Sunday, 29 June 2014

Game Review Of the Week: Hired Guns

Hired Guns
Release: 1993
Publisher: Psygnosis
Developer: DMA Design
Designer: Scott Johnston and Steve Hammond
Type: Action RPG
Platform: Amiga, DOS

(insert deep movie trailer voice HERE) 

In a world where internet connections are almost non-existent, First Person shooters are in their infancy and the phrase "Ever-Crack" is still six years away, the guys who brought you Lemmings decide to make a real time multiplayer action RPG game for four players huddled around one small RGB monitor!  

(ok... enough with the voice)
Hired Guns is a four way split screen real time action rpg set in a cyberpunk world.  The gameplay is a combination of the rpg gameplay of games such as Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder, melded with the squad based tactical decision making of X-Com.  While the game is theoretically (and we'll get to this in more depth in a moment) playable as a one player experience, it is also possible to have each character be controlled simultaneously by a seperate player.  And the four player variant is where the real fun of the game comes from!

So what's the plot of this unique gameplay experience?  Well your squad of mercenaries in the year 2707 has been hired to go to the planet Graveyard (great name, right?) to rescue some hostages only to be deceived and discover that you are in fact guinea pigs.  Graveyard is a hot bed for genetic engineering experiments and your band of specialized and heavily armed thugs are to test the strength of these new critters. 

So basically the movie Predators but without Danny Trejo (for SHAME!)

There are twelve characters to choose from when making up your four man squad, each with their own specialties, something that will influence strategic decision making.  It is also possible to set up some basic AI for squad mates that are not being independently controlled, so that they follow the lead character (think a 3D version of Cannon Fodder soldiers) but it's  a less than optimal solution.

While the game could be played as a single player experience, it quickly becomes aparent that this option is simply impossible to control once serious action begins.  The limited perspective (no peripheral vision), need to switch weapons and multiple characters makes the game a nightmare experience for a single player.   BUT the game has some pretty well thought out controls that allow four players (two with joysticks and two on the keyboard) to huddle around a single monitor and try to coordinate an assault on Graveyard and make it out alive.  The control sadly isn't always ideal with a one button stick and the creators recognized this even going so far as including instructions on how to rewire a MegaDrive/Genesis controller in the manual so it would function as a two button joypad on the Amiga. 

Once you get four people around a single screen though, all yelling and screaming at one another in a desperate attempt to fullfill the task at hand, it will become an unforgettable gaming experience.

Now sadly the game is not all wonderfullness.  The game world is HUGE (two million square meters) but the memory limitations of the Amiga mean that most areas are just the same handful of textures repeated over and over again, NPCs are limited exclusively to monsters to be killed with almost no animation and the small windows mean that the graphics do suffer a bit.  These design decisions while necessary on the old A500 made the 1-to-1 port to the PC seem like a very old and stilted experience (garnishing some pretty harsh reviews, especially since two joysticks would be all but impossible on pre-USB DOS machines).

Hired Guns is a fast, frantic and unique experience both then and now.  Cooperative strategic play for multiple players is a tough nut to crack that most designers shy away from in favor of the more mindless "kill the other players" options so dominant in FPS gaming today.  A failed attempt to remake Hired Guns in the late 90s using the Unreal engine is sadly testimony to that. 

If you have three friends and you want to see how much fun multiplayer co-op can be, boot up Hired Guns and get ready to yell at the moron that is shooting his own mates in a panic.  

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Visual Guide to Amiga Games: Mega lo Mania

This week in the Visual Guide to Amiga Games we take a look at a classic real-time strategy game for the Amiga: Mega lo Mania by Sensible Software. Hint: To fully appreciate these images, click the cogwheel in the upper right corner and choose "View Full Resolution".

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Retro Review of the Week: Outrun

Out Run - marquee

Out RunRelease: 1986
Publisher: Sega
Developer: AM2
Designer: Yu Suzuki
Music By: Hiroshi Kawaguchi
Type: Racing
Platform : Arcade

The year is 1986 and aged only nine I walk excitedly into the arcades in Western-Super Mare. It is an experience I seldom got to experience, with the sea side over an hour away. So armed with my twenty and fifty pences I did a reconnaissance mission seeing if the arcade owners had any new games on display.

Now one company I always looked out for was Sega, their games always looked so much better than the competition with games such as Space Harrier and Hang On wowing us gamers back in the day, with the vibrant graphics and colours and impressive "Super Scaler" graphics and sit down cabinets that actually moved mimicking the on screen action.  In short, in the mid 80's it was the ultimate gaming experience a gamer could have.  Of course back then as a kid I had no idea all my favourite arcade games were all developed by the same man, Yu Suzuki, I just knew that if it said Sega on the cabinet it was going to worth the asking price.

