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%% UseNet Review - The Chaos Engine, CD32 version     by Steve Cutting %%
%%                                     steve_cutting@guru.apana.org.au %%
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PRODUCT NAME

	The Chaos Engine, CD32 version


BRIEF DESCRIPTION

1 or 2 player run-around shoot'em up game with a top-down view and
8-way scrolling.


AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

Name:		Bitmap Brothers/Renegade
Address:	C1 Metropolitan Wharf,
                Wapping Wall, London
                U.K. E1 9SS


LIST PRICE

I don't know the list price, but I paid 19.99 U.K. pounds for it
from a mail-order company.


HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS

CD32 (PAL or NTSC)
Television or monitor
1 or 2 control pads (or Amiga joysticks)


COPY PROTECTION

None that's noticeable to the user.


REVIEW

The plot behind this game is basically the same as every other
shoot'em up ever released.  There's a big nasty doing big nasty things and
it's your job to stop them.  In this case, the "nasty" in question is the
Chaos Engine, a powerful machine that's gone haywire and is generally
causing a nuisance to everyone.  When you boot up the game, you get a 
short animated intro explaining all this, and it's backed up by a full CD
soundtrack with narration.  Very nice indeed.  Now on to the game 
itself....

When you start the game, you can select between 1 or 2 player modes.
In the 1 player mode, the second character is controlled by the computer,
so you always play this game as a team even if no humans want to play with
you. :-) At this point, you can restore an old game by entering a 
password, or start a new game.  I'll talk about the password system a bit
later.  When you start a new game, you are presented with a character 
hiring screen.  You start off with a certain amount of money and must hire
a character to use. There are 6 characters in all, each having individual
strengths and weaknesses (strength, speed, etc.) and special abilities.  
With that done, it's off to take on the nasties.

The game is split into 4 worlds, each with 4 levels.  The action is
viewed from above and at an angle which lets you see the front of the
characters and nasties.  Your job is to kill as many nasties as possible 
and find your way to the exit of each level.  Before you can get out, 
though, you must activate "nodes" that are scattered around the levels.
These are tower-like things, and you activate them by just shooting them.
Once you've activated all the nodes, the exit (or exits) will open.  On 
most levels, there's actually more than one exit, and each one will cause
you to start from a different place on the next level.

When you shoot a nasty, it'll leave behind a coin which you can pick
up and add to your bank balance.  There are also coins laying around on 
the ground to be picked up.  Other things you can pick up include:  weapon
power-ups, keys that open doors and secret passages, food (for restoring
energy), extra lives, etc. etc.  There's more than one way of finishing 
most levels; in fact, there are often alternate routes which lead you to 
heaps of bonuses (and usually a swarm of nasties as well)! :-(

At the end of every 2 levels, you are taken to the Shop screen.  Here
you can buy all sorts of goodies to improve your characters' performance.
Things you can buy include: health, speed, weapon power-ups, lives, 
special weapons, and more.

The end of the last level takes you to a showdown with the Chaos
Engine. (Surprise, surprise. :-))

When your game ends, you are given a password which allows you to
restart at the beginning of the world that you were up to.  The way this
password works is bit different from other games, and it is great.  When 
you restart with a password, you start at the shop screen with the total 
amount of money that you had collected during the last game.  You can then
re-buy all your weapons etc. or choose to buy something else instead.  
This is great because you can try different tactics:  for instance, 
starting with heaps of lives, or starting with MEGA guns. :-)


DOCUMENTATION

The CD sleeve contains a brief introduction to the game.  Full
instructions are provided on the CD in English, French, German and 
Italian. They are very nicely presented as a series of pages which you 
flip through with the controller.


LIKES

Superb gameplay.  This game just feels great!  This is a game which
has been thoroughly play-tested, I simply cannot fault it in terms of
playability.

The password system is the best I've ever seen.

The 2 players' characters can walk through one another.  While this
isn't exactly realistic, it does make the game more playable.

The background graphics are excellent.  They have enough detail to
make them interesting, but not enough to make it difficult to see what's
going on.  The sprites are nice and colourful. The 6 player sprites look
great, they're really well drawn and each have their unique character.
Also, the introduction animation is quite good (although short).

The CD music tracks on the title and between-level screens are
fabulous.  Also, the CD sound effects during the game are very well done 
and add lot of atmosphere.  Music in the game itself is Amiga-based, but 
is still very atmospheric because it changes depending on where you are 
in the level.  For instance, as you approach the exit the music builds 
up to make it a bit more tense.  Sound effects are also excellent.  The
nasties have all sorts of weird (but appropriate) noises, and there's a 
bit of speech too.

Basically, the overall look and feel of this game is superb.


DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS

The action does slow down noticeably when there are a lot of objects
on screen.  This suggests to me that the programmers have just added the 
new AGA graphics to the code from the Amiga version, instead of re-writing
it for 68020/AGA.  I expect that adding some Fast RAM would help, as would
running the game on the A4000 CD32 add-on.  As neither of these exist 
right now, I can't try them, but I assume the game will make use of extra
speed because the Amiga version did.

The game doesn't use the full PAL screen.  PAL users can force it
into NTSC using the boot-menu though, and it then fills the screen.


BUGS

The game occasionally freezes for an instant.  I think it might be
when it's changing CD tracks.  This does not affect gameplay at all 
though: it's hardly noticeable.


VENDOR SUPPORT

An address is provided for support, but unfortunately not a phone
number.  I have not needed to contact them as yet.


WARRANTY

Unknown.


CONCLUSIONS

In my opinion, this is one of the CD32's best games to date.  I
already had the Amiga version, but for me the CD32 version was still a
must-have, even though it has no extra levels.  If you're a CD32 owner who
hasn't played the original Amiga version, then get this game!  If you had
the original Amiga version, then get this game anyway!  A lot of people 
whinge about CD32 games which are ports of Amiga titles, but I'm not 
complaining when the games are this good.  The Bitmap Brothers have taken
a classic Amiga game, enhanced the graphics/sound, and produced a classic
CD32 game.

I'd give it about 90%, and a bit more if it didn't slow down.

This review is freely distributable.  Just leave my name in :-)
10/4/1994 Steve Cutting     e-mail: Steve_Cutting@guru.apana.org.au