My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. This game got a release on an Automation disk – menu #223. We get treated to some tits. Thanks guys, I’d say that makes this the best menu yet. The music is shit but who cares, we have tits. Don’t even care if the game is good now!
Quite a nice loading screen, well-drawn with a decent art style – and then we get the chip farting music that strongly resembles the absolute god-awful shit found on some budget game. Utter bilge, and very annoying.
So what we get is a run and gun (well, walk and gun) which is actually very smoothly animated, though the enemies aren’t terribly exciting, and nore are the backdrops. Of course about a third of the screen is taken by the score panel which makes it a bit easier, and there’s usually only 3 or 4 sprites on screen other than bullets.
Honestly it’s a reasonably well-coded game, but it’s just not very interesting. Sorry I don’t have anything more interesting to say about it.
Apparently it gets better, but honestly I was so bored of this and I have 80+ issues to get through. Onwards.
My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. This game got a release on an Automation disk – menu #442. That seems quite late vs the other games in this issue so the question is was it delayed because they couldn’t be bothered because the game was shit, or was it delayed because it was hard to crack? It’s a film license and the ST Format review is rather damning of gameplay, while praising graphics. Let’s see what we get.
We get a fairly simple cracktro with a skull and crossbones “Piracy is fun” graphic moving around and some chip music with a scroller. They kindly provide some documentation, which is kinda unusual. Apparently it’s packed down from 4 disks (wtf?) to 2, which seems a nice upgrade on the released version.
We get a slick animated intro informing us that Activision presents Ghostbusters 2, with the movie’s theme tune sampled playing over the top which is pretty cool. Quality actually isn’t bad for an ST and while it’s clearly cut-down it manages to get all the key points. It does enough to give me the urge to stick Ghostbusters on the Plex in a pretty big way.
So, I press fire to start, and get some little stills (very badly digitised) from the movie and some scrolly text, then we start the game. With LOTS of loading. Disc access is pretty horrendous. Lots of unpacking time too, which is what I get for being a pirate.
Finally I’m being lowered into the sewer. Time to bust some ghosts. And this is utter shit. There seems to be very little connection between shooting something and something happening to that thing. Controls are laggy, the enemies are a bit boring, and the game really has very little to offer. I don’t feel enormously motivated to go any further with this one, it’s tried my patience in many different ways already, I’ll go and do something less boring instead.
My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. This game got a release on an Automation disk – menu #285. This menu features lots of wibbly text, and it takes some doing to figure out the buttons to get each game, but I eventually figure out it’s 1 for Warp, 2 for Italy 1990 (football game for the Italian World Cup). I gave the footie game a quick go for shits and giggles and it was awful – 2 frames per second, terrible controls, and it looked like it belonged on a Commodore 64. Clearly this disk was something of a dumping ground.
So let’s remind ourselves of what Warp is for those who can’t be arsed to read the ST Format review above (I have no idea how many people do – I just figure it’s a nice thing to have and it runs alongside the central concept of the thread that I’m playing games from ST Format issues). So it’s a shooter. The review complains that the ship is too small to see, and it’s on a one-colour background – they describe it as more of a tech demo than anything else. Perhaps the devs came from the demo/pirate scene?
So the intro has the Grandslam logo flying into the screen followed by some wibbly text effects, then we get some cool chip sound effects as rain drops down the screen to give us the Thalion logo – so far so demo scene.
The game loading screen proper finally comes up, with some fairly catchy chip music.
Dear god how many preliminaries must we go through to get to the fucking game?
Great.. a spinning world animation and a spaceship flying out… Can I play a fucking game yet?
Ok cool we’re on Mars.. can I play a fucking game yet?
Well that wasn’t worth it. To summarize.. the ship rotates, that’s wonderful, and it does so very very smoothly. It’s not as small as ST Format indicated, but it’s not very interesting to look at. Backgrounds are indeed pretty dull, and enemies appear to be mostly geometric shapes. The scrolling is super-smooth but it’s worth noting it takes up a tiny amount of screen. Nope, it wasn’t very inspiring, not worth the effort. I will say though that I’ve seen ST Format give worse games 60+%.
I thought I recognised the name, and it turns out Thalion are indeed ex demo scene, though no known links to the pirate scene. They would later create games like Enchanted Lands and No Second Prize, so they did get better. This was their 2nd game, so perhaps at this stage they were still learning the ropes. In a way the ST market was better than the modern market in that there was a place for developers to learn this way, where that’s harder to do now.
The game is a text adventure ripping the piss out of Star Trek – I’m not a Trekkie sadly so the jokes might fly over my head but fingers crossed. While it’s a text adventure, the developers were kind enough to put some simple images in to mix things up a bit, but they’re mere decoration. The ST Format review talks of big problems with the text parser and a paper-thin plot, let’s see if it’s true.
It’s never a great sign when they can’t even be arsed to make the fucking game auto-run… ho-hum.
Sadly it doesn’t quite know what to make of my request to suck my hairy ballsack. A terrible start, utterly unacceptable. In fact, none of my slightly-abusive drunken suggestions make it through the parser. Hmm.
Well for fuck’s sake it doesn’t even understand very basic stuff like look, examine, etc. At no point has it told me what room I’m in or what I can do.. this is a bad start.