This year though I didn't have to look far, for a new Sega game stood pride of place in the arcade - a shiny sit down red car shaped cabinet that moved with the action. A gaggle of gamers already stood gaping around the machine all waiting patiently to play this new experience.

Finally my turn came and I put in the astronomical 50p asking price into the machine sitting in the comfortable cabinet and staring wide eyed as my senses was enveloped by the music and beautiful graphic stood before me.  I knew from that first moment I was in love and had found the perfect game.  It is a view over 25 years later that hasn't changed for me, with Outrun, for me at least being the best game of all time.

For gamers today and those younger than me  (how I envy you), it is difficult to convey how Sega were massively ahead of all other arcade makers of the time.

So on to the game itself.  Well the game has you race in a shiny red Ferrari Testerossa with a blonde beautiful girl at your side.  You start at a Riviera beach, with sun drenched palm trees, beach  huts and luxury yauchts floating in the nearby sea, weaving through all the traffic.  All this was set against a tune of three, that you choose at the start, each with a wonderful latin fuelled summer drenched tune, that perfectly captured  the sense of racing along the sun drenched paradise of Europe.  A Cannonball style race across different countries making your way through the five stage to win the race.

The game is set in stages with you racing against the clock that adds more time should you reach the end of each stage.  This brings me to a wonderful innovation of Outrun, for when reaching the end of a stage the road would reach a fork in the road and you had to make a decision whether to go left or right.  Going left would be an easier path, but as each stage was completely different, and offered a new country to explore it gave the game much replayability as by making different choices of the direction you took you would have a massively different experience.


The other impressive feature of Outrun was the seamless nature the stages followed on from one another, never letting up for a second, but seamlessly blending from one stage to another.

Make your way through five stages and make it to the finish line and you win and are treated to a different animation, depending on the stage you completed the game on.  Finish on the easiest path (choosing all left routes) would have you thrown in the air by the crowd, only for them to drop you as your sexy blonde girlfriend looks on not impressed... Other finishes await you, but I won't tell you them all as finding out all the different endings is part of the fun of the game.

In summary Outrun is a wonderful racer, that needs to be played by everyone, especially in a deluxe sit down cabinet. It's not jut a racing game, as Yu Suzuki himself explains it best in an interview he did for Now Gamer: “OutRun’s concept was not about frantically racing to just barely take first place. It’s about giving a ride to a beautiful woman, who sits at your side, and driving around in a luxurious car with just one hand on the steering wheel, taking first place in the race by a wide margin – and with time to spare.”

Ten out of Ten

Review by the Drisk

Extra Resources: 

For a  detailed making of video I did on Outrun then please watch...
The Drisk - Outrun

Other Great sites on Outrun

 Out Run


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

ReMEMBeR #2: June, 1999 - GamePro

Magazine: GamePro
Cover date: June 1999
Issue: 129
Country of origin: USA

In this second instalment of the ReMEMBeR series of posts we jump ahead 10 years to the year 1999.


The big news in mid 1999 seems to revolve around the imminent releases of Sega and Sony's next generation consoles. Sega is said to be releasing the Dreamcast in the fall, and Sony should be ready for a release in the wintertime. As per usual, the publicity guys at Sega and Sony are using extremely big words when describing their upcoming consoles - Sega going as far as calling the Dreamcast not merely a gaming console, but rather a "a living organism that can grow as the player grows", thanks to its built-in Internet connectivity. The COO of Sega of America, Bernie Stolar, is cited for saying: "I once had a friend tell me, 'Go big or go home'. I'm here to tell you Sega is going big."

Presumably to steal some of Sega's thunder, Sony is touring with some tech demos of their upcoming system: the PlayStation 2. The release of their console is further off in the future, but they have some early demos ready to awe the gaming press with the graphical prowess of the PS 2.

In hindsight, the Dreamcast was actually released in September 1999, so they stuck to their promise of releasing it in the fall, whilst the PS 2 wasn't released before March 2000. Even with that head start, we all know that Sega didn't win this battle. The PS 2 ruled the next gaming generation (along with the Xbox, which was released in November 2001).

This issue of GamePro also had a multipage section on upcoming arcade games - none too memorable if you ask me, but then again, I do tend to gravitate towards the arcade games of the late eighties, not the late nineties :) The list of games is: Savage Quest, NBA: Showtime, Hydro Thunder, War, Silent Scope, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Crazy Taxi, and Pinball 2000: Revenge from Mars.

