ST Format Issue 19 (Jan 1991)

ST Format Issue 19 (Download)

Welcome to another issue of ST Format. As usual we’ll begin by placing the issue in its historical context, and note that we use the month the magazine actually came out rather than the one printed on its spine, before diving into the issue’s contents. Finally, over a few weeks we add a list of reviews to the bottom of the article, each a link to a new article.

The World In January 1991

The UK was heading for some tricky times – the Gulf war began and the RAF was involved pretty heavily alongside the US. The recession continued, and there was a train crash in London.

The US news Pan Am filed for bankruptcy protection, the US began operation Desert Storm, and tens of thousands protested in Washington against the war. In many ways the Gulf War was the last successful US military intervention in pure military terms, though their failure to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime likely led to the later choices of Bush Jr.

Elsewhere in the world the UN Security Council condemned Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, though as is usual with the UN it had no effect. Haiti had its coup attempt. Latvia had its Singing Revolution. Iraq fired scud missiles into Israel to provoke the into fighting, which would have drawn the rest of the middle east into the war – looking back Israel’s restraint here likely prevented a lot of bloodshed.

On TV probably the biggest event was the Gulf War. Viewers were treated to missile’s eye views of attacks on targets in Iraq and Kuwait, showcasing the devastating power and accuracy of American firepower – this was in some ways America’s last hurrah as a confident superpower, and they went to town on it. Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air made its UK tv debut. The other notable debut was The Brittas Empire.

The film charts are pretty unfamiliar to me – I know virtually nothing about Reversal Of Fortune, and while I’ve heard of Arachnophobia I’ve never seen it. Indeed of the top 10 the only one I’ve seen is Home Alone – apologies, but I’ve really got nothing useful to say about this month’s chart.

The album chart is dreadful. Ok Madonna’s Immaculate Collection at #1 is a fantastic greatest hits album, but you’ve got Enigma at 3, the 3 Tenors still hanging around, 2 more greatest hits album and a live album. It’s a really weak chart.

The singles chart has Seal at #2 with Crazy which is pretty decent, and KLF are at #5 (they were brilliant). Vanilla Ice at #6 is cheesy stuff but the best cheese is Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes with Time Of My Life at #10. A couple of awesome indie hits at 7 and 8 for Jesus Jones (International Bright Young Thing) and The Farm (All Together Now). Madonna’s dire Justify My Love makes a rapid exit from the chart. Appearing at 27 is A Tribe Called Quest with Can I Kick It.

The Magazine

ST Format Issue 19

So this one is the traditional “hey you just got an ST – let’s show you how to use it” that you expect after Christmas. We get pages covering things like how to use a mouse, the fact that a file ending PRG or TOS is a program, how to work with windows, dialogs and menus, and so on. We also get a guide to what serious software is most useful with Protext getting the gong for word processing, Superbase Personal 2 for database, K-Spread for spreadsheet, Deluxe Paint (obviously) for art, Timeworks for DTP (not Calamus?), and Personal Finance Manager for accounts. We also get a rundown of classic games you need to own – a sensible selection:

  1. Xenon 2
  2. Midwinter
  3. Sim City
  4. Operation Stealth
  5. Kick Off 2
  6. F-19 Stealth Fighter
  7. Rainbow Islands
  8. Populous
  9. Dungeon Master
  10. Damocles
    .. followed by Armada, Austerlitz, Battle Of Britain, Blood Money, Bloodwych, Captive, Castle Master, Conqueror, Dragon’s Breath, Flood, Gettysburg, Gravity, Hound Of Shadow, Interphase, Iron Lord, Indy Jones and the Last Crusade, Legend Of Faerghail, Magic Fly, Onslaught and Player Manager. The top 10 is bang on but the rest is bang average.

