Review: Team Suzuki (Atari ST)

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Box Shot

ST Format Review (Issue 21)

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Fast but limited

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.
  • Automation 446, Fuzion 37, Pompey Pirates 74, Superior 56.
  • Speedlink USB Joystick or a mouse (recommend mouse)

My Review

I think most people who know me will be aware that I love a good racing game. As much as my man-cave is a haven of retro goodness with the lovely MiSTer box and variety of old-school joysticks and 8bitdo console controllers, it’s also home to a triple-monitor and VR racing game rig with a Thrustmaster T300 wheel and Fanatec CSR Elite pedals. My idea of fun is to go out in a Caterham R300 and throw it around sideways at Donington. However, most of my racing time is with cars – motorbikes have featured little in the real world (unless you count trying not to die in Thai traffic on a moped) and not much in gaming either outside of Super Hang-On.

Team Suzuki therefore represents only the second motorcycle racer we’ve looked at here at Bitmap Towers, and it’s a long way from Super Hang-On. Gremlin have wonderful form for racing games of course, creating the wonderful Lotus games for that Outrun vibe, SuperCars 1 and 2 for the top-down racer and Toyota Celica GT Rally for those who wanted a 3D sim flavour to their racing. Team Suzuki is closest to the latter of those games, with its focus on 3D with a sim slant.

It actually has quite a bit in common with Toyota in that it has the funky sampled intro music at a ludicrously low bitrate (sadly not quite as good as the Toyota music) and the 3D engine is likely the same. However, you where in a rolling road game it doesn’t matter too much whether you’re driving a car or a bike, in a 3D sim it becomes a different proposition as a bike handles very differently to a car.

3D bike sims have for the most part been outshone by their 4-wheeled counterparts through the history of sim racing. Very few 3D motorbike sims have really gained the kind of traction of an RFactor or an Assetto Corsa, and there is a reason for that. Representing the control of a motorbike using the gear available to home users (typically a game controller or joystick seeing as dedicated handlebars and bike platforms haven’t made their way into home setups in the same way wheels and pedals have) is hard. Before analogue joysticks became a thing, mouse control was the general accepted tool of choice, and yet really while it does at least offer precision and speed it still doesn’t do a great job given it represents so little of the weight-shifting that happens on a motorbike.

Coming back to Team Suzuki for a moment, the controls are, at least with my modern USB mouse, a little too fast to be controllable. Now one could probably find ways to tune that down, but that’s just the start of things. A related issue is that acceleration is very on-off, making it hard to have the subtle control you need to control a motorbike. Both of these are not the big issue however.

For the video review I chose a track I’m very familiar with, and which I know had a reasonably similar layout in 1991. Now I know that 16-bit racing games can get layouts fairly close – one only has to look at Microprose F1GP to see that, the layouts are really very impressively close to the real thing. Suzuki however is not. The tracks bear very little resemblance, Donington may roughly have the same number of left and right turns but it really bears very little resemblance in corner profile or elevation. That is not the biggest crime however – one can work around that and just treat it as a fantasy track that you’re learning.

Donington isn’t as wide as Silverstone, that much is obvious (I’ve driven both), but it’s still actually pretty wide, even in a Caterham there’s plenty of room to move around. Most race tracks are in fact plenty wide enough because you generally want cars to have enough room to pass – it’s considered a given that motorbikes will be able to. So the question one must ask is why these tracks are goat tracks with barely room for two bikes to go side by side. Going back to controls and difficulty then, these goat tracks combined with twitchy controls make it impossible to get round the track, and while F1GP sensibly added driver aids to get people going, Team Suzuki lacks any other than an auto-gearbox for the 125cc bikes.

Verdict

Clearly it’s a little unfair to compare Suzuki with Geoff Crammond’s masterpiece given it came out quite a bit later. Driving aids weren’t common at this time, nor were accurate tracks, and yet even wider tracks would have helped, and as for the driver aids, well someone had to be first. Clearly there’s a difference between something that’s a labour of love over a long time from an auteur like F1GP, where Microprose indulged him the time and space to get that done, and Gremlin who while better than the likes of Ocean and US Gold still had their eyes on the prize and weren’t necessarily placing a Microprose-esque focus on polish.

Team Suzuki is pretty good for what it is, and if you manage to master the controls you’ll have fun, but for most of us mere mortals I sadly have to suggest other options, most likely car games instead.

Zzap64 Challenge Coming In August

So we have plans. Big plans. Right now I have 89 ST Format Challenge game reviews without videos attached that I plan to make videos for. That’s going to take a while, meanwhile we’ve been making videos and blog posts at the other end, and honestly it’s getting a little confusing. So, for now we’re going to pause on new Atari ST blog posts. We will however be updating old ones to new standards and adding video to them.

The other big change is that we’ll be adding the Zzap64 Challenge, covering C64 games. This will begin with a selection of the pre-Zzap games listed in Zzap Issue 1’s Zzap64 top 64 (see below).

I’ve chosen to do this due to spending more time with the C64 recently and concluding that it’s a really insanely good machine, and chose Zzap64 after downloading some issues and enjoying them. The sheer number of reviews is quite something so figuring out which games to cover will no doubt be quite a challenge, though I suspect some of them may lend themselves to shorter videos and articles and allow me to cover more than one game per week, but we’ll see how that works out.

