Insert Disk collects Blood Money for the Commodore Amiga.
Today’s retro game review is Blood Money for the Commodore Amiga. This retro gaming classic from DMA Design and David Jones is now a legendary sequel to Menace. Take on waves of enemy in this side scrolling shooter. The more enemies you destroy, the more Blood Money is released. Blood Money may not be particularly well known to younger generations of gamer but for the Amiga fans of the 80’s it was best in class shoot ’em up of it’s time.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. In the previous episode we looked at the hit indie title Menace from David Jones and DMA. With a success on their hands DMA began work on the legendary sequel to Menace. It arrived to us in the way of Blood Money. Join me today as we take a look back at this reworking of the shoot ’em up genre from 1989. I think that there’s only place that we can start with Blood Money and that’s the physical box. Whilst Menace had been released under the Psyclapse sub-brand in a mid-sized box, Blood Money was released under the full Psygnosis banner in a glossy big box. It had been given the full Psygnosis treatment and backed to the hilt by the publisher.
The Blood Money cover is right up there with the most iconic on the system. Peter Andrew Jones cover artwork is simply stunning. Originally used for Larry Nivens Sci-Fi novel Protector the art depicts this strange alien baboon like creature. This is an image that is burnt in many 80’s Amiga gamer’s minds. It’s a space baboon? What on Earth is this all about? The slip case has a really high gloss finish and it’s clear that Psygnosis really backed this game to do well commercially. The back cover gives the all-important screen shots for potential buyers to get excited about. Huge enemies, 2 player action and beautifully drawn graphics really leap from the cover. You also get the mandatory marketing text to bring you in further. Labelled as “the ultimate arcade game” Psygnosis weren’t pulling any punches.
Blood Money. It’s here. It’s in your trembling sweaty hands. It’s ready and waiting for you. But are you ready for Blood Money? So far so good. Removing the slipcase is reminiscent of opening an expensive box of chocolates. It glides open to reveal the immaculate black glossy world of Psygnosis. Opening the packaging is an event in itself. The quality just pours through this product. Inside you’ll find protective packaging material cut to size to prevent any damage. The lime green manual. More on this in a moment. Psygnosis registration card and of course 2 game disks for your gaming pleasure. You just know when a shoot ’em up has 2 disks something is about to go down. The box itself then has a raised platform with the ever present eyes of the Psygnosis owl watching you. Make no mistake, this is packaging of the very highest quality.
The manual itself is printed on lush glossy paper and feels like a brochure rather than a manual for a computer game and low and behold that is exactly what it is. The story explains that you are Spondulix savouring the delights of the holiday planet Thanatopia. Unfortunately you can’t hope to raise the $100 required to enter the Alien safari, so you have no alternative but to sit and mope all day, with nothing to look forward to but your final exams in Venusian Accountancy. Then, one day, a letter arrives in the post. It’s from your parents. When you see what’s inside, you know your time has come… The manual continues with a wonderfully written letter from Spondulix at the Sleep-ee-Zee Motel, Asteroid base 32 Thanatopia giving thanks for the 200 credits and that he has included the Alien Safari Promotional material just for a laugh. The promotional material is very tongue in cheek advertising from the Specialists in personal danger. Features of some of the big game to hunt and an explanation of the entry fee per planet to hunt on. This is a great example of where packaging meets game story. It adds to the experience and even before you’ve picked up your joystick you feel part of this alien scenario. You of course get more introduction text, explanation of the fire power and pickups system. As a collector I still have to say that my favourite section is the “Inside Story” segment. You’ll get an insight in to David Jone’s love of the Amiga and how he set about designing the game. At 23 years of age he was already achieving big things. There’s also some nice detail on the technical elements of the game such as using 18 frames of animation for the Walker sprites and various technical information around screen refresh rates and disc space allocation. Personally I really appreciate packaging from this era. It’s something we’ve lost for the most part in more modern gaming. The ability to really understand the game from different angles. In general the industry has gone from being more of a craft to a mass produced activity. One more reason physical game collecting still resonates in the community. So, 10/10 for the box from my side but how about the game? Menace was well presented but what could we expect from Blood Money?
The loading screen, an alien army baboon. Check. Fully digitised speech. Check. And perhaps one of the most remembered opening sequences of the late 80’s. Right out of the gate we’re presented with lively music, digitised samples and some very competent animation. From the start you have 200 credits to play with meaning you can afford to select from 2 levels, piloting either a helicopter or a submarine. Instantly you’ll discover a few things about the game. First of all it’s a clear step up on Menace in terms of graphics and sounds. Quite frankly it is arcade quality for the most part. The next thing you’ll notice is how punishing the game is. The aim is to take down waves of enemy to collect cash, Blood Money if you will. This money can then be spent in the various shops for weapon and ship upgrades. Overall a nifty mechanic also seen in later games such as Xenon 2.
The catch. Blood Money has an exceptionally difficult learning curve for a shoot ’em up. I have to admit it’s been around 20 years since I played this one but I had forgotten just how aggressively difficult it is. Everything wants to kill you and the pressure is really on to collect the blood money. I personally would have liked to have been eased in to the action a little more but other than that Blood Money is a masterpiece. The alien enemy are varied and the planning needed to kill and collect cash adds real depth to the game play. Blood Money is like Menace after it completed its education. Graphically I still believe that Blood Money looks great and for its age there’s still a lot of charm to enjoy here. Where Blood Money really hits the peak though is the soundtrack. I’m a big fan of David Whittakers work but his work on Blood Money will surely resonate with 80’s gamers. It’s dark, mysterious and sounds great to this day. As mentioned in the previous episode covering Menace David Jones went on to great success. DMA Design went on to success with Lemming and GTA. The studio later became Rockstar North whilst Sony went on to become the parent company of Psygnosis. Modern gaming owes a lot to this duo of games, the DMA Design team and David Jones in particular. These humble shoot ’em ups probably unknown to most gamers born post 1990 helped start a rather impressive ball rolling.
As for Blood Money as a game recommendation it is a tough one. The game’s difficulty will certainly cause more casual gamers and issue or two but provides a great experience if you can get past that initial shock. I’d recommend starting with Menace, if you like what you see then move up to the more developed offering of Blood Money. For the sound and spectacle though Blood Money really is where the action is at and it’s understandable that between the physical presentation, the interesting graphical style and awesome soundtrack that it’s gone on to become a best in class of that late 80’s era. As for collecting you are going to have to shell out a bit of Blood Money of your own if you want the physical editions of the game. I’m lucky enough to own mint first pressings of both Menace and Blood Money. Prices continue to vary but expect to pay at least the price of a top new released game for the modern consoles, in mint condition the prices can push even further. The good news is that both Menace and Blood Money enjoyed budget releases and were also included in compilation packs so getting to play the games on the original hardware isn’t too challenging. I’m sure that there are a lot of Amiga collectors watching this channel with fond memories of these games. Until next time, happy gaming.