Brataccas (Artwork by Roger Dean & Ian Miller)

Brataccas (1985)

In Brataccas you play Kyne, a hero with a price on his head who must work to clear his name. Kyne is a genetic engineer who developed the technology to build a super-being, but the government would rather use the technology to make an army of killers. When Kyne refuses to cooperate he becomes a fugitive running from the authorities. To make matters worse criminals are also after him. Kyne flees to Brataccas which is a small mining asteroid in the outer solar system awash with murder and corruption. It is here that the game takes place as Kyne must uncover evidence against his pursuers.

This game seems to be rarer than hen's teeth and I have never seen an original copy or even played the game. It is however significant for a number of reasons; it was the first ever Psygnosis game, it is the only remnant of the ill-fated 'megagame' Bandersnatch, and it features some striking original Roger Dean artwork. I believe Dean, together with colleague Ian Miller were involved in the development of the in-game graphics aswell which were completed by Garvan Corbett. Dave Lawson was the programmer.

Brataccas is played using the keyboard, mouse or joystick (it is user-configurable) but apparently it is best played with the keyboard because of the sensitive nature of the controls. Your progress can be saved and there is an auto mode where Kyne is controlled by the computer. You can communicate with other characters but only if they address you first. Speech appears as a comic-book bubble above the speaker's head and you must cycle through preset responses to reply. The animation was apparently ahead of its time but the gameplay is sluggish and the control system cumbersome, even for an adventure game. This is however 1985 we're talking about when the Amiga was still in its embryonic stage.

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Barbarian (Artwork by Roger Dean)

Barbarian (1987)

Barbarian was an action-adventure title with much sword fighting and ladder climbing. It was arguably the first game to demonstrate the difference between 8-bit and 16-bit machines and it helped launch the new Amiga 500 to stardom. The game was once again programmed by Dave Lawson and the graphics were produced by 25 year old Garvan Corbett. His style of outline graphics and cartoonish exaggeration was evident in many Psygnosis games of the time and apparently came from a love of Disney.

Barbarian featured more spectacular Roger Dean artwork and introduced us to lavish Psygnosis introduction scenes. There was no in-game music but the sound effects were quite atmospheric and the control system this time was more responsive (I believe the game was mouse driven) If I could find one criticism its that the sprites were sometimes a little too 'over-animated' which often resulted in a slow down of the action. There were all manner of weapons to collect and I think at one point you got to ride a dragon (or did I imagine that?!) Barbarian was followed three years later by a sequel which was produced by the same team.

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Ballistix (Artwork by Melvyn Grant)

Ballistix (1988)

Psyclapse's Ballistix was a top-down fantasy-sports game, a sort of pinball meets soccer played in a futuristic arena. Reportedly containing 130 levels, the aim was to score more goals than your opponent (either human or the computer). Placed around the arena are all sorts of objects which have an effect on the play. These include splitters, bumpers, caves, red arrows (accelerators), and magnets.

Ballistix is notable here because it was the first game from Reflections (who later produced Shadow of the Beast). Infact the graphics are very reminiscent of Beast and there is even a loading screen that wouldn't look out of place in the subsequent game. The game itself is alot of fun, especially in two player mode but it is just too limited to be of any lasting interest. Reflections fans should have a look though, if only for the stylish intro scenes.

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Obliterator (Artwork by Roger Dean)

Obliterator (1988)

You are Drak, the last of the Obliterators. Your task is to disable the weapon systems of an alien spacecraft and then find spare parts to repair your escape shuttle. The action moves horizontally once again and you must battle all manner of strange beasties to get to the end.

Unfortunately I never got to play this one but I remember seeing pictures of it in a catalogue and being intrigued by the look of it. Apparently the game is played with the mouse and the hero is controlled by an icon system reminiscent of Barbarian; you click one icon to walk, another to jump, and another to shoot. I've heard its quite clunky to play but enjoyable nonetheless. Dave Lawson was the programmer with graphics duties falling to Garvan Corbett and Jim Bowers. David Whittaker wrote the music. I'm still looking forward to having a look at it one day.

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Chrono Quest (Artwork by Roger Dean)

Chrono Quest (1988)

Chrono Quest is a murder-mystery adventure. The game begins in your father's chateau circa 1920 where all is not well. Your father has been murdered and you are the prime suspect. In order to clear your name and catch the real killer, you will need to utilise your father's latest invention, a time machine. You are led to believe the culprit is Richard the servant who has escaped in the machine to the future. In order to pursue him you will need to travel back in time to collect fragments of a magnetic card that will drive the time machine into the future.

Chrono Quest was Psygnosis' first attempt at a fully-fledged adventure-RPG. They would later return to the genre with Obitus and Chrono Quest 2 in 1990. The game was programmed by Jean-Marc Cazale with graphics by Fabien Begom and music from David Whittaker. The game graphics are static location shots and interaction with the environment is via an icon system on the right of the screen. I played it briefly at the time but don't remember too much about the game. If you have any information I would love to hear it.

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Menace (Artwork by Tim White)

Menace (1988)

In Menace you pilot a lone spaceship with orders to destroy the planet Draconia. You must battle you way through 6 levels of baddies and come out the other end in one piece.

Created by the legendary Dave Jones of DMA Design fame, Menace is an accomplished side on blaster in the vein of Nemesis, Salamander and R-type. Like its sequel Blood Money it is incredibly addictive. I always had a soft spot for these games after playing Nemesis on the C-64 and when the formula is done right, as here, you have a classic. The scenery is suitably marine-like and organic and you can equip your little craft with all manner of power ups such as bigger guns and speed-ups. Great music from David Whittaker makes this one of the better blasters on the Amiga.

