The latest Amiga game news, reviews and opinions.


Wednesday 10 February 2016

Finally, a Hands-on With Karateka!

It was back on the 2nd of February that English Amiga Board member meynaf, announced that he'd managed to port the Atari ST version of Jordan Mechner's martial arts game, Karateka, over to the Amiga.

I'd been meaning to post details regarding this release for over a week now, but I wanted to get the game installed and tested on my Amiga before I did so. Finally, I've had the chance!

For those not familiar with the game, the objective is a simple one - enter the castle, fight past the guards using your martial arts skills, and rescue the princess. To do this you must walk from left to right, battling adversaries and obstacles, as you make your way to the final battle - a one-on-one with Akuma, the kidnapper of the princess.

According to the Karateka entry on Wikipedia;
"Karateka was developed by Jordan Mechner while he was a student at Yale University as a side project between his classes. In learning to program on the Apple II, he had written a clone of Asteroids and a modified version he titled Deathbounce. He submitted Deathbounce to Brøderbund, which they declined. They provided Mechner with a copy of Choplifter, then one of the top selling games from Broderbund.  
Mechner recognized from this game that he could pursue original game concepts instead of having to remake existing titles. 
Using some of the graphic features that Choplifter provided, Mechner focused on a karate-themed game as a result of numerous factors which included his ongoing studies as a film student, his involvement in several film clubs at Yale, and having recently taken lessons in karate at the time. He also drew inspiration from Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock print art, and the cinematic works of Akira Kurosawa, early Disney animated films, and silent pictures; he claimed that such works "convey such powerful emotion and atmosphere without a word being spoken". 
One of his goals was to combine cinematic techniques with game elements to create, at that time, a novel experience; from this, Mechner programmed some of the screen wipes used in Seven Samurai as game elements. In reflecting on the game, Mechner stated that he did not consider the game as a "fighting game", but instead that of "a story-based game where the gameplay mechanic is fighting" 
Amiga screenshot
The game certainly looks like an early Disney-style animation, and even today, the graphics look really stylish. The limited number of colours used work well, and the characters are extremely well animated and well drawn.

I tested this out on my Amiga 1200 (68030 @50mhz), and it ran beautifully. I notice the docs state that this game may run on a 68000, but it will likely need to be an accelerated system to run properly.

The game can be played with either joystick or keys. I opted for the joystick option, and found the controls to be extremely responsive. Using a combination of the fire button and holding different directions a number of moves can be performed. I have to say that the enemy AI isn't brilliant. The majority of enemies can be defeated by you either standing still and performing the ankle kick, or tip-toeing towards them and then carrying out the move.

Gameplay is also very repetitive, with guard after guard lining themselves up for battle. These scraps are broken-up with short cut-scenes, but it's not enough to make the game particularly exciting. I can see that back in the day this game, with the sheer quality of animation, would have been groundbreaking. Today, I struggled playing for more than a couple of times, and ended up putting something else on.

That said, this is a real piece of gaming history, and if you've not played it, you really should give it a go. Meynef has done a superb job of converting this over to the Amiga platform, and he should be congratulated for his amazing efforts.

Amiga screenshot
If you'd like to follow the Karateka ST to Amiga development thread then follow this link, which will take you to the relevant location on the English Amiga Board.

Those of you keen to get this up and running on your Amiga can download the executable and documentation here. This runs nicely from hard drive. You can also download a booting ADF here.

Have fun!

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Amigaville - Issue 4 Out Now!

It's been many a year since you've been able to pick up an Amiga magazine off the shelf of your local newsagent. I still have fond memories of cycling down to our local to pick up the latest copies of Amiga Power, CU Amiga, Amiga Format and Amiga Shopper back in the day (I didn't buy this many magazines every month, I might add!).

While the team at Amiga Future magazine (now celebrating a whopping 18 years!) do a fantastic job with their magazine, there's definitely room for another publication covering the scene.

Currently up to issue 4 is Amigaville, a PDF only Amiga magazine covering both gaming and the more serious side of our favourite machine.

Now, as this is a gaming blog I'll skip past the serious stuff and move straight over to the gaming coverage, which in this issue features reviews of:
  • Pacmania
  • Prince of Persia
  • Heroquest
  • Deluxe Galaga
  • Castlevania
The above spans eight colourful pages, featuring a selection of screenshots, detailed reviews, and the author's own scores at the end, which, I have to say, are pretty harsh. Prince of Persia gets a lowly 62%, and the legendary Deluxe Galaga limps away with a mere 75%, for example.

Moving on, and the main game-related feature article "From Doom to Gloom: The World of First Person Shooters on the Commodore Amiga", covers pretty much what you'd expect from the title.

