New Release 2021 – Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge STE-Enhanced Version!

Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge – New Version!

So a couple of geniuses/nutters have gone and taken Lotus Esprit and made it better. In fact, it’s now pretty much indistinguishable from the brilliant Amiga version, which is an incredible achievement.

Visually it’s an absolute treat, running incredibly smoothly (which is why I’ve gone with a video for this post – static images won’t do it justice), and the sound has had some work with the engine sounds are improved and the dramatic intro music added.

I’m a reasonably capable dev but my ST days are sadly limited to making platformers and shooters in STOS when I was 12 so I don’t understand everything they’ve done, but it appears they’ve leveraged the Blitter especially in some wonderfully creative ways. Get it now!

The Links That Matter

Download The Game From AtariMania

What’s Coming Up (and what isn’t)

So we’ve got a few more reviews lined up from ST Format issue 18 with Chase HQ 2, Pang and Golden Axe arriving over the next couple of weeks. However, having lingered quite a long time on issue 18 I reckon it might be time to move on, after checking out some of the upcoming games.

The first game not to make the cut is Nine Lives, from Atari. The visuals are gorgeous, no doubt, but there are some pretty big issues. The scroling is done half-a-screen at a time in a jerking motion, but I could live with that. The bigger issue is that the jumping is terrible. Either a pointless vertical jump or holding the joystick in the down position while the cat tail on the right goes up to try to judge just how much energy to put into a horizontal jump, which can go enormous distances. That might be less of an issue if it were not for the tiny visible area you’re presented with – most of the time you just end up in some spikes. Difficult is fine, but this is just due to poor controls rather than any cleverness of design.

Car-Vup also missed the cut by being a reasonably competent platformer but really doing very little to excite me. The main character is clearly based on the taxi from the Roger Rabbit movie and visually it’s decent enough, reasonably smooth, but it’s not quite got enough in it that I could get a decent article out of it.

Murders In Space looks like it might be interesting but it has an absolute turd of an interface. I do intend to come back to it at some point to see what I’m missing but I’ll probably save it for a run of longer articles about deeper games rather than try to cram it into the current 3/4 day cadence of reviews.

Also missing the cut for now are Omnicron Conspiracy, Lost Patrol, Supremacy and ATF 2. Of those I reckon there’s a good chance I’ll come back for Lost Patrol at some point, but right now I need some fresh blood!

I’ll be looking at issue 19 next – it has a few notable releases among what is a bit of a post-Christmas lull. I love Damocles so I might have a look at Mission Disk 1 if there’s enough in it to be worth doing, and I don’t need asking twice to have a look at Powermonger which is one of my favourites. Ninja Remix might be an opportunity to undo the awfulness of the previous release I reviewed, while Ivan Stewart’s Super Off Road might be fun. Prince Of Persia should be known to all of us and I might have a look at Robocop 2 given it topped the chart for ages if I recall. It’s always fun to review truly awful games so I might have a look at Edd The Duck and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. All in all, a slimmer issue will make for an easier time for me!

https://i2.wp.com/stformat.com/stf19/pages_nx1500/stf19_001.jpg?w=782

Why Do We Play Retro Games? Aka What Went Wrong With Modern Games?

I thought it might be nice to do something a little deeper than just reviews and the historical context pieces around each magazine’s release, as fun as they are. So today I’m writing an article. I wanted to ask the big question – why do we play retro games? May as well start with the biggest question and then dive into smaller things afterwards. The answer takes in multiple strands so please forgive me for a long piece with many branching narratives which will take a fair bit of work to tie together at the end.

Now I’ll start by stating the obvious. Nostalgia is a factor. I can’t deny the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I fire up Nebulus and watch that little green frog walking around that rotating tower. Nor can I disguise my delight at seeing an Atari ST or Amiga in the wild, the childhood memories triggered by sights and sounds that take me to a simpler time. We all enjoy that feeling, and most of us who enjoy retro are of a certain age. And yet, that isn’t entirely it. In the course of working through ST Format issues I’ve enjoyed playing some wonderful games I never got to play as a kid, some I’d never even heard of. This mirrors my enjoyment of older films – I’ve been watching movies from the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and I can assure you that I’m not that old, even if I do sometimes feel it. These are movies I’ve never seen before and yet I’ve been watching them over the last couple of years and found tremendous pleasure in them. The 80s movies give me the nostalgia, no doubt, but where is this love for older films coming from? To me there are periods of cinematic greatness, the 70s for instance were full of amazing directors and actors in their absolute prime, while the 30s-50s see the likes of Alfred Hitchcock working absolute miracles. Shorn of the ability to create spectacular visuals through the use of CGI, without modern camera technology, these directors created wonderful character-driven stories that focused on universal human fears and desires. I have to wonder then, could the same be said of games, with the older creations coming from masters at the peak of their powers having their creativity boosted by the limitations of their tools?

