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Way back in an alternative Victorian Britain after a nuclear holocaust, a mad genius, Baron Fortescue, who’s a Professor in early computers, time and space, invents a huge mechanical machine: The Chaos Engine. Predictably enough, the machine runs out of control and starts ripping apart the very fabric of time and space. In addition, the Engine turns the innocent inhabitants of a nearby village into guardian monsters in order to protect itself. Enter the heroes of the game. You and a friend or the Amiga CPU must take the guise of any two of the following mercenaries – The Thug, The Gentleman, The Preacher, The Brigand, The Navvie or The Mercenary.  You must then battle your way across four levels of four worlds each, taking in The Forest, The Swamp, The Industrial Workshops and finally, Baron Fortescue’s Mansion.  The big thing that’s been made about The Chaos Engine is the Artificial Intelligence of the monsters and the second player. If a one-player game is chosen, then the Amiga takes control of the second player which follows Player One around. This is executed very well. The second player tries to go for power-ups and other goodies and shoots at monsters but it’s never perfect at it, thus striking a balance between a second player that does everything and one that is as thick as two short planks. The monsters’ AI ensures that they’re a bit wily. They never just walk into your line of fire: they hide behind bushes and rocks and are generally a bit smarter than your average computer game monster. This, obviously, makes the game fairly hard, but of course you’ve always got another player to use as monster bait.

The Chaos Engine is slightly more than just a mindless “kill everything” game, however: there are some tricky puzzles to solve in parts and the chance to build up both players from the end of world shop.  All mercenaries have different attributes and weapons; so by mixing and matching them, you get a bit of a strategic element in the game. Some of the worlds are pretty big, and some have more than one exit, so there’s plenty to explore. Also, the statistics screens which are shown at the end of each world show what percentage of that world you have completed; often, it’s less than you think, so there’s that urge to complete just a little bit more of it – very addictive. All the levels are different, with different monsters and challenges, so the game doesn’t really get repetitive. The usual superb Bitmap graphics. They’re done by artist Dan Malone who was responsible for the Speedball 2 graphics, for those who remember. The animation is excellent for both the main characters and the monsters. Dan has worked really hard to create the feel of an apocalyptic post-nuclear world complete with authentic Victorian brassy looking graphics. The Bitmaps Brothers don’t usually fall down on things like sound, and this time is no different. The Bitmaps sound and FX man, Richard Joseph, handles it perfectly. In the forest, birds sing, frogs croak and each level has a different House-like track by Indian DJs ‘Joi’. Never heard of them but they do a good tune right enough. There’s also an authoritative sampled voice that informs you when the exit from a world is open, when you’ve picked up a special bonus and the like. In short, brilliant graphics, sound, gameplay, and very addictive. Gamers in Germany should be advised because the game got banned last year for being to violent. Anyway, The Chaos Engine is a great blast from the past, if you are looking for some great retro fun download it now!

More news: Generation Amiga magazine