Sonic & Mario weren't the only platforming heroes of the early ninties. There was a wealth of Amiga platformers which were often unfairly overlooked due to their rivals on the home consoles. While the home console platformers might have had higher production values and a bigger marketing push, the small dev team Amiga releases hold up very well side by side.
Retro Collect is going to dive into the top 5 Amiga platformers, in an attempt to gain the Home Computer more respect from the Sonic and Mario fans.
5 - Woody's World (1993 - Acid Software)
After impressing many Amiga owners with the bright, promising visuals printed in the Amiga magazines; Woody's World suggested it would offer gameplay to match up to its graphics even before it was released. And those presumptions were entirely right.
Woody's World starts off with one of the best title screens in Amiga history. Featuring the main protagonist riding a rollercoaster train through a vast landscape of colourful adventures. "Wait, can I do that in-game?". You sure can!
Before we even jump into the main game, Woody's World offered a minecart-eque bonus level that could almost rival Donkey Kong Country's famous minecart levels, despite being released a good year earlier.
Where the main game is concerned, the first thing you will notice is a very confusing Mini Map with no real indication of the path you need to take. Putting that aside, you're instantly thrown into a colourful world of platforming action. Starting out in the Steam Castle, youre greeted with an interesting array of enemies and obstacles. After navigating the halls of the castle and breaking blocks 'Mario Style', you begin to see the influence from the Italian Plumber showing. This is far from a bad thing as it begins to take the best elements from the Mario series to create a memorable experience for Amiga gamers.
While Mario had Mushrooms, Woody had something a bit more upper class. Hidden in the blocks around the levels are Sceptre's and Crowns, offering Woody a two stage power-up going from Wizard to Prince and finally King. Prince and above allowed the ability to throw stars (fireball style).
Where level design is concerned, Woody's World took the classic Amiga stance of packing in hundreds of secret rooms, invisible walls and hidden treasures amongst the fantastic design.
The soundtrack also compliments the gameplay very well, without a doubt making this one of the best audio/visual Amiga experiences available.
4 - Arabian Nights (1993 - Krisalis)
Another gem from 1993! Krisalis put together a fine Arabian adventure staring a love stuck palace gardner, Sinbad Jnr on a mission rescue Princess Leila from the clutches of evil. Sound familiar? Who cares, it's a tried, tested and proven forumla for platform games.
Sinbad Jnr is thrown into the Palace dungeon after being blamed for the Princesses' disappearance and must break out straight away to get to the rescue mission. Unlike today's tutorial happy, frequent save point friendly games, Arabian Nights throws you into the deep end straight away. Starting off level 1 in the palace dungeon, you are instantly introduced to the games mechanics to prepare you for the adventure ahead.
Arabian Nights, unlike most platformers of it's time featured an Item system, requring you to adventure through the levels finding keys and tools to open doors, help grannies knit magic carpets and grow plants from Lion's tears. Arabian Nights wasn't afraid to bring on the humour and executted it so well, keeping it in context with the game itself.
Like Woody's World, the developers knew that a Platform game on it's own needed an extra gimmick. Bring in the Shmup! Once Sinbad Jnr has had the Magic Carpet Knitted for him, the next level to follow is a horizontal shoot em up in the sky staring enemies that could almost be fit for Parodius. While the shooter itself couldnt really rival a real Shmup, it is a great addition to a the game offering it a new level of depth.
The game is rather short, featuring 8 levels (and of course, a minecart level), but that is definately not something to judge the game by. The gameplay, visuals and soundtrack earn this title a place in Amiga Platforming history.
3 - Yo! Joe! (1993, Scipio)
Okay, so saying 1993 was a good year for Amiga was an understatement.
Yo! Joe! was one of the few Amiga games that got the backing from a top publisher. Sporting the Hudson Soft logo on the packaging, Yo! Joe! lives up to it's publishers name offering a fantastic platforming action.
Yo! Joe! is one of the few scrolling platformers offering simultaneous 2 Player co-operative gameplay, something very rarely seen within this genre. Starting off, you take control of two brothers out to... uhmm... destroy the bad guys. The story is incredibly vague, suggesting there are many bosses wanting the heroes eliminated, but that is about as far as it gets. Even though the game was published by one of the 'big boys', Yo! Joe! shows that you don't always need a solid story to deliver gameplay.
Starting out in Dracula's castle (Eat your heart out Castlevania, this is level one!), you are introduced to what could possibly be the biggest Amiga level map ever, a feature which is continued throughout the entire game. Each level takes a good ten minutes to travel presenting many traps, treasures and level themed enemies along the way via multiple routes.Yo! Joe! also offers a weapon system, making the enemy beating quite varied.
Another feature which springs to mind during the first few minutes of the game is the incredibly detailed and stylised graphics in-game. Yo! Joe! goes all out on the graphics refusing to use any block colour fills on anything, it's clear everything on screen has had hours of care placed down with a virtual paintbrush.