Have a look at the list below and let me know in the comments which games you’d like to see covered.

Review: Wrath Of The Demon (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 21)

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.
  • Superior 58 A/B/C – note that none of these worked so I had to use the hard drive image linked by Pezz82 in his Atari ST MiSTer guide video. Go subscribe to him, he’s excellent.
  • Speedlink USB Joystick

My Review

So here we are in March 1991. Readysoft have so far seen fit to release Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair. Both games are undoubtedly a treat for the eyes and ears, but they forgot to be games. Instead, each game consisted of a cut scene playing out and having to move the joystick the right direction at the right time, for up to three movements in a scene. In modern terminology it was QTE, the game. Now it was great for demoing what your Atari ST could do, and it might just entertain you for the hour it might take you to guess the movement combos and complete the game, but replay value is zero. The games further diminish with time compared to their less graphically sophisticated brethren as technical excellence tends to stand out less over time while the value of a game’s mechanics only grow if they’re good enough. With that, the value of Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair is pretty diminished today, but even then some were wising up to their awfulness with ST Format rating Space Ace a mere 58% and Dragon’s Lair a mere 43%, while later Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp would get 58% and finally Dragon’s Lair: Escape From Singe’s Castle would get 31%.

Wrath Of The Demon represents their attempt to do something about that reputation, they decided to make their competitor to Shadow Of The Beast. Wrath Of The Demon. It even sounds a bit similar. Just like SOTB the focus is on graphics in a hack and slash side-scroller with large beautifully-drawn enemies.

Now the story is your fairly standard wibble. A wizard names Anthrax (yes really) brought forth a demon, hoping the demon would overthrow the king on his behalf. The demon, as demons are prone to doing, chose to do his own thing, deciding to kill the king and have his realm for himself, but first dealing with the wizard in what proves to be the end of a poorly-thought-out plan. The demon then set fire to the land, leaving a ruined mess. The demon slept and men returned, creating their new kingdom. The demon had slept to recover his energy and found a new kingdom, just as powerful as before, in its place, which wasn’t part of his plan. Our quest begins as the demon is preparing to attack and the king has been warned of the coming danger – our job is to rid the kingdom of the demon.

The game opens with some suitably SOTB intro music, with its mellow pan pipes, and you get an intro that bears more than a passing resemblance to that of SOTB 2 (which had already come out on the Amiga at this point).

It then throws you into the game, at full speed, on horseback. You are tasked with riding a horse and having it jump over the obstacles and leaning down off it to pick up potions, not the most sophisticated gameplay in the world as it amounts to a reaction test to press up or down on the joystick. It does however feature some impressive parallax scrolling, not necessarily the smoothest but impressive nevertheless. Sound has at this point reverted to chip music.

Controls are simple enough, up on the joystick allowing you to jump or enter a door, downward diagonals to roll, down to crouch or pick something up, as the horizontal lets you walk. Fire punches. In a fight diagonals hit high or low, verticals smash or hit downwards. F1 will use a shield potion granting 3 seconds of invisibility, F2 will use a Zap potion (think the rocket launcher in Streets Of Rage) and F3 a healing potion. Ctrl-S saves.

So having got off your horse you are next attacked by a couple of goblins who must be dispatched with a sword in a single-screen non-scrolling section that features some beautifully-animated clouds, but this does little to hide mediocre gameplay of rock-paper-scissors level combat. Hits have no feeling of heft, and the combat is boring and repetitive. The next set-piece sees you battling a dragon, a huge beautifully-drawn beast, even if his animation has insufficient frames to be convincing. The backdrop here is 100% static, presumably for performance reasons, though again it’s well-drawn. A scrolling section follows with some green balls attacking you, some impressive parallax as foreground objects move faster than the main backdrop, but gameplay remains repetitive.

Verdict

Honestly this is not a good game. ST Format were very generous in giving this 81%, perhaps wowed by the graphics or just relieved it wasn’t Dragon’s Lair. Whatever the case, while an improvement over Dragon’s Lair it’s still very much a tech demo with deeply unsophisticated gameplay that belongs back in 1988.

Reviews From This Issue Of ST Format

Review: Viz (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 21) 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. Automation 453 Speedlink USB Joystick or a mouse (recommend mouse) My Review Moving on from racing games we now find ourselves engaged in more athletic…More

Review: Super Monaco GP (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 21) 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. Automation 496, Fuzion 47, Medway Boys 110, Pompey Pirates 80, Superior 65. Speedlink USB Joystick or a mouse (recommend mouse) My Review Continuing with our…More

Review: Team Suzuki (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 21) 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. Automation 446, Fuzion 37, Pompey Pirates 74, Superior 56. Speedlink USB Joystick or a mouse (recommend mouse) My Review I think most people who know…More

ST Format Issue 21 (March 1991)

ST Format Issue 21 (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 March 1991

The UK the Tories were shocked by defeat in the safe seat of Ribble Valley in a by-election. The Birmingham 6 were freed on appeal, unemployment hit 2 million and Norman Lamont predicted a 2% economic contraction in a nasty recession (not by 2020 standards obviously). John Major announced the abolition of the Poll Tax – the tax undoubtedly ended Thatcher’s run at the top, so getting rid of it was essential. The inquest into the Hillsbrough disaster recorded accidental death – this proved controversial.

