ST/Amiga Format Issue 13

Issue 13 – Download

The World in June 1989
In some ways June 1989 was the beginning of the end of Thatcher’s government as Labour won its first national election in 15 years (winning most of the votes in the European elections). In China the Tianemen Square protests reached their finale, with the military set against civilians in a fight the civilians could never win. Tank Man would prove himself a legend.

News is otherwise quiet though China’s news is seismic enough all on its own.

The film charts feature Road House at #1, Beaches at #3, Childs Play at #4, the rest of the chart is fairly mediocre.

The album chart is fairly weak, with Jason Donavan still at #1, Queen at #5 with one of their weaker albums, really it’s hard to find anything to recommend.

The singles chart has Jason Donovan at #1 (Neighbours really was a hit factory in combination with Stock, Aitken and Waterman). The standout tracks are Soul II Soul’s Back To Life and Guns And Roses Sweet Child Of Mine, and maybe Manchild by Neneh Cherry. Acid House continues its ascendency with D-Mob at #11 with It Is Time To Get Funky.

On TV John Craven presented his last ever Newsround, but otherwise not much happened.

The Magazine
This is the final issue of ST/Amiga Format before we depart for the new and improved ST Format. We’re getting closer to games I actually know! There’s an article asking if paperless offices will ever be a thing – in lockdown I think we’ve discovered that yes they will. The theme for this month’s magazine is piracy, and they actually manage to make the connection to the demo scene but in later issues they seem to forget all about it while becoming increasingly angry about piracy.

On the cover disk, the ST gets Spherical and Amiga owners get Wicked.

Previews have become a bit more substantial, with Hewson’s Astaroth featuring, plus Navy Moves (sequel to the excerable Army Moves – surely it can’t be as bad as that can it?), Sleeping Gods Lie and High Steel. Wow the quality bar is low. With so few previews it seems there’s not much out there. Perhaps this is a product of the magazine coming to an end and everyone preparing for the two new magazines.

Games reviewed this month:
Total Eclipse (Freescape 3D Adventure/Puzzle – Microstatus – £24.99 – 78%)
Forgotten Worlds (Turrican-ish – US Gold – £19.99 – 86% Format Gold)
3D Pool (Tennis – Firebird – £19.99 – 71%)
Pirates (Strategy – Microprose – £24.99 – 74%)
RVF (Motorbike Racing – Microstyle – £19.99 – 68%)
Weird Dreams (Side-scrolling beat-em-up/minigames – Rainbird – £24.99 – 81% Format Gold)
Savage (Space Harrier/Turrican-ish – Rainbird – £24.99 – 61%)
Demon’s Winter (RPG – US Gold – £24.99 – 68%)
Wicked (No fucking idea – Activision – £19.99 – 80%)
Grand Monster Slam (Weird Sports Game – Rainbow Arts – £19.99 – 54%)

Of those I’d say Weird Dreams is the main game of interest. I might have a look at Total Eclipse but I’m not doing too much Freescape until we hit Castle Master which really is the apex of that series of games.

This Month’s Reviews

Review: Weird Dreams

Weird Dreams ST Amiga Format Review My Review Weird Dreams begins with a fairly decent intro by 1989 standards, though sound is limited to chip warblings, and then we find ourselves in a room with pink things wandering around and a dangly pink dildo moving around that will kill you if it hits you (in…More

ST/Amiga Format Issue 12

Issue 12 – Download

The World in May 1989
In the UK, Margaret Thatcher hit the 10 year milestone as Prime Minister, she would not be in the job for much longer. A divisive but hugely important figure in British politics, she reshaped the nation and battled the unions to restore order to British society and modernised a country that had previously been the sick man of Europe. Among the left however she was mostly known as the milk snatcher, due to taking away free school milk.

In football Liverpool beat Everton in the FA Cup final while Arsenal won the first division (which is now known as the Premier League) – they beat Liverpool courtesy of a goal in the last minute of the last game [–2_Arsenal_(26_May_1989)].

In the US, Disney World opened its doors for the first time, Oliver North was found guilty of criminal charges in the Iran Contra affair, and the Magellan probe was launched towards Venus. Elsewhere, the first McDonalds in the USSR began construction in Moscow, and in China the Tianemen Square protests continued with a crackdown from the Chinese government.

The film charts are truly awful – to the point I’m going to skip it entirely. Click if you dare.

The album chart is a mixed bag with Jason Donovan at #1, the brilliant Simple Minds at #2 (though not with one of their better albums), the god-awful Clannad at #8, actually the charts are horrible. Please let the singles chart be better…

The singles chart has the wonderful Kylie Minogue at #1, something I’m ok with as she’s the sexiest woman alive. Queen are at #3 with one of their weaker tracks while London Boys sit at #4 with a brilliant song you’ve probably never heard…

.. and we see Holly Johnson and Transvision Vamp rounding out the top 10. Acid House starts to make an impact on the charts with The Beatmasters and Who’s In The House at #11.

Not much happened in the world of TV – May was a bit of a dull month in many respects.

The Magazine
This issue is a blatant attempt to sell the magazine with sex. What it actually pertains to is whether games like Leisure Suit Larry and the many crappy strip poker games should be available to under 18s. For the former, I say why not. For the latter – I reckon they’d be better off paying a tramp to buy them a copy of Playboy. Pages 61-67 cover the topic, and quite a few pages have tits on them, out uncensored. I’m not sure that was allowed back then without being on the top shelf so I can only imagine someone got a slap on the wrists.

On the cover disk we have the excellent Colossus Chess X for the Amiga while the Atari ST gets Flair Paint (both demos).

The previews section sees Microprose Soccer, created by the team which would go on to be Sensible Software, creators of the legendary Sensible Soccer. We see another Freescape game previewed in the form of Total Eclipse. Finally we have a rundown on things coming from Mirrorsoft – Highlights are Xenon 2 from the legendary Bitmap Brothers and the less legendary 3D weird thing Interphase which would eventually be given away free on an ST Format cover disk.

