ST Format Review
For this review I’m using Automation’s Menu 181, on Steem with a 1MB STFM and TOS 1.0.
After a lovely Automation intro screen (not strictly part of the game but who cares) we get to a start screen that weirdly requires you to move your pointer around with your joystick, without it ever being entirely clear what any of the icons does. Anyway, I clicked one and the game started.
The game is insanely pretty. The huge sprites and incredibly detailed backdrops laden with colour are really quite impressive, far beyond the standard of the time, though sadly frame rates take quite a hit as you’d expect. I might have expected a port to the Amiga to run faster but googling suggests no such port exists, which perhaps was a missed opportunity. There isn’t any scrolling as such, it’s more a flip screen with an animated transition. I suspect part of the reason for the flip-screen approach is the remarkable graphical detail.
The gameplay is standard platform fare where you run, jump and hit things with your hammer. Unfortunately someone seems to have forgotten to ship a game with this tech demo. The hammer just passes through things and eventually the enemies die, but with little feedback and no feeling of connection. Jumps are, once launched, set on their trajectory, and they are unsatisfying. We’ve all come to expect better jumping from Mario et al but even on the Atari ST in those days there were platformers with better jumping mechanics.
The lush graphics are not without cost, aside from the frame rate. It’s clear the developers wanted to show off, and they did so admirably, but the huge sprite makes it impossible to see much of the level, and this combined with the poor jumping mechanic means you don’t have particularly exciting or taxing platforming, just simple jumps and the avoidance of slow-moving objects.
Navigation is tricky – while there are signs indicating money in one direction and some scales in another (maybe justice?) it doesn’t seem to really ever get anywhere. In the end, the game is deeply unsatisfying.
Overall this feels like a wonderful showcase of a developer’s talent, but one which is unsatisfyingly empty in its execution. Not one I can recommend sadly.