Review: Rock Star Ate My Hamster (Atari ST)

ST Format Review

My Review

Equipment:
MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62
– Automation Menu Disk 242
– Keyboard



Rock Star Ate My Hamster is a very simple management game, about managing a band with the goal of making a shedload of cash. Strictly speaking including it here is a bit of a cheat as it’s actually quite a bit older than this, but as its original release predates ST/Amiga Format this cheat allows me to review the game.



For those unaware, the mechanics are pretty simple. Each game turn represents one day, in which you might arrange a publicity stunt (which leads to a mock-up newspaper representing success or failure – tits or death is failure)…



… have your band practice or perform at gigs, among other activities. What then follows is that your gigs will get different audiences depending on how successful the practice and publicity stunts were.



Similar loops exist around releasing singles and albums. In many ways the formula is quite similar to the modern Kairosoft games like Game Dev Story, with Rock Star being a distant great grandparent to those simple but surprisingly addictive little mobile games.



Now mechanically that might sound quite dull, it ultimately boils down to poking a random number generator and watching numbers go up, just like those Kairosoft games. However, what elevates it above mediocrity is that the game is loaded with charm, and more than most it carries a fair bit of nostalgia due to having send-ups of famous singers of the era, with Maradonna replacing Madonna, Wacky Jacko replacing Michael Jackson, Bimbo Baggins replacing Kylie Minogue, Rick Ghastley replacing Rick Astley, Jason Doner-Kebab replacing Jason Donovan (made funnier by Bristol’s infamous Jason Donner-van where you can get a kebab.. assuming it comes back after the ‘rona) and Stiff Pilchards replacing Cliff Richard. Each is accompanied by a grotesque cartoon depiction.



Graphically, the game isn’t especially demanding of the ST but it is presented with considerable charm. On the audio front, there’s a lot of sampled sound used, putting it a cut above much of what you’d typically find on the ST – little snippets of music to represent practicing, etc. It all adds to the atmosphere.

The Verdict
Rock Star is a charming little game, albeit one whos 8-bit origins are clear for all to see. It’s effectively menu-driven,

Resources
Manual: https://worldofspectrum.org//pub/sinclair/games-info/r/RockStarAteMyHamster.pdf

Amiga Addict Issue 3 Is Out

So I just want to put out a heads-up that the utterly wonderful Amiga Addict magazine have their third issue out. Post isn’t til March 7th and I presume the digital download will appear around the same time, but you can pre-order at the link below.

https://shop.amiga-addict.com/amiga-addict-magazine

The first two issues were brilliant, covering the Amiga scene, talking to legends from the Amiga’s long history, and covering some of the wonderful games, new and old, on that fantastic platform. The staff are knowledgeable and passionate about games and technology, something of a throwback to that golden age, and they’re doing awesome work.

The Amiga was an absolute beast of a machine, so go get that mag, get a MiSTer box (or fire up WinUAE, or if you’re really flush with cash get an Amiga) and show it some love.

ST Format Issue 17 (Nov 90)

ST Format Issue 17 – Download

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The World in November 1990
In UK news Geoffrey Howe resigned from the government over its European policy. Nobody noticed, even after a resignation speech which was like being savaged by a wet lettuce. Sky and BSB merged, but was still known as Sky – I’m pretty sure that’s usually called a take-over. Arsenal and Man Utd were docked points for a mass brawl. Michael Heseltine announced his intention to stand against Margaret Thatcher, the beginning of the end of her decade-long misrule. After failing to win an outright majority in the first round, she resigns paving the way for John Major to become Prime Minister (defeating Douglas Herd and Michael Heseltine). If only Theresa May had proved as easy to dislodge. It would take the Tories years to properly get over Thatcher, and her legacy would taint the Tories as the nasty party for decades, but it’s worth noting that she arrived into the job in a country which could not compete industrially due to union intransigence and transformed the economy into a modern one which could take on the world, for better or worse.

The US news George Bush, having promised no new taxes, proceeded to deliver new taxes. The UN passed resolution 678 authorising use of military intervention to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Elsewhere in the world the first World Wide Web page was written. In more positive news, the SNES was released in Japan. It would become one of the greatest gaming machines ever created.

On TV The Word was moved from 6pm to a late night timeslot allowing it to become more risque. In more serious news the Broadcasting Act 1990 deregulated British commercial broadcasting and set out terms for a 5th terrestrial TV channel. The new channel would require millions of VCRs to be re-tuned. Harry Enfield’s TV Programme made its debut on BBC2 – it would run for 8 years, being funny in 2 of them.

The film charts see Flatliners at #1 with Ghost at #2. More positively Goodfellas is at #5 and for the kids you’ve got The Little Mermaid at #6. There’s a version of The Handmaid’s Tale at #11.

The album chart has a top 3 consisting of greatest hits albums. To be fair, The Immaculate Collection is one hell of a greatest hits album, but it shows where the chart is. With the Three Tenors at #5, more greatest hits at 6 and 8, it’s a pretty moribund chart.

The singles chart isn’t much better with Unchained Melody at #1 and a god-awful version of Fog On The Tyne by Gazza at #2. There is better music in the charts with Kim Appleby at #3 with Don’t Worry (her first single since the death from cancer of sister Mel – the other half of Mel And Kim), amd The Beautiful South with A Little Time. Black Box have a more chilled song than their usual with Fantasy, while Kylie does what she does best with Step Back In Time. Paul Simon is slowly slipping out of the charts at 16 with The Obvious Child.

The Magazine

Issue 17 is another bumper issue, as we come to the run in for the Atari ST’s best Christmas. 50 games reviewed in one issue – the focus is clear, this issue is all about games. 220 pages is still some way short of Amiga Format’s 284 page monster, though there are fewer game reviews.

The news section teases something quite extroadinary – the ST Transputer. The transputer promised, for the price of a printer, to offer 15-20x the speed of an ST and a 16m colour palette. It seems that it was vapourware as the only transputer I can find mention of online is the Atari Transputer Workstation which matches up with one mentioned in the article. While the ATW is a standalone box this seems to be about a device you can plug into your ST to give it transputer-level power.

Atari’s strategy got only more confused, with the 520 STE being discontinued as the 520STFM was to become the base machine with the 1040STE the next machine up. Atari really never got the STE right, and shifting more STFMs simply ensured that no support for the STE’s limited enhancements would ever emerge.