The US news the Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police, beginning a chain of events which would eventually lead to the 1992 LA riots. The comparison with recent events is obvious. In less unpleasant news Dances With Wolves won 7 Oscars and 43 million people watched.

Elsewhere in the world Estonian and Latvian voters voted for independence. Albania held its first multi-party election since 1970. The collapse of communism continued at rapid pace, truly the height of Western power.

In TV news, it may surprise you to note that until 1st March 1991 TV Listings were heavily regulated, with only the Radio Times publishing BBC listings, and only the TV times publishing ITV and Channel 4 (we only had 4 channels). They could now publish all 4 channels, and newspapers could also publish 7-day listings.

The film charts see Dances With Wolves replaced with Godfather Part 3. Honestly I’ve never heard of Green Card, The Russia House, Pacific Heights or The Field so can’t comment on them. Home Alone, Kindergarten Cop and 3 Men and a Little Lady all remain in the top 10 and Duck Tales continues a steady slide from its high of #4.

You’re singing the theme tune in your head right now, aren’t you.

The album chart actually has some fairly interesting releases, having moved out of the ‘best of’ phase. At #1 we have The Farm’s debut album “Spartacus” – I’m not convinced it’s aged brilliantly outside of “All Together Now” but certainly it was a decent album for its time. The big one, for me, is the wonderful KLF album The White Room. If you’ve not heard their music, go check them out. The addition of 808 State coming in at #4 gives us a really decent chart.

The singles chart is.. well, it’s interesting. Do The Bartman at #1, cashing in on the Simpsons fame. To be fair, there are a couple of decent dance tracks with I Wanna Give You Devotion (Nomad) and 3AM Eternal by the KLF rounding out the top 3, as well as Kylie’s brilliant “What Do I Have To Do?” at 7 and a new mix of You Got The Love by The Source at 8 (one of my all time favourite dance bangers).

The Magazine

This issue marks a bit of a change in the style of covers, a trend which lasts about 6 months where the colourful busy covers are replaced by covers with more white space. I’m not wholly convinced about the change personally, but perhaps they felt it would do a better job of selling the content of the mag on a WH Smiths shelf. The big theme for this issue is animation, with features on how the professionals work, as well as a tool on the cover disk. Of most interest probably is the collection of sprites from Prince Of Persia. There’s a decent article on the basics of animation, basic to the point of more frames means more smoothness, but also explaining what animation is, using Prince Of Persia very much as its starting point. There’s also a tutorial for Animaster, a demo of which comes free on the cover disk, again using the Prince Of Persia sprites. This theme continues through the GFA Basic and Bullfrog Assembler tutorials too.

The news contains speculation that the STE is to get a price cut, though in fact the rumour looks closer to a de-bundling with the games taken out of the pack. I’m not sure that would have been a good idea and I don’t recall Atari doing that. Indeed the packs were vital system sellers, one only has to look at the success of the bundle packs for the Amiga. There’s mention of the coming Magic Pockets, of which an early demo had been used on Motormouth, one of those Saturday morning kids shows where some spotty teenager rings up and shouts left-left-up-fire and some poor sod in the studio had to interpret the commands and do something with it (probably not helped by latency of the broadcast signal meaning the commands would inevitably come in late). There’s also talk of Music Master, a program from Ubisoft, making use of the sound card/anti-piracy dongle that came with BAT.

The Mega STE was now shipping in America and Germany but not yet the UK. ST Format speculated on these markets being chosen because of the more serious uses of the ST in those countries compared to the silly gaming us Brits did.

The cover disk features, in addition to the previously-mentioned Animaster demo there is a demo of Gods which I’m sure you’ll all already be familiar with, as well as a demo of Hillbilly Moonshine Racers, an Outrun style racer with a beaten-up old pickup instead of a Ferrari, with the expectation of running away from the sheriff. I enjoyed it as a kid but when I went back to it more recently I struggled with the frame rate.

There’s a Bitmap Brothers top 10 of ST games which cheekily includes two of their own (Xenon 2 and Speedball 2) but also sensibly includes Damocles and Prince Of Persia, as well as the not-yet-released Lemmings. Space Quest 3 is probably a good include, a game I really need to get round to playing at some point. Can’t say Battle Command, The Immortal or Stormlord do massive amounts for me, and the inclusion of Dragons Lair 2 frankly makes zero sense. The Bitmaps let themselves down.

Previews

ST Format lead with a large preview of Flight Of The Intruder, a flight sim from Spectrum Holobyte. Curiously ST Format pitch it as a sequel to the Falcon games, though personally I can’t quite see why and certainly I don’t think most people would think of it in those terms. STF have made the curious decision to have a bunch of previews without screenshots, doing something of a disservice to Z-Out, Masterblazer, MUDS, Merchant Colony, Africa Korps, Blue Max (which I swear didn’t make it to the ST), Navy Seals, Billy The Kid, Pro Tennis Tour 2 and Battlebound. I know very little about any of those other than that Blue Max was a flight sim and that I am terrible at Pro Tennis Tour 1.

