They were the champions of the 16-bit gaming scene, delivering unto the world at least one flat-out gaming classic. And then it all went a bit quiet… Let’s check out the highs and lows of the legendary Bitmap Bros…
Xenon (1988)A good scrolling shoot ‘em up that first demonstrated the production values that would underpin the Bitmaps’ games. Graphically strong, the game itself was never a classic, but it was a perfectly entertaining way to keep your trigger finger busy.
Speedball (1988)A terrific future sports game, where violence sat side by side with trying to score goals. The playing arena, in retrospect, was perhaps a little pokey, but this was nonetheless the kind of title that nobody at the time was coming anywhere close to thinking up.
Xenon II: Megablast (1989)
Cadaver (1990)Hugely underrated, bastard-difficult throwback to some of the early Ultimate games that remain classics of the 8-bit era. Billed as an arcade adventure, it had more of a feel of the latter than the former, and some puzzles that could reasonably be described as ‘quite tough’. An add-on pack would follow that, amazingly, managed to make things even tougher. You sure got value for money from them, though…
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (1990)A flat-out masterpiece, and the very best future sports game ever seen on a gaming machine. The arenas were bigger, the ways you could score points more varied, and the bit where you got a reward for outright killing a member of the opposing team was inspired. Even today, just brilliant.
Gods (1991)For many, Gods was the game where the Bitmaps began to falter, but there was actually more to this platformer than it was really given credit for. The way it tried to balance difficulty was in some ways ahead of its time, and the production values again managed to lift things a further notch higher. Elements were a little dull, but the majority of the game was very good indeed.
Magic Pockets (1991)Replete with Betty Boo Doin’ The Do on the game’s soundtrack, Magic Pockets was where things crashed down to Earth. Sparkling visuals here couldn’t hide a surprisingly dull platformer, that couldn’t hold anything close to a torch towards the likes of Rainbow Islands. Bored shouldn’t be a key feature of a platform game, and Magic Pockets – neat idea though it was – is the proof.
The Chaos Engine (1993)An outstanding return to form, and one that harked back to the likes of Commando and Ikari Warriors, while throwing in some fresh elements of its own. The steampunk setting is reflected brilliantly, and the multiplayer action was as good as anything on the Amiga at the time, the format which played host to the best version of the game. An underwhelming sequel followed in 1996.
Speedball 2100 (2000)Horrible attempt to bring the majesty of Speedball to the Playstation. It’s hard to fully comprehend how this went so wrong, but it wasn’t fun to play, looked shabby and the move to 3D did it few favours. Best avoided.
Z: Steel Soldiers (2001)A surprising sequel, but a welcome one, even if tepid sales managed to pretty much kill the franchise stone dead. It saw Z move to 3D, threw in plenty more humour and was all-round a better game. It was never a genre classic, but it’s entertaining to play.
World War II: Frontline Command (2002)N/aThe Bitmap game we never played, but then it didn’t really look like a Bitmap Bros game from the outside anyway. Apparently, it’s quite good.
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