present a challenge. Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker had an amusing detail in that if you took too long to play a shot the balls would suddenly start pulling funny faces like cartoon characters. Maclean includes that again here. As you'd expect, all the more intricate features of Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker are present here like the ability to put spin on the cue ball. If you get good at this game you can even do trick shots - which is fun.
Archer Maclean's Pool doesn't offer anything tremendously new for those familiar with Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker but it is good fun to have a game of pool with Maclean's 'Whirlwind' graphics engine and so the game justifies its own existence and manages to be a good one in its own right. Archer Maclean's Pool is just a very classy game. You can see that a lot of care and invention has gone into it. I would happily recommended both this and Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker because both are enjoyable in their own right.
Great pool games on the Amiga are rather thin on the ground but one other one that is worth a look is Team 17's Arcade Pool - which also came out in 1992. Arcade Pool (as the title implies!) has more of an arcade style than the simulation approach of Archer Maclean's Pool and presents the pool table from above. It's a much more simplistic game in terms of its graphics and presentation but it is decent fun. If you've ever played an enjoyable flash game called Billiard Blitz you'll have a good idea of what to expect from Arcade Pool because the presentation and mechanics are very similar. Arcade Pool obviously doesn't have the depth (quite literally in this case) of Archer Maclean's Pool but it is pretty good fun.
Label: Core Design, Designer: Various
Banshee is a 1942 style shoot 'em up and one of the classiest and most enjoyable games of this type released on the Amiga. The plot has you battling the Styx invaders (whoever they are when they're at home) and the intro screens are rather baffling with some nonsense about microwave ovens. Anyway, we are not here for the plot. We just want some high class blasting action and happily Banshee delivers that with a style few shooters of the era could match. Any list of great Amiga shooters would have to reserve a seat for Banshee. It's just a very good game and does exactly what you'd expect from a shooter of this type.
The game seems deceptively simple at first. You initially think this is just going to be a more colourful version of 1942. However, the carnage and background detail gradually ramps up to insane proportions and the sheer level of detail and mayhem makes this an entertaining and enjoyable experience. There is a two-player mode and as ever in these types of games you can power up your weapons and so more damage as the game progresses. The difficulty levels seem about right too. The game is neither too easy nor too unfair.
One really nice feature in this game is that the weather changes as you progress. This detail obviously helps to freshen up the game visually from time to time. The lighting effects are also terrific in the game - like the searchlights. There are not many levels in the game but it doesn't really matter because they are all massive. Banshee has an attractive metallic Steampunk sort of atmosphere but there are some variations - like desert backgrounds with pyramids. The ship you fly in the game feels responsive and easy to control and the weapons are increasingly satisfying to use. You'll be dishing out considerable firepower once you get into this game. Banshee does exactly what it says on the tin - and then some. This is arcade quality high octane shooting action.
Label: Ocean, Designer: Various
If memory serves the Amiga wasn't quite as awash with licenced games as the C64 although there were a fair few of them all the same. I suppose a number of them were ported over though in the end. A lot of licenced games on the Amiga were (inevitably perhaps) absolutely terrible. Beverly Hills Cop, Days of Thunder, Asterix, Back to the Future, Dick Tracy, The Godfather, Jaws, Cliffhanger, Terminator 2 and more all got some rather shoddy games released in their name. Not all licenced games on the Amiga were completely terrible though. If you were willing to wade through the bad ones you could find some enjoyable licenced games.
One licenced game that many (though not all) Amiga owners have quite fond memories of is the 1989 Batman game based on the Tim Burton film. In 1989 the world went completely Batman mad with the release of the film. These days we seem to get a Batman or superhero film every month but in 1989 it was a very big deal indeed to get a big budget Batman film (or any superhero film at all) and literally everyone in the world went to see it. That Bat logo was all over the place and the film made hundreds of millions at the box-office. You would have had to be living as a hermit in a remote cave with no electricity in the summer of 1989 not to know there was a Batman film out.
Anyway, the Batman game was pretty decent for the time and though not the longest game in the world it (happily) wasn't a lazy licence cash grab. A solid enough game emerged. You get familiar platform capers (nearly all licenced movie games seemed to be platform games) in the game but the big novelty was the driving sections in which you race around in the Batmobile. One nice touch here too is that the car turns into a Batplane and so it turns into a flying game too at certain points. The flying was a bit tricky but it was a nice touch to include this anyway.