Returning to the traditional format of a screenshot and a couple of paragraphs there’s mention of Chuck Rock, a platformer clearly inspired by the Flintstones which I really can’t wait to play. Cybercon gets a mention but to be honest it’s very much not my bag, I’ve never really got on with these abstract 3D games in the mould of Interphase. Demoniak gets a mention but doesn’t really give much of an indication of what it is. There’s mention of Crystals Of Arborea which I’m sure is perfectly fun but I won’t be covering, and some details on Gauntlet 3 making the ill-advised switch to an isometric view. Notable in this preview is the use of bullshots for Demoniak and Crystals – static single screens that don’t really show any actual gameplay.

Of more interest is a preview of Midwinter 2 which does a cracking job of whetting the appetite for a game that ranks among my favourites of all-time. An absolutely incredible game, in many ways too ambitious for the hardware, and a game which set the template for games like the Far Cry series in some ways (though MidWinter 2 had more RPG content).

ST Game Charts

The charts are interesting – BAT going straight in at #1, with ST Format alluding to the piracy-defeating cartridge as the possible reason. F-19 sneaks back up, Powermonger and Speedball 2 continue to do well. A new entry for the mediocre Narc is disappointing, and how the hell did Emlyn Hughes International Soccer end up at 11? Good to see the dreadful Italia 1990 is no longer in the budget top 10.

Reviews

Games reviewed this month:
Wrath Of The Demon (Shadow Of The Beast-style slasher – Readysoft – £29.99 – 81%)
Team Suzuki (Vector Motorbike Racer – Gremlin – £24.99 – 69%)
Revelation (Peculiar puzzle game – Krisalis – £19.99 – 64%)
Curse Of The Azure Bonds (RPG – US Gold – £29.99 – 74%)
Super Monaco GP (Outrun-style racer with an F1 focus – US Gold – £TBA – 71%)
Codename Iceman (Adventure – Sierra – £34.99 – 77%)
Mighty Bombjack (It’s Bomb Jack – Elite – £19.99 – 48%)
Viz (Minigames in a Viz theme – Virgin [fnarr fnarr] – £19.99 – 74%)
Hard Drivin 2 (SLOOOOOOW 3D racing game – Domark – £24.99 – 81%)
Narc (Side-scrolling shooter – Ocean – £24.99 – 64%)
World Championship Soccer (Cricket game – Elite – £19.99 – 69%)
Steve Davis World Snooker (Horse racing – CDS Software – £19.99 – 78%)

Overall it’s a weak month with not a single Format Gold, and really not many games to grab my attention.

I’m curious to see what Wrath Of The Demon is like. It’s Readysoft branching out away from the Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace games to try to have some gameplay while still being very pretty. I’m also curious about Team Suzuki – another racer from Gremlin, this time using 3D vector graphics. Revelation looks like it might be an interesting game, though I suspect it’ll be one I cover at a later date in a short video. Super Monaco GP will get a go no doubt, given I’m a sucker for racing games. Mighty Bombjack interests me but unfortunately it seems the game is so sluggish as to render the controls pretty horrible. Viz speaks to me. I am not a grown-up, therefore the chance to beat shit out of people as Biffa Bacon, to blow balloons up with farts and do fart high-jumps as Johnny Fartpants, and to flatten pizzas with my unfeasably large testicles as Buster Gonad is thoroughly welcome.

I had a look at a video of Hard Drivin 2 and dear god it’s slow. Narc looks like it came out 3 years too late, it holds very little interest to me, another walk along and shoot stuff game.

If I drop any of these for simply not being interesting enough there’s a chance I may have a look at Codename Iceman. I’m a little reluctant since I’m not a big fan of the engine Sierra used at this point and worry that something more serious than Larry might not be much fun.

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.

  • Wrath Of The Demon – Superior 58 A/B/C
  • Team Suzuki – Automation 446, Fuzion 37, Pompey Pirates 74, Superior 56
  • Super Monaco GP – Automation 496, Fuzion 47, Medway Boys 110, Pompey Pirates 80, Superior 65
  • Viz – Automation 453

The reviews will come out usually one per week as I’m also working on creating videos to go with many of the older reviews.

March 1991

The World In March 1991

The UK the Tories were shocked by defeat in the safe seat of Ribble Valley in a by-election. The Birmingham 6 were freed on appeal, unemployment hit 2 million and Norman Lamont predicted a 2% economic contraction in a nasty recession (not by 2020 standards obviously). John Major announced the abolition of the Poll Tax – the tax undoubtedly ended Thatcher’s run at the top, so getting rid of it was essential. The inquest into the Hillsbrough disaster recorded accidental death – this proved controversial.

The US news the Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police, beginning a chain of events which would eventually lead to the 1992 LA riots. The comparison with recent events is obvious. In less unpleasant news Dances With Wolves won 7 Oscars and 43 million people watched.

Elsewhere in the world Estonian and Latvian voters voted for independence. Albania held its first multi-party election since 1970. The collapse of communism continued at rapid pace, truly the height of Western power.

