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.

ST Format Issue 20 (Feb 1991)

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.

I had to pick this – weirdly controversial these days because we’ve all gone completely mad

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.

Not Queen’s finest work…

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.

Gotta love a bit of KLF
Turn the speakers up and dance around the room
I don’t care if it’s cheesy as hell, I love it

The Magazine

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).

Previews

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

Tutles at #1 – what the buggery bollocks is wrong with people?

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.

Reviews

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

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: 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

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

ST Format Issue 19 (Jan 1991)

ST Format Issue 19 (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 January 1991

The UK was heading for some tricky times – the Gulf war began and the RAF was involved pretty heavily alongside the US. The recession continued, and there was a train crash in London.

The US news Pan Am filed for bankruptcy protection, the US began operation Desert Storm, and tens of thousands protested in Washington against the war. In many ways the Gulf War was the last successful US military intervention in pure military terms, though their failure to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime likely led to the later choices of Bush Jr.

Elsewhere in the world the UN Security Council condemned Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, though as is usual with the UN it had no effect. Haiti had its coup attempt. Latvia had its Singing Revolution. Iraq fired scud missiles into Israel to provoke the into fighting, which would have drawn the rest of the middle east into the war – looking back Israel’s restraint here likely prevented a lot of bloodshed.

On TV probably the biggest event was the Gulf War. Viewers were treated to missile’s eye views of attacks on targets in Iraq and Kuwait, showcasing the devastating power and accuracy of American firepower – this was in some ways America’s last hurrah as a confident superpower, and they went to town on it. Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air made its UK tv debut. The other notable debut was The Brittas Empire.

The film charts are pretty unfamiliar to me – I know virtually nothing about Reversal Of Fortune, and while I’ve heard of Arachnophobia I’ve never seen it. Indeed of the top 10 the only one I’ve seen is Home Alone – apologies, but I’ve really got nothing useful to say about this month’s chart.

The album chart is dreadful. Ok Madonna’s Immaculate Collection at #1 is a fantastic greatest hits album, but you’ve got Enigma at 3, the 3 Tenors still hanging around, 2 more greatest hits album and a live album. It’s a really weak chart.

The singles chart has Seal at #2 with Crazy which is pretty decent, and KLF are at #5 (they were brilliant). Vanilla Ice at #6 is cheesy stuff but the best cheese is Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes with Time Of My Life at #10. A couple of awesome indie hits at 7 and 8 for Jesus Jones (International Bright Young Thing) and The Farm (All Together Now). Madonna’s dire Justify My Love makes a rapid exit from the chart. Appearing at 27 is A Tribe Called Quest with Can I Kick It.

The Magazine

ST Format Issue 19

So this one is the traditional “hey you just got an ST – let’s show you how to use it” that you expect after Christmas. We get pages covering things like how to use a mouse, the fact that a file ending PRG or TOS is a program, how to work with windows, dialogs and menus, and so on. We also get a guide to what serious software is most useful with Protext getting the gong for word processing, Superbase Personal 2 for database, K-Spread for spreadsheet, Deluxe Paint (obviously) for art, Timeworks for DTP (not Calamus?), and Personal Finance Manager for accounts. We also get a rundown of classic games you need to own – a sensible selection:

  1. Xenon 2
  2. Midwinter
  3. Sim City
  4. Operation Stealth
  5. Kick Off 2
  6. F-19 Stealth Fighter
  7. Rainbow Islands
  8. Populous
  9. Dungeon Master
  10. Damocles
    .. followed by Armada, Austerlitz, Battle Of Britain, Blood Money, Bloodwych, Captive, Castle Master, Conqueror, Dragon’s Breath, Flood, Gettysburg, Gravity, Hound Of Shadow, Interphase, Iron Lord, Indy Jones and the Last Crusade, Legend Of Faerghail, Magic Fly, Onslaught and Player Manager. The top 10 is bang on but the rest is bang average.

News is interesting – it seems there was a dodgy copy of TOS 2.2 on the loose, though I never saw any evidence of it at the time. That said, I wasn’t lucky enough to own a modem to find these on the BBS services where such things were known to lurk. More exciting was the news that we’d soon be getting the 3D Construction Kit. For those who don’t know, it’s based on Freescape, which drove Driller, Castle Master, etc. Clearly Incentive didn’t feel their 3D games could keep up with commercial releases anymore so they decided to let others try it themselves – as far as I know after 3D Construction Kit came out they never released another game using the Freescape engine. The Mega STE was revealed at Comdex, offering 16MHz from its 68000 CPU.

The cover disk has Champion Of The Raj as it’s main feature – a very Cinemaware game but like those games it’s insanely pretty but utterly lacking in decent gameplay. Even at 11 I saw this and noped the hell out of it. It ran like a slug on valium too. Not sure you’d get away with it these days given it does rather glorify colonialism. More positively you get the McAipof reader. It’s pretty cool – it reads text files out to you using a computer voice. For me, the big star was a full version of GFA Basic 2. If I recall this was the beginning of my journey into programming – I dabbled on the Amstrad CPC 464 but I was too young really – I was now old enough to properly understand what I was doing. The feature on getting started with GFA Basic may even be the very start for me – stop I’m getting all emotional!

A bit later we get some discussion of the ST in music with some recommendations of software you might want to use – Henry Cosh Sequencer comes out top from the PD libraries, while TCB Tracker is the main tracker choice while Cubase and C-Lab are at the expensive end of the market (Cubase is £550 which is £1207.56 in 2020 money).

We get a deliberate error in this issue – have a look at pages 135 and 137 and see if you can spot the mistake… (not ragging on the ST Format guys – they were cool and did an awesome job, it’s just sometimes fun to spot these things)

Previews

The previews have the usual mix. There’s the deeply uninteresting looking Predator 2 and Insects In Space but also a few interesting looking titles. The big one, for me, is Delphine’s Cruise For A Corpse which I completed on the Amiga a couple of years ago for the first time – an absolutely incredible game even if the plot does break down a bit towards the end (which to be fair is something that also afflicted Operation Stealth). Less highbrow is the Viz game – using Johnny Fartpants wind power to rocket into the air and lugging Buster Gonad’s giant bollocks around and using them to flatten pizza is my idea of a good time. More wholesome is Mighty Bombjack – the original came in the Power Pack with my ST and I’m sure it’ll be just as good. Slightly politically-incorrect discussion of the IRA’s love of bombing the shit out of everything in the preview – not sure they’d get away with that with our newer class of terrorists these days. Blue Max is one I don’t remember – it seems not to have got any magazine coverage whatsoever while the Amiga version made it into Amiga Power and others – it did not score well. Finally we have Hillbilly Moonshine Racers – a game I remember playing the demo of quite extensively but on more recent attempts I found out it was incredibly slow and jerky. The visuals are lovely with some great pixel art and I quite like the idea of driving an old truck instead of a sports car, evading the sheriff, etc, but the execution was, in hindsight, not quite there.

We also get a bit of a developer diary around creation of the coming game Stormball. It’s actually a pretty interesting read even if the game itself proved to be hopelessly mediocre (I had fun with the demo back in the day but going back to it since it really doesn’t hold up). The article itself is interesting in how different it all is to modern development, with the dev having to video himself running in his pants to create a temporary sprite but having to do top and bottom halves separately due to not having enough room.

ST Game Charts

F-19 remains on top, with Kick Off 2 holding on in 4th, but the big mover is Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge coming in at #2. There’s a compilation which has rocketed in at 3 while M1 Tank Platoon, Supermacy and Golden Axe make their marks on the top 10. Captive makes an appearance after only being at 21 last month. There’s a peculiar re-entry for Microprose’s Gunship at 15, apparently at full price despite its age. Disappointing to see Turrican do so badly as to end up down at 22 having only got in at 15 the previous month. Perhaps the upcoming sequel will do better. Italy 1990 is STILL at #3 in the budget charts. What the hell were people thinking?

Reviews

Games reviewed this month:
Powermonger (Strategy – EA – £29.99 – 93% Format Gold)
Exterminator (Bug splatting – Audiogenic – £24.99 – 87%)
Robocop 2 (Side scrolling shooter – Ocean – £24.99 – 84%)
STUN Runner (3D Future Racer – Domark – £24.99 – 42%)
Matrix Marauders (3D shooter – Psygnosis – £19.99 – 73%)
Horror Zombies From The Crypt (Hack And Slash – Millennium – £24.99 – 74%)
Battle Command (3D Tank Sim – Ocean – £24.99 – 93% Format Gold)
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (Shit movie game – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 38%)
Line Of Fire (First Person Shooter – US Gold – £24.99 – 39%)
Mystical (Abysmal shooter – Infogrames – £24.99 – 76%)
Welltris (Tetris in a well – Infogrames – £24.99 – 71%)
Prince Of Persia (Rotoscoped platformer – they forgot the price and publisher – 90% Format Gold)
ESWAT (Scrolling shoot em up – US Gold – £24.99 – 31%)
Judge Dredd (Scrolling shooter – Virgin – £19.99 – 41%)
Damocles Mission Disk (More Damocles, yes please – Novagen – £9.99 – 85%)
Edd The Duck (Platformer – Impulze – £24.99 – 73%)
Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road (Top-down racer – Virgin – £24.99 – 68%)
Finale Compilation (Paperboy, Overlander, Ghosts N Goblins, Space Harrier, Frank Bruno’s Boxing – Elite – £24.99 – 65%)
Ninja Remix (Beat em up – System 3 – £24.99 – 81%)

So just looking at these, Powermonger I know well, having enjoyed it immensely as a kid. I can tell you now that it still holds up as one of Bullfrog’s finest. Exterminator interests me, it’s a little out of the ordinary after all. Robocop 2 is likely awful but I’ll probably have a look to see if it was any good – I have a vague recollection of it being top of the charts for ages. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles is terrible, which means I need to play it for comedy value. I had a look at Mystical after seeing some rather cool screenshots in the review – it’s slow and really quite a shit game as far as I can tell so won’t be covering it. I’ve never played Prince Of Persia but it’s regarded as a classic so I’ll be covering it – given its animation is considered one of its main features that’ll require a video to go with it. Damocles mission disk is a tricky one – I love Damocles but reading the list of missions it does look a bit limited* with two of them concerned with getting as much money as possible, one being Damocles but with a harder start with no money, and so on. I’m curious to see if Last Ninja Remix meaningfully improves on Last Ninja 2 so I’ll have a look to see if it’s worth covering. The rest don’t particularly grab me but if anyone wants to make a suggestion in the comments I’d be glad to hear it.

