Review by Mr Sid
This afternoon I managed to grab a whole 3 hours of ‘me time’. Just me, my Amiga 1200 and a pot of coffee. I was promised I would not be disturbed so could chill out and enjoy the thing that has been sitting idle for months waiting for me to find some time to play it. Top of my list of games to check out for a while has been Banshee. Recommended by fellow retromaniacs Matt Denaris and Madstedotcom, it sounded like a great game that boasted great graphics and gameplay. So it was top of my list of games to check out and the first one to fire up on my trusty 1200.
Released in 1994 by Core onto the Amiga 1200 and CD32, Banshee claimed to take the classic arcade shooter and bring it up to date. So doe’s it live up to that promise?? The first thing that you encounter is the great title music. I just love the early/mid 90s Amiga music with it’s rave influences. This is a great tune that sets the scene for what is to come. That is followed by a pretty rubbish title screen. They must have run out of time because someone obviously thought it was acceptable to have the word “BANSHEE’ with a Microsoft Word effect applied to it and a little lens flare on a plain background. Not very inspiring! The actual game at first glance is a clone of Capcom’s 1942, but with with updated graphics. Both are vertical shooters and both feature a similar style plane as your player. But after the first couple of minutes you start to realise that Banshee is much much more than a 1942 clone. Every now and gain something will appear or happen that will surprise you. It may be a graphical treatment or a new type of enemy, just something that changes the pace of the game. Crucially, all the tricks are not thrown at the first level and then the rest follow suit. Things change in each level and throughout the game it actually morphs into an entirely different game. Amazing stuff that I had no idea about when I started playing earlier. Project X for instance is a great game but pretty samey throughout as once you have seen the first level, you have pretty much seen it all. Banshee is such a slick experience, the game really has been thoroughly thought out in its entirety and the way it keeps you on you toes is very good.
As the game starts it certainly has a traditional look of 1942 about it. The planes look old and as you fly over the sea you start to blast your way through the enemies. The controls are really simple as holding the fire button to shoot means you don’t have to keep pressing it. You movement around the screen is slick and smooth and it certainly makes use of that AGA chip. At one time there are plenty of things happening on screen with no slow down. Its really colourful as well and graphically Banshee has a ‘Bitmap Brothers’ steam punk metallic look to the visuals. It really suits the game and gives it a unique look.
Everywhere you look on screen something is happening, whether its a gun on top of a boat, a torpedo under water, a civilian walking the street or an enemy soldier. The gameplay is frantic but so beautifully detailed. Halfway through the first level it starts raining and the enemies start getting more modern. Gone are the WW2 style enemies, now there are modern gunships and helicopters. The rain effect is simply stunning. It looks beautiful and adds to the frantic gameplay as visibility is restricted. As you progress to the second level it once again gets more modern in setting and when you fly through fog it looks so impressive. You now have more soldiers on the ground that when shot lie in a pool of blood and make a quite satisfying sound when killed! As you power up your plane it can now fire diagonally and horizontally, again another example of the gameplay changing throughout. During one level you fly over a graveyard and zombies come out of the open graves and fire at you. ‘Where did that come from?’ I said too myself! One minute it’s WW2, then there are zombies are on the screen. Then, after a few more levels your plane turns into a spaceship and you are then in space shooting spaceships! Absolutely bonkers but complete genius on the other hand. The game has morphed into something unrecognisable from how it began. A great twist that had me amazed and hooked.
Beautiful steam punk style graphics that are wonderfully detailed and colourful. Each level has its own look and feel and graphically Banshee is hugely impressive. Partly down to that AGA chip and some great art direction of the graphic style.
Great ravy title music but it is a shame that there is no in-game music. The SFX are so so but nothing special.
It plays like a dream. You can move around smoothly and the firing system is great. Pressing space performs a ‘loop the loop’ special move and power ups can daily be collected. My only criticism of Banshee is the insane difficulty level. Dodging bullets at times is impossible and makes progression really really tough. I don’t mind hard games but in my opinion this is just too tough. One thing that is a nice touch that does make things a little easier is the feature that if you die you retain your power-ups which helps a little!
A well executed and thoroughly enjoyable shoot em up. I just can’t help but admire the love and attention to detail that has gone into the game. If only it was a little easier, it would be a 5/5 game. A lazy christmas afternoon well spent I say!!!