We lost a truly great developer this week.
Sony's decision to close SCE Studio Liverpool came as a shock to the system, not least because of the sterling work they've accomplished on PlayStation consoles. The WipEout series still stands tall as a stellar racing franchise with plenty of fuel left in the tank, and at a time when the Vita desperately needs more killer exclusives, their loss will be more keenly felt than ever.
But for those of us who played games in the late eighties and early nineties, the demise of SCE Studio Liverpool felt like losing an old friend. Before Sony bought them out and summarily changed their name, they acted as an independent bastion of quality who blurred the lines between developer and publisher, giving budding developers the in-house assistance they needed to turn big ideas into art and releasing one of the most varied, competent and straight-up brilliant games libraries to have ever hailed from a single company.
This, dear reader, is why we love Psygnosis.
Psygnosis rose from the ashes of Imagine Software in the mid-eighties, headed up by the legendary British double team of Ian Hetherington and David Lawson. Though they created a number of Amiga titles themselves, such as Deep Space and Barbarian, it was the relationships they made with other developers that defined their place in history. Matt has already waxed lyrical about Shadow Of The Beast, which hailed from Reflections Interactive and gave us the parallax scrolling concept, which made 2D games beautiful from then on. Their success was assured with Lemmings - developed by DMA Design who eventually became Rockstar North - one of the most timeless, ageless and beloved titles of all time. Yes, Psygnosis was certainly capable of pumping out some big hits, but their true brilliance came from giving power to the little guy.
They weren't just a publishing house, setting targets, creating deadlines and meting out a tight budget to keep their studios hungry. Instead, they retained a team of the best artists in the business to actively assist their partners, allowing developers who only had a great idea or raw programming skills to deliver a fully rounded game. In fact, "fully-rounded" is cutting is selling Psygnosis seriously short, since they were famed for pushing the boundaries of the Amiga and delivering the most gorgeous games out there. This symbiosis gave us a unique fusion of graphical oomph, high production values and genuine innovation, resulting in some of the best and most memorable games we've ever played.
We got Walker, which flipped shooting on its head by letting us effectively play as a boss character, stomping entire infantry battalions from right to left. We stuck to walls and ceilings in Globdule, rescued an entire race from alien invasion without ever firing a single bullet in Benefactor and delved through hostile planets in the aptly-named Awesome.
And who could forget Bill's Tomato Game, which is probably the template for any number of the physics-based apps you see today. There are too many games to list, too many memories to sift through, revel in and process, that we can't hope to do justice to them here.
In the Amiga days, the Psygnosis owl became more than just a corporate logo. It was a seal of quality, a guarantee of greatness, a symbol for us to rally around and rely on. When we saw it on a box, we knew that the contents would rock. Even when bought out by Sony, Psygnosis still continued to push the boat out, bringing us the excellent G-Police, Colony Wars and... erm... what's that racer again?
There's so much more to talk about, but I didn't want to deliver yet another obituary or history lesson. Hell, that's what Wikipedia is for. Instead, I simply wanted to personally celebrate just how important Psygnosis was to us back in the Amiga days, right through to the PS3, and how wonderfully they influenced our formative gaming years. Despite not existing as Psygnosis since 1999, we love them as much now as we did then... and salute their achievements, influence and properly great games.
Indeed, there's so much more to say. The thrill of racing chariots in Carthage, perhaps, or getting stuck on that goddamn Lemmings level where you're only able to dig and have to get your lemmings down through an incredibly tight platform that extends across the entire screen [breathe, Jon - Ed]. I'd invite you to share your own memories of Psygnosis in the comments below, and explain - if applicable - why you loved Psygnosis too.