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classic of the month : SPEEDBALL II (The Bitmap Brothers)

Saturday, 1. June, 2019
Speedball II - Brutal Deluxe

THE BITMAP BROTHERS, 1990 (various systems)

At the end of the eighties I wasn’t a fan of electronic music. In retrospect quite absurd, because at that time Chicago house and Detroit techno began to emerge from the underground scene into the strobe light of the first big raves. During the “Second Summer of Love” in 1989, I listened to synth-pop but disdained other, more exciting electronic genres.

“Speedball” was released in 1988 by the Bitmap Brothers and with regards to the graphics, it was far removed from summer and love.
On the contrary: it had a rough metallic-look, ruthless game rules, and faces lacking any trace of warmth. A futuristic sports game unrelentingly optimized for a high-gloss finish and game flow. The soundscape is just as perfect, at least on the Amiga platform. At that time, I didn’t notice that the game’s theme song was very much related to the music trends of the time. Thin drums, distorted square waves and underneath it all a repetitive beat that can be heard throughout the entire game. After a goal is scored, a sampled applause is played that could have come from a rave track, too.

One destroyed joystick and a lot of wrist pain later, I finally won the championship in league mode. Done.

In 1990 “Speedball 2” was released. The Amiga is now at the peak of its dominance. There are several examples of its superiority in terms of graphics, sound, operating system and its wide range of games, but “Speedball 2” unites all its merits in only one floppy disk. Everything in part two seems even bigger, more perfect, and more important than part one. Once again, my joystick and wrist suffer: I’m playing a more complex game on a larger field and with a bigger team. Not only do I have to score goals, but I also keep track of various bonus mechanics. On top of that, I also have to train my players in between matches. Despite its complexity, the game never loses sight of its gameplay.

And the sound! “Speedball 2” can speak. From “Get ready” at the beginning of each match, to the players panted “arghs,” “oohs” and “ows” and the legendary “ice cream, ice cream” during breaks, all voices sound astonishingly authentic even today.

And the music! The theme song is considered one of the most iconic Amiga soundtracks ever. And rightly so. Composed by Nation XII, it combines rough industrial sounds with hot house/techno rhythms of that time. Without realizing it, I suddenly liked music genres I would never have listened to outside of this game experience.

If you have never seen what typical Bitmap Brothers’ graphics look like on an Amiga, just listen to this song for a moment. This is exactly how a Bitmap Brothers game looks: Glossy chrome. Industrial. Rough.

Its chilled presentation and fiery action together create an euphoric flow that fits in perfectly with its raving times.
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