Missing the cut this month.. no idea because that section is missing. Looking at the reviews that made the cut perhaps they didn’t have many choices.

Games reviewed this month:
Time Scanner (Pinball – Activision – £24.95 Amiga/£19.95 ST – 67%)
Lords Of The Rising Sun (Minigames – Cinemaware – £24.95 – 84%)
BattleHawks (WW2 Flight Sim – US Gold – £24.99 – 73%)
Vindicators (Shooter – Domark – £19.99 – 71%)
Millenium 2.2 (Strategy – Activision – £24.99 – 86%)
Typhoon Thompson (No Fucking Idea – Domark – £19.99 – 86%)
Voyager (3D shooty thing – Ocean – £19.99 – 76%)
Thunderbirds (Platform shooter – Grandslam – £24.95 – 77%)
Squeek (Puzzle – Loriciel – £19.95 – 52%)
Bio Challenge (Turrican-ish – Palace – £19.99 – 86%)
Darkside (Freescape – Domark – £24.95 – 87%)

Of those, really only Battlehawks is worth reviewing. I played it a fair bit when I was younger and had a real blast with it, so I’ll be pretty happy to have a bit more time with it.

Reviews This Month

Review: Battlehawks 1942

Battlehawks 1942 ST Amiga Format Review My Review As a kid I absolutely loved Battlehawks. It came in a beautifully designed box with a ring-bound manual (see link above) that was a really fascinating read, weighing in at 144 pages. Controls aren’t too complicated with mouse or joystick steering your plane and fire/left-click firing your…More

ST/Amiga Format Issue 11

Issue 11 – Download

The World in April 1989
Probably the biggest event of April 1989 was the Hillsborough disaster, in which 95 people were killed at an FA Cup Semi Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The Sun would go on to make itself unwelcome forever on Merseyside by blaming the fans with support from the South Yorkshire police. The month was plagued with strikes as the London Underground was paralysed and workers building the Channel Tunnel went on strike over pay and working conditions.

In Scotland Margaret Thatcher’s hated Poll Tax was introduced as a new way for councils to tax their residents. This would go on to cause national rioting once it made its way to England and Wales. The tax was considered unfair because it was a flat rate based on the number of residents rather than the previous basis of land value, which meant that 5 poor people in a hovel would pay more than 1 person in a mansion.

In America 300000 demonstrators marched in Washington to legalise abortion. I don’t know enough of the topic to say whether it was peaceful or not. It doesn’t seem that much else was going on in America at the time.

In Poland, Solidarity was legalised, allowing participation in the coming election, precipitating the overthrow of Communism in Europe. In China protests started in Tianemen Square. They would not end well.

In film we see The Dead Pool at number 1, Twins hanging on at 3 to fund Arnold Shwarzennegger’s Humvee habit, Rain Man hanging in at 7 and Naked Gun at 9. Lower in the charts we see Terry Gilliam’s Adventures of Baron Munchausen at 13 and Tom Cruise trying to recreate the success of Top Gun with Cocktail at 14.

The album chart sees Deacon Blue on top, followed by Simply Red. Strong entries include Madonna’s Like A Prayer at 6 and Guns and Roses Appetite For Destruction at 8.

The singles chart saw the Bangles on top with Eternal Flame, Simply Red with If You Don’t Know Me By Now at #2 (clearly the public was keen on sloooooooow stuff), but thankfully Madonna’s Like A Prayer (#3) and Paula Abdul’s Straight Up (#4) showed the public didn’t completely lack taste. Jason Donavan had sadly slipped from #1 to #6, just ahead of the brilliant Transvision Vamp hit Baby I Don’t Care (#7) and Donna Summer’s banger This Time I Know It’s For Real (#8). Holly Johnson at #9 with Americanos was another strong entry. Overall I’d still class this top 10 as waaaaay better than any in 2020. That the rest of the top 40 included Guns and Roses Paradise City and International Rescue by We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It further illustrates the quality out there.

On TV we had the infamous incident on Going Live where someone rang in to abuse Five Star..

.. while John Snow would join Channel 4 News, replacing Peter Sissons, ready to become famous for his Swingometer and Game Of Thrones.

The Magazine
This issue sees a bit of a revamp to the layout (note the fancy new logo) and a new editor, for a very short period. On the disk, ST owners get Arhipelagos while Amiga owners get Blood Money. I used to spend so much time playing cover disk demos, looking back I can’t think why as often you only got a very limited slice of game but I had fun with them all the same.

Exciting news came that Dragon’s Lair was going to come to the ST after all, though frankly the version for the ST would prove to be absolute shite compared to the Amiga version. The theme for the magazine was flight sims, with the cover giving a Top Gun-esque feel, back in the days when computer games were all about macho things like planes, cars and guns. An interesting feature looks at the differences between home sim games and professional simulators, with a couple of suspicious-looking screenshots. I am of course amused to see a boast of a computer that can generate 500 polygons every 50th of a second.

Among the software reviews the highlight is surely Deluxe Paint 3, but this was of course for Amiga owners. On the ST side we had a review of the grey import of Calamus (a DTP package) – the US version had quite a few bugs but on the other hand it was £250 (£625 in 2020 money) vs the price of the UK version at £400 (£1000 in 2020 money).

The previews this month include a game truly of its time, Gilbert, based on the brilliant Gilbert the alien as seen on Get Fresh on Saturday morning TV in Britain.

The game was almost certainly utter shite, though it remains to be seen if it was as bad as Ed The Duck, based on the character from Children’s BBC’s broom cupboard. Foreign visitors to this page must surely be wondering what the fuck is wrong with British people at this point, but both were that typically anarchic late 80s kind of awesomeness which, in truth, I miss.

Other, more serious, previews include Bio Challenge from Delphine Software (makers of Future Wars, Operation Stealth, Another World, etc) which was a side-scrolling shooter inn the Turrican mould claiming to show 140 colours at once on an ST. The ST could of course only show 16 colours from a palette of 512 but even I, making games at 12, could do a bit of palette switching to get around that (you swap the palette half way down the screen for isntance to double the count). These techniques tended to cause incredibly bad slowdown of course, but looking at a video I found online it actually looks pretty smooth, though in truth it’s not flinging a lot of big sprites around the screen.

