ST Format Issue 18 (Dec 90)

ST Format Issue 18 – Download

The World in December 1990
The UK had a remarkable event as workers from the English and French sides of the Channel Tunnel met for the first time, a project which had run way over budget and way over time, but has since proven to be pretty useful. The first British hostages were released by Saddam Hussein. Poundland opened its first shop (honestly I had no idea it was that old). Tony Adams (Arsenal central defender) was sentenced to 4 months in prison for drink driving. The last coalmine was closed in South Wales.

The US news unemployment hit 6.3%, and the Space Shuttle Columbia had a short mission that really didn’t go brilliantly. Otherwise not much going on in America it seems.

Elsewhere in the world Helmut Kohl won the first federal election since German reunification. Slobodan Milosovic was elected as president of Serbia. This would not go well. In Albania the communists announced free elections with other parties allowed to stand, signalling the end of communism there. Slovenia voted for independence. All in all, a bad time for communism continued, but also seeds were sewn for future conflicts and atrocities.

On TV Britain got its first foreign language channel – it was Greek, surprisingly. Channel 4 premiered Wallace & Gromit’s A Grand Day Out. Otherwise not much to write home about – December is traditionally a quiet month.

The film charts saw Teenage Mutant Ninja (Hero in the UK) Turtles at #1, but it would soon be replaced by Home Alone. The chart is absolutely dreadful.


The album chart is entirely populated by greatest hits collections, reflecting people buying shit albums for their parents. Christmas is a dark time for albums.

The singles chart is a mixed bag. Vanilla Ice tops the chart with Ice Ice Baby, Cliff ‘Not a pedo’ Richard is at #2 with some absolute drek, and Madonna is at #3 with one of her weakest singles, one that signals her trying-too-hard-to-be-shocking phase which would be a feature of her early-90s output. Weirdly The Righteous Brothers have two songs in the top 10 (and it wasn’t a common occurrence in those days) while Emmerdale (British soap opera) star Malandra Burrows had a terrible song in at #11. On a more positive note there’s the excellent All Together Now by The Farm and Unbelievable by EMF. There’s also Wicked Game by Chris Isaak at #12 which peaked a week earlier at #10, far below where it deserves to be.

The Magazine

Issue 18 proclaims itself the biggest ever issue, and weighing in at 220 pages it is indeed the biggest ever issue of ST Format. No bigger issue would be produced as by next Christmas the ST would be in a slightly less healthy state giving us 180 pages and another year later while weighing in at 140 pages the machine is clearly heading for its grave. Still, the cover is having none of that, proclaiming the reasons to be cheerful including how Atari are going to transform your ST. This refers to a news story about the forthcoming Mega STE – a machine with a 68000 processor running at 16MHz vs the usual 8, 2/4MB RAM, but otherwise the same as an STE. Borrowing the form-factor of the Mega ST and intended as its replacment. Probably the biggest feature is actually TOS 2.0 promising keyboard shortcuts for menu items, a new control panel, select all in the file selector, cursor-key window scrolling, and the ability to change the background colour. Unfortunately the new machine is pretty expensive, and in truth it does little to address the weaknesses of the ST against the Amiga – it’s a perfectly fine DTP machine but not much more, and the failure to address the ST’s weaknesses vs the Amiga graphically make even that point questionable.

Another announcement from Atari concerns an STE variant of the Stacy laptop. Atari claimed battery life of 35 hours, which seems unlikely with the technology of the era. In really exciting news, we have the first mention I’ve seen in ST Format of an optical mouse. £39.95 gets you a wired optical mouse from Golden Image.

There’s a bit of evisceration of Atari, with an article titled “Atari: back on the right tracks?” which highlights the many screw-ups from Atari in 1990 (in hindsight the big screw-up, the STE, was what killed them by preventing the ST line from having a longer lifespan and failing to provide the platform for a more impressive Falcon down the line). Worse however is the open letter to Atari addressing a number of issues including the botched STE launch and Atari’s tendency to simply deny problems exist, which was proven correct by a petulant response from Bob Gleadow of Atari. In many ways these letters place the problems at the heart of Atari’s management in full public glare and offer remarkable insight into precisely why Atari failed. I highly recommend either downloading issue 18 to have a look, or finding the specific pages at the ST Format Shrine’s page for this issue.

