23. December 2015

Before I get to my article about the actual Commodore Amiga computer, I thought I’d dive into something more fun before the winter holidays: the inevitable article about all those great games from back then as a sequel to my C64 Games post from last year. When I had switched from the Commodore 64 to the Amiga 2000 in November 1990, the 16-bit-computer was already an established force in the video games industry and easily the best gaming machine next to the consoles of the day. I discovered that there were a lot of really crappy games, but the then very powerful hardware of the Amiga allowed the developers to realize many ideas that had not been possible before. So apart from my favourite genre, the adventures, there were a lot of other games to discover. Here are my favourite games from the early 1990s that I first encountered on the Amiga – this is, of course, a highly biased and personal list that may raise some eyebrows and is be missing some entries, but I still like those games even until today.

The Early Lucasfilm Games Adventures (1987-1992) – I originally had discovered them with Zak McKracken on the C64, but on the Amiga the journey continued. This is where I encountered the fantastic The Secret of Monkey Island, perhaps the quintessential adventure game of the era. I also discovered Maniac Mansion, Zak’s predecessor, which I actually found to be much more complicated – to this day, I have not played all the different ways through you can finish this game. Then there was the strange, yet oddly wonderful Loom and the Amiga was also responsible to introducing me to Indiana Jones! When I played The Last Crusade, I had not even seen the movie, let alone the previous two ones. After a magnificent Monkey Island sequel titled Le Chuck’s Revenge – the first of LucasArts’ games that were actually better on the PC! – the very cinematic Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis became their last adventure also adapted for the Amiga platform. It ran only very slowly and had limited animation and sound compared to the PC version, but I still loved it. The LucasArts adventures went on to completely new heights until the end of the decade when they stopped making them after a fourth Monkey Island installment… and later LucasArts was famously killed off by their new owners, Disney. But their spirit still lives on in many of today’s classic adventures, and it all began on the C64 and the Amiga.

Lemmings, Oh no! More Lemmings & Lemmings 2 (1991-1993) – The Lemmings series were perhaps the best and most original Amiga games that ever graced the platform. The first game was released in 1991 and I remember having an, ahem, bootleg, before I actually bought a limited edition double feature with both the original and the extended Oh No! More! levels. I can’t remember if I ever completed all the levels, but the completely unique concept was fascinating and a refreshing alternative to most of the more violent games that were unfortunately also around. There was some nifty programming going on, using the dual-playfield mode with the icons in the lower left using the Amiga’s 640×200 mode and although the graphics only used 16 colours, the level designs were brilliant and there was always so much to discover. Two years and several level updates later, Lemmings 2: The Tribes was released and while it was “just” a conversion from the slightly better PC version, it was still immensly enjoyable on the Amiga – I even think that the sequel is superior to the original. Numerous other games under the Lemmings brand followed, but I think Lemmings 2 was simply the best of them. The fascinating early story of the development of Lemmings can be read at the DMA Desgin History website.

Sim City (1989) – Will Wright’s city-building simulation was actually quite new back when I got my Amiga in 1990, having been released only a year previously. I never had the mythical, seldom seen C64 version and I believe it was never sold in Europe, but sometime in 1991 I acquired a two-fer Amiga budget release together with Peter Molyneux’ Populous, which I never got along with. But I loved Sim City and the Amiga version was actually very good and immensly playable. Sim City led me to try out some other of Wright’s simulation games like the enigmatic and complicated Sim Earth and the slightly more approachable Sim Ant, but in the end I always returned to Sim City. Later on the PC I upgraded to Sim City 2000, which was even better – but the original Sim City on the Amiga was brilliant nevertheless in its low-resolution simplicity.

Pirates! (1987) – I already knew Sid Meier’s first strategy simulation from the C64, but I was lucky to find the Amiga version in a local department store and it was very much worth the upgrade. Although the game was essentially the same, the graphics were much better and although they only used the 320×200 resolution, they took advantage of the Amiga’s unique 32-colour mode. The overall gameplay was also much smoother and less laggy, probably because the C64 version was actually a really slow BASIC program and often loaded parts from disk, while the Amiga version ran very fast even from a floppy drive. Like the 8-bit original, it had its limitations and got boring after a while, but Pirates! was actually just a stepping stone to much more interesting simulations. There were numerous deluxe versions and remakes, but the original Amiga version was perhaps the best one of the early Pirates! incarnations.

