ST/Amiga Format Issue 4

Issue 4 – Download

The World in September 1988

After a lacklustre issue 3 we arrive at the far-more-promising issue 4. Indeed I had trouble choosing what to review, not because there was too little quality (see last week) but because there was simply too much. The October issue, arriving in September, saw the magazine delve into the 68000 line of chips, responsible for powering the Atari ST, the Amiga, and the Mega Drive, with only the SNES choosing a different part among the major 16-bit players. The 68000 also found its way into arcades and into Apple’s hardware (indeed Atari had to change the menus in GEM to avoid being sued by Apple for being a bit too similar).

Before getting to the games I want to briefly cover one serious package reviewed.

This is an ad for STOS, which appeared in the same issue as the review, below. Was the score influenced by the ad? Who knows. What I do know is that I acquired STOS free with an ST Format cover disk about 4 years later.

I was about 7 years old when I first got an Amstrad CPC 464, an old crappy 8-bit with 64Kb of memory. It had basic, and you’d get the listings in the magazines of the day. I’d type them out, get it working, be dissatisfied with it and tweak it and make it more to my liking. Little did I know that was what I’d be doing for the rest of my life. Fast forward to 1992 where I got GFA Basic also free with ST format and began making games and serious software (art packages, music software, etc). GFA basic lacked gaming chops though – moving sprites around was painfully slow and while I was making some sort of game, they were running at 3 frames per second on single-colour backgrounds and the platforms were sprites because I had no idea background tiling was a thing.

Another year later STOS turned up on an ST Format cover disk. It came with the compiler (which I think came a little later) and a bunch of utilities so I think what I got was a little better than what ST Format reviewed. I had an absolute blast with it and the quality of my output improved dramatically. It wasn’t exactly commercial-quality stuff but it did the job and I learned a lot working with it.

While it didn’t have much impact on the commercial scene, with only Baby Jo coming out fairly late in the ST’s life, STOS was a big factor in the Public Domain scene, unlocking so much creative talent that might have otherwise been wasted. Later AMOS would come to the Amiga, though while its featureset was superior its impact would be lesser – partly a product of coming later in the machine’s life. STOS, in my opinion, paved the way for modern tools like Game Maker, Unity, etc.

Back to the games…
Among the previews we find something of a mixed bag, with greatly-lauded games like BAT and Elite mixed in with the oddity that is Battle Chess and the dross that is Spittting Image.

Moving to the reviews, we have a decent selection, but then they tease us by telling us about the games that didn’t make it. I know little of Bubble Ghost, Streetfighter 1, Impossible Mission 2, Vixen, Tanglewood and Bermuda Project. The most important bit is that we miss out on Nebulus (aka Tower Toppler). That for me is fucking criminal. I will be reviewing Nebulus because missing it was a travesty. The following games did make it into the magazine:

– Starglider 2 (Space exploration – Rainbird – £24.95 – 95% Format Gold)
– Federation Of Free Traders (Elite clone – Gremlin Graphics [of Lotus Challenge fame] – £29.95 – 85% Format Gold)
– Eliminator (same dev as Nebulus) – Racey shooty thing – Hewson – £19.99 – 70%)
– Vectorball (Sports thingy – Mastertronic [budget label] – £14.95 – 63%)
– Carrier Command (Rainbird – £24.95 – 85% but not apparently a Format Gold) – reviewing the Amiga version
– Hostages (Jerky run and gun – Infrogrames – £24.95 – 78%)
– Starray (Defender clone – Logotron – £24.95 – 79%)
– Summer Olympiad (Olympics knock-off – Tynesoft – £19.95 – 77%)

These are the games I’ll be reviewing with reasons for my choice:

Nebulus

This game came with my Atari ST and honestly the moment I saw that tower it absolutely blew me away. It was the moment when my jaw dropped to the floor at something so comprehensively better than anything I’d played before on my old Amstrad. The fact that the game was super-tough but insanely addictive was.. ah but let’s not spoil the review.

Starglider 2

Starglider 1 came with my ST I think, and I wasn’t enormously enamoured with it, but Starglider 2 seems so highly regarded by fans that I ought to give it a shot.

Carrier Command

I never played this back in the day but it seems so ambitious for its day and on that basis I really should give it a go. I sense that it’ll be one that requires a bit of effort to review so it may not be super-quick in turning up.

Summer Olympiad

I never played this, but I did play its predecessor, Winter Olympiad. It was a budget release at the time and I had a blast with it. The graphics were smooth and well-drawn and the gameplay more fun than you might expect, so it’s only right that I should give its sequel a try, even if its choice of sports is somewhat eclectic. I reckon I might also cover the prequel briefly just for fun as a bonus.

So – 4 full reviews after 1 full review and a couple of half-reviews. This issue is really a big step up. Likely this is my last big post for this week in this thread but I’ll be preparing content through the week and next weekend so hopefully I’ll get some reviews up in a reasonable time.

If there’s something you’d like me to focus more on, if there’s something I’m missing, or if I’m just plain wrong about a game you love, let me know.

Reviews this month

Review: Starglider 2

Starglider 2 When I first got my Atari ST, it came with Starglider 1, which had the absolutely fantastic theme music when it loaded (see video below), and an absolutely gorgeous bit of art on the loading screen. The game however was a bit of a disappointment, wireframe graphics just didn’t do it for me.…More

Review: Summer Olympiad

Summer Olympiad This is someone else’s video – they played it so you don’t have to. In 1988 the Olympics visited the South Korean city of Seoul, and in the best tradition of the late 80s and early 90s, a million cash-in games were released, just as they would be for world cups and european…More

Review: Nebulus

Nebulus Time to correct a travesty of justice, ST/Amiga Format not reviewing Nebulus. On Christmas Day 1989, 9-year-old me got a hell of a surprise. There was a bloody big box in some wrapping paper. Being a greedy shit like most kids, I ripped the packaging off and found this beast. I was absolutely delighted…More

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