A500 Mini: When built in games are just not enough.
Recently, you've seen our article on the A500 Mini and having spent some more time with it (and being impressed with the overall package) I have to say it's in my nature to see what else it can do.
The built in games are pretty good but there's a couple I would have liked to have seen. So, here's my Top 5 recommendations to get you started. (and “spoiler alert”), one of them has historical significance for me (and possibly you too!). Note that although I'm doing a Top 5, they are in no particular order. This means that number one, is not ranked as the best. My list is fundamentally the five games I added when first exploring my A500 Mini!
The first game then is Lemmings. For most people (including myself), this is a game that I always think of when thinking back to my “Amiga days”. Lemmings started out as a sprite test at DMA Design/Psygnosis and was never intended to be a commercial release. The idea initially, was to test out animated sprite potential in the original A500, and whilst doing that a couple of levels were made in the name of pre-development. The programmers however realised that what they were messing with was fun and had great potential and eventually a full game created. And, “what a game it turned out to be”. Essentially a puzzle game, it had charm, wit and addictive qualities and furthermore was a game with gameplay we had never seen on 8 bit machines.
The addition of it being a mouse based game meant that it felt new and fresh and also lead to influencing the development of other puzzle type 2D games like the classic Worms from Team 17. This then, has to go on my Top 5 list, as like I said earlier, it made the 16 bit era feel unique and a step up from the games we played on our 8 bit machines. The game is a classic with great re: playability, charm, uniqueness and one I also associate with the Amiga. If you've never played it, give it a try!
Next on my list is Battle Squadron. Now, it's nice to see the classic (and hard) Project X built into the “Mini” but what's lacking is a vertical shooter. Battle Squadron feels this gap for me. A Xevious inspired vertical shooter, this one has fantastic music (and sampled speech), great graphics and gameplay difficulty which should please even more casual players. (Project X by comparison is a tough cookie!). Also sporting a two player co op mode and a plethora of power ups, this is a game I'd fire up any day of the week. Check this one out if vertical shooters are your “thing”.
Talking of shooters, I'd be remiss if I failed to add R-Type to the list. This game (like the aforementioned) also has great tunes, outstanding gameplay and power ups galore. R-Type picks up where the likes of Nemesis first started in the arcades. Like Nemesis, power ups are vital to your in-game survival and this adds a tactical decision making element to the game. Like Project X, it's not an easy game but with some trial and error, it's possible to get through the game. One thing of note (that I still love to this day) is the organic nature of the graphics. The game feels like it's alive and breathing and it's one that still holds up to this day.
Forth on my list is the classic Elite. Now, back in the hazy days of 1985, me and my friends used to play Elite all the time. Elite was a game that came out of left field and kicked us in the unmentionables. Up until the release of this game, games were still arcade inspired - designed around completing levels. This meant they were mostly linear in design. Elite however was (arguably) the first, true open sandbox game and its success meant it was ported to most 8 bit systems of the time.
Now the game itself is primarily, an open world space trading and combat game. It featured a huge universe to explore and it was a wonder how on earth the game could fit into 32K or RAM! It also had 3D polygonal graphics which represented the universe into which you could explore. Now at the time, this was more than adequate for us “8 bitters” but then the Amiga version was released and the game suddenly became a lot more colourful and the polygons were finally filled in. This gave the game a more immersive feel and in many ways (at least at the time) gave me everything I really wanted in the game. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adored the 8 bit versions, but on the Amiga the experience became so much more to me. If you like open world sandboxes, science fiction and flying spaceships, this is still the best game on the system.
Last (but certainly not least), I have to include Shadow of the Beast. Now, I'll be honest, this game has dated a fair bit. The game visually and aurally is still absolutely stunning but the gameplay can be challenging. So, why did I include it on the list you may ask? Well, it's simple.
The game sold me the Amiga. I mean, of course back in the late eighties I was aware of and coveted the machine.. but it was seeing and hearing Shadow of the Beast that pushed me into buying one. I saw it, I had to have it! The visuals and music and parallax scrolling were too much for me to resist.
Now for just a little context. I remember that at this time, I earned £430.00 per month. The Amiga (just the machine, no games or software) cost £400.00. This machine was a lot of money and kept me on the fence for quite some time. In reality it was far too much money for me and I was still enjoying my Commodore 64. But then, a few days later, I wondered into the town centre and saw this game being “demoed” in my favourite computer shop and ..that was it! I knew the computer was the next generation but holy smokes, this machine did things the humble C64 could only dream of... and so I bought the machine and took it home – wondering how on earth I was going to survive the rest of the month on £30.00! I did survive (obviously) and even managed to scrape together a few blank floppies to load software onto (including of course a copy of this game), I had the time of my life. I was close to broke, had to “stay in” all month but didn't regret it for a moment. Check this game out and at least experience the majesty of this absolute flawed but stunning classic Amiga game.
Well, that's my short and sweet list of the Top 5 of games I recommend adding to your A500 Mini. Of course, this list could have included dozens, if not hundreds more.. but I just wanted to recommend five games to start with if you've got a “Mini” and want to see what else it's capable of.
The Amiga was an iconic machine of it's era and these games will hopefully inspire you to check out a lot more it's incredible catalogue.