Review: Leathernecks And Zarch/Virus

Both of these reviews are from ST/Amiga Format Issue 1 from July 1988 – as such this is a very early set of reviews and I hadn’t yet sorted the format out for all this stuff so the quality is perhaps a little below the rest of the site. However, the videos are new (May 2021).

Leathernecks

Well, it started badly with the disk complaining about an in-memory virus, which obviously I don’t have on my emulator. So, I had to hunt down a non-broken version.

So, having got a working copy.. ooooh boy. So first up it seems the game is expecting 4 players, there’s only 1 of me, so my chap on the left moves while the other 4 don’t, and so the screen scrolls and they die. Good start. Sampled screams but the bitrate is so low as to be horrendous (considering what the likes of Gauntlet in the early days and Mega Lo Mania later on were able to achieve). The music is the usual plinky plonky rubbish, uninspired and likely to be forgotten in about 3 seconds. Animation and movement in general is jerky, with no visibility of where your bullets are going and often no idea what just killed you, and with the player only able to shoot upwards no way to shoot enemies who produce bullets that jerk along the screen in 16-pixel intervals (and thus can’t be avoided).

Gameplay is sufficiently un-fun as to leave me throwing this one in the bin after about 10 minutes. And that was me doing my absolute best. Old games were sometimes shit, and this is a perfect example of that.

Note that the above review was written in March 2020 – I went back to the game in May 2021 to create a video and here it is.

Virus

Off to a bad start with another virus message – I suddenly realised I had TOS 2.06 on an STE on instead of an older one like 1.02 on an STFM. Let’s see if that helps. Problem solved, and that’s probably what caused my Leathernecks woes.

A couple of false starts as I crashed into the ground, I eventually got the controls reasonably under control. Left mouse button give me lift, right button fires a bullet and the mouse tilts my spaceship with thrust coming from the underside. It’s a tricky beast to control.

Graphics aren’t as smooth as the more powerful (and vastly more expensive) RISC 32-bit Acorn machines from which it was ported, but that’s not the game’s biggest problem. The controls are awful but beyond that there’s not much to do. It feels like a tech demo. It looks pretty, no doubt, with the lovely 3d landscape with palm trees and houses on a little archipelago, the particle effects from your thrusters, but it feels like there’s nothing to do and shooting anything when it’s so hard to damn well control the god damn thing is just an impossibility. Thankfully, I never actually managed to find anything to shoot. Instead I just found myself hurtling around an empty wasteland, awaiting my inevitable crash.

So what next?
Issue 1 is a bust, but that’s because it represents the early days when games developers were either lazily porting 8-bit games to the new 16-bit devices or just not understanding the new hardware. It’s an awkward phase where the games just aren’t that good. There were some classics, like Dungeon Master, Sentinel, Captain Blood, Bubble Bobble among others, but they were too early to feature. I’ll come back for them later though.

Onward to issue 2!

ST/Amiga Format Issue 1

ST/Amiga Format Issue 01 – Download

This issue was the first and didn’t have many game reviews. It featured:
– Interceptor (Flight Sim – Electronic Arts £24.99 – 91% ST/Amiga Format Gold)
– Virus (Thingy – Firebird £19.99 – 86% ST/Amiga Format Gold)
– Outrun (Racing game – US Gold £19.99 – VERY generous 71% as it was terrible on the Atari ST – came with the Power Pack that contained my 520STFM)
– Thexder (No fucking idea – Sierra £19.99 – 61%)
– Firepower (Tank shooty thing – MicroIllusions/Activision £19.99 – 58%)
– Sundog: Frozen Legacy (No fucking idea – FTL £14.99 – 64%)
– Leathernecks (ShootEmUp – Microdeal £19.95 – 76%)

The first games I will be looking at are (videos not mine):

Virus

At school we had Archimedes machines (albeit way past 1988), and I got to play Zarch on those occasionally. Time to find out if it holds up on the Atari ST. Virus was released by Firebird, one of the labels under which Microprose released games (albeit this may be before Microprose’s involvement), and gained an ST/Amiga Format gold with 86% (later you’d need 90%). I remember noodling about with it on the Acorns but never really getting to grips with exactly what you were expected to do, and finding the controls to be utterly shite.

At school we had Archimedes machines (albeit way past 1988), and I got to play Zarch on those occasionally. Time to find out if it holds up on the Atari ST. Virus was released by Firebird, one of the labels under which Microprose released games (albeit this may be before Microprose’s involvement), and gained an ST/Amiga Format gold with 86% (later you’d need 90%). I remember noodling about with it on the Acorns but never really getting to grips with exactly what you were expected to do, and finding the controls to be utterly shite.

Join Me…
So, join me as I delve into the murky depths of late-80s to mid-90s gaming. Who knows if anyone will give a shit, but I’ll hopefully have some fun doing this.

Review: Leathernecks And Zarch/Virus

Both of these reviews are from ST/Amiga Format Issue 1 from July 1988 – as such this is a very early set of reviews and I hadn’t yet sorted the format out for all this stuff so the quality is perhaps a little below the rest of the site. However, the videos are new (May…More

So here it is

I loved the 16-bit era, and now it’s time to share some of that love with other people

So this is my new blog. I didn’t particularly intend to make one but I created a thread on a gaming forum and it was reasonably popular and I thought it might be nice to have a wider audience. I also see signs of implosion there, so a liferaft for content seemed wise.

There’s a lot of content to grab, and no doubt it’ll take a while to get it all here, but I’ll do my best and hopefully we’ll have it here in good time.

I enjoy writing, I wouldn’t say I’m exceptionally good at it, but I guess I can string a sentence together and some people enjoy reading it. I like to review good games of course but there’s just as much fun to be had with reviewing really bad ones, expressing the soul-crushing horror of playing something truly dreadful.

Hopefully this will be a bit of fun, a bit of lightness in what are undoubtedly rather dark times for all of us, and hopefully some people reading this will join in and have some fun along with me.

What’s It Going To Be?

I plan to work through the entire ST/Amiga Format and ST Format catalog and play a few games from each issue. Some issues I’ll play more than others, simply because they have more interesting games. Some, not so much. There’s no particular schedule to it, but I’ll post as I get time.

No doubt the earlier less sophisticated stuff will get shorter write ups but as the games start getting more sophisticated and interesting (around 1990) there’ll be more long-form stuff. I don’t plan to do video as I prefer the written word but I will probably link to videos by other people if I want to demo gameplay for any reason.