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Way back in the 1990's the BITMAP BROTHERS and RENEGADE SOFTWARE put out a game for the Amiga (originally) in which the players took on the minions of the Chaos Engine, a machine that had turned against man and was intent on taking over the world. The game idea almost immediately got itself a cult-like following as the SteamPunk era (and Victoriana) was (and still is) hugely popular with all manner of games players including role-playing gamers and of course the (then) latest computer gamers. In the Chaos Engine there are 6 Mercenaries available as player characters - the Mercenary, Brigand, Gentleman, Navvie, Thug and Preacher (in the original version the Preacher was changed to the Scientist for the US market). If you play solo then you choose one of the characters and the computer selects another and comes along as your partner - it's too dangerous to go out in the chaotic world alone.

The game is a top-downer, that is the action is viewed from above, and it scrolls up, down and across the screen following the path set for the Mercenaries. As you would expect from the facts that it is a Bitmap Brothers game and that it is basically a complete copy of the original game the graphics are extremely blocky and without any of the detail you would expect from a game released in the 21st Century. However as there has been a great surge in the PC games market this year for retro games and retro-looking games why not revisit one of the best (figuratively speaking and remembering the other games of the era) of the shoot-em-ups from the nineties. You shoot everything that isn't your partner and most adversaries die and disappear after the first hit, some take more than one hit, while you and your partner have slightly more invulnerability (ie take more than one hit). Once you or your partner "dies" you return to the last respawn point and start again. The run back to where you "died" isn't completely clean even if you did wipe out the opposition the first (second or third or more) time, there are usually some surprises waiting to pop out at you.

I have to admit that I am not a great fan of the retro gaming revision. I do remember that I paid a small fortune at the time for the Atari 400 just so I could play one particular game (so no different from nowadays then) where you could besiege a castle and fire cannons and watch the castle walls crumble, then there was jousting and sword-fighting etc. I can't remember what it was called now, though I did see it in action a few years back and wondered what all the fuss was about - it looked awful in comparison to today's game. I wonder if in 20 years we will look back at todays games and wonder the same thing.

I know this is a bit of a cop out but the only thing I can think to say is that if you are a fan of retro games and you like scrolling shooters then there is nothing here not to like.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015