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Last week I wrote a review of Gloom Deluxe, a first person shooter for the Amiga. Having more than one of these kinds of games in my collection, I thought I’d write another one.
This time we’ll be having a look at Death Mask, a game published by Alternative Software and developed by Apache Software. It was released back in 1995 and came in two versions. One floppy disk version and one for the Amiga CD32 games console. I bought the game from Christiansen’s Elektriske (a shop that sold Amiga software and hardware in Norway in the 1990’s, also through mail-order) as soon as it was released and the excitement was big when it arrived in my mailbox.
I still have the game in my collection and thought it would be nice to share a few photos of the box and contents. 🙂 It’s in pretty good condition after all these years and the disks works just fine. I have them stored separately in a diskbox.
Requirements and Installation
Death Mask actually runs on all Amiga computers with at least 1 MB of RAM, including Amiga 500 and Amiga 600. Being a first person shooter, this is not a bad achievement! I’ve only tried it on an Amiga 1200 though and it runs great on that one.
The game comes on two NDOS floppy disks, which makes them inaccessible in Workbench. Normally you’d play the game by loading the disks from boot, but fortunately we have something amazing on the Amiga called WHDLoad. This tool makes the game run beautifully from the HD by just double-clicking an icon on your Workbench desktop.
For those of you who are interested, the WHDLoad edition is available for download here:
The Background Story
One can read the story behind the game in the manual and it is actually pretty detailed. I will try to summarize below.
In the early 80th century on the planet HIBA, human geneticists had finally cracked the genetic code. They had discovered a way to create any form of life they wished. In the process they got unwanted results and these mutants were discarded from the colonies and left to perish on the planet surface below. The mutants started evolving and became known as The Rat People.
On January 1st 9000 all human life on the planet was eradicated by a thermonuclear explosion caused by the highly unstable Mercurium. The only survivors were the forgotten colony of The Rat People, whose habitation and genetic structure helped them survive the atomic blast. They started to rebuild the planet with what remained of the technology. This was now their home and they would defend it at all costs. A defence team was assembled, including two brothers, Hiram and Seth.
It is now year 9030 AD. The planet HIBA, which you and your allies inhabit, is being troubled by aliens wishing to colonize it. An elite military force known as The Death mask is dedicated to the protection of The Rat People. You control the two Masker agents, Hiram and Seth on a series of life threatening missions through diverse territories with the aim of protecting the home planet and driving back the invading aliens.
Now that we know about the requirements of the game and the background story, let us have a look at the game itself.
After the title screen, you are greeted with a menu, which you can see below:
Here you can change the details, game speed and select the game mode. Death Mask supports two-player split-screen, like Gloom for example, and also a death-match mode.
Let’s start a single player game!
You can play with either a joystick or a CD32 joypad. I don’t own the latter, so I’ve used my The Bug controller from Cheetah. 😉
Here are the controls:
Joystick Up – Move forward
Joystick Down – Move back
Joystick Left – Rotate left
Joystick Right – Rotate right
Joystick Up-left – Move up-left
Joystick Up-right – Move up-right
Joystick Down-left – Move down-left
Joystick Down-right – Move down-right
Fire – Fire weapon
Map – Waggle up-down or second fire-button on some joysticks
It’s worth mastering the up-left, up-right etc., as it makes playing much easier. 🙂
As you can see from the photo above, the screen is divided up in two halves even though it is in single-player mode. My guess is that they did this to make it fast enough to play on an Amiga 500 or an Amiga 600.
The instructions says that one needs to waggle the joystick up-down or press the second button on certain joysticks (which are not mentioned). I found it very difficult to get the map up by waggling the joystick. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I found out though, that you could just press “E” on the keyboard to access it instead, which is much easier.
I like the attentioned put to details like the possibility of looking out the window to see the surrounding area.
Throughout the game you will encounter objects you can pick up. Ammunition, medikits, Okey pass (small key cards which allow you to gain access through some of the doors within complexes), disruption fields (death-match only), and clone holograms. There is of course a range of weapons too, like the shotgun and the knife. I have included a couple of photos of some of the firearms below:
Now that we have had a look at the single-player mode, let us see how two-player looks like.
Two-player mode works fine and it’s cool that you can do this on an Amiga 500 or Amiga 600 too!
So, how does the game play? I see I haven’t answered that question yet. 😉
Well, it runs very fast and nice on my Amiga 1200. Graphics looks very good as well. Love the attention to many of the details of the surroundings. Each level looks different (I have not played through the whole game though) and the sound/ambient makes for a spooky atmosphere. There’s a decent range of weapons to use, as well as enemies.
Now, not all is positive though. The movement of the character is a bit different from what we are used to in other first person shooters like Breathless, Alien Breed 3D and Gloom Deluxe. It reminds me a bit more about the mechanics of dungeon crawlers. Turning around or just facing the correct direction in relation to objects, walls and enemies also takes a bit of time getting used to. I don’t know why they made it like this, but can it be because it would not be as fast if it had been like Gloom? Not having keyboard support with easy side-stepping and such is not a plus either. We also have the fact that the single-player mode only uses half of the screen. If we speculate a bit, I wonder if they could have made a fullscreen version (without split-screen in single-player mode) if they made an Amiga 1200/4000 edition requiring fast-RAM for example? That would have been cool to see. 🙂 Guess they had to make some sacrifices to make the game run on older Amiga systems.
However, I think we shouldn’t look at Death Mask as a clone of other games, but a game in its own right. If we stop comparing to others, it is a nice game all in all I think. 🙂 It does have its flaws, but still entertaining to play.
Thanks for reading and see you in another post here on the Old School Game Blog!