This issue is the first of many double-disk issues – and while most would offer free productivity software, this is the first (and last) to offer a free commercial game. It seems there was an agreement later among the magazine companies to stop doing that as it both devalued the games and the written content of the magazines. Luckily in this case it did neither as Interphase is shit. The main disk was more mundane with a demo of Captive which for some reason just never grabbed me like Dungeon Master did, plus a replacement for the ST’s file selector dialog, a disk formatter and a sliding blocks puzzle with a picture of Bugs Bunny.

We get a hard drive round up, where £300 gets you a 20mb hard drive while £500 gets you 40mb. Alternatively you could have a rewritable optical drive for £3200 with the 600mb cartridges coming in at £250 each. We also get a feature on cheap 9-pin dot matrix printers (this referred to the number of pins on the print head, not on the lead). I had a dot matrix back in the day and the noise it made was quite extraordinary, it’s a wonder I didn’t add deafness to the near blindness my Atari ST induced in me.


Previews
The previews are pretty good this month. Toylota Celica GT Rally was a brilliant game, I look forward to playing it. Nightshift is a fun little platformer that looked fun at the time, I’ll try to get some time with that. Robocop 2 and Teenage Mutant Hero/Ninja Turtles add to the pile of terrible film tie-ins and Chase HQ 2 is there to show us how bad the ST is at arcade conversions. More film conversion capers with Total Recall and Dick Tracy – by the way all four film tie-ins mentioned so far include some element of side scrolling shoot/beat-em-up. What a surprise. There is one game offering something different – Killing Cloud. I never played it so I’m looking forward to giving it a look. Finally, Gazza gets his own football game. Again.

We get a large preview for Deuteros, a game of remarkable prettiness but which had next to no appeal to me personally – if anyone fancies reviewing it I’d be delighted to hear from you when we get there.


ST Game Charts

F-19 Stealth Fighter remains at #1, simply refusing to budge from the top of the chart and quite rightly so – it’s a fantastic game that I spent an obscene amount of time playing as a kid. Honestly it’s the best flight sim ever made. The top 3 is identical to last month with the mediocre Shadow Warriors at #2 and the brilliant Kick Off 2 at 3. While Battle of Britain is a welcome new entry at 4, along with the brilliant Operation Stealth at 6, sadly the god-awful bilge Battlemaster occupies 5 and appalling film tie-in Back To The Future 2 sits at 6. Cadaver and Days Of Thunder make low key entries into the charts at 23 and 24. That Codemasters awful Italia 1990 sits at #3 in the budget charts suggests an awful lot of kids had a truly appalling Christmas in 1990. Genuinely the worst football game ever created. One should not be able to win every match by double-figures without even trying.


Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Spindizzy (Isometric exploration – Activision – £19.99 – 91% Format Gold)
James Pond (Fishy platformer – Millennium – £24.99 – 81%)
Paradroid 90 (Shooter – Hewson – £24.99 – 78%)
Shadow Of The Beast (Side-scrolling exploring beat em up with gorgeous graphics – Psygnosis – £24.99 – 83%)
Gettysburg (Turcan Strategy – Arc – £24.99 – 93% Format Gold)
Voodoo Nightmare (Isometric explorer – Palace – £24.99 – 76%)
Turrican (Side-scrolling platform shooter – Rainbow Arts – £19.99 – 82%)
Dragon Breed (Side-scrolling shooter – Activision – £24.99 – 68%)
Spiderman (Puzzle game [serious] – Empire – £19.99 – 74%)
Strider 2 (Side-scrolling platform shooter – US Gold – £19.99 – 79%)
Ranx (Beat em up – Ubisoft – £24.99 – 70%)
Flip-It & Magnose – Platformer – Imageworks – £24.99 – 72%)
The Spy Who Loved Me (Movie Tie-In Minigame Collection – Domark – £19.99 – 80%)
Chuck Yeager’s AFT (Flight Sim – Electronic Arts – £24.99 – 34%)
Torvak The Warrior (Side-scrolling slasher – Core – £24.99 – 70%)
UN Squadron (Shooter – US Gold – £19.99 – 46%) – Notable for the reviewer moaning about it being problematic
Pick N Pile (Puzzler – Ubisoft – £19.99 – 46%)
Spellbound (Platformer – Psygnosis – £19.99 – 79%)
Atomic Robokid (Shooter – Activision – £24.99 – 82%)
BAT (Adventure – Ubisoft – £34.99 with free sound card – 92% Format Gold)
Legend Of Faerghail (RPG – Rainbow Arts – £29.99 – 90%)
M1 Tank Platoon (Tanks shooting each other – Microprose – £29.99 – 84%)
The Light Corridor (3D pong – Infogrames – £24.99 – 82%)
Blitzkrieg (Strategy – Impressions – £19.95 – 57%)
Fire And Forget 2 (Racing Game With Weapons And Flying – Titus – £19.99 – 48%)
Back To The Gold Age (Side-scrolling slasher – Ubisoft – £24.95 – 57%)
Lost Soul (Text Adventure – MPH Software – £9.95 – 68%)
Badlands Pete (Shooter – Arc – £19.99 – 32%)
Subbuteo (Weird football game – Electronic Zoo – £24.99 – 70%)
Cricket Captain (Cricket strategy – D&H Games – £24.99 – 73%)
Legend Of The Lost (Turd – Impressions – £24.99 – 22%)
Prosoccer 2190 (Future football – Vulture Publishing – £19.99 – 12%)
The Final Conflict (Strategy – Impressions – £24.99 – 75%)
Zombi (Dungeon Game with zombies – Ubisoft – £19.95 – 40%)
Blinky’s Scary School (Platformer – Zeppelin – £9.95 – 70%)
Treasure Island Dizzy (Platformer – Codemasters – £4.99 – 82%)
Rock Star Ate My Hamster (Business Sim – Codemasters – £4.99 – 68%)
Ranarama (Frog exploration – Players – £4.99 – 75%)
World Soccer (Football – Zeppelin – £9.99 – 66%)

As you’d expect when there are 50 games being reviewed (though quite a few of those reviews are compilations) there’s a decent number of interesting games being reviewed. I bit off a little more than I could chew last month, not being able to find enough time to give Mean Streets or Loom a proper go (I’ll come back to them, I promise), but hopefully I’ll do better this month. James Pond is one I had as a kid, a brilliant little platformer with gorgeous graphics and boatloads of charm. Then there’s Shadow Of The Beast – I had the sequel if I recall, so it’ll be fun to look at the original to see if it’s any good – the screenshots look gorgeous. Rock Star Ate My Hamster interests me as it’s an older release being re-released on budget where the original fell outside the ST/Amiga Format and ST Format releases. Turrican I have only played in the form of an ST Format cover disk demo, but I’m aware that its legend has grown over time, while enthusiasts tell me that Paradroid 90 is a must-play. I suspect BAT is one I really should play though I’m not sure how the sound card situation is handled – I suspect it may prove difficult to play properly.

