Those Bitmaps do it again!

Gods logo

Publisher: Renegade Price: £25.53

The Bitmap Brothers have become synonymous with excellence. Their impressive list of games reads something like a hall of fame: Xenon, Speedball, Xenon II, Cadaver, Speedball 2 - everyone one a number one! Now comes Gods, a platform game with a difference.

The game is based on happenings in Greek mythology. As the hero of the game it is your task to complete a series of levels, defeating all-manner of blood-thirsty beasts as you go. All of the game takes place within a city created by the great gods as entertainment. The beings from Mount Olympus lay down the challenge suggesting no mortal man could survive the traps and terrors of the city.

Many men had attempted to get to the other side of the construction, none had succeeded. Now you, a fresh young warrior, have risen to the challenge. If you fail, a slow and painful death awaits. If you succeed, you will be granted one wish from the gods.

Your heart's desire is to be an immortal yourself. Your character looks suspiciously like that of Greek strongman, Hercules. Whether or not this is the case is not totally clear as you seem to wear an ornate helmet throughout the action.

The point of the game is not to simply battle your way to the end of each level before taking on a formidable-looking enemy. Indeed, Gods also includes a range of taxing puzzles which must be solved.

The game utilizes a fair degree of artificial intelligence. For instance, one of the first puzzles sees you collecting a stone pot. The game's message bar will inform you that you have to deposit the said item in a store room. Many players will find this task relatively simple, however novices may need a little help and the game will aid slow learners with extra hints. Not only will the game give hints, it will also introduce more intelligent monsters to challenge skilled players. In addition to helping the less able, the game will also reward obvious talent. If you manage to reach the end of the first stage within a certain time limit, you will be rewarded with an extra goodie.

It is split into three definite worlds, each one providing progressively more of a challenge. Indeed, the first section of the game eases the player into the action, teaching him various strategies. The end of each particular level sees you coming face to face with a particularly mean nastie. These large end-of-level guardians can prove to be a real challenge. Should you manage to defeat a guardian and thus complete a level, you will be given a password allowing you to start at that particular point next time you play.

As you progress through the game you will encounter various monsters and traps. The former beings can be despatched in the time-honoured tradition while the latter may need more devious thought. Killing creatures will yield precious gems that boost your wealth. Other items such as keys, power-ups and new weapons can also be collected and used. Throughout the action you will no doubt encounter a shop keeper. Like the galactic salesman found in Xenon II, these fellows carry an impressive arsenal. Providing you have enough cash you can buy all sorts of deadly goodies. These range from simple extra lives and energy restoratives, to homing fireballs and spears. Perhaps the most deadly weapon is your familiar. Assuming the shape of an eagle, this beast flies around the screen taking out many of the marauding meanies.

Overall, Gods is another first-rate Bitmap Brothers game. All the symptoms are there: the great sound, brilliant graphics and outstanding gameplay.

Gods logo Amiga Format Gold

RENEGADE * £24.99 Joystick

Olympian practical jokes aren't funny, full stop. Juno's idea of a good laugh was to send you mad, while Erystheus was fond of sending folk on unfinishable tasks. Hercules, the world's strongest man, is just one such victim of these Grecian Jeremy Beadles. To earn freedom from them both and achieve his rightful god status he must complete four challenges in four different zones of a magical city.

Hercules must fight through a temple, the streets, a labyrinth and eventually the underworld if he is to emerge as immortal. A myriad of mythological monsters stand in his way, but, more importantly, so do a horde of traps and tasks. The monsters may be killed or avoided, as may the traps, but all the tasks must be fulfilled if he is to achieve eternal life. It's in the control you see; small print.

Just win!
Hercules is an individual and is not forced to follow any particular route to the end of any level, or zone; getting there is good enough. Under your control, all he has to do is win through using any magic weapons or tricks that happen to come to mind. Unfortunately, the beasts who inhabit the worlds are also free to follow their own initiative. This is a combination that makes Gods a platform challenge, the like of which even Zeus have never seen.

The boy can move as per normal, leaping, ducking and climbing between levels. For protection he hurls out showers of daggers and axes ahead of him, which kill (eventually) any foes foolish enough to cross his path. His initial single 'shot' can be souped-up, adding a two, or even three, way spray of flying blades, by collecting magic tokens. Extra shuriken and power bolts can be added to further beef-up the armoury. The spread is even controllable with the use of tokens, as the needs of the weaponry varies with each level.

