Cartoon Kingdom, and I don't think we'd survive the latter.
Never heard of Cyber-Cop? Well, maybe you'll remember the Amiga game Corporation from waaaaay back. It was the 11th game that Ray properly played for this site back in 2011. He didn't get out of the first room because, well, by the looks of things the game was an inscrutable mess.
It was ported to the Sega Genesis two years later and given a sneaky name change in the US to Cyber-Cop, so people didn't mistake the game for being a business sim or something. Such as the earlier Commodore 64 game Corporation which really is a business sim about managing mining operations in space. (MobyGames link)
But I'm going to retrace Ray's steps and start with the original Amiga Corporation and see where that leads me. Here goes!
Wow, did they really give their grey-as-heck supercyber FPS a title screen like this?
Beneath this business sim lies a dark and sinister secret.
Dramatic music! Dun un un un un un un - nah nah nah naaaaaaaah! (YouTube link)
A monster! Roar!
A scream! Ahh!
Blood sprays across the screen...
So let me see, we're in a twisted alternate reality where a new RoboCop film has just come out. The horror! I'm being sent into 'Cyber Reality' to defeat that green monster fellow Freddie because he likes attacking digitised images of ladies. Monster or no, nobody does that on my watch! Insert disk two!
Wow, that was quick. A two disk game and I'm already half way through it! I'm making good progress. At this rate I'll have the game over and done with before the kettle's boiled (partially because I have a terrible cheapo kettle, nya).
Intro disks weren't uncommon on Amiga games: Disk One (or sometimes Disk Zero) contained running animations such as the intro and the ending and the next disk contained the game itself. If you wanted to skip the intro, you could simply boot from the game disk directly. Of course, Corporation doesn't follow this rule because that would be way too easy.
Imagine if modern games came with an 'Intro Blu-Ray'! You'd sit there for hours, or days even, waiting for the game to tell you when it's ready for you. It would be, uh, entirely indistinguishable from modern games as they are anyway. Scratch that.
YOU NOW HAVE TEN SECONDS DURING WHICH TO INSERT YOUR CUSTOM CHARACTER DISK
Oh crap, oh crap! Nobody warned me about this! Where's the custom character disk!? I don't have one! Aaaaaaagh!
Oh phew, it loaded the game just fine without one. What if I put in, say, Lemmings? Just for kicks, I tried it to see if it'd get me a secret character. No dice. (Well, I can cut 'em some slack since Lemmings came out a year after Corporation. BUT STILL.)
If you put in an invalid disk, the game just stops dead and silent. Given the experience that Ray had three years ago, it might be preferable. It also means I get to watch that unskippable intro again! Just what I've always wanted.
Here's the character selection screen! We're going straight in, no 'Options' or 'Load Game'. Which one of these amazing Agents will I choose to play as?
DONNA JAXXON, TONI CARTER, CORE DROID #1, CORE DROID #2, STEVE SUMMER (wasn't he one of the Fantastic Four?) or RICK ALLEN.
There's no clue in game what any of these stats do, or even if they have any effect whatsoever. Are higher stats better or worse? I don't expect it makes a big difference, none of the characters are seriously lopsided in any way. Except for poor old CORE DROID #1 and #2... the 'bots might be mighty strong, but they don't get any PSI powers.
How do I make my own custom character? There doesn't seem to be any option for that. Shame. But there must be one... on another disk perhaps? But there is no other disk! I'm confused! I've just noticed that there's no music here, too. I kinda miss the peppy Casio jazz from MegaTraveller 2.
Okay, I'm going to take this seriously. Completely seriously. I know Ray didn't give Corporation the time of day back then, but I'm completely committed to treating this game fairly.
I'm playing as DONNA JAXXON because she's the default character.
Now it's time for me to outfit my character! Eesh, I've got thirty-two different items to choose from. I haven't got a clue what any of this stuff does. I mean I could hazard a guess that GUN 1 and friends are for shooting the nasties from Cyber Reality. But there's no AMMO item. I've got no idea whether I'm buying a group of GRENADEs or just one.
And the FACE MASK?
A pretty good Wario disguise! And a bargain at 55 unspecified money units.
There are BULK and WEIGHT stats, but no idea what my character's allowed encumberance is. And no 'Exit' button, inexplicably. It looks like the only way to exit this screen is to run out of money, which doesn't make sense if my limited carrying capacity means I have to be selective with the equipment I buy.