We also see brief mentions of Bomber (a flight sim by the looks of things), Thunderbirds (based on the puppetty TV series) and a game based on Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. Another Freescape game to follow Driller comes in the form of Dark Side and Pacland seeks to cash in on Pacman’s popularity after the excellent Pacmania but it looks like this…

.. dear god what an absolute turd. The games I made in GFA basic at the age of 12 were better than that.

Missing the cut this month were some absolute shockers – as always there’s a strip poker game in there (I can’t imagine what ST/Amiga format had against those games) with a comment on the ugliness of one of the strippers which would surely not be allowed today..

I’m going to go ahead and say the ugly one they’re referring to is Frances.

Games reviewed this month:
Blood Money (Shooter – Psygnosis – £19.95 – 92% Format Gold) – Amiga version. The ST version would be reviewed later in ST Format issue 2 and get 90%
Archipelagos (Weird 3D Strategy Thing – Logotron – £24.95 – 84% Format Gold)
Running Man (Side-scrolling platform beat em up running at 3 frames per second – the Amiga version was marginally better – Grandslam – £19.95 – 73%)
Ballistix (weird ball sport thing – Psygnosis – £19.95 – 64%)
Road Blasters (Chase HQ Clone – US Gold – £14.95 – 58%)
Fright Night (Weird horror game – Microdeal – £19.95 – 88% but not a Format Gold.. what?)
Jug (Shooter – Microdeal – £19.95 – 72%)
Vigilante (side-scrolling beat em up – US Gold – £14.95 – 70%)

Of those, I’d like to review Blood Money but I’ll probably wait til we get to the ST Format review, Archipelagos has the look of the kind of weirdness that came out in those days with games like Sentinel and Towers Of Babel..

.. so I kinda want to figure out what the hell’s going on with it. I’m tempted to give Fright Night a look too, as once again I’m not entirely clear on what it is, and maybe Ballistix and Vigilante are worth a look, the former for being weird and the latter for looking kinda cool. I’d say it’s a much weaker line up than issue 10, but thankfully consists of games that take a little less time to review!

Reviews This Month

Review: Vigilante

Vigilante ST Amiga Format Review My ReviewAs you can see in the review above, ST/Amiga Format gave Vigilante 70%. Still graphics were rated 3/5, moving graphics 3.5/5, and lasting interest 3/5. These are scores that indicate the game isn’t completely horrible. I have to ask what kind of crack Mark Higham was smoking. The game…More

Review: Archipelagos

Archipelagos ST Amiga Format Review My Review My expectation is that this one will have something in common with Sentinel, which I played and enjoyed earlier. Reading the manual and seeing talk of draining energy from stones does little to dispell that expectation. Specifically I need to destroy an obelisk, which requires that I destroy…More

ST/Amiga Format Issue 10

Issue 10 – Download

The World in March 1989
News for March 1989 is somewhat sparse. Time merged with Warner to become Time Warner, George H W Bush banned import of certain assault rifles, and the Exxon Valdes spilled 240000 barrels of oil into the sea. At the oscars, Rain Man won best picture, with Dustin Hoffman picking up best actor and for best actress Jodie Foster won for The Accused. The quality of the competition was poor. The 12 nations of the EC (as it was then) agreed to ban production of CFCs by the end of the century to solve the big environmental scare of the day, holes in the ozone layer.

In film we see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dani De Vito as Twins holding top spot ahead of Rain Man and Dangerous Liasons, Terry Gilliam’s Adventures of Baron Munchausen pops in at #6 (a film I’ve never seen – I adored his other film Brazil though), and the rest of the chart is pretty uninteresting.

The album chart sees Gloria Estefan on top, deposing Simply Red from top spot, Texas arrive at #3 with Southside (from which the hit I Don’t Want A Lover is taken), Sam Brown holds on at #6 while we have greatest hits from Bananrama and the Style Council and Michael Jackson’s Bad spends its 81st week in the charts. Roy Orbison is not in the top 10. The singles chart too is mercifully free of Roy, with Jason Donovan taking a break from Neighbours to have a number 1 record, followed by Madonna’s magnificent Like A Prayer, a shit charity record at #3, a fantastic Donna Summer hit at 4, the brilliant Stop from Sam Brown at 5, the also fantastic Straight Up from Paula Abdul at 6, then absolute shit from 7 to 10, but overall it’s a good chart with some absolute bangers. Other notables include Guns and Roses with Paradise City entering at 21, We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It with International Rescue (seriously it’s a banger) at 23, and Marc Almond and Gene Pitney finaly heading out of the top 40 at 39 after 10 weeks.

On TV we had the 2nd Red Nose Day, a day on which comedians go on TV and yell at us to give money to charity. Mike and Angelo made its debut on ITV, as did Children’s Ward. March was quiet for new content however.

The Magazine
This month’s issue of ST/Amiga Format gives away a copy of Devpac 1 – an extraordinarily generous offer considering Devpac is the favoured tool of game developers on the 16-bit systems (where one had to program in Assembler to get any kind of speed – C was too slow and BASIC was waaaaaaay too slow). There’s a big feature on computer vision, a remarkable thing to cover considering it’s only in the last few years with the advent of neural networks and machine learning that such a thing has even been possible.

We have a discussion of whether adventure games are dead – of course we all know that adventure games died after the release of Escape From Monkey Island, their corpse occasionally resurrected by Telltale and Wadget Eye for the modern era. In a way the discussion of the dumbing down of games because people only buy flashy graphics is familiar to gamers today and all through history, but I thought it might be a nice read for some here.

This month’s previews include weird pinball-thingy Ballistix (not a wholly accurate description but I’m not sure what would be), a game of the cartoon of Ghostbusters, Blood Money (shooter from Psygnosis), Battletech (RPG), Airborne Ranger, Outrun Europa aiming to right the awful wrongs of Outrun in an ambitious game featuring motorbikes and boats in addition to the usual cars, Millenium 2.2 which honestly I have no fucking idea what it is and Vigilante (beat-em-up).