To truly understand why people play retro games, we need to figure out what retro games give us that their modern counterparts don’t, outside of the warm fuzzy nostalgic feeling. We need to focus on the things they get right, and one of the biggest is readability and accessibility. This may sound odd when one considers that we talk of retro games as being brutally difficult, and some definitely were, but those mostly 2D spaces were far easier to navigate than modern games with their cluttered 3D spaces. Every object exists to be interacted with and its shape and appearance is usually simple enough to make its purpose clear, and further it is not surrounded by irrelevant clutter. This makes it a far more rapid process for the brain to scan what it sees and know what to do, with less cognitive overload. In many ways this is one of the things that Nintendo gets right with its modern designs – it has kept that readability of the classic games while still being incredibly pretty, though to do that it has had to choose a path which leads some to criticise their designs as being for children, not being gritty and realistic enough. That, at heart, comes down to two diametrically-opposed ideals of what a game is meant to be.

Those of us who play retro games are more often focused on the core gameplay loop, the mechanics of the game, with the atmosphere evoked by the game’s graphics and sound a secondary (though still valid) consideration. Don’t get me wrong, there’s much a game can do with sound and vision to give it charm, to lend it atmosphere, to reinforce your actions. Speedball 2 on the Amiga is fantastic because of the crowd sounds during the match, the Ice Cream, the bone-crunching tackles, and the visuals convey that clean metalic world beautifully. Mega Lo Mania’s wonderful speech samples lend it enormous charm, just as those of Stronghold do, and both have wonderfully identifiable buildings and units (which isn’t often true of modern RTS games). Damocles desolate vistas create a wonderful sense of loneliness. Llamatron’s psychadelic visuals and old-school-arcade sound effects create a frenetic flow, a kinetic energy that drives you on. All of these are valid. But all of these are readable, and all of these are mechanically sound. The movement, crunchy impacts, lag-free controls and carefully-crafted AI that’s just the right level of smart-stupid makes Speedball 2 perfect. The simplicity of the rules underpinning Mega Lo Mania, a turn-based game disguised as real-time, make it easy to process what’s going on and to assess your resources to plan for battle. Damocles is beautifully crafted feeding you the bread crumb trail to take you through a story packed with charming British wit. Llamatron throws huge waves of enemies at you but equips you with unlimited ammo and amazing power-ups.

Considering modern games for a moment, Witcher 3 is a wonderful experience with some gorgeous visuals and incredible writing, but most would agree the combat is weak, and as beautiful as it was, its reliance on witcher senses left you often simply following a red trail rather than actually following clues in the environment because it simply isn’t that easy to parse. Consider the Tomb Raider games which suffer from many of the same problems, relying on some walls being magically climbable and some not, with a magic sense telling you which is which. Then consider games like Life Is Strange, the first was undoubtedly a fun extension of the Telltale formula but in truth the gameplay mechanics were somewhat lacking, and while improving on Telltale is itself noble, the path of Telltale from actual adventures to interactive movies highlights some of what went wrong with games.

As graphical fidelity improved, so game developers started to make movies instead of games, with gameplay beginning to be seen as an obstacle to getting to the story. The importance of what were ultimately fairly sophomoric stories became vastly inflated in the eyes of developers but also with a journalist class who had begun to have ambitions away from gaming, but that’s something we’ll come back to later. Among even more gameplay-focused titles, there were unhealthy shifts in trends towards gacha gameplay. For those unfamiliar, gacha games are specifically built around monetising players by making them spend in-game currency to overcome deliberately poor game design elements like difficulty spikes. This trend started in mobile largely due to users being unwilling to buy games for a price that reflects the effort being put into creation, necessitating microtransactions as a means to generate the revenue to stay in business, but then extended with greed. Companies got better and better at parting gamers with their cash and slowly ported those practices over into PC and console gaming, though initially there was pushback on this (we all remember Horse Armour right?).