In TV news, it may surprise you to note that until 1st March 1991 TV Listings were heavily regulated, with only the Radio Times publishing BBC listings, and only the TV times publishing ITV and Channel 4 (we only had 4 channels). They could now publish all 4 channels, and newspapers could also publish 7-day listings.

The film charts see Dances With Wolves replaced with Godfather Part 3. Honestly I’ve never heard of Green Card, The Russia House, Pacific Heights or The Field so can’t comment on them. Home Alone, Kindergarten Cop and 3 Men and a Little Lady all remain in the top 10 and Duck Tales continues a steady slide from its high of #4.

You’re singing the theme tune in your head right now, aren’t you.

The album chart actually has some fairly interesting releases, having moved out of the ‘best of’ phase. At #1 we have The Farm’s debut album “Spartacus” – I’m not convinced it’s aged brilliantly outside of “All Together Now” but certainly it was a decent album for its time. The big one, for me, is the wonderful KLF album The White Room. If you’ve not heard their music, go check them out. The addition of 808 State coming in at #4 gives us a really decent chart.

The singles chart is.. well, it’s interesting. Do The Bartman at #1, cashing in on the Simpsons fame. To be fair, there are a couple of decent dance tracks with I Wanna Give You Devotion (Nomad) and 3AM Eternal by the KLF rounding out the top 3, as well as Kylie’s brilliant “What Do I Have To Do?” at 7 and a new mix of You Got The Love by The Source at 8 (one of my all time favourite dance bangers).

This Month’s Magazines

Reviews This Month

Review: Wrath Of The Demon (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 21) 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. Superior 58 A/B/C – note that none of these worked so I had to use the hard drive image linked by Pezz82 in his Atari…More

Review: Tournament Golf (Atari ST)

Simple but effective box art – you won’t mistake it for a shoot-em-up

ST Format Review (Issue 20)

ST Format seemed to mostly like it – screenshots suggest they didn’t get very far though

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.
  • Automation 433, Medway Boys 103, SuperGAU 381/2
  • Speedlink USB Joystick

My Review

Derek gazed longingly at his caddy, her long luscious legs tempting him but he knew, in this #metoo era, there was no chance.

I absolutely hate golf. It’s a horrendously boring sport to watch, and on those occasions I’ve tried to play it in real life I’ve generally considered myself pretty fortunate if I manage to connect club to ball, often outclassed horrendously by children (my main experience of playing golf was school trips when I worked as a teaching assistant back in the day). Golf on TV is just a bunch of men in funny trousers whacking a ball you can hardly see and honestly how are you supposed to tell the difference between a good swing and a bad swing? And yet, for no obvious reason, there are two golf games which I found myself actually liking. This is one of them, and the other is Sensible Golf – very different games I’m sure you’ll agree.

Derek had to play the shot but all he could think of was how she looked with her hair blowing in the gentle breeze

Tournament Golf plays it fairly straight, it largely follows the tried and tested three-click formula. You turn up at the hole, check the wind (you get an animated weathervane), check the lie (nice inset graphic of the ball on the grass), pick a club, adjust your stance (though I’m buggered if that has any damn effect) and go to swing at your shot – first click to start, second as the bar rises to set power, third as the bar falls to get height (as usual you have to get it into a small box so need to get it just in time). You can do this with mouse or joystick but in my case I found I was getting more accurate timing using a heavily-microswitched joystick than my mouse, but no doubt your mileage will vary with hardware.

Right there he could feel the connection, though the clubs stood between them he felt closer than ever to Janine

Upon reaching the green the game switches to a top-down 2D view, and you can switch modes to show which direction the grass is going to send the ball – I must confess to being a bit rubbish at this bit as I can never quite get the right level of power for the shot. Many a birdie has turned into a triple bogey – like the game’s trying to recreate the underside of my chair (not really but I had to make a bogey joke somewhere).

Often Derek found himself thinking about holes. He knew he had to stop, to take his mind out of the gutter.

Visually it’s a real treat, a combination of vector graphics rendering most of the course with bitmapped trees and a bitmapped representation of your golfer. Animation isn’t the smoothest but gets the job done. As cool as it looks, it’s actually not terribly ambitious technically as changing the view takes a good few seconds to re-render, and really most of the actual view is a single animation for the swing (admittedly the sprite is huge but there’s only one and we’ve seen Turrican use bigger) and the ball moving (mostly as a dot). Sound is solid, if sparse. It consists of fairly convincing samples of hitting the ball and the crowd applauding.

Even the grass was mocking him, conspiring to take him away from his one true love.

Gameplay consists of completing a number of rounds of golf, each consisting of the traditional 18 holes. The courses are initially fairly tame, perhaps expecting a 1 wood drive straight down the line then round the bend with a 1 iron before putting, but as you go on the holes become trickier, with traps carefully placed to make your life hell, either at likely stop-off points on the way (ie the length of a good drive) or surrounding the green with hazards like bracken, bunkers or water.

Perhaps we could get lost in the woods, Derek thought, and have a picnic among the trees.

