Long before DMA Design dismayed American soccer moms with Grand Theft Auto, the team's wicked sense of humor was on display with the cheerfully amoral shoot-'em-up Blood Money.
The simple plot involves blowing up spaceships and alien creatures for money, and then visiting stores like "Davy Jones' Locker" to buy power-ups. Underwater and space environments are represented in the four planets you visit.
Blood Money's biggest contribution to the side-view shoot-'em-up genre is in its keen humor and sense of style. It's mostly remembered today for the sample-heavy house music during the intro sequence. "The biggest unanswered question is, 'Where is the money?'" asks a sampled, anchorman's voice -- while a spaceship sprite zips through digitized asteroids. In 1989, that was enough to make the users of mere EGA cards spasmodic with envy.
Whisk one bored kid away on holiday before suffering his final exams in Venusian Accountancy, toss in an exciting safari where you either become very rich or die and what do you get? Another game from DMA Design, they of Menace fame. You won't be surprised to discover that Blood Money is a shoot-em-up with hordes of aliens drooling for lead and plenty of bolt-on weapons to assist the blasting.
Greed is the driving force behind this game, but then it's always been high on the cast list in a game where the rewards of success are fortune and incompetence brings only death. There are four planets to conquer, each one boasting an entry fee from $100 to $400. Choosing the second planet at a cost of $200 (your initial starting salary) is possible, but you won't be left with any cash to purchase vital extra weaponry. Cash is obtained by shooting hostile planetary inhabitants and collecting the coins they drop. Miss the coins and you lose out on the money. Some aliens are worth more than others but take more shots to destroy.
You'll encounter five basic types of monsters: blastables, money munchers, stationary and landscape monsters and massive invulnerable creatures. The blastables are in greatest abundance and come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Money munchers won't kill you but steal your money instead so should be quickly blasted. Stationary aliens are at a fixed point on the screen, but usually spin around and cause instant death should you touch them.
Other monsters include the landscape guys who lurk in the scenery and are infinitely tricky to spot. Then there are the invulnerable creatures who come out of the edges of the screen and have to be avoided if you're not a death addict. A host of hazards reign too: gates that open and close, other gates which must be opened with the assistance of laser power and blocks that must be shot out of your way.
Periodically you'll encounter supply lockers where extras can be purchased to improve your fire power. Here, the display changes to a selection screen where you can buy any of eight different weapons. Earth and skybound missiles increase your firing shots and cover a wider area which dramatically increases your destructive powers. Bombs kill off the enemy quickly, but send gates spinning around like a Catherine wheel, making it impossible for you to pass. Rear firing missiles help protect your back and long range missiles let you knock enemies out of the sky from a safer distance. Speedup gives you the necessary speed to get you out of tight spots, but you do lose out in situations where precise maneuverability is required. A force-field purchase gives you short-lived invulnerability.
One more thing that needs mentioning is the end of level guardian, a tradition carried over from Menace. There's one to deal with as the final enemy on each planet. Many hits are needed to eradicate them and they're armed with enough fire power to tear you apart. Get past the guardian and you get a healthy cash bonus and return to select another planet. The loading screen is a wonderful piece of artwork followed by a sequence featuring excellent digitised speech and music as you watch a ship navigate its way through an asteroid belt and then approach a planet.
The game gives you have a choice of sound effects or music - the former is the better deal. Music is ok, but the Amiga is capable of a wider repertoire. Sound effects are better, but not as good as those in Menace. If you want to know why then read all about it in the programmers' profile. Graphically it's in a class of its own with loads of sprites, all of which are beautifully animated. The green amoeba creatures on the watery planet of Grone are particularly well done. Scrolling in Blood Money takes place across an impressive four directions proving that DMA certainly know what they're doing when it comes to quality graphics and addictive gameplay.
It may not be an original concept and boiled to basics it's just another shoot-em-up, but that doesn't stop it from being a hugely addictive game that'll keep you blasting for months. The two player option offers simultaneous play which keeps two people happy at once. This game is so visually brilliant and possesses those classic addictive qualities that once you've picked up your joystick you just won't want to put it back down again! This is arguably the best shoot-em-up on the Amiga to date.
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