Review: Simulcra (Craftgold)

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running a MiSTer FPGA box with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve chosen Automation 386, and I’ve been rewarded with this lovely frog.

There’s a nice loading screen with some reasonably decent chip music – the image chosen almost harks back to an earlier ST age as the games become more professional and genres more defined (though still some way off the modern homogenised state of things).

So it’s worth noting that this was made by Craftgold, a fairly legendary team of developers responsible for Paradroid and Uridium on the Commodore 64, with a games history stretching all the way back to the early 80s, making games for the Spectrum and Dragon 32 8-bit computers. Through the 80s they were incredibly prolific, in 1986 they released an astonishing 8 games targetting Spectrum, C64 and Amiga. Through the 8-bit era they would usually release 3 or 4 per year, but in the 16-bit era this began to slow down a little as games took longer to make with 1991 being an especially slow year. Their greatest work of the 16-bit era would probably be Fire & Ice and Rainbow Islands, the latter an incredible conversion and the former an impressive original work. However Simulcra harks back to their shooter roots even if it is unusually three-dimensional for their later work.

A brief but very cool animation lets you know that you’re heading in to do battle.

This is the map of the first level. Note the red walls, these need to be broken down to reach the end point, and this can only be done by destroying the generators. There are, as you’d expect, an assortment of nasties waiting to make that a little harder,

Simulcra is a hard game to get a great screenshot from, in that while it’s very pretty in motion and great to look at, its abstract nature means that it’s hard to construct much narrative around what I’m doing in the game. In this shot for instance I’m taking down a nasty. I can just hit the fire button (control is via joystick) to fire my standard bullets, or I can hold the fire button down to fire a missile. Controls are tank controls, and that’s fine for this game.

Your kill will leave behind an orb which is worth collecting as it will usually do something like topping up your energy or enabling you to fly (more on that later).

This is one of the generators. As it’s early it’s not got quite so many guards around it (and at this point I’ve dispatched a few) so all that remains is to blast it to smithereens. On a separate note, does anyone out there know what the buggery bollocks a smithereen is?

These little hangard contain…

.. little cars which represent an extra life.

There are nasties wandering around, the most common being a mouse-like creature, though there are also flying creatures and tanks. However here we see two stationary enemies, turrets firing at me. I can shoot them from a distance though so that’s fine.

So yeah you can take off. While on the ground you can’t fall off the track and as far as I can tell landing will always be safe too, this is not a flight sim. To take off, move forward and then quickly pull back on the joystick (a novel way of getting around only having one button on the ST joystick – it was often necessary to have such creative solutions). Controls on the ground are easy, tank controls, but in the air it’s a little trickier but sometimes it’s needed to get to some of the separated islands of territory.

Back on terra-firma and there’s another couple of enemies to contend with.

Level one is soon over and level two upon me. This despite the fact that I’m far from being the most skillful gamer out there. The game would benefit from a challenge.

So just to talk about the visuals for a moment – as static images they probably don’t do much to impress but in motion they’re fantastic. The game sensibly keeps draw distance short to keep the frame rate up, and it does this to no detriment to the game play, while the semi-abstract style is actually really pretty, to my eyes at least. It harks back to older abstract 3D games like Virus/Zarch and Archipelago, with a little hint of Starglider 2. These kind of games became less common in the quest for greater realism, but in this case I really like the style they’ve chosen.

Verdict

Clearly this is not a massively original game, and yet it is a game out of time. However, that does it a disservice. While its style may evoke memories of those abstract 3D classics from 88 and 89, the speed of the 3D graphics elevate it above those games, and this is probably one of the best early examples of the third person shooter. While not enormously challenging it is immensely fun to run around blasting the living shit out of your opponents. It isn’t going to change the world, it won’t make you think much, but you’ll have a bloody good time. Gold.

Review: Operation Stealth aka James Bond: The Stealth Affair

ST Format Review

ST Format Review Page 1
ST Format Review Page 2

My Review

Crack greeting screen

For this review I’m running a MiSTer FPGA box with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.2 owing to the cracked version not liking the STE or even TOS 1.4 (odd when Future Wars was STE-compatible). There aren’t many pirate options (and too many of them are in French), in fact there’s only Vectronix with disks 836 to 838 (Vectronix are compilations so the original crack is from Medway Boys). I had the original when I had my ST back in the day and that also came on 3 disks.

Before going further into the review I just want to call out the utter turd copy protection, thankfully cracked here. Imagine this image..

..printed on a stupid foil card thing. Now it’s fine for me, it might be fine for you, but imagine if you were colour blind. You’re asked the colour (or not in the cracked version thankfully) and kicked out of the game if you get it wrong. Accessibility really wasn’t something people thought about in the 80s and 90s, and for all the things wrong with the modern era of gaming that’s one thing I’m glad we’ve improved on. In the double-screenshot above you’ll see our first bit of dodgy English. Strange plurals pop up from time to time, some of the translation wasn’t quite there.