Doing well will see you earn new sets of clubs which lengthen your drive – this can allow you to take a shot less on some holes, and no doubt the later courses will require those more advanced sets of clubs just to keep up with the AI. You also get a better caddy who gives you some actual advice – at first you don’t even get the vaguest clue as to which club to use and have to guess, though of course that’s part of the fun, learning rather than being led by the nose as you would in a modern game.

God punished Derek for his filth by making him take a shot while walking on water.

Verdict

The holes got more difficult, the bracken coming to life and wriggling around the course devouring all in its path.

If you play golf games on more modern systems the chances are you won’t feel terribly interested by this, which would be a shame. As it is, it’s a good fun game, a puzzle of movement to get from point A to point B with some skill and luck required to execute your plan. The graphics are lovely, I was hugely impressed by them as a kid and they still look good today, benefitting from a slightly stylised look. Courses are well-designed, tricky but not unfair, and your computer opponents don’t generally get unrealistic scores.

But Derek and Janine would be reunited, back together at last. “I love you” said Derek. “I know” said Janine.

Personally I had a good time whacking the ball around, even if my skills have atrophied somewhat. I could feel myself getting back into the groove, the quality of my game slowly improving and no doubt with a little more time I’d be able to do reasonably well, but even not doing brilliantly I still felt the need to keep going, playing multiple rounds of golf.

With that, Derek thumped the ball into the distance, shouting “bollocks to golf” and ran off with Janine, getting married at Gretna Green.

Video Updates 14/05/2021

Hi all, just giving a quick update on some of what’s going on behind the scenes here at Bitmap Towers. So I’ve been working hard to add video content to the site, and it turns out it’s quite a fun thing to do. If I’m honest I’m not sure it’s where I want it yet but one has to start somewhere and you will hopefully see improvements over time. As it currently stands we’ve added videos added to the following articles. Note that we’re adding videos to most new articles but also going back to add videos to most older reviews as well, a fairly lengthy task given there are over 100 reviews on the site now!

Review: Enchanted Land (Atari ST)

What a dreary bit of box art

ST Format Review (Issue 20)

This is awkward – ST Format got the name wrong

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.
  • D-Bug 148, Superior 55
  • Speedlink USB Joystick

My Review

Enchanted Land is a particularly interesting game in that it marks the entry of demo group The Care Bears into the world of game development. Published by Thalion (who housed a number of demo groups having been founded by demo sceners though I’m not sure how deep this connection runs) – the general goal of the demo scene for those unaware was to push the ST to its absolute limits with parallax effects, samples, wibbly text, smooth animation and scrolling and of course, an absurd number of colours on screen at once.

Now there is some variety of plot about some MacGuffin being shattered into 100 pieces and you have to collect it or the world will turn into a turnip or I don’t know I fell asleep half way through it. What this amounts to is 5 levels of platforming in which for each level you must find all the pieces of magic to open the door at the end to the next level. Before going to the next level you will first need to defeat a guardian, usually a massive sprite doing ridiculous damage with some weak spot somewhere. A white flash indicates when you’ve hit a vulnerable spot.

Anyway, to the game. It opens with a gorgeous use of the ST’s sound chip as it draws some rain drops and drops in the Thalion logo, before embarking on some stunning parallax-scrolling and excessive-number-of-colours stuff in a demo showing your chap running along in the game world under his own steam. Sadly that’s the last we see of the parallax scrolling – in-game the vertical scrolling is of course wonderfully smooth but horizontally it moves in jerks which is a disappointment after that intro. Musically it’s really really good and shows that you can actually get some really cool sounds out of the ST’s sound chip if you give it a bit of a shove.

The game looks pretty good in motion. Animation is smooth, the art style is lovely, and the music is pretty good. That scrolling is poor, but functional enough and I’ve enjoyed enough single-screen and flip-screen games not to let that get in the way. However, as pretty as it is, it’s also incredibly shallow with so much cheap death. It’s just hard in a lazy way. Honestly I could find bugger all in the way of actual fun in this – too many enemies that had horrible movement patterns and took 50 shots to kill. Too many blind jumps. Too many jumps to tiny platforms under attack from too many creatures. It’s a shockingly poor game frankly.

The Amiga port is fairly lazy – the music is brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but it still has the poor scrolling of the ST version.

Verdict

So I did my best with Enchanted Land, I really did. It’s very pretty, the art style is lovely and the music is great. Unfortunately, for some reason the game just doesn’t click for me, to the extent that I found myself not particularly wanting to make a video for it. It’s a triumph of style over substance that lets itself down by promising fast scrolling and tonnes of parallax but then not even delivering proper scrolling. In short, it’s pretty vacant.

Resources

Manual: https://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=564

Review: Turrican 2 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 20)

ST Format got the review bang-on – also props for getting to the later levels

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 449, Pompey Pirates 75, Superior 57, SuperGAU 403/469/769/808/844, Vectronix 566
  • Speedlink USB Joystick

My Review

An intro that will be familiar to many of you

So you’d be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu here as it’s only 3 issues ago that ST Format reviewed Turrican 1, and yet here we are, 3 months later, with Turrican 2 on our hands. Surely a good game can’t be built that quickly?

