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Memory lane: the breadth of Psygnosis’s back catalogue

Thursday, 21 March 2013 08:00 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Does Sony have any idea the treasure it’s sitting on since it acquired – and shut down – Psygnosis? The familiar owl logo graced many a PSOne-era favourite; let’s highlight a few particularly shining gems.

By the time SCE Liverpool was shuttered late last year, it had become synonymous with WipEout. Once one of Sony’s biggest properties, and a late 1990′s phenomenon (an early build appears in the revolutionary geektastic Hackers, along with other hilarious pieces of history like 2.8k modems being fancy), the hover racer had lost its charms, and the one-time system-seller failed to prove itself Vita’s killer app.

But SCE Liverpool didn’t always lurk under such a functional name, and it didn’t always churn out highly polished racer after highly-polished racer. Once, we knew it as Psygnosis, one of the most prolific British developers (and publishers) of the PlayStation era, with a category of games so broad you needed binoculars to see the edges of it.

Let’s take a wander back through some of my personal favourites; this is by no means an exhaustive look at the venerable studio’s output, and I’d love to hear your favourites as well.

They showed this in the cinema.

Colony Wars
Space games are having a bit of a resurgence thanks to the indie scene, but it’s been years since the glory days when every other game was some sort of sci-fi sim. Colony Wars spawned two sequels; nobody could get enough of its starfighter combat and intricate plot. Tellingly, Colony Wars live up to its title, eschewing the safe route of xenophobia to pit human against human in a battle for waning resources. Delicious.

Destruction Derby
I played Destruction Derby until one of my control pads literally cracked down the middle and I still never got any good at it. But who cares? it was like dodgem cars, only a suspiciously hairy carnie never came to yell at you for deliberately bumping other players. Instead, you got points. Why drive around in circles talking about torque and other mystifying rubbish when you could just attempt to blow somebody else’s car up with your own? Psygnosis not only published this, it kept publishing it, long after the novelty had worn off. Ballin’.

Discworld
Developed by a division of the now-defunct fellow Brit team Perfect Entertainment, the first two Discworld games were point-and-click affairs of the old school variety. Manoeuvre Rincewind about the screen, pixel hunt objects, combine them at random till something clicked, then smack them against everything you found. All the best jokes came straight out of the books, making it somewhat redundant for serious fans, and even in the early 1990′s the cumbersome interface put everyone else off. Nevertheless, Psygnosis dutifully published them both – on consoles, no less – and some of us sat around in our anoraks happily geeking over them.

G-Police
G-Police! Why, that takes me right back, that does. Psygnosis got very narky at the time about you calling it a helicopter sim; they were VTOL vehicles, using jets rather than rotors. Trying to control one of these hovercraft like police trawlers with pre-analog stick game pads was a nightmare for my barely conscious teenage self, but once I got it, I felt like king of the world. Psygnosis produced two games in the series, piecing together a future dystopia plot full of clashing factions and fantastic action set pieces. Few games have ever made police work seem this fun. Sony toyed with the idea of bringing the franchise forward into the PS2-era, as it was a critical and cult darling, but doubled down on Formula 1 and WipEout instead. This was characteristic of the era and slid into the situation we see today, with mega-developers working on a single genre. None of them are devoted to flying police cars, though, worst luck.

G-Police: image and video because awesome.

Lemmings
Now, okay, everyone’s heard of Lemmings, the addictive little puzzler that it is. But not many people know that Psygnosis was involved. It’s easy to forget that a small Edinburgh indie named DMA Design once relied on an assured welcome to Psygnosis’s deliciously fluffy, slightly rank bosom (I imagine the publisher as a giant owl, obviously) where it found a home for all its early games. Later, with a verified phenomenon under its belt, it took off to flirt with Nintendo (Uniracers) and shortly thereafter spat out a little something called Grand Theft Auto, which, oh, only became one of the biggest franchises in the industry’s entire history. How Psygnosis must have gnashed its teeth. Beak.

O.D.T.
Acronyms were big business in the 90′s; acronyms and puns. O.D.T. stands for “or die trying” and let me tell you, back when not every game involved shooting 13 gazillion enemies and watching their hyperrealistic blood paint the walls, that sound quite menacing. An action platformer with a hefty dose of puzzling, it represented one of Psygnosis’s few popular forays into third-person action. Unfortunately, for all the fanatical devotion history has lent its ripping sci-fi atmosphere, it did play rather badly. Never mind.

