Monday 13 December 2021

The Bitmap Brothers Collection 1 Review (Evercade)


The Bitmap Brothers are undoubtedly one of the most iconic British game developers ever. They created unique and iconic experiences that remain largely unmatched in terms of their originality and style. However, they were predominantly seen as an Amiga developer – A system not currently running on the Evercade. This means that the first collection we get for the system is drawn from the companies console ports of their classic games with mixed results.

You only get five games on this first collection thanks to a couple of licensing issues and the big fat file size of a PS1 game. On here we have Speedball (Master System), Speedball 2 (Megadrive), Speedball 2100 (PS1), Xenon 2 (Megadrive) and The Chaos Engine (SNES). It looks a little light on paper and if it had been possible to add Gods in or change Speedball 2100 for Z things would look much better all round. We suspect a second collection will be on the horizon though.

There’s no hiding the fact that two of these games are simply not very good. Speedball is a great game on the Amiga. The Master System version of it is not even comparable. It’s slow, it’s ugly and you will likely play it once. Speedball 2100 isn’t much better and has to be one of the ugliest PS1 games ever. It’s also incredibly slow and lacks the flair of the other Speedball games.

The bad and the ugly out of the way with, we are left with three games. Xenon 2 is a vertical shooter which is about as Amiga as it can get in terms of its core. Big, colourful graphics and quirky design are the order of the day and it is good fun. The Megadrive version is a touch slow but it is certainly a solid port of the game. The biggest issue is the music with the original Bomb the Bass track reduced to a terrible Megadrive sound chip rendition. The combination of the slower speed and loss of music means it’s simply ok rather than the thrill ride it once was.

Speedball 2 also suffers in terms of sound. The game is still as lively, colourful and stylish as ever but you certainly lose a ton of sound effects moving from the Amiga to the Megadrive. It’s not as noticeable as with Xenon 2 though and it is still excellent fun. The violent game of cyber handball still stands out as original and despite being copied many times it has never been bettered. There’s a ton of stuff to play through here as well with tournaments and a league. Those not familiar with the original version may well not notice but that missing ‘ice cream’ sound bite is a killer for some of us who have reached a certain age.

The Chaos Engine is the game that has suffered the least in its transition to console. The SNES version is pretty much identical to the original apart from a name change of one of the characters. We are also really glad they picked the SNES version as the Megadrive one chugs badly. For those yet to experience it be prepared for a tough as nails top down maze shooter. Players pick two from six characters who have to make their way through four worlds blasting all manner of mutated monsters. The iconic look and soundtrack of the game has stood the test of time excellently and this really is a big deal for the Evercade.

Overall, this is a bit of a strange one. What you have here is really a three game collection. Xenon 2 does suffer from the version chosen but even then the sheer greatness of Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine make the cart worth picking up. We would love to see a proper Amiga collection in the future though because the Bitmap Brothers and the games deserve to really show off how great they are.


Game Ratings -

Speedball                         2/5

Speedball 2                      4/5

Speedball 2100                2/5

The Chaos Engine            5/5

Xenon 2                             3/5

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