Spanning three full pages, this section takes a brief look at some of the Amiga's best known first person shooters. Documented in release order, you can see how the genre evolved on the Amiga over the course of time.

The whole issue spans a very respectable 36 pages, and this is even more impressive when you consider that, aside from the excellent front cover (produced by GreyFox), the entire magazine has been put together by one person, Brian Hedley.

Issue four costs a mere £2 to download, while issues 1 to 3 are free. You may want to check those out before diving in and parting with what would cost you about half a pint of beer.

Pop over to the Amigaville web site for more information, and if you like what Brian's doing, please leave him some feedback. Brian's currently on the look-out for people to contribute articles to future issues. If you'd like to assist then get in touch with him.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Knightlore Ported to the Amiga

Posting over on the English Amiga Board a few days ago, user SyX announced that he'd stumbled upon a blog detailing the porting of Ultimate's Spectrum classic "Knightlore" over to the Amiga. Not only that, but the work was now complete and the game was available for download.

Here's Syx;
"I have discovered a nice blog about reverse engineering and the blogger, tcdev has made a port of ZX Spectrum Knightlore to Amiga, the first beta is available there. 
The guy is having a few problems with his amiga port and i have redirected him to our forum. 
The blog is, and the entries about the amiga version are the two last."
The author has revealed this his Amiga port is "done and dusted", and he's now working on converting the game to the Neo Geo...
"It's been a whirlwind exercise the last few days, and it's entirely possible (even probable) that my Amiga code is absolute rubbish. 
It runs on AmigaOS 3.1 and - presumably - higher. There are still a few kinks but my goal wasn't - at least at this point - to have a polished commercial-grade product."
I've installed the current version of the game on my A1200 tower (030 @ 50mhz) and the speed was excellent. Knightlore for the Amiga is still very much in a work in progress state, however. There's no sound, the graphics are black and white, there's no joystick option, and there are some bugs. On only my first go I picked up the boot item, then dropped it, with the intention of picking it up during a jump, only to find that it vanished. I've also had Sabreman dropping through the floor and re-appearing at the top of the screen!

It looks like the developer will be revisiting the Amiga conversion with the aim of tidying it up, as a recent post to the EAB explains;
"I am (now) interested in tweaking the Amiga port to get it to a point where it can be released to the general public as a shrink-wrapped playable game, rather than a proof-of-concept which is how I would describe it now. 
I would also welcome anyone else having a go at enhancing the graphics, and would happily advise/assist in that process. 
In the mean-time I'll post a few technical questions on this board in the appropriate forums and hopefully get the assistance I need."
Knightlore Amiga version
The full blog post announcing the release and containing the download link can be found here, while  the main blog detailing more of the Spectrum to Amiga port and other conversions can be found here.

As Microsoft now own the Ultimate Play The Game back catalogue I'd advise you to download the game as soon as you can. The games are "Distribution Denied" on the World of Spectrum, and it's possible Microsoft will request that this is removed.

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Hewson to Start Making Games Again

As one of the backers for the "Hints and Tips for Videogame Pioneers" kickstarter, I look forward to the regular email updates sent out by Andrew and Rob Hewson. It's nice to be kept in the loop with regards to the progress of their book, and quite often the message will contain one or two other nuggets of information I'll find interesting.

The update that landed in my mailbox yesterday afternoon was a little different, however...
We are delighted to announce that Hewson Consultants Ltd is going to be developing and publishing games again:  
First and foremost we want to ensure all Kickstarter backers that this will have a positive impact on the delivery of the book, which is our number one priority. Rob is now working full time at Hewson having officially joined the company as CEO & Creative Director after leaving his position as Game Director at TT Fusion where he was working on LEGO games. As such he can now dedicate much more time to the book as we continue to work towards an Easter launch.  
Andrew will continue as Chairman and Finance Director for Hewson Consultants and we are also joined by John Ogden as Technical Director. John has more than 15 years of games industry experience building bespoke game engines from the ground up.  
We wanted to share this news with you as soon as possible and we will have more information on the games we will be making and publishing in due course.  
Again our first priority is to launch the book, which we can now dedicate more time to, and we will have more updates very soon.  
Best Regards,  
Andrew & Rob"
According to the excellent Lemon Amiga web site, Hewson released an impressive 19 titles for the Amiga, before shutting down and then reforming under the name 21st Century Entertainment where they released a further 14.

I'd say it was unlikely that the new Hewson Consultants would release anything on the Amiga, but they do seem to be very supportive of the retrogaming community. Perhaps a small run of re-releases could be on the cards, though. We'll have to wait and see.

I'll report back on further developments regarding this story as and when they surface.