  • Paul Woakes was a brilliant man who did a hell of a lot – I suspect this mission pack was a bit limited due to simply not having the time to get everything he wanted done, and the limits of the tooling available at the time.

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.

  • Powermonger – Automation 495, Pompey Pirates 91, SuperGAU 380/706, Vectronix 269/788
  • Prince Of Persia – Automation 389, Vectronix 222/3, Vectronix 781/2
  • Exterminator – Automation 500I, Fuzion 28, SuperGAU 487/541, Vectronix 525
  • Robocop 2 – Automation 396, Flame Of Finland 54, Fuzion 26, Pompey Pirates 62, Vectronix 787
  • Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles – Automation 392, Flame Of Finland 49
  • Super Off Road – Automation 423, Fuzion 21, Medway Boys 100, SuperGAU 418/740
  • Last Ninja Remix – Vectronix 596-8

Reviews This Month

Review: PowerMonger (Bullfrog – Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 19) 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 495, Pompey Pirates 91, SuperGAU 380/706, Vectronix 269/788 A mouse My Review There’s a decent chance you’ve never heard of Powermonger, and…More

Review: Prince Of Persia (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 19) 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 398, Vectronix 222/3 / 781/2 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review So here you are, in the fortunate position of having just pulled…More

Review: Exterminator (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 19) 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 500I, Fuzion 28, SuperGAU 487/541, Vectronix 525 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review So I was going to have a look at Robocop…More

ST Format Issue 18 (Dec 90)

ST Format Issue 18 – Download

The World in December 1990
The UK had a remarkable event as workers from the English and French sides of the Channel Tunnel met for the first time, a project which had run way over budget and way over time, but has since proven to be pretty useful. The first British hostages were released by Saddam Hussein. Poundland opened its first shop (honestly I had no idea it was that old). Tony Adams (Arsenal central defender) was sentenced to 4 months in prison for drink driving. The last coalmine was closed in South Wales.

The US news unemployment hit 6.3%, and the Space Shuttle Columbia had a short mission that really didn’t go brilliantly. Otherwise not much going on in America it seems.

Elsewhere in the world Helmut Kohl won the first federal election since German reunification. Slobodan Milosovic was elected as president of Serbia. This would not go well. In Albania the communists announced free elections with other parties allowed to stand, signalling the end of communism there. Slovenia voted for independence. All in all, a bad time for communism continued, but also seeds were sewn for future conflicts and atrocities.

On TV Britain got its first foreign language channel – it was Greek, surprisingly. Channel 4 premiered Wallace & Gromit’s A Grand Day Out. Otherwise not much to write home about – December is traditionally a quiet month.

The film charts saw Teenage Mutant Ninja (Hero in the UK) Turtles at #1, but it would soon be replaced by Home Alone. The chart is absolutely dreadful.


The album chart is entirely populated by greatest hits collections, reflecting people buying shit albums for their parents. Christmas is a dark time for albums.

The singles chart is a mixed bag. Vanilla Ice tops the chart with Ice Ice Baby, Cliff ‘Not a pedo’ Richard is at #2 with some absolute drek, and Madonna is at #3 with one of her weakest singles, one that signals her trying-too-hard-to-be-shocking phase which would be a feature of her early-90s output. Weirdly The Righteous Brothers have two songs in the top 10 (and it wasn’t a common occurrence in those days) while Emmerdale (British soap opera) star Malandra Burrows had a terrible song in at #11. On a more positive note there’s the excellent All Together Now by The Farm and Unbelievable by EMF. There’s also Wicked Game by Chris Isaak at #12 which peaked a week earlier at #10, far below where it deserves to be.

The Magazine

Issue 18 proclaims itself the biggest ever issue, and weighing in at 220 pages it is indeed the biggest ever issue of ST Format. No bigger issue would be produced as by next Christmas the ST would be in a slightly less healthy state giving us 180 pages and another year later while weighing in at 140 pages the machine is clearly heading for its grave. Still, the cover is having none of that, proclaiming the reasons to be cheerful including how Atari are going to transform your ST. This refers to a news story about the forthcoming Mega STE – a machine with a 68000 processor running at 16MHz vs the usual 8, 2/4MB RAM, but otherwise the same as an STE. Borrowing the form-factor of the Mega ST and intended as its replacment. Probably the biggest feature is actually TOS 2.0 promising keyboard shortcuts for menu items, a new control panel, select all in the file selector, cursor-key window scrolling, and the ability to change the background colour. Unfortunately the new machine is pretty expensive, and in truth it does little to address the weaknesses of the ST against the Amiga – it’s a perfectly fine DTP machine but not much more, and the failure to address the ST’s weaknesses vs the Amiga graphically make even that point questionable.

Another announcement from Atari concerns an STE variant of the Stacy laptop. Atari claimed battery life of 35 hours, which seems unlikely with the technology of the era. In really exciting news, we have the first mention I’ve seen in ST Format of an optical mouse. £39.95 gets you a wired optical mouse from Golden Image.

There’s a bit of evisceration of Atari, with an article titled “Atari: back on the right tracks?” which highlights the many screw-ups from Atari in 1990 (in hindsight the big screw-up, the STE, was what killed them by preventing the ST line from having a longer lifespan and failing to provide the platform for a more impressive Falcon down the line). Worse however is the open letter to Atari addressing a number of issues including the botched STE launch and Atari’s tendency to simply deny problems exist, which was proven correct by a petulant response from Bob Gleadow of Atari. In many ways these letters place the problems at the heart of Atari’s management in full public glare and offer remarkable insight into precisely why Atari failed. I highly recommend either downloading issue 18 to have a look, or finding the specific pages at the ST Format Shrine’s page for this issue.

This is a double-disk issue, with the demo disk containing a level from the excellent Golden Axe and the less excellent Puzznic, while the 2nd disk is a full game, but sadly it’s the utterly terrible Interphase. Believe me when I say Interphase is not a good game. Technically it’s not bad, with reasonably smooth 3D graphics, but that’s achieved by being so abstract as to render that smoothness worthless. In the end it’s just a 3D shooter. While we’re on cover disks, ST Format gloat a bit about ST User’s cover disk virus as well as the death of Stampede. Frankly not ST Format’s finest hour.

We get a top 10 for 5 categories of game of which I’d say 3 no longer get the attention they once did. Shooters, platformers, sims, adventures and puzzles. The shooters are headed by Xenon 2 with Turrican in at 5 plus some odd choices at other positions. Platformers do better with Rainbow Islands and Rick 2 fairly solid choices for the top 2 spots, though Flood at #3 seems an odd choice until you see the poor quality of the rest of the list. Sims do well, the top 3 of F-19, Kick Off 2 and Sim City being 3 of my all-time favourite games, and the rest are solid enough. The adventure list has Operation Stealth correctly at #1, and a scattering of decent games beyond that. Puzzles places Pipe Mania in a mere #4 while the likes of Klax and E-Motion sit undeservedly above it. Two of the best games of the preceding 12 months (Damocles and Midwinter) fail to get a mention, though perhaps this is because it’s hard to find a category for them.

Previews

We have an interesting mix of previews this month. There’s Welltris attempting to bring Tetris into 3D – something nobody really got right until the recent VR take on the concept. More interesting is Domark’s Mig 29, I’m hoping that’ll turn out to be the first non-Microprose modern sim to hook its claws into me. Continuing the 3D theme we have a promise of some Damocles mission disks (we only got 1 – it’s possible that the second became Mercenary 3) while ARC (Atari’s own label) had Cyber Assault though this would prove to be vapourware. On a more arcadey note there’s Rod-Land, which turned out to be a decent conversion of a fairly typical cutesy arcade platformer, and for those craving something a little more macho we have previews for SWIV and Z-Out (shooters) and Turrican 2.

We get a fairly extended piece on plans to run with the success of Sim City with architecture disks and Sim Earth (the latter was hugely ambitious but ultimately a terrible game). In many ways Sim Earth was a precursor to the likes of Spore (no coincidence that both came from Maxis). Sim City 2 is teased but the description sounds a lot like Sim City 2000 which never made it to the ST owing to being a bit too big and ambitious.

There’s an interesting article on the Bitmap Brothers going independent to form Renegade – it’s somewhat uncritical as tends to be the case when ST Format are talking about the Bitmaps, Bullfrog, etc. Still, it’s worth a read and you get a little bit about Magic Pockets and Gods with the latter getting some screenshots. Interesting to see their love of Paradroid 90 and clearly they like the hacking sequence a lot more than I do.

Of most interest to me is the chunky preview given for the masterpiece Midwinter 2 (aka Flames Of Freedom). Visually it looks like a lot is already there at this point, the art is a huge upgrade from the first game, though apparently it was still pretty buggy at this point. It’s interesting then that when I played it back in the day I don’t remember encountering any significant bugs.

The public domain section is much of a muchness but does feature one fairly interesting demo from Radical Systemz. No doubt it’s pretty, and the reviewer is pretty excited by it, but I think he may miss how it’s easier to do something like this than it is to make a full game.

Other reviews of note include NeoDesk 3, showing Atari what a desktop environment could look like. Remarkable features like not having a puke-green background, customisable icons, a faster disk formatter, being able to keep items selected while you scroll the window, keyboard shortcuts, all fairly revolutionary stuff. Atari really rested on their laurels on the software side of things, in a way it’s a shame hard disks weren’t more popular on the ST as we’d have seen Neodesk have more success, and maybe that might have pushed Atari to get their act together.