- GUN 5.
- GRENADE - And then the shop cycles to the next item so I guess I bought the only one of these they had.
- JET PAC - Hell yeah!
- DRINK - Oh boy, does this mean we've got a thirst gauge? Lovely.
- REFILL - Which I assume is for DRINK, but it could be damned polystyrene cement for all I know.
- MEDI-KIT - and...
- FIRST AID? What's the difference?
Oh, the item selection loops. I don't have enough left for any of the ARMOUR and I can't return items I've bought (or even check a list of items I have). GAS MASK, then. It still won't let me leave until I've spent ALL my money? Alright, let's take BOMB, POWER PACK and more FIRST AID.
As if by magic, the character shop screen disappears.
Wouldn't you know it, Ray was right. Immediately I'm chucked into a small room and somebody is shooting me. No music. No plot. No objective. If you're not going to tell me what I'm supposed to be doing here, I'm just gonna assume I've won the game and take the rest of the day off.
Not buying it, huh? Alright, I might as well try to get a little bit further than Ray did and see what awaits me on the other side of that door.
I can't see what's shooting me, but my health is definitely slowly going down! Unless that's my thirst gauge? Damn, Donna, did you eat an entire pack of ready salted freakin' salt before setting out on your mission?
Good job I thought to pack some nutritious refreshing DRINK for the journey. Or, at least, I thought I did. All my inventory items are GONE! The little arrow under 'Equipment' does nothing! Bugger. I might have done the classic UFO: Enemy Unknown goof of buying a whole bunch of useful items and then neglecting to assign them to a character. Though I couldn't tell you which of the (very few) screens I've seen so far I was supposed to do that on.
The icon with a person lying on the ground apparently makes me instantly sleep and dream of pretty twinkling stars. It's not recovering my health or thirst any. Pause button perhaps?
If you think I'm stalling here, I'm really not. I'm still trying to figure out which of these controls opens the damned door. The keys don't move the character but clicking within the view fires the gun with a nice 'zawoosh!'. Hey, that's reassuring, my GUN 5 survived the transition into the mission! The rest of my gear should be around here somewhere. I've got eight minutes left to find it before I turn into a pile of dust and blow away. (Or is this my default starting GUN and my poor GUN 5 is sitting back at HQ wondering why he's been left behind.)
Where's my ammo, anyway?
Steady now... that thing in the lower centre is the movement controls. You have to hold the left mouse button down over the square and drag to the edges to move and turn the character, like an analogue thumbstick. Drag it upwards and DONNA JAXXON trundles off on her merry way... getting inextricably trapped in the corner of the starting room and refusing to reverse out.
I'm going to take a sneaky peek at the manual and see if I'm really doing this right... hoo boy.
"The bottom centre of the display holds everything necessary to control your character. It has been designed with ease of use and maximum flexibility in mind."
Yeah, you're going to have to have incredible flexibility in your mind to understand this thing.
According to my ID card in the lower left I work for Dementia, the people who wrote the game. So I guess the UCC is like a video game company and Freddie is a fugitive from a video game of some kind? Dang, if I thought I was going to pursue Freddie back into Cyber Reality at some point, I'd have picked somebody with a higher Computers skill.
But I digress, I am still trapped in the tiny entrance lobby to the fearsome Corporation with no way out in sight.
Phew, there we go. None of the items around the movement interface helped me open the door, I simply needed to bash into it and it let me through. I stumbled through the completely intangible door and lunged out into the glorious light of grey. I've beaten Ray's record but for some reason I don't feel any better about it.
Donna's all-salt diet has taken its toll on her and she seems to be moving very slowly now. Good thing too, as there's a camera. Do I sneak past it? Shoot it? The last thing I need is to have to sirens blaring in my ears and the full weight of the Corporation's forces squishing me into cat food. I only just triumphed over the entrance door!
Shooting seems to work. Camera's dead and there's no monsters in sight. Excellent. Master spy.
Where to next? Left or forwards? Let's try left.
I clicked on the robots and they exploded! It took me way too long to realise what I was supposed to do... I wasn't expecting to fight enemies in real time! I think I killed the buggers before they got me, too. JAXXON took a big hit to the thirst gauge when I opened fire but apart from that I think I'm alright. Animated scaled sprites in a first person shooter on the Amiga! The things they come up with, huh?
