Have you played Cannon Fodder in Color?

War has never been so much fun.

That’s a controversial way to start a Retroist post, so imagine the uproar when a little video game called Cannon Fodder used it to maximum effect back in 1993!

Cannon Fodder from Sensible Software rocked Great Britain, baiting the British media into advertising it through its use of the Remembrance Day poppy, and that ‘catchy’ phrase. The newspapers had a field day with this game, criticising it for its juxtaposition of war and humour, calling the game “offensive to millions” and “monstrous”.

It wasn’t all bad press though. One paper stated that the game was “a relatively profound statement on the futility of war”. Regardless, the publicity surrounding Cannon Fodder made it a game worthy of attention. And did I mention that the game intro actually SANG that memorable catchphrase too? Look and listen kids…

Thankfully, media attention and controversy were not the defining features of this war game. Cannon Fodder is incredibly good! An overhead action game where you are your soldiers fight with nothing but a mouse pointer to guide them.

I could spend time explaining the gameplay. The nice little touches like the poppies planted in the field for each lost soul. The overwhelming feeling of dread when you lost a soldier that had been with through numerous campaigns. If you’ve not played the Amiga original, you should really hunt out a longplay video on Youtube to see for yourself. This game was truly brilliant, and a reason to own the hardware.

Handheld Fodder.

The Amiga version of Cannon Fodder wasn’t really meant to be my focus for this post though. Instead, let me introduce you to the scaled down Game Boy Color edition:

Cannon Fodder on the Nintendo Game Boy Color

Quite by accident I spotted on Ebay listing for Cannon Fodder GBC and was surprised to see a high purchase price. I didn’t know anything about this version of the game, but that high price intrigued me.

I went looking for a gameplay video to learn more and I was not disappointed. The game is a delight in every regard!

It has a CGI intro, gorgeous graphics, amazing audio and technically stunning gameplay that I didn’t know this Nintendo portable was capable of… this video really is a must-see:

The game is clearly cut-down from its original source. You don’t control the same number of soldiers, the viewable area is much smaller, proper tactical decisions are mostly replaced by a simpler version of the core games run-and-gun mechanic… you get the idea.

It’s basically everything I thought would be wrong with the game. Except in this rare exception, this diminutive Cannon Fodder doesn’t suffer at all from these changes. It instead becomes a game that borrows heavily from its source, making something wonderful for its host system.

More Fodder

Whilst researching this article, I read the original manual for Cannon Fodder on the Amiga. It is full of really funny comments, such as:

You do not directly control troopers but instead determine their behaviour thanks to a remarkable interfacing technique involving a mouse, a pointer, and a troop leader,

and

BAZOOKAS – Not to be confused with the crude trombone-like musical instruments of the same name, or, indeed, bazoomas, which are something else entirely. These bazookas are weapons of war.

and

… on a more serious note: don’t try playing this at home, kids, because war is not a game – war, as Cannon Fodder demonstrates in its own quirky way, is a senseless waste of human resources and lives. We hope that you never have to find out the hard way.

If you like the Cannon Fodder theme tune, this video might interest you. It is the Amiga CD32 intro which features the developers acting up. The CD32 of course was Commodore’s ill-fated foray into the world of console gaming:

Still here? Then watch as the creator of the Cannon Fodder theme, Jon “Jops” Hare, sings and plays his creation at Pixel Heaven 2014!

If I still haven’t convinced you that Cannon Fodder on the Game Boy Color is a worthy title, IGN gave it a 90% review back in 2001.

Please don’t leave the screaming wounded to die. Bite the bullet, so to speak. and do the decent thing: finish them off.

Celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Amiga with Good Game

I was recently introduced to an Australian television gaming programme called Good Game – a show which has been on the air since 2006! Hands up if you know of any other TV shows about gaming that have been on air for that long! After watching lots of videos on their Youtube channel, I found a recently made video that celebrates one of the greatest computer brands ever created – Commodore’s AMIGA!

It was too good not to share!

Good Game generally focuses on modern gaming so there isn’t a huge amount for retro fans to dig into but a search for the Good Game Memory Cache brings up some fun retro reviews to get you started.

I’m Having Pinball Dreams

If you enjoy modern videogames, you’ve probably heard of DICE – they’re responsible for much of the Battlefield series and Mirror’s Edge amongst others. If you were playing games back in 1992 you might know them for their Commodore Amiga titles, including the spectacular debut Pinball Dreams.

If I’m being honest, I would say that I’m not a fan of computerised simulations of pinball tables. They can be fun, but all too often the experience is limited by the fact you don’t have the physical table and tactile controls to truly enjoy the game. That said, three pinball games have stayed with me through the decades – Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies and Pinball Illusions. All DICE titles that I still play to this day.

