Dark Chamber

1989 Rainbow Games

Platform: Arcade

Already we have seen a few entries into Games That Weren’t which are arcade releases that were being done by console/home computer software companies, such as Zool, Fire and Forget 2 and The Living Daylights. However, Germany’s Rainbow Arts was also to get in on the act back in 1989.

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The publisher had produced its very own arcade motherboard called Pluto, which offered 128 colours per scan line and per playfield and with a resolution up to 640×480 pixels. Up to 50 million pixels could be moved per second, and there would be hardware zoom and turning features available.

All of this was coupled with a 32-bit processor at 15mhz, 16-channel stero sound and an I/O expansion area for hardware additions in the future.

The plan was to create around five arcade games in total using the technology, released under a new label of Rainbow Games. There was also to be possible home computer versions to follow, released under the Rainbow Arts label.

The first of the titles was Dark Chamber, a game we believe was being developed by Heiko Schroder (who also designed the hardware), with graphics by Celal Kandemiroglu. Not much was known about the other titles, though Games Machine magazine mention that the next game to follow would be a title called Monster Olympics (which may have evolved perhaps into Grand Monster Slam?).

The game was being written with a specially created programming language called ADL (Alien Description Language), which allowed the aliens to modify their flight patterns depending on where you are on the playfield and which extra weapons you have.

The plot

ACE magazine would see a preview of the hardware and game in action, and were impressed with the early development they saw. They also described what the plot, which centres on a prince who embarks on a mission to save his princess. This is a mission that involves travelling through eight levels, each containing ten new aliens.

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Using magic eyes in the palms of your hands, the prince can shoot single shots at first, but various weapons can be collected, including rainbow lasers, Defender style bombs, double and treble shots and boomerang shuriken stars.

If you collect four teapots and then grab a tea tray in the game, this activates a smart bomb that clears the screen of any aliens. There’s a green dragon which draws alien fire, as well as an alien magnet that can be thrown across the screen and used to distract attacking aliens.

Unfortunately, after a few quick news items on the game with some screenshots – the game completely disappeared without a trace and no further updates. Perhaps the cost of the hardware became too much? Both Heiko and Celal would go on to work on titles such as X-Out, and Dark Chamber was just forgotten.

We hope to get hold of both Heiko and Celal to find out more and what happened exactly – maybe even if something of the game and hardware still exists today. It would be amazing to see something of this game in action after over 30 years.

Contributor Phil Bennett found a photo of the hardware (see scans), missing some important parts (source unknown). He mentions that it seems to be 680×0 based and there might be a M114A sound chip in the top left paired with possibly a 68901 CPU (TBC). It gives a bit of hope that working hardware may still exist.

Professor Chaos also contributed in the comments that Chris Hülsbeck talked (in German) a bit about Rainbow Games at https://www.spieleveteranen.de/archives/2674 (time: 30.50-33:06). He admits he doesn’t remember much about the hardware or mention Dark Chamber specifically, but suggests that the arcade market was declining and the audio hardware was not great, resembling FM with maybe 1/2 digital channels (similar character to the SEGA Mega Drive). So did Rainbow Arts feel they wouldn’t make much of a return on the hardware?

With thanks to Ivan for the suggestion of covering this game, Phil Bennett for locating a photo of the hardware and Professor Chaos for digging out information from Chris Hülsbeck.

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3 Responses to Dark Chamber

  1. I have seen those screenshots but I was sure it was some kind of unreleased Amiga or Atari game. Good work on translating those previews. It seems that it was hard to developers of computer games/software release something for arcade machines if They do not have long experience like other Asian developers like Capcom or Sega. I mean they release/were releasing games and hardware for a very long time and have experience on how to do that and be successful. I hear stories about European developers who made just one game or fail to make it, and lost too much to continue their existence on market. It is like those experience with work on computer games do not translate well for arcades.

  2. In https://www.spieleveteranen.de/archives/2674 (30:50-33:06) Chris Hülsbeck talks (in German) a bit about Rainbow Games… he admits he doesn’t remember details and doesn’t mention the title “Dark Chamber”, but he believes the game basically resembled X-Out, that the arcade market was declining, and that whatever options for audio hardware were not that great and resembled FM, maybe with 1 or 2 digital channels, which would have had Mega Drive character.

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