Sunday, 6 March 2011


The Amiga's nice and all, but can it run Doom!?

No. But it can run Gloom, a 1995 Amiga game desperate to prove its worth against DOS-based IBM PC compatibles. It fails, but it's still a remarkable piece of technology for a system not designed for the third dimension.

Actually I tell a lie. Technically there are many 3D games for the Amiga (including a port of Doom II), it's just that most of them are for... erm... "modern Amigas?". The OS still exists today, supplying its limited services for a niche audience, but to me, classic Amiga died in the mid-1990s in the same way DOS was replaced with Windows. A then-modern system being able to run a then-old-ish Doom II in 1998 isn' really all that spectacular, but an old computer struggling to run cutting edge games is far more fun.

Gloom, built for 1992-spec AGA Amiga chipsets exists to fight Doom in a last ditch effort to keep the Amiga relevant to the gaming community. Of course, 1995 was too late for it to make a difference, but it's good to go down fighting I suppose.

Oooh... well... yeah don't go expecting something groundbreaking with this release. Gloom's pixellated nature doesn't do it many favours and from a gameplay perspective it is miles behind what Doom brought to the table. Possibly even behind what Wolfenstein 3D brought us in 1992, the same year AGA came to town. Being several generations behind there's no way one can comfortably claim that Gloom was a worthy challenger to id Software's giant, but it's a good attempt and still packs away some interesting features and ideas.

Gloom seems to be set in a similar world to Doom, complete with space stations and demon spawn. However unlike Doom, Gloom seems to be aiming for a PG crowd, toning down the violence and controversy to make it more accessible to the public. But having said that, this many not have been the intention, as Gloom suffers tremendously on Amiga hardware. It can't play in-game music, it can't render fancy geometry and it can't keep up with Doom's lengthy levels.

As with Doom, the main objective of the game is to get from point A to point B, shooting enemies, collecting items and solving puzzles along the way. The game doesn't arm you with a classic array of weapons - you merely shoot energy balls across the room. Said balls can be upgraded to do more damage, but don't go expecting shotguns and chainguns because there simply isn't any.

Not wanting to screw around with the compexity of WinUAE too much, I found myself playing Gloom with the emulated joystick... which was a bad idea. With no way of strafing this led to my character being hit many times by enemy fire. To compensate, the game gives you a fairly hefty health bar and doesn't force you to find ammo, but compared to all other shooters since things feel clumsy and awkward from the beginning. It also creates an extremely difficult game in the process, with death occurring all too often in the later levels.

However, I can't sit here and say the Amiga is my speciality, so there may be mouse and keyboard options to make things more pleasant.

Gloom compensates for these problems slightly with its ability to show off several neat graphical effects. Semi-transparency, sparks flying off the walls of broken machinery and giant moving 3D objects - it's all good stuff, just a little late to the party.

As said, by far the most off-putting thing about this game is the graphics. Though resolutions can be adjusted, they don't get any higher than the shots in this post, and there's no cure for pixellation. The game is still fully playable, but it fails to paint the Amiga in a good light. Having said that, the graphics appear to be very well drawn and decently animated throughout, and with floor and ceiling textures does mean the renderer can take a few shots at Wolfenstein 3D. The music also had the potential to be great... just a shame there isn't any.

Oh and there's also a split-screen two-player mode. Difficult to fault that when almost no first person shooters had one at the time (in fact... Gloom may be the first!).

Gloom was followed by a few sequels. Gloom Deluxe for example brings in high resolution graphics but as said, these things, to me, don't really fall under the category of "classic Amiga" and I just don't consider them to be all that interesting. Normal Gloom  however, is interesting, if a little dated. It's probably not worth hunting out but it's still good clean fun if you should feel the need to play blocky Amiga games.


  1. I sorta like the pixelated look myself.

    Looks interesting, might try it one day

  2. Looking at the screenshots, I find the design a bit more appealing than Doom. Gloom, with less gore! I guess.