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.

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.

  • Rock Star Ate My Hamster – Automation 242, Flame Of Finland 7, SUperGAU 473, Medway Boys 65
  • Paradroid 90 – Automation 390, SuperGAU 333/371, Medway Boys 91, Superior 149
  • James Pond – Automation 321, DBug 95B, Fuzion 25, Medway Boys 98
  • Shadow Of The Beast – Automation 356, Flame Of Finland 36A/B, Medway Boys 87, SuperGAU 383/4, SuperGAU 785/6, SuperGAU 858
  • Turrican – Automation 448, Flame Of Finalnd 41, Medway Boys 90, Pompey Pirates 53, SuperGAU 791, Vectronix 757
  • BAT – http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-bat-bureau-of-astral-troubleshooters_23556.html – not sure if this one will work

Reviews This Month

Review: Turrican 1 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 17) Equipment Used/Recommended MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 – you can replicate this with the Steem emulator. Any of Automation 448, Flame Of Finalnd 41, Medway Boys 90, Pompey Pirates 53, SuperGAU 791, Vectronix 757 Speedlink USB Joystick – MiSTer box running…More

Review: Shadow Of The Beast (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (issue 17) My Review Equipment MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 Automation Menu Disk 356 / Flame Of Finland 26A/B, Medway Boys 87 Speedlink USB Joystick If you’re reading this website then it’s very likely you already know about Shadow Of The Beast –…More

Review: Paradroid ’90 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (issue 17) My Review Equipment MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 Automation Menu Disk 390 / Medway Boys 91 Speedlink USB Joystick In 1985 Hewson (of Nebulus fame – one of my all-time favourites) released Paradroid on the Commodore 64 to massive acclaim. It…More

Review: James Pond (Atari ST)

ST Format Review My Review Welcome to another games review in the ST Format challenge. Today we’re taking a review from ST Format Issue 17. Equipment MiSTer box running the Atari ST Core – 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 Automation Menu Disk 321 Speedlink USB Joystick We now find ourselves in the territory of games…More

Review: Rock Star Ate My Hamster (Atari ST)

ST Format Review My Review Equipment:– MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62– Automation Menu Disk 242– Keyboard Rock Star Ate My Hamster is a very simple management game, about managing a band with the goal of making a shedload of cash. Strictly speaking including it here is…More

November 1990

The World in November 1990
In UK news Geoffrey Howe resigned from the government over its European policy. Nobody noticed, even after a resignation speech which was like being savaged by a wet lettuce. Sky and BSB merged, but was still known as Sky – I’m pretty sure that’s usually called a take-over. Arsenal and Man Utd were docked points for a mass brawl. Michael Heseltine announced his intention to stand against Margaret Thatcher, the beginning of the end of her decade-long misrule. After failing to win an outright majority in the first round, she resigns paving the way for John Major to become Prime Minister (defeating Douglas Herd and Michael Heseltine). If only Theresa May had proved as easy to dislodge. It would take the Tories years to properly get over Thatcher, and her legacy would taint the Tories as the nasty party for decades, but it’s worth noting that she arrived into the job in a country which could not compete industrially due to union intransigence and transformed the economy into a modern one which could take on the world, for better or worse.

The US news George Bush, having promised no new taxes, proceeded to deliver new taxes. The UN passed resolution 678 authorising use of military intervention to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Elsewhere in the world the first World Wide Web page was written. In more positive news, the SNES was released in Japan. It would become one of the greatest gaming machines ever created.

On TV The Word was moved from 6pm to a late night timeslot allowing it to become more risque. In more serious news the Broadcasting Act 1990 deregulated British commercial broadcasting and set out terms for a 5th terrestrial TV channel. The new channel would require millions of VCRs to be re-tuned. Harry Enfield’s TV Programme made its debut on BBC2 – it would run for 8 years, being funny in 2 of them.

The film charts see Flatliners at #1 with Ghost at #2. More positively Goodfellas is at #5 and for the kids you’ve got The Little Mermaid at #6. There’s a version of The Handmaid’s Tale at #11.

The album chart has a top 3 consisting of greatest hits albums. To be fair, The Immaculate Collection is one hell of a greatest hits album, but it shows where the chart is. With the Three Tenors at #5, more greatest hits at 6 and 8, it’s a pretty moribund chart.

The singles chart isn’t much better with Unchained Melody at #1 and a god-awful version of Fog On The Tyne by Gazza at #2. There is better music in the charts with Kim Appleby at #3 with Don’t Worry (her first single since the death from cancer of sister Mel – the other half of Mel And Kim), amd The Beautiful South with A Little Time. Black Box have a more chilled song than their usual with Fantasy, while Kylie does what she does best with Step Back In Time. Paul Simon is slowly slipping out of the charts at 16 with The Obvious Child.

This Month’s Magazines

Mad Professor Mariarti (Atari ST)

Reviewed on MiSTer box running an Atari STE with 1MB RAM and TOS 1.62. I used Automation menu 343 but it’s also available on Flame Of Finland 37, Medway Boys 84 and Vectronix 805 and 881.

So I had intended my next review to be Loom, and that is coming, but having just got the new domain up and running and noting that we were in October 1990, I saw an opportunity to cover something a little more personal, a game ST Format never bothered to review (there was a brief paragraph in the news section at some point but that’s it) but which somehow ended up in my collection somewhere in the early 90s.

On the face of it, Mad Professor Mariarti is a fairly simple platform game. It was released by Krisalis who are otherwise known on the ST for some mediocre football games, Rogue Trooper and a squash game. Its developer (Shaun Hollingsworth) previously made Pac-Mania and Toobin but has no other significant ST credits, while graphics artist Dave Colledge mostly worked on things for Krisalis. All of that screams mediocrity, there’s no reason for anything outstanding to come from them. And yet, for me, it did.

