Hidden Gems: Ruff N Tumble (Amiga) review

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Having sullied myself last time out by admitting a Spectrum game was actually rather good, I feel the need for cleansing by returning to the Commodore, although the Amiga, rather than the C64. The Amiga was no stranger to great games, but a few never really got the attention they deserved at the time – Ruff N Tumble is definitely one.

Released in 1994 by Renegade (who had rapidly established a reputation as one of the top publishers), on the face of it, it didn’t do much new. A  run and gun platform adventure which required you to collect coins, shoot bad guys and reach the end to save the day, it perhaps didn’t have enough to distinguish itself from a slew of similar games. For those of us lucky enough to own it, though, it provided so much more.

It was one of those games where everything just came together and proved that, handled properly, the Amiga was more than capable of competing with those pesky, increasingly dominant consoles from Sega and Nintendo and even producing an experience that wouldn’t have been out of place in the (rapidly dwindling) arcades.

The graphics were nothing short of stunning. The main character (a small, blond spiky-haired boy with a penchant for dangerous weaponry) oozed character. He ran and fired his fun with attitude and playing the game was like being a mini-Arnie, but with a cuter face. The enemies were similarly beautifully detailed and designed. The army of robots had that wonderful metallic sheen and somehow contrived to look menacing, but cute – not an easy look to pull off!

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Sound effects and music was equally top notch, with thumping soundtracks underpinning the fast and furious blasting action and noisy effects greeting your every success. This was a game to be played with the volume turned up to 11.

Crucially, the gameplay was well-balanced, blending the platforming action and the shooting elements perfectly. The biggest compliment I can give it is that rate it more highly than Gunstar Heroes (which was clearly a massive influence). I know that will have Sega fans up in arms and it probably reflects my bias towards the Amiga, but there you have it.

The game was tough, but not unfair. More powerful weapons were dotted around the landscape and could be picked up and used (often with devastating effect), whilst extra lives were liberally scattered around (another could be earned for every 100 coins collected). But don’t think the game was over-generous: you would need every extra life you got hold of. The game started off pretty hard and got progressively tougher. Sometimes you’d think that you had so many lives there was no way you could possible fail. And then you’d come across a really tricky part and watch as those carefully collected lives evaporated before your very eyes.

There was a big risk that making the game so tough it would become an exercise in frustration; certainly I had friends who couldn’t see why I raved about it so much. Personally, I found the gameplay so addictive that it became a challenge, not a source of frustration. I WOULD get past that bit, if it killed me (which game-wise, it did, many times over!). I refused to allow myself to be beaten and kept on going until I got over the difficulty spike and progressed to the next level (where you were rewarded with a password that allowed you to skip straight to that level next time). OK, so I never actually completed the game, but I came damn close (from memory, I reached the final level) and had immense fun doing so. I can remember losing several nights to the world of Ruff N Tumble, sitting down after tea to play it, then suddenly realising it was 11pm! That’s when you know you’re playing a great game, when it can make you lose all track of time.

Thanks to its late release, Ruff N Tumble passed a lot of people by and so is a real hidden gem in the Amiga’s crown. Even today it stands up well as a very challenging, but fun experience and a must for anyone who likes a tough challenge, run and gun games, platform games or just a good game.

Sadly, because it didn’t sell as well as earlier titles, Ruff N Tumble is now quite hard to come by and commands pretty high prices – £50-80 is not unusual for a boxed copy. That’s a shame, because it takes it out of the range of most gamers and it’s a title that deserves to be widely played and better known. Thank heavens then for the wonders of emulation, eh?

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