And this is where we must bring journalists into this discussion. Their job is ultimately to inform the consumer, and to advocate on their behalf. While there has always been the odd bit of shadiness, a high review score to stop a publisher pulling adverts, a game made by an ex staff member getting a higher score (looking at you ST Format and Magic Fly), and I’m sure we can all think of plenty of others. Then there’s the tendency of ‘official’ magazines for particular platforms giving inflated scores back in the day – indeed Nintendo Life still get accused of that kind of thing with first party Nintendo contend despite not being official. Games journalism was certainly never perfect, and yet it was a lot better than it is. In the 80s and 90s, gaming was not seen as a particularly cool nor anything worth pursuing as a career path. The typical image of gamers was perhaps best reflected in Bad Influence’s character Nam Rood who would answer viewers questions about games they were stuck on, a bit like Patrick Moore did on Gamesmaster.

Because it wasn’t cool, and because you weren’t going to get rich doing it, and because it wasn’t going to open any doors to ‘serious’ journalism, the gaming press mostly consisted of people who were passionate about games. They could play games all day, write about them, and get paid. What’s not to like? And for a long time it remained that way, perhaps best exemplified by the likes of Zero, Amiga Power and PC Zone, where it was clearly a bunch of mates having a lot of fun playing games. Much of why those old magazines are enjoyable to go back to is that sense of community, that bond formed among people who were never mainstream. Eventually magazines started to struggle, with one of the last holdouts dying in 2010, as the world moved to online blogs like Rock Paper Shotgun. And in the early days RPS did a brilliant job, with clever writing and consumer advocacy, tackling big business (and it was starting to become that with EA being a behemoth that chews up studios and spits them out) and bad practices. And then somewhere in the last 10 years it started to go wrong (and I’m going to ask for a bit of patience as I lay this out as it might not be immediately obvious why it matters – trust me I’ll get there but the background is important).

I’d struggle to pick out an exact moment when it started, but I slowly became aware that reviews were no longer being written for me, the gamer. I noticed they stopped pushing back on corporations fleecing the consumer, and this created space for games to become microtransaction-infested hellscapes. EA were particularly egregious in that regard. I noticed they stopped championing amazing new indie games with incredible gameplay and instead on games about being at a urinal and trying to look at someone else’s dick but it’s not a dick, it’s a gun. I saw more listicles. I noticed the things the writers were pushing back on were no longer consumer matters or concerns for the whole gaming community but instead matters of interest to small sub-groups, indeed the sub-groups seemed to get more and more niche over time. I started noticing that writers were actively hostile to anyone who didn’t agree with their takes on these issues. I started to notice some of these writers start writing in the Guardian – in truth that was the dream they were all chasing. Games journalism had ceased to be a medium for writing about games and had instead become a medium to audition for The Guardian or the New Statesman.

Now it’s fine to write as an audition for elsewhere, up to a point, after all people have ambitions and need to make a living, but there must be a balance. That auditioning can push for excellence, but given the narrow focus on a small subset of newspapers and TV with a very similar set of opinions, it instead started to become increasingly a push for a particular agenda. Games would be praised for having a gay main character, even if that had no effect on the game or the story. Games would be more likely to get attention if they had a ‘capitalism is bad’ message. If your character was trans you had a guaranteed puff piece. On the negative side, so many articles were now about focusing on how a game is ‘problematic’ in some way. Be it Kingdom Come Deliverance not having enough black people in Europe in the middle ages, or Cyberpunk not having enough pronoun options (one Eurogamer article spent the first third of the interview badgering a developer about pronouns), it became increasingly clear that these people were not writing about games for the love of games, but instead to ensure conformity of opinion. Indeed the focus is now on seeking out ever smaller and more ridiculous things to be offended by as the Twittersphere will love it and the right will rage-click it, leaving the sane in the middle wondering what the hell is going on and what happened to their games.

So how did this come about? Many have argued that the internet was the death of journalism, with readers becoming accustomed to free content funded by advertising killing off magazines and declining ad revenues driving sites towards a clickbait-led model. There is truth in this, and much of what is written now extends that clickbait concept by being deliberate rage-bait. However, it’s not the internet specifically. It’s Twitter. The thing with Twitter is that while you have your trolls spewing racist bile and all the usual online toxicity common to any barely-moderated anonymous environment, they don’t tend to get much traction as a group. It’s just individuals picking at people, often in very nasty ways, but still not any kind of movement. They don’t get traction, they don’t generally get followers, they just spew bile into the ether and are mostly ignored. On the other hand, the people who do have influence on Twitter (and this has become even more true since the purge of late 2020/early 2021) are mostly of a singular political stripe, one equally capable of bile and racism, just against more ‘acceptable’ targets. This creates an economy of influence where to build an audience you have to mirror those views, and if you want to get a lot of hits for your article you’ll need a Twitter following (and this becomes especially important as many ‘writers’ are now freelancing in many different publications on precarious pay). What this leads to is writers writing not for you, but for the influencers of Twitter, hoping to get noticed. Just as comedians have shifted from trying to get laughs to looking for applause, so writers have shifted from writing for the gamer community to writing for a political activist community. This is why instead of asking EA why they persist with exploitative lootboxes they write articles about Cyberpunk getting trans representation wrong (remember this is a tiny group, less than 1% of the population – it makes no commercial sense to focus on them but it is hugely important to the Twitter community). This leaves gamers without a voice, no big player fighting for them, which is a problem in itself but it also impacts on how games are made.

