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Soldiers of Fortune

aka: The Chaos Engine
Moby ID: 933
Genesis Specs

Description official descriptions

A time traveler from the future was stranded in Victorian England, and his knowledge of yet unknown technological inventions was passed to the Royal Society, headed by Baron Fortesque. With the help of this knowledge, Fortesque managed to construct an immensely complex artificial intelligence known as the Chaos Engine. However, creation rebelled against its creator, assimilated its mind, and turned Britain into a war zone populated by mad machines. Mercenaries are willing to enter this dangerous place and put an end to the chaos, hoping for an appropriate reward.

Chaos Engine (Soldiers of Fortune in the US) is a run-and-gun overhead shooter. Sixteen levels (in four groups of four) await the players in the game. The basic gameplay is similar to Gauntlet, but in an open-air setting, with bridges across rivers and other features in the maps. The visuals are in the 'metallic and blue' style Bitmap Brothers appeared to favor.

There are six characters available in the game, each with different strengths and weaknesses, and different starting prices. In two-player mode, each player chooses a character and plays co-operatively, but in one-player games, the player also chooses a character for the computer to control, with its artificial intelligence allowing it to open doors, pick up power-ups and take on enemies away from the ones occupying the player-controlled character.

Groups +



Credits (Genesis version)

28 People (19 developers, 9 thanks) · View all

Graphic Design
Graphic Conversion
Original Code
Code Conversion
Additional Code
Original Game Music
Sound Conversion
Title Music
Project Management
Special Thanks
Product Manager
Instruction Manual
Special Thanks
[ full credits ]



Average score: 78% (based on 58 ratings)


Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 87 ratings with 7 reviews)

Bitmap Brothers - the recyclers

The Good

The Bad
can't see anything except Bitmap Brothers being hibernating or something.

The Bottom Line
Bitmap brothers definitely are, or were, I don't know, one of the first teams that deposited real passion, art, and the concept of recycling making homage to (as Tarantino does in movies), on videogames. They were definitely mature indie game constructors, and they presented that on fluidity marrying graphics in an organic playable sense. The Chaos Engine is another game that demonstrates that. An inspirational classic game with direct passport to the hall of fame of Artistic games.

Windows · by ZeTomes (36305) · 2014

If you enjoy games like Metal Slug and Contra, you'll love The Chaos Engine.

The Good
This is a Bitmaps Brothers game, so the look and feel is awesome.

The game mechanics is a mix between Gauntlet and Ikari Warriors, yet I like it more than I ever liked those other two and for a good reason. It's better.

There are always enough baddies to keep you on the edge of your seat, but not enough to make you feel overwhelmed. Some look crazy but they're all cool and each world sports its own set of them, so you only get the giant frogs on the first world, the black blobs on the second one, the walking hands on the next one and so on.

While there are no secret levels, there are several ways of entering, exiting and going through some levels. That makes the game very replayable. When you take one route, the other is blocked and the only way to know what's over there is to play again. Each route is filled with goodies, so whatever you choose, you're not going to regret it.

Having six characters to mix and match also makes the game very replayable. And your sidekick, while not always useful (read below), at least doesn't get in the way. If he's left behind, he'll be teleported to the current screen, and you can always pass through him.

The Bad
The music is good, but there's only one background track for sixteen levels. Why they couldn't hire some guy to add more music? Same thing with the sound effects. Why so few of them?

Eight-way scrolling games have never been a favorite genre of mine, but the few I've played at least let the player shoot and move at the same time. On this game, the player can do one thing or another, but not both. It's no deal breaker, but it's not the best way to play neither.

The eight-way scrolling also makes your CPU-controlled sidekick very unreliable. If there's no angle for him to shoot, he just stand there until the monster reach a place he can shoot at or he moves accidentally to a better position when he follows you. This limitation makes some levels harder than they already are.

If you're one of the few who are still playing on a console, there's one more thing. Instead of getting a password after every level, you get one every other level. That means that dying on even-numbered levels forces you to replay not one but two levels. That's not fun.

The Bottom Line
Like Contra, The Chaos Engine is hard but not unbeatable, and like Metal Slug, it offers plenty of reasons to play it again and again and again.

SNES · by Tashtego (142) · 2009

A Steam-powered, Victorian Age Run-n-gun.

The Good
"Soldiers of Fortune"/"The Chaos Engine", is top-view run-and-gun style shooter - a game along the lines of "Gauntlet". Immediately, players will notice that this game has quite a dark mood - the introductory sequence speaks of the corruption of "time and matter", as well as a descending "cloud of chaos". Our enemy in this title is the eccentrically titled "Baron Fortesque", the self-claimed grand-inventor of the games title: The Chaos Engine. So, the stakes are very high from the outset of this largely unknown shooter.

Who would you send on this mission? Who could possibly take down the Baron and his Chaos Engine and make it out alive? Well, thankfully, the player is given a fairly generous choice of protagonists. Suitably designed (we are in the Victorian Era, by the way) and well-imaged sprites of a band of mercenaries are the game's heroes. A choice of two of the following is available:

The Mercenary. The Brigand. The Gentleman. The Navvie. The Thug. The Scientist.

