ST Format Issue 7 – Download
The World in January 1990
In the UK Labour had amassed a 12-point lead over the Tories which put mounting pressure on Thatcher’s government. In many ways Labour blew their wad a bit too early as the Tories would retain power for a further 7 years, but I’ll save the spoilers – suffice to say the year would get quite interesting politically in the UK. We also had a hurricane, not quite on the level of the great storm of 1987. Overall January was a quiet month in the UK though, with not much happening.
In US news, Manuel Noriega surrendered to US forces, Time Inc and Warner Communication merged to form Time Warner, and Douglas Wilder became America’s first black governor in Richmond, Virginia. The skipper of the Exxon Valdez (of the famous oil spill) went on trial for negligence. Meanwhile George Bush made his first State Of The Union address, proposing the US and USSR make deep cuts to their militaries. McDonalds opened in Moscow.
Elsewhere in the world Poland withdrew from the Warsaw Pact and began abolishing state socialism. Bulgaria’s national assembly voted to end single-party rule by its communist party. Similar happened in Yugoslavia. The pace of this change was, in retrospect, astounding. It does show that once a collapse starts, it can move very very rapidly, and that is something we in the west should be aware of.
The first internet access companies for commercial users started selling access in the US and Holland – the internet was still several years away from becoming mainstream – I wouldn’t get to use it for another 6 years (and that was on the single connected machine at school).
On TV Mr Bean made his debut on ITV, sadly he would never be funny. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles made its debut on BBC1, and Baywatch made its debut on ITV. Tissue sales soared.
The film charts saw Parenthood with Steve Martin at #1, and Turner & Hooch at #2, as Back To The Future 2 remained a huge hit at #3. Kylie Minogue’s The Delinquents featured at #4 but I’ve never heard of it, and the other new entries are something of a mystery.
The album chart sees Phil Collins at #1, followed by Kylie, Jive Bunny, Tina Turner and Jason Donovan. A very 80s chart to open the 90s.
The singles chart saw New Kids On The Block at #1 with Hangin Tough while Kylie had a new entry at #2 but there was some hope with the 49ers at #3 with Touch Me and Mantronix at #4 with Got To Have Your Love showing the ongoing rise of dance music, with D-Mob at 7 also putting in an appearance, along with the fantastic Got To Get by Rob N Raz ft Leila K.
Issue 7 came out in January 1990 (yes it’s called the February edition but you know how these things work). The cover theme is digitisers, while the coverdisk has a game called Skate Tribe which I’ve honestly never heard of. Digging deeper it seems to be a full game created in STOS and given to ST Format by Mandarin. I might have to give it a test for shits and giggles. More interestingly there’s a section on multiplayer gaming using RS232 with a brief section on connecting via modem, which was quite a feat when you consider 300 baud modems were the standard of the day (that’s 300 bits per second – just under 40 bytes per second in other words). I’m not sure how you send enough data to keep games in sync in that scenario but frankly it’s impressive that anything worked at all. Obviously the games that work best are slower more tactical games like Populous. For me, remote play is all well and good, there are wonderful things about it like (in the modern era) finding yourself on track with Max Verstappen or Rubens Barricello on iRacing, but at the same time there’s really no substitue for being in the same room as the other guy, be it co-op or vs, with the gentle abuse that comes with it. The ST didn’t entirely lend itself to that because not many games were designed that way, but also because of the god-awful decision to have the two joystick ports under the machine, with one serving as the mouse port, and the problem that swapping too much would lead to the solder separating on the motherboard.
In the news we see that STOS is among many applications which don’t work on the STE, though a patch was on its way. It seems a lot of software simply didn’t work on the STE, and while the news article doesn’t say this, it’s because a lot of coders used undocumented tricks to get more out of the hardware, which the STE didn’t necessarily allow (because Atari simply hadn’t considered those things). In truth, backwards compatibility was harder in those days, as there was less communication between developers and hardware manufacturers and things tended to be less documented.
In more positive news, the STacy (the ST laptop) finally made its way into shops. A big heavy beast of a thing, it was more of a portable ST than a laptop, in that the battery didn’t really have the grunt to get useful work done. The Stacy 1 was a 1MB machine with a floppy drive at just under £1k, while the Stacy 2 had a 20MB HD and 2MB RAM at £1299 and the 4 had 40MB/4MB at £1799. Expensive as fuck.
