“The text of the novel is the narration of Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat who is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, who creates human-like hybrid beings from animals via vivisection. The novel deals with a number of philosophical themes, including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human interference with nature.”
During their short existence Haiku Studiosreleased only two games, The Koshan Conspiracy in 1994 and Down in the Dumps (probably their most popular title) in 1996. The Island of Dr. Moreau would have been their third project and by looking at the screenshots published in a few magazines at the time (such as Spanish Micromanía Issue 29) it looked like a promising game for fans of sci-fi adventures.
During those years Psygnosis was publishing many games for the original Playstation, as in 1993 they become part of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, but a few of them such as The Island of Dr. Moreau were planned for PC too. The game used real time 3D characters over pre-rendered backgrounds, similar to Resident Evil or Parasite Eve, also using Full Motion Videos and footage with real actors, filling up 3 CDs.
It seems the game would have been divided into three parts, probably one per CD-ROM: the whole Dr. Moreau’s mansion, exploration of the island (estimated area of 13 hectares) and finally an epilogue in an ancient Mayan temple. Gameplay would have been a mix between a classic point and click adventure (Myst) and a real time action game (Resident Evil, Tomb Raider). Haiku Studios were able to develop a complex timetable system to move 60 NPCs around the island, each one with their own activities following the game’s internal clock.
Unfortunately something went wrong near the end of development, Psygnosis abandoned the project and soon Haiku Studios closed down. The team was also working on two other cancelled games, Elric and Demon Driver.
The original Hired Guns was a First Person sci-fi tactical RPG developed by DMA Design (the team that created GTA and later became Rockstar North) and published in 1993 by Psygnosis for Amiga and PC. Hired Guns was quite ambitious for its time, players were able to use 4 different characters at the same time, each one had their own view and the game was played using a 4 windows split screen, also allowing up to 4 players to play together in coop.
The team behind this “reboot” of Hired Guns was Devil’s Thumb Entertainment, a small DMA division started in 1995 by David Jones and led by Tony Harman. Only a year later Devil’s Thumb was cut off from DMA and became an independent studio, working on Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone (released in 1998 for Nintendo 64) and Tides of War (released on PC in 1999). Sometime between the release of these two games, Devil’s Thumb also pitched this new Hired Guns to Psygnosis, that soon greenlighted the project to be developed using Unreal engine.
As recalled by a former Devil’s Thumb member who worked on the game:
“All of our levels had a maximum on-screen limit of 80 polygons using the old Unreal 1 engine. Our art direction was to use a lot of color, since the first person shooter at the time was Quake and it was very brown. Our marketing was going to include: “There are millions of colors, we used them all…. except brown.”
A few previews for Hired Guns were published back in the day by Gamestop and IGN:
“Whereas most shooters are pretty simple run and gun affairs, Hired Guns is a complex game of tactics and teammates, more along the lines of X-COM Alliance or System Shock 2 than a Quake or Unreal. “
“Here’s the basic story. In the not so distant future, those who could afford it left the now poisoned Earth to travel to different off-world colonies that had been established by three different corporations. The first colony was in the Luyten system 10.8 light years from Earth and was reached by the mammoth Tesseract Corporation using a brand-new interstellar drive. Later colonies were started not only by Tesseract, but by the Betelov and Grenworld Corporations as well. With these new colonies in place, humans began to flourish again with huge new stores of resources to tap and trade. Sadly, human nature began to kick in and the three companies began fighting over consumer wealth and loyalty.”
“In the beginning of these battles, war was fought more or less in the conventional fashion, with huge armies taking each other on in space and on the colonies, wiping each other (and often the colonies) out in the process. As colonies wised up and began to create their own militias and as the corporations began to loose the ability to fund huge armies, they started to hire small mercenary groups to commit acts of espionage and sabotage for them. It was during this time that the Hired Guns, a crack team led by a man named Kircher appeared. Considered by some to be the finest data espionage agents ever assembled and by others to be absolutely insane, this ruthless group started to play each of the companies against the others in an attempt to bring themselves massive profit and power.”
“Using the Unreal engine, Hired Guns will allow gamers to control a four person mercenary squad as they go off on a series of missions. What pushes Hired Guns outside the genre is that you actually control all four members of team in a multi-windowed interface. One large window accommodates the character you’re currently controlling with three smaller windows that depict what your other team members are seeing. When you’re not controlling them directly, a control panel allows you to tweak their AI for the task at hand. If you need to clear room quickly, you could turn up their aggression and see what ensues. Or you could have one soldier run into a room to battle several enemies and retreat when its health goes below 50 percent. During gameplay, you can take control of any of the players as they combat evil corporations.”
