Saturday, 8 October 2016

Assassins PD Games Disk 1 (Amiga)

Covering Amiga games is often a tricky one for me, as though almost anything on the Amiga can be considered obscure outside of Europe, assuming it never got ported to consoles, some Amiga games are very fondly remembered locally, while going completely unheard of elsewhere. So, I decided to start looking into an area pretty much untouched by the internet: PD games (which is what homebrew was called back then, though it actually stands for Public Domain). And the easiest way to get a decent cross-section of that wide, forgotten world is to go through old compilation disks, so this is the first of what will be an occasional series (and I will get back to doing posts about Disc Station someday, honest!)

So, there's five games on this disk, though I don't have much to say about Tanx, the first game. It's a fairly primitive 2-player only Scorched Earth/pre-Worms type thing in which two distant tanks have to aim shots at each other from across the battlefield until one of them hits the other. There's lots of different options like wind speed, gravity strength, hills and mountains, and so on, but it's still not very interesting, to be honest.

Next up is Rollerpede, which is exactly what it looks like: a Centipede clone. There's a few power-ups and some nice music on the title screen, but other than that, it's just a moderately competent version of the ancient arcade game. Surprisingly, it uses the joystick for controls, rather than trying to emulate trackball controls using the mouse, but if I'm honest, I hate using a mouse to control action games, so I'm happy the developers took that decision.

The third game is by far the best, and it's called Amigoids. Again, it's not really an original game, since it's just a high-quality Asteriods clone, though it does have a couple of interesting options. Firstly, you have a selection of three "specials" to choose from, those being the traditional hyperspace, a temporary shield, and a simple instant 180 degree turn. There's no option to use a controller with a second fire button, but they special is mapped to "down", which actually works pretty well, so it's not that big a problem.

The other interesting thing Amigoids adds to the formula is the ability to load new graphics, replacing the score font, player's ship, UFO and the asteroids themselves. There's a few styles included on the disk alongside the detailed default sprites, like Atari 2600-style coloured blobs, faux-vector white lines, childishdrawings of faces, houses and shapes, and one that turns the asteroids into various computer parts and paraphrenalia. The fact that these are loaded from a generic Amiga file window, rather than an in-game menu suggests that the game allows players to add their own spritesheets, should they want to. It's a nice package all-round, really.

Fourth is Cave Runner, a barebones Boulder Dash clone. It's fine, I guess? It's not flashy and it doesn't add anything to the formula, but it is brutally difficult, if that's your kind of thing, and you've somehow already played all the other brutally difficult Boulder Dash clones that exist in the world.

Finally, Avatris, which is obviously a Tetris clone, though it is also a bit of an oddity. Firstly, the game's clearly designed for three players: two on joysticks, the third on keyboard. There'll always be three players, though if you're on your own, you can set all three to be controlled by the same device, so you have one game played in triplicate (since the pieces come out in the same order for all three players). Secondly, it goes back to the stages-with-lines-quotas system of the old arcade version of Tetris, but rather than getting faster, each stage after the first has an arrangement of pre-set blocks already on the field to get in the way. These stages start off so difficult, I've not been able to clear stage 2, after quite a few attempts. Thirdly, and this is the most annoying thing, once all three players are out, the game just stops. There's no game over screen, it doesn't go back to the title, you just have to reset the Amiga. Avatris is an okay game, though I assume it gets exponentially better with actual opponents.

So, that's the first of the Assassins PD compilation disks. It was alright, though when I decided to cover PD stuff, I was hoping for less clones of old arcade games, and more weird experimental stuff that could never possibly be a commercial release. Fingers crossed for the next disk I do then, eh?

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