It’s a pirate’s life for me.

Overboard!
Hold the fucking phone, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag; the best pirate game ever has already been made. Apart from a shift in perspective from top down to third person, and the delights of analog controls, I am uncertain how Ubisoft Montreal imagines it has bettered Psygnosis’s efforts in this regard. Part strategy, part shooter, part laugh-out-loud multiplayer experience, and 100% terrific, Overboard is still on my shelf and frequently finds its way to my disc tray. If any game is begging for an HD PSN remake ahead of Black Flag’s October launch, it’s this one.

Rollcage
Psygnosis’s reputation for racers made it the perfect brand to launch Rollcage, a very different take on the futuristic racing theme. While the cutscenes and promotional materials made it out to be very serious, the contemporary house soundtrack, colourful visuals, and frequently explosive action showed it off as a terrific bit of fun. Fantastic in single- or multiplayer, Rollcage’s gimmick was the ability to stick to walls and ceilings, taking advantage of boost pads which, along with some nasty weapons, could shake up a pack considerably. Add to that destructible environments, which you could use to launch yourself to poll position, and you have a slightly more grown-up Mario Kart for the cool kids with disc-based consoles. I am ready to play this online any time you care to resurrect it, Sony.

Rosco McQueen Firefighter Extreme
Okay, ha ha, so, you’re a firefighter named Rosco McQueen, and you have to go into burning buildings and put out fires while rescuing their inhabitants. Rosco’s chin is enormous and everyone speaks in appallingly stereotyped accents. You only have a limited time to battle each inferno before you hit the game over screen, but the twisty layouts hide bonus items and stubborn survivors. It’s a shooter, only you’re armed with a hose. I could play this all day.

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13 Comments

  1. mistermogul

    Brenna I would argue that they were bigger Amiga developers than PS.

    Honorable mentions were Awesome, Shadow of the Beast, Nitro, Blood Money, Barbarian and another I’ve forgotten the name of!

    Anyway, I agree Rollcage on PS was superb :)

    #1 2 years ago
  2. The_Red

    Holy shit, ODT! I never thought I’d hear about it again. It almost singlehandedly destroyed my faith in Psygnosis. Great article and (mostly) great games.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Gadzooks!

    #1

    Agreed, Psygnosis will always be Amiga guys to me.

    I lost so much time to SotB and Barbarian. Fantastic games.

    People complain about Rare, but Sony crushing the spirit out of Psygnosis was far worse.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. VampiricPadraig

    Wipeout and Rollcage is what I remember. God those games were great.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. GrimRita

    Ah Overboard. Loved it.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. mkotechno

    Combat Air Patrol…

    #6 2 years ago
  7. YoungZer0

    Ohhhh yeah, G-Police. I remember being a stupid child and not getting that cheating in the game would always result in a mission fail. Took me a week to figure out, but the game was hard. At least back then.

    I will never forget the fantastic presentation, from the amazing opening, to the graphics, to the voiceacting, to the music and the story. Everything was on a high level. The game also had some pretty damn good design. Those were some pretty memorable uniforms.

    And does any of you remember that they used the Pulse Rifle from Aliens in the cutscenes? That was AWESOME! Probably totally illegal, but AWESOME!

    The german version featured some prominent voiceactors, for example the main character was voiced by the german voiceactor for Harrison Ford. It really sounded like Deckard was narrating the whole thing.

    I think in some ways its even better than the original version:

    http://youtu.be/NQ2sIcU7bCI?t=3m1s <Awesome version

    http://youtu.be/a4FrYesnQKY?t=2m40s <English version

    #7 2 years ago
  8. harr0w

    Shadow of the beast wow there’s a blast from the past. God i Loved that game.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. monkeygourmet

    How about this little beaut on PC:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2GMksROum8

    DAT ELLIPSIODS! :D

    Really showed how far PC gaming was ahead of consoles for me.

    @7

    I saw that on PS1 classics on the Vita store yesterday, is it worth a purchase?

    #9 2 years ago
  10. YoungZer0

    @9: Depends on how much you like shooters. There aren’t that many games comparable to it. I’d say if its under 5 Euro it’s worth checking out.