ST Game Charts

F-19 continues to dominate, with Kick Off 2 close behind. Shadow Of The Beast makes its appearance at #3, a victory for graphics over gameplay. Good to see some quality in there with Cadaver a new entry at 5 and the brilliant Operation Stealth at #6. Turrican only gets in at #15, while Midwinter is still hanging in there at #19. In the budget charts, a lot of kids are going to be cursing santa for getting them Codemaster’s turd Italia 90. What on earth is wrong with people?

Reviews

Games reviewed this month:
Supremacy (Strategy – Melbourne House – £29.99 – 90% Format Gold)
Lost Patrol (Very pretty Vietnam war game – Ocean – £24.99 – 88%)
Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge (Outrun-style racer – Gremlin – £19.99 -86%)
Puzznic (Puzzle – Ocean – £24.99 – 86%)
ATF 2 (Arcade flight sim shooter – Digital Integration – £24.99 – 74%)
Ultimate Ride (3D Motorbike Racer – Mindscape – £24.99 – 67%)
9 Lives (Insanely pretty flip-screen platformer – Arc – £24.99 – 74%)
Brain Blasters (Puzzle – Ubisoft – £19.99 – 88%)
Speedball 2 (If you don’t know this game you shouldn’t be here – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 88%) – Criminally underrated
Golden Axe (Side-scrolling arcade slasher – Virgin – £24.99 – 82%)
Toyota Celica GT Rally (3D Rallying – Gremlin – £24.99 – 79%)
The Curse Of Ra (Puzzler – Rainbow Arts – £19.99 – 83%)
Car-Vup (Car-themed cutesy platformer – Core Design – £19.99 – 79%)
Gremlins 2 (Side-scrolling movie tie-in – Elite – £19.99 – 70%)
Badlands (Top-down-ish racer – Domark – £24.99 – 72%)
Alpha Waves (Pretentious 3D Twaddle – Infogrames – £24.99 – 83%)
Murders In Space (Point and click adventure crime solver – Infogrames – £24.99 – 83%)
Narco Police (Into-the-screen shooter – Dinamic – £24.99 – 46%)
Chip’s Challenge (Puzzler – US Gold – £19.99 – 82%)
Pang (Arcade bubble-splatter – Ocean – £24.99 – 88%)
Chess Simulator (Beat em up – Infogrames – £24.99 – 62%)
The Final Battle (Adventure – PSS – £24.99 – 52%)
Corporation (SLOOOOOOW filled-vector FPS – Core Design – £24.99 – 87%)
Chase HQ 2 (Arcade racer with weapons – Ocean – £24.99 – 78%)
Street Hockey (3d hockey – Gonzo Games – £24.99 – 64%)
USS John Young (3D naval battle sim with terrible graphics – Magic Bytes – £24.99 – 34%)
Nitro (Top-down racer – Psygnosis – £19.99 – 41%)
Omnicron Conspiracy (Adventure/Whodunnit – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 42%)
Vector Championship Run (3D Racer – Impulze – £24.99 – 40%)
Shadow Warriors (Beat Em Up – Ocean – £24.95 – 58%)
Helter Skelter (Terrible platformer – Audiogenic – £19.99 – 75%)
Mig 29 Soviet Fighter (Awful Afterburner clone – Codemasters – £6.99 – 30%)
Defender 2 (Jeff Minter defender clone collection – Arc – £19.99 – 88%)
Conflict (Strategy – Mastertronic – £4.99 – 60%)
A bunch of Infocom text adventures at £9.99 each – 75-89% with Hitchhiker’s Guide the highlight

So again there’s a fair number of games there which interest me. Supremacy is one I always wanted to have a crack at but I suspect will take a good bit of time to figure out and may be difficult to fit into a 3/4 day cadence between reviews. Similar could be said of Lost Patrol – a game with screenshots I’m sure we all drooled over back in the day. The scanned photos promised naive young minds a rather more graphical experience though as an old man knowing more of the capabilities of the machine I suspect they were merely stills for atmosphere.

Speedball 2 is a given – any excuse to play that is fine by me. I plan to have a crack at both the Gremlin racers – I never played Lotus 1 but it has an excellent reputation, but Toyota Celica GT Rally interests me more. It’s a game I had a blast with as a kid and for me is a vital part of my racing game history. Continuing the racing theme I’m curious to see if Badlands and Nitro are any good – ST Format didn’t generally like those kinds of top-down racers so it’ll be interesting to see if they’re actually any good and whether there’s enough meat on the bones to get an article out of them. I might even have a crack at Chase HQ 2 to see if that’s any better than the first.

9 Lives is one I wanted as a kid but never managed to acquire so I’ll be giving that a shot. Continuing the arcade theme I’d like to have a crack at Pang and Golden Axe – the latter I’ll probably do some comparisons with other ports. Car-vup might also be worth a look. For more serioius stuff I’m tempted by Murders In Space and Omnicron Conspiracy though I’ll need to spend some time with those to see if they control sanely and offer enough to get an article out of them.

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.

  • Speedball 2 – Automation 400, Fuzion 30, SuperGAU 374/541, Vectronix 593/785
  • Lotus 1 – Automation 383A, Fuzion 20, Medway Boys 98, Pompey Pirates 60, Vectronix 219/904
  • Toyota Celica GT Rally – Automation 419, Fuzion 39, Vectronix 703
  • Nitro – Automation 377, Flame Of Finland 45, Pompey Pirates 61, SuperGAU 476/809, Vectronix 192/342/814
  • Badlands – Automation 392, Flame Of Finland 48, Medway Boys 102, Pompey Pirates 69, Vectronix 417/667
  • Chase HQ 2 – Automation 473, Pompey Pirates 66, Vectronix 518
  • Pang – Automation 427B, Flame Of Finland 48, Pompey Pirates 65, SuperGAU 473/805, Vectonix 35/112/801
  • Golden Axe – Automation 399, Fuzion 23, Pompey Pirates 64, SuperGAU 402, Vectronix 281/828
  • 9 Lives – Automation 376, Fuzion 57
  • Car vup – Automation 419, Fuzion 38, Pompey Pirates 70, SuperGAU 385
  • Murders In Space – Automation 383A/B, Vectronix 818/9
  • Omnicron Conspiracy – Automation 461
  • Lost Patrol – Vectronix 369-371
  • Supremacy – Automation 425A/B
  • ATF 2 – Automation 390, Flame Of Finland 44, Fuzion 22, Medway Boys 101, Pompey Pirates 61, SuperGAU 460/812

Reviews This Month

Review: Golden Axe (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 399, Fuzion 23, Pompey Pirates 64, SuperGAU 402, Vectronix 281/828 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review So we’re bringing out the big guns.…More

Review: Pang (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 427B, Flame Of Finland 48, Pompey Pirates 65, SuperGAU 473/805, Vectonix 35/112/801 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review I’ll start with a confession…More

Review: Badlands (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 392, Flame Of Finland 48, Medway Boys 102, Pompey Pirates 69, Vectronix 417/667 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review Continuing our run of…More

Review: Toyota Celica GT Rally (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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. The usual suspects didn’t work, getting stuck with joystick controls not working, but there’s a Pompey Pirates crack available within the TOSEC collection found on…More

Review: Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 383A, Fuzion 20, Medway Boys 98, Pompey Pirates 60, Vectronix 219/904 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review Making our way through the wonderful…More

Not-Quite-Review: Nitro (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 377, Flame Of Finland 45, Pompey Pirates 61, SuperGAU 476/809, Vectronix 192/342/814 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review This game did not score…More

Review: Speedball 2 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 18) 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 400, Fuzion 30, SuperGAU 374/541, Vectronix 593/785 Speedlink USB Joystick My Review In many ways there’s really bugger all point in me…More

ST Format Issue 14 and the stench of corruption (Magic Fly)

ST Format Issue 14 – Download

The World in August 1990
In UK news BA had a plane stolen by the Iraqi army at Kuwait airport after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, while back home the heatwave saw temperatures hit 37.1C (98.8F). Labour had a 15 point lead over hte Tories (probably because of the poll tax) and while Iraq was taking British hostages, Lebabon was releasing them with Brian Keenan freed. BBC Radio 5 began broadcasting, covering news and sport.

The US news was pretty quiet outside of the middle east, but the Magellan landed on Venus which was pretty exciting.

Elsewhere in the world Iraq invaded Kuwait, with the UN ordering an embargo against Iraq. Meanwhile Bulgaria elected its first non-Communist president in 40 years, and the South African government and the ANC began talks to end Apartheid. Egypt, Syria and 10 other Arab states voted to send military forces to Saudi Arabia to discourage Iraq from invading.

On TV we had the debut of Channel 4’s music program The Word (a program which would epitomise the anarchic style of 90s TV), while the last episode of Miami Vice would be shown on BBC 1. Channel 4 would also debut Drop The Dead Donkey.

The film charts are absolutely killer this month with Days Of Thunder at #1 (ok so it’s Top Gun with cars but I like it), Gremlins 2 at #2 and the utterly fucking brilliant Total Recall at #3 (dropping from #1 the previous week). We also have Back To The Future 3 and Dick Tracy in there too, with Pretty Woman remaining in the chart and Spaced Invaders which sounds like something potentially fun (the whole film is on Youtube).

Yeah that looks quite something. They don’t make films like that anymore!

The album chart isn’t very exciting with Elton at #1, Madonna’s album for the Dick Tracy movie at #2, Phil Collins, Pavarotti and NKOTB still there, even MC Hammer and Craig McLachlan. Not a good chart.

The singles chart features the utterly dreadful Turtle Power by Partners In Kryme (to coincide with the release of the movie) at #1 and Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini at #3 for fuck’s sake. In more positive news there’s Tom’s Diner at #2 and Naked In The Rain at #4, plus Roxette at #9 with Listen To Your Heart. At #12 we see Together with Hardcore Uproar and Bon Jovi at #13 with Blaze Of Glory, plus Technotronic with Rockin over the Beat ft Ya Kid K at #15 so it’s not all bad.

