Not-Review: Pro Tennis Tour

So I gave up on Pro Tennis Tour aka Great Courts. I’m having considerable difficulty in returning shots and can’t find a manual to figure out if I’m missing anything in the controls in terms of aiming or anything like that…

(a few hours later)

So this was from a previous session…

The same happened just now but now it’s taken me to the French Open and suddenly it’s much much easier. Weird.

See if you can guess which one is me..

Well that went brilliantly.

So yeah this is me…

.. and thus I will not be reviewing the game.

Review: Double Dragon 2

Double Dragon 2

ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. I used Automation disk 219, which also includes Alf: The First Adventure. Yep, a game around the TV show Alf. I might have to try it out for shits and giggles. It’s an ok intro – not enormously exciting technically, but it gets the job done.

Going into the game, we have a logo screen, press fire and get some sampled music while the game loads, and then arrive at a level which I swear looks even uglier than Double Dragon 1.

With that said, the enemies come in rather more acrobatically rather than slowly shuffling across the screen, though the frame rate would drive our 60FPS obsessives round the bend. The moveset seems similar to the original, with a jump executed with fire and up/up-diagonal, a flying kick executed with fire and the direction you’re facing, and a punch executed with fire. We seem to have lost the headbutt sadly, and I’m sure the first game had a throw which is also missing.

As usual you can pick weapons up by pressing fire. I tried to break a crate with a whip but this didn’t work – I blame Streets Of Rage for making me think that all crates contained useful things. On a second playthrough I remembered that you could pick up barrels in the first game, and tried picking up the crate and found that worked. You’re treated to sampled grunts and smacks, but otherwise sound is sparse.

Ladders remain climbable, though I would advise against it as it’s easy to fall off roofs that tend not to have any guardrail (such bad health and safety because we hadn’t invented that in the 1980s). As always you have the traditional giant blokes for mid and end of level bosses, and as usual doors in the background will generally open up as you pass for an enemy to emerge. This can cause problems as the point at which you push scrolling is far too close to the edge of the screen (by which I mean that scrolling doesn’t happen til you’re right at the edge, so you can’t see what’s coming, where scrolling more from the middle would give you more warning of what was coming).

Loading level two I’m dropped straight in and hit by a guy before I’ve had a chance to do anything (see above), and once caught in that trap it’s impossible to get out as you get up, get hit again, and so on, due to lack of invincibility frames. Quite why they couldn’t have this enemy walk on is anyone’s guess but it’s cheap to do that straight from the screen appearing. Add to that some hits simply not registering and you do often feel like the game is taking the piss.

The final straw is a combine harvester randomly moves the roller towards you without itself moving.. by that point I had simply had enough.

It’s all perfectly servicable but feels a bit lacklustre, like they couldn’t really be bothered, and the game never really pushes any boundaries. There are games of that time period that look far better than this.

Resources
Manual: http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=499

Review: Future Wars

Future Wars

ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. Automation didn’t have this, nor did D-Bug, so I went with the Medway Boys for this crack. Sadly there’s no intro, much to my disappointment. All you get is this lousy text after running the executable from the desktop.

Thankfully they were kind enough to crack the copy protection which seems to use images from the manual.

Before I get any further I just want to talk a little about Delphine Software. Some of you will already be familiar with them, but if not, I’ll give a bit of background – those who know it can skip ahead. Delphine Software mostly specialised in adventure games. They started with a couple of action games, Castle Warrior which I reviewed a while back and Bio Challenge. Both were shit. Visually they were cool but the gameplay just wasn’t there. Future Wars is where they found their feet. Future Wars set a template which they would follow in Operation Stealth (an unofficial James Bond adventure) before expanding on that system for Cruise For A Corpse. That was to be their last proper adventure, but the vector animation tech used there would be found in Another World before they went on to make Flashback which is more of a platformer. Their career after Flashback is undistinguished, but in the 16-bit era they were magnificent, for me never better than when making adventure games. They were presented in a wonderfully cinematic style with gorgeous pixel art, and at that time they were making prettier adventures (that ran a lot more smoothly) than either Sierra or Lucasarts. Operation Stealth was one of my favourites as a kid and a couple of years ago I completed Cruise For A Corpse. Both games were wonderfully polished and full of atmosphere though the plot unravelled somewhat later in the games (spoiler alert).

The Cinematique system was Delphine’s SCUMM. You had objects in the room you could click on, or you could right-click to bring up an action menu (the verbs being in that action menu instead of permanently on-screen allowed more screen to be used for the environment). You could Examine an object, view your inventory, Use an object (which usually meant using it with something), Operate something (ie use it on its own) and Speak. In some cases in Operation Stealth, Examine would open up a close-up shot for more detailed interactions.

An intro sees some futuristic chaps shot by a mysterious flying saucer, while some reasonably solid chip music plays. Time to click on things and make some magic happen. I’ve knocked my bucket over and I’m on the side of a building, presumably I want to get off the lift somehow. My first mission is to grab anything I can. Only the bucket can be picked up – fine, maybe I’ll use it as a crash helmet or something. Examinng the scaffolding I find buttons, and move up a floor. As there’s a hotspot for the window the chap was yelling at me from, I assume I am expected to operate it and enter.

