Despite being a long-dead and long-obsolete publication from the 16- and 32-bit era of home computing, the magazine still has a fond following decades later, largely thanks to the unique style of videogame journalism that it was known for — an anarchic blend of irreverence, satire, and brutally honest critique, laden with so many running gags, in-jokes, and references that even the magazine's own staff couldn't keep track at times.
Amiga Power made Brutal Honesty a core tenet of its philosophy, a move which frequently brought the magazine to blows with the Amiga gaming industry itself — at the time, print magazines were still the primary source of advice when it came to purchasing video games, and so an Amiga Power review could have a significant impact on game sales. Game publishers didn't appreciate anything less than a good review, and were not afraid to resort to such threats as withholding future games, pulling their advertising, and even legal action in some cases.
The magazine resolutely continued to defy such pressures, however, and often took shots within their pages at those who they considered to be bringing the Amiga gaming industry into disrepute. The core of Amiga Power's outlook was an absolute passion for video games, and they pointed out that if publishers are allowed to get away with producing poor quality games, that would be all anyone would have to play. Being avid gamers, they didn't find this an appealing prospect.
AP 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 the staff 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 much more important than its heritage.
Other memorable aspects of the magazine included their often bizarre experiments in journalism, usually taking the form of the "concept review" — a game review conducted in an irregular or experimental style, such as Stuart Campbell's protest against censorship (in which he reviewed the mildly violent helicopter game Apocalypse but censored half the review with absurd replacement words), or Cam Winstanley's attempt to turn a review of Turrican 3 into a series of reader-participation puzzles.
The magazine's end came in 1996, around the same time as Amiga itself was pushed aside by the rise of the Windows PC era. Its popularity was such that it had managed to keep going even as the supply of Amiga games began to dwindle, but it was finally put to rest in issue 65, in a memorable issue that killed off most of the staff. Some of the original AP staff moved to its sister publication PC Gamer.
Indicative of Amiga Power's enduring popularity is the fact that, in July 2020, it became the first video games magazine ever to have a tribute album released in its honour. Crowdfunded on Kickstarter in 2019, Amiga Power: The Album With Attitude was an officially-licensed double-CD collection of Amiga game tune remixes, the first disc containing tracks nominated by former members of the AP team, and the second featuring pieces inspired by games and demos that appeared on the magazine's coverdisks. Taking the form of a small hardback book, the physical release also included a 100-page "Mighty Booklet" sandwiched between the discs, containing a variety of facts, features, and anecdotes from the AP crew and the contributing musicians. Further information (including a full tracklist) can be found here.
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.
Named the following trope:
- Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Amiga Power invented this as a derisive term for a level in a Platform Game in which the friction on the platforms has been artificially reduced in a cheap attempt to add Fake Difficulty. (The trope, however, is just about ice worlds in general).
Amiga Power provides examples of:
- Actually Pretty Funny: One of the magazine's more prominent terms was appending "natch" to sentences (a contraction of "naturally"). Andy Nuttall, a writer from the competing mag The One, parodied this by using "obv" in the same context. Jonathan Nash found this funny enough to use in Amiga Power proper, and AP2 referred to it as "perhaps the last funny thing The One did."
- And I'm the Queen of Sheba:"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."
- Back from the Dead: In the Mighty Booklet, accompanying Amiga Power: The Album With Attitude, the entire AP team are ultimately resurrected and escape from the afterlife with the aid of the mysterious Fifth Cyclist and The Amazing Sweffo.
- Black Comedy: Every month, the magazine contained a "Points of View" page, which was essentially a table of all of the staff's opinions on the games reviewed that month, allowing just enough space for each member to give a snappy one-line summation and a star rating. However, the page frequently also included (fictional) opinions from at least one "guest star" - usually a recently-deceased celebrity. Their usage of Andrés Escobar following his murder in 1994 was considered to be in particularly poor taste by many readers.
- Brick Joke: When Tim Tucker left, around halfway through the magazine's run, the magazine's explanation for his departure was that he had been run over by a bus. In the final issue, it's 'revealed' that this was no accident at all, but a deliberately-arranged assassination by the Four Cyclists of the Apocalypse, as part of their master plan.
- Brutal Honesty
- 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).
"...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."
- Stuart Campbell's final review, of Kick Off '96, contains possibly the most acidic 'praise' ever:
- 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.
- Dude, Not Funny!: A couple of the magazine's darker jokes were considered to be in particularly poor taste by many readers:
- The magazine's credits page featured a comment by each staff member, which changed every month. In AP 39, Cam Winstanley's comment was: "I think it was Kurt, in the garage, with the shotgun." This was a reference to the then-recent suicide of Kurt Cobain. Amiga Power received a deluge of complaint letters over the next several months, although Cam remained unapologetic.
