Friday, 6 March 2015

Amiga Homebrew - Fire 'N Ice (Solomon's Key 2)

Underrated 8-bit puzzler gets 16-bit port

A new homebrew game for the Commodore Amiga is always reason to celebrate and this brand new port of a classic, yet little known, NES game is no exception. While many old school gamers will be familiar with classic platform puzzler Solomon's Key, not that many people realise that Tecmo released a sequel in 1993, entitled Fire 'N Ice, exclusive to Nintendo's 8-bit console. Released late in the life of the NES, Fire 'N Ice failed to make much impact as most people had moved onto the SNES. This makes finding a copy of the game difficult and very expensive these days, but thanks to emulation this doesn't stop you from playing it on your PC / PSP / Xbox or whatever other system you enjoy running emulators on (you naughty person!). Now you can also enjoy the game on your Amiga, as lone developer Hukka has ported it to everyone's favourite 16-bit home computer!

The game puts you in the shoes of an elf-life wizard (well, his clothes certainly look 'elfish') who must extinguish the flames dotted around the level by dropping or pushing block of ice into them. Armed with an ice-conjuring wand, you can produce or destroy ice blocks (only diagonally below your character, though) in order to create steps to climb (there is no jumping) or cause previously created blocks to fall. It is a very simple premise, which eases you in gently but soon becomes fiendishly difficult as other elements (such as transportation pipes) are introduced, and the fires are placed in increasingly tricky positions. It is certainly a game of trial and error and one that will have you scratching you head as you try to figure out the solution. It's fun and rewarding, though, so you will stick at it until you have put out those damned fires!

The game is just as colourful, cute and enjoyable as the original, though there are a number of differences. The first thing you notice is that the music is very 8-bit, mimicking the NES soundchip perfectly. However, it would have been nice to hear a revamped 16-bit soundtrack, especially as the Amiga soundchip is so full of character and was always far superior to the Mega Drive and SNES. The visuals are also very 8-bit, being practically identical to the NES. This is fine, though, as the visuals are easy on the eye, but there are some puzzling omissions to the presentation :  There is no longer a colourful map of the land, nor the cosy 'Grandma's house' screen where you choose your stage - now it is a simple grid of numbers where you choose which level to attempt. There are also a number of missing animations, most notably the protagonists little victory routine when you complete a level, and some visual effects such as the shine on the ice are notably absent. The final stage of each world in which you had to navigate a vertically scrolling stage as lava constantly rose after you are also not included, which is a shame as they added variety and kept you on your toes.

Despite these missing features, Solomon's Key 2 remains and fun and taxing puzzler with plenty of charm and is worth downloading for any fans of the genre or the Amiga. 

Solomon's Key 2 is now available in both ADF and LHA formats. I tested it using both my original Amiga 600 and WinUAE on my PC.

Download Solomon's Key 2 (version 0.9) by clicking here

Title : Solomon's Key 2
Developer : Hukka / Oookami Games
Year : 2015
System : Amiga
Price : Free
Genre : Puzzle, Platformer