Finally, the news section of GamePro issue 129 had a massive section on their expectations for games being presented at the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). They are listing a lot of games of which I will only give a few here: Resident Evil: Nemesis, Crash Team Racing, Driver, Medal of Honor, Um Jammer Lammy, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Hydro Thunder, Shen Mue, Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, Final Fantasy VIII, Quake 3: Arena, and Conker's Pocket Tales.


The previews in this issue are both of Star Wars games. Episode 1, The Phantom Menace, is just about to come out in cinemas world wide, and of course LucasArts are there to release tie-in games in the newly expanded Star Wars universe. The titles on display are Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, an action/adventure game that has you go through the plot of the movie. The reviewer seems very pleased with this title, but he does worn readers that they should probably watch the movie first in order to avoid plot spoilers.

The other game being previewed is Star Wars Episode 1: Racer, a pod racing game that has you in Anakin Skywalker's pod re-living that awfully boring part of the movie over and over again :-)


Seeing as a huge amount of pages were spent on the E3 expo coverage, there wasn't a lot of room for reviews in this issue. It only has a handful, and of those only two stood out I think: the fighting game Bloody Roar 2, and the 3D platformer Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko.


Interesting times were definitely ahead in this summer of '99, with both Sega and Sony readying themselves for another big console launch, and given that the E3 expo lived up to the expectations of GamePro issue 129, the line-up of games coming out in the near future was impressive as well. In hind sight we all know that Sony came out victorious in the battle between Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, but reading about the expectations in these early days of information about the two machines can be quite entertaining nonetheless.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Visual Guide to Amiga Games: James Pond

Continuing the new Visual Guide to Amiga Games feature, this week we present James Pond. Hint: To fully appreciate these images, click the cogwheel in the upper right corner and choose "View Full Resolution".

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Retro Review of the Week: Cannon Fodder

Cannon Fodder

Platform: Amiga
Release: 1993
Developer: Sensible Software
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Designer: John Hare
Type: Strategy/Action/Shoot-em-up

"War has never been so much fun!". Thus begins the theme song of Cannon Fodder - an excellent game developed by British developer Sensible Software, with a theme song you will be humming to yourself for weeks after having heard it only once. While Sensible Software are probably best known for their brilliant series of football games, Sensible Soccer, their other series, Cannon Fodder, is equally brilliant. Oh, and they're also responsible for one of my favourite strategy games, Mega lo Mania - expect a review of that title some time in the future!

In Cannon Fodder you control a squad of cute little soldiers from an overhead perspective, much like we know it from real-time strategy games today, who are sent on missions. The missions start off with simple objectives such as "kill all enemy", "destroy enemy buildings", and "destroy enemy factory", but as you progress in the game you get harder missions requiring you to "rescue all hostages", "kidnap enemy leader", "protect all civilians", or "get civilians home". There are 24 missions to complete, spanning terrain such as the jungle, Arctic wastes, the desert, moor lands, and the underground base. Each mission consists of up to sic phases, meaning that you have a grand total of 72 levels to complete - and that's no small task, as this game gets deviously difficult after a while.

Before you take on a mission, you are presented with "boot hill", where your eager recruits line up waiting to be tossed into battle. The first time you see boot hill it's empty - it's just a green, grassy hill with a lot of soldiers lining up below it. But as you loose soldiers in battle, each of those lives lost is depicted as a grave on boot hill. Higher ranking officers get nicer graves while your common foot soldier gets a simple wooden cross. While the humour in the game may be very tongue-in-cheek, little touches such as boot hill show you, that the designers also wanted to send a message about the meaninglessness of war and the losses it brings. Many did not perceive it as such back in the day though, and the game drew criticism because of its humorous depiction of war.

You control your little troopers by clicking with the left mouse button where you'd like your troop to go, and then clicking with the right mouse button to shoot at enemy soldiers. If you click both buttons at the same time you either throw a grenade or shoot the bazooka, depending on which one you have currently chosen as your secondary weapon. The secondary weapons are used to blow up buildings and vehicles, but a well placed bazooka shot is also just the ticket when dispensing with enemy snipers.

The game is a joyful mix of strategy and action. Sometimes the best way of completing a mission isn't the most obvious one, so planning is definitely needed, and running heedlessly into battle will almost certainly get you killed in the later levels. Sometimes you need to split your troop up into smaller troops in order to get through the levels. You can of course only control one troop at the time, but the troops that you aren't controlling will defend themselves, so this can be used to perform a pincher movement if need be. In some missions there are vehicles available such as choppers, tanks, and jeeps, and using these vehicles in the correct manner is often paramount to your success in the mission. Some missions also have sentry guns that you can use to fire rockets or shells at your enemies, adding to the destructive fun!

