Amiga Power (AP for short) was a monthly British videogaming magazine which ran from 1991-1996 for 65 issues, covering games released on the Commodore Amiga, and later, the CD 32.The magazine was well known for having a unique, personable style, and approaching the practice of videogame journalism rather differently to other publications of the time - which often led them into trouble with game publishers, who generally failed to understand or appreciate their approach.An overarching part of Amiga Power's philosophy was Brutal Honesty - holding nothing back, regardless of the target, and refusing to sugarcoat anything. If a game wasn't good, they would say exactly what was wrong with it, and rate it accordingly - using the entire range of the percentage scale. (Their lowest ever score for a legitimate game was 2%, for International Rugby Challenge).Although this may may seem like exactly what a videogaming magazine should be doing anyway, at the time this was surprisingly bold and confrontational. The web wasn't around yet, so printed magazines were the only way to obtain information about new game releases - which meant that Amiga Power's opinions had a significant influence on game sales. Any negative review would certainly upset a game's publishers, which increased the risk of the publishers retaliating in some manner - withholding future games, pulling advertising, threatening legal action, etc. (Amiga Power were, indeed, threatened with all of these things over the course of their run).The core of Amiga Power's outlook, however, was an absolute passion for video games, which is why they went to such trouble in the first place. They knew that if you allow publishers to get away with producing rubbish, then rubbish is all you'll have to play - and being avid gamers, this wasn't an appealing prospect. The magazine would often devote huge features to the pleasures of gaming - the most well known being their yearly APATTOH (Amiga Power All-Time Top One Hundred games), which featured not the most recent or the most popular releases, but simply the one hundred games that they, personally, loved to play. The list featured a wide mix of not just commercial releases, but even public domain and freeware games, reflecting their opinion that a game's enjoyability was more important than its heritage.For most, Amiga Power's style is the most memorable thing about the magazine. The tone was highly conversational, as though the writer were talking directly to the reader, and reviewers allowed their own personalities to flourish - with the result that readers could get to know the magazine's staff over time. Any regular reader, for example, knew that Cam Winstanley liked guns, or that Jonathan Nash enjoyed Animaniacs.Running Gags, references, and in-jokes were a staple of the magazine from start to finish, to the extent that the magazine effectively developed its own vocabulary of oft-used phrases and jokes. Perhaps Amiga Power's most well-known repeated joke is the 'Ed comment' - a parenthetical comment supposedly from the editor which would be inserted into a review, usually to contradict whatever point the reviewer had just made.Other memorable aspects of the magazine included their occasionally bizarre experiments in journalism, usually taking the form of the 'concept review' - for example, Stuart Campbell once protested against censorship by reviewing the mildly violent helicopter game Apocalypse and censoring half the review with absurd replacement words; Cam Winstanley tried to turn a review of Turrican 3 into a series of reader-participation puzzles, and Jonathan Davies reviewed Woody's World as if the game were being interviewed on a British chat show.The magazine ended in 1996, around the same time as Amiga itself was pushed aside by the rise of the Windows PC era, but people fondly remember it to this day - videogame journalists will occasionally hark back to reviews from the magazine. Former staffer Stuart Campbell maintains a historical fansite that gives a peek into the inner workings. An archive of its reviews is also available here, and a full archive of issues can be found here.
"Human Killing Machine is one of the great unsung classics of our time, sadly under-rated by all and sundry and due for a major critical reappraisal any day now. And the Poll Tax was a really good idea. And I'm the Archbishop Of Canterbury."
Caustic Critic: Stuart Campbell. He does not pull punches or soften blows, which has put him on the receiving end of a lot of hatred and personal attacks over the years. He is, however, scrupulously fair and pragmatic - all he seems to want is for things to achieve their full potential, which in the case of the Amiga, meant not releasing bad games.
Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Jonathan Nash. If you ever read anything which entered into the world of the utterly bizarre, it was Jonathan Nash who wrote it. He also frequently avoided providing photographs of himself, instead preferring to present images of Animaniacs characters.
Cluster Bleep Bomb: In the article "You Can't Say That!" in AP 38, Stuart Campbell's opinion on censorship, extracted after being forced to watch TV-edited versions of RoboCop (1987), Repo Man and Aliens, was, after the statement "I'll tell you what I think about censorship," mostly obscured by orange bars (like many other allegedly offensive phrases in the article), aside from the occasional preposition like "up their."
Credits Gag: It was easier to list the times when they didn't slip a funny comment under the names of the production staff.
Damned by Faint Praise: Every review ends with a box summarising the "Uppers" (good features) and "Downers" (bad features) of the game - but if the game is really bad, sometimes the Uppers are so trivial as to be damning in themselves. In one case, a football game was praised for coming with a free, real football (because unlike the game, the real football actually worked).
Stuart Campbell's final review, of Kick Off '96, contains possibly the most acidic 'praise' ever:
"...the fact that there are still people out there stupid enough to buy it because of the name, or because they think "Well it's AMIGA POWER, they would say that", who'll then have 20 quid less to spend on food, rent and heating, possibly leading to their death from starvation or hypothermia and a subsequent microscopic increase in the world's average IQ, is the only reason it's getting any marks at all."
Double Entendre: Stuart Campbell's review of P.P. Hammer and his Pneumatic Weapon turns the game's title into a whole string of these.
Dwindling Party: The staff were 'killed off' one by one throughout the final issue.
Easter Egg: for a period of several months, the magazine couldn't get hold of the company that usually compiled their coverdisks. The result of this was that some of the staff actually had to learn how to write a coverdisk front-end interface in Workbench (the Amiga's operating system). If you examine the source code of those coverdisks, you can find some of the comments they left behind indicating their feelings on the matter.
"Are terrapins retarded? All typos re-worded? Any tea, Reginald? No."
Good News, Bad News: Every review ended with a box summarising the game's "Uppers" and "Downers". In a review of a truly awful game, the former would be along the lines of "You must be joking."
Happy Ending: The last-ever piece of writing in the mag described a sort of Elysian Fields for the remaining reviewers, stuffed with Amiga games and all their favourite things.
Horsemen of the Apocalypse: the Four Cyclists of the Apocalypse were originally introduced in a special feature about joysticks, but soon became recurring characters. In the final issue, they are revealed to be the architects of Amiga Power's demise.
In The Style Of: A regular section. Beginning as a back-page feature, it later moved to the news pages where it became a reader competition, with readers being asked to make pictures of Amiga games in the style of other things (normally other games). AP awarded a score out of 10, with £20 worth of Amiga games for each point, but in a Running Gag, always found trivial or unlikely reasons to halve the point score.
A recurring feature in the magazine's reviews was named after this - it examined one of the magazine's Berserk Buttons, then found a way to execute the game for using it.
The final issue's review for Kick Off '96 had Stuart Campbell being tried for murdering the Amiga, for which he is found guilty and executed by firing squad.
Kill 'em All: In the final issue, the staff were 'killed off' one-by-one at the ends of their reviews or articles, as their way of bowing out. (Jonathan Nash described the deaths as a 'contractual obligation').
Tim Tucker's death is not seen, but he is reported to have been killed in a traffic accident - which turns out to have been no accident at all.
Jonathan Davies is murdered by the Four Cyclists of the Apocalypse themselves, by being pushed off a building to his death.
Martin Axford appears to have been kidnapped and murdered during the night under unknown circumstances.
Rich Pelley was burned to death through unknown means (too quickly to indicate the nature of his demise, although it leaves some charred remains).
C-Monster (Kieron Gillen) is killed by some kind of bird, implied to be one of the Four Cyclists of the Apocalypse (it's mentioned previously that they can take the form of ravens, which fits with the fact that they attack his eyes first).