“Missions bring more strategy to the 3D shooter by forcing you to figure out which mercenary is best suited to a particular task in a mission. Kircher is a Rasta male with spiritual self-healing capabilities, Myriel is a 200-year-old who is mostly cyborg and has an advantage of being able to understand electronics, Rorian is a ex-soldier with zoom lens-like optical implants, and Osverger is the berzerker of the crew with a large soldier body and massive strength.”
In 2000 VR-1 Entertainment acquired Devil’s Thumb, while at the same time Psygnosis decided to leave the PC market to focus their resources on Playstation games. It’s not clear which company owned the Hired Guns IP, but unfortunately without its original publisher and with a new studio management the game had to be canned.
It seems Hired Guns was almost finished when cancelled, there’s even a leaked beta that you can download and play to check out what it could have been.This beta is labeled as a “pre-production version” and it includes all the levels, characters and weapons planned for the final game.
Super Shadow of the Beast would have been the Super Nintendo port of an old Amiga side-scrolling action game which was originally developed in 1989 by Reflections Interactiveand published by Psygnosis. The game since then has been ported to almost every known platform at that time, so why not a Super Nintendo version?
The SNES version was developed by a company called IGS (Information Global Service) and was first reported seen at the summer edition of the 1992 Consumer Electronics Show (CES): in an article on Nintendo Power it was mentioned as a promising upcoming title for the SNES.
The original Shadow of the Beast game and most of its ports to other systems contain many grim, dark looking and bloody details such as bloody spikes, bouncing bloody eyeballs, flying skulls and decapitated enemies. To get approval from Nintendo and thus a license to publish the game on the SNES platform this port of the game had to undergo some serious censoring, mostly graphical adaptions like removal of blood, redesigned levels and removing or redrawing of enemies.
Some screenshots of this censored SNES port were found at a site called Schnittberichte.com: they did an excellent job in showing the differences between the SNES version VS the Mega Drive one. Apparently all the efforts from IGS to change the game weren’t good enough for Nintendo USA and thus Super Shadow of the Beast was not approved.
Other rumors however state that the mature content cannot have been the only reason why Nintendo dropped the game. It’s possible that Super Shadow of the Beast was just not good enough to be released, with its poor graphics and colorful style it became something too much different from the original game and its dark atmosphere.
However the SNES version of the game is not entirely lost: a rom of the game was leaked a while ago and it appears to be fully playable (segameplay videos below). I even came across some reproductions of actual SNES cartridges of the game if you prefer to play it directly with your original Super Nintendo console (if you still own one in working condition of course)
Censored SNES version vs SEGA Mega Drive version (Thanks to Schnittberichte.com):
Youtube gameplay video, end sequence & credits & music:
Among Psygnosis‘ games showed at E3 1995 there was this mysterious game called Entropy. Aside from one image found in Cd Consoles issue 8 and GameFan issue 3-7, nothing concrete is known about it. Please contact us if you have more info!
Urban Decay is a cancelled action game that was in development by Andrew Spencer Studios and it would have been produced / published by Psygnosis for PC. The project was to be an ellipsoid game like Ecstatica, but it was put on hold at one point to focus on Ecstatica 2. When they went back to work on Urban Decay the design switched to a traditional polygonal engine from which no images have surfaced yet. Relationship with the studio went south after this and the game disappeared forever. Pcloadletter sent an e-mail to Ken Doyle, that graciously replied and says in his own words:
I did work on it. The ol memory’s a bit dim but basically various issues assailed and eventually sunk the project. Firstly the main creative and design force behind the game, a guy called Eamon Butler left to pursue a successful career at Disney. He became frustrated with endless requests for design and style changes. It was originally due to be an ellipsoid game but later changed over to a more regular poly look for the sake of realism. Urban Decay was shelved so work on Ecstatica 2 could begin. We returned to Urban Decay but the studios relationship with Psygnosis soured and that was that. Studio closed and we all moved on. That’s about it. Hope this helps.
Some more info on Urban Decay can be found at Games That Weren’t (web archive, the site is currently down). Also, check the video from Ecstatica to have a better idea about how the game would have looked like in motion.
Thanks to Pcloadletter and derboo for the contributions!