ST Format Issue 20 (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 February 1991
In the UK the IRA launched a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street. There were no injuries but that is probably why it’s so heavily fortified these days. It wasn’t always thus. We also got heavy snow, which was great for me as it let me build some awesome snowmen. Photos of me doing this were quite rightly destroyed. There were bombings at Paddington and Victoria Street stations (it’s quite terroristy this month – back in those days it was the Irish who did most of it). In what would prove to be history’s biggest error, Tim Berners-Lee introduced WorldWideWeb, the first web browser.
The US news was mostly dominated by the Gulf War, though there was a collision between two planes as well and an imposter at Princeton University – quite an interesting tale if you feel like googling James Hogue.
Elsewhere in the world Haiti got their first democratically-elected president. He lasted until September before being ousted. Lithuania declared independence, while the Visegrad Agreement pushed Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland towards free-market capitalism. In the Gulf War, Iraq accepted a ceasefire agreement proposed by the Russians, but the US rejected hte agreement, giving Iraq 24 hours to leave Kuwait. They did indeed leave, setting fire to the Kuwaiti oil fields as they left, the fire lasting several months. In Thailand they had yet another coup. Having lived there during one, I can confirm they’re quite regular occurrances.
On TV not much happened. A very quiet month, unless you like news reports showing missile-eye views of raids on Iraq.
The film charts are actually quite interesting, with some films I’ve heard of. You’ve got Dances With Wolves at #1, the mediocre Three Men & A Little Lady (sequel to 3 Men And A Baby) at #2, and Kindergarten Cop at #3. I had no idea that there was a Ducktales movie, but it turns out it was a thing, and it hit #4. Rocky V was sufficiently bad as to put the franchise on ice, while Home Alone is still there hanging on.
The album chart is starting to show some signs of recovery from Christmas with a new Queen album at #1, admittedly not their finest work but still at least not a greatest hits album. Wicked Game from Chris Isaak is the latest of those greatest hits albums, with 4 of the top 10 still occupied by greatest hits collections. Belinda Carlisle’s Runaway Horses was still there having been released in 1989, and Gloria Estefan had one of her weaker albums Into The Light at #2.
The singles chart is a little healthier, with Queen at #1, but more interestingly KLF at #2 with 3AM Eternal. Seal at #4 with Crazy is a decent tune. Gonna Make You Sweat by C&C Music Factory is good clean pop fun, though the less said about Wiggle It by 2 In A Room the better. We do at least get the absolute classic mega-banger, I’ve Had The Time Of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warner.
This issue is a bit of a tips issue, telling you how to use AUTO programs and how to plug stuff into your computer. The cover is… well they’ve made it more interesting with a bit of colour but really it’s not one of their better efforts. A big advert for Gauntlet 3 graces the inside cover, alas the game was a massive disappointment.
The cover disk is a pretty good one – I remember playing the Turrican 2 demo to death, and look forward to playing the full game for the first time. There’s also a sampler progeam called MasterSound 2, which while more or less a full version isn’t much use without some sampling hardware. Of the serious programs, probably the most useful is the cocktail database, something which would have been immensely useful in the pre-Google days.
The news covered the impressive sales of the ST, 2.5 million shifted globally at a time when computers weren’t as ubiquitous as today. Weirdly further into the magazine we have Atari US confessing that they’d have been sunk without Europe, perhaps a harbinger of things to come. In that interview there’s talk of CD but in reality Atari never really got to grips with the format and in truth it was too early with most games at most occupying two disks and even serious applications doing the same. Lots of hope seemed to be pinned on the Mega STE but it was never priced competitively enough to be worthwhile, nor given capable-enough graphics hardware to be worthwhile, and the TT and Falcon left it no obvious place to go. We also had confirmation that there was a sequel to Populous on the way, taking some lessons learned from Powermonger apparently. I look forward to reviewing it.
In slightly teaching-granny-to-suck-eggs news we get a summary of what the ports on an ST are for, including those god-awful under-the-machine ports for the joystick and mouse (soldered directly to the motherboard and an absolute bastard to push in and pull out). For each of those ports we get a bit of a round-up of things you can plug into them. It’s interesting enough I guess, trying to encourage ST users into the wider ecosystem (in truth I don’t think we tended to do that as much as Amiga owners did, in part because as the cheapest 16-bit machine it didn’t tend to attract those with deep pockets).
There’s some talk of the CES show in the news section, which means we get mention of a few games and screenshots clearly not from ST versions. I’m not sure Bill Elliot’s NASCAR Challenge made it to the ST (it did get an Amiga release) while the screenshot for Secret Weapons Of The Luftwaffe was quite clearly from the PC which is where it was released. Castles and Ancient Art Of War In The Skies did indeed make it, and they don’t seem to have noticed that Hoverforce is actually Resolution 101 which they’d already reviewed. Eye Of The Beholder did not make it to the ST. All in all, quite an impressive hit rate there from ST Format showing perhaps some naivity and not quite enough research.