The game begins. I am apparently a window cleaner. My boss yells through the window so I guess I better do something. Examining everything I find a button. Taking everything I find that I now have a bucket. Finally I operate the button to take the lift up to the window and climb in.

In this shot we can see a shortcoming of the animation – our hero stops at whatever walk frame he’s on, rather than resetting to stand. However, in walking around he’s revealed that he can feel something under his feet. Operating the carpet reveals a key. Scanning the room for things to steal I find a bag in a bin. The bathroom looks interesting so let’s investigate. There’s a cupboard which means I must open it. I’ll have that insecticide thank you. No clue what I’ll do with it, but rule #1 of adventure games, steal anything that isn’t nailed down. My other rule is if I see an opportunity to take a shit I’ll take it. Disappointingly, I can open the WC door, but not take a shit. I’ll take that red pixel on the ground though, which turns out to be a flag.

One definite irritant, which I have a feeling was resolved in Operation Stealth, is that you can click to operate something and it’ll moan that you’re not near enough. I vaguely recall that in Operation Stealth John Glames would walk to the object and do your bidding.

Back to the game for a moment, I had to read a walkthrough to figure out that I had to fill the bucket with water and place it above the boss’s door to soak him so I could escape. Not really signposted unless I missed something really obvious. Anyway, with that done I head to the next room. There’s cupboards so I’m going to try to open them. They’re locked so I whip out a key, which miraculously works. Not sure why it was under the carpet, but I now have a typewriter to play with. Not quite sure what to do with it. May as well rifle through the drawers while I’m there, and I’ll take this bit of paper.

Stuck once more I discover in a walkthrough that I must use a little flag on a map, which opens a secret passage. Overall, I’m not sure the puzzles are the most logical in the world. Nor, so far, has it presented the quality of atmosphere and world building present in Operation Stealth. In further annoyance, I got crushed because I was too slow entering a sodding code on a key input. To add insult to injury it just hangs there, no game over screen.

Loading another save, back I go. Entering the code I found in the typewriter I make it through the door and find myself in some kind of lab. Attempting to press a single-pixel red button on a machine, it keeps telling me to come closer, even when my character is literally the adjacent fucking pixel. Noting that examine machine tells me it looks a bit like a photocopier, and lacking an option to sit on the machine, I insert some paper instead.

So, eventually I get zapped by some light and I’m in a swamp. Random death from walking on the wrong bit of swamp.

So I think I’m done here. Clearly Future Wars is an important part of the journey for Delphine, but I can’t help but feel that it’s not quite there yet, mainly because quite a lot of it is absolute shit. Visually it’s lovely, though the pixel art isn’t as lush as that of Operation Stealth. The close-ups especially aren’t as exciting. There’s little in the way of world-building, it’s really not very clear who I am or what I’m doing, or why I’m doing it, though perhaps that becomes clearer later on. The sudden deaths seem cheap for the most part, and a pain in the arse if you haven’t saved recently.

I wonder if this was them building the engine that would eventually run their games and the fact that a game came with it was incidental. It feels like a practice run for Operation Stealth but maybe that’s just 20/20 hindsight talking. We can see themes that run through their other work, from the Cinematique system that drives OpStealth, the close-ups starting to form, the cinematic visuals, and the sci-fi story of what I think is experiments going wrong has some parallels with Another World and Flashback. For me though, this game is a stepping stone to greater things rather than being great in itself.

Resources
Manual: https://www.starehry.eu/download/adventure/docs/Future.Wars-Manual.pdf

ST Format Issue 5

ST Format Issue 5 – Download

The World in November 1989
The big event was the fall of the Berlin wall. It was such a huge moment, signalling what some thought was the end of history. Following on, Bulgaria ended its communist rule and Czechoslovakia saw massive protests which would end the rule of their Communist Party and usher in elections. It was one of the most momentous times in history but at 9 I didn’t really fully understand its significance. That is a source of some regret, as it now seems that I lived through the peak of Western civilisation without realising it.

In the UK we continued the loss of our own home-grown industries as Ford bought Jaguar. They have become increasingly generic. The House Of Commons was televised for the first time – given we see footage from the commons every day it seems strange now that we didn’t even have highlights. Of course now with social media so much of the commons is just posturing to create that Twitter zinger.

In America the football (soccer to you guys) team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 40 years.

Elsewhere in the world, the end of Apartheid was drawing closer as FW De Klerk scrapped the Separate Amenities Act

On TV Blackadder Goes Forth broadcast the legendary final episode, a tearjerker if ever there was one, while Byker Grove made its debut on Childrens BBC, alongside Maid Marian And Her Merry Men.

The film charts see the brilliant Shirley Valentine at number one, in which a bored Liverpudlian housewife goes to Mykonos to get away from her husband and ends up learning that fuck is fuck, boat is boat. The rest of the chart is distressingly poor.

