Sunday 21 March 2010


WinUAE is a horrible emulator.

Time for some games with stupid names. First is the appropriately titled "Aaargh!", from the land before fracture meshes and havok physics. Developed in 1988 by Binary Design, players take control of a giant monster and destroy everything for no particular reason. It's like Rampage all over again!... no really. But there is a twist this time around - we're not confined to the hustle and bustle of city life, we get to go across an entire island smashing human colonies and each other.

Tonight Matthew, I'm reviewing the Amiga version of the game, but if you're not keen on Commodore's machine there's also copies available for the Amstrad CPC, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX and ZX Spectrum. In retrospect, it was probably a bad move as the Amiga version of Aaargh! is unpolished and appears to be lacking features. That small, un-centred title screen should have been a big clue. The version that most likely comes out on top is the Atari ST port, but I've yet to give it a whirl. The Apple IIGS version doesn't look too shabby either.

In Aaargh! the goal is simple - destroy everything. As either a "Lizard" or an "Ogre", you walk around a small area of land with the ability to breathe fire, hit stuff and eat people. In return, you're tasked with having to avoid enemy fire and... bugs. In other words, very similar to Rampage, but as you may be able to see from the screenshot above, you can move towards and away from the camera.

As with many early computer games, a lot of faith is put into the instruction manual. Instruction manuals which generally haven't stood the test of time as well as the floppy disks. Because of this, I'm not entirely sure how everything in Aaargh! works, or, more importantly, what's missing from the Amiga game. Some versions lack the two-player support, and I suspect the Amiga version may be one of them. There's also a lot of emphasis on egg collecting in some versions, and though there are still eggs in the Amiga port... the game keeps quiet about it.

I suppose an interesting thing is that all the little people in this game are topless and have yellow shorts... regardless of where they are on the planet. And why does everyone use the same wooden catapult to get rid of you?

One of the major downsides of emulating an Amiga game is the fact I'm mapping joystick controls to a keyboard. The Amiga's default joystick had two buttons and eight directions, but because the Amiga also had a keyboard, emulators compensate by mapping the joystick commands to... the num pad. Not a bad thing in a lot of cases, but in Aaargh! half the controls involve moving the joystick in a direction and pressing a button, leading to a really uncomfortable gameplay experience on a keyboard unless you waste time mapping things to different keys. And it's still not quite as responsive as it should be. Other versions of the game (namely the DOS one) will likely play better in this day and age, but look worse (the DOS game for example has only 16-on screen colours).

WinUAE, the Amiga emulator "of choice" is also an awful program, which though has an immense amount of options (such as changing keyboard LED lights), has a stupid user interface and generally doesn't feel as if it's built for Windows at all. But I digress.

Generally, Aaargh! is a poor game. The collision is less than perfect, the graphics could be better and and the controls, as I've said, are all over the place these days. But consider this - I bought Hulk when it came out because in the demo all you did was smash things, and when the Dreamcast was first announced, top of my list (after Sonic Adventure) was Godzilla Generations. Both games also got poor reviews, but both games sold well because smashing things, no matter how simplistic, is fun. Aaargh!, despite its shortcomings, is also a prime example of this. I can't recommend it, but I can't say it's a bad game because it entertains. And that's what games are supposed to do.

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