During my college years I used to enjoy computer games on the Commodore Vic 20. This in itself was no mean feat, as it packed slightly less memory than your average goldfish. However, because I am so exceptionally old and the alternative was to watch one of only three television channels, I played the Vic 20 a lot. Then I grew up, got a job and in 1993 I was able to afford a Commodore Amiga 1200, whereby a whole new and exciting world of gaming opened up to me. Looking back now it seemed like I owned the 'mig' for ages, but since I sold it to fund a PlayStation purchase in what can have been no later than 1996, I must have only had one for about three years, yet those gaming times always remained burned into my memory as being an incredible voyage of discovery.
I have since owned and played a PlayStation 1,2 and 3, an Xbox and Xbox 360, an N64, a Dreamcast, GameCube, Wii and a WiiU, along with a healthy selection of handheld units. Oh, and I have gamed (cough) on a PC (cough). (I am never sure as to whether that is something one should admit to!) But nothing ever properly filled the void left by my ‘mig. Was it just nostalgia? Or were those games really that good? I needed to find out. I tried emulation but that just wasn’t the same, so I made the decision to buy one again. I approached the chap that I originally sold my whole collection to (who happened to be my ex Father in Law) in the hope that it was collecting dust in his attic, but was distraught to discover that it was all long gone. So I bit the bullet, found a reputable seller on the interweb and treated myself to a refurbished A600, complete with memory expansion and hard drive stocked to the gills with the back catalogue of games. Out of the many hundred games included, the one game that I really missed playing; the one I wanted to play so much and indeed the first one I fired up upon receiving my second Amiga more than twenty years after selling the first, was Gods.
Gods was originally released in 1991 by the Bitmap Brothers, who have a back catalogue that reads like a definitive list of classic Amiga games, including: Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, Magic Pockets, Xenon ll: Megablast and The Chaos Engine. Gods is a platform game, whereby you play as Hercules and attempt to navigate four levels, each comprising of four worlds, in the search for immortality. Most of the usual platform fare is there; there are tricky jumps to pull off, ladders to climb, switches to operate and keys to collect which unlock bonus areas and ultimately the end of each level. You pick up a variety of weapons which you can then throw to dispatch the waves of enemies that target you. Each time you finish the first two worlds that make up a level you are visited by a shopkeeper (who bizarrely looks rather like a chap I play 5-a-side football with; maybe he is moonlighting?) allowing you to spend the gems you have collected on extras including health, new and more powerful weapons (such as spears or throwing stars) or spells, including invincibility or smart bombs. You can also purchase power-ups which affect the spread of the weapon you throw, allowing you to choose from either a wide or a narrow and more intense field of fire.
The thing that strikes you when playing Gods is the attention to detail. The graphics are superb, certainly for a 1991 game. The animation of the enemy creatures is excellent, especially that which accompanies the death of those that fly, which looks stunning. The levels are both great to look at and also very well designed. Using the switches is key and often up/down combinations of a number of them will reap an extra reward. The only negative with the graphics is that the main character can overhang a ledge by an amount that defies physics (and indeed he needs to do this in order to make certain jumps), which can make the player aware that the game is working and thinking in ‘blocks’. The sound is good, with a memorable introduction soundtrack (‘Into the Wonderful’), good in-game music samples at level ends, various grunts and groans as you jump around and a selection of shrieks from the bad guys as you dispatch them. If you approach something collectable such as a gem or a key it will often ‘clink’ against the ground to let you know it is there.
You are equipped with an inventory which allows you to carry up to four items; this becomes more important as you progress, as some levels require you to complete simple tasks, such as moving things to a desired location.
Mention must be given to the fantastic artificial intelligence that genuinely adapts to your play, by helping poor players and rewarding good ones. If you complete some areas within a certain (unknown) predetermined time you will earn a bonus. Conversely if you have taken a lot of hits and are struggling for health it is more likely that you will stumble upon a health power-up. The enemies also don’t all necessarily follow strict patterns either. They can be influenced by your path and might deviate to attack you. There are also items that you may want in seemingly inaccessible areas. To retrieve them you must wait until these items are picked up by a ‘thief’. Follow him and kill him in the open and, hey presto, the item can be collected.
Perhaps most importantly Gods is fun. It ticks all those boxes that so many platformers seem to miss. It is challenging but fair. You don’t spend ages wandering about lost, wondering what you should be doing. You don’t get killed by things that jump out at you from nowhere. You aren’t required to make ‘leap of faith’ jumps only to find a pit of lava, snakes and instant death beneath you. Every time you play you get a little further and, crucially, this progress ensures that you will want to replay, again and again.
So there we are. Gods is a top game. Well designed with tight gameplay and a miriad of secrets to discover, it is certainly in the top bracket of platform games produced for the Amiga and well worth waiting twenty-two years of my life to play again. It might not quite have the slickness and speed of movement of the likes of ‘Superfrog’ (Team 17), but it more than makes up for that with character, atmosphere, design and downright cleverness. And lets be honest, being produced by the Bitmap Brothers, you really wouldn’t expect anything less.
Gods (Bitmap Brothers game, Commodore Amiga, 1991)