"I'm not afraid of dying. I just don't want to be there when it
ST SOFTWARE REVIEW: THE LONG AWAITED "CHAOS ENGINE" BY T.B.B.
by Richard Karsmakers
It has taken its time. More than a fair share of it, actually.
As a matter of fact I myself came close to the beginning of a
gradually increasing process of doubt where the actual ST release
of this game was concerned. But that's all water under the bridge
now, for early June saw the release of the first Bitmap Brother
game since they published "Magic Pockets" some two years ago. The
new game is called "The Chaos Engine", of which the first
advertisements were seen in the computer press as much as a year
These advertisements, now I'm at it, seemed to promise a
stunning lot. Especially graphics-wise, "The Chaos Engine" was to
be the definite game on any system. I for one had never seen
graphics such as those featured in the screenshots. The graphics
artists, Dan Malone, would have to be venerated and appraised
as the best graphics artist ever. Even Tim (Manikin of The Lost
Boys) was impressed.
So far all games ever done by the Bitmap Brothers had been
better than their previous efforts - both with regard to gameplay
and graphics. "The Chaos Engine" would again be a significant
improvement, at least graphics-wise. The mentioned screenshots
made saliva erupt from my mouth and sweat ooze from my pores.
They were just incredible.
Let's continue by saying that these were all Amiga screenshots
and that the ST graphics, though still superior to 99% of all
games and no doubt at a par with previous Bitmap releases, are a
bit of a bummer. I suppose it's the price we have to pay for the
lack of those 16 extra colours on screen, even though I believe
perhaps the Bitmaps had better thrown in a few raster interrupts
where the static graphics were concerned. I can understand that
scrolling backgrounds can't support more than 16 colours, but all
other graphics could easily have used 32 colours or more. Perhaps
they're just tired, or perhaps they think the ST just isn't worth
the extra effort what with sales dropping (even though I've heard
ST software is selling quite well now because all those people
switching to Falcon are selling their ST to people who start
buying original games). Maybe they think we should just be very
happy at their current efforts - as many companies don't do ST
versions of their software at all these days.
Speaking of the Falcon, by the way, "The Chaos Engine" doesn't
work on it. I have heard the graphics on STE are supposed to be
quite excellent. Unfortunately I have no access to such a
Let's get down to the game.
The whole thing comes in a neat box (with droolsome Amiga
screenshots) with manual, two disks and some extra bits. Disk one
contains the kind of intro we're used to getting on Bitmaps games
- some text and the odd picture while listening to some brainless
house music. Pressing fire causes the intro to be skipped (it's
not technically nor artistically brilliant anyway) and the game
code to be loaded. Once the actual game has been loaded disk two
has to be popped in the drive. That disk contains all the level
graphics, in-between graphics and level maps. This disk never has
to leave the drive again, not even for the end-of-game sequence.
What's the game about actually?
Some evil dude named Baron Fortesque made some sort of Engine
(yes, the Chaos Engine) that sortof warped the world and
populated it with the spawn of evil, a variety of monsters,
ghouls, ghosts and dudes who look remarkably much like (and about
as intelligent as) Sylvester Stallone. At higher levels you even
get clones of yourself attempting to kill you!
Two of the six possible characters (brigand, mercenary, thug,
gentleman, preacher and navvie) have to be selected. These have
various kinds of weapons as well as different amounts of
potential wisdom, health, skill and speed. The navvie is the
strongest, for example, whereas the gentleman is intelligent and
has up to four special abilities, the mercenary and brigand are
quite average, the preacher is smartest. The thug could pass for
the navvie's twin brother, but his weapon (a kind of scattershot
thing) is inferior. Each character has his (yeah, no 'her' - so
it's sexism galore!) weapon which may be extended (oo-er!) in an
almost "Xenon-esque" manner, whereas there are also various
special abilities (such as handgrenades, maps, dynamite, and
various mystery thingies). Wisdom is only important in the case
of the character being computer-controlled. The thug, for
example, will mindlessly walk into enemy bullets but will also
forget to pick of money and bonuses that you can then pick of
instead yourself. The preacher and gentleman are rather more
intelligent, which results in them quite literally giving you a
run for your money! As computer assistants purchase more wisdom
they get smarter, however.
When you start the game you have to select two of these
characters. The first of these is assigned to you, and the other
is computer-controlled unless you're having a go at it with a
friend (in which case he (or she) can control him). After
selecting them you get put at the beginning of the first world.
