Review: Navy Moves

Navy Moves

ST Format Review

My Review
The kit for this was latest version of Steem SSE, selecting a 1MB STFM with TOS 1.00 (the release which ran in all of the gaming machines until the STE came out later in 1989). My first attempt used Automation’s menu 180. Other releases are available, such as that found in the TOSEC collection.

After choosing Navy Moves 1 or 2 (I didn’t realise there was a sequel – I chose 1) I get a decent title screen.

Now before continuing I want to show you the absolute horror that is Army Moves.

One of the worst games ever created

The game is an absolute fucking turd. Not one redeeming feature. Shit music, shit graphics, shit difficulty. Anyway, on to Navy Moves.

So the first challenge is to take this boat past some mines. The boat jumps by pushing up on the joystick. Timing is critical. When I say critical I mean impossible.

The boat makes an annoying droning sound which will make you want to kill yourself. Each time you fail you go right back to the start. Graphics run reasonably for an Atari ST game though they are somewhat muddy and indistinct, the game is a fucking abomination.

Here’s a Youtube video of someone else playing it. This game is VERY VERY bad. ST Format gave it 69%. Games journalists were shit even back then.

Review: Bloodwych

Bloodwych

ST Format Review

My Review
So to get this up and running I fired up the latest version of Steem SSE and chose a 1MB STFM with TOS 1.00 (the release which ran in all of the gaming machines until the STE came out later in 1989). My first attempt used Automation’s menu 122, which also features Winter Olympiad, a game I can heartily recommend. Other releases are available, such as that found in the TOSEC collection. The pirate into menu features some suitably jolly music and the now-standard scrolling text so beloved of the demo scene, and I can press 1 to enter the game.

It’s worth setting the scene a bit, this game is fundamentally a Dungeon Master clone (see also Captive and Eye Of The Beholder). For those who haven’t played Dungeon Master, a more modern comparison would be Legends Of Grimrock. If you’ve not played those.. well, imagine an RPG where instead of free roaming around a map you’re walking, in a party of 4, around a dungeon that is mapped as square tiles. Each move you make moves you to the next tile, so your movements are only ever in those 4 directions. Bearing in mind this was before texture-mapped 3D was a thing, so it allowed developers to substitute pre-rendered walls and combine them inventively to create an illusion of 3D. The transitions were not animated, instead you jumped instantly from tile to tile. Enemies moved in the same way, the sprites scaled as they got closer.

Dungeons and Dragons and assorted ripoffs were somewhat popular, evidenced by the enormous popularity of the kids TV show Knightmare which put teams of nerdy kids into dungeons filled with traps, monsters, wizards and the occasional dragon.

Legendary 90s TV series Knightmare

Bloodwych takes the Dungeon Master formula and adds something remarkable to it – split-screen 2 player action. Sadly I don’t know anyone else masochistic enough to play a late-80s blobber, so I won’t be able to review that side of the game, but if you do know someone then you’re in for a unique experience. The second addition is that not everyone in the dungeon is hostile, in fact you can even talk to some of them.

We begin rather less slickly than with Dungeon Master, an ugly menu allowing us to choose our champion – I preferred the way DM drops you at the entrance and lets you wander the maze looking for a champion. Graphically the choice to build for 2 players has led to the screen being somewhat constricted, the view doesn’t expand to fill the available space, instead where the screen would be split horizontally for the two players, one half is simply centred. This constriction makes the view a little less pretty, but more troublingly leads to the text being tricky to read (though this is also not helped by the developers choosing a god-awful font).

If you compare the screenshots below with Dungeon Master’s simple screen covering stats and inventory (click here) you can see that the interface is suffering from being scrunched up, but also suffers from some generallly poor design (that font being an absolute crime). The spell insterface looks an absolute horror and the manual offers no real clues but I hope all will become clearer as I play. Onwards.

A person.. thing.. stands in front of me, animation consists of the sprite moving from side to side but not much beyond that. In the absence of better ideas I recruit the bastard. Looks like he might be a fighter. Next bloke explains he’s a cutpurse so I add him. I finish up adding some lizard chap, and my party is complete. Two fighters, a thief and an adventurer. No wizards because I didn’t find any.