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Blood Money (Artwork by Peter Andrew Jones)

Blood Money (1989)

'Hold it right there. Are you REALLY ready for this one? Have you got the courage to load up the experience that makes all the other games you've played seem prehistoric?'

So begins the game blurb on the back of the box. Blood Money was the follow-up to Menace and was even better than the original. It was another space blaster but unlike Mence the screen scrolled vertically as well as horizontally and there were different routes you could take. Set over 4 planets, the game was enormous, and very tough indeed. The first planet was an industrial landscape, the second was organic-aquatic, the third an iceworld, and the last was a fiery inferno. Enemies included jellyfish, giant claws, space serpents, and a large brain at the end. Often there would be cannons firing projectiles at you but luckily in outer space bullets move very slowly, giving you plenty of time to avoid them! When you destroyed an alien it left behind a coin which could be traded for power-ups at 'shops' that appeared throughout the game. Power-ups included extra lives, speed-ups, missiles, rear guns and bombs.

What really set Blood Money apart though was the 2 player team mode. If you had 2 joysticks and a friend over this was an awful lot of fun. Fights would often erupt when one player would steal all the coins!

The graphics by Tony Smith were spectacular in places but looked rather clumsy in others. The visual style later seen in Lemmings is in evidence here. Dave Jones was of course in charge of programming and David Whittaker produced the music. Check out the Psygnosis History page for more information on Dave Jones and DMA Design.

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Shadow of the Beast (Artwork by Roger Dean)

Shadow of the Beast (1989)

You play the part of Aarbron, enslaved captive of the evil Beast Lord, Maletoth but now out for revenge after the slaughter of your father. In beast form you have great strength and agility but there are many challenges ahead before you can face Maletoth and his aid Zelek.

It was often joked that Shadow of the Beast sold more Amigas than Commodore did. There is more than a grain of truth in this. The game was often left running in department store computer sections to attract shoppers. I remember seeing it myself at the time and being completely mesmerised by the visuals. It was not until atleast a year later that I realised that what I had seen was infact the iconic Psygnosis game, Shadow of the Beast.

Shadow of the Beast is the classic Amiga game, period. The jawdropping 13 layer parallax scrolling, inventive and detailed backgrounds (utilising 'copper' effects I believe), large animated sprites, and wilting pan-flute score made for a gaming experience unlike any other. The exquisite box artwork by Roger Dean completed the package beautifully. I believe original versions of the game came with a Beast t-shirt.

The game was created by Martin Edmondson (graphics) and Paul Howarth (programming). The two men were only 21 and 20 at the time and called themselves Reflections. Previously Reflections had contributed Psyclapse's Ballistix and they went on to make Shadow of the Beast 2 and 3 and space adventure Awesome for Psygnosis. Later they would develop games for the Sony Playstation such as Destruction Derby and Driver. David Whittaker composed the haunting soundtrack (all 900k of it) sampling directly from his Korg M1 synth.

The game was considered tough at the time and I would have to agree. In a certain way it was also quite linear. You could go left or right at the beginning but once you knew the layout of the place, there was really only one path to take. I think Beast was a game you just got swept up in. There were five main areas to explore containing 132 different adversaries. At the end of each section was a guardian of some sort. These consisted of a giant red worm, a winged dragon, motorised skeleton(?), a hydra and a few others I can't remember. Later on you get a gun and a jetpack which is very nifty. You begin with 12 lives but these can be replenished with potions that are scattered about.

Unfortunately I never finished the game because I refused to use the cheat but I did get up to the final guardian and died (repeatedly!). However I'm told there is a nice end sequence that is worth the effort.

Some time after Beast, hacker and demo crew Scoopex released Beast Sonix which was the complete music from Shadow of the Beast on a demo disk. The graphics on the demo looked quite nice and I think each song had a cassette icon. Many hacker tools were available at the time to rip music and bitmaps from games. I remember it was quite hard work but I compiled a disk with all the backgrounds from Beast.

Shadow of the Beast was a milestone for the Amiga but the computer press was largely ambivalent at the time. It was expensive at £35 but 15 years later I think it still holds up as a classic of the era.

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Agony (1992)

At last a Psygnosis game with an owl in it! In Agony you play Alestes, understudy of the Grand Wizard Acanthropsis. Acanthropsis is dying and must find a worthy recipient of his knowledge and cosmic powers. He devises a test for his two understudies, Alestes and Mentor, to determine who is most deserving. In owl form you must battle your way through 6 levels of deadly creatures sent by Mentor to destroy you.

Produced by Art & Magic, Agony was one of the last great Amiga games from Psygnosis. It was beautifully presented with stunning introduction graphics and a very impressive piano score. Interestingly, the loading screens used the Amiga's 16 colour high-res mode for the first time. The game itself was a horizontally scrolling shooter, like an updated Menace with an owl instead of a spacecraft. The backgrounds were breathtaking and depicted various windswept oceans, forests, swamps, and waterfalls. Enemies included mutant bats, giant grasshoppers, carnivorous fish and plenty of strange looking creatures that defy description! There are potions and spells to be collected along the way which help you stay alive longer. Agony is certainly a worthy addition to anyone's Psygnosis collection, if only for the stunning Tolkienesque visuals and gorgeous music.

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Please note: this is only a selection of Psygnosis games. These are games I have owned or am interested in. If there is a particular game you would like featured here, write to me and I'll see what I can do. I will be adding Shadow of the Beast 2, Awesome, Terrorpods and Leander very soon.

© 2004 The Purple Owl