- In AP 40, Andrés Escobar was the "guest star" for the magazine's Points of View section. Escobar, a Colombian footballer, had been murdered that month following his performance in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Again, the magazine received a wave of complaints letters, and even the notoriously candid Stuart Campbell suggested that they might have gone too far this time. Nonetheless, the magazine doubled down on it by using Escobar as an occasional running gag in future issues.
- Dwindling Party: The staff were 'killed off' one by one throughout the final issue.
- "Everybody Dies" Ending: 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').
- Cam Winstanley was frozen to death by some sabotaged air conditioning.
- Jonathan Nash actually managed to escape capture and death though some clever chicanery, only to be unexpectedly crushed by an anvil in the final summary panel.
- Interestingly, the visual aesthetic of the scene he describes (a slow motion gun battle) predates The Matrix by three years.
- Stuart Campbell was tried by a kangaroo court, found guilty, and executed by a firing squad.
- Tim Norris' death is uncertain, but it's suggested that he was silently garotted by a stealth time-travelling assassin.
- 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).
- 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 in a futile Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-esque standoff against the Four Cyclists of the Apocalypse.
- 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.
- Four-Point Scale: Defied; one of Amiga Power's aims from the beginning was to use the entire range of the percent scale, so 50% means a game's actually So Okay, It's Average.Stuart Campbell: Percentage ratings are meaningless unless you use the full range, and you can't give credit where it's due if you're pretending that everything's good. What encouragement does that give developers to produce quality? They might as well knock it out at half the cost and in a third of the time if they're only going to get another 3% for doing it properly.
- Fridge Horror: Invoked in issue 40's "I'm Coming To Get You" feature, in which various cutesy Amiga games are reinterpreted to highlight their unintentionally disturbing aspects.
- Fun with Acronyms: A caption ponders the Initialism Title of ATR: All-Terrain Racing:"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. They also feature prominently in Amiga Power: The Album With Attitude, appearing on the front cover and playing a significant role in the storyline woven throughout the Mighty Booklet, in which they are tasked with conveying the deceased members of the AP team to a concert in their honour.
- Hurricane of Puns: In the 1992 All-Time top 100 list, the description for James Pond 2: Codename Robocod read "If you ever haddock-raving for salmon-tertaining and rock-hard platform action but codn't find anything to fit the brill, Robocod whale mackerel change and sprat's a fact. The o-fish-ial sea-quel to James Pond is an a-fish-onado's bream come true. With it's whelk-ool look and fin-tastic sound, Robocod comes across as a gil-t edged con-sole p-rod-uct. Its swi-shark-ade action represents a trout-standing o-perch-unity for krill-ing time, so get your skates on and scampi on down to your local software aquarium to plaice an order for Robocod today". This is justifiably followed by an Ed Comment "we're really sorry about this".
- 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.
- Kangaroo Court:
- 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.
- Lame Pun Reaction: One of their jokes about Transarctica, when referring to the game's Energy Economy powered by coal:Tedious people constantly talked about their fortunes going "up in smoke." Until they were thrown out in the cold and froze to death.
- Literal Metaphor: The motorcycle racing game Prime Mover featured a bug on the Japanese circuit, in which a mountain is visible initally, but moves on the second lap and disappears completely by lap three. AP's review demonstrates this effect with a box-out titled "I Can Move, Move, Move Any Mountain", a play on a motivational hit song by dance-pop act The Shamen
- 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).
- Out-of-Genre Experience: Done frequently in the Concept Reviews, where you'd suddenly be reading a play, or a transcript of an episode of Have I Got News for You.
- Issue 39 had a notable example of this: for a run of three reviews of terrible movie tie-in games (Dracula, Last Action Hero, and Cliffhanger), they abandoned the usual prosaic review format for a series of captioned screenshots arranged like a filmstrip.
- Pun-Based Title: The letters page was titled "Do the Write Thing".
- 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: Far too many to list.
- 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: Aside from running gags, this is probably the main other thing 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 AP writers moved onto PC Gamer (just as so many Amiga owners moved on to PCs) 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 other 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 somewhat deceitful).
- 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.
- For a non-games example, they absolutely loathed Batman Forever (Stuart Campbell remarked "I genuinely haven't felt this bad since my dog died" as he left the theater, and the staff subsequently nicknamed it "Batman (Jackboot Stamping On A Human Face) Forever"). Much later, after the magazine's demise, Amiga Power 2 declared The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) "a challenger to [the] misery crown".
- Tom the Dark Lord: The Four Cyclists of the Apocalypse.
- Vapour Ware: AP's "design-a-game" competition never produced a real playable game.
- We Are Not Going Through That Again: Stuart Campbell's review of the Hit Squad rerelease of SimCity just said: "Look, I'm not reviewing Sim City again. No way. Forget it." Similarly, when both the A500 and enhanced A1200 versions of Sleepwalker were reissued simultaneously, Campbell reviewed the A500 version in detail, but the main text body for the A1200 version simply read "Exactly the same" (the Bottom Line section elaborated that it was slightly more colourful, but not to the point that it made a difference; both scored 77%)