The title of this article says it all, really. The Amiga is home to some of the finest pixel artwork ever seen in gaming. A lot of Amiga title screens feature large, shirtless men, often grimacing through exertion, rage or being too cold. Do these two facts ever overlap? Are there a great many extremely well-drawn depictions of glistening pectorals to be found in the Amiga library? I don't know, but by God I intend to find out. File this one under "investigative journalism," folks. I'll be sure to thank you all when I collect my Pulitzer.
Dogs of War, Elite, 1989
Beginning with a fairly average representation of the genre, the hero of Dogs of War is most definitely large and shirtless. The "oversized weapon as phallic symbolism" is an easy angle to take on this, especially when he's holding it at groin height, but he doesn't seem very happy with his, ahem, tool of carnage. That's the face of a man suffering from buyer's remorse, I reckon. He's wishing he hadn't traded his body armour and helmet for this wildly impractical minigun - a minigun which, if you take a closer look, appears to have either a smaller gun or a scope attached to the top. Neither of those things seem like they've be very useful. He'll be out of ammo in seconds, and then what has he got? A very large paperweight and acres of bare flesh that might as well have "mosquito buffet" painted across it.
Bloodfest, Mellow Chips, 1995
This Sunday at the Recreation Grounds, it's Bloodfest! Try the blood sausages! Donate some O negative for an AB positive cause! Ride the inflatable corpuscles down the Blood Flume! Fun for the whole family, six pounds for adults, three pounds for children and free if you pay in blood, sweet, life-giving blood!
This fellow will sadly be unable to donate blood, as he has already lost too much for the technicians to extract any without him becoming dangerously woozy. I don't think a sugary biscuit will be enough to help him recover. Could some of these wounds have been prevented had Mr. Bloodfest - not to be confused with Captain Bloodfest, the loveable syringe-shaped mascot of the Bloodfest carnival - deigned to wear a shirt? Quite probably. They mostly look like scratches, I doubt he'd have felt a thing if he'd been wearing a thick coat. On the other hand, he would have been uncomfortably warm wearing much else, seeing as he's managed to convert his Uzis into flamethrowers.
Leatherneck, Microdeal, 1988
I think "No-Neck" would have been a more accurate title. Apparently "leatherneck" is a colloquial term for a marine, supposedly originating from the practise of wearing a leather collar to help maintain correct posture. This marine could probably just about get a leather strap under his chin, a shark's-tooth necklane or something, but there's no room there for a collar so it's a miracle that is posture isn't completely terrible.
Vaxine, The Assembly Line, 1990
A really crappy dreamcatcher? No, it's Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, only with four fewer limbs and his genitalia airbrushed into obscurity to protect the moral cleanliness of you, the viewer. He's also even more ripped than in the original drawing. Jumping-jacks are good for muscle definition, it seems. As for why this title screen shows him being dropped for a great height onto a mound of lime jelly, I have no explanation. Maybe that's just his thing.
TNT Wrestling, TNT, 1991
This wrestler is so buff he even has abs on the palm of his hand. A friendly pat on the back will make your ribcage shoot out of your chest, and a handshake from this guy? It's like grabbing Godzilla's vibrator. Probably just as oily, too - this slab of man-meat is practically glistening, as though one of the vampires from Twilight rejected a life of relentless brooding and learned how to perform the perfect suplex instead.
Top Wrestling, Genias, 1992
Sticking with wrestling, and here's a face not even a mother could love. That's because the owner of this face has eaten his mother alive in the hopes that doing so would grant him the trust and protection of the tortured spirits of the dead whose infernal shrieking blights his every moment. "If only they'd be quiet", he thinks, "all I need is one moment of silence, then I could think, find a way to escape this nightmare. I did everything they asked! I ate my poor, sweet mother alive, I dress in nothing but agonisingly tight striped underwear, I've even managed to create the most unflattering haircut since the French stopped using the guillotine and still they torment me!"
Conan the Cimmerian, Virgin, 1991
I think Conan gets a pass on the whole "bare-chested" thing, right? I mean, he's Conan. You will notice that "a nice cotton button-down from Marks and Spencer" is not included in his list of things that are best in life. He only wears those furry pants to muffle the sound of his giant steel balls clanking together, lest the noise betray his presence to his foes.
Rubicon, 21st Century Entertainment, 1992
Giant head or tiny torso? You decide! Aww, someone's a grumpy widdle sausage! Cheer up, Mr. Rubicon, I'm only teasing. I tell you what, to show you I'm sorry I'll buy you some of that bronzer you like. What's the shade called again? Grandad's Leather Armchair? I'll pick you up some more Hair Concrete while I'm out, too.
Jungle Boy, Byte Back, 1991
Jungle Boy? Are you sure? He's built like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1989, I think we can bump him up to Jungle Man. Maybe it's his expression of childlike innocence as he swings from tree to tree that gives him a boyish air, but I'm sure he's old enough to be legally tried as an adult That's important, because there's no combination of that home-made knife and that psychotic rictus grin that doesn't end with Jungle Boy trying to carve his name into an innocent person's lungs.
Gladiators, Smash 16, 1989
"We did the exact same move at the exact same time, how come I have a lacerated kidney and you're fine?"
"I dunno, I guess I just wanted it more?"
"I bet it's your beard. I knew I should have grown a beard! The gods will never grant their favour to a man who merely sports a Burt Reynolds."
"Maybe there's still time, you know, after..."
"After what, Steve? After our fight to the death, which I am already losing, just like I'm losing quite a lot of blood?
"Oh good, well as long as you're sorry, that's alright."