Missing the cut were yet another strip poker game thistime from Tomahawk, Codemasters with the excerable Advanced Ski Simulator, US Gold’s Human Killing Machine criticised for being too easy (game journalists calling a game too easy????), and Prison. Not an especially distinguished bunch. Controversially Barbarian 2 didn’t make the cut, though that might be becuase there’s a decent selection of games in this issue (albeit they seem to review such a tiny number of games [7 in this issue] – maybe they didn’t have enough reviewers at that time).

Games reviewed this month:
Ultima V (RPG – Microprose – £24.95 – 86% Format Gold)
Populous (God Sim – EA – £24.95 – 92% Format Gold)
Cybernoid II (Shooter – Hewson – £19.95 – 70%)
Denaris (Shooter – US Gold – £24.95 – 83%) – Amiga Only
Titan (Weird Breakout Thing – Titus – £19.99 on ST, £24.99 on Amiga – 79%)
Zak McKracken (Adventure – Lucasfilm – £24.99 – 71%)
Silkworm (Shooter – Sales Curve – £19.95 – 70%)

I’m certainly going to cover Populous, a game of tremendous importance as it invented the God game but also birthed Bullfrog as we know them today (until that point they’d done some mediocre arcadey games but after this they became known for their more strategic releases like Powermonger, Theme Park, Theme Hospital, etc). I’d like to cover Ultima V though I suspect my skills in that area may be lacking and I might not do it justice. I’m keen to try out Zak McKracken as while it’s not the first game to use the SCUMM system (that honour falls to Maniac Mansion) it’s still an important link in that particular chain. I’d quite like to have a look at Barbarian 2 which missed the cut, though I’m aware that 4 games for one magazine may slow output somewhat. Let me know your thoughts guys. These bigger posts take a couple of hours typically, the game reviews themselves are a mixed bag but for instance Populous would take a while to review properly if I wasn’t already familiar with it, Ultima will be a bit of a challenge, Zak should be ok as I’ve played a fair few Lucasarts games over the years and Barbarian should be ok being an arcade game.

Reviews This Month

Review: Ultima V

Ultima V ST Amiga Format Review My ReviewDownload manuals So, reviewing Ultima 5 is something that would ordinarily take a fuckload longer than I have spent on games so far, so this is going to be more an exploration. In a way many of these reviews have been an exploration of how I cope with…More

Review: Barbarian II

Barbarian 2 My ReviewSo I thought it would be worth giving Barbarian 2 a quick look. I would however contend that its best feature is the box in which the game comes, which at least has the advantage of tits. Everyone loves tits. After a bit of loading we arrive at the warrior choice screen,…More

Review: Zak McKracken

Zak McKracken ST Amiga Format Review My Review Zak is the second release from Lucasarts using the Scumm engine, as later found in the Monkey Island games, Sam and Max, Grim Fandango, Day Of The Tentacle, etc. Classics, every one, but this is that rare thing, a Scumm game I’ve never played before. For anyone…More

Review: Populous

Populous Check out that box art – it’s a cut above the standard of the time and really helps the game stand out on the shelf. EA had a budget and could really splash out on quality artwork and marketing. The ad looks pretty damn cool too. It’s all in keeping with the EA house…More

ST/Amiga Format Issue 9

Issue 9 – Download

The World in February 1989
In Britain, with its most recent addition of a 4th channel on terrestrial TV back in 1982, Sky TV broadcast its first satellite TV service in Britain, eventually introducing the nation to WWF, The Simpsons and MTV and fundamentally changing the way we watch TV – now instead of only 4 channels of crap we had hundreds. Meanwhile, ITV got its rival to Aussie soap Neighbours, airing Home and Away for the first time and on the BBC Eastenders killed off Den Watts.. or did they? Following last month’s protests by British Muslims over Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, in Iran the Ayotollah placed a fatwa on him, condemning him to a life of uncertainty – the first high-profile case of what would become an ongoing pattern culminating on events like the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The last Soviet column left Afghanistan, and the first GPS satellite went into orbit paving the way for us to all become lazy bastards dependent upon Google Maps to get around.

The film charts were pretty good, with the utterly wonderful Naked Gun on top spot, Die Hard at 2, Arthur 2 at 3, Cocktail at 4 (ok so that’s not so good). In albums there’s a lot of movement week to week, but for the week I’ve picked we have a mix of the Fine Young Cannibals, Roy Orbison (twice), Gloria Estefan, New Order, Mike and the Mechanics and Elvis Costello. Definitely an eclectic mix, but overall vastly higher quality than you would find in the chart now. In the singles chart we find that Marc Almond and Gene Pitney have made it all the way to number 1, the excerable Michael Ball at 3, but some genuine bangers present like Bobby Brown’s My Prerogative, Morrissey’s Last Of The International Playboys and Holly Johnson’s Love Train.

The Magazine
After very slim pickings in issue 8 we come to issue 9 with its similarly slim pickings, but rest assured 3 of the remaining 4 issues of ST Amiga Format (before we move to ST Format proper) are absolute bangers. The big features this month include a discussion of emulators and a round-up of input devices (some very strange). News features some interesting discussion of grey imports (see page 7) and the announcement of the Mega ST 1 – a puzzling machine considering the existence of the 1040 and when one considers the Mega ST 1 doesn’t have the blitter chip etc.

Previews include the brilliant Battlehawks 1942 and Populous (I intend to cover both), along with some games I know less about like cybernoid 2 (shooter), Timescanner (pinball), Dragonscape, Thunderwing (shooter), Knight Force, Vindicator and Guardian Moons. Not an enormously exciting selection.

Missing the cut were yet another strip poker game (this time from Infogrames), Phantom Fighter (shooter), Spaceball (breakout/tennis), and some absolute drek.