While continuing on with the appealing factors of the game, the incredible music belts out of the TV with such a 90's dance punch allowing you to sit back in a nostalgic trance. Yo! Joe's music takes you back to a time when sound chips ruled the computers and eurotrance was quite obviously a big influence on developers. The tunes are so catchy, you will find yourself humming them hours later.
And for the third time in this article, Yo! Joe! follows on with the trend, a Shmup level is included in this title too.
2 - Brian The Lion (1994, Reflections)
Finally, a release after 1993.
Where mascots are concerned, the Amiga never really had one. Many would claim that Zool could be it, or even Superfrog, but those choices are merely fan decisions as Commodore never created an official mascot. Brian The Lion is a character which could have potentially (and unofficially) filled that gap. A friendly, loveable and fluffy Lion out to take on evil, what more could you ask for.
Brian The Lion is another Amiga title that quite clearly has had a lot of time placed into the graphics department to ensure this loveable character has a loveable world to roam free in. Similar to Super Mario World, Brian The Lion is built upon a multipath mini map. Within many levels are multiple exits, whirlwind warps and hidden item shops. The influence is visible, yet acceptable as it is done so well.
Similar to the games mention above, the soundtrack in Brian The Lion is a great addition to the gameplay continuing on the cutesy feel the Lion displays. Various animal roars are present in the score and the tunes are quite memorable too.
The levels are cleverly designed to cater for all types of gamer. While giving out bonus stages to the advanced gamer for finishing levels within set time limits, the less skills audiences can relax into the Lion's warm cuddle and progress at their own pace. The advanced gamers can also set out to find the hidden paths to secret levels, usually offering many hit points and power ups to help out later on.
As the many hidden paths are carefully hidden, you will find yourself coming back for many more adventures with the unoffical mascot.
Brian The Lion also hosts various power ups which can be called up in times of need, a life saving feature throughout the game. Jump height enhancers, Speed increasers and Roaring volume boosters, everything a pumped up Lion can offer.
If Brian The Lion had the financial backing that Sonic and Mario did, the Amiga mascot could have easily been born complimenting it's near perfect gameplay, graphics and audio.
1 - Superfrog (1993, Team 17)
Back to 1993, the golden age of Amiga platformers.
For any Amiga fan reading, this choice for the number one spot shouldn't come as a suprise. Superfrog for Amiga gamers was our answer to Sonic. Superfrog could run fast, jump high and best of all... had a cape! He was indeed a Superfrog and his game defined platforming gaming for ever Commodore kid out there.
Taking on a reverse plot of the Frog-Prince, with an added magical witch causing havoc, it's upto Superfrog to... you guessed it (again), rescue the Princess in another castle. But as it should have become apparent throughout this list, Amiga games never really need an original story. Having said that though, this story is given an interesting twist with commerical value.
The story is introduced in a pixel perfect cartoon animation, which impressed countless Amiga owners at the time. After being turned into a puny frog by the evil witch, Superfrog is sat sulking infront of a lonely river with a bottle floating down stream. Once grabbing this bottle out the water and holding it up high, the Lucozade logo jumps out. This frog wasn't getting his powers from nowhere, after a few gulps of the orange syrup the frog transforms similar to Popeye's Spinach deformaties, inevitably becoming Superfrog.
Game. Set. Ribbit! Starting out in the tried and tested grassylands, Superfrog isn't ashamed to follow conventions and puts together memorable levels with an added level of frustration. While it is a rather short game, it can only be finished in a short time after many playthroughs due to the difficulty of the game. Collecting Lucozade durning the level will help you out, but nevertheless you are in for a enjoyable challenge.
Superfrog really packs in the charm and does it with a smile. With every sprint through the level, the cheerful face of Superfrog is present, even during his death animation. The enemies also carry big loveable cartoon eyes really pushing you into an interactive cartoon.
And where bonus levels are concerned, Superfrog also has a horizontal Shmup included. Team 17 we're quite obviously proud of their productions and began to take advertising to another level. Having released Project X, a horizontal Shmup, a year before Superfrog; the transition between World 5 and 6 is called Project F. A very tongue in cheek approach to gaming as we know it.
And if a Shmup wasn't enough, Superfrog also houses a Fruit Machine at the end of every level. To add to that previously discussed difficulty, passwords can only be gained by winning big on the slot machine. It's rather unforgiving but yet somewhat acceptable.
Over the course of the five worlds, you'll be enjoying the expected scenery as it's carefully distributed throughout the game. Following unwritten laws of gaming, the Ice World must be a world or two after the Fun Fair World.
The only let down in Superfrog is the easy final boss, most gamers will find themselves rescuing the Princess first time round. But this is often overlooked due to the cartoon ending which is so beautifully animated, bringing the Amiga's platforming masterpiece to an end. Superfrog without a doubt set high standards for Home Computer platformers, something we can all be grateful for.
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