The MS-DOS version of The Bitmap Brothers‘ classic ‘steampunk’ shooter, The Chaos Engine, was first published in 1994 by Renegade Software in Europe and WarnerActive in North America. It features overhead, scrolling gameplay for one or two players.
The game is set in Victorian England where a time traveller from the distant future has become stranded in the past, and his technology has fallen into the hands of Baron Fortesque of The Royal Society. With it Fortesque created The Chaos Engine, a machine that was able to manipulate the nature of space and time and therefore created an alternate timeline to the Industrial Revolution. The Chaos Engine became sentient and imprisoned its creator, and is now taking over the British countryside. As a result The British Empire now lies in ruin and the royal family and the government have fled overseas. Britain has become isolated and has descended into chaos. With a sentient machine called “The Chaos Engine“, what did they expect? Stability?
You play as one of six different mercenaries whose mission it is to find and destroy The Chaos Engine, and defeat the mad Baron Fortesque. In single-player mode the computer AI controls a second mercenary, so that you act as a team. In two-player mode another human player obviously accompanies you.
The aim is to blast your way through each level, picking up gold, power-ups and keys to pass through various doors. A number of ‘nodes’ must be activated to open the final door at the end of each level. At the end of every second level the player has a chance to spend their gold on weapon, Hit Point, and other attribute upgrades.
The Chaos Engine is notable for it’s excellent, stylised graphics (by Dan Malone) and its cooperative two-player gameplay. Of course it’s still playable by one player on their own (by allowing enemies to deliberately kill your companion upon starting), but it’s obviously more fun with two players cooperating.
The Chaos Engine is a good-looking, playable, challenging and absorbing game on the PC, although the gameplay is somewhat limited. It’s a fairly simple overhead shooter for those who don’t want to think too much, and it’s still worth playing now.
Note: the contrarian website Moby Games has the game listed as “Soldiers of Fortune” although this was the lame title given to the North American console versions. The game is called The Chaos Engine as far as the rest of the world’s concerned.