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                          Review: Chaos Engine 2
                            By:  Ken Anderson 
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There was a time when eagerly-awaited games were nothing special.
Every couple of weeks, the games community would hold its collective
breath as the release of another blockbuster title loomed, only to forget it
moments after it actually arrived, in favour of the next Big Thing. Sadly,
Big Things aren't that common these days, but there's always the odd
glimmer of hope, and this time it*s in the shape of The Chaos Engine 2
(TCE2). 

The Bitmap Brothers were the original "pop star" programmers, regularly
pictured looking moody and wearing shades.  For a while, they more or less
dominated the 16-bit games market with classics such as Xenon, Gods and
Cadaver.  Classy graphics, stomping music by some of the industries best,
and gameplay at a tangent to the norm added the Bitmaps to the Amiga Hall
of Fame.  The Chaos Engine was their last hit; an odd combination of
puzzles and killing, with most people either loved or loathed.

TCE2, like its older brother, is inherently a two-player game. When
playing solo, the computer takes over as the other character, reacting
intelligently to your actions. However, whereas the original game had the
computer helping you out, TCE2 sets you against the Amiga player.

You have a choice of 4 characters for yourself and your opponent; all with
the expected strengths and weaknesses in terms of speed, weapon and
intellegence.  Then it's off into the arenas, in a straight contest for
points.  Every level has set challenges and puzzles - kill this, pick up
that, push the other and so on; nothing so taxing you'll be there for hours
trying to work out what to do.  Of course, there are the usual array of
creatures in your path to stop you, but they can soon be dispatched with a
blast or two from your weapon.

Every monster killed, lock opened or puzzle solved earns the player
points, and it's the one with the most points at the end of the level that
wins. Lose, and it's minus one life and back for another try. Win, and it's
onto the next level, with a possible weapon upgrade or an extra life if
you earned enough points.

The levels themselves are roughly similar in design and appearance to the
first game, although not nearly as complicated.  As you would expect from
the Bitmaps, the graphics are absolutely superb, with a fine eye for detail
and imagination.  The music is strange atmospheric stuff, which changes
depending on the current state of play, but never actually gets in the way
of the sound effects.

If it were just running around, picking up keys and opening locks to gain
points, TCE2 would come off worse in comparison with its prequel.  It
doesn't have the same puzzle-solving element, and is lacking in atmosphere
- and originality - by comparison.  The big difference is in the computer
player.  By pitting you against the computer, you now have a much deadlier
enemy; one who doesn*t want to kill you, just to beat you.  Stand around
doing nothing, and your opponent will quiet happily complete the level by
himself, scooping all the points and losing you lives.  It learns by
mistakes.  Employ the tactic of waiting for him to pick up all the required
items before beating him up and stealing them all might end up in him doing
the same to you next level.  All of this greatly extends the games lifetime
- each game is rarely the same, because the computer might try something
different this time.  You might even end up shouting "I saw that key first
you #?@%!" at your poor Amiga, which may cause distress to close relatives.

TCE2 doesn't install on a hard drive, which is surely just laziness on the
coders' part. Apart from this, TCE2 is a triumph; a perfect arcade game
that combines action with intellegence. If you liked the original, you'll
already have bought the sequel. Even if you didn't enjoy the original
Engine, TCE2 offers an insight of what the Amiga does best - a playable,
addictive game with just a little bit of thought required.

Pros: Clever and well-drawn graphics, and thoughtfully created levels
result in a game you enjoy competing against.  The computer opponents are
truly intelligent, but never unfair.  A rare two-player that works just as
well with only one human.

Cons: No HD install.  Sometimes just a bit difficult to work out what is
required to complete a level.  May cause you to shout at inanimate objects.


The Chaos Engine II is published by Renegade software.
The Bitmap Brothers/Renegade