The music was terrific in this game also and deserves a mention. The game is essentially composed of five sections. Two platform sections, two driving sections, and also a puzzle section. This game is quite difficult at times but then games of this era tended to be difficult. That was just accepted and expected. It could be that because old games tended to be shorter than the games we get today they had to be a trifle more difficult to make sure you couldn't complete them too quickly.
It's fun in the game to use the baterang and sort of impressive the way they capture some of the atmosphere of the film. While you wouldn't say that any section in the game is a classic in and of itself all the game is competent and varying the gameplay styles prevents the game from becoming too samey. This game was also released on the C64 but the Amiga version (with the improved graphics) is generally felt to be the best version. Batman is a nice little game on the whole. It's just a shame they didn't give you more levels.
You wouldn't say this game is an undisputed classic but it is one of the better licenced games on the Amiga and deserves credit for that fact alone.
BATTLE SQUADRON (1989)
Label: Innerprise Software, Designer: Martin Pedersen
Battle Squadron: The Destruction Of The Barrax Empire (to give it its full and strangely wonderful title) is a nifty vertically scrolling shoot 'em up created for the Amiga in 1989. It is one of the best games of this type for the Amiga and a lot of fun. The game has you trying rescue two officers from the dastardly Barrax Empire - who are at war with Earth in some distant far-flung star system. Suffice to say the Barrax Empire are not to be trifled with. They aren't likely to make the new year's honours list.
Games of this type were ten a penny on various systems of the era (there were a lot on the C64 too) and while in the end they occasionally tended to all blur together until you struggled to tell some of them apart, Battle Squadron had enough charm and old fashioned blasting action to stand out from most of the pack and justify its own existence.
This game is most notable for its huge sprites - which are a big factor in the appeal of the game. The ship you control is enjoyably chunky and the hail of fire you spew out is huge on the screen. The bulky visual design gives this game plenty of character.
There are 25 weapons upgrades in the game and also stealth mechanics. The stealth mode was a nice touch. You can also alter the difficulty if you want more of a challenge. When you up the difficulty the enemies obviously become more frenetic and their blasts in your direction get faster.
Battle Squadron gave Amiga owners the full arcade experience in the comfort of their living room. There is a boisterous soundtrack, huge explosion effects, some enjoyable psychedelic flourishes, and smooth controls.
The weapons are fun and feel suitably powerful once you start to upgrade and the backdrops are varied and inventive enough to stop the game from ever feeling too samey or visually dull. If you HAD to play one vertically scrolling shoot 'em up on the Amiga then Battle Squadron: The Destruction Of The Barrax Empire was probably the one to go for.
Battle Squadron will usually be prominent in any ranking of the best Amiga shooters and rightly so. As far as these types of games go, Battle Squadron is one of the timeless classics. You may understandably feel like you've played WAY too many of these types of games but Battle Squadron nonetheless manages to stand out from the pack.
BENEATH A STEEL SKY (1994)
Label: Virgin Interactive Entertainment, Designer: Various
Beneath a Steel Sky is a classic point and click adventure game and a follow-up to a game called Lure of the Temptress. Beneath a Steel Sky is especially notable because Dave Gobbons worked on the art in the game. Gibbons was the artist on the classic Alan Moore comic Watchmen. In this game you play as a man named Robert Foster who finds himself in a confusing cyberpunk city with only a droid for company. There is definitely something strange and off-kilter about this place and Foster must deduce what is really going on. He suspects that he himself might be the key to everything.
This game looks terrific and has a rich and immersive atmosphere. The actual gameplay is pretty good too with the puzzles proving to be a reasonable mix of the tricky and logical. This is (hopefully) not one of those adventure games where you'll constantly get stuck and have no idea what to do next. The animations of the characters are smooth and impressive - although it is occasionally a bit annoying when other characters block your characters' path. I've lost count of how many times I've shouted 'Get out of the way!' at the screen in various games over the years where this happens. It never fails to be annoying.
This game is a bit more unforgiving than other adventure games in that your character is easily killed but it's not so bad if you've saved your game. You can just pick up where you left off (and are now happily armed with valuable knowledge about what it was that killed you). Beneath a Steel Sky has a nice sense of humour
Verlag: BookRix GmbH & Co. KG
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 30.04.2022
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