The Magazine
Issue 14 came out in August 1990, and was my 5th issue. The theme this month is how the cost of a game is divided between publisher, retailer, developer, etc. This is illustrated by a spiv on the cover, presumably representing the shady motherfuckers who ran software houses at that time.

In terms of news, Deluxe Paint finally made it to the ST. Deluxe Paint was an absolute powerhouse in the world of 16-bit art packages though the Amiga was its more natural home. They get their art editor to discuss what is an EA release, though fail to join the dots here and mention his work on an EA game (Magic Fly – more on that later).

The STFM got an upgrade to its version of TOS, to version 1.4. In general one didn’t upgrade because TOS was in a ROM chip on the board, rather than the approach we see today of storing the OS on writable media. There’s a brief mention of a game which ST Format would never review, but which you may recognise in my avatar – Mad Professor Mariarti. A brilliant game – one you should all try – and I’ll be reviewing that when we get to roughly its time of release. In other news, Captain Sensible reviewed a Monty Python game. A mad world indeed.

There’s a report on the British Music Fair in which highlights include an amazing 1.2GB hard drive. Madness. However, beyond that the show was further evidence of the ST’s place in the music industry.

The TT was getting closer to release and we discovered that it would run at 32MHz vs the ST’s 8 and the Mega’s 16. £2530 would get you a TT with 2MB of RAM and it would be available in October. I so wanted one as a kid though looking back, outside the 68030 chip, it was underspecced.

In the feature on where your money goes, ST Format conclude that 12.5% goes to the distributor (men with vans), 15% to VAT (UK sales tax), 40% to the software house, and 32.5% to the dealer (the shop). There’s some discussion of the cost of film licenses – I suspect they’d cost a bit more than the quoted £250k today. One quite interesting thing is that they go into some detail about the cost of an advert in ST Format, as well as that of getting your game included as a cover disk demo. It’s refreshing openness and honesty about what goes on behind the scenes and is probably quite an interesting read to some here.

The cover disk features demos of the mediocre Yolanda and the excellent Rick Dangerous (presumably the publishers trying to get some publicity given ST Format failed to review it). There’s reference to a new version that’s not quite as tough, so maybe that’s a reason for the demo too. You also get a cool Graffiti tool to graffiti your desktop. I was going to do a screenshot but then embarassingly realised I’d forgotten how to run desktop accessories. There’s also a funky speech synthesizer which sounds like Stephen Hawking. Needless to say I just made it swear.

We get a pretty full and detailed discussion of all the ST error codes and what they mean plus some guidance on where to start with BASIC, discussion of daisy-wheel vs laser printers, ant other techie bits.

Public Domain and Demos
I thought it might be nice to cover some of these especially as once we get out of the golden age that’s pretty much all there is! There’s some discussion of Budgie’s licensware concept where Budgie receive royalties for PD libraries distributing their games. Among them is Safe As Houses which looks like a decent version of Monopoly. Beyond Budgie there’s a fun little desktop accessory which melts your screen, a free spreadsheet program called Opus which looks surprisingly good, and Quizmaster for making your own quizzes (handy for exam revision).

In the world of Demos we have a Dragon’s Lair demo which takes scenes straight from the laser disk, EDEM11 playing 28 bits of music, STE Demos which show off the STE’s sound chip and blitter, plus some sound samples with graphics showing 400 colours on screen.

Previews
The first preview is for Betrayal – a strategy game about which I know very little. There’s a brief mention of a James Bond game – The Spy Who Loved Me. I suspect it’s one of those 4-games-in-one jobbies. Snow Strike gets a mention, the adverts always looked pretty good but I had a look at a YouTube of someone playing it and it’s utter shite. Chuck Yeager lends his name to another flight sim, though I’ve not played it. There’s some RPG action in Legends Of Faerghail but the stupid name puts me off. Alcatraz has a pretty screenshot but it’s not quite clear what it is. Murders In Space looks interesting, there’s not been much in the way of Murder Mystery games on the ST, though this month we have Murder! under review.

We get a longer preview and developer interview for Core Design (of Tomb Raider fame) on the topic of their coming games Rick Dangerous 2, where we’re told we must refer to it as Rick Dick instead of Rick Dangerous but never told why. There’s a focus on more between-level cinematics, and a camera that tracks the player in vertical scrolling and an improved trap system with more detection points and triggering by dynamite, bullets, etc rather than just the player. These changes bring the game closer to its modern descendent Spelunky.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Magic Fly (Wireframe-3D space game – EA – £24.95 – 91% Format Gold)
Monty Python (Insanity – Virgin – £19.99 – 84% – Reviewed by Captain Sensible)
Debut (Planet Simulator – Pandora – £24.99 – 77%)
Breach 2 (Strategy – Impressions – £24.99 – 82%)
Yolanda (Single-screen hardcore platformer – Millenium – £19.99 – 58%)
Last Ninja 2 (Flower arranging simulator – Activision – £24.99 – 86%)
Kick Off 2 (Accountancy Rhythm Game – Anco – £19.99 – 92% Format Gold)
Blockout (3D Tetris – Rainbow Arts – £19.99 – 72%)
Battlemaster (Shit – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 82%)
Sly Spy (Didn’t get a Bond license – Ocean – £19.99 – 59%)
Back To The Future 2 (Multi-game film license – Mirrorsoft – £19.95 – 62%)
Antago (Super-charming puzzle/board game – Art Of Dreams – £19.95 – 84%)
Murder (Murder mystery – US Gold – £19.99 – 72%)
Harley Davidson (Motorbike game with minigames and sexism [YAY] – Mindscape – £29.99 – 76%)
Astate (Hidden object – New Deal Productions – £19.95 – 38%)
Wildlife (Safari Guns with cameras – New Deal Productions – £19.99 – 21%)
Treble Champions (Shit football management game – Challenge Software – £19.95 – 19%)
Official Everton FC Intelligensia – Amfas – £19.99 – 57%)
Shades (Online chatroom/game – Micronet – 8p/min [peak] / 2p/min [cheap] + Micronet subscription – 80%) – see https://www.prestel.org.uk/ for more about Prestel
Trash (Online chatroom/game – Micronet – 8p/min [peak] / 2p/min [cheap] + Micronet subscription – 92%)

The interesting bit here is Magic Fly. https://www.mobygames.com/game/amiga/magic-fly and https://www.mobygames.com/game/atari-st/magic-fly show the magazine scores for each version of the game, with nobody going over 70% and yet ST Format bizarrely gave the game 91% – a game that one of their staff had worked on. Amiga Power’s rating for the game is particularly scathing. To their credit they don’t hide the relationship, with the preview in the previous issue going fairly in-depth, but it’s still pretty egregious, certainly I’d like to see more of a mention in the review.

Of the games reviewed, the ones that interest me most are Monty Python for sheer silliness, Last Ninja 2 as it looks like an interesting take on the beat em up, Kick Off 2 because I want to see what changed from 1 to 2 and because Dino Dini is god, Back To The Future 2 because the film was amazing and I remember dicking about with a cover disk demo back in the day, Antago because it looks so charming, Murder because I always wanted to give it a shot and Harley Davidson because it looks like a cool take on motorbikes. I’m going to be busy!

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.
– Monty Python – Automation 508, Medway Boys 94, Pompey Pirates 56
– Last Ninja 2 – Automation 363, Flame Of Finland 29, SuperGAU 956, Pompey Pirates 42, Vectronix 169
– Kick Off 2 – Automation 69E (doesn’t sound right), SuperGAU 343, Medway Boys 75, Vectronix 9/204
– Back To The Future 2 – Automation 342, Flame of Finland 36A, SuperGAU 365/848/858, Medway Boys 84, Vectronix 626 — the first game is only on Vectronix 805, I might give it a quick go just for a crack
– Antago – No warez version – can only find at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-antago_11073.html
– Murder! – Automation 377, Medway Boys 99A, Pompey Pirates 58
– Harley Davidson – Automation 510, Flame Of Finland 33

Reviews This Month

Review: Murder

Murder! ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve picked Pompey Pirates 58. That’s one hell of a picture! The music is pretty good by chip tune standards, technically this isn’t anything special, scrolling text, etc, but for me that picture just makes it.…More

Review: Monty Python

Monty Python ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve picked Pompey Pirates 56. The Medway Boys intro was a bit dull, and the Automation menu didn’t even bother featuring music. There’s some music on this one, but most important of all is a…More

Review: Harley Davidson – The Road To Sturgis

Harley Davidson – Road To Sturgis ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. The release of choice is Automation 510, and we get a fairly plain intro – funky text, some fairly decent music. There is actually one quite impressive effect of lights spelling…More

Review: Kick Off 2

Kick Off 2 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Medway Boys 75 because it was one of the first pirated disks I ever encountered, as a download from Tik’s Atari Palace in the very early days of the internet, to…More

Review: Last Ninja 2

Last Ninja 2 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Pompey Pirates 42. The menu is fairly plain with the artwork you see above and scrolly text moving far too quickly for me to be able to read it. The music…More

Review: Back To The Future 2

Back To The Future 2 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Medway boys 84, in part because I don’t want to always use Automation. It’s not a very exciting menu – the word Medway Boys floats around, there’s some scrolly…More

Review: Antago

Antago ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. There’s not a proper menu disk with it on but there’s an Atari Legend crack so we’ll see if it works. This one gives us a chiptune but not much else, just some chiptune music and…More

ST Format 14 Cover Disk – Robotz and Mike Yocum

From the cover disk application listings.. anyone else seeing some dodginess with the developer’s name? Or do I just have a filthy mind? Robotz ST Format ReviewNope My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. Just for fun I’m going to review a little freebie on the ST…More

ST Format Issue 13

ST Format Issue 13 – Download

The World in July 1990
In UK news, England went out of the World Cup, losing the semi-final to Germany on penalties in what would become a national tradition. UEFA lifted the ban on English clubs which had been in place since the Heysel disaster. Nigel Mansell announced his coming retirement from F1, and Graham Taylor was appointed England manager. It would not go well. Most importantly of all, my wife was born.

