Back in the summer of 1990 me, and my best friend Markus had a favourite game we played all the time.
It was back in the days of the Amiga, and I remember us sitting in front of a small 14inch monitor duking it out using Boss joysticks. It is such a long time ago now, but I really look back with fondness on those summer days. The game we played to bits were The Bluecoats – North vs. South.
It is hard to say what really made the game so darn great. The graphics were really good for the time with large cartoon characters, bright colours and humour. It had a two-player mode that let two humans take turns strategizing, and then occasionally simultaneously fight on the battlefield. The happy music, and the clever mini-games of course helped making it all a pleasurable experience.
Released by Infogrames that was one of the premier publishers of the era The Bluecoats became a classic. It is no wonder that it has been picked up to be freshened up for a new audience.
The only thing getting better with age is wine, and whisky and The Bluecoats hasn’t aged that well. The graphics have been seriously overhauled, and the game looks brilliant on my New iPad. The music is still jovial, and there is a sense of humour to the game. But it is not the same when it comes to feeling, as the original. Almost all of the original is there, but still it feels like this revamp and port has been done by the numbers. It tries to hard to be like the original instead of searching for some new elements to add. More importantly though it has lost the two-player option, which leaves the game in a rather lonely place.
When you start up the game you are faced by a number of crucial options. For one you have to choose to play as either the South or the North. Depending on what year of the Civil War you start with there is equal footing early on, and later on slanting heavily on favour of the North. Other options include handicaps to make the game easier, or more challenging. Within the advanced options you can turn on/off random encounters with Indians and Mexicans, reinforcements by sea, bad weather and to have full battles or not. Depending on your choices a game can take between five to thirty minutes to play to the end.
The main component of the game is moving troops around conquering states in the US. Forts are reinforced, and should hence be prioritized along with states along the railroads. The strategy aspect is turn based, and between turns you get awarded gold sacks if you have a proper railroad track. Attacking a fort means that you will get to play a gallery shooter that is quite simple in design, and that I get bored with quickly. You pop up, shoot, and then cover. Moving troops alongside a railroad track will initiate a horse riding minigames where you have to jump or duck to avoid obstacles, and reach the locomotive.
The most interesting component is the battles between troops that take you into a real time strategy battle. Cavalry, infantry and cannons can be moved, and ordered to attack specific targets. All has to be done quickly, as the enemy moves his troops around as well. Firing the cannons into rushing infantry is really fun, but it is not as fun when cavalry rushes the cannons. Kill all enemy soldiers to get rid of that trooper on the map. If they manage to retreat the troop will be available in weakened form, but still able to conquer states on the map.
The game ends when either side are out of troops, or states. And then you are left to start a new game. There is no sense of progression, and there are no stats being saved meaning that the game soon feels old. There is Game Center for scores, and achievements but that isn’t enough. I have also had issues with Game Center not keeping track of my achievements, and I get notifications that I have go a new one that I already had some three days ago.
I have to ransack myself, and I think that the main thing lacking is some sort of multiplayer. This is the kind of game where you want to prove yourself to someone next to you. It is not that fun playing the gallery shooter alone, but when someone sits next to you challenging your concentration it is much more exciting. I am really disappointed that the multiplayer was left out, as there is plenty of screen estate on the iPad to play two generals at a time.
The Bluecoats – North vs South is fun in short sessions, but it is definitely not the kind of game that can give long-time appeal or challenge the seasoned strategy gamer. To me it is more of a reminder that games were just as great some twenty years ago, and the amount of pixels on the screen doesn’t equal quality. A lite version would be great for newcomers, but then again it is almost impossible to make a lite version without including almost the entire game.
Bluecoats – North vs South $3.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Bluecoats – North vs South $1.99 iPhone only