"Nose activated! Mayor safe!" Chaos Engine (aka Soldiers of Fortune in some territories) is from the Bitmap Brothers, probably the best-known and most prolific Amiga action game publishers of the 80s-90s. So this one is a port from the Amiga original, but unlike most of these jobs it's actually pretty well-done and faithful. The downside is that the play control is a bit more floaty than the original and the graphics are a little lower-res and murkier, but the advantage is that you get the comfy SNES controller and all those buttons instead of the crap Amiga joystick with the one button.

The game is basically Gauntlet re-imagined with guns, and bigger and more sprawling levels. You pick a team of two from six characters to start out; it's 2-player, but if you're going solo you get an AI companion who is surprisingly not shit. They can take damage and die eventually, but they seem to get away with some hits as a buffer to keep them alive ... also the enemies don't really target them so they can be highly useful as a distraction and for cover fire. They are also good about grabbing nearby items which is a nice touch that more modern games can't seem to get right.

Anyway, there's a text scroll with a dead Dinobot or something that sets up a convoluted plot in a steampunk world with mutants, but none of that matters once the action starts, it's pretty much pure arcade style. You run through a series of levels with the overall goal being to find the various "noses" (nodes) and activate them by shooting them. Activate all the noses and the gate to the next level opens. Scattered about are various monster generators that will pump out mutated beasties until you blow them up. You also pick up coins that can be used between levels to raise your health, weapon power and other statistics.

Chaos Engine gets the 2/5 not for being a bad port, but just because the original game was really never that great to begin with. It makes a nice initial impression with pumping techno tunes and basically solid gameplay, but the level design is cheap and trollish and only gets worse the farther you get in. Fire and leaping enemies are forever cheap-hitting you from off-screen, and the game looooves random spawn-ins all around you any time you pick something up (aka the John Romero School of Level Design). The rules also change at random for some enemies; for example random beastmen will suddenly take way more hits than usual, or the little volcano things that lob shots at you will go from fixed-fire in one direction to suddenly being able to track and aim at you, with no palette swaps or other visual warning that you're dealing with something different now. Levels also continue to get more irritatingly maze-like and sprawly as you go, with a lot of backtracking required - pick stuff up and some random shit opens or appears way back somewhere else in the level that you have to go poking around for.

It isn't a terrible little Gauntlet riff but it's too demanding for what you're getting back in return.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video