Your soldiers gain in rank for every mission they survive, and an increase in rank means an increase in range when shooting, so these high ranking officers quickly become invaluable resources, and you will cry bitter tears when they finally die. The first four troops are called Jools, Jops, Stoo, and RJ - named after the game's main programmer (Jools), musicians (Jops, RJ), and graphical designer (Stoo) - and if you are in any way like me, you will quickly become very affectionate with these four characters. These are the troopers you start out with, and pretty soon you will be protecting them as much as possible, by sending lower level grunts out as cannon fodder, in order to keep these guys alive so that they may increase in rank and become super soldiers with an incredible range.

The original Amiga version of Cannon Fodder was ported to a plethora of platforms some of which are SNES, Sega Mega Drive / Genesis, Atari Jaguar, 3DO, and even what seems to be a pretty miserable port to Game Boy Color. So if you don't own an Amiga or CD32, there's no reason not to be playing Cannon Fodder. I'd of course recommend playing the original Amiga version though - which by the way plays perfectly in UAE. If you are interested in looking into the enormous back catalogue of the Amiga, but you don't want the hassle of setting up an emulator, I'd recommend taking a look at Cloanto's Amiga Forever package. It's an easy (and legal) way to play old Amiga games. If you do pick up a console version, I'd recommend playing it on a console that supports a mouse, like e.g. the SNES.

Fun fact: When setting out to design Cannon Fodder the main designer, Jon Hare, wanted to create a kind of "Lemmings with guns". Apart from the cute little characters you control, I'm not sure I see the resemblance, but it's fun to think that that's where the idea came from.

Verdict: As you have probably sensed from reading this review I LOVE Cannon Fodder, so please do take this with a grain of salt, but I can't for the life of me find a single thing I don't like about this game, so the score has to be a pure 5/5 from me. The One Amiga Magazine gave it a 93% back in the day, and like me the reviewer couldn't find anything to dislike - I quote: "There are a few faults... well all right, there aren't but I had to put that line in just to keep my status as objective journalist."

If you'd like to play Cannon Fodder today, and you don't have an old Amiga lying around, you could try the PC version that you can get at -

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Visual Guide to Amiga Games: Bubba 'n' Stix

The visual guide to Amiga games is a new feature we'd like to present on this site. The aim of this project is to build a coffee table book presenting a selection of Amiga games in a visually pleasing way. Our dream is that, once the project is done, the book will be printed in a nice hard cover version with beautiful, thick, glossy pages brimming with gaming nostalgia. This should be the kind of book you'd leaf through with your kids, showing them the games you played when at their age; or perhaps a book that you'll show your friends so that you may reminisce about the golden years of Amiga gaming :-)

Each game will have its own spread (two pages) within the book, and these posts will contain a single spread for you to feast your eyes upon. If you have any comments or constructive criticism about the pages shown, please leave a comment to this post. So, without further ado, I present the first game in this series of posts: Bubba 'n' Stix.

Hint: To fully appreciate these images, click the cogwheel in the upper right corner and choose "View Full Resolution".

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Game Review of the Week: Nightmare in the Dark

Review by ThoRn (@RetroGameRevival)

Developer:   AM Factory            
Publisher:   Gavaking / Eleven     
Distributor: SNK                   
Platform:    NEO GEO MVS           
Release date:2000                  
Genre:       Platform/Puzzle/Action
Mode:        Single-player 2-player
Size:        166 Meg Cart          

Some games are fun because they immerse you in to a realm of the unknown and the unbelievable.  They can transport you to a place that is impossible to reach until you enter that virtual world.  You can become whoever you want, whenever you want.  And sometimes these games can take you to such a place with the simplest of concepts and mechanics.  Welcome to the graveyard of 'Nightmare in the Dark'....

…..  This was an ancient story.  When people still believed in the power of witchcraft.  There lived one gravedigger at a very small village in a remote region. He lived a quiet, solitary life in a corner of the cemetery. He kept away from the village people due to his very ugly appearance. One day, he found the graves were ransacked and some corpses were stolen. He didn't want the village people to find out, so he decided to eliminate the grave burglars by himself. Thus, he patrolled the cemetery every night. (Extracted from game introduction)

Nightmare in the Dark (NitD) is a horror puzzle/action/platform game released in 2000 by SNK for the Neo Geo MVS, but was never released for the home AES system.  The moment you start playing you will be reminded of Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros but with a much darker tone . 