    It also came out for PC if I remember correctly. Probably with better controls.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. revolting

    PS one era? What? That was their twilight years. As others have commented, the moon owl logo is synonymous first and foremost with the Amiga era, in my mind, hand in hand specifically with Shadow of the Beast. The Psygnosis logo and Beast were inseparable, an iconic pairing representative of Amiga gaming’s best years, with its distinctly un-childish Roger Dean art and pounding, imposing music, coupled with an unforgiving mortality rate and sense of desperate discovery not really seen again until the Souls games.

    Their Amiga work was, is, and always will be Psygnosis for me. (Lemmings, too, was very much an Amiga gem, in my books.) Their PlayStation output was a pale follow up.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. monkeygourmet

    @11

    This

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Old MacDonald

    Shadow of the Beast!

    In fact, they did lots of awesome stuff on the Amiga, and quite a bit on the 8-bits too. They even published one of the best games from Digital Illusions: Benefactor.

    #13 2 years ago

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    Conker’s Bug Reunion releases today, and below is a video showing some of the community creations you will be able to download using the creation pack. Project Spark is a free download on Xbox One and Windows 8.1, and you can download the Conker Creation Pack today. It contains 350 assets in order for users […]

  • Rainbow Six: Siege video shines spotlight on the British Counter Terrorist Unit

    Ubisoft has released a Rainbow Six: Siege video which gives you a look at the British Counter Terrorist Unit which features “the best of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.” The firm said that over the next few weeks it will introduce the public to each of the units in the game. Rainbow Six Siege […]

  • Mario Kart 8 DLC and Mewtwo for Super Smash Bros. headline eShop update in North America

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with an update and new DLC for Mario Kart 8 and the Mewtwo DLC for Super Smash Bros. Other highlights include Mario Kart DS on Wii U Virtual Console, the continuation of International StreetPass Week and more. Full update is below. Nintendo eShop Mario Kart […]

  • Square Enix host E3 2015 conference this year on June 16

    With Final Fantasy 15, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided on the horizon, it should come as no surprise to learn that Square Enix will be hosting a dedicated E3 2015 conference this year. The presentation will take place Tuesday, June 16 at 9am PDT/12pm EDT/5pm UK. It will be broadcast […]

  • Final Fantasy 4: The After Years 3D remake releasing on Steam next month

    Final Fantasy 4: The After Years has been given a makeover and will be released on Steam of PC next month. You can now pre-order it on Steam and take 10% off for the time being. The game will be released on the digital service May 12 and will include trading cards and achievements. Thanks, […]

  • This Project Cars video shows off the racer’s multiplayer

    Project Cars developer Slightly Mad has released a new video giving you a look at the game’s multiplayer. The game is out next month, and if you would like to refresh yourself on the tracks included,  give this a look. While you are clicking links, here’s the minimum and recommended PC specifications which dropped last […]

  • Looks like Logitech is getting out of OEM mouse production business [Clarification]

    Logitech will no longer produce “low-end” mice, citing a decline in PC accessories. This story has been updated to include a clarification. According to a Reuters report, per MCV, the firm will instead focus on video accessories and streaming music, as its wireless Bluetooth speakers are now its best-selling product rage. This will help offset […]

  • Win! We have 1,000 Heroes of the Storm beta keys to give away

    Must have more MOBA? Win one of our 1,000 Heroes of the Storm beta keys and see if you’re more Blizzard than LoL. Can’t wait for June 2? Of course you can’t. We have 1,000 closed beta keys for Heroes of the Storm to give away this week, allowing you access before Blizzard’s MOBA goes […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X Nintendo Direct airs tomorrow, April 24

    A Nintendo Direct devoted entirely to Xenoblade Chronicles X will air this Friday, April 24. The video showcase will start at 11am PDT/2pm EDT/7pm UK. After the showcase, a new Nintendo Treehouse: Live presentation featuring the game will air. This is the second Xenoblace Chronicles X Nintendo Direct, but the first in English. The first […]

  • Blizzard will have 500 game stations set up at gamescom 2015

    Blizzard is heading to gamescom 2015 in August and it will have 500 game stations set up for attendees to get their hands on five of its titles. The developer will be set up in Hall 7 and those who stop by will be able to get hands-on with the latest content for Heroes of […]

  • PS4 price cut to £299 in UK

    Sony has dropped the price of the PS4 in the UK. For a limited time only, you can grab the console for £299.99 from Argos, Game, Tesco and Very. Go to Amazon.co.uk and you’ll get it for £289. You’ve only got until April 28, then it goes back up to £349. Go, go, go. For […]