Conversation seems rather limited, as one would expect of a game of this age. My early impression is of a game that was mightily ambitious but was perhaps thwarted by that ambition. The two-player mode is a great idea, but most people will spend most of their time in single-player mode, and that mode seems crippled by the tiny screen through which to view the world and an interface crammed into a tiny space. Outside of usability issues, the graphics do a pporer job of presenting a real place. Where in Dungeon Master it’s easier to get a sense of where one is, the layout in Bloodwych is not so well conveyed through graphics, and the spaces themselves aren’t so well designed, leading to a feeling of being lost, but lost in a bad way.

Can anyone tell me why this skeleton is wearing shoes? It’s a puzzling idea, given he is wearing nothing else. Annoyingly, because he’s there I can’t move forward to press the button to open the damn door. This is in fact a common theme throughout the first area, finding myself trapped by gibbering idiots wandering around blocking my path. Give me Dungeon Master’s paintings any day (if for no other reason than you can see their sodding stats).

Can’t I just go to bed? I expected to be able to click on the draw to open it but this proved to be futile. The bed is purely decorative. Why does a dungeon have beds?

Rosanna Swifthand. Must.. not.. make.. filthy.. joke.

I’ll be honest, this game tested my patience in a bad way and was probably not the best comeback for the ST Format Challenge as honestly it’s a bit of a turkey. There’s a chap who played rather more than I did [http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2012/08/bloodwych-more-than-i-wanted-to-chew.html] and perhaps his comments offer more validity than mine – he notes that the gameplay is repetitive, the setting derivative, the NPCs a nice idea but never actually useful, overall he’s quite scathing and I’m inclined to agree with his assessment. A disappointing game.

Resources
Manual: https://mocagh.org/miscgame/bloodwych-manual.pdf

ST Format Issue 1

ST Format Issue 1 – Download

The World in July 1989
In the UK we started to see the first signs of a forthcoming recession as house prices dipped, falling for the second successive quarter, having doubled over the previous 3 years. Labour continued to increase its lead over the Tories in the polls, in many ways mirroring current events with the media hating Thatcher and Tories proving shy – we would have another 8 years of Tory government.

In America Seinfeld debuted while Oliver North was fined $150k for his involvement in Iran-Contra. The B2 Stealth Bomber made its maiden flight (and what a sexy bit of kit it was) and Robert Tappan Morris Jr became the first person to be prosecuted for releasing a virus. Oh and the Game Boy came out. This machine was incredibly underpowered compared to most of the hardware of the day but its portability combined with an impressive library of games which focused on gameplay over technical matters led it to be a massive success.

Elsewhere in the world, South African president P W Botha met Nelson Mandela face to face for the first time – an early step toward ending the cruelty of apartheid. In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest – she would be released in 2010 to much fanfare, only to prove to be every bit as bad as the old regime.

The film charts feature Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Burbs and the absolute classic They Live. What a fucking chart!

The album chart is a mixed bag, with Soul II Soul’s debut featuring a couple of excellent tracks, Appetite For Destruction still there along with Transvision Vamp’s Velveteen, but there’s also Simply fucking Red and Jason Donovan. Oh, and fucking Clannad. Who the fuck was buying that shit?

The singles chart had the brilliant Back To Life from Soul II Soul, but it also had Sonia, one of Stock Aitken and Waterman’s many talentless drones. The Pet Shop Boys were there at 5 with a song (It’s Alright) which was sadly a bit preachy but it was still fundamentally an absolute banger. The rest.. not a great time for music. The late 80s and early 90s were frankly a bad time for music in the UK.

On TV we had the first episode of Interceptor on Channel 4. It’s brilliantly bonkers.

The Magazine
Finally we’re here, we made it to the first issue of ST Format, which when you think about it is a tad ridiculous considering the title of the thread. Of course I’m also largely to blame for slacking off for a few months. Anyway, we’re here now, but should we have come? The cover is.. well it’s interessting I guess, though I’m buggered if I can tell what’s going on. The disk features a demo of Bloodwych and a full version of GFA Basic 2 (a later version of which is what I started my ST programming career on, having dabbled on the Amstrad CPC as an 8-year-old).

