Saturday, 30 November 2013

Saturday Soundtracks: Chaos Engine

Another Bitmap Shooter gets added to my list of video game gems, this time the seminal classic Chaos Engine. 

The game's premise is simple enough. Choose from six different mercenaries for you and a friend or bot and get blasting through an isometric world of tricks, traps and treasures to save a scientist's machine from wreaking more havoc on the world.. While the six mercenaries are more or less arranged into three groups with tradeoffs between speed, power and health, there's enough variation in their specials and weapons to keep things interesting. Grab monies and loot to upgrade your characters' stats, gear and special power ups as you push deeper through the levels to the Fortesque mansion.

Enemies start by being reptiles and frogs that charge at you and fire energy balls but eventually become more warped and twisted. The levels constantly change depending on where you are in the game and what path through you take and it is quite possible to completely miss out on big areas of a map in favour of a quick but less profitable run.

I do think that the original Amiga version's soundtrack is a bit weedy in comparison to its console ports on both the Atari ST, where I first came across the game on a demo disk as a young kid and played it thoroughly, as well as the Mega Drive version, which I got cheaply in a Blockbuster sale back in the day. The driving, pumping FM soundtrack works really well for pounding techno, growly basses and screeching synth lines, but the most memorable track for me is the completely contrasting menu music. It's slow, some lovely sparse percussion with a thick drum and snare and a backing bass line with PWM underpins the whole track.

Mind you, this doesn't detract from the rest of the soundtrack: check out the rest of the video for examples of the opening titles, menu and first level music.