We get treated to a glorious animated intro. The ST just gets chip music, while the Amiga is treated to proper sound effects that give it a far more cinematic feel, with the different instruments used conveying different atmospheres in a way that chip music just can’t (I’ll come back later to why I know this). The intro is setting the scene for a suitably Bond-esque affair, albeit one with an odd (dare I say French) sense of humour, as this game’s Q-equivalent discusses the missing Stealth Bomber but a pin-up is accidentally projected on his TV instead. We finally come in to land in the lush tropical South American land of Santa Paragua, a fictional nation that bears no small resemblance to the many tin-pot dictatorships that dotted the continent at the time.

Here we have a screenshot that rather sums the game up. Glorious pixel art, wonderfully stylish, and dodgy plurals in the text.

Arriving at the airport our first task is to get past the customs official, not so simple as showing my passport because Americans are not welcome. It’s wise to check the lay of the land to figure out which nations are actually on friendly terms with the dictator.

This screenshot shows you a couple of things – first that small locations are kept small, keyholed for artistic effect. Second, we get to see the menu system in action. Where SCUMM favours the verbs and inventory remaining in view at the bottom of your screen, Delphine took the approach of having everything in a right click menu. We can examine objects to be told they’re not important (some items have witty lines prepared but many do not). We can speak to people by choosing speak and clicking on the person, though this is seldom used and doesn’t let you control the conversation. Confusingly we have use and operate, where the latter leads to having to ‘operate girl’ at one point. Right-clicking on operate lets you operate something in your inventory (in this case I’m operating my briefcase to open it), while the left lets you click an object on screen to operate that. Use on the other hand is more use x on y. It’s often used where you might find ‘give’ to be a more appropriate verb (eg use coins on florist).

This is where it all gets very James Bond. Having already taken a pen with a few interesting tricks up its sleeve, here I am taking the money out of my American passport. When you look at an object it’s often blown up like this if there’s something you can do, as per this briefcase, and here we’ve further blown up the passport. The calculator is actually the way into the suitcase’s secret compartment.

And this is where our passport forging device lives, which is why we need to know what to forge. Clicking the arrow buttons chooses a country, while the red dot produces a fresh passport. It all feels very cloak and dagger. The game is also smart enough not to let you do that in the airport lounge in front of the guard, you have to do it in a toilet cubicle.

Some clues lead you to steal some baggage you have to be careful to steal the correct one or you’ll end up in jail. Luckily it’s suitably signposted and you’re not left groping in the dark and guessing. Indeed this is a game where puzzles are, for the most part, well thought out. One downer however is that, unlike the LucasArts games, you can die and you can find yourself in a dead-end, though usually the dead ends don’t involve backtracking too far to fix.

I’ll give out a little tip as this is one of the poorly-executed bits. The taxi doesn’t come unless you stand right at the edge of the pavement by the taxi sign. Just walk up to the taxi and click down to get in.

This is the level of humour, it’s not quite Monkey Island side-splitting stuff and perhaps tonally it’s a little odd in a James Bond game, as much as there has tended to be a certain camp humour. It’s not so much that jokes don’t live in the James Bond world, it’s just that these ones don’t.

You might notice that this picture looks a tiny bit different to the others. The text is on a transparent tile rather than a solid one, and the border is a little smaller. That’s because it’s taken on an Amiga (MiSTer FPGA minimig core). The cracked version sadly had some corrupt data which meant that for instance on this screen the top third of the image was quite broken, and popups kept informing me of checksum errors as I moved from screen to screen around the downtown area. Graphically there are no other differences, but sound is improved (most noticeable in the intro) with some nice atmospheric spot effects and decent music.

The Amiga version I used ran from the hard drive, but the ST version’s 3 disks are hardly a chore with disk 1 used for the intro, disk 2 used for the first half of the game and disk 3 used later. Swapping is thankfully minimal, though there is disk access between screens. A hard drive did improve the experience noticeably however.

In a bit of spy intrigue, I’m tasked with wearing a red carnation in a park, when my contact emerges and is shot by a passing car in a drive-by shooting (reasonably well-animated). The ST version is silent while the Amiga has some gunshot sounds to make it a bit clearer what went on.

Should you fail to leg it quickly enough you’ll get one of these game-over screens as the guards walk you into the distance, to jail (having framed you for murder). This is all animated nicely though of course it’s not terribly demanding.

Giving the card to the bank teller I get to the vaults and open my safe, only to be ambushed. There’s a fair number of clones in this game, sprites re-used pretty frequently, so the guards all look the same and the KGB spies (no names comrad Kruschev) are all identical too. It doesn’t particularly spoil the mood and in all honesty it was probably a requirement of getting the thing to run well.

After a vignette I find myself in a cave before one of the more infamous bits of the game. Tied up, with no obvious means of escape (two KGB agents blew up the exit as proved by the pile of rubble on the left) you have to figure out a way out of the ropes and out of the cave.

The game features action sequences. They are not good. The controls to dive underwater are bad enough, the red line at the top showing your oxygen levels, but there’s a particularly egrevious bit of design on the 2nd screen where the middle safe area (where we can see John chilling in the shot) where if you’re too far to the right in the air pocket, for no apparent reason, you can’t surface. Given the EXTREMELY tight margin of time for oxygen supplies that does tend to lead to frustration. On a positive note, you can at least save your game at any time, so at each safe point I’d advise doing so, for your sanity.

