This month’s retro game is reminiscent of the 16-bit glory days for platform games. And Amigan’s amazing heritage.
Even if you do not recognize the name Turrican so chances are good that you heard the music, composed by the incomparable game composer Chris Huelsbeck. Turrican was a platform sensation when it was released Amiga 500 1990 – a sleek, side-scrolling platform shooter with a focus on mammoth weapons, explosions and surprisingly open tracks. Now this is again in a retro collection consisting of the game’s four incarnations for a reasonable amount of money (both in physical edition and digitally). Can it be more than a nostalgia trip for the already saved?
Turrican Flashback, as the collection is called, is published by German ININ Games and is produced in collaboration with Factor 5 – who was the creator of the original games. Factor 5 first consisted of the coder Manfred Trenz who originally created Turrican on C64, but later of a bunch of German indie developers who managed to push Amigan’s hardware in new ways, under the then publisher Rainbow Arts: a level of graphics and soundtrack that really only The Bitmap Brothers could challenge. When I was little, Nintendo’s 8-bit console was the slot machine everyone should have. Sega Master System was a distant second. I never had either or, I got an MSX Spectravideo 728 from my parents, which I regret today that I did not save as it had wonderful games from Konami (including a kind of Zelda). In high school, however, I got on the Amiga 500 train and a whole new world opened up. I can say with some conviction that the Amiga 500 has been the most significant slot machine from my childhood (in great competition with NES, which we rented more times than I can count, would probably have been cheaper to buy instead).
The collection we get here consists of four games: Turrican – the original that started it all, is perhaps also the best play in the anthology. It was later released in other formats (such as arch-rival Atari ST) but this is the Amiga 500 version which has been recreated to perfection. An exquisite action adventure with a perfectly calibrated level of difficulty. Turrican II: The Final Fight is perhaps the most famous game, not least for Huelsbeck’s incomparable chip soundtrack (which you must listen to) and it’s a technically more advanced game, with nicer parallax effects and a huge cool weapon in the form of a light ball you can shoot lots of and which bounces around like smaller balls and kills all enemies along the way. But the game is also much more difficult and not as pixel-perfect in the track design as the one. Then we have Mega Turrican which is what it sounds like – the Mega Drive version of Turrican (3), adapted for the console. Technically, it flows nicely, but there is more focus on linear jumping and shooting here and not exploratory in the same way. The collection ends with Super Turrican which is – just that – the Super Nintendo version of the game. Here we get for the first time Dolby Surround mix (from stereo) and the game is a kind of mash-up of the first and second. The console versions of the Turrican are absolutely playable and enjoyable, but one is reminded of what a superior machine the Commodore’s Amiga 500 was during the 16-bit era; despite its meager 7 Mhz clock frequency on the processor and 512 kb of memory, its graphics chip could create wonders no one could match (and hardly even today, NTSC-Amigan managed steady 60 fps as early as 1987). OK, technically Motorola’s processor in the machine was a 32-bit processor, but let’s not snowball into technicalities now…
How are you then Turricangames today? For me – really good actually. These are charming and groundbreaking platform games, your character can turn into a saw-toothed ball and roll around without getting hurt, dropping mines, using super attacks and being equipped with a kind of energy-fire sprayer that you can control around your own shoulder. And the Amiga games offer – for the time being – surprisingly much exploration. Here are hundreds, if not thousands of little secrets, secret bosses and spaces to explore. No map function or such is barking here. Here it is important to use the local mind.
The games run in some kind of emulator and there you can set image sections (original (perfect), custom 4: 3 or pull out everything to fill your 16: 9 widescreen image, which I do not think you should do). There are also modes that allow you to save and rewind – a feature that seems to have become standard on retro emulators when old games were seriously difficult – but if you do, you can not unlock trophies in the PS4 version (which by the way works great on PS5 too).
It has been an absolutely wonderful reunion to play Turrican again after… well, what can it be – just over 25 years? The presentation still holds up well, the controls feel tight (even if the jump sequences are still patient) and the sound – that is, Huelsbeck’s soundtrack is in itself worth the price of the collection. I sat for many hours with one, almost so I rotated it (next time!). It’s hard, if not impossible, for me to judge how this really stands out in gamers like not has any relation to the series – because I have it and can not ignore the nostalgia factor of course. But if you like retro platform games from the 16-bit series and love cruel chip music from Amigan’s heyday, you should check it out on PS4 or Switch as soon as possible.
The only downside is that this is not a complete collection Turricangames – which you might have expected for the price. There is also a third (Turrican 3: Payment Day) to Amiga (which I per se never played, then I had already switched to PC), a Director’s Cut of the Mega Drive version and unfortunately the popular is missing Super Turrican 2 to SNES.
But Turrican Flashback still goes a long way, clearly to a warm recommendation for fans of the originals or the genre.