There’s an interesting reveal that Delphine had put in some STE sound magic in Future Wars and not bothered to tell their publishers – I might give that a try to see if it’s true. I might also switch up my review spec from STFM to STE fairly soon.
One thing that might prove to be of interest to some is the C tutorial – it starts in issue 7 and runs for a few more issues after that, and given the older machines are simpler it might be a nice place to start learning C for some people. The Desktop section is also pretty interesting in that it goes in-depth into things like image file formats, something pretty hardcore that you’d never see in a modern computer magazine, and certainly not on the net outside of specialist technical locations.
I notice a bit of a theme in Gamebusters, where many of the games in the Power Pack are covered. One could speculate that it’s to shorten the life of those games and stimulate spending but that would imply Atari being bright enough to think of that and ask ST Format to do that.
Previews this month feature a fun selection. There’s Grimblood about which I know nothing, there’s Hunter Killer which is a submarine game I spent hours trying to make some fucking sense of as a kid after getting it on budget or a compilation or something of that ilk, there’s BAT which had a remarkable reputation but never persuaded me to part with my cash. Theme Park Mystery gets a mention – a game I was definitely curious about but again it didn’t quite get my cash (in part because I had very little – in those days games were much more expensive than now, and I was a kid with no money).
Gravity is an interesting-looking game which could be brilliant but is more likely to be shit. Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters looked like a fun little arcade conversion, Starflight looked not especially interesting, and then there was the Bitmaps oddest game, Cadaver, which I loved the demo of, and can’t wait to try out the full game.
Games reviewed this month:
Chase HQ (Racing Game With Guns – Ocean – £19.99 – 71%)
The Seven Gates Of Jambala (Platformer – Grandslam – £24.99 – 78%)
P-47 Thunderbolt (Shooter – Firebird – £24.99 – 67%)
Twinworld (Platformer – Ubisoft – £19.99 – 69%)
Ghostbusters 2 (Movie Tie-In – Activision – £19.99 – 62%)
Iron Lord (RPG/Strategy – Ubisoft – £24.99 – 90% Format Gold)
The Untouchables (Movie Tie-In Mini-games – Ocean – £19.99 – 81%)
Beach Volley (Volleyball – Ocean – £19.99 – 62%)
Time (Adventure – Empire – £24.95 – 79%)
North And South (Strategy – Infogrames – £24.99 – 58%)
Kenny Dalglish Soccer Match (Football – Impressions – £19.99 – 32%)
Warp (Shooter – Grandslam – £19.99 – 20%)
Star Wrek (Adventure – Castlesoft – £19.95 – 15%)
So among those I’d definitely like to review Chase HQ as I really wanted it as a kid but never got round to buying it, while the masochist in me wants to see if Warp and Star Wrek are as bad as the scores indicate. Possibly a look at Ghostbusters 2 and Untouchables might be in order. Iron Lord I’ll probably have a look to see if I can get a review out of it, though I don’t want to do it an injustice given it’s not really my area. Finally I’ll hunt down the STF 7 cover disk to give the free game on it (Skate Tribe) a shot.
Reviews This Month
Untouchables ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. This game got a release on an Automation disk – menu #223. We get treated to some tits. Thanks guys, I’d say that makes this the best menu yet. The music is shit but who cares, we…
Ghostbusters 2 ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. This game got a release on an Automation disk – menu #442. That seems quite late vs the other games in this issue so the question is was it delayed because they couldn’t be bothered because…
Warp ST Format ReviewSee previous post My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. This game got a release on an Automation disk – menu #285. This menu features lots of wibbly text, and it takes some doing to figure out the buttons to get each game, but I…
Star WrekNo box available ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 instead of my usual 1.04 (which only works on STs). This didn’t have a scene release but thankfully exists at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-star-wrek-the-voyage-of-ussless_11381.html. Star Wrek got 15% which is the lowest score I can remember seeing in…
Chase HQ Before we go any further can we all just agree that this is one of the best bits of box art ever? It made me want the damn game. ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM (tried an STE but it did not go…
Skate TribeNo Box Image ST Format ReviewNo ST Format Review My Review So this one’s a little bit different. This is a game that came free with ST Format issue 7, made in STOS. It doesn’t seem to have had a commercial release, having come 2nd in a competition. Let’s see if it’s any good.…