The US entered recession, while George Bush signed legislation to protect disabled workers from discrimination.

Elsewhere in the world East and West Germany officially merged their economies. Martina Navratilova and Stefan Edberg won Wimbledon. Belarus declared sovereignty in its quest to escape the USSR.

On TV the big event was the World Cup final, with the three tenors singing together for the first time – Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma would be the highlight. Oh and some football happened too. MPs voted to make televised coverage of the commons a permanent thing. Stars In Their Eyes (in which people would try to sound like famous singers) made its debut on ITV. Masterchef made its debut on BBC1.

The film charts had the weakest of the Back To The Future Trilogy at #1, after Tremors had a couple of weeks in the top 10 before exiting rapidly. Dick Tracy was the big budget feature, while Tom Hanks did his thing in Joe Vs The Volcano. I’m genuinely curious as to what the buggering hell “I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle” is like. I’m also curious as to whether Lord Of The Flies is any good – the book is of course magnificent but I don’t know much about the film.

The album chart had Pavarotti at #1 due to the world cup, while Elton John occupied #2 with an album that contained only 1 decent track. With too many greatest hits albums, the chart is pretty miserable.

The singles chart is mixed. Elton at #1 with Sacrifice is decent enough, Pavarotti at #2, Craig McLachlan continued the wave of Neighbours stars releasing singles but while it was catchy enough it wasn’t anything special. Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love is a banger, and everyone loves MC Hammer’s You Can’t Touch This, while One Love by Stone Roses is ok, but overall it’s a weak chart with a novelty single at #7 (Thunderbirds Are Go).


The Magazine
Issue 13 came out in July 1990, and was my 4th issue. It’s actually a pretty decent read, even if the cover is pretty lame. The theme, it appears, is a helpdesk of sorts, a newbies guide, that might be expected more in January’s issue than July’s. Still, it gets better inside.

The cover disk’s headline item is a demo of Battlemaster. As a kid I really couldn’t find a good game in there, due to muddy graphics, poor controls and there just not being much to it. The disk page cites Gauntlet as inspiration but I’d be much happier playing Gauntlet as it does something this game has forgotten about – readability. In Gauntlet it’s really easy to figure out what’s going on, every object’s purpose is clear and you know which bits of screen are trying to kill you. Not so in Battlemaster. It’s one of the things Nintendo is pretty unique in these days.

In the news, we have Atari’s CD-ST. Quite why anyone thought a machine with 0.5MB RAM would be of any use running software from 650MB media is beyond me – it was simply too early for the tech to be usefully applied to the computers of the era, especially given they didn’t have the processing grunt to push data around at that rate. Obviously there was some hype around FMV and with 20/20 hindsight we can see that it’s shit, but surely the clues were there with how awful Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair (which were effectively FMV games) were. Not much else going on in a quiet month.

Here’s a video of someone showing off an Atari ST CD unit.


Suffice to say it didn’t achieve any level of commercial success. I reckon it might have worked if they’d bundled the Falcon with one, but then again the prohibitive cost might have made the Falcon even more of a failure.

We get an interesting discussion around cheap synthesizers you can plug into your ST and the one I had as a kid gets a mention, the legendary Yamaha PSS-480. While the keys weren’t touch-sentitive (ie no variation of velocity) it did do polyphony well and it was well-specced for MIDI and allowed you to generate your own sounds (albeit they were shit). It’s where I learned a lot about making music, as I used the free copy of Sequencer One from a later issue of ST Format.

Previews
There’s a mix of gold and shit this month. You’ve got Metal Masters which I think is a mech fighting game, Gold Of The Aztecs looks like a shit fantasy scrolly stabby game, and there’s Satan from the muppets who brought us the excorable Army Moves and Navy Moves. In more positive news there’s a shot of “Murder!” (the ! is required) which I always liked the look of though I suspect it might end up not living up to my idea of what it would be. Another rather interesting title is the Monty Python game. I love all things Python, as any good Brit should, so that’s relevant to my interests. Meanwhile Core (of Tomb Raider fame) had Corporation in the works – looks like a futuristic dungeon master game. The cream of the crop though is Life And Death, where you get to be a surgeon and operate on people. Screenshots always looked super-exciting.

ST Format has been shifting in these last few issues to give broader coverage to gaming, perhaps realising that games were a larger part of the target market than they originally thought, and the previews section has shifted a little from the 2 pages with a screen for each game to having additional segments that you’d recognise in modern games magazine previews.

In this issue for instance we have a lengthy preview of Magnetic Scrolls game based on Alice in Wonderland, and the windowed system it uses. It’s actually quite an interesting evolutionary dead-end, and evolutionary dead-ends are always fascinating in that they offer a bit of insight into how games evolve. In this case, where Zak McKracken took adventures in a different route in escaping the bounds of text adventures by using a point and click interface with verbs and inventory supplementing a full graphical environment, Magnetic Scrolls had roots in text adventures and so their approach is in many ways more traditional. While the graphical image is clickable and interactable, they’ve also got windows with text descriptions in the traditional text adventure style, and have icons for movement, and listing items in the room and so on, with menus to interact with those objects. In a way the visuals are simply shortcuts to push parsed messages to the parser and to present the available options to the user to avoid the hassle of typing (while still allowing them to do so). It’s a layer that sits atop the standard text-parsed adventure, instead of being a direct replacement for it. It’s clever, but you can see they were bound my thinking around text adventures rather than consideration of graphic adventures. One suspects they went down that path because they knew they could no longer charge full price for text adventures and wanted graphics that would look nice in a review, but didn’t quite go far enough in ditching text because that was what they were used to.

The second preview is a little bit naughty. Their graphics editor was working on a game for EA, and we have a 3 page preview for that game which frankly looks ugly as sin. Next issue it will get a Format Gold.

The third preview centres on Bullfrog, and thus it’s pretty interesting. I’ve posted it in full below for you guys to enjoy, but I’ll also just talk about it for a bit as I can obviously look at it with a bit of hindsight. Their humble beginnings as makers of serious software and then the mediocre Fusion certainly don’t hint at greatness, and you can clearly see that Populous made them. Without Populous we’d never have heard of Peter Molyneux, we wouldn’t have Theme Park/Hospital, we wouldn’t have Black & White, and the world would be a less fun place.

The story around the naming of Powermonger is interesting, showing that even in 1990 software publishers were using focus groups, something I didn’t think was the case. As it is I do wonder if the game might have been more successful as Warmonger (the original title) or one of the suggested titles Megalomania, which Sensible Software would later use for their magnificent game.

The focus is clearly on Powermonger and one gets the impression that Flood was knocked out as a quick project to keep the books balanced and possibly to train up some of the newbies. There wasn’t much hype pre-release and it barely gets a mention here, though it did get a Format Gold (possibly because the magazine writers were a little too friendly with the devs – who knows, I guess we’ll find out when I play it).

One interesting thing is that even here Peter is bullshitting a little. He talks about designing your ranks (presumably the uniform your soldiers wear) and that absolutely isn’t in the game. Similarly there’s mention of neighbouring fishing villages playing a game of baseball which I’m pretty sure is fictitious. The killer feature is named villagers going about their business – my suspicion however is that it generates the names and tasks as they appear on screen and forgets them as they disappear, but it does a decent enough job of creating the illusion so I’ll let him keep that one. Powermonger is a VERY good game by the way.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Damocles (Explore a solar system, save a planet from a comet – Novagen – £24.95 – 94% Format Gold)
Wipe Out (Tron Light Cycles on water – Gonzo Games – £19.99 – 64%)
Flood (Platformer [from Bullfrog] – EA – £19.99 – 91%)
AMC (Run and gun from Army Moves devs – Dinamic – £19.99 – 69%)
F29 Retaliator (Flight Sim – Ocean – £24.99 – 76%)
Midnight Resistance (Run and gun – Ocean – £24.99 – 41%)
Khalaan (strategy – Rainbow Arts – £24.99 – 59%)
Thunderstrike (Abstract 3D shooter – Millenium – £24.99 – 88%)
Treasure Trap (Isometric adventure – Electronic Zoo – £24.99 – 81%)
Atomix (Puzzler – Thalion – £19.95 – 79%)
Rourke’s Drift (Strategy – Impressions – £24.99 – 46%)
Skidz (Shit skateboarding game – Gremlin – £19.95 – 71%)
Prophecy 1 (Platformer – Wired – £19.99 – 67%)

Of those, the ones that interest me most are the Treasure Trap and the legendary Damocles. The latter was one of my favourite games growing up, while Treasure Trap was a game that interested me but I never got round to. I want to take a look at Flood because it’s a Bullfrog game I’ve not played, though honestly it doesn’t look like anything special. Finally I think it would be useful to have a look at F29 Retaliator to compare it with F-19 Stealth Fighter.