My love for the game is probably as much personal as much as it is for the game itself. Maybe it wouldn’t have grabbed my attention quite so much without that personal connection, but it’s there and I can’t write with honesty if I skirt the issue. Growing up was shit. My dad was a drunk who solved his problems with his fists. He also had frequent issues with drugs, as well as the odd legal run-in. The end result of this was that much of my childhood was focused on keeping out of the way to avoid his drunken mood swings. My Atari ST was my escape from a real world which was frequently miserable, with school often little better. Quite how I ended up with one is anyone’s guess, given his loathing of me – fuelled as much by the drink as by the disappointment that at 11 I had yet to get anyone pregnant or steal a car.

Mad Professor Mariarti was part of that escape from reality, and yet it was more. It was one of two games (the other was Mouse Trap – a game which is quite clearly shit but for some reason is also compulsive) which managed to get some level of human interaction and communication with my dad – a bit of ribbing about missing the jump or getting stupidly killed, figuring out the puzzles, and actually working together to solve a problem. No, there was no two player mode, but we’d gather around the Atari ST and the crappy portable TV and that would be our interaction, taking it in turns to die.

It’s actually quite an unusual game in some ways as while it is notionally a platform game it borrows more of its structure from adventure games than something like the Mario games. The platforming itself is fairly routine with each flip-screen only containing a handful of jumps and platforms. That platforming is hampered by a mediocre jumping mechanic – where many platform games allow some mid-air movement despite the laws of physics as a means to allow the player to vary the length and height of their jump, MPM gives you a fixed trajectory. This has its issues but you soon learn to work around them and they do have the benefit of making some routes uni-directional – platforms where you might drop from one to the next on the way down cannot be navigated on the way up if they’re too close together and narrow. In general the platforming is not particularly fiddly, never asking you to deal with moving platforms and rarely expecting you to negotiate tiny platforms, because that’s not where the game’s focus lies. Movement is simply a means to get from place to place in MPM where in the Mario games the movement is the goal in itself, the joy comes from making those jumps from moving platform to moving platform while avoiding mobile enemies. Instead, the emphasis is on exploration and puzzle solving. Let me explain.

One of the puzzles sees a massive speaker behind which lies a switch to shut down the laboratory and complete the level. To reach it you need ear protectors. To get to them, you need to drop down from a conveyor belt, but it’s stopped. If you try to jump while it’s stopped you’ll miss the platform on which the headphones are located. So you see the machine powering the conveyor belt and it’s missing something. In this case, it’s missing a microchip, but there aren’t any microchips around. However, there is some sand. So you go find a bucket of sand and pour it into a vacuum chamber, where it becomes a microchip. However, to get to it, you need to find a diver’s helmet to get into that chamber. Now you can retrieve the microchip, fire up the conveyor belt, get the ear protectors to get past the speaker and shut the level down. Another level sees you looking for milk and cereal to put into a microwave to make a meal hot enough for you to go into space. It’s silly logic, no doubt, but it’s fun.

That fun extends to the design of the enemies which is absolutely wonderful. One level is computer-themed so you find yourself dealing with joysticks, floppy disks and mice walking around. Another is science-themed so you have flasks on legs and walking molecules. Another is biologically themed. Each area has enemies themed for its environment, and the environment itself decorated to match that theme. Now the enemies are simple patrollers walking back and forth between points, or for others flying between points, but they look awesome with large detailed beautifully-drawn sprites. Now there’s no jumping on heads (indeed you can’t jump high enough to clear them) so you initially throw spanners at them. There are coins which you can spend at a vending machine to get better projectiles with which to knock out your foes but this offers only temporary reprieve with exploded enemies returining after a set time and stunned enemies waking up.

Music is just chip tune stuff as per most of the ST’s library, and yet it’s remarkably catchy. Or maybe it just sticks in my head due to the memories, who knows. Still, they stick, and they are actually pretty decent. Other than that there’s some basic chip sound effects for firing weapons, etc.

The Verdict

In theory this is just another platform game. On a technical level it’s nothing special – flip-screen platform games aren’t anything new at this point in gaming history and one could argue that perhaps this is a game which owes some debt to the ancient but still brilliant BBC platformer (by this I mean it came out on the BBC micro 8-bit computer, not that it was made by the British Broadcasting Corporation) Imogen. That should be noted as high praise as Imogen is a genuine retro classic, and what both game have in abundance is charm. It’s an impossible thing to quantify, and something increasingly lost in the modern age of corporate cookie-cutters, but MPM had an abundance of it, and that charm is what separates it from the crowd.

Review: International 3D Tennis (Sensible Software)

ST Format Review

My Review

International 3D Tennis is an intensely ugly game. It is absurdly ugly. The players are literally stick figured with triangular bodies and triangles for heads. I shit you not. It’s also very slow, as many 3D polygon games were at that time. In general 3D games were fine for things that didn’t require twitch reflexes, games that were perhaps a bit more simulation-oriented, like F-19 Stealth Fighter or the Midwinter games or Damocles, but you generally didn’t want to use 3D for sports outside of a few rare exceptions. On one hand Geoff Crammond managed it with F1GP, on the other hand you have monstrosities like I Play 3D Soccer.

A bit of background to the game, something I didn’t remember was that this was a Sensible Software game. It seems that this was their last game to be released on the 8-bits, and I have managed to find videos of the game running on the Spectrum and C64. They’re actually pretty admirable efforts, albeit the 3D is in wireframe on the Spectrum and the C64 has a solid court but wireframe net and players. What’s surprising about the C64 version is that the speed the game runs at is actually slightly faster than the ST. The ST is a little more ambitious with filled vectors but it does leave me pondering – is this an impressive effort on the 8-bits or a poor effort on the 16-bits? Note that the ST and Amiga versions are visually identical albeit the ST version runs a little faster due to the ST’s faster CPU, but the Amiga has better sound. While both versions use samples the Amiga’s ones are of higher quality.

I actually had this during my brief spell of owning an Amiga 600 back in something like 1994 or 1995, when the local dodgy computer shop would sell old unlabeled floppy disks which might mysteriously contain something useful. I remember having a good time with it, so it’ll be interesting to see if it holds up.

One quite nice touch if you’re a Brit is that the game opens with quite a nicely-sampled rendition of the music the BBC used to use for their Wimbledon coverage – it really takes me back to the days when we were shit at tennis and didn’t even have Tim Henman to give us false hope, let alone someone as brilliant as Andy Murray.

