Star Goose came with my Atari ST in the Power Pack, one of a huge selection of games. While not as big a personal hit as Nebulus, I did enjoy it at the time and it’s good to revisit and see how it’s aged.
ST Format Review
Before I start my review, here’e ST Format’s take on the game.
My copy as a kid came without a manual (you can see the little cards for each game at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-power-pack_21792.html if you’re curious).
As a kid I somehow missed the fact that alt controlled the left missile and caps lock controlled the right. As a kid I was a fucking idiot.
So, this time I thought it might be nice to actually read the manual. https://www.gamesdatabase.org/Media…tar_Goose_-_1988_-_Logotron_Entertainment.pdf if you fancy it, it’s not a super-long read but it’s a remarkable amount of effort for a fairly bog-standard shooter. Whoever wrote it is clearly a fan of Red Dwarf, even going as far as to name the ship’s captain Scouser-Gitt. With a cheeky 4th-wall breaking bit about scrolling other planets blasting shit out of everything it’s a cheeky attempt at 80s British humour and strangely endearing. I can’t say I learned a huge amount about the game, other than the fucking keys I missed as a stupid fucking kid, but I will continue to read the manual first to reduce idiocy. This is important.
So, to the game. I insert the disk, enjoy the nostalgic glow of that crunchy floppy drive sound, and wait for the title screen.
What I get is actually quite a nice little animation, with the smaller ship dropping from bay doors on the bigger ship. I press fire and I’m thrown straight into the action. This shooter is a tad different to the average as it turns out, with a couple of seldom-seen features.
First up, and most obvious, is the terrain. It has height. If you shoot from down low and there’s a mountain in front of you, your lasers will simply go into the side of the mountain instead of hitting whatever’s on top, and this is because you’re on the ground, not flying above it like most shooters. Additionally, sometimes the terrain stops and while it’s not visually obvious that you’re going over something lethal, your death soon makes that clear and you don’t make the same mistake again. This adds to the challenge no doubt, but I’m not sure it’s that big a deal beyond being a nice bullet point on the back of the box and a nice challenge for the programmers. It looks cool though. To get around this problem, if you have a mountain between you and a big threat, you can use a missile, but of course you have a limited supply.
That brings me to another unusual feature. Ammo is limited. I can’t remember the last time I saw that in a vertical shooter. I discovered this at about the same time I discovered that holding down fire would autofire (unusual for the time – why do you think joysticks with autofire switches were so popular?). Autofire is rapid, and will drain your ammo fast. And then you’re a sitting duck (goose surely).
Luckily there are ways to collect fuel, ammo and shield energy. Scattered through the level are coloured blobs corresponding to the colour of each meter. Additionally, there are tunnels which allow you to top up fuel and ammo.
The refuelling minigame requires use of momentup to get up the walls to catch the pods – so like a swing you go left, then right, then left to get higher up the walls, until you can get what you want. Of course if you speed up you can get more swing, but it also becomes harder to catch the pods.
Overall and the graphics aren’t bad for this stage in the ST’s development (not as smooth as some later games but overall decent enough). Sound is the usual warbly chiptune, not particularly memorable and you do at least have the option of turning it off if you really hate it.
There are some nice ideas, but it is a bit basic, and a lot of the ‘challenge’ is more to do with not being able to see far enough ahead due to being in too close to the action, and poor signposting, than it is to do with the scarcity or the terrain itself. I do consider that the game has something to teach in terms of game design however – if you’re learning to make games this might be a good second step after your first vertical shooter.