News is interesting – it seems there was a dodgy copy of TOS 2.2 on the loose, though I never saw any evidence of it at the time. That said, I wasn’t lucky enough to own a modem to find these on the BBS services where such things were known to lurk. More exciting was the news that we’d soon be getting the 3D Construction Kit. For those who don’t know, it’s based on Freescape, which drove Driller, Castle Master, etc. Clearly Incentive didn’t feel their 3D games could keep up with commercial releases anymore so they decided to let others try it themselves – as far as I know after 3D Construction Kit came out they never released another game using the Freescape engine. The Mega STE was revealed at Comdex, offering 16MHz from its 68000 CPU.

The cover disk has Champion Of The Raj as it’s main feature – a very Cinemaware game but like those games it’s insanely pretty but utterly lacking in decent gameplay. Even at 11 I saw this and noped the hell out of it. It ran like a slug on valium too. Not sure you’d get away with it these days given it does rather glorify colonialism. More positively you get the McAipof reader. It’s pretty cool – it reads text files out to you using a computer voice. For me, the big star was a full version of GFA Basic 2. If I recall this was the beginning of my journey into programming – I dabbled on the Amstrad CPC 464 but I was too young really – I was now old enough to properly understand what I was doing. The feature on getting started with GFA Basic may even be the very start for me – stop I’m getting all emotional!

A bit later we get some discussion of the ST in music with some recommendations of software you might want to use – Henry Cosh Sequencer comes out top from the PD libraries, while TCB Tracker is the main tracker choice while Cubase and C-Lab are at the expensive end of the market (Cubase is £550 which is £1207.56 in 2020 money).

We get a deliberate error in this issue – have a look at pages 135 and 137 and see if you can spot the mistake… (not ragging on the ST Format guys – they were cool and did an awesome job, it’s just sometimes fun to spot these things)

Previews

The previews have the usual mix. There’s the deeply uninteresting looking Predator 2 and Insects In Space but also a few interesting looking titles. The big one, for me, is Delphine’s Cruise For A Corpse which I completed on the Amiga a couple of years ago for the first time – an absolutely incredible game even if the plot does break down a bit towards the end (which to be fair is something that also afflicted Operation Stealth). Less highbrow is the Viz game – using Johnny Fartpants wind power to rocket into the air and lugging Buster Gonad’s giant bollocks around and using them to flatten pizza is my idea of a good time. More wholesome is Mighty Bombjack – the original came in the Power Pack with my ST and I’m sure it’ll be just as good. Slightly politically-incorrect discussion of the IRA’s love of bombing the shit out of everything in the preview – not sure they’d get away with that with our newer class of terrorists these days. Blue Max is one I don’t remember – it seems not to have got any magazine coverage whatsoever while the Amiga version made it into Amiga Power and others – it did not score well. Finally we have Hillbilly Moonshine Racers – a game I remember playing the demo of quite extensively but on more recent attempts I found out it was incredibly slow and jerky. The visuals are lovely with some great pixel art and I quite like the idea of driving an old truck instead of a sports car, evading the sheriff, etc, but the execution was, in hindsight, not quite there.

We also get a bit of a developer diary around creation of the coming game Stormball. It’s actually a pretty interesting read even if the game itself proved to be hopelessly mediocre (I had fun with the demo back in the day but going back to it since it really doesn’t hold up). The article itself is interesting in how different it all is to modern development, with the dev having to video himself running in his pants to create a temporary sprite but having to do top and bottom halves separately due to not having enough room.

ST Game Charts

F-19 remains on top, with Kick Off 2 holding on in 4th, but the big mover is Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge coming in at #2. There’s a compilation which has rocketed in at 3 while M1 Tank Platoon, Supermacy and Golden Axe make their marks on the top 10. Captive makes an appearance after only being at 21 last month. There’s a peculiar re-entry for Microprose’s Gunship at 15, apparently at full price despite its age. Disappointing to see Turrican do so badly as to end up down at 22 having only got in at 15 the previous month. Perhaps the upcoming sequel will do better. Italy 1990 is STILL at #3 in the budget charts. What the hell were people thinking?