So back to the point about it being slow and ugly. It’s ugly, and presumably that’s the only way they could get it running as fast as they did. Looking through the Sensible Software catalog I don’t think they did any other vector 3D games – indeed their next game with any 3D in it was Sensible Soccer 98 which as far as I know went down like a cup of cold sick. I get the feeling they never really got to grips with 3D though it’s hard to guage the performance of Sensi 98 without being able to get my hands on typical hardware of that time.

Now this is where it gets weird. After moaning about Days Of Thunder being slow, I’m going to tell you that International 3D Tennis being slow is a good thing, and you’re going to call me a hypocrite. So here’s a thing – driving a fast car around an oval, actually isn’t too hard in the scheme of things, provided you know what speed you can get away with on the corner. You have control over speed and direction, and the walls aren’t moving, so it’s within the capabilities of most people to navigate not necessarily at the same speed as the pros but you could probably jump into a race car and feel comfortable enough doing 180mph instead of 200 at Daytona. Tennis is a different matter entirely.

Let’s take the current world number 1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic. The fastest serve he ever hit was 136mph (219km/h for you Europeans). His career average is 114.5mph. That is clearly slower than a racing car. However, that is a small object moving at that speed at an unknown trajectory. If you were to get on a tennis court with him you would not even get near the ball, and if you did the ball would either hit you and you’d be in agony, or it would bounce off the racket and you’d have no control over where it went. Even the guy at 100 in the world would still be really hard to return. Now compound that with your means of control being a microswitched (and thus digital) joystick with 8 directions and a single fire button. You’ve got to move into position, then time your shot perfectly and finally choose where to send the return shot. You’ve got absolutely zero chance of getting anything back if we don’t slow it down and add some assists. And that’s precisely what the game does. Pro Tennis Tour and Tie Break are fast, so fast that I simply can’t return a damn shot. International 3D Tennis is slow, but slow enough that I can actually return shots. It lets me move my player around the court while the ball’s travelling to my opponent and then when the return is struck it adjusts my position on the court leaving me to focus on timing the return. Tennis needs these assists when playing with just a joystick. Just as Geoff Crammond has assists built into F1GP, so a good tennis game needs some assists to make it playable.

So the question is do those assists work? Well yes they do. Unlike my previous, notably terrible, attempts at reviewing tennis games, I managed to get some rallies in. In a way it’s closer to a game of Pong than being on a tennis court but then again Pong was originally intended to symbolise tennis so that’s fine. The thing is it’s fun. It’s curiously addictive, you get better slowly as is the case with any good sports game, starting out having your arse handed to you and growing in skill to become a better player, progressing further in tournaments and having more fun.

The Verdict


So here’s the thing. I had a lot of fun with this. The match I played to get the screenshots took bloody ages, in part because I lost points trying to get screenshots, but in part because the rallies were lasting a good while and games would often go to deuce with multiple advantages back and forth. Honestly I had a blast. The game is full-featured with a range of tournaments and an enviably complete season mode with pretty decent presentation and progression around that. It works, it feels complete in the way we expect modern sports games to do but which older ones often didn’t. Now that aside, the game’s big feature is that it’s in 3D. It’s in the name. Does it work? Well, it slows the game down so in that regard it does, but the speed of movement of the ball could have been achieved in 2D. Do the extra camera angles bring anything? Honestly, not really. Most tennis on TV focuses on a single shot with good reason – it allows you to understand the play a lot better than any fancy close-up shots or moving the camera around. I ended up picking the closest to that angle that I could, which means the 3D aspect was a gimmick which didn’t serve much purpose. It didn’t even help me to guage where the ball was because rendering a shadow was too expensive, meaning I actually had LESS 3D in a way. The same game with the same controls and the same speed of ball and movement but a superior framerate and better graphics could have been achieved if the game had been 2D. It’s great that they tried something new, I suspect it was a way to learn 3D for future projects which never materialised, but fundamentally it’s a good game which could have been a better game in 2D. Still, International 2D Tennis doesn’t quite have the same ring.

Resources

Manual: https://www.gamesdatabase.org/Media/SYSTEM/Commodore_Amiga/manual/Formated/International_3D_Tennis_-_1990_-_Palace_Software.pdf

Review: Days Of Thunder

ST Format Review

My Review

Days Of Thunder is a brilliant fun film, pure 80s (yeah I know it came out in 1990, but it’s 80s). It’s basically Top Gun with fast cars. What’s not to like? Sadly I never watched it growing up, but I got to watch it later in life and loved it, especially after getting into oval racing courtesy of iRacing. Most of us Brits just don’t see the appeal but oval racing is actually incredible. It’s 200mph chess, such a tactical form of racing with constant tight battles, it’s insane fun in iRacing on laser-scanned tracks in VR with a proper wheel and pedals. Days Of Thunder won’t match that but will it still be fun?

It’s worth noting that these old games can be more accurate than you might expect in many areas. I had a crack at Microprose F1GP recently and was enormously surprised at how accurate Silverstone was (the layout has changed since 1990 but the bits that are still there were impressively on the money with everything where it should be – I’ve driven a Caterham R300 at speed there in real life so I’m reasonably qualified to say that). I don’t know the oval tracks quite as well, but hopefully there will be a similar level of accuracy.

The game features 5 oval tracks, Daytona, Atlanta, Phoenix, Talladega and Charlotte. In real life Atlanta an Charlotte are very similar, fairly standard 1.5 mile ovals. Daytona and Talladega are what’s known as superspeedways, which means they’re really massive and heavily banked to allow the cars to reach well over 200mph, and finally there’s Phoenix which is the shortest at 1 mile but is far from being as nuts as somewhere like Bristol or Iowa. Phoenix has an unusual dog-leg, and in general is a tricky little bastard.

Controls are fairly standard racing game fare for the time, forward to accelerate and backwards to brake, with gears selected by pressing fire and up or down, and steering done by moving the stick left and right. This is a fully-3D game, which means that you can watch the race from a variety of views which you can select with the function keys. With F10 you can see information about your current lap, and return will overlay a race summary.

Sound is restricted to a chip tune intro and uninspired chip burbling for engine noise. Visually we have a simple menu which is quite hard to read with the colourful background, and then go into the game at which point vectors take over. When driving there are some guages and dials on your dashboard which actually move, though I think only the revs and speed actually relate to anything, the others are more for decoration. In a way, the game is quite ambitious for a movie tie-in. It would have been easy to do the standard Outrun-style rolling road with stock cars on ovals, but the developers went full-3D and included different camera angles to give the option of a more cinematic experience. With detail turned up you can get a feel for what the developers were trying to achieve and in all honestly the idea wasn’t bad – a full NASCAR simulator with a movie franchise to help sell it to a wider audience. Not many British kids would have bought NASCAR Simulator ’90, but we would buy the game of the Tom Cruise film. It’s clever marketing.