In solution
Trap-like puzzles litter the zones, increasing in complexity as the game develops. At first they are simple obstructions, which can be destroyed by a flick of the correct lever. Later however, Herc' is offered a vast array of switches and any one of them could remove the problem. Pressing the wrong one however, could well summon more heat than a growing God needs. The art is working out, and remembering, which levers do what. Solving a puzzle is rarely a case of just throwing one switch. Often the answer lies in a series of levers, working on a combination principal and finding the solution is not so much a case of trial and error, as die-all and error.

There are three main puzzle elements. First comes the switch throwing nightmare, which is only ever solved with a quick bout of flicking. Secondly comes the keys. To enter many of the most interesting rooms you'll need the correct keys. These appear after certain core monsters or traps have been destroyed, and they are never near the door they unlock.

Here you have to check the text bar to see the keys name, then find the matching lock. Stored in Herc's three pocket backpack, the keys are used automatically when he passes the relevant door. It may still need a switch thrown through before it opens, so you're

Good Gods?
The game mechanic maybe spiffy, but the 64 Drachma question has to be: is Gods any good? The answer is yes, unreservedly. Gods melds the standard platform run-and-shoot form with a platform run-and-shoot form with a strain of action puzzle game. What starts out as a blast, soon becomes a guessing game of great proportions. What will that switch do if thrown? Is this strange skull the object of your quest? Where the hell is the key to the door?

The pace never flags, ensuring that you race through as much of the game as is humanly possible before stopping to think. If you hang around the nasties will start seeping out of the walls again! Assess, plan and act, is the motto of the day. A factor which is only enhanced by the independence of the monsters, who continue to hunt even when Herc' stops.

Over the edge
Backing up the metallic sound effects is the great theme tune, which players of last month's Coverdisk demo will already be familiar with. The graphics have texture and atmosphere, with each level subtly evolving from the last. In fact, the only irritants are the sparsity of save game points and Herc's occasional insistence on standing over the edge of platforms. The wait is easily tolerated in such a quality game but the mid air stance does make trying to judge the jumps harder than it really needs to be.

You are forced to edge out, risking a hefty fall, just so you get the best chance of leaping to the next platform. Such mechanisms have become traditionally accepted facets of platform games, but it is one convention the Bitmaps could well have flouted.

These minor gripes aside though, Gods looks as if it is set to join games legend. Viciously good gameplay and powerful effects have managed to make Renegade's first title an ideal debut.


At every two levels and after a whole section has been completed Herc' gets to pop into the local weapons shop. Fans of Bitmap games will be familiar with the format.

All the goodies are lined up in rows and waggling the stick rotates the highlight. Clicking on a highlighted item tells you what it is and what it does, clicking again buys the item. So you don't get confused over how much cash you have, the items out of your price range disappear. On offer in this store are: Chicken Legs (health, power 1), apples (health, power 2), Wide arc shot token, concentrated arc shot token, medium arc shot toke, Bread (health, power 3), Alien freeze, Health token (third of total energy), Shuriken, Shield, Health potion (half of total energy), Starburst smartbomb, fireball, and magic hammers.


Gods' aliens are smart: they are not just pretty faces, but have ample brain-power too. Each creature has a rating for manoeuvrability, speed, morale, aggression and intelligence. Using these factors the monsters will decide when it is best and how best, to attack Hercules. If a cowardly, but fast, beast is at the end of a wave that Herc' easily kills, then it may choose to sucttle ahead and surprise him later rather than join in the futile front assault. The effect this has on the game is subtle, but discernible, as the game develops around each player's own style.

While a youth Hercules was accosted by Virtue and Pleasure and forced to choose between them, Pleasure promised all the world's carnal delights while all Virtue had to offer was immortality. Herc' chose the latter - for some obscure reason - and after a life of toil he was received amongst the gods.
To qualify as an apprentice immortal all you have to do is...
  1. Kill the Nemean lion.
  2. Kill the Lemean Hydra.
  3. Catch and retain the Arcadian stag.
  4. Destroy the Erymanthian Boar.
  5. Cleanse the Augean stables.
  6. Destroy the cannibal birds of Lake Stymphalis.
  7. Capture the Cretan Bull.
  8. Catch the horses of the Thracian Diomedes.
  9. To possess the girdle Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazone.
  10. To capture the oxen of the monster Geryon.
  11. Obtain the apples of the Hesperides.
  12. Bring Cerberus from the infernal regions.
- and you thought getting a high score on a multi-level platform game was tough!