This is a double-disk issue, with the demo disk containing a level from the excellent Golden Axe and the less excellent Puzznic, while the 2nd disk is a full game, but sadly it’s the utterly terrible Interphase. Believe me when I say Interphase is not a good game. Technically it’s not bad, with reasonably smooth 3D graphics, but that’s achieved by being so abstract as to render that smoothness worthless. In the end it’s just a 3D shooter. While we’re on cover disks, ST Format gloat a bit about ST User’s cover disk virus as well as the death of Stampede. Frankly not ST Format’s finest hour.

We get a top 10 for 5 categories of game of which I’d say 3 no longer get the attention they once did. Shooters, platformers, sims, adventures and puzzles. The shooters are headed by Xenon 2 with Turrican in at 5 plus some odd choices at other positions. Platformers do better with Rainbow Islands and Rick 2 fairly solid choices for the top 2 spots, though Flood at #3 seems an odd choice until you see the poor quality of the rest of the list. Sims do well, the top 3 of F-19, Kick Off 2 and Sim City being 3 of my all-time favourite games, and the rest are solid enough. The adventure list has Operation Stealth correctly at #1, and a scattering of decent games beyond that. Puzzles places Pipe Mania in a mere #4 while the likes of Klax and E-Motion sit undeservedly above it. Two of the best games of the preceding 12 months (Damocles and Midwinter) fail to get a mention, though perhaps this is because it’s hard to find a category for them.

Previews

We have an interesting mix of previews this month. There’s Welltris attempting to bring Tetris into 3D – something nobody really got right until the recent VR take on the concept. More interesting is Domark’s Mig 29, I’m hoping that’ll turn out to be the first non-Microprose modern sim to hook its claws into me. Continuing the 3D theme we have a promise of some Damocles mission disks (we only got 1 – it’s possible that the second became Mercenary 3) while ARC (Atari’s own label) had Cyber Assault though this would prove to be vapourware. On a more arcadey note there’s Rod-Land, which turned out to be a decent conversion of a fairly typical cutesy arcade platformer, and for those craving something a little more macho we have previews for SWIV and Z-Out (shooters) and Turrican 2.

We get a fairly extended piece on plans to run with the success of Sim City with architecture disks and Sim Earth (the latter was hugely ambitious but ultimately a terrible game). In many ways Sim Earth was a precursor to the likes of Spore (no coincidence that both came from Maxis). Sim City 2 is teased but the description sounds a lot like Sim City 2000 which never made it to the ST owing to being a bit too big and ambitious.

There’s an interesting article on the Bitmap Brothers going independent to form Renegade – it’s somewhat uncritical as tends to be the case when ST Format are talking about the Bitmaps, Bullfrog, etc. Still, it’s worth a read and you get a little bit about Magic Pockets and Gods with the latter getting some screenshots. Interesting to see their love of Paradroid 90 and clearly they like the hacking sequence a lot more than I do.

Of most interest to me is the chunky preview given for the masterpiece Midwinter 2 (aka Flames Of Freedom). Visually it looks like a lot is already there at this point, the art is a huge upgrade from the first game, though apparently it was still pretty buggy at this point. It’s interesting then that when I played it back in the day I don’t remember encountering any significant bugs.

The public domain section is much of a muchness but does feature one fairly interesting demo from Radical Systemz. No doubt it’s pretty, and the reviewer is pretty excited by it, but I think he may miss how it’s easier to do something like this than it is to make a full game.

Other reviews of note include NeoDesk 3, showing Atari what a desktop environment could look like. Remarkable features like not having a puke-green background, customisable icons, a faster disk formatter, being able to keep items selected while you scroll the window, keyboard shortcuts, all fairly revolutionary stuff. Atari really rested on their laurels on the software side of things, in a way it’s a shame hard disks weren’t more popular on the ST as we’d have seen Neodesk have more success, and maybe that might have pushed Atari to get their act together.

