Thursday 18 April 2013

The Bitmap Brothers - A THREE PART STORY (2)

The Bitmap Brothers

Story two of three....

Speedball 2

Thinking back about my favourite gaming memories, exploring what Bitmap Brothers are about is an obvious one. Recent reboots of Speedball 2 (arguably their most popular title), on iOS and Android also indicates their legacy lives on.

Looking back, the Bitmap’s graphics were striking and realistic (in 16bit terms) in comparison to other games of the day. From the organic textures of Magic Pockets and Chaos Engine, to the futuristic metallic finish of the menus and playing fields of Xenon and Speedball 2, the visuals have stayed with me.

ENTER THE AREA. One of the many scene-settng intro screens from Speedball 2. Great 16bit graphics, a trade-mark of Bitmap Bros’ games.

I remember booting up Speedball 2 on my Amiga 500, and being captivated by the cinematic feel of the intro. Picking up where its predecessor, Speedball, left off SB2 grabs your attention with the usual slick bitmap imagery (Eric Matthews (design), Dan Malone (graphics & design))

To set the scene, it further draws you in with a blistering electro-industrial cyber-punk soundtrack (courtesy of the now legendary Richard Joseph- composer of several Bitmap Bros soundtracks). Straight away I knew where I was. Capturing elements from cult sci-fi films such as Mad Max, Blade Runner and obviously Rollerball, the themes and imagery may has well been lifted from the pages of 2000AD, giving it a distinctly ‘British’ feel.

That attention to detail continued in the game itself with superb use of voice-sampling and crowd effects to generate an immersive atmosphere. I still smile at the thought of the call of ‘Ice Cream’ from a nasally concessions guy, whilst frantically button-bashing to ensure I didn’t miss a tackle. Gameplay is at times palm-sweatingly frantic, whilst managing to maintain responsive and solid controls. (I think about the work that must’ve gone into the mug-shots of the bionically enhanced players in the management screens. No digitised graphics here. This was all stylishly painted bitmap graphics).
To succeed at Speedball, thought had to be given to training and team management. The game featured a clever team upgrade and transfer system which allowing you to improve your chances of victory and providing a satisfying balance to the intense violent action of the matches.

So often, gamers in the micro-computer era would have to settle for either polished graphics or solid game-play. Speedball 2 showed that The Bitmap Bros could deliver on both.

GamesYouloved would like to thank, Graham 'Bones' Jones.  Our Guest Blogger for his RETRO gaming memories. We will carry on with Graham's Gaming Memories of the amazing BITMAP BROTHERS very soon...

Saturday 6 April 2013

Thunder, thunder, thunder, THUNDERCATS HO!!

Thunder, thunder, thunder, THUNDERCATS HO!!

When I thought about writing a blog on the Thundercats my mind began to wander back to my school days, sat in front of the TV, sketchpad on my lap, colouring pens next to me and the screen in front of me alive with talking, fighting, squabbling cats from another world…..

Lion-o, the leader and the hereditary “Lord of the ThunderCats”, Panthro, the tough guy, Tygra, the scientist, Cheetara, the eye candy of the gang (if you like that kind of thing - well the dancers in CATS weren’t bad were they?), Snarf the furry little err… thingy and WilyKit and WilyKat, the “ThunderKittens”, the group’s comedy siblings and mischief makers…..

I had to remind myself what the hell it was all about - I remembered loving it thats for sure and I remember cheerfully drawing and sketching the characters for endless hours during those mid 80’s hours, after the walk home from school but before the fish fingers and homemade chips were put on the table. What I didn’t remember was quite how bonkers it all was….. Check this out:

"As the Thundercats flee their dying home world of Thundera - Jaga, the head of the Thundercats, passes the cudgel to young Lion-O, who is entrusted with the Sword of Omens, which enables him and his comrades to possess super-powers - they wind up on Third Earth chased by an ancient evil mummy known as Mumm-Ra and his team of Mutants…. Mumm-Ra calls upon the power of four ancient spirit idols within the Black Pyramid, transforming him into a massive undead beast. Lion-o calls upon his sword to emit red lightning while chanting “Thunder...Thunder...Thunder...Thundercats, HO!”……"

It all makes The Phantom Menaces midichlorian exposition seem like perfect and total sense doesn’t it. I revisited a random episode on YouTube to see what came back to me and boy, does that theme tune rock! The logo too. Truly classic stuff. Within a few minutes I’d been reminded just how annoying Lion-O could be (he uses words like ‘varmint’ for Gods sake), how scary Mumm-Ra could be, how much I loved to hate his cohorts, seemingly comprised of the less attractive animals in the world - Toadman…. WeaselBoy…. and the ThunderCats crisps I used to demand my parents sought out in Sainsburys came back to mind, as well as the lunchbox and flask that used to accompany me to school every day until I started high school no doubt….

Isn’t it nice what a bit of nostalgia can do for your mood on a Saturday morning…. :) - Now for a search for Pole Position, Cities of Gold and Action Force!

GamesYouloved would like to thank, Damian Smith.  Our Guest Blogger for his RETRO gaming memories.

Damian Smith is a graphic designer and art director at