Each Vintage Vault review looks at the games of our past and decides whether they stand the test of time. If they do they become Vaulted and gain eternal protection from The Great Eye – Loganius. If they fail they get thrown in The Pixel Pit and receive eternal damnation. Let the trials begin.
It was 1998 when I first laid my eyes on Black Viper. The game had been around two years already, but this was a day when the Internet was not as easy accessible by people my age. A friend of mine was able to show me the game on his Amiga A1200. The introduction and music literally blew me away. I watched a couple of levels and in utter naivety I obtained a copy, overwriting four disks that I previously had games on. I took the game across the road, back to my room where I attempted to play it on my own Amiga – an Amiga A500 (with upgraded 1mb RAM I will have you know).
Project Name: Black Viper 001
The game itself is set in a post-nuclear war Earth in the year 2166. You must ride across several stages on a bike named Black Viper. The game itself draws parallels to Mad Max and is an attempted throwback at 1980’s motorcycle arcade titles. You must venture across a world map, choosing a path and stage to complete every time you have passed the stage before.
The general feel of the story is that you need to find the remaining members of the Earth’s civilization and help free them from the evil People of the Underground that wander the planet.
The People of the Underground are the people who started the nuclear war that wiped out all but a few remaining cities, and they now sit and wait for the few remaining civilizations to die from radiation poisoning. You play as the son of the late rebel leader and the world now looks to you to help fight this new-age evil threat that looms round every corner.
Welcome to the year 2166
Now – no one can argue that the backstory is phenomenal and one would expect an almost steampunk or sci-fi feel game to come off the back of that. The introduction sequence for the time was mesmerising, with fantastic 3D renders and some amazing looking 2D backdrops.
The issues soon come flooding in however when you enter the game itself. You are soon greeted with a Mad Max variant of Road Rash. The game instantly looks unoriginal and the premise that you have to save the world by driving a bike really fast soon makes the legendary introduction seem futile.
The gameplay itself is merely a race against the time styled game, with obstacles. There are plenty of cars and tree’s and rocks to collide with and you have to avoid all these to save humanity. One of the technical issues from the game is that the obstacles outside of the road itself each have a collision zone. These collisions zones however are actually bigger than the objects themselves, meaning at times you crash into…well, air.
You can obtain weapons for your bike however, and these can be used to shot at some of the cars that are on the road. The game would have seemed a lot more impactful if it were released in 1990 but in 1996 onwards there were too many games for it to compete with to make any sort of impression.
‘Innocents’ don’t matter
The game performs well enough for the period, but little did I know that my 1mb Amiga A500 was actually just pushing minimum system requirements. Back in the day I did not know about minimum requirements for software as I was more of a console gamer. This meant that the game would sometimes unexpectedly crash.
Other aspects of the game appear slightly incomplete for a game that was released on two platforms. Cars that are driving towards you sometimes state they are innocent with a label that says as much. However you are still able to destroy them as targets with no effect to the timer or scoring system.
The game itself was released for Amiga and Amiga CD32 so this time round I was playing on this platform instead. It was only recently that I realised how similar the weapon purchasing screen looks to The Bitmap Brothers purchasing screen for their title Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe. Not only do the buttons look incredibly similar but the art style of the face looks incredibly similar to the players within your Speedball team.
It’s a bit of an Asp
The game begins with a dramatic and boastful introduction which leads you into a false sense of security. But after the Alien Breed styled introduction has passed the game lacks heavily. The music within the game is fantastic, and really embraces the period of gaming that it was released in, but it ends here. The game itself is a poor attempt to rewrite multiple genres into one game and that is why this game fails to reach The Vault.