ST Game Charts

F-19 continues to dominate, with Kick Off 2 close behind. Shadow Of The Beast makes its appearance at #3, a victory for graphics over gameplay. Good to see some quality in there with Cadaver a new entry at 5 and the brilliant Operation Stealth at #6. Turrican only gets in at #15, while Midwinter is still hanging in there at #19. In the budget charts, a lot of kids are going to be cursing santa for getting them Codemaster’s turd Italia 90. What on earth is wrong with people?

Reviews

Games reviewed this month:
Supremacy (Strategy – Melbourne House – £29.99 – 90% Format Gold)
Lost Patrol (Very pretty Vietnam war game – Ocean – £24.99 – 88%)
Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge (Outrun-style racer – Gremlin – £19.99 -86%)
Puzznic (Puzzle – Ocean – £24.99 – 86%)
ATF 2 (Arcade flight sim shooter – Digital Integration – £24.99 – 74%)
Ultimate Ride (3D Motorbike Racer – Mindscape – £24.99 – 67%)
9 Lives (Insanely pretty flip-screen platformer – Arc – £24.99 – 74%)
Brain Blasters (Puzzle – Ubisoft – £19.99 – 88%)
Speedball 2 (If you don’t know this game you shouldn’t be here – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 88%) – Criminally underrated
Golden Axe (Side-scrolling arcade slasher – Virgin – £24.99 – 82%)
Toyota Celica GT Rally (3D Rallying – Gremlin – £24.99 – 79%)
The Curse Of Ra (Puzzler – Rainbow Arts – £19.99 – 83%)
Car-Vup (Car-themed cutesy platformer – Core Design – £19.99 – 79%)
Gremlins 2 (Side-scrolling movie tie-in – Elite – £19.99 – 70%)
Badlands (Top-down-ish racer – Domark – £24.99 – 72%)
Alpha Waves (Pretentious 3D Twaddle – Infogrames – £24.99 – 83%)
Murders In Space (Point and click adventure crime solver – Infogrames – £24.99 – 83%)
Narco Police (Into-the-screen shooter – Dinamic – £24.99 – 46%)
Chip’s Challenge (Puzzler – US Gold – £19.99 – 82%)
Pang (Arcade bubble-splatter – Ocean – £24.99 – 88%)
Chess Simulator (Beat em up – Infogrames – £24.99 – 62%)
The Final Battle (Adventure – PSS – £24.99 – 52%)
Corporation (SLOOOOOOW filled-vector FPS – Core Design – £24.99 – 87%)
Chase HQ 2 (Arcade racer with weapons – Ocean – £24.99 – 78%)
Street Hockey (3d hockey – Gonzo Games – £24.99 – 64%)
USS John Young (3D naval battle sim with terrible graphics – Magic Bytes – £24.99 – 34%)
Nitro (Top-down racer – Psygnosis – £19.99 – 41%)
Omnicron Conspiracy (Adventure/Whodunnit – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 42%)
Vector Championship Run (3D Racer – Impulze – £24.99 – 40%)
Shadow Warriors (Beat Em Up – Ocean – £24.95 – 58%)
Helter Skelter (Terrible platformer – Audiogenic – £19.99 – 75%)
Mig 29 Soviet Fighter (Awful Afterburner clone – Codemasters – £6.99 – 30%)
Defender 2 (Jeff Minter defender clone collection – Arc – £19.99 – 88%)
Conflict (Strategy – Mastertronic – £4.99 – 60%)
A bunch of Infocom text adventures at £9.99 each – 75-89% with Hitchhiker’s Guide the highlight

So again there’s a fair number of games there which interest me. Supremacy is one I always wanted to have a crack at but I suspect will take a good bit of time to figure out and may be difficult to fit into a 3/4 day cadence between reviews. Similar could be said of Lost Patrol – a game with screenshots I’m sure we all drooled over back in the day. The scanned photos promised naive young minds a rather more graphical experience though as an old man knowing more of the capabilities of the machine I suspect they were merely stills for atmosphere.