Games reviewed this month:
Dragon’s Lair (‘interactive’ cartoon – Entertainment International – £44.95 – 92% Format Gold) — this is the Amiga version – the Atari ST version would later get a score in the 40s if I recall, ST Format having wised up to the lack of actual gameplay in this tech demo
War In Middle Earth (Wargame – Mastertronic – £19.99 – 91% Format Gold)
Hybris (Shooter – Gainstar – £24.95 – 82%)
Crazy Cars 2 (Racer – Titus – £19.95 – 71%)
Sword of Sodan (Run and stab – Gainstar – £24.95 – amiga only so who cares – 76%)
Custodian (Jetpack shooter – Hewson – £19.95 – a very generous 73%)
Dream Zone (Weird adventure thing – Gainstar – £24.95 – 65%)
Last Duel (Shooter – US Gold – £19.95 – 63%)

I think I might cheat and review Dragon’s Lair even though the ST version was quite a bit later, as at that time there will be a lot more to cover, and I’ll probably have a look at Crazy Cars 2.

Reviews This Month

Review: Crazy Cars 2

Crazy Cars 2 ST Amiga Format Review My ReviewCrazy Cars 2 opens with a still image using stippling effects to give the impression of more colour than was actually present and a sampled tune rather than the usual beepy chiptune fare. However, that’s about as good as this game gets. This game is terrible (sorry…More

Review: Dragon’s Lair

Dragon’s Lair ST Amiga Format Review ST Format Review (July 1990) Cheating As you can see I’ve included both the early ST Amiga Format review and the later ST Format review so you can get a sense of the evolution of the magazine and how it reviewed games, and also because I’m kinda cheating by…More

ST/Amiga Format Issue 8

Issue 8 – Download

The World in January 1989
The UK was pretty quiet, with the only notable events being Muslims protesting in Bradford against Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, burning his book, a harbinger of things to come and a lesson we failed to heed. On the international stage, it was the end of the Reagan presidency as George H W Bush was sworn in as the 41st president of the US. Meanwhile, Ted Bundy was busy being executed after being convicted of murders in Florida, ending a devastating trail of murder.

In the world of film we saw Red Heat taking the top spot from Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, while Young Guns also proved a hit. Short Circuit 2 was looking like a solidly successful sequel to one of my favourite 80s films, while Roger Rabbit hung in there. The rest of the chart was serviceable. In music we see an album chart headed by Erasure with the utterly wonderful The Innocents, containing A Little Respect, Ship Of Fools and Chains Of Love, Kylie continued to ride high, Roy Orbison was strangely popular, far too many greatest hits albums proving that even then album sales were mostly about old people, Bad was in its 71st week in the charts, and Enya had a record in the top 10 which is surely as good a reason as any to commit suicide. The singles chart was mercifully better, despite being headed by Kylie and Jason. Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance at 3 is still an absolute banger while Inner City hang on with Good Life, while Mike and the Mechanics Living Years is still pretty strong and the Fine Young Cannibals do their thing with She Drives Me Crazy. An absolute gem at number 10 with the first socially-distanced single as Gene Pitney and Marc Almond worked together across the atlantic without the internet to deliver the fantastic cover of Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart. I absolutely love it. Finally we have Waiting For A Star To Fall by Boy Meets Girl, the most 80s song in that chart with a truly 80s video to match (the mullets are amazing).

The Magazine
It’s always difficult to find much quality after everyone’s got their games out for Christmas, and this issue is no exception. Atari get some flak for a tendency to announce exciting new hardware projects as being weeks away when they’re actually months away if they turn up at all (and earlier in the issue there’s one such example, the Super ST with it’s 16MHz 68000 CPU instead of the usual 8MHz, though it’s possible this eventually became the Mega STE (the Mega ST was already out). STAF list Virus as the year’s best game (a curious choice), and Super Breakout as its worst. There’s an interview with Steve Bak, creator of countless 80s games but probably best known for James Pond, Star Ray and Spitting Image. We have a review for a touch screen which surprises me a little – I had no idea they were a thing back then.

Some interesting games in the previews section including Dragon’s Lair (reviewed next issue for the Amiga, arriving much later for the ST), Silkworm (shooter), Gemini Wing (shooter), and Interphase (weird 3D game later found free on the ST Format cover disk). Those high points are paired with a game around the Dandy comic, and some games I don’t recall seeing before.

Missing the cut were Anco with another bloody strip poker game (later they became more known for the Kick Off series of football games – unmatched until the arrival of Sensi), the god-awful conversion of Double Dragon (which despite being jerky and slow was a lot of fun), a beat-em-up centred around Spitting Image in which Maggie Thatcher could fight the Pope, and some other not-particularly notable drek.

Games reviewed this month:
Purple Saturn Day (Weird French Game – Infogrames – £24.95 – 98% Format Gold) – I don’t remember ST format ever going beyond 96%, surely a record, and indicative of how the scoring was a complete mess in STAF compared with the later STF
Baal (Run and Gun – Psygnosis – £19.95 – 91% Format Gold)
Galdregon’s Domain (Dungeon Master Clone – Pandora – 87%)
LED Storm (Top down racer that seems to only involve going up the screen – US Gold – £19.95 – 71%) – looking at YouTube footage that’s a generous score
Night Hunter (Vampiric side-scrolling fang-em-up – EA/Ubisoft – £19.95 – 69%)
Incredible Shrinking Sphere (Ball-rolling maze thing – Activision – £19.95 – 80%)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Utter shite movie cash-in minigame collection – Buena Vista Software – £29.99 – 70%)
Cosmic Pirate (Absolutely terrible shooter – Palace – £19.95 – 79%)
Talespin (not a game – adventure game creator – Microdeal – £49.95 – 4/5)

I will almost certainly review Baal, and will have a look at Purple Saturn Day and Galdregon’s Domain to see if they’re games I can get anything fun out of.