On escaping, John Glames does his Ursula Andress impression, emerging from the water up the steps.

A quick stop at the beach and then to the hotel to get another sequence of cut-scenes…

There is a small bit of interaction on the boat and at the bottom of the ocean but otherwise it’s a cut-scene, quite long and perhaps laying the dodgy French comedy on a bit too thick. More dodgy pluralisation in the first frame (“hand ups”), and then we come to…

This is not the end of the game. However, for most people it is where they stopped playing. Certainly it is for me. I’ve never managed to get past this bit because it is an absolute bastard with decidedly dodgy controls. The action sequences in this game were an absolute bastard and this one is the worst. Most irritatingly, if walkthroughs are to be believed, this first one comes as 3 levels and there’s another one later on. What were they thinking?

The Verdict

So is it any good? Well yes it is, it conjures up a wonderful atmosphere and for me is peak Delphine. I enjoyed Another World, but for me, Operation Stealth and Cruise For A Corpse were peak Delphine. Future Wars wasn’t much cop but was a good practice run. Flashback is not for me. But back to the point, this game is one where they’re still learning their craft, but wow they’re good already. The game is an absolute masterpiece with gorgeous pixel art, a fun plot with plenty of spy intrigue, cool gadgets, it’s the perfect James Bond game (and it was sold as a James Bond game in the US), but for the god-awful action sequences. If you were to take those away this game would get the Hari Seldon Gold. As it is, it’s close but no cigar. A beautiful game, and a step towards greatness.

Review: Venus The Flytrap

ST Format Review

ST Format’s take on Venus

My Review

For this review I’m running a MiSTer FPGA box with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.02 as the STE seemed not to go down too well. This is my first review using this setup, so apologies for any issues. For this one I used Automation disk 332, a low-key affair with an odd scene with an elephant and some cheery but grating chip music. I think it’s a slightly racist picture of some black guys loading spears into the trunk and hammering the elephant’s balls to make it fire the spear, but I can’t be 100% sure.

I’ve taken a few shots from the intro and smooshed them into one image here – effectively it’s a comic strip with little animated vignettes. The theme is somewhat apocalyptic, playing on the fears of the time about man destroying the environment (this was 30 years before Greta) but ultimately it’s just an excuse to shoot some bugs. It’s pretty enough, though sadly sound through this intro is limited to a chip tune which is a solid if uninspiring composition that doesn’t push any boundaries – that said it does get better after a poor start.

An intro screen tells you nothing but pushing the joystick up inserts the coins it demands, earning you credits. Left and right switch between 1 and 2 players, though I didn’t test two player.

The action begins and as you can hopefully see, the graphics are really quite pretty with large detailed sprites. Frame rates are solid and the main sprite reasonably responsive, while the scrolling is reasonably smooth. Sound consists of the usual primitive chip music and chip sound effects, but they work well enough.

Enemies are mostly insectoid, with the occasional corrupted plant (I assume corrupted as the ones that shoot at you are grey while the ones that aren’t have some colour). You’ll see a silver ball in this shot – when you kill many enemies they’ll drop a silver ball. Most games would have you collect the power up by walking over the ball. Not this one. You have to shoot the ball to reveal the power up and then walk over it. It’s a nice idea but really all it does is interrupt the flow. As the game wore on I stopped bothering, the power ups weren’t terribly useful and the flow mattered more.

Platforms are placed nicely on trees – I would question the wisdom of not following platformer convention and allowing you to jump up through platforms and land on them – instead here you just bump your head.

One slight issue with gameplay is the lack of challenge. There are never an enormous number of enemies on screen at a time (and given their size that wouldn’t really work anyway) which means there’s not much challenge, nor do the enemies do much more than walk a patrol for the most part with most not even firing any weapon.

There are some nice touches including buttons on the floor, some of which help you jump higher or force a jump, but in this case I’d encountered a button which reversed gravity. Unfortunately it was somewhat unclear how to jump and I fell in the hole.

The Verdict

Venus is certainly not a badly put together game. In many ways it’s quite competent, a decent tech demo of sorts, and the potential was there for a good game. If only they’d gone for pick-up power ups, upped the difficulty a tad (I’m not exactly hardcore so if I’m saying it’s too easy, it’s definitely too easy) and maybe sped movement up a bit to give it a bit of zip as for all its smoothness it does feel a touch pedestrian with no sense of urgency.

ST Format Issue 15 – It’s ‘King Brilliant

ST Format Issue 15 – Download

ST Format Issue 15

The World in September 1990
In UK news York City’s David Longhurst collapsed on the pitch during a 4th Division (now known as League 2) match and died. Meanwhile the CBI predicted a recession as Chancellor John Major and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher denied one was on its way. It was very much on its way.

The US news Pete Sampras won the US Open at the age of 19. While never the most interesting chap he would go on to be a huge force within his generation of tennis players, winning multiple Wimbledon titles among other honours. The 1996 Olympics were awarded to Atlanta (Georgia), George Bush threatened to use force to remove Iraq’s forces from Kuwait and later met FW De Klerk at the White House in recognition of the changes happening in South Africa re Apartheid.