In truth, while a good game can be built in 3 months, one with the complexity and performance of Turrican probably can’t. It’s fairly obvious then that this game was not built from scratch, but instead built on the bones of its prequel, given it shares a good portion of its sprites and weapon power-ups and even enemies and backdrops. Even the title screen looks basically the same, just with 2 hastily added to it. So is it a lazy cash grab?

This is a sequel that deals in evolution rather than revolution – little touches that make it look better, the stripping away of less successful elements of the first game, and the refinement of what’s already there. For example, you may recall that when you hold down the fire button while stationary the gun fires a lightning bolt laser thing which you can rotate with the joystick. It remained in a straight line and would come from the end of the gun which would not move.

In Turrican 2 it’s a more visually impressive affair, with flames emanating from the gun and Turricans arms manoevreing the gun around in a circle as you rotate, giving it a much more realistic look. The flames themselves also have a physical weight to them where as you move the gun the outer edges of the flame trail tend take a little time to catch up. It’s hard to explain but it looks a lot more impressive. There are loads of these little touches – bridges where the bridge visibly sags under the weight of your warrior, which isn’t to suggest that he needs a diet – he is after all wearing a metal suit which probably weighs a fair bit.

Sensibly the sequel drops the bizarre vertical scrolling shooter sections where you can only fire horizontally – it didn’t really work and difficulty was horrendous. In its place is a more traditional side-scrolling shooter in a spaceship which could easily be mistaken for R-Type. That’s no bad thing of course and showcases the versatility of the game’s engine which is truly impressive in its ability to throw sprites around both in vast numbers and vast size. I really can’t emphasize enough how impressive it is that an Atari ST can be made to cover the screen in bullets and aliens and all manner of nasties while retaining a high and consistent frame rate and smooth scrolling. On a technical level, this game is a masterpiece.

As you’d expect the music is fantastic. Now clearly it doesn’t sound as good as it does on the Amiga or Commodore 64, but even on the ST’s sound chip it’s awesome – Chris Huelsbeck composed gorgeous music and the arrangement on the ST does it justice in its own bleepy way. It has its melancholic moments and its moments of driving you on, I could talk about it all day but you likely already know how good it is and the video below will do it better justice any any description I can offer.

I reckon difficulty has been ramped up a bit – this isn’t uncommon in sequels of course as they tend to assume the player has completed the previous game, but it’s a bit of a challenge for an old fart like me. For me there are a few too many enemies where the only recourse is to use the flamethrower but you don’t get enough time to fire it up – I get that it doesn’t fire immediately for balance and to prevent accidental triggers but this is perhaps a case for a twin-stick control scheme which would have been impossible on the Atari ST. Admittedly things like the 3-direction spread-shot and the bouncing ball of flame can work these cases quite well but they’re better suited to enemies up high than enemies down a slope.

One of the under-appreciated facets of the game would be the way it presents an alien world – it really does feel properly alien, properly weird. It’s huge too. The levels are absolutely bloody enormous and I got lost more than once. It’s really quite impressive stuff, though sometimes this does come from areas being insufficiently distinct – a property more likely to be found of procedurally-generated levels than hand-drawn ones but perhaps suggesting the developers might have been better advised going for a slightly smaller world with a little more difference between areas.

With all that said, there really are huge thematic differences visually between the worlds now – each has its own colour palette setting a mood unique to that space – frankly I find Turrican 2 to be one of the prettiest games on 16-bit due both to its technical merit and its fantastic art design.

If I were to fault any of the design I would say that there are a few too many blind jumps once you get up high, though this is a fault more of the ‘camera’ than anything else. The truth is precision jumps to platforms you can’t see aren’t particularly fun and feel a bit cheap, it’s something the game could do without. Still, overall world design is about as good as you’ll find anywhere in 2D 16-bit gaming.

Video

I made a video to show off this extraordinary game and to show off its extraordinary technical accomplishments, and compare the sequel with its prequel. Sequel coverage kicks off at about 5 minutes if you want to skip the prequel.

Verdict

So the verdict is a tricky thing. In many ways Turrican 2 is a retread of its prequel after three short months and this should be acknowledged, and yet here we are 30 years later, the passing of those 3 months somehow feels less significant so the question is one of whether the game is worth playing. The short answer is yes, you should absolutely get hold of it, be that via the new collection that has come out for modern computers and consoles or via your favourite emulator, FPGA device or original classic hardware. Is it a meaningful improvement over its prequel? Well, yes in that it evolves and improves what went before but no if you’re expecting anything new and revolutionary – this is a refinement of the formula to a perfect point, and I for one am perfectly happy with that.

Reviews From This Issue Of ST Format

Review: Tournament Golf (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 20) 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. Automation 433, Medway Boys 103, SuperGAU 381/2 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review I absolutely hate golf. It’s a horrendously boring sport to watch, and on…More

Review: Enchanted Land (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 20) 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. D-Bug 148, Superior 55 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review Enchanted Land is a particularly interesting game in that it marks the entry of demo group…More

Review: Gazza 2 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 20) 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 404, Fuzion 39, Pompey Pirates 69 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review Time for another football game review. The magazine screenshots make it…More

Review: Gazza 2 (Atari ST)

In this video I tested ST Format’s claims that the movement was as good as Kick Off by playing Gazza 2 and then Kick Off. The good news is you get to see just how bad the animation is in Gazza 2. The bad news is that I had to play it.

