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

So here it is

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

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

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

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

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

What’s It Going To Be?

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

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