Chaos Engine

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a game by The Bitmap Brothers
Genres: Action, Arcade Classics, Shooting Games
Platforms: PC, Sega GenesisGenesis
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 3 votes
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See also: Chaos Games, Shoot-Them-Up

I usually approach pc shoot-em-ups with extreme caution. Almost without exception, they have all been converted from original Amiga or console versions, with varying degrees of success. Classic characteristics of games converted from Amiga to pc are uninspired graphics, crap sound, and a general feeling that whoever programmed the code felt it was a chore and just wanted to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. There are reasons to be slightly more optimistic about this one, though. To start with, it's a Bitmap Brothers game. The last shoot-em-up they produced for the Amiga, which was subsequently converted for the pc, was Xenon 2 Megablast, and it turned out to be something of a classic in the genre. Also, the Bitmap Brothers have brought games of all descriptions to the pc (platformers, futuristic sports sims etc.) and they have all been of exceptionally high quality in terms of graphics and gameplay. You could be forgiven then, for expecting something a little bit special from their latest offering. The Chaos Engine. If you are, you won't be disappointed. Well, not completely anyway. Before we get into the nitty gritty of the game, a little scene-setting would appear to be in order...

Maniac Mansion

The game is set in a remote Victorian mansion. The Chaos Engine (a machine created by a nutty professor) has gone berserk. This has the calamitous side effect of disrupting the time/space continuum and unleashing the forces of chaos upon the world, turning the normally gentle inhabitants of the mansion into wild, rampaging beasts. As always, it's down to you to do something about this unfortunate situation. You do so by leading your team of adventurers through the mansion grounds, the forest, the workshops and eventually the mansion itself, wasting all manner of monsters and basts, and ultimately, destroying The Chaos Engine itself.

We came, we saw, we shot it

The game itself is structured in the same way as most of the Bitmaps' action games are, in as much as it's played out across four worlds, each consisting of four levels, and obviously the levels get more difficult the further you get into the game. As far as the actual gameplay is concerned. The Chaos Engine is a simple shoot-ein-up, where two characters (controlled by you and a friend or you and the computer) make their way across the levels, shooting everything in sight and solving minor puzzles along the way.

I have to admit to being slightly disappointed in the simplicity of the gameplay when I first started playing. Apart from shooting lots of monsters, there didn't seem to be much else to do. There're some very minor puzzle elements to contend with (you have to figure out how to get into certain rooms and activate nodes to gain access to certain areas), but these are way too basic to be a challenge to anyone except maybe novice game players. By the time I got to the end of the first world I started to think, is that all there is to it? Even more disconcerting - and this is almost criminal for a Bitmaps game - when I finished the last level of the first world, I was confronted with... nothing! Where's the guardian? One of the best things about Gods was that when you finished each world you were rewarded with an ass-kicking mother to battle to death with. With the exception of world four, where you get to fight The Chaos Engine itself, there is no such incentive to give you that dogged determination to plough through the levels.

So. first impressions weren't good, and I'm probably sounding really negative about the game at this stage, but fortunately, the game has several redeeming features which save the day. Namely...

Action ahoy

It's addictive, really, bloody addictive. Once I got my initial disappointment at the notable absence of guardians out of the way and battled my way through the worlds, I discovered that The Chaos Engine has the kind of appeal and addictive gameplay that drags you back for "just one more go" every time. Some of the enemies you come across have to be approached in exactly the right way before you have any chance whatsoever of taking them out (in particular, the guys in world three are an absolute bastard to dispose of). Also, halfway through each world, you are presented with a screen where you can equip your character with power-ups and you have to be very careful which ones you buy. It's very tempting to cop out and buy extra lives, but if you don't buy as many weapon power-ups as you can you'll have no chance against the guys on the later levels. As far as the presentation goes, graphically, it's no work of art (in fact, it looks a bit dreary in places), but the character sprites are large and well drawn. The music and sound effects could have been better too, but these are all minor gripes. Taken purely as an arcade-style shoot-em-up. The Chaos Engine more than holds its own. It's simple in design, very fast-paced and highly addictive.

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System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
  • Game modes: Single game mode

Player controls:

  • Up, Down, Left, Right - Arrow keys
  • Start - Enter (Pause, Menu select, Skip intro, Inventory)
  • "A" Gamepad button - Ctrl (usually Jump or Change weapon)
  • "B" button - Space (Jump, Fire, Menu select)
  • "C" button - Left Shift (Item select)

Use the F12 key to toggle mouse capture / release when using the mouse as a controller.

Snapshots and Media

PC Screenshots

Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Screenshots

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