Gods logo Amiga Joker Hit

Die Bitmap Brothers wissen, was sie ihrem Ruf schuldig sind - hier nach der Qualität zu fragen, ist schon fast eine Majestätsbeleidigung! Aber mit dem Werbeslogan einer bekannten Automarke könnten wir es mal versuchen: Ist das neue Game nun einfach himmlisch oder teuflisch gut?

Im Grunde genommen ist Gods so eine Art Actionversion von "Cadaver": Einerseits muß eine ganze Schar grausiger Gegner dahingemetzelt werden, anderseits gilt es aber auch ein paar ausgesprochen knackige Rätsel zu lösen, Schätze aufzusammeln und natürlich seine drei Bildschirmleben beisammenzuhalten. Al einer, der auszog, den Göttern das Fürchten zu lehren, marschiert man durch eine altertümliche Stadt, deren Architektur leicht griechisch angehaucht ist. Die beschwerliche Reise führt durch insgesamt vier riesige Level, die wiederum je drei umfangreiche Unterabschnitte enthalten. Dabei stößt der Held auf jede Menge Plattformen und Leitern, Fallen, die mit Hebeln ausgeschaltet werden müssen, und Bonusräume wie Schatz- und Waffenkammern.

Wie von den Bitmaps nicht anders zu erwarten, ist die Götterspeise ganz schön komplex: Beispielsweise gibt es zehn untereinander kombinierbare Waffenarten und fast zwanzig verschiedene Zaubertränke - für jedes Wehwechen eines. Auch rennen die Gegner in den Höheren Leveln nicht einfach stupide hin und her, sondern versuchen, das Spielersprite richtiggehend auszutricksen - durch Auflauern, Ausweichen oder Zusammenrotten. Außerdem paßt sich der Schwierigkeitsgrad automatisch den Leistungen des Joystick-Artisten an! Mit anderen Worten: Je mehr Monster einer umhaut, umso mehr kriegt er auch serviert. Dazu kommen noch diverse Kleinigkeiten, wie Shops zum Nachtanken von Energie und Waffen, wichtige Hinweise in einer Laufschrift am unteren Screenrand und "Überrasschungs-Eier", die sich nach dem Aufsammeln in Goldstücke oder auch mal eklige kleine Zombies verwandeln.

Die Grafik ist bei alledem höchst beeindruckend, etwa das Beste aus "Xenon 2" und "Cadaver" als komplett neuartiger Remix. Sicher, wer ganz genau hinschaut, kann ein minimales Ruckeln beim Scrolling entdecken, und die NTSC-Streifen sind natürlich nicht zu übersehen. Aber über dem feinen Zeichenstil und den hübschen Animationen ist das sofort vergessen! Ein kleines bißchen enttäuschend ist der Title-Soundtrack, Nation 12 war bei der Musik für "Speedball 2" deutlich besser in Form. Dafür sind wiederum die Effekte absolut spitzenmäßig und tragen sehr viel zur dichten Atmosphäre des Games bei. Was die Handhabung angeht, so will sie erstmal erlernt sein, aber dann klappt alles vorzüglich - vom Gegner-Killen bis zum Inventory-Verwalten.

Und über allem erstrahlt ein wahrhaft göttliches Gamedesign, das dieses Programm zu einem ebenbürtigen Konkurrenten für den aktuellen Platzhirschen "Turrican 2" macht. Keine Frage: Spätestens mit Gods ist den Bitmap Brothers ein Ehreplatz im Programmierer-Olymp sicher! (mm)

Gods logo

Renegade's first release, and the Bitmaps'first since Speedball 2, has had a lot of publicity and come backed by some big claims. It's got a lot to live up to - so does it?