I'm astonished at the progress I'm making here. I just need to keep my wits about me as I head onwards. The layout of Cyber Reality is more complex than I expected; pillars and rooms everywhere. No signs. Not much in the way of landmarks at all.
The game has full 3D controls by the way, unlike Trampage. The darkened areas on the movement box let you turn, spin, strafe, walk and run. I'm still trying to figure where Corporation lies on the scale of 'exploration' versus 'shooting'. I have a soft spot for very early 3D explory games. I like flat shaded polygons and creepy nothingness. I quite liked the look of Castle Master when I read Ray's post because it seemed like a 3D Spindizzy Worlds. If there's a lot of shooting and very little puzzle solving in Corporation (and it's quickly becoming apparent that the floor is not 3D, unlike Castle Master), these awkward movement controls really are pointless after all.
I think I'd enjoy one of these games that was all exploring and wandering around and not getting shot by monsters or being trapped in a freakin' pantomime with funny robots (needless to say I liked Antichamber a lot more than Portal 2.)
I've been wandering in here for ages now, typing all this up on the PC while I steer JAXXON around the labyrinth using my feet on the mouse. There's really nothing here to find. I'm dying of thirst, frustrated and completely stuck.
Bam, I'm dead. I think it was a robot that got me.
Oooh. Now that's a nice surprise. You don't instantly die if you run out of Vimto?
Good job I bought that LOCK PICK after all! Now if only I can figure out where the heck I put it...
Here's my cell. There's a scratchy, clicking sound as slime keeps dripping from the ceiling and wriggling around. There's no items in here, save for a seat. I can hear stomping footsteps and roaring outside, but I can't see any Freddie. There's no doors as far as I can see, which means the monster can't get me. Right? And then I realise... what is the fucking use of a LOCK PICK in a room WITHOUT ANY DOORS.
I've still got the fearsome power of GUN at my disposal, but unless one of these slimes ate the key to the door that doesn't exist, I shouldn't waste my ammo.
I got bored and I blew up the chair.
What could it have meant when it said that I have 'only one means of escape'? Well, I'm out of ammo now so I hope it wasn't anything to do with GUN. All I can do is punch the slimes before they seem into the floor. For once, pressing Escape in an Amiga game isn't taking me back to the title screen.
Please. Somebody. Give me a hint.
Oh well, game over. Completely silent, too. No game over music. I don't even get a monster roar.
I think I would have been a little more responsive to your interrogation if you'd have asked me something. You can't leave these things for long, I can only live for ten minutes without drinking DRINK before I instantly turn into a scary skeleton.
Gotta start character creation all over again, jeez. The other agents aren't extra lives or anything like that, I'm starting the entire game over. I can't remember what I bought last time. I'll take one of everything until the game kicks me out and hope it's the right stuff.
Here we go, JAXXON Mk. 2. She's wobbled her way out of the entrance room, blasted the camera and found her way into a room with spotlights in the ceiling. It's incredibly difficult to fit myself through a doorway with these controls. You have to be pointing in exactly the right direction or you'll simply slide off. The tiny dark squares inside the control square are the only way to rotate the character without moving.
Behind the doorway was... more doors. And rooms. Empty ones, like this. Hey wait, an item! I think! Could be a landmine, ya never know!
HOLY CRAP. It's making a whirring sound right down my ears now, oh Christ!
Ugh. That wasn't pleasant. I don't think I even killed the bastard. Still, the item is still there. Let's shuffle up and see if we can't give this mysterious dome the old interacteroonie.
Hmm. The up and down arrows on the lower interface are not 'pick up' or 'drop'. They're 'jump' and 'crouch'. It's a learning experience.
On the plus side, I've found a way to recover stamina! The sleep command recovers stamina if you leave it activated long enough... and automatically yanks you out of 'pause' when you're fully recovered. That's annoying. And I've just realised that while I'm typing this our Donna is soundly asleep in her sleeping bag right on top of the thing that was full of the face mongling spider robots. She'll be fine.
Crikey, that's a high resolution enemy sprite. Bravo! Too bad I'm going to have to shoot you. With my fist. Oh for heaven's sake, how do you reload the damned GUN?
I'd blast them with my PSI powers if I could find 'em. I'm getting well and truly pissed at not being able to figure out how. I don't mind that I can't find my weapons most of the time, but I am all about the PSI powers. 'Dude with guns and powers' is my all-time favourite genre, which is perhaps why I'm the only person on Earth who put the new Syndicate as their 2012 Goatie, recommending it to everyone I meet. (P.S. Play Syndicate.)