Elsewhere in the world, in Myanmar (aka Burma) orders were put out to arrest Aung San Suu Kyi among other political dissidents. She would be prisoner for 15 years, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, and would then go on to become every bit as ruthless as those she campaigned against. The first Pizza Hut opened in China, the poor bastards didn’t deserve such horrors (seriously, who wants a pizza that’s 90% grease?).

On TV we saw the first UK broadcast of The Simpsons, debuting on Sky One (which most people didn’t have as satellite TV wasn’t very popular due to being so expensive – we mostly stuck to the standard 4 terrestrial channels in the UK). Thundercats returned to the BBC but all scenes where Panthro used nunchukus were cut out. The 1000th episode of Neighbours was aired in the UK, and it’s worth noting that Neighbours was hugely popular in the UK at the time. BBC 2 had the debut of Star Trek The Next Generation. BBC 2 also saw the debut of Rab C Nesbitt, in which an incomprehensible Glaswegian in a string vest confused the English. Oh and Have I Got News For You also made its debut on BBC2, a satirical news quiz still running today, though it’s lost much of its spark. Heil Honey I’m Home, a comedy featuring Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun managed one episode before being cancelled. More episodes were filmed but never broadcast.

The film charts had rather contrasting films at the top, with Memphis Belle (a fictionalised account of a B-17 Bomber Crew’s final mission in WW2) arriving at #1 to displace Die Hard 2. At #4 we have Crazy People, a fun film with Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah in which Dudley is declared mad, goes to a nuthouse and the inmates develop advertising campaigns. Other highlights include Total Recall hanging on at #8 with Gremlins 2 at #9.

The album chart sees George Michael at #1 with one of his weaker albums Listen Without Prejudice. The Three Tenors were at #2 still riding the World Cup fever, and we had the likes of Elton John, Michael Bolton (retch) and Phil Collins in the top 10. Mariah Carey’s debut album also made an appearance, though I don’t know any of the tracks on it.

The singles chart saw The Joker by the Steve Miller Band hit number 1 16 years after its initial release due to appearing in a Levi jeans advert. In more interesting news, KLF got to #5 with What Time Is Love and Dee-Lite were at #2 with Groove Is In The Heart. Betty Boo was at 6 with Where Are You Baby which wasn’t quite as good as Doin The Do.

The Magazine
Issue 15 came out in September 1990, and has a striking cover featuring the mask of Tutankhamun due to DPaint getting a review and a cover disk demo (alongside the game of the Days Of Thunder movie). Issue 15 can be considered part of the ST’s golden age in which games and software were plentiful. This issue is notable for the spine text “It’s ‘king brilliant” which amused me but attracted some complaints.

In addition to DPaint and Days Of Thunder demos, the cover disk also has a demo of mediocre puzzler Manix, a tool to figure out the new London area code (London was switching from 01 to 0207 and 0208 depending on where in London you were) plus a program to play some god-awful chip music in the background.

In terms of ST news, the ST’s greatest DTP package Calamus had a massive price drop for its black and white version, while Neodesk had a new version of its alternative ST desktop (Neodesk 3 for those keeping count). High street retailer John Menzies dumped the Amiga to focus on selling the ST in further evidence that the ST was kicking ass and chewing gum. One of the Carebears demo group released TCB Tracker, giving the ST a tracker program to rival those on the Amiga.

The Deluxe Paint review is predictably glowing, and to be fair I had a good crack with the cover disk demo back in the day, though spending £50 on an art package was never an option for me. The interface was well-designed and overall the package reeked of quality, so it’s a fair review. For transparency it’s worth noting that EA will have paid to have their demo on the cover disk, as acknowledged in ST Format 14’s “Who gets your money?” feature. Other software reviews include Fun School 3, probably the most commercially-successful STOS-developed software.

There’s an article on basic ST skills called Back To Basics to get newbies acquainted with the ST (odd timing really, you’d expect that in the January/February issues for the people who just got their STs)

We get the debut of the Kandy Koloured Picture Show in which ST Format readers submit their artwork…

Public Domain and Demos
There’s a public domain release for Bilog, a cycling training log tool which helps manage your exercise regime. Alternatively you can change your desktop from green to blue and use 1k of memory to do so.. no I can’t figure out why either. There’s Galaxia from Budgie UK whic is a clone of.. I’m sure you can guess. In the demo scene we have THe Cuddly Demos from the Carebears, plus we have a couple of STE-themed demos which are mostly focused on audio.

Previews
There are some previews of games I’ve not encountered with Fireball leading the way, a 3D violent future sports game, while Mirrorsoft had a crop dusting flight sim set in the future. More recognisable fare came in the form of Loom (one of the few Lucasarts games I’ve never played – I plan to correct that) and the cutesy platformer Flip It N Magnose. Empire’s tank sim Team Yankee gets a mention, as does Domark’s top-down racer Badlands, while Titus mediocre Outrun with guns game Fire And Forget 2 also gets a paragraph. Crime Wave is one I don’t know much about, nor Rogue Trooper (which doesn’t get a screenshot, just a shot of comic book art). More recognisable is the brilliant Speedball 2 from the Bitmap Brothers, while Readysoft threw off the shackles of laserdisk conversions with Wrath Of The Demon which absolutely didn’t rip off Shadow Of The Beast at all.