Let’s start with a big studio releasing a new hero shooter (the ones with wacky characters with special powers). You know you can cram it with microtransactions and the only complaints will be a few gamers on Twitter but they’ll be ignored if you throw a label of toxicity at them (people tend to get a little grouchy when nobody’s listening – a riot is the voice of the unheard – makes it easier to then define them as toxic). It won’t affect your all-important Metacritic score, which means your bonus will be safe (and bonuses are dependent upon Metacritic scores at far too many publishers). Next up you want to appease the journalists, so you announce that one of the characters is bi, and you might make one a bit chubby for fat acceptance, maybe have one of them be trans just to be sure. That’ll bump your metacritic score up at least 5 percent for far less work than would be required to create unique gameplay or to perfect the controls and balance, things these writers just don’t care about.

Moving on to indie – remember how many wonderful games came from the indie scene in the early 2010s? Some had a narrative focus but even if they did they also came with sharp gameplay. Think World Of Goo, Braid, Super Meat Boy, Osmos, VVVVVV, And Yet It Moves, Crayon Physics Deluxe, Revenge Of The Titans, Legends Of Grimrock, Binding Of Isaac, Gunpoint, Thomas Was Alone, Hotline Miami, Prison Architect. All of these were beautiful games with fantastic gameplay loops, and then we switched to drudgery like Papers Please where you stamp immigration papers and Not Tonight set in a dystopian post-Brexit Britain. There’s a clear shift in tone around the indie scene, and part of it is that, just as journalists must keep the influencers happy, so indie game developers living on meagre incomes simply won’t get anywhere unless they tow the party line.

The problem with this is that it makes the games absolutely insufferable for anyone who doesn’t live in the Twittersphere. If you voted leave (and us oldies are more likely to have done so) it’s a bit of a turn off to have games and the gaming press bash you over the head telling you that you’re a nazi. I just want to play good games and want the best for all people, rather than focusing on small subgroups. And I’m not alone. Making games overtly political isn’t necessarily a problem if done well, but as discussed earlier, storytelling in gaming is pretty sophomoric, especially when there’s such a limited range of permissible opinion as to render everything a trope – certain groups can’t be portrayed negatively, certain groups must always be portrayed negatively, and honestly it’s all so bloody exhausting. The majority of writers in gaming simply cannot offer deep political insight, and one of the few that could, Chris Avellone of the magnificent KOTOR 2 has been driven out of the industry by cancel culture (because anyone with any talent is).

So to tie it together, the Twitter-driven journalists who don’t really want to write about games but would rather write for the Guardian have created an incentive structure which penalises any game sitting outside of their narrow skewed overton window (see the mass-silence on Kingdom Come Deliverance) and has led to gameplay coming second to half-formed narrative while corporate malfeasance is handwaved away provided they pay the identity tax. It’s no wonder modern games are so dull.

So why do we play old games? Because we want games made by people who love games, from a time when journalists held their feet to the fire to make great gameplay, and when corporations were kept in line and discouraged from engaging in anti-consumer practices. Because those simpler games focused better on gameplay. Because when there was a story it would engage you on deeper and more universal matters of human interest (see Westwood’s Bladerunner) instead of the concerns of a tiny group who are being used for political pointscoring. It was a simpler and better time, not without its faults, but better than where we are today.

Amiga Addict Issue 3 Is Out

So I just want to put out a heads-up that the utterly wonderful Amiga Addict magazine have their third issue out. Post isn’t til March 7th and I presume the digital download will appear around the same time, but you can pre-order at the link below.

https://shop.amiga-addict.com/amiga-addict-magazine

The first two issues were brilliant, covering the Amiga scene, talking to legends from the Amiga’s long history, and covering some of the wonderful games, new and old, on that fantastic platform. The staff are knowledgeable and passionate about games and technology, something of a throwback to that golden age, and they’re doing awesome work.