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.
– Flood – Automation 313, Fuzion 9, SuperGAU 346, Medway Boys 76, Pompey Pirates 43, Vectronix 517
– Treasure Trap – Superior 74A
– F29 Retaliator – Automation 377, Pompey Pirates 38, Superior 75, Vectronix 480
– Damocles – Automation 294B, Fuzion 13, SuperGAU 488/955, Medway Boys 73, Pompey Pirates 41, Vectronix 803

Reviews This Month

Review: Damocles

Damocles ST Format Review My Review PART ONE For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve picked Automation 294B, which has a pretty simple intro. Scrolly text, music, a nice picture, simple enough. Before I go any further it’s worth giving a bit of back-story to this game. So…More

Review: Treasure Trap

Treasure Trap ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I initially went with Superior as nobody else bothered cracking this one. Superior were previously known as Flame Of Finland and their menus are a bit bare bones. In this case however the menu simply didn’t…More

Review: Flood

Flood ST Format Review My ReviewSPOILER: NOT 100% WORK SAFE SCREENSHOTFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with Fuzion 9, in part because I’ve not used many Fuzion disks, but also because the menu has some hilariously bad artwork (I’ve had to spoiler-tag it). Scrolling text is the…More

ST Format Issue 12

ST Format Issue 12 – Download

The World in June 1990
In the UK the bans on British beef were lifted after the BSE crisis, while the planned high-speed link between London and the Channel Tunnel was shelved. John Major proposed an alternative to the EU’s proposed single currency, a currency which would circulate alongside existing currencies. In hindsight it would have saved the EU a lot of headaches as it would have left member states freer to fix economic woes. JK Rowling began writing the first Harry Potter book.

In US news Ohio had 88 tornadoes. Why the fuck would anyone want to live anywhere that has that kind of shit going on? Universal Studios opened in Florida.

Elsewhere in the world the World Cup began in Italy. England would go on to the semi finals, their greatest performance since winning the tournament in 1966, and a feat not repeated until 2018. West Germany would win, though before long they would just be Germany.

On TV Art Attack made its debut with Neil Buchanan doing outsized art projects. Not much else went on as most people were busy watching the World Cup.

The film charts had Pretty Woman at #1, and The Witches at #7. The rest isn’t of much interest.

The album chart was poor, with Soul II Soul at #1, Jason Donovan at #2 and a best of album by Talk Talk at #3. Pavarotti got #8 due to the World Cup where Nessun Dorma was the official tune.

The singles chart featured the greatest football song ever, World In Motion by New Order and some England players. The John Barnes rap would become the stuff of legend. At #3 we had Chad Jackson with Hear The Drummer Get Wicked (choooon!) while Elton was at #5 with Sacerifayce. Roxette with it Must Have Been Love and Betty Boo Doin The Doo, plus the Charlatans with The Only One I Know and Wilson Phillips Hold On make for a VERY strong top 10. Hell, even further down the chart you had Snap with Oops Up, Black Box with Everybody Everybody which only got to 16 ffs.


The Magazine
Issue 12 came out in June 1990, and was my third issue, and probably one of my favourites. The theme for this issue was music, and as a result it came with a tape of some music made on an Atari ST, and it was really catchy. See http://fading-twilight.atari.org/br…twilight_dual_layer_dvd/TUNEZ/DEMOS/ST/STF12/ if you want to have a listen. I just found it and my god it tickled my nostalgia bone.

The cover is probably one of the slickest looking covers yet, reflecting perhaps an increase in budget. The coverdisk leads with Starblade which was immensely pretty but shallow, and honestly it was never entirely clear what was going on. Visually it’s an absolute treat, no doubt, but as a kid I couldn’t find any gameplay in there. More fun (with 2 players at least) is a little PD game called Deeplair. You each control a submarine and your objective is to shoot your opponent. Simple.

News is interesting, with rival distributors of Calamus (hugely expensive DTP package) at war – the official importers charging £458 while NNS were importing grey imports for £343 and packaging it with ROM chips to change your TOS version to allow it to run what was presumably the US version. All very shady.

There’s a decent little feature on the general composition of a piece of music, not particularly specific to any one software package, so there’s explanation of basic song structure and what MIDI is and how it works, and so on.

Previews
This month we have two pages of previews, with International 3D tennis getting a big feature, a tennis game using vector graphics. It was insanely ugly, but I remember having a good time with it on the Amiga back in the day. Saint Dragon also features, a shooter about which I know little. Prophecy gets a mention (a platformer), while Ocean’s F29 Retaliator gets a screenshot. I never played it, as F-19 Stealth Fighter covered my flight sim needs so well. AMC gets a screenshot, from the makers of Army Moves so it can fuck right off. A Bomber Mission Disk features, as does Battlemaster which still makes no sense. Tetris in a well, Welltris, gets a brief snippet, and we get a first look at Flood from the Bullfrogs (not one of their more celebrated titles).

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Sim City (Violent Golf Game – Infogrames/Maxis – £29.99 – 92% Format Gold)
Dragon’s Lair (Interactive Cartoon – Readysoft – £44.95 – 43%)
F-19 Stealth Fighter (Flight Sim – Microprose – £29.99 – 96% Format Gold)
Projectyle (Future Sports – EA – £24.99 – 86%)
Dynasty Wars (Beat-em-up – US Gold – £19.95 – 68%)
Rotox (Rotating shooter – US Gold – £19.99 – 81%)
Cyberball (Violent future sport set in 2022 – Domark – £19.99 – 80%)
Imperium (Strategy – EA – £24.95 – 87%)
Final Command (Adventure – Ubisoft – £19.99 – 82%)
Ghosts N Goblins (Hack And Slash – Elite – £19.99 – 69%)
Starblade (Space trading adventure – Silmarils – £19.99 – 51%)
Dan Dare 3 (Shooter – Virgin Mastertronic – £19.99 – 63%)
Photon Storm (Jeff Minter Shooter – Atari – £19.99 – 51%)
Bubble+ (Bubble Bobble with extra levels – Infogrames – £19.99 – 38%)
Toyottes (cute platformer – Infogrames – £19.99 – 81%)
Chronoquest 2 (Adventure – Psynosis – £29.99 – 88%)
Dungeons, Amethysts, Alchemists & Everything (Text Adventure – Atlantis – £4.99 – 69%)

Of those, the ones that interest me most are Sim City, F-19 Stealth Fighter, Toyottes, Bubble+ and Projectyle. Obviously nobody needs me to review Sim City but I’d like an excuse to play it again so tough titties – I played it to death as a kid and I still maintain that it’s the best Sim City. F-19 you may be less familiar with, but along with Sim City, Player Manager and Midwinter 2 it was one of the formative games of my childhood where I spent countless hours bombing shit out of the enemy and blowing up migs. Toyottes is one I liked the look of as a kid and the art style still looks really cool judging from the ST Format screenshots so I’m finally going to give it a go. Finally Projectyle always looked fun to me as a kid so I’ll give that a quick look. Sadly I was unable to find Bubble+ anywhere.

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.
– Projectyle – Debug 65, SuperGAU 364/495, Superior 73
– Toyottes – Automation 260, Flames Of Finland 5
– Sim City – Automation 292, Fuzion 8, SuperGAU 457/780, Medway Boys 72, Vectronix 631/774
– F19 Stealth Fighter – Automation 424 (patch/fix), Flames Of Finland 34, Pompey Pirates 45/52, Vectronix 318

Reviews This Month

Review: F-19 Stealth Fighter

ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with Automation 424, not one of their more exciting menus (fairly mediocre chip tune and some scrolly text) but it gets the job done. Into the game. A cool intro with the stealth fighter fading…More

Review: Sim City

Sim City ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with Medway Boys 72 which features a cool graphic, the usual text bouncing and scrolling and some chip music which for some reason makes me think of Lady Gaga. Sim City isn’t exactly…More

Review: The Toyottes

Toyottes ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with Automation 260, primarily because the Flame Of Finland releases tend to be a bit samey. This one isn’t anything special technically but it does give us a glimpse into the future with the…More

Review: Projectyle

Projectyle ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with DBug menu disk 65, my first DBug release of this series. The intro menu isn’t visually that exciting, but it does have a fantastic chiptune version of the old Formula 1 theme. It’s…More

ST Format Issue 11

ST Format Issue 11 – Download

The World in May 1990
In the UK the new version of the Rover Metro came out. It was a shitbox.

In almost-as-bad news, inflation hit an insane 9.4%, compared to the more typical 2% of the last decade. Bobby Robson announced the coming World Cup would be his last. It would be glorious and he would go from a figure of tabloid hate to a national hero. France, always the pricks, banned British beef due to BSE fears, while John Gummer (agriculture minister) fed a hamburger to his 5-year-old daughter for a photo opportunity.

In US news the US and the Soviet Union agreed to end production of chemical weapons. More importantly, Microsoft released Windows 3.0.

Elsewhere in the world Latvia declared independence from the USSR, the WHO removed homosexuality from its list of diseases, and Burma elected Aung San Suu Kyi in a landslide but the result was nullified. The world would bang on about the injustice and then hand her the Nobel Peace Prize before she turned to the dark side as the recipients so often do.

On TV we had the debut of Vic Reeves Big Night Out and err… that’s about it.

The film charts are mixed. The Hunt For Red October is at #1, followed by Nuns On The Run with Eric Idle in drag, oh I’ll say it, it’s a shit chart.

The album chart still has the Carpenters at #1, with Phil Collins still at #2. UB40 were shit. It’s a really shit chart.

The singles chart is a relief, with the wonderful Killer by Adamski (later credited to Seal) at #1. I quite like Kylie’s Better The Devil You Know at #2 – it’s good old fashioned cheery pop music and insanely catchy – Kylie was an absolute goddess. Dirty Cash by The Adventures of Stevie V at #3 is a brilliant song. Opposites Attract with Paula Abdul and the cartoon cat is better than it should be, while Beats International round out the top 10. The singles charts saved us from terminal shitness.


The Magazine
Issue 11 came out in May 1990, and was another issue I didn’t purchase. I would soon get more regular. The cover feature is on the topic of piracy, which was a big problem in those days. There’s a bit of racial stereotyping which we wouldn’t get away with today (especially given most other covers feature white people).

In the news, awkwardly Atari were getting fingered for piracy in Taiwan. There was an advert of sorts for Compuserv, charging £13 an hour to dial up, no doubt in addition to standard phone charges. News was otherwise quiet.

The piracy feature details how the small ads in many magazines featured warez dealers looking to make contact with gamers to supply games they’d downloaded from BBSs. It was apparently a big problem but not one I had much experience with. It’s a worthwhile read though I’m not sure how real the interview with an ‘ex-hacker’ is.

