Review: Disposable Hero (Commodore Amiga)

Review-Disposable-Hero-AmigaWhen considering the vast array of shooters on the Amiga, very few come into the fray as being ‘great’ or at a long shot, ‘superb’. Most unfortunately fall within the realms as average, despondent and almost unplayable. In a sense, the Amiga had the attributes to produce a linear, no thrills but entertaining title with a hint of flair now and again.

However, in truth, the Amiga commanded the ‘clone’ era of shoot em’ups. Splash around in a pool of 3.5 disks and you will soon find Defender clones such as ‘Datastorm’, a superb game which commands more respect than its original predecessor from which it cloned. Then dig deeper into that never ending pool of plastic floppy’s and you’ll find games listed under the ‘please refrain from thinking I am R-Type’ section.

This section is a mischievous pile, filled with delusions of grandeur and unapologetic representations of what you ‘thought’ you were buying from the good honest salesman in your local floppy disk retailer. Underwhelming horizontal shooters with trendy animations, moving backgrounds and rotating weapon systems with a heavy underground acid house beat kicking in your ears, this of course, to keep you entertained while you convince you’re self that this game was worth departing coin for.

The extent of these games is probably still to this day unknown. However, look closer. Open your mind and free yourself the R-type poison that’s thwarted your perception of shooters in the early, acid house era of games and let your senses be distanced of popular belief and you’ll find that some of these games are beyond playable.

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Introducing Disposable Hero

One such title that can be utilised as a cure is ‘Disposable Hero’. The early nineties power house Gremlin Graphics with developer Boys Without Brains / Euphoria had conceived and produced what others could not, with a mixture of artistic design and that all important relatively fluid gameplay, the Lotus and Super Cars publishers had created a monster that goes quietly unknown in the world of retro gaming forums and the informative open public socialising forum that is Twitter. So, what have we got here? Well for starters, it’s visually impressive and surprisingly immersive for a game that is playable on both the Amiga 500 original chipset and the CD storage box that goes by the name of CD32.

Secondly, it’s horizontal, a shooter and has a heavy underground acid house beat kicking in your ears. Not to be sucked into that mysterious linear void that Team 17’s Project-X famously occupies, some effort has been used when mixing style and gameplay here. Visually above par for a game of this genre on the 500, Disposable Hero presents itself fine opportunity to show off the Amiga’s aging hardware. The character's ship design for instance show’s off some ‘leaning to the left, now the right’ charms. The style and finesse of the ship itself, named ‘Proto-1’ isn’t at all bad. It’s not great looking, but cannot be considered ugly either. As the game progresses, the player can ditch this ship design and move onto ‘Proto-2’, a heavier, more industrialised looking ship with more firepower. But, with more firepower comes less advantage.

The game has an in-depth weapon system that allows the player to upgrade the ships firepower dynamics in each level. To get these upgrades, you must collect ‘blue prints’. Each blue print through out the game is constantly being developed, thus not giving the player that particular weapon at that particular moment time until the weapon becomes readily available when needed. This could be considered a floor within D-Hero’s mechanics, but here comes the interesting part. For every blue print / weapon the ship collects, the ship has an automatic power drainage system. To enhance the power generated from the particular weapon, power generators must be collected to aid your quest.

To get full use from the weapon collected, the player must land the Proto-1 or 2, into what can only be described as a glass dome. In this glass dome, many combinations of weapons can selected depending on the ships power at the time. Now, the amount of selective choices and combinations you add or take away from the ship is nothing but staggering. Weapons such as the ‘WRG-L Plasma propulsors Mark 9.1, 9.2 and 9.3’ – a weapon that can shoot in different directions depending on what version it is, also the ‘8KL-H Mark pulse cannon’ for shooting those pesky behind enemies. Not forgetting the ‘GyroTrack tracking-cannon’ for a kind of homing missile defence system and of course, what every interstellar space craft shouldn’t be without, the ‘TW102 Terosone Bomb’ – in other words, carpet bomb.