Alright, somebody distract Teach, I'm going to peek at the manual again to see what I'm doing wrong.
"Struggle to master your psychic powers which can heal... or destroy.", promises the back of the box. I hammered every key on the keyboard trying to find the menu. I started tapping out sequences; holding groups of keys. Nothing.
There's an entire appendix of the manual dedicated to the in-universe exploration of psychic powers, followed by an explanation of the icons you use. "The most wide-spread belief centres on the number tree and the triangle.", it says. "If the player can access to this menu then experimentation should make the above explanation clearer."
There's a screenshot:
Or did they just not put the damned powers in just to piss me off?
It dawns on me that all I'm going to find if I trek down these corridors is yet more awkward doorways. And through the doorways, empty rooms. So many empty rooms. Full of regret.
The Amiga version of Corporation is not a good game. It would have been absolutely groundbreaking at the time, had anybody heard of it. Perhaps groups of young, hopeful Amiga gamers all decided to buy a copy together when it came out. They'd share stories about how they stumbled blindly through the grey maze, dying over and over, counting the doorways as they mastered the arcane art of passing through them. One person would find out how to use items, while another would figure out where their starting inventory had gone to. Yet another would escape the jail cell. They'd work together, gradually piecing together how to complete the first level. And then after weeks of fruitless trying, they'd chuck their Amigas in the bin and get drunk instead, because who'd flippin' bother?
The game was also released on the Atari ST... eesh. I assume it's mostly the same. It certainly isn't going to be any faster. But you know what might be faster?
The MS-DOS version!
Depressing music, different music!
In the future, the news will be read by sophisticated, slightly Wing Commander-esque wooden marionettes.
Here's the plot of Corporation that they didn't seem fit to include in the Amiga version:
There's been a serious of mysterious murders around the UCC Headquarters in London. There's rumours of a large creature goring pedestrians, but the UCC claim that what people believe is a killer monster is in fact just an perfectly safe security robot that's goring pedestrians instead. The local authority is powerless, presumably having already tried such mundane anti-crime measures as 'patrolling the area for killer robots and/or creatures'.
N.G.B. News. You give us five minutes and we give you the world!
And bang, we're back in the character equipment screen. The same six guys are here, same nifty 3D faces, just a couple of the stats swapped around. Right in the centre there's something that I didn't see in the Amiga version: a 'Load Game' button. My stomach turns at the thought of somebody trying to win Amiga Corporation in a single sitting.
There's those BULK and WEIGHT stats I mentioned. Every time I think I've got it worked out, the game finds a new way to surprise me and not in a good way. The price of the GUN 2 is shown in the lower left, but the BULK and WEIGHT stats below are my characters limits I think. The GUN 2's stats are in the lower right instead. That WEIGH underneath the image on the right is the total WEIGHT of all the items you've bought so far, and you don't want that to go above the BULK shown on the lower left next to the GUN 2's PRICE because that's bad. But it's bugged because the total doesn't reset to zero after you start a new game.
And you don't get to see your character's total or current BULK and WEIGHT during the game, so how are you supposed to know if it's safe to pick up an item?
This is idiotic. I give up.
Right click immediately exits the equipment selection screen, woo! Hope I didn't need most of this stuff! Who am I kidding, I would have never figured out how to use it anyway.
Special Agent Steve Summer is out of the room like a rocket! Much faster than the Amiga, and I can use the cursor keys to move and turn while poking at the world with the mouse! If I knew the keyboard shortcuts for how to select and use items, I'd truly be a lethal force! (At least until I run out of GUN again.)
If you're curious about when Corporation came out, the answer is 'early'. The MS-DOS version came out before Ultima Underworld and one and a half years before anybody had heard of Doom. It came out around the same time as Hovertank 3D, and I couldn't tell you which one of them came out first. My money's on Corporation.
You might be wondering how come Corporation manages to pull off these nice mustard shades when Hovertank 3D's colours were blinding. That's because Hovertank 3D used the 16-colour EGA palette mode instead of 256-colour VGA like Corporation. Corporation has an EGA mode too! Would you like to see it?
Course you do. Avert your eyes!
Hey, it's Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon! Kinda! Is it an improvement? It may be!
Ugh, my default GUN didn't make it this time. Now all I can do is try to punch the camera to death and those maintenance spiders aren't liking my efforts at all.
