Review: Batman


ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. I’m using Automation 224, in which we get a digitised image, some wibbly text and some scrolly text. The chiptune isn’t bad.

So this is Issue 6’s big ticket item, with a million adverts everywhere for the game. Review scores were good, but the big question is: Is the game good or shit?

This Batman game is based on the 1989 movie, frankly the best Batman (fight me).

The movie was quite a departure from the mainstream public image of Batman which was still shaped by the 60s TV series, moving it in the dark direction of the comics and continued with the modern films. It was hyped beyond belief at the time, I mean it was fucking everywhere. It probably paved the way for the brilliant Batman: The Animated Series which appeared a couple of years later. It was a big deal. But what of the game?

The intro screen has some… not very good music with a reasonably well-drawn logo and Joker but slightly wonky looking Batman. Pressing fire to start I get quite a nice little cut-scene. Let’s see how the game goes.

Arriving into the game – the graphics are very muddy – too much background patterning in the same colours as the Batman sprite isn’t a great start. THe actual scrollable area is pretty small with a large border and the scores at the bottom taking up a lot of space. This was obviously done to keep speed up but it’s still a shame. With that said, it’s smooth, controls well and the grapple-hook mechanic is pretty cool in that it offers something I don’t think I’ve seen in any other ST games – it adds a new dimension to movement. Once in motion the muddy graphics are less of an issue, and the responsive character makes it easy to do exactly what you intend to do.

Controls are logical, enemies well-placed (no swarms) and the platform section is basically a rock-solid implementation of this kind of thing. The game gives you plenty of ways to tackle your enemies – you can grapple-hook up onto their platform or drop down onto them, or you can rely on projectile attacks.

The driving section is interesting. For starters it offers a different take on the rolling road, gaining its sense of speed through road markings rather than the traditional stripes. It’s well-animated and I would put it on a par with Super Hang-on. What’s really interesting however is the use of the grappling hook to corner, again something of a departure from the standard formula. It’s a race against the clock, with collisions only slowing you down, no crashes of the type found in Super Hang-On or Outrun (scenery seems to be fine to just clip through).

Next we get a puzzle minigame where you must select from 8 items to find 3 specific ones – you get a few goes and each time you’re told how many you got right. Trial and error basically. Not too taxing.

We get another minigame, this time flying above the road, before being deposited back to some more platform action.

The funny thing is this is actually a good game. I was honestly expecting it to be shit, a film tie-in given an inappropriately high score, but it’s actually good. It isn’t a game that changed the world but it had its own small innovations which added nice extra touches to the gameplay and I’m grateful for those. All in all, further evidence that outside of the brilliant 60s Batman, 1989 Batman is the best.

Review: Ghouls N Ghosts

Ghouls and Ghosts

ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. I’m using Automation 199, another basic one with a simple image, scrolling text and chip tune. Not their most exciting work.

So Ghouls and Ghosts is regarded as something of a classic overall, but what of the ST version? Is it any good? Time to find out.

So first up, it’s not as smooth as some versions, but it’s perfectly serviceable and the graphics aren’t too bad. Scrolling is a little jerky but it’s fine other than that. Music is your standard chip tune fare, with nothing much to stand out.

Controls are reasonably solid with little lag, and in contrast to some of the similar games I’ve reviewed this month, enemy arrangements make some degree of sense and beating them is about skill rather than button-bashing as 15 enemies in a big blob amble towards you.

I may not be particularly good at it, and it’s not necessarily my thing, but it is clearly a good game, well-designed, I love how your chap starts with armour and ends up in his pants and it’s a game with enormous charm, overall I’d say Ghouls and Ghosts is so far second only to Jumping Jackson for this issue’s releases. By the way, at one point I turned into a duck. Can anyone tell me what the buggering hell that was about? Onwards, to Batman.

Review: Snoopy


ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. I’m using Automation 173, a fairly simple menu with a cool picture, some chip music and some scrolling text.

The game kicks off with a simple animated intro with some reasonable chip music. That said, it fails to move the single sprite at an acceptable speed, which doesn’t bode well. It’s like this was coded in GFA Basic.

Once running however it looks gorgeous, very true to the source material. Snoopy even has some subtle shading. Controls are simple, left and right to move, up to jump, down to pick something up and fire to use what you’re carrying or get some info about the nearest object. It’s almost an adventure game.

