Welcome to the first in my series of ‘Retro Reminiscing’, where I look back fondly at the glorious gaming that I grew up with.
The Commodore Amiga was the most memorable gaming device of my childhood/teenage years, closely followed by the SNES. I absolutely loved my Amiga 500 which was bought second hand from a newspaper advert as a Christmas present (a new Amiga was way too expensive), when I was around 11 (a good 25 years ago). It came with the Cartoon Classics package, which included The Simpsons and Deluxe Paint 3 amongst some other bits.
I had a few other disks with the machine that the previous chap had bought, and I built up quite a collection of games and utilities over the years which I am pleased to say I still have the majority of today.
There are some core games from that time though that stand out to me, still make me smile, and transport me back to those heady early-90s days of the last few years of primary school, the first few years of secondary, wearing Global Hypercolour t-shirts (or cheap knock offs from the Market that didn’t actually change colour), Reebok Pumps, having bad hair (some things don’t change) and listening to Guns N’ Roses on copied cassette tapes.
Join me on my nostalgic trip back to those times as I tell you about the Amiga games that still stick in my mind:
Sensible World of Soccer
SWOS as it was affectionately known, was released in 1994 as the sequel to Sensible Soccer, made by Sensible Software (seeing a theme here?).
The game combined a seriously fast-paced 2D football game with a great manager mode, and was chock-full of data with over 1,500 teams and 27,000 players included! The career mode allowed you to manage a club through twenty seasons, and I used my encyclopaedic knowledge of 90’s footballers (seriously, I was like Rainman with obscure European footballer’s names) to wheel and deal my way through the seasons as I amassed trophies, like a mini Sir Alex Ferguson.
I remember starting Managerial careers at so many different clubs, building some amazing squads, and basically beating anyone that was put in front of me. I spent (wasted) so many hours on this game that it must add up to literally weeks worth of constant and habitual hammering, if not months worth. I still have the disk and it looks so worn out!
I’m not alone in loving this game, it was ranked the best game of all time by Amiga Power (Issue 64, 1996).
If you haven’t played this – stop whatever you are doing and do it, do it right now.
Championship Manager 93/94
Remember I said that I had clocked up weeks and months of playing time on SWOS? Well I must have clocked up years on this game – if it wasn’t for Championship Manager (not just this one, but the subsequent versions too) I’m pretty sure I would have gotten better GCSEs, A-Levels and I’d probably be a rocket scientist by now (a natural career path obviously). But hey, things weren’t to be – and how many rocket scientists have won the league year after year eh?
I mentioned my encyclopaedic knowledge of football with SWOS, this was honed to a ridiculous level by playing this game day and night. I remember my mum looking at the game and naively making a comment of ‘it’s just words!’ – heathen. Anyone that got into this game knows what the true slippery slope of addiction really looks like.
The Secret of Monkey Island
Monkey Island is a point-and-click adventure game released in 1990, where the player takes the role of the wonderfully named Guybrush Threepwood; I still use this name as a pseudonym wherever possible, hotels and restaurants are a particular favourite (my wife loves it as you can imagine).
Guybrush is a young man who dreams of being a pirate, and has to navigate his way around a number of tricky trials and puzzles to earn his right to be a pirate. I remember the game being laugh-out-loud funny at times as you begin to unpick the stories of Ghost Pirate LeChuck.
This is an iconic game for this period, and it ages fairly well (though maybe a little slow for some of the current generation).
The other thing that I remember about this game was the wonderful anti-piracy (‘Dial a Pirate’) wheel that came with the game (pictured right), and I am talking gaming piracy and not the Guybrush Threepwood kind of piracy. The wheel was basically a couple of pieces of cardboard pinned together, the game would then ask you to turn it to a particular point and then add the characters that it revealed to allow the game to start – It was a simple and amusing way of avoiding those pesky disk pirates.
These are some of the other games that I fondly remember spending hours on, they aren’t quite in the same league of the three above, but they are brilliant games nonetheless:
Speedball 2 : Brutal Deluxe was released in 1990 as the sequel to the 1988 game, which was surprisingly called Speedball. This fast-paced futuristic sport was like Sensible Soccer on steroids, and with added violence! It was a great game to play against the computer or against mates. I have tried to play emulators but it is nothing like the original with my trusty yellow and black Zipstick joystick.
The game had five different game modes, and all are easy and quick to set up and use. Speedball 2 was made by the legendary Bitmap Brothers, and was one of their most successful titles. The game was voted the 3rd best game of all time in Amiga Power (May 1991 issue).
This top-down action strategy shoot ‘em up is another stunner from Sensible Software, released in 1993 it bears more than a striking initial resemblance to SWOS (apart from the military fatigue, guns, and lack of balls).
You control a small squad armed with machine guns through a number of missions, you do this using point-and-click, something that was quite different in my experience for this type of action game. This is no crazy ‘shoot anything that moves’ game, it takes military precision and strategy to position your squad to deal with whatever challenge you are facing; I felt like General Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, or Colonel Sanders or something.
Super Cars II (2)
Super Cars II is a top-down racer published by the legendary Gremlin Graphics, released in 1991 as the sequel to Super Cars released the year before.
The game offered gaming some enhancements (and better graphics) compared to the original, which included a split screen mode. It’s a pretty simple gaming concept, with upgrades available to buy from money won during races – a tried and tested formula for similar games over the years. It’s engaging, fun to pick up and easy to play, and for a car nut like me it was ideal.
Another top-down racer! This time from Codemasters, released in 1993 for the Amiga. Micro Machines rode on the crest of the popular mini toys in the ‘90s, with the release a fast paced racing game which saw you navigate some really imaginative courses in your Micro Machine – my particular favourite course was the breakfast table. Speeding around the bowls, juices and half-eaten waffles, as you followed a course set out by Cheerios. Another brilliant, addictive and simple game.
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That sums up my little bit of Retro Reminiscing for today. My original Amiga went missing a few years ago (for went missing see ‘thrown out’ by my mother) so I accidentally bought two from eBay (one A500 and one A500+) to fill the void.
I’m pleased to say that I managed to keep hold of my original disks, and they are all still held safely in those ugly plastic disk holders that you could buy from Argos.
Both Amiga’s work and I use a great little SCART lead that I bought from eBay to connect them to my TV (the old modulators are no good on LCD TVs), the quality of picture is good, though I have found I lack patience on the loading screens.
Do you still have an Amiga?
There are plenty of other classic games that I haven’t included above, what was your go-to favourite disk?