It's not as if I didn't buy GUN. Look, here it is:
I thought I was buying a sidearm, but it was in fact a giant self-inflating balloon pool toy!
At least that's the only explanation I can think of for why there's a massive picture of a gun filling my screen right now which I can't fucking get rid of.
I've finally figured out how to get at my inventory items, if not actually use them. Each rectangle on the image on the right is a separate multi-item inventory. Fifteen inventories. And these aren't equipment slots either: no 'mask goes on your head' or 'gun goes in your hand', there's no logic to it at all. I've got a JET PAC in my right hand and this GUN is safe and sound inside my chest cavity. In my abdomen I'm keeping a power lead and a pair of floppy discs. The floppy discs are the options menu, so if I get shot in the chest the entire universe might explode.
Narrow doorways aren't getting any easier to enter with my improved speed. Corporation seems to be made from the ground-up ashes of the early first person RPGs, but it's still realtime. I can only imagine Dementia came up with the movement box because they couldn't think of any way to improve on the arrows of Dungeon Master. It's quite similar to how you control Mario in Super Mario 64 DS. I don't dislike the control box, really. I'm moving where I want to go, but it's taking a huge amount of concentration and finesse on the mouse to do it.
There was music during the intro and during the credits sequence, but still no music in game. Laziness or immersion? You decide. No, actually I decide. I decide that were lazy. You don't get to play the immersion card when your game turns the simple everyday tasks of holding items and adding up numbers into a brain-twisting hell.
More monsters! If only I knew how to fire my weapons... if Donna were here, she'd know! C'mon Summer, use your head!
Holy crap! Would you look at that? Steve Summer is a PSI guy!
You click on your character's head in the left window to get the Psionics panel up. It only works sometimes. It might only work if you're unarmed, or maybe you need to chuck down some yummy NARCOTICS before every spell. I haven't got the hang of it yet. You click on the eyeballs to configure your spell components and click the arrow to blast it out into the world. I haven't got a clue which eyeball corresponds to which effect, or where my remaining PSI points can be seen, but I've been playing the various versions of Corporation for weeks looking for this. You have no idea how big a relief it is to have finally gotten it to work.
Aaaand... a few minutes of frantic dodging and clicking on my eyeballs gets me absolutely nothing. The Psionics menu decides it's had enough and disappears, leaving me defenseless against the robot onslaught.
Screw it! I'm Steve Summer! I don't need a GUN! I don't need PSI powers! I don't need anything! Die, robots, die!
More wandering later... I discover something quite astonishing which might turn this whole game around! Those inventories? They are equipment slots! When you buy items at the start of the game, they're chucked into your individual inventories randomly. It was just sheer luck that on some of my tries I'd ended up with GUN in my hand. If you end up swallowing your gun in the shop, you have to extract it from your chest and place it in your hand afterwards to use it.
Now that I've remembered my Zodiac training in the use of pockets, I'm going to see if I've got any AMMO hiding inside me somewhere. Here's my COMPUTER. I think I need to use this to scan keycards for information or something. Not very useful right now.
That wasn't the COMPUTER, was it? That was the, uh, BOMB. I'd set it to 1 second and threw it at my feet.
Well, that's not so bad. Sometimes in life you find yourself pressing buttons randomly, and it ends up has the exact effect you knew you wanted really.
I don't know how much information the Corporation expect to extract from the smoking crater and bloody smears I left in their entrance lobby. All they're likely to find out is that Steve Summer had an unusually diskette-heavy diet...
One more go.
How does this keep HAPPENING to me?
This game has one life left. There's no way in hell that this nightmare of an interface could make the leap to a console. It's time for...
Bow bow bow bow bow bow bow bow... neow neow neow neowwwwwwwwwww... (YouTube link)
This and Console Cyber-Cop are the exact same thing except for their title screen, as far as I can tell. Ready? GO!
THE WORLDS LEADING ROBOT DESIGNER AND MANUFACTURER, UCC THE UNIVERSAL CYBERNETICS CORPORATION, HAS BEEN VERY QUIET EVER SINCE A NUMBER OF KILLINGS OCCURRED OUTSIDE OF THEIR LONDON FACTORY.