In the main preview section, we get another dodgy Impressions strategy game in the form of Cohort – Fighting For Rome. Feudal Lords is another, though not one I know anything about. Gremlin’s Hero Quest gets a mention, probably one I should check out at some point. I know bugger all about Nam 1965-1975 from Domark so can’t offer much there. Of far more interest to me is the legendary Midwinter 2 – one of the greatest games ever made – not much said but good to know it’s coming soon.
We get a fairly in-depth look at the Bitmap Brother’s platform slasher Gods. It very much continues the Bitmaps theme of taking well-worn genres and adding a shedload of polish to make them a bit more exciting. There’s a lot of talk of AI dodging your bullets and of morale where shooting the lead attacker might make the others run away. I’m not convinced that much of this made its way into the final game but it’s the kind of thing developers would talk about in those days, Peter Molyneux of Bullfrog being most famous for that kind of thing of course. In a way it’s interesting that the focus back then was on what you could do with AI while these days it’s either how many teraflops the console has or representation issues. I miss the days when game design innovation was front and centre.
We get an interview with Will Wright discussing his coming Sim Earth game. It was to be his most disappointing work, but thankfully one he would bounce back from with the incredible success of The Sims. It’s clear that Will Wright was an incredibly ambitious chap but this is one of those games that just didn’t quite work. Still, it’s a fascinating read and I heartily recommend having a look.
ST Game Charts
The charts are.. well I suppose at least F-19 finally got knocked off the top spot, I love it but it had been there a good while. However, it’s a shame that it was something as dire as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles that replaced it. On the plus side, the brilliant Powermonger and Speedball at #2 and #3 make things look better, as well as Kick Off 2 and Golden Axe. Lotus slides down to 8 sadly. Toyota Celica GT Rally made its debut at 12, a low position for such a brilliant game. Pang deserved better than 24 but perhaps didn’t get marketed that well, and it’s not a game which is easy to sell in a review. In positive news, Italia 1990 is finally dropping down the budget chart at #9. Yes I’m still bitter about just how awful it is.
Games reviewed this month:
Mig-29 (Flight Sim – Domark – £34.99 – 92% Format Gold)
Gazza 2 (Football – Empire – £24.99 – 86%)
Total Recall (Movie Tie-In – Ocean [of course] – £24.99 – 66%)
Metal Masters (Robot fighting – Infogrames – £24.99 – 88%)
Night Shift (Plate-spinning platformer – Lucasfilm – £24.99 – 86%)
Tournament Golf (Shoot em up – Ultimate – £19.99 – 73%)
Turrican 2 (Golf game – Rainbow Arts – £24.99 – 89%)
Dragons Lair 2 (‘Interactive’ Cartoon – Readysoft – £44.95 [wtf?] – 58%)
Enchanted Land (Platformer – Thalion – £24.99 – 92% Format Gold)
Jupiter’s Masterdrive (Top-Down Racer – Ubisoft – £19.99 – 76%)
Advanced Destroyer Simulator (Boat Driving Game – Futura – £19.99 – 79%)
Crime Wave (Side-scrolling shoot-em-up – US Gold – £24.99 – 38%)
Bug Bash (Side-scrolling shooter that looks like it was made in GFA Basic – Big Bug Software – £19.95 – 58%)
Dick Tracy (Film tie-in sidescroller – Titus – £24.95 – 25%)
Multi Player Soccer Manager (Beat em up – D&H Games – £24.99 – 81%)
So just looking at these clearly we’re heading into leaner times post-Christmas, as well as releases in general starting to dry up as the Amiga begins to overtake the ST in the market. I’d say that the big release, for me, is Turrican 2, so I’ll definitely be reviewing that. I hate golf but loved Tournament Golf growing up, so there’s a good chance I’ll give that a crack. Enchanted Lands is generally highly regarded so I should probably have a proper look, though I remember having a little look at it a while back and not being blown away by it – possibly one of those cases where at the time the technical merit impresses people but that technical merit is secondary to gameplay in longer-term appraisal.
I always love a football game so Gazza 2 and Multi Player Soccer Manager might get some time, though the latter is a bit uncertain due to the fact that there’s not a good cracked version around as far as I can tell. I might have a crack at Night Shift too. Still, these aren’t certainties.
I had a look at Metal Masters and Total Recall as I thought there might be some potential there but honestly I absolutely hated both – the former for poor controls and sluggish frame rate and the latter for being entirely devoid of quality – it seems you can just run and run and ignore the enemies and jump over the gaps.
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.
- Turrican 2 – Automation 449, Pompey Pirates 75, Superior 57, SuperGAU 403/469/769/808/844, Vectronix 566
- Tournament Golf – Automation 433, Medway Boys 103, SuperGAU 381/2
- Gazza 2 – Automation 404, Fuzion 39, Pompey Pirates 69
- Multi Player Soccer Manager – AtariMania – given it requires a dongle and no cracked versions seem to be available this might not work
- Night Shift – Automation 454
- Enchanted Lands – D-Bug 148, Superior 55
Reviews This Month
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…
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…
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…
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…