If the Amiga was compared to King Arthur, Breathless would be Galahad - the worthiest and most able champion in the land. Steve McGill can't recommend it enough. Wow, despite being an assertion verging on understatement, it seems ironically appropriate to proclaim that Breathless is going to be as significant and as important to the Amiga of the Nineties as the Juggler was to the Amiga of the Eighties. If you're new to the Amiga or don't know what I'm referring to, here's a brief explanation: The Juggler was a raytraced animation of a rotund figure juggling some lightsourced balls which reflected the surrounding environment. Nothing like it had ever been seen before on a home computer.
The Juggler single-handedly, so to speak, turned on thousands of adventurously curious types and tuned them in to the arcane tore and heady world of the Amiga. Consequently, the machine sold in droves and went on to become the resounding success that it is today. Breathless, meanwhile, has the potential locked within its exquisitely crafted code to repeat history. But rather than selling Amigas - which it will as a matter of course - Breathless is more likely to sell accelerator cards by the bucket load. For it is a walking, talking, singing and dancing tribute to the potential and power that lies within the heart of an accelerated. AGA chipset Amiga.
In effect, it's probably the most opportune and timely advert for the potential of our underrated vanilla chum ever seen. At a stroke it casts aside the imagined inferiority complex the Amiga's been suffering from for the past year or so concerning the higher profile PC and Mac platforms. What Doom does on the PC using brute processing power, Breathless does on the Amiga using optimised elegance. Except, Breathless does it better. Elegance is the keyword here. Elegance and design and Amiga friendliness. The detail and size of the playing screen can be optimised to the processor used and the memory available. You'll always be able to find a detail/window size versus running speed compromise without affecting the gameplay.
The 2*2 pixel mode resembles the look of Alien Breed 3D and, just like Breed 3D, Breathless is great to play in this screen mode. But, if you've got an accelerator installed, the difference between the 2*2 and 1*1 mode resembles the difference between squinting myopia and pin sharp focus. Making the switch has a profound effect. It's like taking the jump from a cartoon world into temporal, in yer face, reality. And, if you like recreationally tinkering with your perception, you'll be mightily impressed verging on Breathless' by the difference the change makes Breathless tunes into, tickles, thrills, titillates and teases your brain's inbuilt reality construct; a construct that's been created, shaped and solidified since you first learned to grasp an object in front of you.
When the hand/eye coordination adjustment to Breathless is made, you'll find yourself doing ridiculous things, like trying to peer round corners, squinting to see what's up ahead in a poorly lit room, become illogically pensive when faced with a dark corridor. Such is the power of the game to affect you on a subliminal and direct level. It's also why the game's so compulsive. Despite following a formulaic game plot of finding keys to open doors, wasting nasties who get in your way, and picking up health, energy and shield icons, the environment and creatures change enough to keep you permanently interested and curious to see what's up ahead.
Furthering the sense that you're treading in a parallel world consisting of its own laws of physics reality and danger is the clever use of lighting: Flickering lights on some levels add to the spooky unsettling effect of seeing a behemoth shambling toward you; gun fire lights up the immediate surroundings, light floods into dark rooms when you open doors. Terrific stuff.
The use of lighting might sound cosmetic, but internally your brain's registering the light levels on a subliminal level and is creating an immersive parallel cognitive gestalt that not only appeals to the player on a mechanical level, but interfaces directly with their emotional responses. Scary, though not as scary as some of the creatures themselves. The creatures found within the confines of the Breathless Arenas are assigned varying artificial intelligence levels. Some will stay within a certain zone. Others attack you on sight. Yet others try to shoot you while dodging your return fire.
At first it makes some of them look a bit stupid, all they seem to do is run left and right. But when you think about what you're doing -dodging left and right to avoid incoming fire - it makes perfect sense for them to do likewise. It makes it harder for them to be hit and killed. As for their look. They look the biz. Some are guaranteed to give kids nightmares. Especially the shambling simian monstrosity and the Aliens. They frightened me as they drained my shields and health at an alarming rate. It made it all the more gratifying when I put them out of their evil misery.
Even the structure of the game makes sense. There arc four worlds consisting of five arenas to each world. You take on an arena at a time. Each arena increases in size and, unlike Breed 3D, there's an automapping display to hand for navigation purposes, if you get lost, the tedium of travelling over old ground kept to a minimum. The map even highlights the various terminals dotted around the arena. Which, as you might have guessed, is my cue to tell you about the terminals. They're where you spend your hard-earned credits. There are new weapons on sale along with upgrades, keys, energy, health and shields. Judicious use of the terminals can increase the chance of survival. Save your credits and spend them wisely.
Phew. We've almost made it to the exit in one piece. If you haven't sussed by now that Breathless has impressed me more than any Amiga game I've ever played, let me spell it out. Breathless is the most impressive Amiga game I've ever played on the Amiga Throw a book of superlatives at it and you'd still run out of praise for the game. It plays sublimely. It demands discipline and skillful procedure from the player to make headway. It looks fantastic It's exciting. It's scary. It's fun. It's a work of interactive art It's brilliant.
At last the Amiga has broken through the 3D Doom engine barrier and proved itself capable of matching and beating machines costing multiples of its price. Things can only improve from here on in. Its arrival couldn't have been more timely. Imagine you were trapped in a box canyon surrounded by hostile Indians. You'd just fired your last bullet and the Indians were coming to get you. Just as you were about to throw the gun at the first Indian to appear you heard the bugle of the Seventh cavalry in the distance and the Indians scattered like the wind. Breathless is that bugle call.
There have been so many detractors of the Amiga around So many people willing to pour scorn and derision on the machine and its market that at times it felt as if we were surrounded by hostile Indians. If enough people buy Breathless and make the necessary upgrade to drive it at anything like its peak performance, other developers are going to want a piece of the action and make the Indians go away. So go on. Do yourself a favour. Do your Amiga a favour. Do us a favour. Do the Amiga market a favour. Buy Breathless. If the Amiga was compared to King Arthur, Breathless would be Galahad - the worthiest and most able champion in the land. It can't be recommended enough.
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