With titles such as Lemmings, Cannon Fodder, Zool, Sensible Soccer, The Chaos Engine, and Worms arriving on the Amiga first before filtering down to other platforms, there was a time when Commodore’s family of computers were seemingly at the centre of the gaming universe. Team17 quickly rose to become one of the biggest publishers on the format, originally formed from a group of talented bedroom coders who had mastered getting the most out of the system. If you owned an Amiga, you almost certainly knew who they were.
Team17 knew that the Amiga, as a platform, had some challenges. Foremost, it was rife with piracy – and so special attention was placed on the budget market, where there was still money to be made. They even spruced up some of their old titles as ‘Special Editions’ when it came to low-cost re-releases, helping them to stand out. While it’s true that some of their budget games had very arcade-like sensibilities in terms of content and depth, it’s worth bearing in mind that this was the early ‘90s – even the Mega Drive was guilty of having perhaps too many arcade conversions in its initial year.
Team17 Amiga Collection 1 presents ten games with all the benefits of modern gaming – save states, the briefest of loading screens, and no disk swapping. Hurrah. Just like the recent C64 collections, a transparent virtual keyboard overlay can be activated – handy for typing in high scores.
This collection takes us back to Team17’s beginning with Full Contact – a 1991 one-on-one fighting game. It has an unmistakable ‘demo scene’ feel to it, which isn’t all too surprising given the developer’s roots. The presentation is notably showy, including a smoothly animated silhouette of a martial arts master on the title screen. The game itself, again unsurprisingly, plays like a product of its time – 1991 was a year before Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II hit home consoles, resulting in this closer mimicking International Karate + or Yie Ar Kung-Fu. Holding the attack button and wiggling the d-pad results in flying kicks and high kicks being dished out at a comical rate. Its inclusion is still of importance, however – it’s always fascinating to see a studio’s humble beginnings.
Body Blows is another fighter present, and this was indeed undoubtedly inspired by Street Fighter II – right down to slow mo as a defeated opponent hits the deck, and a character that performs both fireballs and exaggerated uppercuts. The visuals are sharp, well-drawn, and pleasing – a far cry from the Amiga’s disastrous Dangerous Streets. But like a lot of Amiga games, it was made with one button joysticks in mind. Just like in Full Contact, holding the attack button and wiggling the d-pad will see your character perform all manner of special moves. Had this made it to SNES or Mega Drive in 1994, it wouldn’t have fared too well against the brawlers on those systems. As Amiga fighting games went though, this was certainly one of the better examples. It even went on to gain a few semi-sequels.
One game that likely would have scored and sold well on consoles is ATR: All Terrain Racing, a good looking top-down racer with a slight futuristic theme. The perspective used here was very deliberate, as to give the best possible view of the action. It’s tough – most tracks require you to learn their layouts first – but it’s also very rewarding. Like Body Blows, it too looks great on the Evercade – the Amiga’s broad colour palette was used to very good effect here.
The Gradius-inspired Project-X Special Edition lacks the same visual lustre. I expected a full tour-de-force of the Amiga’s prowess; something similar to the works of The Bitmap Brothers. Instead, Project-X is a rather plain-looking horizontal shooter with only the occasional nice-looking backdrop. The ‘Special Edition’ part of the title relates to this being a rejigged re-release. The original’s difficulty was notoriously brutal, and so a rookie mode was added here, along with fewer enemies and a more powerful spacecraft. Despite these adjustments, it still provides a decent challenge, proving that we really do have it easy nowadays.
How about a platformer? Sorry, not Superfrog – instead we’re given QWAK, a worthy alternative. Calling QWAK a tribute to Bubble Bobble is neither true nor entirely off the mark. It’s a single screen, key hunting, egg lobbing, platformer but the pace is much faster, prompting swifter decision making. Once said keys have been gathered, it’s possible to make a beeline straight to the exit – or you can stop and grab more giant-sized score boosting fruits. Fun touches are bountiful, including a little propeller suit to get around. Most people who’ve played QWAK will likely agree that it’s a hidden gem on the platform, and the same goes for this cartridge too.
Breaking things up slightly, there are two European-style sports games. The top-down Arcade Pool and Kingpin: Arcade Sports Series Bowling are both very easy to dip in and out of, being ideal for a quick five-minute gaming fix. Kingpin is easily the more pleasurable of the two, and both are better than some sports sims found on other Evercade collections.
This leaves us with three Alien Breed games – the original, its sequel, and the greatly enhanced Alien Breed: Tower Assault. That last one launched in 1994 and was only available for high-end Amigas. For those unaware, these are top-down shooters similar to Gauntlet, only influenced by the Alien movie franchise. There’s a focus on shooting, key collecting, and navigating labyrinth-like stages. While the visuals in the earlier games are a bit underwhelming, the atmosphere makes up for it, boasting a clever use of sound effects. Tower Assault increased the character roster and made the experience less linear. As an incredibly successful series – one synonymous with the Amiga – Team17 even took the franchise into 3D with two DOOM-style games. I imagine they’re being reserved for a second collection, along with Superfrog, Assassin, and others.
While this isn’t a full collection of Team17’s Amiga back catalogue, it’s still a fascinating overview – a few of their biggest hits, a couple of hidden gems, insight into their humble beginnings, and a couple of commendable attempts to follow then-current trends. All with the bonus of no longer having to swap disks mid-game. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe how frequently some games asked players to swap disks. Mortal Kombat II required a floppy swap after performing a fatality, as the animations were all saved on a separate disk, and don’t get me started on… [Ok, time for your nap – Ed]
Evercade Team17 Amiga Collection 1 is out now for £17.99.