The list of weapons is so extensive that typing them into this article could take days. Each of the two ships you can control is limited to what weapon set up you can have and also, you can increase or decrease the weight of the two ships. This does aid the player in theory, but is it a gimmick? Does this weapon system actually suffice? It does but, it’s tentatively undecided. Programmers, Boys Without Brains can be forgiven for trying to create something of value and worth here, but at the same time it’s an unforgiving pleasure that hasn’t attributed to changing a genre but merely adding something different into the fold. With gimmicks like this hanging around D-Hero’s neck, does it dispel the games mechanics? Not really, if anything it adds some charm to a game that does not want to be listed as mediocre, it’s above that, but just.

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Commodore Amiga Heroics

Finding a balance of gameplay, visuals and SFX in a horizontal shooter was no easy feet on the Amiga, especially with the added issues of one button commands. Starting with the visual aspects of things, it’s impressive. Detailed enemies, bosses and weapon plasma are well instrumented and don’t look out of place at anytime. The colour scheme is glorious, with limits of the 16bit home computer being pushed to its binary limits using only 32 colours. The backdrops are indeed impressive, but the last sections of the game look to have been rendered with only half as much effort as the first sections. No parallax scrolling here, this would have made a huge difference in the atmosphere of this shooter and the frame rate can jolt around at some points like a dying pigeon.

Usually, with such a high spec visually, other elements of the game can be lost. This fortunately isn’t the case. Controls are smooth, responsive and fast. The SFX are not entirely up to scratch however and can sound fuzzy and misinterpreted at times. The OST can be attributed to adding tension, fear and of course frustration while appearing to highlight each level and its atmosphere gloriously.

Now, with a game so immensely reliant on the mixture of relatively good gameplay and unprecedented looks for an Amiga 500 shooter, it works. It’s not all perfect but it kind of gels together into a digital blob of goodness and it’s a well needed shot to the arm for the Amiga. There has to be something ridiculously outrageous and worthy of a moan though? The weapon system is a mild attempt of changing the dynamics of the R-Type clone, yes. But, worthy of being labelled an over complicated gimmick? Kind of, it works and it sort of does its job but still gimmicky.

Ah yes, of course. The game is hardcore. It’s brutally hardcore. It can be unfair, unpredictable and extremely infuriating at times.Enemies of all different shapes and sizes carrying varied weaponry will attack from left to right, up from down and from east to west. There’s no hiding or lucking it through to the end of the level with the aid of the skill that is ‘dodge’.
If you forget to power up your ship, you won’t be killing enemies anytime soon.

A mixture of speed, weaponry and tactical skill is required here. This game is for gamers of a certain pedigree, its for people who can complete Arrow Flash on the Mega Drive with one finger, or pass all missions undamaged, blindfolded while drinking a milkshake playing Radiant Silvergun with the TV upside down. Last but not least, if that’s something that appeals to you, then you’ll like that the creators of Disposable Hero felt it unnecessary to include any continues.

Disposable Hero (Commodore Amiga) Gameplay

Conclusion

In conclusion, Disposable Hero is at its best, a serious contender for the Amiga’s horizontal shooter crown. Finding positive balance to distinguish this title from the early 90’s console efforts is easy – It’s not a console shooter. So what is it? Well, it’s a very fluid, great looking game that has two flaws. Firstly, the combat and weapon system is ingenious, so much so that its over complicated and abundantly niche at the same time. Secondly, it’s a very mainstream and hardcore shooter for people who play this kind of thing day in, day out. Apart from that, it’s the best horizontal on the system, just.


Last Updated ( 24 July 2014 )  

Comments 

(Link to this comment) BuckoA51 2014-07-25 13:48
"Apart from that, it’s the best horizontal on the system, just."

Mr Major, go play Apidya then come back and correct this review :lol:

Come to think of it, the Amiga version of Silkworm is better than this too.
(Link to this comment) GuyFawkesRetro 2014-07-25 17:36
Ha! I love Apidya, I do! Also, i play silk worm regularly. But, this 'just' does it for me ;)
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