Speedball 2 is a given – any excuse to play that is fine by me. I plan to have a crack at both the Gremlin racers – I never played Lotus 1 but it has an excellent reputation, but Toyota Celica GT Rally interests me more. It’s a game I had a blast with as a kid and for me is a vital part of my racing game history. Continuing the racing theme I’m curious to see if Badlands and Nitro are any good – ST Format didn’t generally like those kinds of top-down racers so it’ll be interesting to see if they’re actually any good and whether there’s enough meat on the bones to get an article out of them. I might even have a crack at Chase HQ 2 to see if that’s any better than the first.

9 Lives is one I wanted as a kid but never managed to acquire so I’ll be giving that a shot. Continuing the arcade theme I’d like to have a crack at Pang and Golden Axe – the latter I’ll probably do some comparisons with other ports. Car-vup might also be worth a look. For more serioius stuff I’m tempted by Murders In Space and Omnicron Conspiracy though I’ll need to spend some time with those to see if they control sanely and offer enough to get an article out of them.

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 the games I might cover.

  • Speedball 2 – Automation 400, Fuzion 30, SuperGAU 374/541, Vectronix 593/785
  • Lotus 1 – Automation 383A, Fuzion 20, Medway Boys 98, Pompey Pirates 60, Vectronix 219/904
  • Toyota Celica GT Rally – Automation 419, Fuzion 39, Vectronix 703
  • Nitro – Automation 377, Flame Of Finland 45, Pompey Pirates 61, SuperGAU 476/809, Vectronix 192/342/814
  • Badlands – Automation 392, Flame Of Finland 48, Medway Boys 102, Pompey Pirates 69, Vectronix 417/667
  • Chase HQ 2 – Automation 473, Pompey Pirates 66, Vectronix 518
  • Pang – Automation 427B, Flame Of Finland 48, Pompey Pirates 65, SuperGAU 473/805, Vectonix 35/112/801
  • Golden Axe – Automation 399, Fuzion 23, Pompey Pirates 64, SuperGAU 402, Vectronix 281/828
  • 9 Lives – Automation 376, Fuzion 57
  • Car vup – Automation 419, Fuzion 38, Pompey Pirates 70, SuperGAU 385
  • Murders In Space – Automation 383A/B, Vectronix 818/9
  • Omnicron Conspiracy – Automation 461
  • Lost Patrol – Vectronix 369-371
  • Supremacy – Automation 425A/B
  • ATF 2 – Automation 390, Flame Of Finland 44, Fuzion 22, Medway Boys 101, Pompey Pirates 61, SuperGAU 460/812

Reviews This Month

Review: Golden Axe (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 399, Fuzion 23, Pompey Pirates 64, SuperGAU 402, Vectronix 281/828 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review So we’re bringing out the big guns.…More

Review: Pang (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 427B, Flame Of Finland 48, Pompey Pirates 65, SuperGAU 473/805, Vectonix 35/112/801 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review I’ll start with a confession…More

Review: Badlands (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 392, Flame Of Finland 48, Medway Boys 102, Pompey Pirates 69, Vectronix 417/667 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review Continuing our run of…More

Review: Toyota Celica GT Rally (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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. The usual suspects didn’t work, getting stuck with joystick controls not working, but there’s a Pompey Pirates crack available within the TOSEC collection found on…More

Review: Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 383A, Fuzion 20, Medway Boys 98, Pompey Pirates 60, Vectronix 219/904 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review Making our way through the wonderful…More

Not-Quite-Review: Nitro (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 377, Flame Of Finland 45, Pompey Pirates 61, SuperGAU 476/809, Vectronix 192/342/814 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review This game did not score…More

Review: Speedball 2 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 400, Fuzion 30, SuperGAU 374/541, Vectronix 593/785 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review In many ways there’s really bugger all point in me…More

2 Comments

  1. Spot on with this write-up, I seriously believe this
    website needs a great deal more attention.
    I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the information!

    1. Cheers – glad you enjoyed it. The site’s fairly new (though the content isn’t – I started this in March 2020 as a thread on a forum) so it doesn’t yet have the traction but that’s fine, I don’t mind too much as I’m having fun and hopefully people read it and have fun. Hope you enjoy the rest of it, 100+ reviews and of course about 33 STF issues covered off the top of my head, so there’s plenty to keep you going.

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