Reviews This Month

Review: Baal

Baal ST Format Review My ReviewBaal is a run and gun, with a graphical style that is typically psygnosis, with hints of Shadow Of The Beast which would come years later. Speed is maintained by having quite a small window for gameplay, and this proves effective as the animation is crisp, though it does noticeably…More

ST/Amiga Format Issue 7

Issue 7 – Download

The World in December 1988
December 1988 was an eventful month, with probably the most famous (for those of us of a certain age) moment being Edwina Curry’s outrageous assertion that most British eggs had salmonella. Egg sales were affected badly. This was however only the 2nd most shocking thing about Edwina Curry, as it later came out that she’d been shagging John Major (British PM for a while). Later that month we’d have the Clapham junction rail crash, and finally we’d have the Lockerbie plane crash (which would later be shamefully copied by British country sheep and shagging soap Emerdale).

Looking at the film chart ( we see the utterly brilliant Who Framed Roger Rabit at number 1, proving the British public had great taste, though we let ourselves down with Willow at number 2. Scrooged with Bill Murray was however a better effort (primarily because Bill Murray in his prime was unstoppable). The rest of the chart is unremarkable as we see A Fish Called Wanda slowly sliding out of the charts.

Looking at the singles chart ( we see that Britain actually has fucking awful taste. Mistletoe and Wine from the definitely-not-a-pedophile Cliff Richard at number 1 because who doesn’t love a shit Christmas song, followed by Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan with Especially For You cashing in on the public’s inability to tell the difference between actor and character (they played a couple in the Aussie soap Neighbours), followed by Suddenly by Angry Anderson which was played at the wedding of the characters Kylie and Jason played in Neighbours (the show was HUUUUUUUGE in the UK back then and any Neighbours star could pretty much guarantee a pop career). A decent EP from Erasure (ok one good song, Stop), some utter shit from Bros, the excellent dance hit Good Life by Inner City and then Phil Collins singing a song he put out for Buster, and then it gets REALLY shit. Status fucking Quo.

The album chart ( was no better, with Now 13 at number 1, followed by Cliff Richard (Nooo!) and the lovely but not yet great musically Kylie, lots of greatest hits and compilation albums and honestly there’s little there I can muster enthusiasm for. Dark times. No wonder we needed decent games to make life worth living.

The Magazine
This month’s edition features discussion of colour printers (quite the novelty at that time) and hard drives (with an increible 30mb of storage space!), along with a review of the Shoot Em Up Construction Kit, a creature responsible for so many shit Public Domain games. Flair Paint comes up, though I preferred Canvas myself and Amiga owners will always choose Deluxe Paint (which wouldn’t see an ST release til 1990).

The previews this month are mostly games I don’t know an enormous amount about. There’s Purple Saturn Day which is I think fairly well-known among 16-bit enthusiasts, but also lesser titles like The Incredible Shrinking Sphere, Jug, Spherical, The Paranoia Complex, etc which I know little about. Weird Dreams rings a bell and might be one to check out when we get there, but I’m not sure I can find the same enthusiasm for Garfield – A Winter’s Tail.

Missing the cut were Joan Of Arc (no idea), Menace and IK+, the latter I think I might review as I know it got rather a better reputation later in its life.

Games reviewed this month:
Thunderblade (Vertically-Scrolling Shooter/Space-Harrier rip-off – US Gold – £24.99 – 92% Format Gold) – the frame rate is horrendous – how the fuck did that get 92%?
R-Type (Side-scrolling arcade conversion shooter – Activision – £19.95 – 96% Format Gold)
Live And Let Die (Bond-themed boat-racing game – Domark – £19.95 – 83% [very generous])
Chuckie Egg (Platformer – Pick & Choose – £19.95 – 75%)
Return Of The Jedi (isometric shooter that’s zoomed in way too close for good gameplay – Domark – £19.95 – 72%)
Galactic Conqueror (Space Harrier in space – Titus – £24.99 – £24.99 – 78%)
944 Turbo Cup (Racing – Loricel – £19.99 – 70%)
Lombard RAC Rally (Racing – Mandarin – 80%)
International Soccer (Chess game – Microdeal – £19.95 – 70%)
Pioneer Plague (Amiga-only so who cares – some use of HAM mode for 4096 colours but on fairly static screens)

Of those, the ones that look most interesting to me are probably R-Type and Chuckie Egg – I might pick up IK+ too from the games that missed the cut, for a fairly manageable set of reviews after a run of rather high-effort reviews. Note that I decided to skip Driller last month and focus my Freescape efforts on Castle Master when I get to it.

Reviews And Articles About This Issue

Review: IK+ (International Karate+)

IK+ (aka International Karate + aka Chop ‘n’ Drop on American C64)IK+ is the sequel to International Karate, developed by Archer Maclean who would later become synonymous with the green beize, following huge hits with Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker and Archer Maclean’s Pool. ST Format Review Sadly there wasn’t one, and that is an injustice…More

Review: Chuckie Egg

Chuckie EggNote that Chuckie Egg is not in the tosec – it can be found at As a bonus, here’s the cover art for Chuckie Egg 2. Fucking nightmare fuel. ST Format Review Before I start my review, here’e ST Format’s take on the game. As you can see, it only merits half a page,…More

Review: R-Type

ST Format Review Before I start my review, here’e ST Format’s take on the game. My Review R-Type is a conversion of an arcade classic, handled by Electric Dreams who did such an excellent job with Super Hang-On. As you’ll likely already know it’s a side-scrolling shooter set in space, with the simple objective of…More

ST/Amiga Format Issue 6

Issue 6 – Download

The World in November 1988

The previews here are a bit more unknown to me than previous weeks. Puffy’s Saga I don’t know, but a quick Youtube suggests it has much in common with Gauntlet. Turbo Cup is a racing game I’ve heard of but never played, Galactic Conqueror looks like a standard space shooter, along with Outland, then there’s a pepsi ad-game. They ended up being quite big in the 90s with games featuring the 7-up spot and the Quavers mascot proving to be big hits. This one I’ve not heard of so I can only assume it was awful.