There’s a feature on how a punk group uses a 1040ST to power MIDI instruments, though it now transpires that basically the whole music industry was using them, brilliant little machines that they were. In the news section, we have the revelation that the STE would arrive by Christmas, though no mention of the compatibility issues which would plague it. The STE was of course an enhancement (and indeed the E stood for enhanced) but it wasn’t a big enough step up for existing ST owners and most developers would continue targetting the lesser STFM machine because it had a larger install base. This of course meant there was little reason to buy the STE.

We have a brief history of Atari, including their involvement with the Amiga, which I’m sure some of you would find fascinating. In software reviews we have Hisoft’s C interpreter and the wonderful STOS Compiler. STOS was my 2nd Atari ST programming language and it was fucking brilliant. While a little too slow for commercial games (Baby Jo was made in STOS – its lack of speed clearly a product of that heritage) it was wonderful for simple public domain games and would go on to power a whole industry.

Previews
The big features here are Blood Money and the new Indiana Jones game coming out for The Last Crusade. I recall playing an Indiana Jones game on the ST as a kid and I wonder if that’s the one – if so it was utter shit. Palace’s Castle Warrior gets a mention, though I have no idea what it is, and Ooze from Dragonware gets a dark screen that you can hardly see. A feature on Microprose is welcome, with Verminator coming from Firebird (one of their labels) and Microstyle getting Rainbow Warrior (yuck) and Xenophobe, while Microstatus gets Midwinter, Survivor and Tower Of Babel. Midwinter was of course awesome.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Phobia (Shooter – Mirrorsoft – £19.95 – 65%)
Kult (Fuck Knows – Exxos – £24.95 – 73%) – more weirdness from the people behind Purple Saturn Day
Bloodwych (Dungeon Master Clone – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 95%)
King Of Chicago (A Cinemaware Game – Mirrorsoft – £19.95 – 61%)
License To Kill (Minigames – Domark – £19.99 – 76%)
Garfield – A Winter’s Tail (Minigames – Softek – £19.95 – 70%)
Let Sleeping Gods Lie (Freescape Clone With Shit Graphics – Entertainment International – £24.99 – 72%)
Astoroth (Side-scrolling platform shooter – Hewson – £24.99 – 72%)
Waterloo (3D war strategy game* – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 91%)
Sky Fox 2 (Shooter – EA – £9.99 – 58%)
Red Lightning (Hex-based strategy wargame – No publisher or price listed – 64%)
Navy Moves (Utter shit** side-scrolling shooter – EA – £19.95 – 69%)

* So Waterloo is a game in 3D where you can only view from the position your general would actually be in, and where you issue commands to your troops through a text parser. Those commands are then taken to the appropriate unit by messenger, but the messenger might be intercepted en route. Very detailed stuff, with incredible depth, insanely slow, and probably a bit too hard for me!

** So I got stuck with Army Moves as a kid. It was fucking terrible. The shittest side-scrolling shit of a game known to man. Utter utter shit.

In terms of reviews, I reckon it would be rude of me to not cover Bloodwych, especially as I’ve long wanted to give it a go, though it’ll take a while to get a good solid take on that (though if you’re still reading this thread you’re used to long waits). I might have a brief go on Waterloo to demonstrate my utter incompetence and see if Navy Moves is really as bad as I expect.

Reviews This Month

Review: Navy Moves

Navy Moves ST Format Review My ReviewThe kit for this was latest version of Steem SSE, selecting a 1MB STFM with TOS 1.00 (the release which ran in all of the gaming machines until the STE came out later in 1989). My first attempt used Automation’s menu 180. Other releases are available, such as that…More

Review: Bloodwych

Bloodwych ST Format Review My ReviewSo to get this up and running I fired up the latest version of Steem SSE and chose a 1MB STFM with TOS 1.00 (the release which ran in all of the gaming machines until the STE came out later in 1989). My first attempt used Automation’s menu 122, which…More