There's has been a lot written about Gods. A lot of very complimentary stuff. As complimentary in fact as the reviews of Speedball 2 and Cadaver, and, indeed, just about everything the Bitmaps have ever done. It's easy to see why everyone goes such a bundle on them too - exceptionally slick presentation, some neat ideas, the strongest image of any team, and a knack of updating old ideas in the cleverest ways. They're the nearest thing to a sure thing this industry's got - always producing games that're good to look at, interesting to play, but never too unusual, and never taking too much of a commercial risk.

There's a downside to this as well though - for a team that spends so much time taking about the importance of the creative process, the evils of licensing and so on, they're conspicuous in that they've never actually produced anything all that, well, original. Where's their Populous? Where's their Dungeon Master? Where's their Lemmings? It's not here, that's for sure. Maybe it'll come with time.

So, then. Gods. And yes, there's no denying it - it's a very good game indeed. Well up to the standards we've come to expect in fact, and I'm sure improving on their old stuff in a lot of tiny but significant ways. It certainly looks gorgeous - packed with incredibly detailed backdrops and lots of (usually) well animated little sprites. It's perhaps a little too detailed at times (your character often gets a bit camouflaged against the wealth of background detail) and it would be nice to see a move away from this trademarked metallic look, but visually it is a bit of a stunner. It would be carping outrageously to try and claim anything different.

It sounds nice too - the soundtrack this time is by Nation 12, a more obscure Rhythm King act perhaps, but they do the job very nicely indeed. John Foxx (ex-Ultravox) is one of the names behind them, and since they did the Speedball 2 music you'll known more or less what to expect.
Richard Joseph, who does much of the Bitmaps sound, contributed the in-game noises, and very clattery and realistic they are too.

And then there's the game style. Visually it's an arcade-style platform hack-'em-up, sort of like Black Tiger (which it's been compared to a number of times) but like plenty of other games too. That's not the full story though - there's enough puzzle solving, door opening, switch throwing and object collecting here to push it firmly into arcade adventure territory.
It's an intelligent sort of an action game, then - particularly when you realise that the whole thing revolves around some very clever artificial intelligence routines that make the baddies act in some decidedly peculiar ways. Interesting stuff, but we'll get onto all that in a minute. There are a few other things to discuss first, like, for instance...

The plot. Ah, yes. This seems to be based on ancient Greek myth (hardly an untapped area in computer games, it's true) though the specifics seem to have been played rather fast and loose with. Our hero may or may not be Hercules - at one point it was suggested that the game was built around his famous series of labours, though this isn't particularly clear from playing it. He may or may not be Hercules for another reason too - he permanently wears a helmet that obscures his face. A bit of a mistake this, I feel - creating a totally characterless central sprite is surely not a Good Thing.

But anyway. The game progresses through four levels, all with different background graphics, and each one divided into three sub-worlds. There are a series of tasks you have to achieve on each one (on the first, for instance, you merely have to collect a green pot and restore it to a room in the second sub-world) before it lets you go on, though you aren't left totally on your own trying to work out what to do - a window at the bottom of the screen opens and closes throughout, suggesting ways you can earn more points, giving clues on how to get past certain traps and so on.

Having taken on board the ho-hum plot and unremarkable structure, it's quite hard to define (graphics aside) just what it is that makes the game so nice. Mostly it's things that fall into the 'neat touch' category, and since we're rapidly running out of space here, it might be time to detail some of what I mean.

Neat touch No1 - The end of level baddies are all particularly impressive, even if they don't always seem to do very much. The first one you come across is a sort of giant Centurion type - impressively large (as they all are), though all he really seems to do is walk back and forth a bit. My favourite has to be the massive Minotaur that crops up later on though. Nicely animated, he leaps about the screen and actually makes the entire image shake each time he crashes to earth!

Neat touch No2 -What is apparently background detail - gargoyles and suchlike - actually comes to life and attack you as you walk past!

Neat touch No3 - The shop sequences (quite how these became obligatory in action games is beyond me) which work not unlike the ones in Xenon 2. Shields, lives, energy and an abundance of weapons - they're all here.

Neat touch No4 - The thieves who run about the place, totally oblivious to your good self, collecting treasure and such. Being rather smaller than you are (not to mention invulnerable to the traps) they can often collect keys and so on that you couldn't otherwise reach. If you see one keep an eye on him, wait 'til he collects whatever he's after, then shoot him and pick up what he drops - it's a lot easier than getting it yourself.