Your job is to eliminate all the zombies, ghosts & ghouls from each graveyard whilst trying to avoid getting hit.  Your weapon of choice is a small fire you throw which is powered by your trusty lantern.  Throughout each level you will receive potion power ups which increase your characters speed, your fire power and your throw distance.  Once you hit an enemy with your first shot it will freeze them for a short period, you then need to keep firing away until the enemy turns in to a giant fireball which you can pick up and throw at the remainder of your enemies.  If you’re feeling lucky once you have created and picked up your enemy fireball you can try and navigate your way to the top of the board and unleash it to create a chain reaction which can ultimately eliminate every enemy currently on the screen and give you a little score bonus at the same time.

There are a total of 5 different non scrolling boards each with 5 stages.  Now that may not seem like much, but setting yourself the goal for a ‘1 Credit Clear’ will definitely be a challenge.  On the last board of each level you will be greeted by a boss who won’t make things easy for you.  Each boss you confront will unleash a swarm of minions on you so whilst you’re attacking the minions trying to create your fireball you will also be given the task of avoiding the boss attacks until you can get enough fireballs away on the boss to defeat it.

When you have killed all the enemies and destroyed the boss you will be showered with Treasure Chests, Diamonds and Potions.  Although most of the goodies you receive are for points purposes only, that is where half the fun lies as this game is very addictive and keeps you coming back for more, each time trying to beat your old high score.

There is 99 second limit and even though most of the time that will be more than enough to complete each stage, when you come to the boss you will definitely be tested to complete the board in that designated time frame.  If the counter does run down to zero, you wont die straight away but instead your skills will be tested even further when a large pumpkin head enters the board and has only has one purpose, to follow you wherever you go until it catches you.  This is a one hit, one kill game and only three lives until game over, so if you are limited to only a few credits you will definitely need to utilise your platform logic and hand-eye coordination skills.

The controls are simple and responsive, the perfect combination for any good quality arcade game.  Some may say your character might be a little floaty when you jump, but it certainly does not take away from the game control.  And once you have received a few speed power ups, you will have great manoeuvrability wherever you are.

NitD has beautifully crafted  2D sprites and the backgrounds are just great pieces of art.  I actually found myself skipping the loot collection at the end of some of the levels just so I had a bit of time to take in the backgrounds.  Everything is coloured really well whilst still being able to maintain the dark and dreary atmosphere.  When a boss comes out to play that’s when you are treated to some great sprite creation and animation.  The detail and movement of some of the enemies and bosses are very reminiscent of the Metal Slug series.  Considering this is a non scrolling game, it’s amazing how much detail has still gone in to make it very pleasing on the eye.

The music and sound effects fit in the game well.  Not all the music has a horror feel to it, some of it has this ‘funk’ sound but still fits in to the game play very well.  It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s all you need to help keep you focused on the task at hand.

Fun comes in many different shapes and sizes, and this little gem is definitely big fun in a simple package.  It offers a wide variety of challenges whilst keeping things straight forward.  Unfortunately it can be one of the more difficult MVS carts to find as it was one of the last games released before SNK fell to bankruptcy and only a limited run were produced.  It can be found on a few of the on line virtual console sites (not emulation downloads) but for any Neo Geo enthusiast, this is definitely one to have either in your collection or on the wish list.

7.5 out of 10

Monday, 2 June 2014

Game of the month June 2014: Super Off-Road

The winner of the vote for game of the month June 2014 is Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart's Super Off-Road for the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis - or the SNES if you are so inclined.

Released: 1992 (EU), 1993 (US)
Developer: Software Creations
Publisher: Ballistic

This game, who started out as an arcade game in 1989, was ported to a massive amount of computer systems and consoles. This time around we will be looking at the 16-bit releases on Sega and Nintendo's consoles, but if you are curious about how the game looks on other platforms, do check out this awesome video that compares 14 different versions of the game.


In the game you race these tiny trucks around a tracks that can be viewed entirely on a single screen, i.e. without the use of scrolling. That you have complete knowledge of the track doesn't make the game any less challenging though, as you will soon find out once you start jumping, sliding, and nitro boosting your way through this little gem of a racing game. It's very important to make sure you hit the right jumps, avoid the hazards, whilst staying clear of the opponents trucks - something that can be quite taxing. 

Doing a quick search on Ebay it seems that this is a fairly cheap game to pick up, and you will probably have to get your hands on a cartridge seeing as the game hasn't been released on the Virtual Console.

As always, if you are considering playing along with us, please visit the forums at and join in on the discussion.