  • Mad Max: first ever gameplay footage revealed

    Today, we get to finally take our first look at gameplay from Mad Max. Avalanche and Warner Bros. have shown off the first gameplay trailer for Mad Max today. The trailer below offers a look at melee combat, car combat, customisation and much more. Give it a watch below: There are a few new screenshots […]

  • Overlord: Fellowship of Evil has four-player co-op like we figured

    Codemasters has pulled the veil back on the next Overlord game, and its a four-player co-op game called Overlord: Fellowship of Evil. Rhianna Pratchett is back to write the story. The game may be co-op at its core, but it can still be played single-player. Each of the four playable character have strengths and weaknesses, […]

  • Update now available for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Pokemon X and Y

    Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire along with Pokemon X and Y are being updated by Nintendo to fix a few bugs and in-game text. There’s also the possibility of a few hacks and exploits being fixed. Per Nintendo Life (via Serebii), both patches are 250-270 blocks in size, and it’s a mandatory update which […]

  • Side-scrolling cover shooter Not a Hero gets a demo

    Not a Hero, the upcoming game from OlliOlli developer Roll7, has received a demo. The demo for Not a Hero was made available today on Steam. In the game, you play as Steve, the campaign manager for BunnyLord. A time-travelling rabbit who’s running for mayor of London. Think this is an absurd premise? This trailer […]

  • You have until April 30 to export your Green Day: Rock Band tracks to Rock Band 3

    Harmonix has announced that those looking to export their song collection from Green Day: Rock Band into Rock Band 3 can only do so until the end of the month. April 30 will be the cutoff date for anyone who wants to export tracks from Green Day: Rock Band into their Rock Band 3 library, […]

  • Batman: Arkham Knight minimum, recommended, and ultra PC specs revealed

    Batman: Arkham Knight is looking like it’s going to be quite a taxing game. Nvidia has released a list of the minimum, recommended, and ultra PC requirements for Batman: Arkham Knight. Here’s the full thing: Minimum OS: Win 7 SP1, Win 8.1 (64-bit Operating System Required) Processor: Intel Core i5-750, 2.67 GHz | AMD Phenom […]

  • Bloodborne patch 1.03 is live, reduces loading times, fixes suspend/resume bugs, more

    Patch 1.03 is now live for Bloodborne. The patch reduces loading times, adds item descriptions to loading screens, and fixes other various bugs. From Software has pushed update 1.03 live to all Bloodborne owners. As promised, it reduces loading times by approximately 5 to 15 seconds. Another new addition is showing item descriptions instead of […]

  • Battlefield 4: first look at Community Map in action

    Get your first look at the map designed by the community of Battlefield 4. Battlefield 4′s community-designed map is a reality. DICE has recently updated CTE to include an early version of the map. It’s not fully textured as Westie is about to show you, but the layout is nearly finalised. Westie goes over the […]

  • Microsoft apologises for uploading misleading Witcher 3: Wild Hunt footage

    Xbox’s YouTube channel uploaded a video of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt yesterday that was captured from the PC build. The most recent gameplay video for the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt appeared on the Xbox YouTube channel and showed a quest from the game’s opening section. A few minutes after it had gone live, […]

  • Assassin’s Creed creator’s new game is Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey

    Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is the game Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Desilets has been working on. Patrice Desilets has just announced that the next game his indie studio Panache Digital Games is making is called Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. The announcement comes from Desilets’s keynote at the Reboot Develop event in Croatia. The trailer started […]

  • Bloodborne: Cathedral Ward closed door mystery solved

    The mystery of the locked door at the bottom of the Cathedral Ward in Bloodborne has been solved. Bloodborne, like earlier From Software games, is filled with doors that don’t open the first time you try them. Some will give you “locked” messages, others “does not open from this side”. Some of these will open […]

  • Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Desilets is revealing his next game now [UPDATE: ended]

    Patrice Desilets, one of the original creators of Assassin’s Creed is hosting a presentation where he’s expected to talk about his next project. Patrice Desilets has emerged once again. This time he’s attending development conference in Croatia. Desilets is giving a live keynote and there’s a good chance we’re going to hear about his next […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: everything you need to know about gear upgrades & The Reef

