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 I intend to fix right here, right now.
In IK+ you face a series of 3-way fights, where getting the most points wins you the round, finishing 2nd keeps you in the game and finishing 3rd sees you at the game over screen and thinking up a suitably sweary name for the high score table (and no that never gets old).
It contains some of what would become trademarks of Archer’s style, with pacman wandering into the screen in the background (just as in his snooker games the balls would sometimes grow faces and blow raspberries at you), wonderfully smooth animation (helped no doubt by the fact that actually the game isn’t throwing that much stuff around the screen), and surprisingly deep gameplay.
The fights rely heavily on timing, with an impressive 17 moves available from different combinations of fire on/off and joystick direction (as detailed in the manual which I recommend reading before you play), though this does sometimes make it a chore to get your character to face the right way to face a specific enemy. Interestingly none of these controls suffer from the madness inflicted on us later by Street Fighter games and their imitators where you’d have to wrestle the joystick into 14 different positions with perfect timing to execute a move, it’s just one movement, time it right, and hope it hits.
In many ways it’s a strikingly simple game, there’s no story that I can discern, there’s no power ups, there are admittedly some quite silly minigames between fights but they seem to be there just for shits and giggles rather than to serve any real purpose, much like beating up a car in Street Fighter 2. If I could add something to the game it would be a practice area, with a stationary dummy to hit to get used to the controls, but perhaps that’s just my modern bullshit sensibilities coming out, perhaps the game is the practice.
Presentation is fantastic with a lovely water ripple effect in the background and super-smooth animation, and there’s a satisfying sampled slap sound when you hit someone, though the colour palette is distinctly early-Atari-ST and the background art style isn’t amazing. Music hints at traditional Japanese sounds in much the same way Kung Fu Fighting does, but it’s all good fun (even if it is a chiptune). Notably there’s no discernable input-lag, the only lag coming from the animation itself which is fair and once you understand that it becomes second nature to time your attacks to perfection.
You should play this game, it’s a thoroughly good time.
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, and yet the review is full of praise for a simple concept done well. The score is lower than you might expect but perhaps reflects the fact that it’s not more ambitious, or perhaps that they didn’t get quite enough of a cash bribe.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting a huge amount. I have tended to enjoy a good single-screen platformer before, such as the wonderful Bomb Jack and the less well-known Mouse Trap (budget shit but for some reason I enjoyed it). Like both of those it owes its existence to lesser 8-bit machines and displays their limitations. It’s not particularly inventive, it’s not technically that accomplished in moving a few tiny sprites around, and yet I liked it. Visually for some reason it brings to mind the later Quaver-selling domino-pusher, Pushover, which is no bad thing.
Like Mouse Trap it’s an old single-screen game and the physics have a lot in common, in that once falling or jumping your motion is set in stone with no means to alter it, albeit unlike most games Chuckie Egg will carry your momentum in the reverse direction if you crash into a wall, where most games will just kill your forward momentum instead. This can get quite annoying when jumping up a small flight of steps. Ladders are also an annoyance, requiring remarkable precision to join them and suicidal button-poking to get off, though I eventually figured out that holding the joystick diagonally could overcome this issue.
Enemy AI is simple, the enemy walking along a path and turning 180 at the end of it, with a random decision as it reaches a ladder to either carry on, or go up or down the ladder (though how an ostrich can climb a ladder is anyone’s guess). Music is grating chip tune drivel.
So with all this wrong with it, why do I like it then? Because the limitations make it run super-smooth and let you focus on the puzzles, which are maddening but bloody good fun. This game absolutely flies (sometimes a bit too quick – it can make timing jumps tricky) and serves as a better showcase for the ST’s capabilities than some far more complex games. It’s a game I intend to return to, and one in which I will record a wide selection of rudely-named high scores.
Before I start my review, here’e ST Format’s take on the game.
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 killing anything that moves (and if it doesn’t, kill it just in case it starts moving).
The game eases you in gently but if you’re an idiot like me, you can still die. While the flying nasties are a problem if you’re as cack-handed as I am, the bigger problem is the tiny bullets floating around, which seem to be about 2 pixels by 2 pixels (admittedly chunky pixels). With the game a little jerky, especially compared with the [utl=[MEDIA=youtube]xmEhC91k3MI[/MEDIA] version[/url].
The game lets you throw a decent number of bullets around (to an extent that early on strafing up and down while mashing fire is a valid strategy) and as a bonus holding the fire button down grants you a fireball of different sizes depending on how long you power up, as a means to do some crowd control.
Space becomes more constricted as you progress, with nasties coming in from all angles and of course the perennial shooter vulnerability comes up, that if it’s not directly in front of your ship you can’t fight it. The game does throw a lot of sprites around the screen but I can’t help wondering if it might benefit from shrinking some of them for a more zoomed-out view in order to let the ST cope a little better, given framerates do drop a bit.
Enemies are a step up from the Space Invaders school of patterned attacks, coming in waves but being willing to deviate from the pattern and react to the player, as well as hiding behind obstacles. The bosses are pretty awesome too, featuring some lovely artwork and clever ideas (see below where your best approach is to get in the middle and shoot as it rotates around you).
When I was hunting for an R-Type disk image (as it’s not in TOSEC) I found this enhanced version, made in 2015 for the STE, with a rather exotic 2MB of RAM (which almost nobody had back in the day). It’s much closer to the Amiga version offering smoothness the Electric Dreams version lacks. This is in part due to the STE’s superior hardware and in part due to the better hardware knowledge (the later ST games were so much smoother than these early ones which really suffer from a lack of technical knowledge at the time as developers were moving over from 8-bit and figuring out what these machines could do).
The smoother and more responsive controls make it easier and more enjoyable, so if you’re not a purist you may find this version a better choice.
Verdict Overall it’s a decent shooter doing lots of clever things and certainly a good game for its time, and I had a good time with it even though shooters aren’t really in my wheelhouse.
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 (https://www.25thframe.co.uk/charts/box-office.php?chart=19881209) 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 (https://www.officialcharts.com/charts/uk-top-40-singles-chart/19881211/750140/) 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 (https://www.officialcharts.com/charts/albums-chart/19881211/7502/) 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).
Previews 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.
Reviews 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.
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
Chuckie EggNote that Chuckie Egg is not in the tosec – it can be found at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-chuckie-egg_8928.html 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
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