Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Homebrew Review - Solid Gold (Amiga)

Homebrew Treasure

It's always a pleasant surprise when a homebrew game turns up and genuinely feels as though it could be have been an official release for the system in question. It's even better when the game is loads of fun and gives you bags of entertainment with a dash of nostalgia. Solid Gold, an Amiga homebrew title from Germany's Night Owl Designs, does just that, looking and playing just like any number of other 2D platformers released in the late 80's and early 90's on Commodore's excellent 16-bit computer.

Solid Gold is a straight forward platform, run and jump affair featuring an Indiana Jones wannabe named Dr. Kayle. After receiving a letter concerning an ancient Mayan artifact from his old mentor, Kayle pays him a visit, only to discover that he has been attacked by unidentified ne'er do wells. Before dying, his old friend tells our hero that he must obtain the artifact at all costs. Cue a bouncy romp through a selection of colourful worlds that sees Kayle traverse exotic world locations such as Egypt, Belize, Guatamala, and er.. London, jumping on snakes (which he probably hates), spiders, bandits and dogs while collecting coins and gems.

Solid Gold is extremely well presented throughout, with bright and charming cartoon graphics, smooth scrolling and varied backdrops. There are static cutscenes which tell the story and give the game a professional air. The music is exceptionally good, with the Amiga sound you know and love perfectly replicated via a selection of catchy tunes using the usual Amiga synths and flute / panpipe sounds - reminding me of Pinball Fantasies or Yo Jo. There are also decent sound effects, which play alongside the music - unlike some of the old Amiga games which would only allow music or effects. Running the game in WinUAE, I was up and running in seconds and was immensely pleased to discover a dedicated jump button, something shamefully lacking in most Amiga platformers (you have to press up on the joystick, a horrendous affair). It looks and plays a lot like classic platformer, Rick Dangerous (minus the hideous instant death traps) mixed with controversial Mario clone, Great Giana Sisters. No bad thing considering both those games are cult classics.

Gameplay is solid, with interested and large stages to explore, containing many secret areas, a huge array of different treasures to collect, and a challenging but fair difficulty curve that rarely frustrates. I had a blast playing Solid Gold and was hooked. Each world is made up of two or three stages, and your performance is tallied up and scored at the end of each. Collecting every one of the gems (separated into gold, emeralds, diamonds and rubies) awards bonus points, as does obtaining the hard to reach extra lives. It also counts the number of jumps, distance traveled and enemies killed. It lends the game a slight score chaser element, with a high score table ensuring you come back to best your performance once you beat the game.

However, I did have some issues with Solid Gold. For one, the slightly floaty jumping movement can result in some annoying deaths, though once you get used to it this becomes less of a problem. I also noticed that, while the collision detection regarding enemies is fine, Kayle often gets a little stuck on certain environment items - usually stairs or jagged hills. Also, he doesn't always appear in the centre of the screen, meaning you are sometimes too close to the edge of the screen, and with many enemies appearing and moving at a rapid pace, it can be very hard to avoid them. Lastly, it would have been nice to have a weapon of some kind. I can live without a gun, but why does this Indiana Jones wannabe not have a whip?

Complaints aside, I really enjoyed Solid Gold and it genuinely took me back to my early teen years, sitting in front of my Amiga 600 playing Superfrog, Soccer Kid, Arabian Nights, Yo Jo, Chuck Rock 2 and many more. If you are a fan of Commodore's 16-bit machine then you are probably downloading this as we speak, but even if you never owned, or have even heard of, an Amiga, I still highly recommend this lovely little game.

Solid Gold is completely free to download and can be run via an emulator or the original hardware. A limited edition boxed edition is to be released at some stage too, so collectors should definitely keep an eye out for that. I will post any further news on this when it appears.

You can download the .ADF file here

Title : Solid Gold
Developer : Night Owl Designs
Year : 2013
System : Amiga
Price : Free

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