The Amiga was an absolute beast of a machine, so go get that mag, get a MiSTer box (or fire up WinUAE, or if you’re really flush with cash get an Amiga) and show it some love.

Restructure Completed

So in good news I’ve finally got the month-by-month navigation done along with the per-magazine listings pages, which means navigation should be a lot easier. The new look isn’t the most exciting but it’s readable and it works, no longer doing weird things with article images.

This means I can now crack on with issue 15. I still intend to go back to update reviews to reflect the lag-free FPGA experience but that’ll have to wait as really new content is what keeps traffic coming in. Also I still plan to move away from WordPress long term but this buys me a bit of time so I can keep things ticking over in the meantime. Aiming to make a start on ST Format Issue 15 over the next couple of days.

The First ST Coverage in C&VG

So I had a bit of a flick through CVG and thought it might be fun to see some coverage from the dawn of the ST so Iooked around mid-85 to see if there was anything but there was bugger all other than some adverts selling STs (not even from Atari – this is from the companies selling all sorts of gear). It’s odd as the mag was certainly covering Atari’s 8-bit offerings. We have to wait til April 86 to get any substantial coverage so I’ve included it here.

No game reviews yet – indeed none of the game adverts even mention ST or Amiga versions, though that should perhaps not be a surprise when the ST on release was about £750 according to Silica’s advert. To be fair, the fastest machines at that point seem to have been running at around 4MHz vs the ST’s 8, and 64k seemed the norm vs 512k. That said, I think I underestimated the 8-bits somewhat, looking at what they were doing. My CPC464 was shit no doubt but the C64 could actually do quite a bit, and the article makes clear just how stark the gap from ST to Amiga really was. The Amiga really was an absolute beast. However, probably the thing that separates them isn’t so much the numbers, 8 bit vs 16 bit or the RAM or how many colours – it’s likely that what actually separated them was the move to a proper WIMP interface. That was the big qualitative leap that came with this generation. However, it does seem that the improvement in games over the years was as much down to changes in the business and improving skill of the programmers – certainly I can see that through the 8-bit years and the 16-bit years are no exception either. The shift from generation to generation is merely a raising of the ceiling rather than an immediate huge jump in existing quality.

(click to view the full size versions in a new tab)

The Amiga has to wait 2 more issues to get a roundup of software.

So this is the first mention of any gaming on the 16 bit systems, in the August 1986 issue.

Later in the same issue there was a supercomputer special. Doing this on my phone so apologies if it’s shit – I’ll reupload if need be

Atari ST Power Pack

So we arrive at December 1989. Before I get to that issue of ST Format however, allow me an indulgance. December 1989, specifically Christmas Day, was when I got my Atari 520STFM.

You honestly wouldn’t believe the memories that come flooding back seeing those. I was 9, coming up to 10, and I’d only had the Amstrad CPC 464, which was a machine of very limited capability. I’d done some coding on it, of course, as we all did back then, and I’d patiently waited the 10 minutes it took for games to load from tape, but it wasn’t on anything like the level of the Atari ST. So I got my Atari ST, which cost about £299 it seems, which is about £750 in 2020 money. The Power Pack came with 12 disks containing 20 games, many of which were stone cold classics.

Included with the pack was a free mini-issue of ST Format – http://stformat.com/stf00/index.html – which gave a pretty solid rundown of what I needed to know about the Atari ST. It told you how to work the desktop, told you a bit about Atari, sneakily contained cheats for most of the power pack games (perhaps to stop people from spending too long on them without buying new games?) and listed some classic games everyone should have (including some in the pack). It must have done wonders for sales of the magazine, as I can’t be the only one who went on to buy issue after issue (my first was issue 8, just in time for my birthday).

So, onto the games. Each disk contained 1-3 games, and most of them were absolute classics. To go with that, you got instructions on a disk-sized sheet of card, which would usually be enough to get the basic gist of how the game worked. The memorable exception was Super Huey which I could just about get airborne but no further. I suspect though that the game was just utterly shit, rather than it being an issue with the manual’s content.

The Disks

Someone has kindly done a video on the Power Pack so you can see the machine and its games in action.