Unfortunately that ambition doesn’t get us a good game. The cars actually look quite cool in a weird chunky low-poly way, but as we later discover in Microprose F1GP, the Atari ST and Amiga are both capable of better than this – the sluggish frame-rate with really very little in the way of detail, or slightly less sluggish framerate if you set detail to minimum (which makes the game look like it’s running on an old Spectrum) really don’t give a sense of the speed at which NASCAR racing takes place. At no point did I feel like I was doing 200mph at Daytona, and though it is perhaps unfair to expect that of a 1990 sim it does rather fail at its core mission. The track feels tiny which means you lose the tactical pack racing found in real racing, and with so few cars on track vs the real thing you don’t get the chaos that comes with it either. In reality if you’re racing at Daytona you’ve got your foot to the floor the whole way and you’re using the draft to jostle for position, be that side draft or in behind another car, or you’re bump-drafting (getting in the tow behind another car and ramming it to give it some extra speed to help you along) – there’s so much to NASCAR that is simply not covered here, and that’s in part because the tracks just don’t match their real-world counterparts. At Daytona you’re lifting heavily for the corners and have so little room on track that you can’t pass there and yet that’s where so much passing happens in real life. Even the straights don’t help as they’re so narrow.

As a sim it’s clearly trying, even going as far as to have the proper lap behind the pace car to start the race, with everyone having to stay in position as the pace car comes in and the lead car then sets the pace until the green flag. You can make pit-stops to repair your car and change tyres. The problem is that it just doesn’t nail the actual race experience. Even simple things like the difference in pace between cars is way beyond just wrong – in oval racing the differences in laptime between front and back are typically under half a second, and among the front runners you can expect them to be separated by less than a tenth. On the other hand I gapped the field by 4 seconds in qualifying, and even the CPU cars were a second apart.

There are other problems like not knowing where other cars are due to lacking working mirrors (which F1GP managed to get right). Now admittedly in a NASCAR your mirrors aren’t brilliant, but they do exist and can give you some indication of someone being behind you. There’s the option of pressing return to pause the game and see who’s in what position but that only shows lap number, not gap in seconds which might be more useful to know if you’re pulling away or not. Now this was never an issue because the difficulty being so low meant I could fly off into the distance anyway but if they’d got the difficulty right it would have been an issue. There’s little sense of achievement from winning either as it just dumps you into the next race without ceremony.

The Verdict

Days Of Thunder is a refreshing change from the kind of low-effort garbage that the likes of US Gold and Ocean consistently put out for movie tie-ins. Yes it’s absolutely fundamentally flawed, as a racing simulation it has significant structural weaknesses, but consider what we got. We could have had a side-scrolling beat-em-up with Tom Cruise kicking shit out of the other drivers, maybe beating up a car Street Fighter 2 style, or an Outrun rolling road game. The developers shot for the moon but ultimately didn’t have the chops to pull it off. Looking on Mobygames it looks like one of the devs had built the Spectrum version of Hard Drivin’ so perhaps they had an engine lying around and wanted to use it, or maybe they learned from that and wanted to take their skills up a notch with another project. It didn’t quite come off, that’s undeniable, but I’m glad they tried.


Resources
Manual: https://archive.org/details/Screen_Gems_Days_Of_Thunder_Amiga/_Manual_1200dpi

ST Format Issue 16 (Oct 90)

ST Format Issue 16 – Download

The World in October 1990

The World in October 1990
In UK news the pound joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, the precursor to the Euro. This would prove to be a mistake. Women finally got to serve on warships. There was wide acceptance that we would have a recession, though predictions were that it would be short. Tim Berners-Lee began working on creating the World Wide Web – this would prove to be a dreadful mistake.

The US news David Souter joined hte Supreme Court. The Ulysses probe was sent to study the sun. President Bush vetoed a civil rights bill that would have enhanced protection against job discrimination, arguing that it would lead to race and gender quotas – as the Netherlands steps closer to enforcing quotas we see that he was right. Evander Holyfield beat Buster Douglas.

Elsewhere in the world Rwanda entered civil war. East and West Germany officially reunified into a single country, and Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, two events which signalled the end of the dark days of the cold war. In South Africa segregation was eased with transport and public facilities opened to all races.

On TV we saw the debut of the Mary Whitehouse Experience. It was very 90s. Twin Peaks also made its UK TV debut, as did Keeping Up Appearances.

The film charts saw Ghost at #1 for the adults and The Little Mermaid at #2 for the kids, back when gingers were allowed in Disney films. Robocop 2 is a classic at #3.

The album chart sees the Charlatans debut at #1 though it was in the mid-90s during the Britpop movement that they truly shined. Still, The Only One I Know was an awesome song. The rest of the chart.. Status Quo, Michael Bolton and The Shadows. Old people were buying too many fucking albums.

The singles chart saw Maria McKee at #1 with Show Me Heaven which we can blame on Ghost. Status Quo were at #2 with the Anniversary Walktz, oh for fuck’s sake. Bobby Vinton at #3 with Blue Velvet for some reason – I have no idea. More positively at #4 we have The Beautiful South with A Little Time, at #5 we have LondonBeat with I’ve Been Thinking About You and at #6 there’s the Technotronic Megamix. The Pet Shop Boys at #9 with So Hard are also awesome.

The Magazine
Issue 16 came out in October 1990, and is proclaimed as the fattest issue ever, and it’s pretty damn chunky at 180 pages – that said, while this is the ST at the peak of its powers, the same issue of Amiga Format is 244 pages, a sign perhaps that the Amiga was already pulling ahead. The cover isn’t one of their more inspiring ones, focusing on ST productivity. The coverdisk carried a demo of Atomic Robokid, and more interestingly a demo of TCB Tracker (a music program using samples).

The news carried yet another example of Atari’s incompetence – the DMA chip in the new fancy STEs had a fault which could cause the data on a connected hard drive to be wiped. Atari as usual insisted only a small batch of STEs were affected and that it was only third party drives but this blase approach was just typical Atari with the likes of Gasteiner saying it was closer to half of all STEs and affected even Atari drives. The STE was far from an attractive proposition offering a miniscule upgrade over the STFM, incompatibility with many games, and another nail in the coffin, hard drives going kaput. In typical Atari fashion they didn’t provide specification sheets for the DMA interface.

