(I originally published the below article on issue 2 of the A-Mag Disk Zine)

I moved over to the Amiga platform from the humble Spectrum towards the tail-end of 1990. I'd owned a "Speccy" of one type or another since mid-1982, and during that time had built-up a comprehensive collection of games for the system.

While I was looking forward to the enhanced gaming experiences my new Commodore machine was sure to bring there were many Spectrum titles I still wanted to play. I was clearly not alone, as over the course of the next few years several Speccy classics were ported over to the 16-bit system, released as public domain or Licenceware.

Here, I take a look at three games I absolutely loved playing on my rubber-keyed chum, and see what their Amiga conversions were like. Are they worth your time, or should you be firing up a Spectrum emulator and staying with the originals?

Let's take a look...

Game: Atic Atac
Year of original release: 1983
Originally released by: Ultimate Play the Game
Year of Amiga release: 1991
Released by: ???
Tested on: Amiga A1200 with 8megs Fast RAM and 3.1.4 Roms
Download ADF from: Here

The legendary label "Ultimate Play the Game" burst on to the ZX Spectrum scene in 1983 with 4 16K compatible games (Jet Pac, Cookie, Trans Am and Pssst) offering near arcade game like quality. With the majority of other publishers at the time releasing poor clones of arcade titles Ultimate's releases surpassed almost anything else on the platform.

When moving over to the Amiga, this was one of the first public domain games that caught my eye while browsing through recently purchased copies of CU Amiga magazine. I still had that naive view that "The Spectrum version was excellent, so the Amiga version must be even better". Terrible Amiga conversions of Robocop, Chase HQ and Exolon would soon show me otherwise. Unfortunately, the Amiga conversion of Atic Atac lands firmly in that group.

Loading up the game you're immediately "greeted" by the dreadful orange AMOS screen. That the programmer didn't bother to hide this is just a sign of things to come.

On to the title screen, and a simple Atic Atac logo bounces from left to right across the screen, while some suitably moody music plays in the background. Pressing S starts the game while the I key displays the instructions. If you've never played the game before, Atic Atac is displayed from above. The object is to navigate your way around the castle, killing nasties and collecting three parts of the ACG key. Once you have the parts you need to put them together, get to the front door, unlock it and escape. Press S to start and the true horror of this title begins.

Before I continue, I feel it only fair to point out that this game is better than any game I've attempted to put together. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the only positive thing I can say about this. I'm not even sure where to start.

Ok. Let's begin with the main character sprite. Gone are the beautifully detailed and animated wizard, serf and knight from the Spectrum original and in their place is a red ball. Yes, ladies and gents. You control a red ball!

The graphical horrors continue with your weapon (a huge axe) which is so massive that when it flies around the screen it looks ridiculous. Next, there are nasties that look little better than coloured clip-art, and room graphics which not only draw-out when you enter a room, but they look like they've been produced using the ZX Spectrum's BASIC DRAW command. Terrible. Simply terrible.

Finally, we move on to the sound. In the background a tune plays away to itself and it's one that's completely out of place for this type of game. Thankfully, you won't be listening to much of it as the really annoying sound your axe makes when you throw it knocks out the main sound channel of the tune. It's laughably bad.

There's really nothing I can recommend about this game. I thought it was dire when it was originally released, and it's certainly not improved over time. Try it out for curiosity purposes only.

A-Mag Rating: A terrible 2 out of 10

Game: Wheelie
Year of original release: 1983
Originally released by: Microsphere
Year of Amiga release: 1992
Released by: Lee Powis / F1 Licenseware
Tested on: Amiga A1200 with 8megs Fast RAM and 3.1.4 Roms
Download ADF from: HERE

The second game in our lookback was also compiled using AMOS, but please don't let that put you off. This is many, many times better than the travesty that is Atic Atac.

Upon booting this up you're treated to a nice splash screen and a great title tune. I actually let the music play in full while I was putting this review together. We're off to a good start here.

Pressing the left mouse button takes you into the main menu screen. The excellent presentation continues. A nice animated "Wheelie" logo is displayed at the top of the screen while your biker zooms around underneath. Below that the instructions and background information (the game took 11 months to put together, apparently!) scroll smoothly upwards. Very nice indeed!

