Archive for July, 2011

Puzzling, one disk wonders on the Amiga

July 13, 2011

Puzzling, one disk wonders on the Amiga

“You need the blue key… Hmmm, you don’t say. Is that the same blue key I just used in that blue door which didn’t allow me to pick up the other blue key for this door…”

One disk wonders is a selection of my favourite puzzle and maze games that I used to love playing on my Amiga, specifically on rainy afternoons when there was either nothing good on the TV or, for some magical reason, I needed a more thought-provoking and challenging game to play.

These games were always first to come out of the box, and have seen many hours of game play, even though I still haven’t completed at least 3 of them. All one disk games they were quick to load and difficult to play, the game play and graphics for each varied in style and quality but they all required quick wits, concentration and a minor amount of mental agility. Some of them you’ll need to play without music, after a while anyway, and some of them you’ll be wanting to launch through the window out into the road, as one silly mistake can cost you the game. Still, I always came back to them again and again, some might say it was stubbornness; I like to think it was just great game play.

In no particular order, some puzzle and maze favourites for the Amiga 500, the games I couldn’t give up on, and still hope one day, to complete.

Chips Challenge

Release year: 1990 Publisher: US Gold Music: David Whittaker Design: Chuck Sommerville

In Chips Challenge you take on the role of Chip, our nerdy hero who is trying to impress Melinda and get into the Bit Busters club and um, ‘integrate technologies’ with her (words on the advert, not mine). The game is a vast and spread over 144 levels of varying difficulty, enemies, traps and pitfalls try to prevent you from reaching your goal at every turn. Using your wits and cunning you must navigate Chip safely to each level exit, solving puzzles along the way.  Along the way you’ll use objects such as handy keys (blue, yellow, green and red) as well as shields to protect you from fire and water, boots to help you navigate ice, and a magnet to help you move about on what I’ve always thought was a demented escalator.

Chips Challenge is a great top down puzzle and maze game. Most memories of this game start with the musical score by David Whittaker (Alfred Chicken, Bubble Bobble, Kid Gloves) which, although lively and quite funky at first, does nothing to help your concentration when playing, especially on a tough level. The music however does add great pace to the game and almost causes that extra level of panic as you race against the clock to solve each level. Some of the levels in this are painful to play, the maze level called ‘Brushfire’, which is quite early on in the game, always gave me a headache.

The replay value on this game is second to none and the levels are very well designed and thought out with some really challenging levels. The game eases you into it gently and by the time you get the hang of it you feel that drive to keep playing, completing level after level until you realise its 2am. The level code feature (as opposed to saving) lets you put this down and return to it later, one of the many reasons why this game works so well, its fun to play, a challenge to complete and a classic puzzler.

Puffy’s Saga

Release year: 1989 Publisher: Ubi soft Graphics and Sound effects: Fabrice Visserot

I love the title screen, I love the characters and I love the enemy sprites in this game, the dragon is also pretty awesome. My most fond memories of Puffy’s Saga are from its aesthetically pleasing look, more than likely thanks to a certain Fabrice Visserot (Flashback). The game itself is very hit and miss, the ‘Gauntlet‘ style game play is fun and the first few levels tend to be very simple and easy to complete (as with Chips Challenge) however, what you get after this first few levels is a maze of confusion and frustrating game play, leading to small amounts of crying and chucking of the game across the room.

The game follows the usual good versus evil storyline, an evil wizard has turned two star crossed lovers into yellow balls and sent them to the depths of a dungeon maze, in order to break the spell our heroes must find their way out by completing each level, and restore themselves to their human form. Sounds simple enough, but it’s not really simple at all, by that I mean I’ve not beaten it, but I want to, this reason and only this reason brings me back to Puffy’s Saga each time. I do love the characters and design of the enemies, a little fine tweaking and not so much madness this could have been a half decent game.

A good puzzle game should be challenging, but not impossible, Puffy’s Saga is the Yolanda (shudder) of the puzzle gaming world, in that you get the feeling it was developed to be impossible and/or boring at points. However, I can’t help myself with this game and I must finish it!

I’d consider Chips Challenge a reasonably succesful game, in terms of popularity and critical acclaim, as well as being one of the more memorable and classic games of this genre. Puffy’s Saga I think belongs at the other end of this spectrum, however, both remain as appealing and playable to me today as they were in the early 90’s. Short of doing a top 5, there were 3 other games that for me sat between these two games in term of popularity, great gameplay and quality. I still have fond memories of the following 3 games, although I didn’t play them half as much as the two above, in fact, although I own them all for my Amiga I believe I originally played 1 of them on an old Acorn computer in Secondary School.

Pac-Mania (1989) The one game I may have played in break times at school (alongside ‘Moonquake’ a Bomberman clone), was a great looking update to the original Pac-Man, with a nifty 3D isometric look. A decent arcade conversion this game is brilliantly presented and fun to play, with some great level design and colourful graphics. The added bonus for me with Pac-Mania was that it actually held my interest, I’m pretty terrible at the original but I felt I could get into this one more and wanted to return to it to try again each time.

Magic Serpent (1991) Was a fast and frustratingly difficult maze game set within a relatively simple scenario. The general idea was you navigated the maze (starting off as a small serpent) and collected fruit, which in turn made your serpent grow in length, the longer you got the more difficult it was to complete the level without running into yourself and dying. Certain other bonuses throughout the maze allowed for more points, time or to reduce the length of your tail. The idea was to collect everything avoiding any collisions with yourself. Taking a wrong turn would, most of the time, result in game over! Magic Serpent is a pretty fun and entertaining addition to the genre, with some pretty memorable intro music and a wonderful selection of sound effects.

Supaplex (1991) I’m still not even sure how to pronounce it, was a great game as well as a variant on the brilliant Boulderdash. I was fascinated by the level design, the bad guys and the graphics, which, compared to other games aren’t great. however these are all superseded by the superior playability and gameplay, which in itself was on Chips Challenge scale of size and difficulty. Another one I have yet to complete but I always enjoy playing and exploring, it is rewarding to plough your way through the levels as well as having the handy bonus of being able to save your progress.

If any of the names Magic Serpent, Supaplex, and Pac-Mania ring any bells, specifically the first 2, I’d love to hear your opinion on these games. I loved them, but I don’t remember anyone else ever owning them let alone playing them back in the day.

Check out links and videos below if you want to find out some more about these games!

Supaplex game information and review in Amiga Action 26 (Nov 1991)

Magic Serpent game information, seems to be an absence of reviews on this one so here is a link to its page on Hall of Light 

Pac-Mania game information and review in Amiga Computing Vol 1 No 9 (Feb 1989) 

Puffy’s Saga game information and review in Amiga Format 8 (March 1990)

Chips Challenge game information and review in Amiga Action 17 (Feb 1991)

Check out the Chips Challenge intro and first level below, the first level of Supaplex, some gameplay fromMagic Serpent and Amiga Longplay for Pac-Mania.

Chips Challenge

Magic Serpent

Pac-Mania

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