Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Chaos Engine

Is it time for another ripoff?

Not too dissimilar to Gauntlet, is The Chaos Engine which the Bitmap Bros released in 1993. It's a top-down arcade shooter where you get to choose from a selection of cool characters before running around sexy-looking levels with only one purpose - killing baddies. Okay, there is a [minor] puzzle element but this game is all about reaping death. Oh yeah!!

Okay, it's now that I can imagine the look on your faces. Why attempt to take on Gauntlet? I know but read on...

"Sometime during the last century, an experimenter with time, space and early computers created a bizarre machine. The inventor's name was Baron Fortesque The machine was... THE CHAOS ENGINE!

Although primitive the machine became incredibly powerful and went crazy, turning ordinary humans and household pets into razor-toothed, armour-plated killing machines.

It's character time and you can be one of six mercenaries with each having their own skillset. Chose wisely...


Who ya gonna be?

Each character has its own unique skills so I advise that you should play each one to find out which you prefer. Personally, I tend to prefer the Mercenary or Thug! Each of the environments is extremely interesting, both their wicked mechanics and beautiful visuals, all help to create a wonderful Victorian England theme, etc/etc.

Co-op is enabled whether you play solo or with friends and it works a treat. I love having a computer-controlled player alongside you and that extra firepower comes in handy. That helps, especially in the later levels, and is implemented well without ever taking over. However, it's embarrassing when he grabs the coins quicker than I...

Argh, this is one of those games that demands practice before you can even think about beating it!

The first level is brilliant but things soon become much harder from the second...

Bitmap aesthetics!

The graphics are literally outstanding. From start to end, such beautiful artworks, detailed sprites and gorgeous landscapes. I love each of the environments which have all been enhanced for the lovely Atari STe by using the hardware scrolling and extra colours. One of the best-looking games on the Atari ST/e. Period!!

The audio is pretty darn cool. The chip music is something that stays in your head all day and the sound effects do their job well. However, I must admit to being a little disappointed that this talented bunch failed to use the DMA audio for sampled sound effects. They're already utilising the STe so why use the DMA for samples?

So, it looks and sounds great especially when played on the Atari STe. Agree or disagree? Let me know...

I struggled with the third level and even more with the frantic fourth. So tough!!

The CryptO'pinion?

I have always ranked the Bitmap Brothers as one of the best 16-Bit developers and the freakish charm of Chaos Engine certainly helps to prove this. I cannot say whether it's better than Gauntlet because it is similar but, also different. It's marmite and I personally think people are going to find themselves split over which is best?

My only gripe is the difficulty on later levels which I fear is over the top for me and my skills. This means I must reach high on the cheat shelf, which isn't really good when you think about it. However, there is a passcode system which is a fantastic feature. Overall, this is a remarkable and addictive shooter stuffed full of action. I love it!!

8BitChip and D-Bug have created hard drive installable games which are superb!!
Chaos Engine floppy disks: Adrenalin #37A  #37B disks.

World Two = T6MV6J4LGLCZ (Thug + Mercenary)
World Two = 73VBPXY1PZV1 (Brigand + Navvie)
World Two = QLVKM4YKJQVS (my own code!)
World Three = 4WQZTTRG61MZ (Navvie + Gentleman)
World Three = 2#YNLN7SR94W (Navvie + Brigand)
World Three = JSP99G416LY2 (I've no idea where I found this!)
World Four = PK2R9J6G5W4K (Navvie + Gentleman)
World Four = C8737KFPBCDB (Navvie + Preacher)

ST Format has a guide and a walk-through solution (issues: #51 #52 #53 #54)
Bitmap Bros have a cool website with maps, guides and more.
Let's Play have a great page with loads of info.
I love this game so much that I went "out" and bought the Apple Mac version.