Reader Millington (Mil Millington) is killed by an exploding bomb.
Of all the staff, only two make it out alive: Steve Faragher and Sue Huntley. They are finally seen on the back cover, facing off against the Four Cyclists of the Apocalypse.
Moral Guardians: From the sublime (sued by the British Legion to block the use of a poppy on their cover) to the ridiculous (one parent wrote in to ask them to stop using "crap" to describe games, suggesting "dead" instead.
"'This game is a load of dead.' - hmm, doesn't really work now, does it?"
Note From Ed: AP called them 'Ed comments'. Used constantly throughout the magazine's entire run (possibly a trait inherited from Your Sinclair, a spiritual predecessor to AP).
Orphaned Punchline: One of the "Who Do We Think We Are?" pages (the page in each issue which introduces the writers) involved every reviewer giving their favourite joke punchline (but not the joke itself).
Reviewer Stock Phrases: Detested by AP to the point that they wrote a feature pointing several of them out to their readers. For example, "If you like X, then you'll like this."
Running Gag: One of the main things the magazine is known for.
Satire: The magazine had a wicked satirical streak, and would occasionally devote features to pointing out the wrongs of gaming culture and industry. One of their more sardonic ones was 'Lest We Forget' - a feature which 'celebrated' the phenomenon of games breaking immersion by showing massive pictures of floppy disks whenever they were loading. You can read this here (click on pages 36 and 37).
Self-Deprecation: One the other things the magazine is known for, and probably one of the reasons AP is remembered so fondly.
The Ed comments are mostly used for this purpose, usually to correct or contradict whatever the reviewer has just said.
Spiritual Successor: Dave Golder left to start the sci-fi/fantasy magazine SFX, using much the same humour in the reviews and occasionally some of the old staff as reviewers. Stuart Campbell, for instance, did The X-Files. It gradually devolved into a "normal" mag, eventually even eliminating the different titles for the head editor. Thankfully, the honest reviews are mostly still there.
Similarly, J. Nash and S. Campbell teamed up with P. Rose and K. Gillen to create Digi-o-spinoff Digiworld — although both were regular columnists for the Tele Text version anyway.
And Amiga Power itself may be seen as a Spiritual Successor: several of the writers (including Golder, Nash, and Campbell) came from the classic ZX Spectrum magazine Your Sinclair, which had a similarly zany style. Sega Power also took up the torch, though they tended to not so much walk the line of absolute lunacy as leap headlong over it while screaming incoherently about mackerel.
A more obvious Spiritual Successor was PC Gamer. Many of AP's former staffers moved on to that magazine after Amiga Power folded, including such names as Jonathan Davies, Kieron Gillen (aka C-Monster) and Stuart Campbell. They brought to it many familiar in-jokes and running gags from their Amiga Power days.
Take That: Many, many examples over the course of the magazine's run. In keeping with their honest philosophy, they didn't exempt anyone from criticism - publishers, readers, and even the magazine's ex-staff were valid targets. The majority of their ire, however, was directed at other game magazines and game publishers, who were clearly benefiting from a symbiotic relationship, to the detriment of the Amiga games industry.
They ran an entire article pointing out the various clichés, cop-outs, and dishonest practices used by reviewers, with the unstated implication that readers could find them being used by other magazines.
In later issues, this became even more explicit: AP began to publish a table in each issue called The Disseminator, which simply listed the scores awarded to games by rival magazines, compared to AP's scores. This showed clearly just how overinflated review scores were in magazines (Amiga Action gave Rise of the Robots 92%, for example, compared to Amiga Power's 5%). It also occasionally pointed out games which hadn't yet been released (implying that the magazines were reviewing unfinished games in order to claim the exclusive, which is technically deception).
Stuart Campbell took the gloves off in the final issue, and let loose an astounding evisceration of the sorry state that the Amiga had got itself into. You can read it here.