The Single Button Joystick

Tag: Amiga Power

Two Ancient Tomes

by on Oct.08, 2014, under Amiga, Short updates

wpid-20141007_153327.jpgReaders of these articles would be aware of my appreciation of Amiga Power.

It was a magazine that made me feel part of a larger world. Without it I’d have felt like one of about 3 Amiga users in the world.

It’s also a wonderful piece of computer history. Imagine a time when the CDTV was set to take on the world and arcade perfect conversations were appearing on the Amiga every month.

Both issues represent a very busy time for the Amiga. The issues are July and October of 1991 and have 24 and 17 full price game reviews.

I had one of the coverdisk demos, Exile long before getting hold of the magazine. An open world space adventure, it featured a little space man searching caves for items and being chased by annoying green birds and murderous white ones. To this day I have never attempted the full game, maybe I should do this now?

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Bad names for Video Games.

by on May.07, 2013, under Amiga, Retro, Short updates

Being deliberately inflammatory isn’t something I’d want to do (I’ll save that for my upcoming political/historical blog). With recent tragedies, constant news coverage and a nation beside itself with grief, something jogged my memory.

There was an old game I would see from time to time in my various Amiga magazines and it had an unfortunate name. It was a puzzle game featuring strange old men and moving tables. I think you had to get an explosive from one side of the table to an exit. Even for 1991, this wasn’t a new type of puzzle game and it is like Pipe Mania. More recently, this style of puzzler was copied by the Bioshock hacking mini game.

It is the name of this little game that got my attention.

Boston Bomb Club

I doubt the fine people at Silmarils could have predicted how unfortunate this name would be, twenty two years down the road. You live and learn I suppose. Silmarils would go on to make the excellent and beautiful Ishar series of RPGs. Cumbersome interface on those games though.

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Amiga Best Of… Cannon Fodder, a fitting tribute to our war dead.

by on Jan.23, 2013, under Amiga, Retro

Cannon_fodder_box_artThe early 90s were a time of much ‘tumult’ for video games.¬† Most readers would be familiar with the various controversies facing video games at the end of the 2000’s, but the issues of supposed alien orgies and all the nonsense about an R rating were but pebbles compared to the avalanche of criticism video games faced in their earlier days. Nintendo even went as far to censor all real violence from their games in this period.

Cannon Fodder represents the zenith of the Amiga, in both popularity and quality. Many of the games I had enjoyed on the Amiga, have aged poorly. Cannon Fodder is simple, attractive and has lost little of its appeal. It still has a crispness to it that has not faded over time. You’re given between one and six soldiers sent on missions through various environments. The soldiers are all prenamed (some famous, some are Sensible Software staff). There are many different objectives, but most often you must destroy enemy barracks and all of their soldiers. Your men accrue kills, receive promotions and increase in power, but are inherently fragile. Veteran soldiers don’t react any better to bullets than raw recruits.Amiga Power 32 Original Cover

Although it is still regarded as one of the best Amiga games made, before its release it attracted a large amount of criticism. It surprises me, in 2012/13 with so many people playing and being aware of video games that the media can get it so wrong. In 1993, video game players were a bit more rare and the media was even worse with latching on to hysteria. Cannon Fodder’s troubles began with its original box art. It portrayed a single poppy.

A number of newspapers, many politicians and the Royal British Legion (which is the RSL for Britain) called to have the poppy removed from the game’s cover. Amiga Power, who were reviewing the game at the time, were planning to use a similar poppy for their front cover and were brought into this controversy. These groups were extremely critical of Sensible Software’s (as yet unreleased) game, mostly centering on the game’s catchphrase “War has never been so much fun”. The usual cries of not respecting the war dead were made and due to this pressure, both the game’s cover art and Amiga Power’s review issue front cover, were changed. Stuart Campbell, Amiga Power’s editor, was apoplectic at this treatment. Legal threats were made, not for any reasons to do with disrespecting the war dead, but over the poppy image, which the British Royal Legion claimed as a trademark. Copyright law gone mad I tells ya!

These controversies did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the gaming public of the day, Amiga Power readers had followed the game’s development from very early stages. It was at the time Amiga Power’s highest rated game and topped the sales charts.

A game that honours its deadCannon Fodder, unlike the majority of violent video games, honours its dead. Every soldier you lose in the course of the game (likely numbering over one hundred) will receive a grave. If they are decorated veterans, they will receive a more elaborate grave, not unlike real life. The irony is that Cannon Fodder is a game that shows how ridiculous war is. It combines some of the best top down arcade style shooting set in an exaggerated Hollywood style war setting. The light-hearted introduction song is also sharply contrasted by the mournful synth guitar theme played during the recruitment phase before a mission. The new recruits are shown lined up, behind them are the graves of those who have fallen confirming the game’s ironic position.

Cannon Fodder’s sequels diluted the winning formula and I think Sensible software would have done well to avoid iterating on it. Cannon Fodder 2, released the following year, was very similar although it spoiled the semi serious tone by including missions set against aliens. Cannon Fodder 3 was released in 2012, developed by a Russian studio, apparently it wasn’t terrible. Like most other series, the first game is invariably the best. Cannon Fodder is no exception.

Wonderful Cannon Fodder Tribute by Toni Bratincevic.

Wonderful Cannon Fodder tribute by Toni Bratincevic.

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Jetstrike: How to Play.

by on Dec.04, 2012, under Amiga

In 250 words or less, describe how to play the Amiga game, Jetstrike.

Be creative.

Mike jumped as the agent burst through the door, an air of utmost urgency followed him, like an FBI tail. “Listen up,” he hissed. ” I haven’t got much time.” A flicker of hope crossed Mike’s face as the agent relayed the instructions to him.

