I finally got the chance today to try out the full version of a long-awaited game, Tower 57, that I first heard about as a kickstart project back in mid 2015 and which was at the time only due to come out on the PC. Inspired by the classic Amiga game The Chaos Engine, many Amiga fans got wind of the kickstart’s existence and wondered if the project backers Pixwerk would be interested in having the game ported across to AmigaOS 4. Such was the interest and the desire to see this appear, the kickstart not only reached its goal of a PC release, but it also generated more that the goal amount which ensured that a port across to AmigaOS 4 was possible.
I was privileged enough to be able to see the games progress when it was shown at Amiga 32 in Neuss, last October where the man responsible for the AmigaOS 4 port Daniel Muessener (or Daytona 675x as he is known to many in the Amiga community) showed a working demo of the game in progress, but it was still many months off release as he was awaiting the PC version to be released before he could work fully on optimising the Amiga version.
Well here we are in March 2018 with the finished version which has also been released for other next generation Amiga like operating systems MorphOS and AROS so the whole next generation Amiga community has been included here. The minimum specs are quite high however for each platform so it looks like A1200/A4000 owners with a PPC accelerator card may miss out here on the fun.
The minimum specs for each system are as follows:
AOS4: AmigaOS 4.1 FE Upd1, >= 600 MHz, Gfx-card with Compositing support
MorphOS: MorphOS >= 3.9, >= 600 MHz, Gfx-card with TinyGL support
AROS: x86 (e.g. Icaros Desktop >= 2.2), Gfx-card with Mesa3D support
First things first, you will need to head over to the following website to pay for the game which is currently retailing at USD11.99 plus tax. You have the option when you purchase the game to contribute a bit more than the minimum, however there has been talk on various Amiga forums that Daniel Muessener who did the majority of the porting across and has clearly worked really hard on optimising this for our systems isn’t getting anything more than the token amount that the people responsible for the Kickstart, were paying so please bear this in mind when paying more than the USD11.99. I know a few others, (myself included) have taken the opportunity to donate to Daniel directly so please feel free to head over to his website and feel free to do the right thing and donate what you feel for his hard work.
The game itself comes in a downloadable zip file which is 196MB big and you will need to extract this to a folder of your choosing. Sadly, or should that be more impressively, my 30GB games partition that I currently have on my machine recently filled up, so it was time to install this on to one of my other partitions.
Now when you first open the game folder you will find the AmigaOS 4 version optimised for faster machines like the X1000 and X5000 ready to run here, however if you are looking for a version which has been optimised for a lower specification machine then you will need to go into the Tower 57 folder where you will find options for AmigaOS 4 in 16 bit, one of the upcoming A1222 (Tabor board) and also for any MorphOS and AROS users, the game executable is also located here.
When you launch the game you have the option to run this in all manner of resolutions from 640×480 16 bit mode all the way up to 1920×1080 32 bit RGB mode. Naturally given the X5000 and my graphics card it will handle the higher screen mode resolutions without any issues but if you are running a lower spec machine, you may have to lower resolution in order to get a higher frame rate. There are also a few updates to download the first time you run this as the originally released version has had a few bug fixes in the days following its release and I am sure that this no doubt be updated further as you go along which is a nice touch.
I also took the opportunity to test out a new joy pad which was given to me as a birthday present in the form of the award-winning 8bitdo SFC Pro 30 joy pad which you can see below is based on the original SNES controller, but has been brought a little more up to date with the addition of trigger buttons on the shoulder and two analogue sticks. It works flawlessly under AmigaOS 4 once configured with Amiga Input. The pad also has rumble and Bluetooth functions which are sadly not supported in AmigaOS 4 due to a lack of drivers, but this pad will also work on a PC, Mac or Raspberry Pi 3 Model B where these extra features are supported. I have to say the build quality on this pad is fantastic and is really responsive. If you are interested in getting one, Amazon have one on sale currently for around £30.00.
In what must be a first for an Amiga game, Tower 57 supports the use of dual analogue sticks, so the use of a SFC Pro 30 pad or indeed a Logitech F-310 or Xeox Pro analog pad is somewhat essential to the game experience.
I would also like to apologise that in this blog post I have had to resort to taking screenshots and videos from my I-Phone instead of the usual print screen as for some reason my print screen doesn’t seem to work once I am in the game.
So loading up the title screen we are given the options to commence a new game, continue an existing one, re-arrange some options or quit back to Workbench which can also be done at anytime during the game using CTRL+C.