So, for a 16-bit third-party shooter, this was an impressive choice of characters.

Players are then thrown into the deep-end. The first level, a muddy swamp riddled with strange looking ogres and giant toads, is quite a challenge. You will notice that the fire-power you are equipped with, although quite weak, shows some pretty good potential, (in fact, if you save your money well, the shop, which can be visited every two levels, will let you power-up your gun very extensively). This is one of the main draw-cards of the game - the collection of money from killing enemies is great to collect for buying various upgrades for your character. It's always a hard decision as to what to spend your cash on. What's more important, more lives, or health/weapon upgrades? Aside from this, the core gameplay of powering through the levels, busting up the "Nodes" (electrically charged piston-type dealies that power-up the exit), is exciting enough.

The overall mood of the game is very unusual. As mentioned, it is fairly gloomy, and the washed-out and dark palettes reinforce a kind of decaying atmosphere - the busted up walls and columns throughout the game add to this sense of ruin. (Be sure to shoot at anything that looks suspicious, as there are many hidden items and shortcuts). Oh, and treasures, too.

Adding to the stand-out mood is the great (albeit repetitive) soundtrack. The music (by Richard Joseph), adds that futuristic touch to the game, which come to think of it, is quite anachronistic. The digital voice samples like "Food!", and "Player Saved!" are nice touches, nevertheless it is not quite clear who is announcing these events. This effect seemed more like a "Super Smash T.V." addition rather than a Victorian-age game's - but anyway.

The Bad
The eight-direction movement of the gameplay works OK at first - lining up your enemies and letting rip is fairly satisfying. I did notice however that during the later levels, things got a bit cramped. And the collision-detection is quite unforgiving. Getting around those corners AND wiping out the hordes of groaning monster-guys can be, well, near impossible. And, in retrospect, the general blocky-like control of the characters does seem a little crude. You are sometimes forced to move forward to turn, and that gets frustrating.

One thing that should be noted is that this game gets very difficult. Power-up all you want my friend, but it won't do much good against these insanely bullet-resistant enemies - they really do spawn much too suddenly for my tastes. Walking along a corridor innocently enough? Too bad. Let's have a mob of enemies spawn super-fast, just to have them fly at you much quicker than your rate of fire can handle. Not to mention the sluggish speed of most of your mercenaries.

The Bottom Line
At the end of a good session with this game, I feel that there is something missing in it's design. I must say that it is difficult to control, and the gameplay is quite repetitive. It's best points are in it's mood - the drab scenery (strangely enough) and progressive soundtrack really do stand out in my mind. The enemy content of the game is really quite extensive, tough and menacing. Beginners may find themselves switching this one off - it's not a very kid-friendly game, but as an adult now, I see it's aesthetic as something quite unique.

SNES · by So Hai (261) · 2008

[ View all 7 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Level Editor released + first custom level lilalurl (732) Jun 26th, 2010



Shortly after the game's release, Renegade took out a full page advert in trade magazine CTW, which simply said "The Chaos Engine. So good, even that bastard Stuart Campbell liked it", referring to a British journalist who had a habit of not liking much-hyped games, including previous Bitmap Brothers titles Xenon 2 and Gods, but gave this one a great review. Ironically Campbell later worked for CTW (as of 2004).


The original beta version (as seen on TV in many countries) was a three player game (not two).

German index

On March 31, 1995, The Chaos Engine was put on the infamous German index by the BPjS. For more information about what this means and to see a list of games sharing the same fate, take a look here: BPjS/BPjM indexed games.


A quote from the manual addendum lying in the game box:

Please note - In order to continue the time-honoured Bitmap Brothers tradition of mucking around with the password system at the last minute, The Chaos Engine now only awards passwords at the end of every world rather than after every Equipment Screen.


Version differences

  • In both the SNES and Genesis versions of the game which are named Soldiers of Fortune, the game's ending credits still call it The Chaos Engine.
  • In the console versions the Preacher was changed into a Scientist due to Sega and Nintendo having a policy of censoring any religious material in games for their consoles.


  • Amiga Joker
    • Issue 02/1994 – #2 Best Genre Mix in 1993 (Readers' Vote)
  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1994 – Best Multiplayer Game in 1993

Information also contributed by Johnny "ThunderPeel2001" Walker, Martin Smith, Timo Takalo, WildKard and Xoleras

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Are you familiar with this game? Help document and preserve this entry in video game history!

Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Derrick 'Knight' Steele.

Genesis, Atari ST added by kametyken. Antstream added by firefang9212. Linux, Acorn 32-bit, Amiga CD32, J2ME, Macintosh, Windows added by Kabushi. BlackBerry added by MAT. SNES added by Katakis | カタキス. Amiga added by Rantanplan.

Additional contributors: Macintrash, -Chris, kametyken, Martin Smith, Patrick Bregger.

Game added February 29th, 2000. Last modified September 20th, 2023.