Railroad Tycoon (1990) – Sid Meier’s next stroke of genius was this first great business simulation that paved the way for many other similar games. Railroad Tycoon must have been released shortly before I got my Amiga in November 1990 because I remember it was one of the first games I actually bought for it. The graphics were actually not that advanced, although very functional – but what actually made the game so great was its complexity. I had never played something like this before and it took me some time to dig through the printed 150-page manual before I managed to make some sense of the game and not just randomly poked around. Once I had grasped the intricacies of the game, it was a lot of fun to play, although it took a lot of practice to get it going well. Little did I know at that time that something even better was just around the corner! Later, there was an improved Deluxe version for the PC and two sequels, which were interesting but not made by Sid Meier and his team and seemed rushed and unfinished – something which the 2005 Railroads! somewhat made up for. Playing Railroad Tycoon on an Amiga is still an experience nobody should miss, though. The only slightly different PC Deluxe Edition is available as a free download on the Railroads! website and even includes the big manual as a PDF.

Civilization (1991) – This is where it all started. Sid Meier’s turn-based empire-building strategy game was not the first of its kind, but the first successful one. When it first was released back in 1991, it was nothing short of revolutionary, although in terms of sound and graphics it was actually underwhelming. But the actual game content was what counted and this is where Civilization delivered: the scope of exploring maps tile by tile, building cities, defending them against other nations with diplomacy or war while developing your own state was unrivaled in its complexity at the time. Luckily the original Civilization was released on the Amiga too with only minor limitations and much of my computer runtime was spent playing it – some games could last for weeks, if not months and I always had several running in parallel because there was always much to discover with randomly generated worlds. Civilization outlasted the Amiga – the first sequel only appeared in 1996 and struggles within MicroProse, which imploded shortly after releasing Civilization II, meant that the franchise was heavily in flux until the mid-2000s, when it returned into the hands of the original makers. Today, the sequels are much better and interesting than the original, but Civilization in its 320×200 glory is still surprisingly playable and a good reminder that it doesn’t need expensive 3D graphics to make a good game.

Mad TV (1991) – This game was only ever released in Germany without an English version available, but the idea of a business simulation in which you had to run a television station was simply brilliant. It had very nice graphics and sound, but the actual fun were the many inside jokes and references littered throughout the game in the form of movie and television titles. The game didn’t take itself all to seriously and was often borderline satiric, but it was still an earnest enough simulation that made a lot of sense once you figured out strategies to win – and the game actually had several ways to complete it and was highly replayable. Next to Railroad Tycoon and Civilization, this was perhaps one of the games I spent the most time with on the Amiga simply because it was so much fun to play and explore different ways to solve it.

Epyx Games (1987-1989) – I had already mentioned the ‘joystick jigglers’ from Epyx in the C64 games article, but they also deserve a mention in their Amiga incarnations. The 16-bit conversions were a somewhat mixed bag, but most of them had with better graphics and sound (with digital sound effects no less) and smoother gameplay. The best of the bunch on the Amiga were Winter Games, World Games (made by Westwood, who later went on to make excellent adventures), California Games and The Games: Summer Edition, while the other conversions were slightly disappointing and not much of an upgrade over the 8-bit originals. The good ones were still undeniably a lot of fun on the Amiga and benefited a lot from the enhanced graphics and digital sound effects – and, of course, they were even more fun with two or more players.

Giana Sisters (1988) – The legendary Super Mario Brothers knockoff from Rainbow Arts was ported to the Amiga by a different team, but it still retained the look and charme of the original. Sure, the graphics were only slightly improved from their 160×200 original to the 320×200 Amiga resolution, but Giana Sisters played just fine on the Amiga. Of course, all that was available in the day was a bootleg because the game was pulled from the shelves when Rainbow Arts got some legal heat from Nintendo, but this didn’t stop the game from being popular on the Amiga, where it was joined by lots of other jump & run games of all sorts. There was also the revamped sci-fi-themed Hard’n’Heavy, which was basically Giana 2 just with cosmetic changes to avoid lawsuits – both the C64 and the Amiga versions were fine, too but did not have quite the same simplistic charme as the original.

James Pond & James Pond II: Robocod (1990-1991) – There were such a lot of ‘platformer’ games on the Amiga, most of them actually quite terrible – but the James Pond series from Chris Sorrell and Millennium was something different. Instead of a typical Jump & Run & Gun, James Pond was a cute antropomorphic fish turned secret agent whose worst violence was knocking his enemies out with bubbles – the games were actually focused on collecting puzzles and had surprisingly big levels. The bright, cartoon-like design seemed to be focused on children, but the secret agent theme had a lot of references to, of course, James Bond and the gameplay was surprisingly difficult. The overall look and feel seemed to be modeled on Nintendos Super Mario games (which never made it to actual home computers), in short: James Pond was pure fun.