There’s also quite a big feature on comms – I wonder if BBSs will become a big thing… Maybe if they linked them all up into one big BBS that might work. I’ll bet anyone here £5 that at least one of the featured BBSs were engaged in distributing pirated software.

The cover disk features a demo of Resolution 101 but that couldn’t possibly have influenced the review score, could it.

Previews
We have a preview for F-19 Stealth Fighter with a shockingly shit screenshot considering how good the game actually is (oops, spoiler). We also get some pretty screens from Wonderland, and a brief mention for Paradroid 90. Hewson never quite managed to make the shift to 16-bit as they never really embraced the change of gameplay styles. We get a screen from Dynasty Wars which seems a reasonably interesting beat em up, while Projectyle is a future sports game I’ve never heard of. There’s a big preview for Imperium but in truth it’s not a game that held much appeal for me.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Resolution 101 (3D War On Drugs – Logotron – £24.95 – 93% Format Gold)
Klax (Puzzle – Domark – £19.99 – 87%)
Theme Park Mystery (Multi-game – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 80%)
Starflight (Space Sim – EA – £24.95 – 70%)
Player Manager (Kick-Off with a management game attached – Anco – £19.95 – 93% Format Gold)
Italia 90 (Worst football game ever – Codemasters – £4.99 [and not even worth that] – 60%)
Soccer Glory (Football management – Tanglewood – £19.95 – 29%)
Manchester United (Football – Krisalis – £24.95 – 60%)
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (Football – Audiogenic – £19.99 – 75%)
Fire And Brimstone (Ghouls n Ghosts clone – Microprose – £24.95 – 84%)
Frontline (War game – Cases Computer Simulations – £19.99 – 49%)
Pinball Magic (Chess – US Gold – £19.95 – 71%)
Warhead (Shit space game – Activision – £24.99 – 90% Format Gold)
Infestation (3D Rentokil In Space – Psygnosis – £24.95 – 69%)
A Dark Sky Over Paradise (Adventure – Interactive Technology – £7.95 – 63%)

Of those, the ones that interest me most are Resolution 101, Theme Park Mystery, Player Manager (which I played to death as a kid) and possibly Infestation. I’m also going to have a look at Super Cars 1 – it was never covered in ST Format but appeared in Ace around this time so it seems appropriate.

For those playing along at home, I’ll be sourcing pirated releases from my TOSEC collection. Here’s a list of releases, likely you’ll also find decent releases at AtariMania.
– Resolution 101 – Automation 293, Flames Of Finland 26, SuperGAU 341, Medway Boys 74, Pompey Pirates 39, Vectronix 848, D-Bug 186
– Theme Park Mystery – Automation 357, Flames Of Finland 22, Vectronix 544
– Player Manager – Automation 331, SuperGAU 332, Pompey Pirates 25, Vectronix 143/893
– Infestation – Automation 269, Flames of Finland 4, SuperGAU 157, Pompey Pirates 29, Vectronix 628
– Super Cars – Automation 229, Fuzion 18, SuperGAU 332, Pompey Pirates 27, Vectronix 408

Reviews This Month

Review: Player Manager

Player Manager ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. I’ve…More

Review: Resolution 101

Resolution 101 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On…More

Review: Theme Park Mystery

Theme Park Mystery ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary.…More

ST Format Issue 10

ST Format Issue 10 – Download

The World in April 1990
In the UK we had the Strangeways Prison riot, and an earthquake (unusual for Britain). It was only 5.1 so not much to write home about but quite exciting for Britain. Aldi opened in the UK – they didn’t make much impact at the time but these days they’re quite popular. Customs seized parts of an Iraqi supergun. Labour were 23 points ahead of the Tories, piling pressure on the government. Steven Hendry at 21 became the youngest ever world snooker champion. He would go on to bore us all to death for many years. Liverpool won the league. They’d have quite a long wait to do it again, but they wouldn’t go on and on and on and on and on and on about it.

The Poll Tax came into effect, prompting further rioting. It was deeply unpopular.

In US news the Hubble Space Telescope was launched. It was awesome. Two hostages were released in the Lebabon hostage crisis.

Elsewhere in the world Yugoslavia got their first non-communist government. Meanwhile East and West Germany agreed to merge currencies and economies on July 1st – an extraordinary endeavour given how uneven they were with the Eastern economy in a dreadful state.

On TV Round The Twist made its debut on BBC1, a wonderfully quirky Australian kids show. ITV launched the less wonderful You’ve Been Framed. It’s still going, even though with Youtube now a thing it no longer needs to exist. They still pay £250 for videos of people falling over. Jeeves and Wooster started its 4 year run. British Satellite Broadcasting launched its satellite TV service. It would later merge with Sky.

The film charts are a bit better – Look Who’s Talking at #1 is no classic but it’s fun, but at #2 is Uncle Buck, a film I truly adore. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure at #3? Yes please (just don’t watch the 2020 sequel).

The album chart has three greatest hits albums in the top 4. Ok #2 is Bowie so I can forgive that but otherwise it’s a poor effort.

The singles chart is better, with Madonna’s Vogue at #1 (admittedly not as good as her earlier work), the wonderful Snap with The Power at #2 and Alannah Myles at #3 with Black Velvet (absolute banger). The Happy Mondays and the B-52 are there too, and the magnificent They Might Be Giants with Birdhouse In Your Soul at #10.


The Magazine
Issue 10 came out in April 1990, and was my second issue of ST Format. The cover feature this month was the question of what makes a good game great, though I can’t honestly say the image captures that. The cover disk featured a demo of Wipe Out which I played more than I really should despite it being shit. Basically it was a 3D version of the Nokia snake game (though Nokia mobiles weren’t yet a thing). The difference was that you were competing against AI also laying trails, and the objective was to make your opponent crash into your trail. I guess it was probably closer to the light cycles in the Tron movie then. Anyway, you get the point.

News covers the release of the Discovery Pack, replacing the Power Pack, with fewer games. The lack of games is however counterbalanced by STOS and Neochrome being bundled in. The games include 3 from the Power Pack (Outrun, Space Harrier, Bomb Jack) and one addition (Carrier Command). Also Atari were still trying to flog their CD-ROM drive, though any fool knows CDs will never take off. Atari made a rare profit, $45.7m compared to losing $97m the previous year.

We have an interesting innovation of some software which works with a Teletext adapter to grab pages from Teletext and automatically convert that to share prices to keep you up-to-date so you can trade more profitably. Of course now we do all that with APIs over the internet, but this was a remarkable solution at the time.

We get a feature on what would later become known as Photoshopping – the idea of taking scanned images and mixing them into something new using an art tool. The image, created with Spectrum 512 (so named because it can work with all 512 colours of the palette) looks pretty good considering the machine it’s running on.

The feature on killer games gives us a 4-page analysis of what works and what doesn’t, from the perspective of the era, and may prove an interesting historical read for some. We have Peter Molyneux arguing for originality (this was when he was a legend, rather than the sad figure he became later in his career). We have a brief discussion of older classics like Space Invaders and Centipede, looking down at their graphics in part because graphics were evolving at a fast pace in those days, and developers were finding new ways to push the hardware, which made graphical prowess a bigger factor than perhaps today where it’s more art style that differentiates than pure technical power. We have a boxout covering arcade and movie licences, the latter tending to be shit while the former was a more mixed bag – typically an interpretation of gameplay on a more advanced system and at this point in the ST’s life typically slow and jerky. They end by noting that no killer game had emerged from a movie license and they were right until Westwood’s Bladerunner game in my opinion (can be found on Gog if you want it).

We have a little box on solving the ST’s horizontal scrolling problem, though I think they’re being a tad premature here. The article finishes up by noting a slow shift away from the bedroom developer towards teams with a specialist for code, another for music and another for visuals, and that’s something that has only accelerated as modern PC games require teams of hundreds of individuals with specialist roles, taking something away from the auteur development of the past.

There’s some discussion of the need for speed, and certainly lack of it is an issue with many ST games but quite a few work without it (see Midwinter). That said, developers were starting to find tricks to disguise the wait for disk accesses, many of which persist in modern development (things like pre-loading content if you think you’ll need it soon – this also means holding fewer things in memory at once and thus allow one to do more with what’s there). We get a little boxout on the snobbery around prices, with Microprose pointing out that their research showed people wanted big exciting boxes and were happy to pay for it, and a slightly snobby put-down of Pipe-Mania suggesting it took little programming skill (not entirely true – more importantly they’re devaluing the game design skill because creating a great simple game design is a hugely skillful thing to do). The list of games they define as classics is interesting – I’m not sure The Last Crusade, Starglider 2, Virus, Strider, Defender of the Crown or Space Ace belong there at all.

Previews
We have previews for Battlemaster which I remember playing a cover disk demo of and having no fucking idea what was going on. That did not sell the game to me. Then there’s Back To The Future 2 which I also played a cover disk demo of but enjoyed rather more (visuals are cool but the gameplay in truth was mediocre). We get a glimpse of World Soccer from Microprose which I don’t remember at all (perhaps that became Microprose Soccer?) and a platformer Fire And Brimstone which I also don’t remember much about. Dragon Flight looks like it might be an RPG but I can’t be sure. More exciting releases come in the form of two flight sims, Flight Of The Intruder set in Vietnam, and Their Finest Hour (sequel to Battlehawks 1942). There’s the futuristic helicopter combat sim (if I recall) Thunderstrike with its light-source shaded 3d (beaten to the punch by Midwinter). Finally htere’s some weird shit in the form of Alpha Wave.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Dragon’s Breath (Strategy – Palace – £29.99 – 92% Format Gold)
Paris Dakar (Rally – Tomahawk – £24.99 – 32%)
Wayne Gretzky Hockey (Sport sim – Mirrorsoft – £24.95 – 90% Format Gold)
Kid Gloves (Platformer – Logotron – £24.99 – 77%)
Crackdown (top-down run and gun – US Gold – £19.99 – 81%) – very generous judging from Youtube footage
Ivanhoe (Run and Stab – Ocean – £19.99 – 66%)
Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters (Isometric exploring/shooting – Domark – £19.99 – 80%)
Castle Master (Freescape – Incentive/Domark – £19.99 – 90% Format Gold)
Space Ace (Interactive Movie – Readysoft – £44.95!!! – 58%)
Armada (Turcan wargame – Arc – £24.95 – 91% Format Gold) – looks like I was right about the typed commands so no idea what happened in the Borodino test
Oriental Games (1 vs 1 fighter – Microstyle – £24.99 – 78%)
Full Metal Planete (Strategy – Infogrames – £24.99 – 78%)
Demon’s Tomb (Adventure – Virgin – £24.99 – 61%)
Windwalker (No idea – Mindscape – £29.99 – 51%)

Of those, the ones that interest me most are Dragon’s Breath (which fascinated me as a kid but for some reason I never ended up buying), the utterly gorgeous-looking Ivanhoe, Castle Master (which looks like taking Freescape to the limit). The rest, if I’m honest, doesn’t grab me particularly. I’ll probably tackle Ivanhoe first as that’s probably the one I can get a review done for quickest, then Castle Master which is a big game but probably has the least learning curve, then I’ll dive into Dragon’s Breath, which I reckon will take some figuring out.

