Amigans and fans of horizontal-scrolling shumps will be interested to know that a freelance comic artist has taken it upon himself to produce an unofficial remake of Amiga classic Agony. It’s still in the early stages of development, but you can take a look at it now with a free playable alpha-demo hosted up on Game Jolt.
I loved Agony back in the day. Developed by Art & Magic and published by Psygnosis in 1992, it wasn’t the most innovative game in terms of its mechanics. Like others of its ilk, you fly and shoot your way through several levels of assorted baddies, fighting a boss at the end of each stage, while collecting weapon upgrades and assorted power-ups. Unfortunately the combat wasn’t particularly inspiring or exciting and the storyline was fairly tenuous.
But what makes Agony so memorable was its sumptuous fantasy artwork and incredibly atmospheric music. Utilising three-plane parallax scrolling with dual playfields and some fancy tricks to simulate additional colours, it was a technically accomplished game for the time. The multi-layered backgrounds were highly evocative and rich in detail, featuring animated waterfalls and turbulent seas, swarming birds and bats, burning trees and fire-breathing dragons. In the distance lay the skeletons of huge beasts, looming planets, ruined Viking ships, dense forests, bridges and mountains, sinister fortresses and gloomy swamps.
And even now, Franck Sauer’s exuberant loading screen images, accompanied by simple but expressive looping melodies, still capture my imagination. Whereas Tim Wright’s solemn yet exquisitely melodic title theme is one of my favourite tracks from the Amiga era (even if Franck Sauer’s updated piano samples were in the wrong octave!).
In Ozan Temelli’s remake, the fantastic imagery of Agony has been lovingly reimagined in fully animated and photorealistic 3D, harnessing the power of the UE4 engine. And I must say, they do look stunning while remaining relatively faithful to the original vision. It also features respectful remixes of the title theme and Martin Wall and Robert Ling’s piece for the Sea world loading screen, as well a new track to accompany the combat, which actually works quite well. All of these being sourced with permission from YouTube.
At present, the demo only comprises an abridged version of the first level, where you’ll find yourself faced with the same array of bizarre creatures – flying imps, giant insects, ghosts and demonic heads. However, these 2D sprites have been ripped directly from the Amiga version, then upscaled and overlayed with special effects. And to be honest, they look totally out of place against the modernised background environments. But Ozan tells me that these are placeholders and that he hopes to update them in the future with animated 3D models.
It’s also a fair bit harder than the original. Enemies are stronger and faster, travel in denser formations and the projectiles home in on you if too close. Ozan explained that he wants his game to be more challenging than the Amiga version, in which the mechanics were fairly easy to exploit in order to win. Though he will tweak as necessary to find the right balance in future builds.
The eventual plan is to be able to sell the remake. However, Psygnosis were acquired by Sony in 1993 (and tragically closed down in 2012). And Franck Sauer, who was impressed with Ozan’s work, has confirmed that Sony Computer Entertainment do indeed own the rights to Agony. As such, Ozan is attempting to contact the video game giant and hoping to work with them on the project. In the meantime he’s concentrating on producing a longer demo.
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