Spherical (1989) – This was another hold-over from my C64 days – this almost-unique puzzle platform game from Rainbow Arts had been simultaneously released in C64 and Amiga versions and while the 8-bit incarnation had the better music, the 16 bit had the much prettier graphics. The concept of having to guide a rolling ball through a platform screen by creating building blocks with magic was oddly similar to Lemmings, but actually preceded it and was based on an earlier C64 game called Solomon’s Key. It was not a direct knockoff copy like Giana Sisters but a completely different game using only the same rough concept. Spherical was so good that it easily warranted buying it again for the Amiga after I already had played it a lot on the C64 – and the Amiga version was simply fantastic and remains playable until today.

P.P. Hammer (1991) – This was exactly my kind of game: a highly original platform puzzler in which the protagonist digs his way through the levels with a pneumatic hammer and has to collect keys and other tools. Graphics, sound and music were amazing and looked like tailor-made for the Amiga and while it was really fun to play, the only drawback was that it was devilishly difficult to solve. After the first ten or fifteen levels it became increasingly frustrating to play, but fortunately I had a bootleg version (justifyable because it never seemed to have been released in Germany!) with a trainer. It was still one of the surprisingly unknown and underrated Amiga platformers.

Turrican I & II (1990-1991) – Any Amiga game list has to include the amazing Turrican series, or at least the first two games. While creator Manfred Trenz had programmed and designed the original C64 versions, the Amiga incarnations were made by Factor 5 and were as good as, if not better than the 8-bit Turricans. The higher resolution and more colourful graphics were amazing, but what made especially the second game famous was the fantastic music composed by Chris Huelsbeck, which took full advantage of the Amiga’s four-channel sound system and still left room for sound effects. While the actual run & gun gameplay was not really my cup of tea back in the day, Turrican was simply one of the most advanced Amiga action games ever produced.

The Lotus Trilogy (1990-1992) – There were even more car racing games on the Amiga than on the C64, but not all of them were particularly good even though the hardware seemed predestined for this genre. Two British game developers got it right, though: Shaun Southern and Andrew Morris from Magnetic Fields somehow acquired a license from European sports car manufacturer Lotus and didn’t disappoint – while the first game was still more of a prototype, the sequel had a lot of improvements and was one of the best Amiga racing games by the time it was released in 1991. There were a couple of solid previous efforts like Epyx’ 4×4 Off Road Racing, Indianapolis 500 and Accolade’s Test Drive Series, but not many other games of the genre ran so well even on a stock Amiga 500 like Lotus II and III. And it was not just the great graphics and sound – there were many options and two killer features: first was the ability not only to play with two people, but to actually link two Amigas together and second was a powerful editor introduced with the third game to make your own race courses.

Those were and still are my favourite Amiga games from the early 1990s – which ones were YOUR favourites? There are, of course, a lot of popular Amiga games missing in this list, but I chose only to include those that I really played myself back then. Nowadays, many of these games are available somewhere on the internet as disk images, but often not quite as widely available as the C64 games because most of them are still considered to be copyrighted and technically any Amiga games archives are not quite legal. But I see nothing wrong with getting your old favourites back together or wanting to try out all those games you never had and preserving those classics is more important than enforcing copyrights. Still, to be on the safe side I’m not including any links here, but most games are easily findable with any decent search engine.

Kategorie: Commodore, Computer

would be great seeing x68000 games converted to Amiga, even nowadays! :)

beast-trilogy (as generally all games from psygnosis) and pinball-trilogy were great – lotus as well – robocop-3 has an unique atmosphere (still probably better than most 3d games today) – onslaught was unique as well – gods wasn’t specific to amiga, but it was a good game as well (and runs fine on 512k machines)

and would be great seeing new homebrew games appearing for amiga, just like what we have seeing for zx-spectrum, msx, sega 8bit consoles, c64, cpc, nes, etc. – it’s quite weird we are not seeing this same enthusiasm on amiga (Mojon Twins, help us!!!! :D )

I’ll have to try some of these, although I left out “Shadow of the Beast” and “Gods” because I had never played them back then. And I agree, it’s strange that there are not so many new homebrew games for the Amiga, but to be fair the 8-bit-machines are easier to work with than the Amiga which requires much more effort!

This post is just awesome!!!!! Loved these games, but let’s not forget Oga’s one of the most beautiful gem, Wings! I couldn’t stop playing with it, same with Shadow of the Beast series… Thank you for this blog, it’s always great to read!

Damn iPhone keyboard, Oga=Amiga….

The Amiga is really a great platform. I still play many of these old classics on my MIST FPGA Amiga setup on a CRT. It’s just like the real thing. :) Moonstone, Nitro, Monkey Island… so many cool games.

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