For those playing along at home, I’ll be sourcing pirated releases from my TOSEC collection. Here’s a list of releases, likely you’ll also find decent releases at AtariMania.
– Ivanhoe – Automation 429, Vectronix 773
– Castle Master – Automation 247, Flames of Finland 4, Fuzion 4, SuperGAUY 328, Pompey Pirates 35.
– Dragon’s Breath – Automation 300, Pompey Pirates 36, Vectronix 394.

This Month’s Reviews

Review: Dragon’s Breath

Dragon’s Breath ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 – I’m not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won’t let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On…More

Review: Castle Master

Castle Master ST Format Feature (previous issue) ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. On this occasion I’ve chosen Automation 247. This is another very simple intro – a nice digitised image, scrolly text and some actually quite decent music. On to the game.…More

Review-ish: Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. On this occasion I’ve chosen Automation 429. The intro is quite low-key, just a simple static image and a basic scroller. The game introduces with a super-smoothly animated sword flying in over a well-drawn facial close-up…More

ST Format Issue 9

ST Format Issue 9 – Download

The World in March 1990
In the UK 37 people were arrested in Brixton rioting against the poll tax. In Trafalgar Square 113 people were injured and 340 arrested in further poll tax riots. The riots were because instead of being charged on the basis of the value of your property, you were charged a flat rate based on the number of people. This would lead to the absurd situation of a single person in a mansion paying 1/2 of what a couple living in a tiny flat would pay. It went against all notions of a progressive tax system and inevitably angered many.

In US news the SR-71 Blackbird, a truly beautiful plane if ever I saw one, made its final official flight. Driving Miss Daisy won best picture at the Oscars.

Elsewhere in the world Imelda Marcos went on trial for being insanely corrupt – she is most famous for her enormous shoe collection. Mikhail Gorbachev was elected as the first executive president of the Soviet Union. Lithuania declared independence but Russia denied its validity.

On TV John Major delivered the first ever televised budget. The guilty-pleasure quiz show Turnabout debuted on BBC1 and would last 6 years, while Rude Dog and the Dweebs debuted on the Children’s Channel.

The film charts feature War Of The Roses at #1, Born On The 4th Of July at #2, Driving Miss Daisy at #7, not the most exciting line-up.

The album chart.. Phil Collins is still #1, and the rest of the chart is just dire. Notting Hillbillies for fuck’s sake. I suppose at least we have Iron Maiden with Run To The Hills and Chris Rea with Road To Hell. Nigel Kennedy enjoyed his brief spell as that famous bloke who plays violin. Fucking Michael fucking Bolton is at #8. What the cunt is wrong with British people?

The singles chart, oh thank fuck for it. Dub be good to me at #1. But fuck me the rest is bilge. The Brits 1990 at #2 (when the Brits was mega-naff, before it embraced Britpop – a medley of hits from the era) and fucking Michael fucking Bolton at #3. Jive cunting Bunny at #4. Kill me. I suppose at least we have the B-52s with Love Shack and Erasure with decent but not their best Blue Savannah.


The Magazine
Issue 9 came out in March 1990, and was the first issue I missed, because I was an idiot. It turned out I missed a belter. The cover wasn’t exactly an attention-grabber, focusing on the exciting world of scanning. There’s a decent cover disk with demos for Conqueror and Pipe Mania, plus a demo of the art package Canvas – there’s a tutorial and a review for the package.

Atari decided to phase out the much-loved (by me) Power Pack, the 520STFM would feature in the new Discovery Pack at £299 with a much-reduced line-up of software. Interestingly ST Format actually address the fact that 23 free games had rather impacted the bottom line of software houses. The 520STE would be £399 without a bundle, or £499 with some serious software. A peculiar strategy.

Atari priced the new Atari Lynx at £149. It would fail.

The scanning feature is predictably dull. I’ll mention it no further. More interesting is a section on how to program for the STE including important information like register addresses. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – we’ll never again have tech press where the journalists actually know their stuff like this. It’s a thing of the past.

There’s an interesting segment on the education sector which was still using the BBC machines – STF rather optimistically thought the ST might become the education machine of the 90s. It did not. The Acorn Archimedes was the main machine until PCs started to take over. The Acorn Archimedes was actually a really cool machine, a 32-bit RISC machine released in 1987 with 1MB RAM in most cases, and capable of displaying 256 colours at 640×512. The CPU is the ancestor of all the ARM chips powering our phones, tablets and now Apple Macs today.

Previews
We have previews for Wipe-Out (tron light-cycles/Nokia Snake in 3D) which I played a fair bit on the ST Format cover disk demo but never shelled out for. Toyottes is a super-cute platformer which always appealed to me but I never had the funds for. I don’t know much about East Vs West or Colorado, we’ll see if reviews come up for those later on. I remember Klax being something of a big deal but I never entirely got it, while Imperium is a grand strategy that rather passed me by. I’ve never played Impossamole in either its 8-bit variant or the ST version so I’d be curious to see how that came out. Virgin had World Cup Soccer 90 lined up for the coming world cup in Italy, there would be many more shameless cash-ins (to be fair I have no idea if this one was good). There’s a big preview of Castle Master. I look forward to finally giving that a go soon.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Pipe Mania (Puzzle – Empire – £19.99 – 76%) – a travesty that it didn’t get 90%+
E-Motion (Weird abstract 3D thing – Accolade – £19.99 – 76%)
Midwinter (3D FPS/driving/romancing/recruiting/threatening – Microprose – £29.99 – 96% Format Gold)
Anarchy (Defender clone – Psygnosis – £24.99 – 77%)
Risk (Board game – Leisure Genius – £19.99 – 68%)
Rainbow Islands (Platformer – Ocean – £19.99 – 93% Format Gold)
Space Harrier 2 (It’s Space Harrier ffs – Grandslam – £19.99 – 51%)
Operation Thunderbolt (Lightgun played with a mouse – Ocean – £19.99 – 73%)
Conqueror (Tanks in a Virus/Zarch-like landscape – Rainbow Arts – £24.95 – 91% Format Gold)

I’ll tell you straight up, I’m looking forward to playing Pipe-Mania and Rainbow Islands, and I’m curious about Conqueror, but Midwinter is the daddy. I cannot fucking wait to get my hands on that one. Midwinter 2 consumed hours of my life, it was honestly one of the greatest games ever to appear on a 16-bit system, so the chance to see where it all started is a pretty big deal.

For those playing along at home, I’ll be sourcing pirated releases from my TOSEC collection. Here’s a list of releases, likely you’ll also find decent releases at AtariMania.
– Conqueror – Automation 273, SuperGAU 799, Medway Boys 60, Pompey Pirates 25, Vectronix 773.
– Pipe Mania (aka Pipe Dream) – Automation 200, Fuzion 6, SuperGAU 388 or Medway Boys 50
– Rainbow Islands – Automation 231, SuperGAU 312/867, Pompey Pirates 26, Vectronix 294
– Midwinter – Automation 263, SuperGAU 198-9, Medway Boys 64, Pompey Pirates 28, Vectronix 361.

To me, this seems to be the moment when we enter the 2nd phase of ST games. There’s the 1st phase where the games are barely different to the 8-bitters barring more colours and better resolution, but you have a few wonderful bits of experimentation and creativity among the shitty arcade ports, then the 2nd phase which really is when the ST was at its peak with a new breed of more complex and better-presented game (albeit with less experimentation, and we’re still not yet at the point where the devs really grasp what the machine can do early in this phase – it’s still about a year away), and finally we have the decline, the 3rd phase as the Amiga took over. Welcome to phase 2.

Reviews This Month

Review: Midwinter 1

Midwinter ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. On this occasion I’ve chosen Pompey Pirates 28. The intro features some well-drawn artwork, decent music and the usual scrolling text. The loading screen isn’t quite up to Midwinter 2 standards, it’s solid but those trees…More

Review: Rainbow Islands

Rainbow Islands ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. On this occasion I’ve chosen Pompey Pirates 26. It’s a decent enough intro, and a very strong disc given it somes with Bubble Bobble. So, that loading screen. Holy fuck. So colourful, so beautifully drawn,…More

Review: Pipe Mania / Pipe Dream

Pipe Mania / Pipe Dream ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. On this occasion I’ve chosen Fuzion disk 6. The intro music is good enough, the scrolly text does what you’d expect, but it’s clear that they can’t draw people. It’s an abomination. So,…More

Review: Conqueror

Conqueror ST Format Review My Review[image 001]For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. With a few releases to choose from, I’ve gone with Medway Boys 60, but I could just as easily gone with Automation 273, SuperGAU 799, Pompey Pirates 25 or Vectronix 773. We get 2 intro screens,…More