Everyone has that game that you just vaguely remember renting or playing as a kid, You didn’t play it a lot, but just enough to form a very low level memory of it. It probably also had some weird ass mechanic that made it stand out from other games and really stick in your mind. It also wasn’t mainstream enough to ever really come across more than once or twice in your childhood. You’ve probably posted on a forum somewhere asking for help in identifying the game. Chances are, Amagon is that game.
Amagon was released for the NES in 1989, and puts the player in the shoes of a Marine stranded after his plane crash lands on an island. Fortunately, there is a rescue boat waiting for you; unfortunately, it’s on the other side of an island full of complete bullshit. The only thing going for you are the massive quantities of steroids littered around the islands and the fact that you’ll probably give up on the game 15 minutes in.
Amagon is a 2-D scrolling run and gun sort of game. If it had better controls, a more dynamic color palette, interesting level design, and unlimited bullets, it could almost be mistaken for Contra crossed with Altered Beast. Alas, Amagon has none of those things that would make it a fun or interesting game, so instead it is resigned to mediocrity for all eternity. Hope you like bright green, blue and pink!
The main gimmick of Amagon is the Amagon-Megagon dynamic. As you fight your way through the island of insanely pissed off wildlife and bipedal elephants, you will occasionally come across a power up that gives you the ability to transform from the main character’s lowly Amagon form into the hulked out Megagon. Gone are the one hit kills and dinky little service rifle. Instead you become a gigantic death machine, whose health is linked to how many points you have collected before making the transformation. You can also trade health for a fairly powerful energy-wave-blast thing, although you will only want to save it for the most difficult enemies. While the Amagon-Megagon mechanic is interesting, it feels like certain sections of the game are clearly designed to be beaten by one or the other. Lots of tiny enemies running around on the ground and in the air? Better have access to Amagon’s rifle. Bullet-sponge, slow moving enemies? Hope you’re roided out and ready to shoot raw energy out of your chest hair. Since you can’t necessarily freely cycle between the two more than once a level, it makes it a bit of a challenge to determine when and where is the best spot to make the transformation and necessitates a lot of advanced knowledge about the level designs to really capitalize on the ability.
As far as the technical details go, Amagon is bland and boring. Graphics are bright but simple with little detail. The color palette rarely changes, if ever, and sticks to the same green and blue primary tones for the majority of the gmae. The same can be said of the audio, which is equally upbeat but overall lacks depth and polish. Sprite flicker happens a lot, even when there shouldn’t be a sprite limit issue.
The real issue with Amagon is the relentless difficulty. It’s not a ‘fair’ sort of difficulty like Contra or Castlevania which punish poor decisions without feeling cheap. Instead, Amagon constatly throws death at you when you can’t see it coming. Jump across the pit to the other side? Surprise flying bird right through your path! Sure, you can eventually learn every trigger for an enemy that will come out of nowhere to completely wreck your shit, but even the first level is so full of them they get impossible to keep track of. Once the second level starts throwing 10 enemies on a screen at once (not to mention enemies that take 10+ bullets to kill), things get basically impossible to keep track of. Strangely enough, the game seems to get a little easier past the first two levels, but the initial difficulty curve is enough to dissuade all but the most masochistic of players.
The jumping mechanics are also really weird and hard to get used to. Like most platformers, the longer you push the jump button, the higher you go. In Amagon’s case though, the sooner you let go, the faster your velocity is as you rocket back to the ground. This makes your little bunny hops almost hilariously speedy and hard to control as if you were held to the ground by some ridiculous force field. A little bit of a ‘minimum threshold’ for jumping would go a long way towards making it more controllable.
Gameplay: Screwed up jump controls and horrendous enemies that come out of nowhere right where you were jumping result in a seriously painful experience. Massive amounts of foresight are required to make it through levels unscathed and overall boring level design makes the player uninterested in putting in the time to properly best the game.
Graphics: The graphics are bright, but simplistic. Beyond the slightly questionable clothing choices of the hero, everything else is passable, but boring. Nothing worth noting here.
Sound: Similar to the graphics, the sound is chipper and upbeat, but overall not noteworthy.
Nostalgia X-Factor: Definitely rented this game a few times from Blockbuster as a kid, and I blame the repeat rentals on a general lack of intelligence during my early years.
Worth Playing? No, never, don’t even think about it. The bullshit one-hit kills out of nowhere make this a completely worthless experience. A more enjoyable experience can be created by repeatedly inserting your hand into a meat grinder.