Pinball Dreams was the first pinball game that really felt like pinball to me. I’d played variants on earlier computers but ‘Dreams was jaw dropping at the time and each of the four tables was truly a joy to play. More importantly for me, and the real reason that I played so often, was the music. The various themes demanded to be heard at the loudest volume my parents would tolerate! The presentation of the whole game was second-to-none, from the moment you first saw the Digital Illusions logo timed to the beat of a song, you knew you were about to play something special. The following longplay video on Youtube is definitely worth having a skip-through to see what I mean – it has a flare to it that shines brightly, and you can see a few of the demoscene sensibilities that imbue the game with a little more character than most.

Of the four tables, I played Ignition the most, solely because that table had the best music. Truth be told, I’d sometimes load up the game and let the music play out without me doing anything else. That’s something I still do today, though Youtube has replaced my need to load up the actual game!

This advert at the time tried to sell the game on it being a true multi-table Pinball simulator – yes, 32 colours, 50 FPS, upto 8 players – Fun, fast and furious, just like the real thing!

Pinball Dreams Advert

True fans know that this wasn’t the games only appeal though, and once you’d had enough of dreaming, you could move on to the fantasies…

You can take a look at the MS-DOS version of Pinball Dreams over at the Internet Archive. You can also find a superb HD update if you have an iOS device and a willingness to spend money.

Xenon 2 Megablast

Xenon 2 Megablast by Bomb the Bass

One of the many reasons that I loved my Amiga 500 (and then 1200) was the quality of the music in its game library. I’d often fire up a game just to listen to the intro music! One of the best soundtracks in my collection was the superb Xennon 2 Megablast from The Bitmap Brothers. Firing up the game presented you with a pretty faithful rendition on the 1988 Bomb the Bass hip-hop track “Megablast”, and at the time, it was staggering to me.

Here is a slightly updated version, created for the CDTV version of the game in the early 90’s:

If you can hear traces of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, you won’t be surprised to learn that the song origin owes a debt to that score – the full Bomb the Bass track bears the title “Megablast (Hip-Hop on Precinct 13)”.

The Blues Brothers: The Video Games

The Blues Brothers

The Retroist Blues Brothers podcast has sparked lots of memories for me, not least of which is of the hours that I spent playing the game of the film on my Amiga in the early 90’s. I was going to write a post about just that game, but after a quick play of the game and lots of research, I thought it would be much more fun to take a look at the various versions of the game released instead.

I’ll start with the game closest to my heart – the Amiga version, released in 1991 by Titus. I recall at the time that Amiga Format magazine loved the game and I was quick to snap it up at my local computer store. The first thing to hit me was the quality of the in-game audio. I was a huge fan of the film and thought that Titus did a wonderful job of recreating the music. Sadly, I didn’t agree with the magazines of the era about the quality of the game. Sure, it looked quite nice, but the platforming antics of Jake and Elwood left me a little cold. I did eventually beat the game but my lasting memory of the experience is of the soundtrack, not the gameplay.

Also released in the same year as the Amiga version were efforts for the Atari ST and PC. I say ‘efforts’ because both were lumbered with very mediocre versions of the game. Considering both machines had similar capabilities to their rival from Commodore, the screen flipping, poor quality sprites and inferior audio leaves me pleased that I had an Amiga!

That said, if you were yet to climb to 16-bits in 1991 and you still owned an Amstrad CPC, you were stuck with this…

Thankfully the C64 version raised the 8-bit flag high, using the SID chip to maximum effect and delivering a quality game that I’d actually like to go back and play now.

Jump into 1992 and the Nintendo Entertainment System found itself the lucky (!) recipient of its own variation. I didn’t own a NES at the time but I do recall a friend having this game and he let me have a play for a few minutes. It was horrible. I was used to the pace of my Amiga copy and the speed of this NES update was a little too quick for me. Watching the video now proves that my younger self was right to steer clear, though I do think they did a good job with the sound.

Next up is the Nintendo Gameboy version from 1994. I owned a Gameboy but this game never entered my radar and this is the first I’ve seen of it. Strangely, the first thing to hit you about this game isn’t the graphics, it’s the music! The themes and songs used in the film are so iconic that even the diminutive Gameboy is capable of recreating a fine rendition. The game looks to be based on the 1991 originals, though the levels are very different to those that I played. Whilst this is clearly not a Mario-beater, I think this version of the game looks like a great game and I might have to have a play in the near future.

During 1993 there were other Blues Brothers games released. Subtitled as “Jukebox Adventure” and released on the SNES, PC and Gameboy, they are considered to be truly terrible with many people saying they are WORSE than the Blues Brothers 2000 film! High praise indeed, and I think worthy of their own Retroist article, which I’ll write in the near future. For now, here’s a little preview of what’s to come – look out for the BB 6-pack!

Oh, and if you’re lucky, I might take a look at the Blues Brothers 2000 game next time too!