Reviews

Games reviewed this month:
Powermonger (Strategy – EA – £29.99 – 93% Format Gold)
Exterminator (Bug splatting – Audiogenic – £24.99 – 87%)
Robocop 2 (Side scrolling shooter – Ocean – £24.99 – 84%)
STUN Runner (3D Future Racer – Domark – £24.99 – 42%)
Matrix Marauders (3D shooter – Psygnosis – £19.99 – 73%)
Horror Zombies From The Crypt (Hack And Slash – Millennium – £24.99 – 74%)
Battle Command (3D Tank Sim – Ocean – £24.99 – 93% Format Gold)
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (Shit movie game – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 38%)
Line Of Fire (First Person Shooter – US Gold – £24.99 – 39%)
Mystical (Abysmal shooter – Infogrames – £24.99 – 76%)
Welltris (Tetris in a well – Infogrames – £24.99 – 71%)
Prince Of Persia (Rotoscoped platformer – they forgot the price and publisher – 90% Format Gold)
ESWAT (Scrolling shoot em up – US Gold – £24.99 – 31%)
Judge Dredd (Scrolling shooter – Virgin – £19.99 – 41%)
Damocles Mission Disk (More Damocles, yes please – Novagen – £9.99 – 85%)
Edd The Duck (Platformer – Impulze – £24.99 – 73%)
Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road (Top-down racer – Virgin – £24.99 – 68%)
Finale Compilation (Paperboy, Overlander, Ghosts N Goblins, Space Harrier, Frank Bruno’s Boxing – Elite – £24.99 – 65%)
Ninja Remix (Beat em up – System 3 – £24.99 – 81%)

So just looking at these, Powermonger I know well, having enjoyed it immensely as a kid. I can tell you now that it still holds up as one of Bullfrog’s finest. Exterminator interests me, it’s a little out of the ordinary after all. Robocop 2 is likely awful but I’ll probably have a look to see if it was any good – I have a vague recollection of it being top of the charts for ages. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles is terrible, which means I need to play it for comedy value. I had a look at Mystical after seeing some rather cool screenshots in the review – it’s slow and really quite a shit game as far as I can tell so won’t be covering it. I’ve never played Prince Of Persia but it’s regarded as a classic so I’ll be covering it – given its animation is considered one of its main features that’ll require a video to go with it. Damocles mission disk is a tricky one – I love Damocles but reading the list of missions it does look a bit limited* with two of them concerned with getting as much money as possible, one being Damocles but with a harder start with no money, and so on. I’m curious to see if Last Ninja Remix meaningfully improves on Last Ninja 2 so I’ll have a look to see if it’s worth covering. The rest don’t particularly grab me but if anyone wants to make a suggestion in the comments I’d be glad to hear it.

  • Paul Woakes was a brilliant man who did a hell of a lot – I suspect this mission pack was a bit limited due to simply not having the time to get everything he wanted done, and the limits of the tooling available at the time.

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.

  • Powermonger – Automation 495, Pompey Pirates 91, SuperGAU 380/706, Vectronix 269/788
  • Prince Of Persia – Automation 389, Vectronix 222/3, Vectronix 781/2
  • Exterminator – Automation 500I, Fuzion 28, SuperGAU 487/541, Vectronix 525
  • Robocop 2 – Automation 396, Flame Of Finland 54, Fuzion 26, Pompey Pirates 62, Vectronix 787
  • Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles – Automation 392, Flame Of Finland 49
  • Super Off Road – Automation 423, Fuzion 21, Medway Boys 100, SuperGAU 418/740
  • Last Ninja Remix – Vectronix 596-8

Reviews This Month

Review: PowerMonger (Bullfrog – Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 19) 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 495, Pompey Pirates 91, SuperGAU 380/706, Vectronix 269/788 A mouse My Review There’s a decent chance you’ve never heard of Powermonger, and…More

Review: Prince Of Persia (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 19) 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 398, Vectronix 222/3 / 781/2 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review So here you are, in the fortunate position of having just pulled…More

Review: Exterminator (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 19) 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 500I, Fuzion 28, SuperGAU 487/541, Vectronix 525 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review So I was going to have a look at Robocop…More

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