Why the Amiga 500 was the greatest computer ever made
Why the Amiga 500 was the greatest computer ever made
It took approximately eighteen months of badgering my parents before they finally caved in. Logical arguments of how useful it would be for my homework, how crucial Information Technology was going to be over the next few decades (I wasn't to know that would actually turn out to be true) and how it could be a truly useful office tool. A hedonistic 'console' had been flatly ruled out. And a PC was deemed too expensive.
But the Amiga 500. Oh, the Amiga 500 was perfect. I could talk up its potential for 'word processing' and 'artwork design' with the revolutionary Deluxe Paint III (you could make Tutankhamun's face!) which just happened to be part of an introductory bundle. And, just by pure coincidence, also in that bundle was The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants, Captain Planet and the Planeteers and Lemmings. And that's what I really wanted it for: games, sweet games.
Thus, the first disc to be inserted into that whirry drive when the shiny package was brought home from the computer shop was not WordPerfect, but Lemmings - and the fun times began.
On this day 30 years ago, the very first Amiga was launched (the 1000 model) and computing history has largely forgotten this glorious range of machines. Its predecessor, the Commodore 64, was perhaps more groundbreaking, and the later models lost out badly in the war against the PC, but the Amiga 500 enjoyed an unbelievable few years in the sun following its introduction in 1987. The aforementioned parental arguments were its killer feature: for the first time, it was a computer that could handle everything well - art, office work and gaming - for a reasonable price. And it was built to last (not for nothing was its code name 'Rock Lobster') - in fact, mine still works today, 24 years after purchase.
Of course, what also helped was that its release coincided with a serious golden era for gaming, and for publishing. Amiga magazines were brilliantly written, cheap and informative - handy when there was no internet to tell you if anything was any good and games were £25 a pop. The likes of One Amiga, Amiga Format and Amiga World were unmissable, often with demo discs on the front to 'try before you buy'. But the games. Well, the games were fantastic - here's a few that I loved - there were so many more.
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
It's the year 2105 and the original Speedball League has fallen apart. It goes underground before being reborn due to public interest, with a new team emerging: Brutal Deluxe (there was actually a full backstory booklet included with the game, featuring a full 'history' of the sport). Quite simply one of the greatest games ever made, Speedball 2 saw you command a team of nine players, who are attempting to slam a metal ball into an opponent's goal, via any means possible. Punch the opposition, get points for injuring them, heat the ball up to cause more carnage and wait for the man to shout 'ice cream' while a player's being stretchered off, all the while upgrading your team to include ever more crazy maniacs to get you up into the first division and eventually win the title. Zipsticks everywhere were smashed to pieces on this game - as they were on the similarly -themed bash-em-up Brutal Sports.
The king of playable football games, this blew the opposition away when it first emerged in 1992, before morphing into the all-conquering Sensible World of Soccer and its 95/96 pinnacle. Concentrating on pure gameplay over graphics (and yet, at the same time boasting arguably the most instantly-recognisable graphics of its time), it was insanely addictive. And it had an amazing theme tune, which will leave men of a certain age misty-eyed with nostalgia.
A devilishly simple, yet fiendishly difficult platform-puzzler, your job was to marshal your hapless lemmings towards an exit door, while 8-bit versions of famous pieces of classical music played in the background. The legendary Team 17 would later twist this concept and use it for the equally brilliant Worms.
Graham Gooch World Class Cricket
Having spent a large part of my youth playing dice cricket (something that youngsters today will literally not understand in the slightest), the idea of cricket being on a computer was mindblowing. But Graham Gooch changed all that. Bowling was utterly rubbish - once you'd discovered a couple of cheats you could bowl a team out for literally nothing (pace bowler, slower ball bouncer pitched on leg stump since you're asking - the batsman would tamely shuffle across and then it would bounce off him onto the stumps, not dissimilarly to some real-life England performances of the era) - but batting was a thing of sheer beauty. Requiring timing, perfect shot selection and real patience, getting half-centuries or higher was a serious achievement. Also, avoiding the constant menace of infuriating run-outs was a skill in itself.
Championship Manager 93/94
The game that sunk a thousand marriages - and it all began on an Amiga. The original game came out in 1992 and didn't have such luxuries as 'real names'. In addition, it took fully ten minutes to load the data between games. But who cared when a game was this addictive. Vast reams have been written on its brilliance, and they're all justified - 93/94 and the introduction of real-life teams was where it really got motoring. No sound, no graphics - my sister never understood it ("but it's just words on a screen") - but those who knew, knew. What an unbelievable game.
Sensible Software were the rock stars of the Amiga era and, not content with creating Sensi Soccer, then put their considerable talents to creating this genius strategy-style war game. It retained its characteristic top-down view and sucked the player in to spend hours thinking 'isn't war fun?'. A notable mention also for Sensible Golf, which was an excellently fun arcade-style take on the sport.
The Secret of Monkey Island
LucasArts produced a string of brilliant graphic adventures for the Amiga in the nineites - Indiana Jones and the last Crusade, Indie again with TheFate of Atlantis and Loom were all excellent, but the pinnacle was reached with The Secret Of Monkey Island. It was funny, clever, inventive and hugely enjoyable.
Xenon 2 Megablast
Frankly, this game was worth playing for the music alone, as the Bomb The Bass classic Megablast (Hip Hop On Precinct 13) was incorporated into the game's soundtrack - one of the first instances of a computer being programmed to play a pop single with accuracy. The gameplay was unrelenting and thrilling, with a trip to Colin the Alien's Bargain Basement shop always a treat. An utter classic.