The Bitmap Brothers Universe Review
The rock stars of gaming, the Bitmap Brothers are presented ever so elegantly in the pages researched and complied by Read Only Memory and authoritatively told by Duncan Harris. If you didn’t already know, the Bitmap Brothers were the creators of legendary games specifically for the Atari ST and the Commodore Amiga such as Speedball 2 Brutal Deluxe, Gods and Chaos Engine, but it all started out in a small town called Wapping in East London.
Back in the 80s and 90s there was no Indie scene like today, these guys were the epitome of the bedroom software company. Renegade Software was founded by Mike Montgomery, Eric Matthews and Steve Kelly.
When you listen to music, many bands have their unique style, such as the type of guitar sound or how the lead singer screams out a tune, bands like Queen and David Bowie gave off a unique sound and style, well in video games the same analogy applies. If you were ever lucky enough to own an Amiga 500, you can totally see the unique style the Bitmaps produced. This all came down to the unique stylings of Dan Malone that became a trademark of all Bitmap Brothers games. The same can be said about Jon Hare’s Sensible Software but that is another story.
Read only Memory has produced a fine book of pure story telling, Darren Wall has already established a reputation for excellent content and visuals, just take a look at their past work such as Sensible Software and the Sega Mega Drive Book, researched and expertly refined for your pleasure. This story is told by the gentlemen that lived in the scene back in the 80s in London . The Bitmaps made games that were edgy and cool for the time period. One look at their early promo pics will tell you that these guys don’t mess about! They looked more like a punk rock band than a software studio, their combination of Black Leather, Jeans, White T-shirts and a Helicopter in the foreground showed their subtle side.
The history of the Bitmap Brothers Universe shows their humble beginnings from their first big hit with Xenon to Speedball 2 to Gods to Chaos Engine , showcasing their vast range of genre gaming, all of which released to widespread critical acclaim. See unreleased character designs from Speedball 2 or concept art from the Chaos Engine’s cut scenes, all is provided in a quality made hardback bound 360 + pages of pure glory.
Their similarities with the Sensible boys are uncanny, in fact there are some strong ties between to two companies having both released games under Renegade. One of my personal key quotes from the book was with regards to the release of Chaos Engine 2 on the Amiga 1200, when the system was coming to an end. “There was a design doc to do Chaos Engine 2 on PlayStation, Eric didn’t want to go that route, to console. So it stayed on Amiga, which was obviously dying out, and it came out on Amiga 1200. It was ridiculous, it was just finished to fulfil a contract. Some great ideas, but it was just too late in the day’… Sensible Software’s Jon Hare is sympathetic. ‘I’d say we were the top developer in Europe at the end of Amiga’s time, and we were making so much money out of it. We were doing so well. Why would you ever want to leave it? The Bitmaps were in the same place. Why do you want to jump to 3D games and do the stuff everyone else is doing when you’re winning the current game hands-down.
Its amazing to think that it has been over 30 years after the foundation of the studio, yet their games are still prevalent in todays gaming community, you can easily access Speedball 2 (incidentally brought out by Jon Hare’s Tower Studios) on IOS, it’s a true testament to this iconic UK studio.
If you think you know everything about the indie scene during the 80s and 90s think again. Read the real story of how a bunch of fellas turned bedrooms into billions.
You can purchase the book here https://readonlymemory.vg/shop/book/the-bitmap-brothers-universe/
Here is a list of other excellent work by Read Only Memory at https://readonlymemory.vg/shop/