ST Game Charts

Honestly a pretty awesome chart, with Kick Off 2 on top followed by the magnificent F-19 Stealth Fighter, while Midwinter sits at 7. Disappointing to see Damocles at a mere 15, a true classic of a game, while Sim City was only at 17 (though that’s a game that more than made its money back over the years so it’s not so bad). The budget chart.. dear god how the fuck was the utterly abysmal Codemasters Italia 90 at #1? Honestly it’s the worst football game ever fucking made.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Vaxine (3D abstract shooty thing – US Gold – £19.99 – 84%)
Soccer Challenge (Football – Microprose – £24.99 – 85%) – I think this is the one NOT made by Sensible Software
Rick Dangerous 2 (Platformer – Microprose – £24.99 – 86%) – Criminally underrated
Venus The Flytrap (Platform Shooter – Gremlin – £19.99 – 77%)
Their Finest Hour – The Battle Of Britain (WW2 Flight Sim – Lucasfilm Games – £29.95 – 91%)
UMS 2 (War Strategy [hardcore] – Microprose – 87%) – The developer looks like Borat
Manix (Mediocre puzzler – Millenium – £24.99 – 71%)
Simulcra (3D shooter – Microstyle – £24.99 – 81%)
Championship Tie Break (Tennis – Ocean – £19.99 – 83%)
Cadaver (Isometric adventure – Bitmap Brothers/Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 81%)
Operation Stealth (Adventure – Delphine – £24.99 – 93% Format Gold)
Dragonflight (RPG – Thalion – £34.99 [OUCH!] – 71%)
Satan (Platform Shooter – Dinamic – £19.99 – 39%)
Universe 3 (Sci-fi RPG – Impressions – £24.99 – 48%)
Magic Lines (Pipe Mania with electricity – Thalion – £19.99 – 47%)
Leisure Suit Larry 3 (Adventure with tits – Sierra – £39.99 – 61%)
Dead End (Text Adventure – Interactive Technology – £9.95 – 65%)
Tusker (Hack and Slash – SYstem 3 – 51%)
Weird Tales (Text adventure – Interactive Technology – £14.95 – 72%)
Falcon Mission Disk 2 (Flight sim missions – Mirrorsoft – £19.99 – 70%)

There’s actually quite a decent number of games here that really interest me. The obvious candidates are Rick Dangerous 2, Their Finest Hour, Cadaver, Operation Stealth and Leisure Suit Larry 3, but Simulcra looks interesting, while Tie Break could finally be my first decent ST tennis game, and Universe 3 is weirdly ugly but pretty. Even Venus The Flytrap holds some interest due to being so pretty.

For those playing along at home, I’ll be sourcing pirated releases from the TOSEC collection on archive.org. Here’s a list of releases, likely you’ll also find decent releases at AtariMania.
– Rick Dangerous 2 – Automation 365, Flame Of Finland 49, SuperGU 378, Medway Boys 93, Pompey Pirates 57, Vectronix 289/525
– Their Finest Hour – Automation 369, SuperGAU 389/390, Pompey Pirates 52, Vectronix 694/695
– Cadaver – Automation 415A/B, SuperGAU 591, Medway Boys 88A/B, Vectronix 809/810
– Operation Stealth – SuperGAU 691-693, Vectronix 836-838
– Leisure Suit Larry 3 – Automation 337A/B, SUperGau 654-7, Vectronix 829-31
– Simulcra – Automation 386, Pompey Pirates 63, SuperGAU 423, 535, 816, Vectronix 780
– Tie Break – Flame Of Finland 17
– Universe 3 – no known release so have to use Atarimania’s version at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-universe-iii_10750.html
– Venus The Flytrap – Automation 332, Flame Of Finland 32, Pompey Pirates 46


Reviews This Month

Review: Cadaver (Bitmap Brothers)

ST Format Review My Review The Bitmap Brothers were absolute megastars of the 16-bit era, a team of developers known for taking established genres and polishing them to perfection to create masterpieces. Their first, Xenon, was a simple but technically fairly accomplished shooter, and they followed that with Speedball, their first effort at future sports.…More

Review: Rick Dangerous 2

ST Format Review My Review So the first Rick Dangerous was a bit of a surprise. ST Format didn’t even bother to review it until its later budget re-release, while ST Action waited til over a year after the budget. The One gave it 88% at the time, CVG gave it 87%, and Amiga Format…More

Review: Leisure Suit Larry 3

ST Format Review My Review Leisure Suit Larry 3 – Passionate Patty In Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals is the third game in the Leisure Suit Larry series and the last one to be primarily keyboard-driven. For those unaware, Al Lowe’s creation is a slightly desperate man approaching middle-age, a balding virgin in the first…More

Review: Simulcra (Craftgold)

ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running a MiSTer FPGA box with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve chosen Automation 386, and I’ve been rewarded with this lovely frog. There’s a nice loading screen with some reasonably decent chip music – the image chosen almost harks back to an earlier ST…More

Review: Venus The Flytrap

ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running a MiSTer FPGA box with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.02 as the STE seemed not to go down too well. This is my first review using this setup, so apologies for any issues. For this one I used Automation disk 332, a low-key affair…More

September 1990

The World in September 1990
In UK news York City’s David Longhurst collapsed on the pitch during a 4th Division (now known as League 2) match and died. Meanwhile the CBI predicted a recession as Chancellor John Major and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher denied one was on its way. It was very much on its way.