On to the game, and if you're not familiar with the Microsphere original I'll give you a quick overview as to the object of the game. Wheelie is a left to right, side-scrolling motorbike game where you drive along and switch between three horizontal passageways. Ramps scattered throughout the level give you access to the different levels, and you'll need to make good use of these as there are dead-ends aplenty. Also dotted throughout the passages are various bouncing nasties, and other obstacles making your journey that bit more difficult. Get to the end of the level and you meet the Ghostrider. Your mission now is to race back to the start and get there before the he does. If you're successful you move on to the next level. Fail and it's game over.

Controls in this conversion work exactly the same as in the Spectrum original. Up and down are used to navigate your bike up and down levels while left and right speed up or slow your bike down depending on what direction you're facing. The fire button is used to temporarily freeze enemies, and while this is a very useful thing to have at your disposal, every time you press it you'll use a bit of your precious and extremely limited fuel.

The controls in this conversion of Wheelie are extremely responsive, and with the game seemingly a little more lenient on whether you're successful in a completing a jump than the 1983 original, you'll soon find yourself zooming around the game. That said, this version is still no walkover, and I've yet to complete even the first level.

Accompanying the game are a set of excellent sampled sounds, ranging from an excellent engine noise, and skids to horns beeping, liquid sloshing when you collect oil and many more. A lot of fun must have been had tracking these effects down and adding them to the game.

To round this up I'd say that if you were a fan of Wheelie back in the day then you really should give this a go. If you've never played the original then still do check this out. It's a heck of a lot of fun, and just shows what can be done with AMOS if in the right hands.

A-Mag Rating: A very strong 7 out of 10

Game: The Pyramid
Year of original release: 1983
Released by: Fantasy Software
Year of Amiga release: Not known
Released by: R. Langford
Tested on: Amiga A1200 with 8megs Fast RAM and 3.1.4 Roms
ADF from: Here

We move on to our third and final game in our look back, and it's an Amiga version of the much-loved Spectrum classic from 1983; The Pyramid.

Spanning two floppy disks, this is the largest game out of the three we're looking at, and the quality is apparent as soon as it's loaded. The game features a beautiful title screen showing the main character in his spaceship, with music playing in the background. The title screen is then replaced with a cartoon trumpet with aliens displayed as each of the Amiga's four sound channels. It looks superb.

Pressing the space bar for instructions, and you're informed that the main character Bernard the spaceman (we're not sure what happened to Ziggy from the original game!), has been captured by the evil Mummy and it's your job to help Bernard descend The Pyramid to escape. To leave a room you must collect the diamonds which full from above, and drop them down one of the two exits at the bottom of each screen. Drop three diamonds on to an exit and it opens, allowing you to descend to the next floor.

When you start the game proper a short animation sequence plays out as Bernard is shown walking to his space craft before he gets in it and it jets off the top of the screen. A map of The Pyramid is displayed, with the upper-most room flashing, showing your starting point. A few seconds later the game begins as your craft enters the room and you start your descent.

As with the Spectrum version of the game, each room contains a different type of enemy and these remain locked to that room type for each play through. The trick is to remember which enemies inhabit each room and take the easiest route possible. Not an easy task!

Control of your craft is extremely responsive, with up used for thrust, left and right and fire to launch your blaster. Sound effects are simple but effective, but there's no background music which is a shame. Graphics are first-rate with beautifully animated aliens and some gorgeous backgrounds. Use of the Amiga's fame colour cycling in many rooms give many background a smooth animated look.

As you make your way down through The Pyramid, the aliens get more imaginative, and their attack patterns more complex. The trick is trying to make a gap between the alien waves so that the diamond, when it appears, doesn't hit one of them and shatter before you can collect it. Not easy! I initially found progress through the first few floors to be easy, but by floor three or four the difficulty really ramps-up. You'll certainly need to get some practice in.

Contact with an enemy causes Bernard to eject from his craft. Do this too many times and you're presented with a wonderfully charming game over screen. Not once did I feel cheated that I'd lost all my lives. The mistakes we're down to me and not the game. Always a good sign of game design!

The Pyramid is a really fantastic piece of development work and shows what can be produced using AMOS if placed in the right hands. This could have easily have sold on the £2.99 Pocket Power label (remember that?) and would have been by far the best game in the range. It really is superb. Please check this out. It's a lot of fun!

A-Mag Rating: A glorious 9 out of 10