The Munsters looks like standard platform license fare, Thunderblade seems to be a shooter of some kind but google has been inconclusive. I see F-16 Attack Fighter and I suspect that’s the game that eventually came to be known as F-16 Combat Pilot. I found it a bit too complex as a kid, preferring Microprose’s F-19 instead. We finish up with Superman and Lasertrain which look deeply uninteresting.

Missing the cut this month were Spitting Image and Return of the Jedi owing to the publishers sending blank disks, cybernoid owing to being all graphics and no substance, Daley Thompson Olympic Challenge on some flimsy excuse, and some uninteresting junk.

Games reviewed this month:
Powerdrome (3D space racing game – Electronic Arts – £24.95 – 95% Format Gold)
Rocket Ranger (Collection of minigames in one overarching story – Cinemaware – £29.99 Amiga or £24.99 ST [unusual] – 90% Format Gold)
SDI (Shooter – Activision – £19.95 – 85%)
Pacmania (Isometric Pacman – Grand Slam – £19.95 – 80%) – note the version shown is the Amiga version which is MUCH better looking than the ST conversion
Battlechess (Chess – Electronic Arts – £24.95 – 85%)
Colossus Chess X (Chess – CDS Software – £24.95 – 87%)
Speedball (future angry sports game – Imageworks – £24.99 – 80%)
Zero Gravity (3d pong – Lankhor – £19.95 – 75%)
Driller (Freescape game – Incentive – £22.95 – 70%)

That’s actually quite an exciting selection. I’ve played Pacmania (came with my ST), Colossus Chess and Speedball and enjoyed all three, while Driller is intriguing as I never got a chance to play a freescape game though I did dabble with the 3d constructor demo on an ST Format cover disk. Then there’s Rocket Ranger which I don’t quite know what to make of. I’ll give it some thought and choose some suitable games to review in due course.

Review: Rocket Ranger

Rocket Ranger Note that the game requires use of a copy-protection code wheel which has been brilliantly recreated at (UK release) and (US release) if you want to play along. Note that they are different. Cinemaware have a particular style, their games often graphically excellent and featuring an array of minigames. Rocket Ranger is no exception to…More

Review: Powerdrome

It’s likely you won’t have heard of Powerdrome, the EA racer from 1988. It’s not enormously well-known but it’s a little something different from the norm at a time where most of what was being released was platformers and shooters, with most racing games being Outrun-clones. 3D filled vector racing games were certainly unusual at…More

ST/Amiga Format Issue 5

Issue 5 – Download

Wait.. what about Carrier Command?
To be honest I just couldn’t get anything interesting out of it, struggling to find the motivation for it and honestly what I was writing was just utter shit. Better to leave it to someone else than do a shit job of it.

The World in October 1988

Musically it was a mixed month. Erasure had A Little Respect, Kim Wilde didn’t trust strangers and Womack And Womack were still in the top 10 but the rest of the top 10 singles were awful. In the albums the Pet Shop Boys released one of their weaker 80s efforts, Kylie clung on, and the rest was absolute dirge. Films were better, Good Morning Vietnam with Robin Williams at his best, Buster (not cool to admit liking it but I do so tough titties), and the wonderful Beetlejuice still clinging on.

This month’s previews were a mixed bag. You had some things I’ve never heard of like Lords Of The Rising Sun, Pioneer Plague and Dragon Slayer, then you have Rocket Ranger which I only know of by name. Finally we have Afterburner and Pacmania which both came with my ST and were reasonably solid (I’d rate Pacmania above Afterburner), Falcon which I’ve played a little of later versions on PC, and a preview for the wonderful Damocles which would eventually appear in August 1990 – one of the greatest games ever made and you can see a bit more about it at but rest assured I’ll be giving it a full write-up because it’s a game I adore.

Without a teaser on the missed games (just a moan at the Royal Mail being shite, which in the 80s they really were as competition wasn’t a thing), we find ourselves with 10 games reviewed:

– Menace (Shooter – Psygnosis – £24.95 – 90% Format Gold) – distinctly 8-bit looking with limited colours. Big sprites but not very smooth, doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the genre.
– Fusion (Shooter – Bullfrog/EA – £24.95 – 82%) – Bullfrog hadn’t yet hit their creative stride – this slow jerky shooter bears a passing resemblance to Xenon 1 (which isn’t a compliment) but without the smoothness.
– POW (Operation Wolf clone – US Action – £29.95 – 84%) – Claims ST version imminent but I’ve not been able to find any sign of it on the internet so assuming Amiga-only. From Youtube the shooting looks somewhat better than Summer Olympiad!
– Powerplay (Pub Quiz Game – Arcana – £19.95 – 55%) – Christ they must have been desperate to review this shit.
– Luxor (Run and Gun – Paradox – £14.95 – 60%) – Play Turrican instead
– Stargoose (Shooter – Logotron – £19.95 – 68%) – Came with my ST – it’s ok.
– Elite (You fucking know what Elite is – Firebird – £24.95 – 75%)
– Veteran (Another Operation Wolf Clone – Software Horizons – £14.95 – 60%)
– Operation Neptune (Underwater shoot-em-up – Infogrames – £24.95 – 70%)
– Super Hang-On (Bike racer arcade conversion – Electric Dreams – £19.99 – 65%) – criminally underrated
– Netherworld (Shooter – Hewson – £19.95 – 64% [60% for ST version as it’s shit])

Slim pickings this month but I think I’ll probably review Stargoose and Super Hang-On because I know them well, and Elite because I never got to play Elite 2 on the ST and only played Elite Dangerous on the PC (which was shite).