Neat touch No5 - Your bird familiar - one of the best add one weapons - who flies around your head and usefully helps out with extra firepower.

Neat touch No5 - The artificial intelligence-cum-player monitoring system - check out the box details.

So there we have it. Once again, a very professional and well thought out product from the Bitmap Brothers and destined to become a minor (but only minor, I think) classic. I'd recommend anyone to buy it.
So what's the problem? Well, there is a slight one. It's simply that The Bitmaps have upped the ante with their games enough that 'a very professional looking product' is really the very least we've come to expect.

It's a clever game, and one of the very best of its type, but it makes you wish for the day they come up with one that'll make everybody step back three paces and say "Bloody hell! I wish I'd thought of that!" Eric Bitmap argues that Speedball was pretty original, and perhaps he's right, though you could equally argue that it's just American football with metallic graphics. Then again you certainly can't deny they've changed genres with startling regularity - they may have broken little new ground, but equally they haven't been standing still. No, they've proved themselves great at the small innovations, and re-jigging old concepts - what they haven't had is the earth-shattering Original Idea. I wish the Bitmaps and Renegade great success with their first release, but I await the day when they do something a little more unusual.


Much has been made of the clever way in which the baddie sprites have a degree of artificial intelligence, and the way the game re-adjusts itself to how well you're playing, making things easier or harder as you go on. It's a good job that much has been made of it too, as you'd never know from actually playing the thing - or at least you wouldn't straight away. The game is so subtle you'd probably only realise something funny was going on when you'd been living with it for a couple of days.

The artificial intelligence first, then. Baddies come in a few sorts - your normal stupid ones, that hang around on platforms or wherever they're put until killed (as you get in most games) - and your super special clever ones. The smartest of these actually know where you are and are perfectly capable of finding the quickest route to you, avoiding your fire (so they have a degree of self preservation built-in) and so on. One variety of clever monsters are thieves, which try and steal treasure for themselves, while a lot of the others are more aggressive.

Then there's the player monitoring system. This is even more subtle, in that it judges how well a player's doing and tailors the game to suit. Thus first time round you'll probably find oodles of energy top-ups and bonuses lying around - it'll realise you need them. As you get better though, score more points, it'll all get that much tougher.

Gods logo CU Amiga Super Star

Have you got what it takes to be a God? Dan 'Bacchus' Slingsby finds out in the Bitmaps Brothers' latest release.

The Renegade gamewave begins in earnest this month with the fledging softcos' first release, Gods, winging its way into the softshops. Developed by top 16-bit development team, the Bitmap Brothers, Gods is an arcade adventure set in ancient Greece with numerous puzzles to solve, monsters to slay and treasure to collect.

Featuring a novel artificial intelligence, which responds to the decisions and actions of the player, the game is set over 4 action-packed levels. Each one throws up its own particular battery of bug-eyed nasties, flying griffins, satyrs, two-headed beasts and hideous monsters, all of whom are out to give you a bloody good thrashing.

The player has been given the task of battling his or her way through a city created by the gods, which has been taken over by the forces of darkness. Four all-powerful guardians patrol each level and have a horde of hell-like minions under their control. Only by completing each level, made up of three worlds apiece, and defeating the end-of-level guardians in mortal combat can the player gain the ultimate gift of the gods.

Various weapons, potions and energy icons are scattered throughout each level, as are a number of devious puzzles, secret passages and rooms, switches, levers and traps. The first two worlds of level one offer no real challenge, but are a useful training course and help the player get used to the simple joystick controls and combat conditions. By the third world things start to hot up and the nasties become thanks to increased artificial intelligence a lot harder to defeat. By the time the player has progressed onto level 4, the screen will be thick with all manner of wee beasties and the going will be decidedly tougher.

Each world has its own specific task, which must be completed before the player can progress further. This may involve retrieving several objects and taking them to a certain place or manipulating a number of levers to release some kind of treasure. Apart from the first world, they're never going to be easy and are made much harder by the legions of vulture-like Harpies, gargoyles and serpents on the prowl. The monsters materialize out of thin air in response to various actions by the player and become increasingly intelligent as the game progresses. For example, in the early stages the monsters will follow a simple attack pattern, but later on they might run away, chase you or even avoid hostile fire. It's also possible to manipulate them into helping you. Some thief-like characters can be used to retrieve items, which are hard to reach. Once retrieved, the player can blast them and walk away with the booty.

