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.

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