Reviews For October 1988

Review: Elite

Elite Elite is a game that most people will already know about, a space trading/combat game set in a miniature recreation of the universe. This version crams 8000 planets in 8 galaxies into 512k of RAM – a feat that I can only assume involves some use of procedural generation. Elite 2 would go further…More

Review: Super Hang-On

Super Hang-On Super Hang-On is another game that came with my Atari ST in the Power Pack. (yeah I’m using a pirated version) ST Format ReviewBefore I start my review, here’e ST Format’s take on the game. My ReviewThe power pack came with Super Hang-On and Outrun. Outrun had the glamour, the Ferrari, the multiple…More

Review: Star Goose

Star Goose Star Goose came with my Atari ST in the Power Pack, one of a huge selection of games. While not as big a personal hit as Nebulus, I did enjoy it at the time and it’s good to revisit and see how it’s aged. ST Format ReviewBefore I start my review, here’e ST…More

ST/Amiga Format Issue 4

Issue 4 – Download

The World in September 1988

After a lacklustre issue 3 we arrive at the far-more-promising issue 4. Indeed I had trouble choosing what to review, not because there was too little quality (see last week) but because there was simply too much. The October issue, arriving in September, saw the magazine delve into the 68000 line of chips, responsible for powering the Atari ST, the Amiga, and the Mega Drive, with only the SNES choosing a different part among the major 16-bit players. The 68000 also found its way into arcades and into Apple’s hardware (indeed Atari had to change the menus in GEM to avoid being sued by Apple for being a bit too similar).

Before getting to the games I want to briefly cover one serious package reviewed.

This is an ad for STOS, which appeared in the same issue as the review, below. Was the score influenced by the ad? Who knows. What I do know is that I acquired STOS free with an ST Format cover disk about 4 years later.

I was about 7 years old when I first got an Amstrad CPC 464, an old crappy 8-bit with 64Kb of memory. It had basic, and you’d get the listings in the magazines of the day. I’d type them out, get it working, be dissatisfied with it and tweak it and make it more to my liking. Little did I know that was what I’d be doing for the rest of my life. Fast forward to 1992 where I got GFA Basic also free with ST format and began making games and serious software (art packages, music software, etc). GFA basic lacked gaming chops though – moving sprites around was painfully slow and while I was making some sort of game, they were running at 3 frames per second on single-colour backgrounds and the platforms were sprites because I had no idea background tiling was a thing.

Another year later STOS turned up on an ST Format cover disk. It came with the compiler (which I think came a little later) and a bunch of utilities so I think what I got was a little better than what ST Format reviewed. I had an absolute blast with it and the quality of my output improved dramatically. It wasn’t exactly commercial-quality stuff but it did the job and I learned a lot working with it.

While it didn’t have much impact on the commercial scene, with only Baby Jo coming out fairly late in the ST’s life, STOS was a big factor in the Public Domain scene, unlocking so much creative talent that might have otherwise been wasted. Later AMOS would come to the Amiga, though while its featureset was superior its impact would be lesser – partly a product of coming later in the machine’s life. STOS, in my opinion, paved the way for modern tools like Game Maker, Unity, etc.

Back to the games…
Among the previews we find something of a mixed bag, with greatly-lauded games like BAT and Elite mixed in with the oddity that is Battle Chess and the dross that is Spittting Image.

Moving to the reviews, we have a decent selection, but then they tease us by telling us about the games that didn’t make it. I know little of Bubble Ghost, Streetfighter 1, Impossible Mission 2, Vixen, Tanglewood and Bermuda Project. The most important bit is that we miss out on Nebulus (aka Tower Toppler). That for me is fucking criminal. I will be reviewing Nebulus because missing it was a travesty. The following games did make it into the magazine:

– Starglider 2 (Space exploration – Rainbird – £24.95 – 95% Format Gold)
– Federation Of Free Traders (Elite clone – Gremlin Graphics [of Lotus Challenge fame] – £29.95 – 85% Format Gold)
– Eliminator (same dev as Nebulus) – Racey shooty thing – Hewson – £19.99 – 70%)
– Vectorball (Sports thingy – Mastertronic [budget label] – £14.95 – 63%)
– Carrier Command (Rainbird – £24.95 – 85% but not apparently a Format Gold) – reviewing the Amiga version
– Hostages (Jerky run and gun – Infrogrames – £24.95 – 78%)
– Starray (Defender clone – Logotron – £24.95 – 79%)
– Summer Olympiad (Olympics knock-off – Tynesoft – £19.95 – 77%)

These are the games I’ll be reviewing with reasons for my choice:


This game came with my Atari ST and honestly the moment I saw that tower it absolutely blew me away. It was the moment when my jaw dropped to the floor at something so comprehensively better than anything I’d played before on my old Amstrad. The fact that the game was super-tough but insanely addictive was.. ah but let’s not spoil the review.

Starglider 2

Starglider 1 came with my ST I think, and I wasn’t enormously enamoured with it, but Starglider 2 seems so highly regarded by fans that I ought to give it a shot.

Carrier Command

I never played this back in the day but it seems so ambitious for its day and on that basis I really should give it a go. I sense that it’ll be one that requires a bit of effort to review so it may not be super-quick in turning up.

Summer Olympiad

I never played this, but I did play its predecessor, Winter Olympiad. It was a budget release at the time and I had a blast with it. The graphics were smooth and well-drawn and the gameplay more fun than you might expect, so it’s only right that I should give its sequel a try, even if its choice of sports is somewhat eclectic. I reckon I might also cover the prequel briefly just for fun as a bonus.

So – 4 full reviews after 1 full review and a couple of half-reviews. This issue is really a big step up. Likely this is my last big post for this week in this thread but I’ll be preparing content through the week and next weekend so hopefully I’ll get some reviews up in a reasonable time.

If there’s something you’d like me to focus more on, if there’s something I’m missing, or if I’m just plain wrong about a game you love, let me know.

Reviews this month

Review: Starglider 2

Starglider 2 When I first got my Atari ST, it came with Starglider 1, which had the absolutely fantastic theme music when it loaded (see video below), and an absolutely gorgeous bit of art on the loading screen. The game however was a bit of a disappointment, wireframe graphics just didn’t do it for me.…More

Review: Summer Olympiad

Summer Olympiad This is someone else’s video – they played it so you don’t have to. In 1988 the Olympics visited the South Korean city of Seoul, and in the best tradition of the late 80s and early 90s, a million cash-in games were released, just as they would be for world cups and european…More

Review: Nebulus

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