The US news Pete Sampras won the US Open at the age of 19. While never the most interesting chap he would go on to be a huge force within his generation of tennis players, winning multiple Wimbledon titles among other honours. The 1996 Olympics were awarded to Atlanta (Georgia), George Bush threatened to use force to remove Iraq’s forces from Kuwait and later met FW De Klerk at the White House in recognition of the changes happening in South Africa re Apartheid.

Elsewhere in the world, in Myanmar (aka Burma) orders were put out to arrest Aung San Suu Kyi among other political dissidents. She would be prisoner for 15 years, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, and would then go on to become every bit as ruthless as those she campaigned against. The first Pizza Hut opened in China, the poor bastards didn’t deserve such horrors (seriously, who wants a pizza that’s 90% grease?).

On TV we saw the first UK broadcast of The Simpsons, debuting on Sky One (which most people didn’t have as satellite TV wasn’t very popular due to being so expensive – we mostly stuck to the standard 4 terrestrial channels in the UK). Thundercats returned to the BBC but all scenes where Panthro used nunchukus were cut out. The 1000th episode of Neighbours was aired in the UK, and it’s worth noting that Neighbours was hugely popular in the UK at the time. BBC 2 had the debut of Star Trek The Next Generation. BBC 2 also saw the debut of Rab C Nesbitt, in which an incomprehensible Glaswegian in a string vest confused the English. Oh and Have I Got News For You also made its debut on BBC2, a satirical news quiz still running today, though it’s lost much of its spark. Heil Honey I’m Home, a comedy featuring Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun managed one episode before being cancelled. More episodes were filmed but never broadcast.

The film charts had rather contrasting films at the top, with Memphis Belle (a fictionalised account of a B-17 Bomber Crew’s final mission in WW2) arriving at #1 to displace Die Hard 2. At #4 we have Crazy People, a fun film with Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah in which Dudley is declared mad, goes to a nuthouse and the inmates develop advertising campaigns. Other highlights include Total Recall hanging on at #8 with Gremlins 2 at #9.

The album chart sees George Michael at #1 with one of his weaker albums Listen Without Prejudice. The Three Tenors were at #2 still riding the World Cup fever, and we had the likes of Elton John, Michael Bolton (retch) and Phil Collins in the top 10. Mariah Carey’s debut album also made an appearance, though I don’t know any of the tracks on it.

The singles chart saw The Joker by the Steve Miller Band hit number 1 16 years after its initial release due to appearing in a Levi jeans advert. In more interesting news, KLF got to #5 with What Time Is Love and Dee-Lite were at #2 with Groove Is In The Heart. Betty Boo was at 6 with Where Are You Baby which wasn’t quite as good as Doin The Do.

This Month We Cover The Following Magazine Issues (Click Covers For More)

ST Format Issue 15




Restructure Completed

So in good news I’ve finally got the month-by-month navigation done along with the per-magazine listings pages, which means navigation should be a lot easier. The new look isn’t the most exciting but it’s readable and it works, no longer doing weird things with article images.

This means I can now crack on with issue 15. I still intend to go back to update reviews to reflect the lag-free FPGA experience but that’ll have to wait as really new content is what keeps traffic coming in. Also I still plan to move away from WordPress long term but this buys me a bit of time so I can keep things ticking over in the meantime. Aiming to make a start on ST Format Issue 15 over the next couple of days.

August 1990

The World in August 1990
In UK news BA had a plane stolen by the Iraqi army at Kuwait airport after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, while back home the heatwave saw temperatures hit 37.1C (98.8F). Labour had a 15 point lead over hte Tories (probably because of the poll tax) and while Iraq was taking British hostages, Lebabon was releasing them with Brian Keenan freed. BBC Radio 5 began broadcasting, covering news and sport.

The US news was pretty quiet outside of the middle east, but the Magellan landed on Venus which was pretty exciting.

Elsewhere in the world Iraq invaded Kuwait, with the UN ordering an embargo against Iraq. Meanwhile Bulgaria elected its first non-Communist president in 40 years, and the South African government and the ANC began talks to end Apartheid. Egypt, Syria and 10 other Arab states voted to send military forces to Saudi Arabia to discourage Iraq from invading.

On TV we had the debut of Channel 4’s music program The Word (a program which would epitomise the anarchic style of 90s TV), while the last episode of Miami Vice would be shown on BBC 1. Channel 4 would also debut Drop The Dead Donkey.

The film charts are absolutely killer this month with Days Of Thunder at #1 (ok so it’s Top Gun with cars but I like it), Gremlins 2 at #2 and the utterly fucking brilliant Total Recall at #3 (dropping from #1 the previous week). We also have Back To The Future 3 and Dick Tracy in there too, with Pretty Woman remaining in the chart and Spaced Invaders which sounds like something potentially fun (the whole film is on Youtube).