"Hey, there's no need to be a dick about it, No-Beard."
Cyber Cop, Impressions, 1991
Even the machines are, and I'm putting my full confidence in this pun, muscling in on the semi-naked action. Good work, pun, we nailed it. The Cyber Cop revels in his chiselled physique, posing in an overly-dramatic and frankly pretentious way. I think he's annoying me so much because he didn't have to work for it: he rolled off the production line with a body that would cause even the gods of Olympus to do an appreciative half-whistle. Cyber Cop will never know struggle of not pretending to be hosting a party so you have an excuse to order three large pizzas, nor will he ever have to lie to his doctor about how much exercise he does due to shame over his slothful nature. On the other hand, he can never experience love or happiness, so, you know, swings and roundabouts.
Carver, G&T Game Systems, 1991
I'm pretty sure Carver used to open for Motley Crue. Well, maybe not quite that high up the 80's rock food chain. They probably did some warm-up stuff for Ratt, at the very least. It's the bandanna that gives it away, and that logo - tell me it doesn't look like it was was designed - nay, destined - to be stencilled onto a bass drum?
Carver himself looks oddly slick, and for once I don't think it's down to baby oil or the combined sweat of all those he has wrestled with. He's very... plasticky. Then you look at his face, and it all becomes clear: Carver is wearing a fake inflatable muscle suit, and as he tries to make himself look big in order to intimidate his rivals, his expression shows he's very nervous that someone is going to see through his ruse and stab him. Then he'd never get the deposit back on his muscle suit, and also he'll be dead, which I'd describe as a lose-lose situation.
Torvak the Warrior, Core Design, 1990
Hey, Torvak, Tobias Funke called and he wants his cut-offs back. Torvak has gone for a Batman-esque "looming in the shadows" look, although his menace is rather undercut by my inability to see his torso as anything but a grumpy face.
See? Not so much a mighty Viking warrior as a dangerously 'roided-out Horace.
Pinkie, Millennium, 1995
He might not built like the result of a romantic encounter between a gorilla and Mount Everest, but Pinkie is one hundred percent shirtless. And bottomless. A weird, naked little gremlin with a head that peaks in a tightly-coiled turd. "Look at me," his leaping pose seems to cry, "I'm smooth all over!"
Let's get one thing straight, Pinkie: I don't like you. You look like you were created in some whimsical fairytale manner - a pencil eraser that wished super-hard to be a real boy, maybe - but you have a navel so you must be the offspring of a placental mammal. So what is it, Pinkie? Are you a man or a beast, and if the answer is man, won't you please develop a sense of shame about your rubbery body and cover yourself up?
Friday Night Pool, The One Amiga, 1995
Friday Night Pocket Pool, more like. I see you over there, sunglasses. Knock it off, this respectable gaming establishment and we're as opposed to that kind of behaviour as we are to following the rules of perspective.
You might be thinking "hey, VGJunk, you promised me shirtless men and that guy in the sunglasses is not completely barechested! You shall be hearing from my lawyers!" but c'mon, no jury in the land is going to agree that his tattered leather waistcoat functions as a shirt. It's some kind of negashirt, made of fabric and worn on the torso but somehow serving only to highlight the wearer's lack of decency and fashion sense, a kind of garment equivalent of the Streisand Effect.
Also, as someone who spent a fair amount of time in pool halls during his youth, I feel I should point out that they generally do not look like this. For one thing, these people are smiling. There is also no middle-aged man who has been hunched over the fruit machine for the last seven hours, and pool hall patrons do not tend to dress like they just watched The Terminator and decided it'd make a good basis for their future sartorial choices.
Over the Net, Genias, 1990
The fun of this one is imagining how you'd interpret those silhouettes in the background if you didn't know this was a beach volleyball game. Personally I'd go with "amateur one-man ballet adaptation of Schindler's List."
Axe of Rage, Palace Software, 1989
Axe of Rage, Expression of Mild Contempt. When you're out for lunch with a friend and they start taking things from your plate after they said they weren't hungry enough to order anything, this is the look you give them as you say "Really? You're going to just take my potato wedges?"
Brain Artifice, Sceptic Design, 1991
All these action games about barbarians and super-soldiers are logical candidates for the inclusion of a large, shirtless man, but I wasn't expecting to find any in the more cerebral puzzle genre so Brain Artifice's title screen came as something of a surprise. A welcome surprise, I have to say, because nothing excites the old synapses like trying to unravel the tangled web of circumstance that leads to grey-haired man and a vaguely "Arabian" warrior in a posing pouch playing a board game in a darkened room. If this is a game of strip draughts, then the warrior is clearly not doing very well.
I can only assume that what happened here is that the warrior challenged the old man to a battle to the death but neglected to specify the form this battle would take, leaving him red-faced when he arrived at the designated battleground in his y-fronts. That's why he looks so disgruntled about the whole affair.
As an added extra, the record lying on the floor is titled "Dirty Cash," so presumably the two combatants are listening to this as they play. Knowing this only enhances the vignette before us, and it was pretty bloody great to start with.
Ball Raider, Diamond Software, 1987
"And you're sure you want to call yourself 'Ball Raider'? It's just, with the muscles and the pink underwear, you know... No, no, it's fine. Yes, I'm sure your father and his father before him were proud Ball Raiders. It'll be fine, we'll just run the name up to corporate to make sure there aren't any, I dunno, websites or anything already using the Ball Raider name before we get the t-shirts made."
Street Hassle, World Software, 1994
Finally, I'll leave you with this masterpiece. There is little I can say about it, other than Andy Warhol and his grandparents are entering a world of hurt.