Whilst I recall taking a greater interest in Amiga Format in my youth than Amiga Power, Amiga Action, and CU Amiga, one of the best-remembered Amiga magazines I had was a copy of Amiga Action. I was more interested in games than articles, and Issue 69 provided a great “Comic Relief Bonanza” in 1995, with no less than four floppy disks supplied. There was a demo of Turbo Trax, a demo of The Speris Legacy which I have to admit to never touching (even from a young age I’ve never been much for those RPG thingies), and a full version of the annoying but tuneful platformer The Blues Brothers as the comic relief fundraiser. All very exciting, I’m sure you’ll agree.
|Who needs flashy menu screens?|
|Space Invasion II|
|Remind you of anything?|
Disk 2 was what stayed with me, however. On this disk was a collection of four simple public domain games from Kevin Gallagher and his Towerbyte Software crew in
. Gallagher did some arcade game adaptations with AMOS for the Amiga, and the first of these to appear here was Space Invasion II, a much-improved, and no less cunningly disguised, conversion of the classic Space Invaders. While the original had been quite crude, this version introduces bases, and brings back Towerbyte’s favourite “in space but on the ground” background in more detail. There’s not much you can say about the gameplay, other than that it’s a realistic Space Invaders experience, save for the background. A third version in 1998 would see the black background employed with smoother movement, but where the original conversion was lacking, this was the version that essentially matched up in terms of gameplay. Evidence that some of these games were rushed is only evident in the menu here. The surprisingly long music clip (the length of the title music of the games appears to be what takes up so much of the space on the disk that decreed that there wasn’t enough room for a proper title screen for selecting the games) pumps ominously over scrolling text filled with mistakes like “scoreing” and “lazer”. I accept that some acronyms such as radar have been assimilated into the language as words in their own right, but the letters still stand for something, and “ztimulated” isn’t part of it. Grimsby
|I've seen that background before|
|The Amazing Adventures|
Of Harry Haddock
|Harry's a real fish out of water,|
with an irresponsible diet
|Level 2 (of 2) takes place at night|
|Look at his skin, look at the shades|
Once you’ve recovered from that shock, you need to play quickly. Harry has a time limit for completing a level, of which there are a whopping two. To score points, you need to collect all sorts of junk from multicoloured diamonds, stars and coins to presumably edible items such as burgers, cake, coke and canned apple juice, all of which come with various sparkling, swallowing or slurping sounds. You need to jump Harry across the level, and his rapid spring up and slow float down are an unusual quirk that needs a little getting used to. Harry can move so fast that he can’t walk down a downward slope, he just floats over the top, one of a few signs that the game was rushed. Most platforms are solid lumps, but you do get a couple of mobile ones and disappearing ones to keep the interest up. The main hazards are the birds, crabs and occasional octopus that move around a platform typically minding their own business, but are deadly enough to kill Harry upon contact. The other enemies are time (you lose the whole game if you run out of time, no life-losing mechanic here) and, bizarrely, water. Harry, a haddock, a fish, needs to stay out of water to stay alive. I accept that anything else would warp the idea of a platformer somewhat, but this makes absolutely no sense. The gameplay, like your typical Towerbyte game, is simplistic but lasting, and this playable game with all of its horrendous features makes it a shining example of the “classic for all the wrong reasons” category, which most prominently features Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.
This little disk is far from perfect, but it is special. It brought arcade gameplay into the home in a spectacularly low budget fashion, and provided a huge amount of time-killing potential. Especially armed with a joystick, Space Invasion II and Galaxy Wars offer similar but acceptably different bona fide arcade experiences, and are a pleasure. Dodge Em has a slightly shorter shelf-life, but is an interesting spin on an all time classic. The Amazing Adventures Of Harry Haddock is, well, amazing. It’s wacky, it’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s outrageous, and by the time you’ve shaken yourself out of the mind-crippling shock that the sheer idiocy it throws at you, you’re already hooked. Even in a gaming age where not so many titles could be accused of glossing over substantial gaming in favour of neat graphics and sounds, Towerbyte Software demonstrated that if you gave them nothing more than a little beer money, they could give you hours of fun, but not in that way.