The album chart sees Chris Rea at number 1 with The Road To Hell. Erasure briefly hit number one but had dropped back to 5 with Wild, an album which didn’t quite live up to some of their previous greats. The Beautiful South made their debut with a fantastic album, mixing caustic lyrics with uplifting melodies as Paul Heaton moved on from The Housemartins.

The singles chart has some absolute bangers with Lisa Stansfield at #1 and Phil Collins Another Day In Paradise at #2, Martika at 7 with I Feel The Earth Move, and The Mixmasters with Grand Piano at 9 for a dose of house. 808 State came in at 20 with Pacific State further showcasing the strength of dance music.


The Magazine
Issue 5’s theme was video, as demonstrated by a piss-poor image ripped from VHS. The cover disk featured The Untouchables and the first ad, two whole pages in colour, was for that game, Ocean really pushing that film license (as they were prone to doing).

There were reviews for some pretty cool kit, with GST Gold Genlock being the cover feature (video cature to image), however to me the most fascinating bit of kit was the Teletext adaptor, allowing you to capture teletext pages and navigate/store them on the Atari ST. Teletext, for those who don’t know, was a very early text service which was broadcast alongside the TV image allowing you to select pages (usually by typing a 3-digit number) to view news, sport, TV listings, and even play games (choose your own adventure and quiz games were popular). It was slow, but I remember as a kid switching to channel 4 so I could read Digitiser, having to wait ages for the next page to come up for each review.

You may recall that in STF issue 4 a number of developers observed that the STE wasn’t worth the effort. Atari weren’t happy, the news featuring a story that Atari had threatened to withdraw development machines fom the programmers involved. This would continue Atari’s long history of being utterly fucking retarded.

I think we found the first SJW right here. If only we’d killed it with fire. Something tells me this was just a money-making scheme and that Sandra Vogel was just a slightly autistic teenage girl, judging by the address and subsequent disappearance of the ‘organisation’. She charged money for.. well, not much. She truly blazed a trail.

Previews
This month’s previews were more textual than usual – weirdly they included a sprite sheet for one game among their screenshots, Jumping Jack Son is a brilliant little game and I fully intend to review it for you guys. Theme Park Mystery was one I always wanted to take a look at and Dark Century claimed to have raytracing. This was of course absolute bollocks, as was the game. Resolution 101 got a brief mention, while we got a screenshot of Space Ace and Ghouls n Ghosts which I imagine you guys will want me to take a look at. I expect I’ll die a lot.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Onslaught (Platform brawler – Hewson – £24.95 – 90% Format Gold)
Red Storm Rising (Submarine Sim – Microprose – £24.95 – 89%)
Tower Of Babel (3D puzzle oddity – Microprose – £24.99 – 94% Format Gold)
The Hound Of Shadow (Text Adventure – EA – £24.99 – 90% Format Gold)
First Contact (top-down exploration sci-fi weirdness – Microprose – £24.99 – 58%)
Moonwalker (Michael Jackson – The Game – US Gold – £24.95 – 84%)
Day Of The Pharoah (No Fucking Idea – Rainbow Arts – £24.99 – 63%)
Drakkhen (RPG – Infogrames – £24.95 – 79%) – interestingly all the screenshots are in French…
Future Wars (Adventure Game – Palace/Delphine – £24.95 – 87%)
Star Command (Space Thingy – SSI – £19.99 – 37%)
Lancaster (Flight Sim – CRL – £19.95 – 81%)
Shinobi (Brawler – Virgin – £19.99 – 47%)
Double Dragon 2 (Brawler – Virgin – £19.95 – 75%)
Tintin On The Moon (Platformer/Space Shooter – Infogrames – £24.95 – 73%)
Knight Force (Shit Brawler – Titus – £24.99 – 70%)
Pro Tennis Tour (Tennis – Ubi Soft – £19.95 – 70%)
Xenophobe (Run and Gun – Microstyle – £24.99 – 55%)

That’s quite a collection. For me, Tower Of Babel and Future Wars are essential, I’d quite like to have a crack at Pro Tennis Tour and I might give Drakkhen a shot. Shinobi might be worth a look and Double Dragon 2 will probably have to feature given I loved the first game (came with my ST in the Power Pack). It’s a big issue, with some games I really can’t wait to sink my teeth into. Tower Of Babel gives me Sentinel vibes while Future Wars is by the wonderful Delphine, creators of the brilliant Operation Stealth, Cruise For A Corpse, Another World and Flashback, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Reviews This Month

Not-Review: Pro Tennis Tour

So I gave up on Pro Tennis Tour aka Great Courts. I’m having considerable difficulty in returning shots and can’t find a manual to figure out if I’m missing anything in the controls in terms of aiming or anything like that… (a few hours later) So this was from a previous session… The same happened…More

Review: Double Dragon 2

Double Dragon 2 ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. I used Automation disk 219, which also includes Alf: The First Adventure. Yep, a game around the TV show Alf. I might have to try it out for shits and giggles. It’s an ok intro – not…More

Review: Future Wars

Future Wars ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. Automation didn’t have this, nor did D-Bug, so I went with the Medway Boys for this crack. Sadly there’s no intro, much to my disappointment. All you get is this lousy text after running the executable from the…More