Yeah that looks quite something. They don’t make films like that anymore!

The album chart isn’t very exciting with Elton at #1, Madonna’s album for the Dick Tracy movie at #2, Phil Collins, Pavarotti and NKOTB still there, even MC Hammer and Craig McLachlan. Not a good chart.

The singles chart features the utterly dreadful Turtle Power by Partners In Kryme (to coincide with the release of the movie) at #1 and Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini at #3 for fuck’s sake. In more positive news there’s Tom’s Diner at #2 and Naked In The Rain at #4, plus Roxette at #9 with Listen To Your Heart. At #12 we see Together with Hardcore Uproar and Bon Jovi at #13 with Blaze Of Glory, plus Technotronic with Rockin over the Beat ft Ya Kid K at #15 so it’s not all bad.

We Cover The Following Magazine Issues This Month

ST Format Issue 14

Reviews This Month

Review: Murder

Murder! ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve picked Pompey Pirates 58. That’s one hell of a picture! The music is pretty good by chip tune standards, technically this isn’t anything special, scrolling text, etc, but for me that picture just makes it.…More

Review: Monty Python

Monty Python ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve picked Pompey Pirates 56. The Medway Boys intro was a bit dull, and the Automation menu didn’t even bother featuring music. There’s some music on this one, but most important of all is a…More

Review: Harley Davidson – The Road To Sturgis

Harley Davidson – Road To Sturgis ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. The release of choice is Automation 510, and we get a fairly plain intro – funky text, some fairly decent music. There is actually one quite impressive effect of lights spelling…More

Review: Kick Off 2

Kick Off 2 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Medway Boys 75 because it was one of the first pirated disks I ever encountered, as a download from Tik’s Atari Palace in the very early days of the internet, to…More

Review: Last Ninja 2

Last Ninja 2 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Pompey Pirates 42. The menu is fairly plain with the artwork you see above and scrolly text moving far too quickly for me to be able to read it. The music…More

Review: Back To The Future 2

Back To The Future 2 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Medway boys 84, in part because I don’t want to always use Automation. It’s not a very exciting menu – the word Medway Boys floats around, there’s some scrolly…More

Review: Antago

Antago ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. There’s not a proper menu disk with it on but there’s an Atari Legend crack so we’ll see if it works. This one gives us a chiptune but not much else, just some chiptune music and…More

ST Format 14 Cover Disk – Robotz and Mike Yocum

From the cover disk application listings.. anyone else seeing some dodginess with the developer’s name? Or do I just have a filthy mind? Robotz ST Format ReviewNope My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. Just for fun I’m going to review a little freebie on the ST…More


July 1990

The World in July 1990
In UK news, England went out of the World Cup, losing the semi-final to Germany on penalties in what would become a national tradition. UEFA lifted the ban on English clubs which had been in place since the Heysel disaster. Nigel Mansell announced his coming retirement from F1, and Graham Taylor was appointed England manager. It would not go well. Most importantly of all, my wife was born.

The US entered recession, while George Bush signed legislation to protect disabled workers from discrimination.

Elsewhere in the world East and West Germany officially merged their economies. Martina Navratilova and Stefan Edberg won Wimbledon. Belarus declared sovereignty in its quest to escape the USSR.

On TV the big event was the World Cup final, with the three tenors singing together for the first time – Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma would be the highlight. Oh and some football happened too. MPs voted to make televised coverage of the commons a permanent thing. Stars In Their Eyes (in which people would try to sound like famous singers) made its debut on ITV. Masterchef made its debut on BBC1.

The film charts had the weakest of the Back To The Future Trilogy at #1, after Tremors had a couple of weeks in the top 10 before exiting rapidly. Dick Tracy was the big budget feature, while Tom Hanks did his thing in Joe Vs The Volcano. I’m genuinely curious as to what the buggering hell “I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle” is like. I’m also curious as to whether Lord Of The Flies is any good – the book is of course magnificent but I don’t know much about the film.

The album chart had Pavarotti at #1 due to the world cup, while Elton John occupied #2 with an album that contained only 1 decent track. With too many greatest hits albums, the chart is pretty miserable.

The singles chart is mixed. Elton at #1 with Sacrifice is decent enough, Pavarotti at #2, Craig McLachlan continued the wave of Neighbours stars releasing singles but while it was catchy enough it wasn’t anything special. Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love is a banger, and everyone loves MC Hammer’s You Can’t Touch This, while One Love by Stone Roses is ok, but overall it’s a weak chart with a novelty single at #7 (Thunderbirds Are Go).