Rumours began to surface of the Atari Panther, a machine with a Motorola 68000 CPU running at 12MHz, a 4096 colour screen from a 16 million palette, with 8-bit 4 channel stereo sound. This may sound interesting in theory, as vapourware as it was, but in reality a faster 68000 CPU would do little to compete with the likes of the Mega Drive, even with more colours, because Atari at no point in their post-ST history managed to come up with a decent chipset to go with the motorola CPU. There’s also a rumour about a machine between the ST and TT codenamed Jaguar – this looks like someone mixing up internal projects – it looks like maybe the Falcon leaked but they ended up getting the Jaguar name which would of course be the console that came out.

We had features on how to run a bulletin board and a shareware library, though some previous issues news reports suggested that perhaps we shouldn’t be letting kids run these kinds of businesses. There’s also a guide to DTP for anyone who wants to write their own newsletter or fanzine. There’s a little guide on how to become a programmer, though I can tell you it’s very very basic and includes no specifics on how to learn any language. We also get a feature on how the ST is used at the BBC in creation of Have I Got News For You.

In software reviews we have the Carebear’s TCB Tracker which gets a 93% Format Gold.


Previews
The preview section has a few mysteries for me – I know very little about Voodoo Nightmare, Mud Sports and Vietnam. Lost Patrol continued to be very exciting for those watching previews due to its digitised stills, promising my young and stupid brain something far beyond what the ST was actually capable of. Dragon Breed looked a dark and brooding shooter (so dark the screenshot was barely visible, while Spiderman looked like another shit film-license platformer. Outlands looks like an isometric adventure but I’d struggle to offer more than that as I know little about it. There’s some French fun with the quirky and insanely pretty adventure BAT and the similarly quirky Ranx from Ubisoft (from when their games weren’t just chasing icons in an open world) while Millennium were offering the brilliant platformer James Pond. We get a big detailed preview for Strider 2, which looks deeply uninteresting.


ST Game Charts

F-19 Stealth Fighter was at #1, that game sold absolutely shitloads of copies, probably because it was fucking brilliant. It’s good to see Rainbow Islands doing so well, as well as Battle Of Britain and Midwinter. However, seeing the utterly wonderful Damocles at #40 in the chart stings.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Team Yankee (Shoot Things With A Tank – Empire – £29.99 – 84%)
BSS Jane Seymour (Dungeon Crawler In Space – Gremlin – £29.99 – 87%)
Fireball (Future sports in 3D – Microprose – £TBA – 70%)
Mean Streets (Detective Game – US Gold – £19.99 – 84%)
Captive (Dungeon Master Sci-Fi – Mindscape – £24.99 – 93%)
Plotting (Puzzle – Ocean – £19.99 – 72%)
Nightbreed – The Interactive Movie (Adventure – Ocean – £24.99 58%)
Loopz (Puzzle – Audiogenic – £19.99 – 58%)
International 3D Tennis (Tennis in 3D – Palace – £24.99 – 88%)
Loom (Adventure – Lucasfilm – £29.99 – 81%)
Ancient Battles (War game – Cases Computers Simulations – £24.95 – 54%)
Gold Of The Aztecs (Run and gun – US Gold – £19.99 – 71%)
Skate Wars (Future sports – Ubisoft – £24.99 – 63%)
Days Of Thunder (Full 3D Nascar Sim – Mindscape – £24.99 – 88%)
Space Rogue (Space Sim – Mindscape – £29.99 – 30%)
Future Basketball (Future Sports Again – Hewson – £24.99 – 81%)
Saint Dragon (Shooter – Sales Curve – £24.99 – 78%)
The Immortal (Isometric action adventure – EA – £24.99 – 87%)
Time Machine (Adventure – Activision – £24.99 – 83%)
Wings Of Death (Shooter – Thalion – £24.99 – 81%)
Hoyle’s Book Of Games (Card Games – Sierra – £34.99 – 73%)
Web Of Terror (Shit game – Impressions – £19.99 – 35%)
Mike Read’s Computer Pop Quiz (Golf Sim – £9.99 – Encore)
A Question Of Sport (Shoot-em-up – £9.99 – Encore)

There are some legitimate stinkers there but the games I can see myself looking at are Mean Streets, International 3D Tennis, Loom and Days Of Thunder. I remember hating the demo of Team Yankee back in the day, and the same goes for Captive, though I recognise that others see them more positively. It might be a review for me to hand over to someone else if there are any volunteers. I played International 3D Tennis on an Amiga 600 and enjoyed it – likely it’ll be faster on the ST. Mean Streets was the first Tex Murphy game and I always wanted to have a crack at it as the film noir thing appealed to me immensely and the art style shown in the review looked pretty cool. Loom is a game I know nothing about other than that a bloke in Monkey Island wants you to ask him about it, and Days Of Thunder (the game) was my first experience of oval racing, something which I’ve taken more of an interest in due to my time spent in iRacing.

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.
– Mean Streets – Automation 393A/B, SuperGAU 492/2, SuperGAU 810/1, Medway Boys 99A/B
– Loom – Automation 463A/B, SuperGAU 349/50, SuperGAU 821/2, Vecrtronix 738-740
– International 3D Tennis – no menu-disk release known – might be a challenge to get. There’s a version at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-international-3d-tennis_10958.html but that requires pasti which is Steem-only.
– Days Of Thunder – Automation 344, Flame of Finland 36A, SuperGAU 858, Vectronix 813

Reviews This Month

Review: International 3D Tennis (Sensible Software)

ST Format Review My Review International 3D Tennis is an intensely ugly game. It is absurdly ugly. The players are literally stick figured with triangular bodies and triangles for heads. I shit you not. It’s also very slow, as many 3D polygon games were at that time. In general 3D games were fine for things…More

Review: Days Of Thunder

ST Format Review My Review Days Of Thunder is a brilliant fun film, pure 80s (yeah I know it came out in 1990, but it’s 80s). It’s basically Top Gun with fast cars. What’s not to like? Sadly I never watched it growing up, but I got to watch it later in life and loved…More

October 1990

The World in October 1990
In UK news the pound joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, the precursor to the Euro. This would prove to be a mistake. Women finally got to serve on warships. There was wide acceptance that we would have a recession, though predictions were that it would be short. Tim Berners-Lee began working on creating the World Wide Web – this would prove to be a dreadful mistake.

