for Amiga (AGA)
Also available for: Amiga (Gloom Deluxe)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Black Magic
Year: 1995
Genre: Action
Theme: Horror / Multiplayer / Science Fiction
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 8459
Review by Mr Creosote (2017-07-25)

In 1993, a certain action game turned the world of computer games upside down. Where before, the number of parallax-scrolled layers and hardware-supported sprites had been the big quality indicator for action game platforms, raw computing power for live calculation of pseudo three-dimensional environments were the new trend. The then brand new A1200 computer, still optimized for the “old world”, suddenly looked pretty old, as it struggled due to its default planar display mode as opposed to chunky. Which didn't stop enthusiastic developers from trying to build such a game on the Amiga nevertheless, of course. Gloom, released in 1995, can be considered the first finished one to be taken seriously.

Plot and gameplay are, as expected, as basic as it gets. Some satanist cult is threatening the world, so one or two elite soldiers pick up their plasma guns and blast them away. You walk around, occasionally pick up weapon power-ups and health refilling milk bottles, flip switches to open doors and use teleporters, but otherwise, it's simply a matter of walking the planar levels and shooting everything which moves. As common at the time, there is no distinction between direction of aim and movement; aiming actually only needs to be performed in one dimension (horizontally), as the vertical angle of the shots is automatically adjusted as needed. The only way to move apart from forward, backwards or turning is doing a side-step, which indeed does prove quite useful.

Fair enough in a genre which has always been focused on frantic action rather than finesse. The most important point is speed, and thankfully, Gloom delivers in this respect, up to a degree. In standard screen size (with large black borders), the game runs fairly smoothly (meaning it will not run at 50fps, but it is on par with what other early genre competitors offered) while maintaining sufficient level of detail to make out what is going on and not looking too shabby. Full screen mode makes everything slow down to an unbearable crawl. For even more speed, ceiling and floor textures can be disabled as well.

The game manages to score in some other respects as well. With three fundamentally different graphics sets, levels and enemies stay sufficiently fresh throughout. Special features, like revolving walls, plenty of secret rooms, grates etc. keep things interesting. Cooperative two-player mode – in tiny split-screen or via nullmodem cable – offers a lot of fun.

On the flip side, there is no automapping, though this is somewhat mitigated by the low complexity of the mostly linear levels. Weapons are visually identical, save for the colour of their shots. Enemies seem to have no density; at least it is possible to walk right through them. Which makes sense for ghosts, but what about possessed space marines or giant battle robots? Playing a deathmatch against another player in an otherwise empty level is, as expected, extraordinarily boring.

Given the total lack of competition on the Amiga at the time it came out, Gloom certainly was an impressive piece of work. At least within the constraints of the system. At the same time, it showed that game development on the Amiga had really lost momentum, by by how much it was lagging behind the development on other systems. After all, this game would have been standard fare in 1993 or even throughout most of 1994, but by the end of 1995, the limitations must have been obvious already. Nowadays, as with most of the first-generation 3D shooters, there is little reason to pick it up, even if it's not badly made overall.

Comments (1) [Post comment]