THE GOVERNMENT SUSPECTS THEM OF ILLEGAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE AREA OF GENETIC MUTATION. IT IS BELIEVED THAT ONE OF THEIR NEWEST PRODUCTS, A HYBRID ANIMAL ROBOT CREATURE ESCAPED FROM THEIR FACTORY IN LONDON. NO ONE KNOWS HOW IT GOT OUT, BUT IT MANAGED TO EVADE CAPTURE AND SURVIVED ON A DIET OF PEDESTRIANS WHO WALKED PAST THE FACTORY.
THE PRESS BEGAN TO SPECULATE ON THE NATURE OF THE UNSEEN KILLER WHICH STRUCT AROUND THE FACTORY, AND IT WAS QUICKLY NICKNAMED 'THE RIPPER.' WHAT AROUSED MOST CONCEN WAS THE NATURE OF THE CORPSES WHICH APPEARED TO HAVE BEEN EATEN.
YOU PLAY THE ROLE OF A ZODIAC AGENT ENLISTED TO PENETRATE UCC'S HEAVILY PROTECTED FACTORY. THE BUILDING IS LITTERED WITH HIGH TECHNOLOGY ALARM SYSTEMS. THE GUARDS ON DUTY ARE BOTH HUMANS AND ROBOTS AND POSSIBLY THE SUSPECTED ARTIFICIAL LIFEFORMS.
YOUR MISSION IS SIMPLE. (Yeah, RIGHT.) ONCE INSIDE THE BUILDING, YOU MUST LOCATE THE GENETIC LABORATORY, RECOVER AN EMBRYO AND ESCAPE.
BEFORE COMMENCING YOUR MISSION, YOU WILL BE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO PURCHASE EQUIPMENT AND UNDERGO TRAINING IN SPECIFIC SKILLS.
Well, there you go. That's all you had to say, game. You've also retroactively made all my progress in the computer versions moot because I could have walked past that embryo a million times and not known it. Bah.
If your curiosity does get the better of you, you'll find that all of the original Corporation gadgets are still there to buy, with one exception. The NARCOTICS are gone. Why? Because they've completely removed Psionics from the game, removing the sole disadvantage of playing as a robot!
I'm thankful for the option to turn the music off. This version has ingame music, but it's an endless loop of the theme from the title screen extended so it's about two minutes long. It's inspiring the first twenty times you hear it, but there's only so many times you can hear the game launch itself into rousing Back To The Future-like flourishes before you want to break something.
Robots! Take 'em out, Default Carter! Bam bam bam! No awkward aiming for us, the Genesis version has lock-on!
Where to, where to?? I look left and right, seeing only pillars extending into darkness. If only I had a map. If only I had...
The Genesis version combines the separate inventories of the home computer versions into one single list. Cycle to the COMPUTER and we've got ourselves an auto-map!
Second robot! Open fire...!
I know Carter wants me to do something to help her, but I'm at a loss as to how...
The auto-map is telling me there's something interesting in there...
It took a bit of steering before the game would let me interact with it, but it's an Impossible Mission-like computer gizmo. I had to use my ID card item on it but the game helpfully automatically cycled to it when I got close.
I don't want to mess about with the top two options in case I lock myself in (or out) of where I'm supposed to go. UPDATE ACCESS on the other hand tells me my access has been updated from zero to one. That's infinite times more Security Access than I had a minute ago!
That big chrome ball is one of my bullets, and next to it another one of those landmines / facehugger pods that zonked me in the computer versions. I think it's an 'anonymous item' like the little presents I found in Behind the Iron Gate. I can tell 'cause the game doesn't automatically lock on so I'm probably not supposed to shoot them.
I found this photo of a hand obscuring a keypad earlier. If I combine it with the Scanman I found elsewhere, I get to examine it in 3D to see the numbers on the keypad! That's pretty cool. Spycraft-ish! Though my inventory is going to get full of useless photographs pretty quick.
Now all I need to do is find the door it goes with!
Those gauges on the sides of the screen? I've figured out what they are!
The top left image is my health, with separate health bars for each body part. Below that is my stamina, which I replenish with sumptuous DRINK. All I need to do is cycle to this gizmo, activate it, and I'm back in the game. When the canteen runs out, Carter expresses her frustration in Corporation's signature cryptic style, staring at the offending object, muttering to herself OH NO CARTER IS OUT OF DRINK H.Q. HELP I NEED HELP I WASNT TRAINED FOR THIS.
Having defeated dehydration once and for all, I'm free to explore the first level of the Corporation. There's not much to find, I think the big prize was the Scanman and the 3D photograph. I'm going to assume that the exit door is on the opposite side of the level from where I entered...