Power Pack Disk L – Starray and Star Goose

Disk LStar Ray Star Ray opens with a lovely loading screen and some reasonable chip music. It doesn’t mess about – pressing fire takes you straight into the game. The game itself is a Defender clone, albeit one that is ludicrously smooth with insane parallax scrolling. Sound isn’t bad and it’s reasonably solid as a…More

Power Pack Disk K: Black Lamp and Outrun

Disk KBlack Lamp So Black Lamp, for me looking back after playing so many games, exists in a similar place to Verminator, in that it’s very pretty, the art is lovely, but it doesn’t really go anywhere, it doesn’t flow. The intro screen is pretty, with decent chip music. Press fire and it drops you…More

Power Pack Disk J: Double Dragon

Disk JDouble Dragon I spent so much time on this as a kid, and it’s one of the earliest games I remember beating, facing the gun-toting giant at the end. It opens with that wonderful sampled music over a loading screen which isn’t much technically but created so much atmosphere. And then the game starts,…More

Power Pack Disk I: Bomb Uzal, Bomb Jack & Xenon

Disk IBomb Uzal Bombuzal opens with a simple loading screen with an exquisitely drawn uzal and a pretty decent bomb, though the crack monster in the background is less appealing. We get treated to some twee chip music, and the game can begin. A sampled voice tells player one to get ready, and we’re ready…More

Power Pack Disk H: Predator

Disk HPredator Confession time – I’ve never seen the film. Perhaps I might have enjoyed the game more if I had? Who knows. The intro is cool, with a nicely digitised shot of Arnie and then an animated UFO flying around the Earth and some scrolly text, with a suitably funky 80s chiptune which doesn’t…More

Power Pack Disk G: Eliminator, Nebulus and Pac-Mania

Disk GEliminator Eliminator isn’t a bad game necessarily, but when I reached for disk G I was only after one thing, and that was Nebulus. Sometimes Pac Mania as that was brilliant too, but mostly Nebulus. The loading screen is rather ugly, though it looks somewhat better if you apply a CRT filter. The game…More

Power Pack Disk F: Starglider, Overlander and Super Huey

Disk FDisk F was the first multi-game disk, with a super-simple selector, none of the scrolling messages and music found on the cracking scene disks. Starglider 1Starglider is a 3D space combat game. Controls are simple – holding down the right button and moving forward accelerates, right button and back decelerates, moving left, right up…More

Power Pack Disk E: Space Harrier

Disk ESpace Harrier  [/url] Space Harrier has a curious start – the music gently playing over an animation of the player character waving while astride a giant robot as a one-eyed wooly mammoth looks around. The music is so out of place for the game. Control is via mouse instead of joystick, and I think…More

Power Pack Disk C: Gauntlet 2

Disk CGauntlet 2I have very few positive memories of childhood with my Dad – he was more interested in getting drunk or wrecked on drugs than being a parent, but Gauntlet 2 was a rare highlight. Every now and then we’d plug in a joystick each and tackle the dungeons, that rare moment of him…More

Power Pack Disk A: Afterburner

Disk AAfterburner This was Afterburner. Waiting for the disk to load while those magnificent planes filled my screen, like every male in the Western World I dreamed of flying those amazing fighter jets after watching too much Top Gun. Then, the music kicked in. Chip music it may have been but it had rock attitude,…More

Review: Nebulus

Nebulus Time to correct a travesty of justice, ST/Amiga Format not reviewing Nebulus. On Christmas Day 1989, 9-year-old me got a hell of a surprise. There was a bloody big box in some wrapping paper. Being a greedy shit like most kids, I ripped the packaging off and found this beast. I was absolutely delighted…More

Hardware: Testing a Speedlink Competition Pro Extra (USB Joystick) with Xenon 2

So I picked up a gadget to make these reviews a little more authentic.

The micro switches on this thing feel superb. They’re a little noisy, just like back in the day, which means they can be annoying for other people in the room, but man they give satisfying feedback.

Gave the joystick a go, decided to use the trainer for shits and giggles and took some shots in Xenon 2.. the variety of enemies is impressive and the amount of stuff it flings around the screen is extraordinary. There is some slowdown when there’s a lot going on but all in all it’s impressive stuff.

The joystick itself is excellent, the auto fire is very handy and it feels robust. A bit small possibly but maybe my hands are just bigger than when I last had a joystick.

One of my little oddities is that I never really got the hang of having a stick on the left (or D-pad) and buttons on the right. This caused me no end of issues with the console controllers so joysticks were always better for me. Curiously, modern controllers like the. Xbox controller and the Switch Pro Controller pose no such issues.

Weirdly it was Kick off where the joystick really shone. I was utterly terrible with an Xbox controller but plugged in that joystick and kicked some ass.

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.