The name Amiga in this day and age probably has less of a hold on youthful gamers than it had back in the days of Atari. Back then, Amiga represented one of the elite platforms for gaming. That is, until people figured out the PC could do a little more than crunching numbers and replacing the typewriter. Even then, the Amiga was always known for its artistic prowess both in the audio and visual departments. Vis-à-vis the use and composition of soundtracks, the Amiga had a je ne sais quoi that many people, including me, found appealing.
With its Amiga Anywhere Entertainment Pack debut, the core Amiga interface that has been grafted on to cell phones and Linux desktops moves now to the Pocket PC. Available in downloadable form, the Amiga Pack is also sold on CompactFlash and SD cards for easy installation. It provides a baseline, like DirectX did for Windows gaming, for developers to work from, essentially letting people who write software for the Amiga to port it easily from one place to another, much like J2ME is doing for the wireless games world. With more horsepower to work from, the Amiga Pack makes use of the hardware to present some dazzling sights and sounds.
Included in Amiga’s debut product is a top-down space shooter called Planet Zed, a simple snake action game called Gobbler, a PDA-friendly puzzle title called Convex and finally, a replacement for the Solitaire that comes with all Pocket PC handhelds. Out of these four, undoubtedly, you’ll find Planet Zed to be the most inspiring and perhaps, the most promising out of all the titles presented here. Like Delphi applications in Windows or in films, the touch of Francis Ford Coppola or the frenetic Guy Ritchie, these games have a unique feel and presentation to it. Again, I’m not sure how to explain it but they look different and sound different from the usual handheld titles I’m used to.
However, as gaming titles, the Amiga Pack suffers from some drawbacks, namely their strength of gameplay. Planet Zed may dazzle everyone with its synthesized, Amiga-style soundtrack but its counterparts, the simple Gobbler, the puzzle Convex and a clone of Solitaire hardly hold up against that kind of excellence. The solitaire clone, for example, brings nothing too new that you can’t already buy. And for true solitaire buffs, Global Star’s King Sol solitaire series is comprehensive enough that any other challengers seem amateurish by comparison.
Convex comes as standard PDA fare; a puzzle title based on a grid format. But that’s nothing I haven’t seen before and it lacks the ingenuity to rise up to the likes of Astraware’s Bejeweled. Finally, Gobbler is a colorful and zany snake game. However, it’s still a simple title, considering it’s the one where you eat randomly placed food while managing the constantly elongating length of your snake. After awhile, the ancillary titles get a little boring.
As the first debut product, the Amiga Pack shows promise as a vehicle for other titles to be made. However, with game-specific development kits showing up for aspiring Pocket PC developers, it’s questionable whether Amiga will be able to make the push they need into the handheld and PDA world, particularly when Microsoft has yet to release something equivalent to DirectX to the Pocket PC operating system. It helped developers with creating for the Xbox. If Microsoft comes round to the Pocket PC as an operating system for consumers, that type of API may displace these products altogether.
Still, it brought a smile to my face to see, hear, and feel something bearing the Amiga name again. The Amiga Pack, particularly the more complex Planet Zed and Gobbler titles, are able to capture the zeitgeist and charm that Amiga so easily exuded, but the PC, had so much trouble in emulating. A lot of titles, like SimCity, Hired Guns and Monkey Island made debuts on the Amiga platform more than a decade ago. Will the Amiga be the herald of creative titles for the Pocket PC? Only time will tell. As it stands now, this is a pricy expensive glimpse of what could be done. Unfortunately, like the literal definition of the word glimpse, it is a sense of wonder that is inherently impermanent.
[07/10] Program Size
[12/15] Learning Curve