You will notice that an online version of the game is grayed out of the game, but from what I understand this was never meant to be a feature of the game back when the kickstart was announced.
Tower 57 as the name suggests involves you navigating a dystopian diesel punk world inside a tower where your mission is to infiltrate the tower move along its levels, shooting baddies, collecting cash, access keys which then open up further levels. If this all sounds too familiar, then it has been done intentionally as the game creators Pixwerk have sought inspiration from The Chaos Engine right down to the use of the 16-bit looking graphics and top down viewpoint which gives a nice retro look.
You start the game by selecting three different characters which will form part of your team that will infiltrate the tower. You will find that some characters are easier to play with than others due to the effectiveness of their weapons, similar to The Chaos Engine, however unlike the game from which comes the inspiration, your team does not play with all the characters on-screen at once and in effect your three characters are the three lives afforded to you in each game, so choose wisely. I find that this works to your advantage as you have the option mid game to swap characters so if for example you are running low on energy and about to die, then just press button B and call one of your remaining characters into the game who will start a full bar of energy and you can rotate them around until you complete a level or a power-up point.
The game starts off gently like most modern games tend to do nowadays with you moving around and discovering your new world with instructions on what the various buttons do. I did find the controls a little awkward to get used to but I think this may have been down to this new pad I was using. Where I thought I was pressing the A button I was in fact pressing B and it dawned on me why. You see compared to the Logitech F-310 and Speedlink Xeox pad, the A and B buttons are located the other way around on the SFC Pro 30, but this of course can be changed to suit one’s tastes. Be careful with your triggers too as the right trigger annoyingly brings up a menu. The dual Analogue sticks work quite well for this game, however I would have preferred a full 360 turn on the right hand analogue stick as I found you can only really move the sight to the left or the right. The left analogue stick is responsible here for the rest of your movement across the screen. There are times during the game where you will need to have two hands on the pad using your thumbs for the analogue sticks and any spare digits for the rest of the buttons!
Once you are comfortable with controls it is time to start shooting baddies, shooting at all sorts of objects which are around you which will uncover a whole host of power ups and cash which can be used in shops to upgrade your characters. The action quickly turns intense, I know the game creators have sought inspiration from The Chaos Engine, but this equally plays similar to other classic Amiga games like Alien Breed or Smash TV. In fact the way that the baddies come at you from all angles with little room to escape is very reminiscent of Smash TV, as The Chaos Engine feels rather pedestrian by comparison to this game. During the shooting action parts of the game you will find yourself locked into a part of the screen and unable to move until all the baddies have been destroyed and it is only when this is complete will a door magically open up or turn from red to green indicating it is safe to pass through.
There are various points in the game where you can cash in your money and improve the health of your team. I did find one gruesome creature which when I blasted open a door, then came at me and chewed one of my character’s legs off. It was quite clever to then watch that same character not be able to move around the screen as quickly as he did as a result of the injury but fortunately if you can find your way to the nearest shop you will soon get him recuperated and on your way again.
Where this differs from The Chaos Engine is that you have a storyline aspect of the game to discover with various objects appearing on the screen with a letter A next to them inviting you to discover what it is and perhaps give more clues about what is going on, so in effect it plays a bit more like an adventure game as opposed to a full on blaster game. I quite like it as it gives you a break from the intensity of the combat every once in a while and allows you to re-charge your batteries and go an explore things.
During the game you will find yourself in conversations with various characters or exploring terminals which try to give you more information about the world in which you have landed.
As you can see from the screenshots, the graphics look very colourful and re-create that 16-bit era really well. I like how the music changes during the game depending on what zone you have moved into and the in-game tunes are very atmospheric with good use of speech too.
For me the game play really shines here, it harks back to an era where you don’t have to spend the first 30 minutes of a game being told some incredibly lame story line with some badly acted video and then given all sorts of instructions on how to kill your baddies and how to use your joystick. Yes you do get some instructions, but after about a minute you are basically left to yourself to explore your new world and more importantly get down to blasting some baddies which for a more retro-orientated gamer like myself with only a limited amount of time to play games each week is exactly what I look for in a game to be thrust into some action straight away.
I really do hope everyone who owns a next generation Amiga goes out and buys this rather excellent game if only to spur any further development of games for our platform. Given that this has also come out on the PC and this version holds up really well in comparison, its proof that given the right game and specs the Amiga can still have some relevance in today’s gaming market.
Until next time have fun with your Amigas!