We Cover The Following Issues (Click Cover For More)

ST Format Issue 13

Reviews This Month

Review: Damocles

Damocles ST Format Review My Review PART ONE For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve picked Automation 294B, which has a pretty simple intro. Scrolly text, music, a nice picture, simple enough. Before I go any further it’s worth giving a bit of back-story to this game. So…More

Review: Treasure Trap

Treasure Trap ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I initially went with Superior as nobody else bothered cracking this one. Superior were previously known as Flame Of Finland and their menus are a bit bare bones. In this case however the menu simply didn’t…More

Review: Flood

Flood ST Format Review My ReviewSPOILER: NOT 100% WORK SAFE SCREENSHOTFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with Fuzion 9, in part because I’ve not used many Fuzion disks, but also because the menu has some hilariously bad artwork (I’ve had to spoiler-tag it). Scrolling text is the…More


June 1990

The World in June 1990
In the UK the bans on British beef were lifted after the BSE crisis, while the planned high-speed link between London and the Channel Tunnel was shelved. John Major proposed an alternative to the EU’s proposed single currency, a currency which would circulate alongside existing currencies. In hindsight it would have saved the EU a lot of headaches as it would have left member states freer to fix economic woes. JK Rowling began writing the first Harry Potter book.

In US news Ohio had 88 tornadoes. Why the fuck would anyone want to live anywhere that has that kind of shit going on? Universal Studios opened in Florida.

Elsewhere in the world the World Cup began in Italy. England would go on to the semi finals, their greatest performance since winning the tournament in 1966, and a feat not repeated until 2018. West Germany would win, though before long they would just be Germany.

On TV Art Attack made its debut with Neil Buchanan doing outsized art projects. Not much else went on as most people were busy watching the World Cup.

The film charts had Pretty Woman at #1, and The Witches at #7. The rest isn’t of much interest.

The album chart was poor, with Soul II Soul at #1, Jason Donovan at #2 and a best of album by Talk Talk at #3. Pavarotti got #8 due to the World Cup where Nessun Dorma was the official tune.

The singles chart featured the greatest football song ever, World In Motion by New Order and some England players. The John Barnes rap would become the stuff of legend. At #3 we had Chad Jackson with Hear The Drummer Get Wicked (choooon!) while Elton was at #5 with Sacerifayce. Roxette with it Must Have Been Love and Betty Boo Doin The Doo, plus the Charlatans with The Only One I Know and Wilson Phillips Hold On make for a VERY strong top 10. Hell, even further down the chart you had Snap with Oops Up, Black Box with Everybody Everybody which only got to 16 ffs.


We Cover The Following Magazine Issues This Month (Click Covers For More)

ST Format Issue 12

Reviews This Month

Review: F-19 Stealth Fighter

ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with Automation 424, not one of their more exciting menus (fairly mediocre chip tune and some scrolly text) but it gets the job done. Into the game. A cool intro with the stealth fighter fading…More

Review: Sim City

Sim City ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with Medway Boys 72 which features a cool graphic, the usual text bouncing and scrolling and some chip music which for some reason makes me think of Lady Gaga. Sim City isn’t exactly…More

Review: The Toyottes

Toyottes ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with Automation 260, primarily because the Flame Of Finland releases tend to be a bit samey. This one isn’t anything special technically but it does give us a glimpse into the future with the…More

Review: Projectyle

Projectyle ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with DBug menu disk 65, my first DBug release of this series. The intro menu isn’t visually that exciting, but it does have a fantastic chiptune version of the old Formula 1 theme. It’s…More

May 1990

The World in May 1990
In the UK the new version of the Rover Metro came out. It was a shitbox.

In almost-as-bad news, inflation hit an insane 9.4%, compared to the more typical 2% of the last decade. Bobby Robson announced the coming World Cup would be his last. It would be glorious and he would go from a figure of tabloid hate to a national hero. France, always the pricks, banned British beef due to BSE fears, while John Gummer (agriculture minister) fed a hamburger to his 5-year-old daughter for a photo opportunity.

In US news the US and the Soviet Union agreed to end production of chemical weapons. More importantly, Microsoft released Windows 3.0.

Elsewhere in the world Latvia declared independence from the USSR, the WHO removed homosexuality from its list of diseases, and Burma elected Aung San Suu Kyi in a landslide but the result was nullified. The world would bang on about the injustice and then hand her the Nobel Peace Prize before she turned to the dark side as the recipients so often do.

On TV we had the debut of Vic Reeves Big Night Out and err… that’s about it.

The film charts are mixed. The Hunt For Red October is at #1, followed by Nuns On The Run with Eric Idle in drag, oh I’ll say it, it’s a shit chart.

The album chart still has the Carpenters at #1, with Phil Collins still at #2. UB40 were shit. It’s a really shit chart.

The singles chart is a relief, with the wonderful Killer by Adamski (later credited to Seal) at #1. I quite like Kylie’s Better The Devil You Know at #2 – it’s good old fashioned cheery pop music and insanely catchy – Kylie was an absolute goddess. Dirty Cash by The Adventures of Stevie V at #3 is a brilliant song. Opposites Attract with Paula Abdul and the cartoon cat is better than it should be, while Beats International round out the top 10. The singles charts saved us from terminal shitness.


We Cover The Following Magazines Released This Month (Click Cover For More)

ST Format Issue 11

Reviews This Month

Review: Player Manager

Player Manager ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. I’ve…More

Review: Resolution 101

Resolution 101 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On…More

Review: Theme Park Mystery

Theme Park Mystery ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary.…More