    Bungie revealed plenty of important details in last night’s Destiny stream. Let’s go over everything. Alex wants to make sure you don’t miss any of the information revealed yesterday. Most of it affects all Destiny players too, even those who don’t intend on buying House of Wolves. During the first stream, Bungie explained the armour […]

  • Mod-friendly Galactic Civilizations 3 will leave Steam Early Access in May

    Galactic Civilizations 3 will leave Steam Early Access next month for a full release, Stardok has announced. The developer called the game the “largest and most diverse strategy sandbox to date,” as players have a variety of tools such as diplomatic treaties to resource exchanges, and United Planets resolutions to hundreds of research directions for […]

  • Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim is out next week on PC – here’s the pre-order trailer

    Ys 6: The Ark of Napishtim will be released next week on PC, and today, we have a pre-order trailer for you. The game will be made available on April 28 for $19.99/€17.99/£13.99 on GOG, the Humble Store and Steam. Along with improvements over the original PSP version, it will contain less backtracking, controller support […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves – full gear set up to level 34 in PvP and PvE, upgrades, more

    The Destiny: House of Wolves livestream this afternoon was chock full of information. Read onward for our full report. According to Bungie, Petra Venj, who serves the Queen, is the main story agent who leads the player through the main series of quests. Players who complete bounties will be able to level up in her […]

  • Destiny: House of Wolves – watch the livestream right here

    Bungie will host a Destiny: House of Wolves livestream at 2pm EDT today, and you can watch it right here. Watch live video from Bungie on www.twitch.tv The stream will introduce the new social space, The Reef, as well as gear upgrade paths. House of Wolves contains new Strike missions, The Prison of Elders three-player […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team: week of April 22 team includes Barcelona, Chelsea players

    This week’s FIFA 15 Team of the Week is now available for FIFA Ultimate Team players. Each team member, as with previous weeks, is selected base on the previous weekend’s matches. Here’s the list of players now available: Starting GK: Claudio Bravo – FC Barcelona (Spain) CB: Leonardo Bonucci – Juventus (Italy) CB: Ömer Toprak […]

  • Sony’s Spring Fever Sale winds down with Shovel Knight and Call of Duty discounts

    It’s the final week of Sony’s Spring Fever Sale which means more games have been added to the mix. Shovel Knight, which launches today is one offer, and the rest are all Cal of Duty titles. The Taken movie series is on sale as well. With Shovel Knight available today on PlayStation 3, PS4 and […]

  • Drivers for Xbox controllers, voice messages, more features available in Xbox One preview

    Microsoft has announced new features coming to Xbox One and the Xbox App on Windows 10 through the preview program this month. Some of the new features have been requested by the community for both Xbox One and Xbox One SmartGlass. Here’s what to expect, straight from the horse’s mouth: Xbox on Windows 10 Game […]

  • Total War: Warhammer has been announced for PC, Mac, SteamOS

    Total War: Warhammer has been announced after previous teases from The Creative Assembly touched upon it. The game will contain “gigantic monsters, flying creatures, legendary heroes and storms of magical power.” It is also the first in a trilogy which includes two additional standalone titles and extra content packs. It will feature thousands of warriors […]

  • This video for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt features a quest from the prologue

    A new video for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been released, showing off the Precious Cargo quest contained in the game’s prologue. The quest tasks Geralt with helping a merchant retrieve a mysterious box from the swamps. The scene looks familiar, but we’ve seen so many videos for the game it’s hard to tell […]

  • Limited public beta for The Elder Scrolls Online kicks off tomorrow on consoles

    The limited public beta for The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited will launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One tomorrow, and Sony has provided details on the tester for those who’ve been invited to participate. The beta test contains the full version of the game and will run from April 23-27, and will start and […]

  • Dying Light debuts in second place on Media Create charts

    Techland’s Dying Light made its debut in Japan lats week, coming in a respectable second place behind Nintendo’s Girls Mode 3: Kirakira Code. The zombie shooter sold 25,530 units on PlayStation 4, while the top earner for the week moved a little over 55,000 units on 3DS. Another western release when landed on the chart, […]

  • Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven will release in the west this June

    Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven has been given a release date by XSEED Games, which announced the localization back in February. The title will launch for 3DS in North America on June 2 digitally and through retail. It will be an eShop only title in Europe and Australia when it releases on June 4. A […]