Weapons include daggers, destroying platform-based uglies. Spears are by far the best weapons to collect as they can pass through aliens and platforms causing untold devastation. Daggers are the weakest and only inflict minimal damage. Other useful icons include shields for invincibility and starburst-like smart bombs, which cause multiple explosions. Also scattered around are engraved stone tablets which, when collected, reveal hints and tips in the form of a scrolling message at the bottom of the screen. These may define the quest for each world, give hints or solutions to a puzzle, or the location of an object.

As well as picking up weapons and potions left behind by blasting luckless aliens to a gooey pulp, a shopkeeper icon appears during, and at the end of, each level. Once collected, the shopkeeper appears and takes you to his shop where you can buy weapons and potions.

When playing the game, the program adjusts to the player's ability and makes the game easier by taking out some of the attack waves and placing more energy-giving icons in the level. A similar system has been used in Storm's big new shoot 'em up, SWIV, in which attack craft move more slowly if the player has few lives left or his/her hit rate is below a certain level. Gods is also speed dependant - the quicker things are done, the greater the rewards. By playing well, extra treasure chests can be collected and secret passages revealed. For example, in the first world in level one, a special jump potion only appears if a players has reached the top of the building within a certain time.

Graphically, the game is highly impressive. Mark Coleman, who handled the graphics in Speedball 2 stepped in to help out on Gods and has surpassed his own already high standards. He's created a large repertoire of bizarre and ugly looking monsters, which add variety to each level. As the game progresses, the creatures get even-more weird until the final level when what look like flying Sumo Wrestlers and Slinky-spring type beasts run about causing general mayhem. Such variety helps enrich the game and puts others of its type to shame. Obviously a lot of hard work has gone into their design. With over 60 frames of animation, the central character moves in a semi-realistic manner and is remarkably detailed, even down to his flowing blond locks of hair. My only criticism is the lack of animation used on the end-of-level guardians. They look great, but have only limited movements which tends to negate their appeal.

Although the first level Centurion is a massive 96x64 pixels high, it's not that difficult to defeat and was a mild disappointment.

The sonics in Gods are excellent. There are a wide range of multi-layered sound effects and samples which complement the frantic on-screen action perfectly as well as a trumpet fanfare after each level has been completed. There's also a 2,5 minute intro tune by nation 12, reprogrammed by Richard Joseph. This will most likely be released as a single in the not-too-distant future.

The game itself plays like a dream. It's not just a shoot 'em up - there are lots of intriguing puzzles to solve and objects to discover. Even if you complete the game, there will always be something you've missed and no two games will ever be exactly the same. Over a year's work has gone into developing Gods and it shows. It's not an original game, but it's certainly the best of its type. It deserves to be an almighty smash hit.

THE HARPIES Harpies were one of the most fearsome monsters that the ancient Greeks knew. Half-humans and half-vulture, they circled the skies looking for victims to feed their unsatisfiable hunger. Harpies preferred dead flesh to eat but were more capable of killing humans and animals with their razor sharp talons. They often protected sanctuaries or were extremely possessive of areas they had control of. Anyone who ventured into the domain of the harpies rarely came out alive. Skeletons and half-eaten bodies often acted as warning signs of land inhabited by harpies.
MEDUSA The Medusa had a rather unusual hairstyle. She boasted a barnet of live snakes! The Medusa acquired this by declaring that she was more beautiful than Aphrodite. As a punishment, Aphrodite made sure that no one would ever look at her with pleasure again. If anyone caught sight of the snake-headed creature, they would be so terrified they would turn to stone. The Medusa's home was decorated with her pitiful victims; their features distorted in terrible fear and pain.
GRIFFINS Griffins were extremely dangerous creatures of the sky. Similar to modern day eagles, they were masters of killing, often by swooping down and plucking their unsuspecting victims from the ground. Its chosen prey were carried off to lairs which were laden with rotting flesh. However, they were not only bloodthirsty but also renowned for their wisdom and cunning, As a result, images of griffins were often painted on buildings to strike feat into the hearts of fainthearted.