In game there’s almost no sound, other than a whoosh when you jump and a fart when you land. So, my first action is to get my bowl and take it to Charlie Brown. He gets me some dinner, I wolf it down, job done. Now I can only carry one object at a time and there’s a cookie jar so I assume I need to swap over. This has no effect on anything. I have a wander and meet some more characters.

I fire a catapult at a frog on a lillypad which makes him jump and wander off.. I guess I better follow him. And he gets trapped between a raincloud and a football.

So the game looks great, doesn’t run particularly smoothly and makes no sense at all. There’s no hint of logic to any of it. Unfortunately, another clunker.


Review: Super Wonder Boy In Monster Land

Wonderboy In Monsterland

ST Format Review

My Review
Before starting my review, I must deal with the fact that I can’t hear Wonderboy without thinking of this song.

For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. I’m using Automation 214, this one’s quite a simple one with the chip tune and scrolling text but really not much going on in the main screen.

So that loading screen. It’s really bad. The Master System got a much cooler one. There’s no branding consistency between them. The chip music is nothing special.

In hindsight I made a huge mistake having a look at a youtube video of the Master System version. Compare this…

WonderBoy on Master System

.. with this..

Wonderboy on Atari ST

This is a 1988 Master System game, an 8-bit console, and it looks significantly worse on the 16-bit Atari ST in 1990, and this is when graphics improved RAPIDLY. The Master System has an old 8-bit chip, bugger all RAM, though remarkably it runs at a higher resolution with more colours on screen at once (from a smaller palette).

If I’m honest I don’t think it’s a particularly faithful conversion, and I don’t think it belongs on the ST. Gameplay is rudimentary, far below the level the Atari ST is capable of. It’s reasonably smooth I guess (though considerably less smooth than the master system version and it’s running in a tiny window), but it just has so little going for it, it’s not worth anyone’s time if you can just play the Master System version instead. The only consolation is that the Amiga version is equally shit.

Review: Stormlord


ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. I’m using Automation 225, which gives me a nice bit of chip music and the usual array of scrolly text, in this case with wibbly bars highlighting the text for the application list.

We get an interesting explainer from Vapour explaining why he’s built this loader the way he has, and honestly I’m happy for him to do it any way he likes as he’s done an important job preserving ST software.

So Stormlord is a side-scrolling slash-em-up from Hewson, whose 8-bit roots meant they tended to put out rather simple (though often fantastic) games – they were retro even in their day. We get presented with a rather nice loading image, the art style is properly cool, and the sampled music is cool in a chilled-out way too.

Getting to the game itself, the excellent art continues, and we have a nice pair of tits on the left which I’m sure will have surprised a few parents back in the day. Animation is smooth, the frame rate is pretty solid (probably helped by a flat black background outside of the platform tiles). Scrolling isn’t the smoothest but gets the job done. Music in-game is a chip warble sadly, but it’s servicable.

The game itself is ok, controls are reasonably tight when walking and shooting but the jumping is not quite up to the job for the platforming it asks of you. Death is frequent because difficulty hasn’t really been properly calibrated, as is common with games of this era. In truth this game feels more like a showcase for the artist and programmer rather than a good game in its own right.

Here’s someone else playing it as I do think it’s worth letting you guys listen to the excellent intro music and also see how good the art is in motion.

Review: Super League Soccer (this time the right one)

Super League Soccer
No box-art available

ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. After my previous fail I hunted high and low but in the end had to settle for which had a dump that appears to be from a more standard (non-scene) release.

So graphics are rudimenatary, and gameplay seems to consist of picking a formation and then picking players with no idea about their ability or any statistics as far as I can tell. Championship Manager this is not. Then matches happen with no input. I’m still not sure what the point of this game is.

Another broken piece of shit that ST Format gave FAR too high a score to.

Super League Soccer aka a tale of Hariseldon’s idiocy

Super League Soccer aka a tale of Hariseldon’s idiocy

ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. The crack disk of choice today was Automation 451. This one is a fairly simple cracktro – scrolling colour bars behind static text with some nice chip music.It feels like a quick one knocked up for a fairly mediocre set of games. It’s always a bad sign when a cracktro drops you into the desktop to start the game…

So this is a football management game, and it looks like it’s running in GEM, using native alerts, wimp, etc. That’s quite unusual, and a real hint at a seriously shoddy bit of code. It’s copyright Budgie UK which I’m sure was a Public Domain distributor, which does beg the question why was it selling for £19.95 through Impressions.