There are four worlds in the game, with each world having four
levels. Of course they increase in size, complexity and
difficulty as you progress through them. After every second level
and after having finished each world you enter some sort of shop
where you can buy health, skill, wisdom, speed, extra lives and
extra weapon power (important!) among various other things.
The game itself looks like "Gauntlet", perhaps, after having had
intercourse with a game the likes of "Leatherneck", "Commando" or
"Ikari Warriors" - you get my drift I suppose. It scrolls in all
directions. Of course it also has all the magic ingredients
everbody loved in "Magic Pockets" and "Gods" - hidden rooms
aplenty, keys that may have negative side-effects, more bonuses
than you can throw a stick at, ways that close off behind you and
pseudo-intelligent monsters. The better you play and the more you
collect, the more the game rewards you with gems, extra lives,
extra weapon power and general easthetic beauty.
The target is to shoot x nodes per level. These nodes are
phallus-like thingies that are distributed on each level. Once
you have shot x nodes the level's exit will open and you can pass
on to the next one. A nice thing is that there may be more nodes
than you actually need to shoot - in which case there's more than
likely a second or third level exit that might just put you at a
more advantageous position in the next level... It's got the
Bitmaps fingerprint all over. And I like it.
The game incorporates an interesting password system. It takes a
while to get to the first one, because you only get them at the
beginning of a new world. These passwords are 12 characters long
and contain consonants, numbers and a few reading signs. Instead
of just being fixed to a certain level they also contain
information about which two characters are in use, what their
status is like (money, health, weapon strength, skill, etc.) and
out of which exit (if there were any further options) the
characters exited. Playing a world twice, even with the same two
characters, will thus virtually never give you the same password
again. I think this is actually a great idea, because it makes
you want to retry certain worlds again and again in order to be
able to start the next world with more health, more money, more
extra weapon power and more lives.
Although the game 'only' boasts about a dozen to twenty enemies
they more than suffice. Each world introduces a big handful of
new ones that are each quite unique and certainly getting
progressively difficult to beat as you proceed through the game.
I don't just mean that they need to be shot more often and with a
stronger weapon and that they stop acting like the bad guys in
movies that just wait until they get pumped full of lead, but
they're also more persistent in following you around. Some of the
monsters you'll meet can even jump across barriers that you have
to walk around and some others shoot very fast. They never appear
at a moment when you're ready for them. Playing the game you'll
become a regular paranoiac, eagerly watching seemingly harmless
walls for holes that suddenly appear and burst forth some rabid
killing machines. Particularly the jumping monsters I mentioned
as well as a monster that seems taken from the "Addams Family"
film and a miniature orange tank that needs to be shot hundreds
of times are particularly irritating. I can't remember computer
game enemies ever before having me on the edge as much as those
of "The Chaos Engine". Whereas their intelligence is limited, of
course, they interact with your movements and their
surroundings, appearing genuinely frightening.
At least they do to me.
All levels are fairly realistic (certainly given the warped and
seriously deranged Chaos Engine that is behind it all), with the
exception of the second level of world three; this has more than
its fair bit of magic and weird teleportings. Perhaps that's why
it's called "Confusion". The last level of the fourth world is
pretty damn hard, where you have to destroy the four engines that
supply the power to the Chaos Engine. The actual Chaos Engine is
extremely tough to beat, especially its particularly evil second
Even though there was the initial letdown where the graphics
were concerned (at least on a regular ST), "The Chaos Engine" is
definitely one of the very best games to come out on the ST in
the last two years. Even though the graphics are clearly inferior
to the 32-colour Amiga stuff they are still highly functional and
look excellent. The stuff that is really important - the
playability - lacks nothing. The game's design is beyond mere
excellence, the monsters are a bunch of real mother-f@*kers,
addictiveness is incredible and the packaging is well taken care
of. The fact that the choices you make have some sort of feedback
on what monsters appear and what doors open and close makes the
game much more of a challenge than would other comparable games,
adding some of the most interesting bits in the formula of puzzle
games. If you like some good, friendly violent fun you'll surely
luuuurve this game. For those who liked "Gods" and "Magic
Pockets" there is a 100% guarantee you'll seriously dig "The
Title: The Chaos Engine
Company: Bitmaps Brothers / Renegade
Overall rating: 9+
Hardware: 1 meg ST or any STE, joystick,
Remark: A truly magnificent game in the
true Bitmap Brothers tradition!
Thanks to ACN (of the Dutch magazine "Atari ST Nieuws") that
sent me this game so I could review it for them and for ST NEWS.
Cheers, Willem & Marc!
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.