The US news David Souter joined hte Supreme Court. The Ulysses probe was sent to study the sun. President Bush vetoed a civil rights bill that would have enhanced protection against job discrimination, arguing that it would lead to race and gender quotas – as the Netherlands steps closer to enforcing quotas we see that he was right. Evander Holyfield beat Buster Douglas.

Elsewhere in the world Rwanda entered civil war. East and West Germany officially reunified into a single country, and Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, two events which signalled the end of the dark days of the cold war. In South Africa segregation was eased with transport and public facilities opened to all races.

On TV we saw the debut of the Mary Whitehouse Experience. It was very 90s. Twin Peaks also made its UK TV debut, as did Keeping Up Appearances.

The film charts saw Ghost at #1 for the adults and The Little Mermaid at #2 for the kids, back when gingers were allowed in Disney films. Robocop 2 is a classic at #3.

The album chart sees the Charlatans debut at #1 though it was in the mid-90s during the Britpop movement that they truly shined. Still, The Only One I Know was an awesome song. The rest of the chart.. Status Quo, Michael Bolton and The Shadows. Old people were buying too many fucking albums.

The singles chart saw Maria McKee at #1 with Show Me Heaven which we can blame on Ghost. Status Quo were at #2 with the Anniversary Walktz, oh for fuck’s sake. Bobby Vinton at #3 with Blue Velvet for some reason – I have no idea. More positively at #4 we have The Beautiful South with A Little Time, at #5 we have LondonBeat with I’ve Been Thinking About You and at #6 there’s the Technotronic Megamix. The Pet Shop Boys at #9 with So Hard are also awesome.

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

Reviews This Month

Mad Professor Mariarti (Atari ST)

So I had intended my next review to be Loom, and that is coming, but having just got the new domain up and running and noting that we were in October 1990, I saw an opportunity to cover something a little more personal, a game ST Format never bothered to review (there was a brief…More

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. The formula wasn’t quite there yet however but then Xenon 2 happened (admittedly it was The Assembly Line who did the actual development with the Bitmaps handling design). At this point the Bitmaps had only really done fairly arcadey things, and indeed their later games all trend in that direction with Gods, Speedball 2, Magic Pockets and the Chaos Engine games being firmly arcade. Cadaver was a bit of a curio, the Bitmaps branching out into an adventure game with an unusual isometric style reminiscent of 8-bit classics like Head Over Heels.

Control is handled mostly by the joystick, moving around as you’d expect and the fire button handling interaction with objects – typically icons appear when you go near an interactable object and you can press fire to switch from movement to selection mode, move the joystick to pick your option, fire to confirm and then you’re back to movement. Return brings up your inventory – they couldn’t quite get everything onto a single-button joystick. Additionally pressing space will make the right-hand side panel of the normal display show the most recently-interacted object in your inventory and the icons in the interaction box update to reflect this. F1 brings up a map of what you’ve seen so far. The manual (linked below) details a few ways you can customise those controls.

Save and Load are handled by pressing S and L on the keyboard, with saves costing gold. A formatted disk is required, so if you’re using an emulator you may prefer to just use a save state instead. I’m using MiSTer emulating a 1meg STFM with TOS 1.04 which doesn’t do save states, so I’ll be saving the old-fashioned way.

I went with Automation Menu #415 which is quite a low-key menu, in part I suspect due to the difficulty in squeezing everything in. Once into the game we get treated to the story (or you could read the 9 pages of story in the manual) told in a scroll with some sampled music in the background (the Bitmaps do love a bit of sampled music). Sound in-game is less spectacular with chip-driven spot-effects in contrast to the Amiga’s samples. In the end I got fed up of the slow loading and switched to a hard disk image.

Visually, the game is a treat. To maximise detail the palette is largely drawn from two distinct hues, a bluey-grey for tiles and water, and brown for wood (and this was something of a signature approach for the Bitmaps). Indeed Karadoc himself is formed of those colours. Alongside the well-considered palette and beautifully-drawn artwork, animation is solid and the frame rate is consistently smooth. Usability is pretty solid – once you learn the controls it’s pretty easy and usually fairly self-explanatory. The only irritations are common to most isometric games – that sometimes you walk behind something and can’t see yourself (nobody had yet thought to fade out the foreground layer like The Sims does house walls) and that you can only pull an item in 4 directions rather than 8. The latter can make it hard to arrange things as one might like.

The story is revealed through scrolls and objects left lying around, a trope which continues today in many immersive sims. Progress is largely linear, and the story is on rails, not that there’s much to it. The game itself is small and self-contained, with no real hint about an outer world beyond the walls of the dungeon. Curiously it is both small and quite empty, with many rooms containing nothing of value, and yet I completed 20% of the game in a matter of an hour. It is true that games were shorter back then but it’s surprising how little there is to Cadaver.

Cadaver is a product of its time, both in its adherence to traditions of dwarves and swords and magic, and in its efforts to mimic something of the atmosphere of the kids TV series Knightmare (I have no idea whether the bitmaps stated it as an influence but it certainly has the feel of being influenced by it). The small self-contained rooms with monsters and objects to pick up, much as they could remind me of a million other things, remind me of Knightmare.

Verdict

The thing which makes Cadaver stand out from the crowd really is its atmosphere. It sells a limited game pretty well, and that’s not to denigrate it. Cadaver aims to do one thing and do it well, and there’s no shame in that. It’s a remarkable departure from the rest of the Bitmaps oevre and they are to be commended for trying something different. This is one of those occasions where their trademark graphical excellence really served to enhance the game they created (if people say graphics don’t matter tell them to fuck off – they’re right that it doesn’t matter if a game is 4k with 50 billion teraflops running at 4000 frames per second but they’re wrong that art style can make a game that is technically weak look like a masterpiece). Where it does perhaps fall down is that it doesn’t always feel like a place. At times it feels more like a puzzle constructed by some malevolent creator than a real place in which anyone lived or died, and while I get that it is intended to be a dungeon, that lack of connection with any reality is a shame, though this is something which was corrected in the data disk Cadaver – The Pay Off. It’s a very good game that you will likely have fun with, it’s just not quite a Hari Seldon Gold.

Resources

Manual: https://www.starehry.eu/download/rpg/docs/Cadaver-Manual-atrist.pdf