Review: Baal


ST Format Review

My Review
Baal 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 slow down around the generators if you’ve destroyed them. The downside of this implementation however is that you can’t really see far enough ahead, something exacerbated by the odd way that scrolling works, where it only moves if you’re quite close to the edge of the screen. The scrolling itself is smooth, though I notice that it never scrolls diagonally, only horizontally as you walk or vertically as you ascend or descend a ladder. I presume there are technical reasons for this.

I had one particular flying nasty cause me problems in this respect, in that I shot it, passed it to go and shoot the generator, it respawned behind me where I needed to go, but I couldn’t get close enough with the terrible scrolling to see much of what was shooting me, and it kept on respawning within seconds of me shooting it, making it impossible to pass because any single contact with the monster is instant death. This follows a pattern of somewhat unfair difficulty in that right at the start you face a couple of creatures shooting at you who flatten between shots so you can only shoot them when they’re shooting you, because you can’t crouch. You can jump but then you miss the only opportunity to shoot, and you can’t jump over them (in part because the jumping is terrible). The only option is to keep shooting and take the hits.

Controls are tight, with instant response and even ladders being easy to navigate, and you can shoot from them. Sadly the jumping controls are poor and you can’t fall any distance, no matter how small, from a ledge without dying.

One pleasing aspect of the game is that the developers clearly anticipated my vulgarity, making it quite plain that my filth won’t make it to the high score table. While it’s fun to put filth up, it’s also quite fun to know that the developers took the time to think of the different filth I might put in.

There’s no doubt that visually it’s impressive, and perhaps that’s why ST/Amiga Format gave it such a high mark, but as a game it has perhaps too many irritations to achieve its potential.

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