I elect to have music and soon regret it. Shit chip tune. Seems to be trying to do the Batman theme without breaching copyright.

So I change a player’s name to Wankbreath.. so far this looks below the level of the little educational games I made in GFA basic when I was 11 and my mum was tutoring kids and wanted something to help with that. In hindsight she should not have been allowed near children.

This does not look like the game ST Format reviewed. I think Automation have shafted me. I am an idiot.

I will endeavour to find the correct game tomorrow. Tonight, I can’t be arsed.

Review: Power Drift

Power Drift

ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. The crack disk of choice today was Automation 311. Not a bad cracktro – a possibly-digitised image of a young lady in her underwear as text flies around, plus the usual scrolly text at the bottom border and a graphic equaliser at the top. For the life of me I’ll never figure out how the cracking groups managed to use the ST’s borders as they do. When you go to run Power Drift it bemoans Craptivision’s crappy loader and invites you to a slide show. Doesn’t sound like it’s going to be great.

So I get into the game and this is quite clearly using code from Super Hang-On, the screens are pretty damn similar. I guess that means I’m in for a treat, fast racing action.

And then the game loads. Fuck me they weren’t kidding about a slide show. The car is massive on the screen, as are the roadside sprites, and this must be contributing to slowdown, alongside a road which is stippled instead of using the colour stripes (the stripes are easier as you just cycle the palette as you go which is cheaper than moving chunks of graphics around). As a bonus, the road swings wildly with massive boulder columns in the way so you can’t even see where you’re going (meanwhile the z-order of sprites is all over the fucking shop), leading to a game which can only be described as utter shit.

I would love to know what crack ST Format were on to give this 83% – it’s like they judged it solely from the screenshots, or perhaps they played the Amiga version which was still shit but a hell of a lot smoother. A game with such a poor rolling road (to the extent that it even had gaps between the road sprites at various points) has no right to 83%.

Here’s someone with considerably more patience than me playing it.

The crack intro is the only redeeming feature of this game.

Review: Hard Drivin’

Hard Drivin

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. The crack disk of choice today was Automation 188. The intro has a pretty decent chiptune accompanying a weird monster, and scrolly text with a graphic equaliser overlaid. It’s not a bad intro, perhaps not anything special technically but it looks cool.

Hard Drivin is a coin op conversion, a 3D filled-vector racing game with two tracks, one for speed and one for stunts. It opens with a typical loading screen with chip music. It’s not a bad image with some decent use of dithering, but nothing special. In a sign of the future of gaming it then shows you the tracks you have while teasing new tracks being available for purchase later just so you feel like you’ve not bought the whole thing. It feels shady.

Controls are certainly unique – you move your mouse left and right to steer, clicking your left button to accelerate, your right to decelerate and both buttons to brake. Controlling the car is basically an absolute nightmare – the car doesn’t exactly do what you tell it to do, randomly making a noise which I think means it’s gone off road despite not going off road. This triggers an auto-correct mechanism which then sends you off to the other edge of the track. Honestly I have no idea how anyone managed to control this thing back in the day.

Quite honestly an absolute turd.

Review: Ninja Warriors

Ninja Warriors

ST Format Review

My Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM. The crack disk of choice today was going to be Automation 319 which comes on 3 disks. The intro was a suitably jolly chip tune with a real emphasis on wibbly scrolling text. I can’t fucking read most of it. The game however did not load properly, so I decided to try SuperGAU 287-9. That also didn’t work. Finally Pompey Pirates, which actually fucking works. No cracktro but that’s fine.

So what is Ninja Warriors? Well, first up, it’s not this..

.. so get that out of your head right away. The game recognises the extra RAM and takes its time loading but eventually gets there.

It’s another side scrolling slash em up, probably the closest comparison I can make is Shinobi. Animation is wonderfully fluid, though graphics aren’t particularly attractive, something about the art style just doesn’t do it for me. Gameplay isn’t hugely interesting either. It’s ok, it’s technically very competent, it’s just not exciting.