ST Format Review (Issue 20)

So it must have been pretty good to get 86% right?

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 404, Fuzion 39, Pompey Pirates 69
  • Speedlink USB Joystick

My Review

Time for another football game review. The magazine screenshots make it look pretty cool, with the cartoons of the commentators and the nice little graphic for a yellow card or the ref blowing the whistle or fans cheering a goal. Indeed the ST Format review makes it all sound quite jolly, the players move more realistically than in Kick Off. Do they bollocks.

We get some sampled music as this image builds up pixel by pixel like the old Amstrad CPC 464 tape-loading days

Before I continue I should probably elaborate on Gazza for those who are unfamiliar. So Gazza is the nickname of Paul Gascoigne, who at that time played for Spurs in the First Division (now known as the Premier League). The thing about Gazza is that he was unusual at the time in being an English footballer who wasn’t a complete clogger. Ok so we had Chris Waddle so it wasn’t all bad, but for the most part there wasn’t much in the way of flair among English players. This didn’t stop Bobby Robson doing an incredible job at Italia 90 with the England team and getting them to the semi-final, only to fall short in a now-traditional penalty shoot-out defeat to West Germany.

The menus look really good.. oh wait, nope. Still, you get Paul Gascoigne’s face, so that’s something.

Now the important bit here is that Gazza was really really good. I mean proper dribbling past people and making them look silly good. And he got to the semi final knowing that one booking would mean missing the final. Now of course he’s English so he should have known the final wasn’t for us anyway, but he got booked and promptly cried like a baby. This was at a time when the English stiff upper lip still held, when men were men and we hadn’t all become a bunch of emotional incontenents due to the death of Princess Diana (which by the way I regard as the precise moment the British collectively lost their stiff upper lips). As it was, it was unusual, we didn’t have reality TV stars bawling and wailing about nothing, and in being unusual it rather endeared him to the public even if it also got him a little bit of mickey-taking. Spitting Image fitted his puppet with projectile tears and even made a song, but sadly there’s no copy to be found on Youtube. We’d already had Gazza’s Super Soccer, but with his new-found fame it was essential to get a new sequel out to cash in on his fame.

In what world are Cardiff City (who were in the third division at the time I think) in the same division as AS Roma?

It’s worth taking the time to be clear that this game is not as bad as the dreadful Codemasters Italia 1990 – few things in the world are thankfully. However, it’s still pretty bad. Player movement is weird and jerky, with predictable repercussions on control. The controls themselves are dreadful even without those issues as there’s no easy way to pass to another player (and you won’t see one anyway because you’re too zoomed in and the players positioning is awful). Unfortunately if you don’t pass to another player you will get tackled instantly, though you can use the zig-zagging trick to improve your odds.

The graphics don’t look too bad static

There’s a complicated selection of types of shot you can perform based on the joystick direction upon releasing the fire button, and it almost never comes off. As well as the view being far too close up we have the radar at the bottom, obscuring the pitch as it’s not transparent like its Kick Off equivalent, and you can’t get rid of it. The pitch view area is further reduced by a big status bar at the bottom which serves no other purpose than to shrink the rendering area and make the programmer’s lives easier.

So I think the one on the left is meant to be Jimmy Hill but I’m buggered if the one on the right looks like Gazza

The controls outside of the match are terrible with obscure icons leading to god-knows-what, menus that make no sense, even things like picking a damn team to play has you go next team next team next team through a list that isn’t even alphabetical and why couldn’t they show you all the teams and let you move the cursor around to pick one?

Still, the banter between pundits is about as good as the real thing

Sound is ok I guess, not absolutely terrible, but even if it was the best ever it would struggle to redeem this absolute turd.

Verdict

So for those who follow these things, Gazza’s life is something of a tragic tale. He was so insanely talented but prone to self-destruction, things like a lunging reckless tackle in the FA Cup putting him out for a season with a nightclub incident extending that. After football he turned heavily to drink and this exacerbated his mental problems, culminating in the famous Raoul Moat incident (I’ll leave you to Google that).

This is not the Gazza of 1990, the unstoppable force who could waltz through defences, dancing through with the ball glued to his feet like an English Pele – that title belongs to Kick Off 2. No, this is the washed up Gazza, the alcoholic Gazza, the Gazza who will surely one day be killed by alcoholism, in game form. It’s a lazy cash grab by those who don’t care, and considering Gazza was brought down by surrounding himself with parasites leeching off his talent one could argue that is quite fitting.

Oh, and if you were thinking of playing it on the Amiga because surely it must be better there, it’s not – the scrolling is still weird and the controls are still terrible. Seriously, how the buggery bollocks do you screw up the scrolling on a god-damn Amiga? That takes extraordinary talent.

Reviews From This Issue Of ST Format

Review: Turrican 2 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 20) 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 449, Pompey Pirates 75, Superior 57, SuperGAU 403/469/769/808/844, Vectronix 566 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review So you’d be forgiven for feeling a…More