The Big End

1994 The Hidden

Platforms: Commodore Amiga 1200 and CD32 (later A500)

I’ve always been a fan of racing games on 8-bit and 16-bit platforms, especially Slicks on the C64 and Micro Machines on the NES. So when Darren Gurney highlighted this long lost Amiga title, I was quite excited when I saw the screenshots.

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The Big End (or The Big Engine, as it was known before that) was due for release on the Commodore Amiga around late 1994, mid 1995. Developed by The Hidden (who had created Donk! The Samurai Duck amongst others) and to be published by Supervision.

Rather than just being a top-down racer, as was quite common at the time, The Big End would tilt things slightly to give a more 3D viewpoint of the action – similar to Super Skidmarks. The aim was to “create an accurate Formula One-style game, but in an accessible arcade style”, according to developer Craig Howard.

Cars would handle realistically, and the 16 F1 tracks would be faithful to the originals, right down to the track times. There would be different weather types in various races to affect how the cars would handle. Then, between races you would also be able to configure your car and make improvements with a basic player/manager feature.

The key development was to be for the CD32, with a cut down version on the A1200. Pretty exciting was the news that the CD32 edition would feature around 50 minutes of audio commentary, to give constant audio commentary as you played the game.

Graphically the game looked pretty good, with a cartoon style for the commentator and racers. But after the previews and promise, the game would completely disappear. It is likely that the dying Amiga market would be the reason for this.

It would end up becoming one of many mysteries on the Amiga, and it was as a result brought up in discussion back in 2006 on the English Amiga Board. This would lead to GTW contributor, Darren Gurney (known as “stainy” on the forum) deciding to get his hands dirty and trying to see if they could recover the game.

The journey of recovery

After some searching, Darren got hold of Craig Howard and would embark on a journey of negotiating with Craig to try and recover something of the game to preserve over a number of years. Sometimes these things can take time, what with work and home being busy for many of us – but in late 2012 some of the game was finally found.

Craig sent a number of disks to Darren, who kyrofluxed the disks and Galahad/FLT compiled up the sources and got everything up and running. There was a bit of disappointment, as it seemed the sources sent were of a very early World of Amiga show demo which had a lot missing and only one track. Certainly better than nothing and a wonderful recovery none-the-less.

It is hoped that a lot more over time can be recovered of the game, and Darren is touching base with Craig once more to see how things are going with getting his A4000 set up going again. So watch this space to see if something closer to the magazine previews can be recovered.

With thanks to Darren Gurney for information and all his hard work so far trying to get the game preserved, Galahad for putting everything together, DamienD for the ADF version and also Stephen Stuttard for the hi-res scans.

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Gallery

3 Responses to The Big End

  1. I remember looking forward to this one at the time, previews suggested that it was quite advanced and quite impressive, with talk that even the early versions produced laptimes close to the real F1 cars of the time. The Amiga scene needed something like this. Sadly (as the linked EAB thread elaborates) it seems like some exaggeration and hype was going on as to how close to completion it was. Still nice to recover something of it.

  2. Looks very much like an isometric version of Slicks. Very attractive graphically and these types of top-down racing games always have potential to be very playable.

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