And what do you know, it's an elevator! And it's responding to my freshly updated ID card!
I had to re-read what I just typed there to make sure I understood... The second level of Corporation. Has anybody ever gotten that far before?
And, just for shits and giggles, you have to randomly guess at which floor you've been granted access to. There's three digits in the current floor display, so best of luck to ya!
And does my fantastic guess work?
I thought the 'GODDAMN' in there might have taken me to a magical place at least, like entering NNNNNNN does in Ecco the Dolphin.
Crap, it's Freddie!
Does this mean I've won? I defeated the nasty monster from the title screen and avenged all those people. Oh, right. I had to go and ruin everything by finding out the real plot, didn't I?
Um, instead of throwing it as such, it sort of just rolled off my hands and exploded at my feet. Now everything's blue! The Freddies seem to be completely incapacitated though. Now's my chance!
I'm lost. I'm tired. I've had enough. It's time to stop.
They simplified some stuff in the transition to consoles, but I don't think they simplified it enough. There's tons of stuff that shouldn't really have been in any of the versions of Corporation, and especially not the console version. If the RPG stats don't change the way you play the game, they're completely meaningless. If they're meaningless, they shouldn't be in the game. I'd wouldn't be surprised if behind the scenes most of the numbers aren't actually wired up to any game mechanics, especially in the Genesis port. They could have exaggerated the differences between characters: have 'a guy who can use assault rifles', and 'a girl who can use pistols', and 'a robot who can use heavy weapons'.
There's so much 'if only' that comes to mind as you play the game. It's not a fun game as it is, but all the pieces are all there. The 3D renderer on the Amiga was something truly special. I'm surprised I'd not heard of the game until I played the Genesis version.
Corporation was well received on home computers at the time, as far as I can tell. The intended audience probably expected the complexity, having only had the experiences of tile-based dungeon exploration RPGs to draw from. Would anybody have played Corporation if it didn't have lousy interface and RPG stuff in? If Dementia had sat down and, one-by-one, crossed everything off the list that wasn't immediately fun, or useful, or scary, the result would have looked a lot different. The resulting streamlined game might have been too unfamiliar to players of the time. They did well.
There's an interview with Kevin Bulmer in The One for Amiga magazine (external link) where he explains the making of Corporation and the original design for the game: "The initial aim was to do a space game. The first name for the game we had was Derelict, and the idea was that you would move between two ships - one was your own shuttle, and the other a huge abandoned space freighter that's been taken over by aliens. But the problem was the idea of a derelict ship meant that the exploration would be very boring - and when you did encounter aliens, they'd be more or less all the same."
That sounds awesome. I'd have loved to play Derelict. I'm happy we got it eventually (earlier if you count Silent Debuggers, which has that exact plot and was released less than a year after Corporation), but 'if only' the Dementia guys had the spark of genius to turn their interesting (but not exactly good) ideas into genuinely fun experiences. Corporation could have been the mother of all first person shooters, RPG or otherwise.
Oh yeah, want to know what that custom character creator disk business was about?
Lets take a look at the Corporation manual again. It's written in an in-universe style as a comprehensive briefing for new ZODIAC agents. In the back of the Amiga corporation manual, as was common in those days, there lies a registration card. For the kids, that's a piece of paper that you write your details on and send to the company who made the game to tell them about yourself, what computers you own, and maybe a few words to say they're doing a good job, so the suits at the company can make bad decisions in confidence. In return, the company would promise to send you a T-shirt, and instead send you an advert. You used to have to do this manually back then (or perhaps not at all!) before game companies decided that they would help themselves to the full history of your system as a matter of course. The registration card for Corporation is a little different than most...
You tell Core a little bit about yourself and send them a photograph, and they will send you a customised Corporation character disk featuring you (yes, YOU!) as the ZODIAC agent, with a set of stats and skills reflecting your own hobbies and personality! Did Core also have a shot at modelling your 3D face? I suppose it wouldn't be necessary because the game wouldn't need a character select screen if you know you're playing as yourself. Forget that mythical Perfect Dark Game Boy Camera link feature! Like pretty much everything else, Corporation had it all covered a decade earlier.
And that last paragraph... They really cared. I don't have a personalised mecha-neko Corporation disk, but I kind of want one now. It really would have enhanced my enjoyment of Corporation. The means to make such things has probably been lost to time forever. What a shame.