“At first the plane might seem a bit tricky to control, but it’s much easier if you get used to the fact that the up and down controls are reversed when you change direction. It’s logical if you think about it, really. Also, keep the auto-throttle on to start with (by pressing the left Amiga key) and you’ll crash a lot less. Press down when you’re on the runway to access the armoury and aircraft select screens, and use ‘U’ to raise and lower the undercarriage.” The sound of gunfire from outside drew closer, and seemed to trigger further recollection from the agent’s fevered mind. “To fire your extra weapons, use fire and left for the left weapon and fire and right for the right weapon. If it looks like you’re going to bite the tarmac, the spacebar ejects, but if enemy capture seems inevitable, hold down fire and ‘Esc’ to self-destruct.”

At that very moment, the door burst open again and the agent fell inelegantly to the floor, am machine-gun chattering its brutal monologue of death behind him in the hands of a foreign stormtrooper. But Mike was already far away, the secret trapdoor closed behind him and thoughts of revenge dancing across his nerve-endings.

 

I transcribed this from Amiga Power Issue 30 (October 1993) and remains my favourite mini instruction manual.

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“I’ll bring my controller…”

by on Oct.06, 2011, under 16-bit, 8-bit, Amiga, Modern, PC, Retro

I read this thing a million times

In my preteen (pre internet) days, I would¬† imagine a future where multiplayer games would not need visiting anyone. Taking a joystick over to my friend’s house on a lazy Saturday became such a fixture in my life that it doesn’t feel so long ago. He lived on the other side of a valley, an epic journey of ten minutes. It wasn’t as though I found this short walk difficult or annoying, but the sheer convenience of being able to sit down at your computer, press a few buttons and be playing against a friend was a far in future.

Split screen continues to be a popular method of multiplaying, but back in the day it was pretty much your only option. From ages 10-15, Chooie and I would get into any multiplayer action we could get our hands on. Rarely were these games of the boxed and retail variety, but from the magazine Amiga Power. Over three years he and I collected nearly every issue and with it, their coverdisks. Two games we played really stood out; Extreme Violence and Gravity Force 2.

The first game was simple. The players each controlled a man with a hat and a gun, their goal is to be the first to kill the other player a few times. The usual power ups are available, bigger guns, faster boots, etc. While superficially plain, it had a visceral quality, the desperation of avoiding your opponents huge laser wave, and trying to pop him with your crappy bullet was always intense. Intense until my Chooie’s mother hid it from us for SEVERAL years, ugh.

Gravity Force 2 also came from Amiga Power and was an instant hit with us. Two little spaceships piloted through levels that looked like they were out of Lemmings. You’d try not to crash into the walls, avoid the turrets and shoot your opponent naturally, but where it stood out was the vast array of settings. The type of weapons used, the amount of air resistance and of course the effect of the gravity are just a few of the preferences players had control over. The levels included water which realistically slowed you down and caused your ship to float. Amiga Power also liked this game so much, that they sponsored the game’s creators to make a sequel, Gravity Power. It was a better game in almost every way except it never worked properly on my computer. Bummer!

Where is the ethernet port?

Limitations in technology (and funds) curtailed my abilities to play any games remotely or system link. Very few games offered system link at the time, and none of my friends were really able to move their computers around for mere entertainment purposes. Remote play was not only beyond my budget, but largely beyond my imagination! How far we’ve come. Just today I sat down switched on my PC and within five minutes I was driving my custom built tank around a battlefield populated by thirty people, drawn from a hundred thousand strangers from around the world. This World of Tanks, made me realise how far we’ve come.

The internet has made finding opponents and allies for multiplayer games easier, but I’ll always miss those walks across the park, clutching my floppy disks and an extra joystick, eager to blast my friend to pieces.

 

 

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The mystery.

by on Oct.25, 2010, under 16-bit, 8-bit, Amiga, IBM and Compatibles, Retro

As a young man I often dreamed of being a baseball. However more often than that I found myself in awe of mysterious games and imagining the sugar filled sunlit highlands that playing them would surely unlock. Because when you’re young, you don’t tend to have a lot of money so most of these wonderful looking games are beyond your grasp.

Back in 1992-93, this was certainly the case for me. I had plenty of older copied games for sure, but very few current bought games. As an Amiga 500 owner, keeping this need for current games at least partially satisfied was the wonderful magazine, Amiga Power. The lack of advertising of games, specifically the lack of screenshots and videos was very much an important part of maintaining this ‘mystery’. Monthly publications aside, there was really no other method of obtaining information about a video game, unless a retail outlet was demoing it at the time, (Oh, the many hours I played Aladdin on Mega Drive at Airport West Tandy were joyous indeed.)

It’s hard to say what my most coveted game was at the time, it might even be something I have since forgotten.

I’ll just go with Jetstrike, specifically the CD32 version!

This game was an arcady type flight ‘sim’. Side scrolling, many different aircraft to choose so many explosions and a dark sense of humour.

The only access I had to it was in demo form (from the Amiga Power of course). I probably spent 30-40 hrs playing this demo, never having access to the full game until a few years ago. One of my friends was lucky enough to have an Amiga 1200 (with a perpetually broken disc drive) and I would often try games on that MUCH faster machine. The demo ran faster and was much quicker to load. It was no coincidence that I found myself over there quite often. However hogging other people’s computers will be another story.

I never did own the full game, or get a CD32. However I feel that this limited access I had to new games led me to becoming a completionist with many games. Friends I know often ‘compliment’ me on my achievement addiction, and I’d like to think it extends from my earlier needs of getting the most out of any single game.

Just last week, I opened up one of my old Amiga Powers and laughed a 1993 chuckle.

I had most of these

Good times!

Image from http://www.commodore-amiga-retro.com

More info on Jetstrike http://www.mobygames.com/game/jetstrike

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