I finally figure out it wants me to type ‘y’ to the “info (y/n)” prompt which gives the impression it skipped over…
Oh god, it’s playing this fucking god awful single-note-at-a-time shitty chip tune that is insanely irritating every time I fucking get a new bit of text. Make it fucking stop.
Alas, I am defeated by a manual text check, given the fact that there is no fucking manual available anywhere on the internet. Perhaps it’s for the best.
Before we go any further can we all just agree that this is one of the best bits of box art ever? It made me want the damn game.
ST Format Review
For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM (tried an STE but it did not go well). I’ve used a lot of Automation images so I thought I’d do a Medway Boys one instead – this is image 57. The image unrols down the page and then various slices of it scroll vertically as chip music plays, a graphics equaliser does its thing and the scrolly text does its thing. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Medway Boys intros as the first scene image I remember acquiring (in about 1998 or 1999 I think when I discovered ST emulation online) was their image with Kick Off 2 on it. I remember downloading loads of stuff from Tik’s Atari Palace on Geocities and just being amazed it was a thing, and being stunned by being able to play these games on the PaCifiST emulator.
So the loading screen is nice enough – the game menu then plays over a demo run of the game which is a nice (and surprisingly modern) touch. Pressing fire gets you a little scene with a message coming over your pager (how 80s) and then straight into the game.
So the game gets started and the road movement is quite gentle, and the car is pretty easy to control, all the more surprising as this evening I’ve had quite a large amount of rum. Still, being professional for a moment, the road moves smoothly, and the sensible choice to use small sprites pays off (albeit at a cost of the road being wider than Silverstone F1 circuit – and I can say that because I’ve driven on it). I can even use my left hand on the joystick while my right hovers over the mouse to get screenshots, instead of my usual routine of trying to get a screenshot and then dying horribly (which is why my life counters and scores often look like shit in screenshots).
Here I am crashing into a criminal. I’m, not sure if I might be hurting my car doing this.
He’s definitely on fire but I think I might be too..
And I pull over alongside the perp.
Got him! Nice sampled speech “You’re under arrest” in contrast to everything else just being chip music.
So to discuss the game for a moment, it is undeniably smooth, but playing it for a while it becomes clear that the cost to graphical fidelity is perhaps too high. Cars look hideous, the road itself has non-stripey spells and they look awful, in a way it’s another of those games stuck half way between 8 bit and 16 bit. Additionally, it’s perhaps a touch too easy if I can play it half-pissed. Roll on Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge.
So this one’s a little bit different. This is a game that came free with ST Format issue 7, made in STOS. It doesn’t seem to have had a commercial release, having come 2nd in a competition. Let’s see if it’s any good. Equipment is the usual 1MB STFM, likely I’ll switch up to the STE for issue 8. Here we have the standard ST desktop with the ST Format coverdisk’s traditional set of folders with Side_2 physically mapped to side B of the disk. I thought I’d get a screengrab just in case it sparked a tiny bit of nostalgia for the lovely green desktop.
The intro screen is surprisingly smoothly animated for a STOS game. Visually it’s not too exciting but at least it’s clean. The chip music is decent enough, tuneful and making use of a few of the different sounds available to the programmer.
This first screen appears with a really neat unroll effect (like a roll of wallpaper unfurling down the screen).
Animation is smooth and sprites are pretty chunky – the scrolling isn’t too bad either (though it’s worth noting that it’s horizontal scrolling that was the ST’s bete noir rather than vertical).
Collisions are generous, but when you collide it makes sense. That said, it’s not entirely clear from playing it what you’re supposed to do. You collect dollar bills, but no score counter is visible, and you crash into things which hurts but there’s no life bar, and there’s no timer. It doesn’t really give you much indication what the goal is.
There is a high score table (no funny name because I didn’t get on it) so presumably it’s scoring you – sadly it doesn’t tell you on what basis which rather negates the point. Overall this is what you might expect from a competition winner. Solid execution but a lack of experience at finishing games with all the fiddly extras you might expect.
The World in January 1990 In the UK Labour had amassed a 12-point lead over the Tories which put mounting pressure on Thatcher’s government. In many ways Labour blew their wad a bit too early as the Tories would retain power for a further 7 years, but I’ll save the spoilers – suffice to say the year would get quite interesting politically in the UK. We also had a hurricane, not quite on the level of the great storm of 1987. Overall January was a quiet month in the UK though, with not much happening.
In US news, Manuel Noriega surrendered to US forces, Time Inc and Warner Communication merged to form Time Warner, and Douglas Wilder became America’s first black governor in Richmond, Virginia. The skipper of the Exxon Valdez (of the famous oil spill) went on trial for negligence. Meanwhile George Bush made his first State Of The Union address, proposing the US and USSR make deep cuts to their militaries. McDonalds opened in Moscow.
Elsewhere in the world Poland withdrew from the Warsaw Pact and began abolishing state socialism. Bulgaria’s national assembly voted to end single-party rule by its communist party. Similar happened in Yugoslavia. The pace of this change was, in retrospect, astounding. It does show that once a collapse starts, it can move very very rapidly, and that is something we in the west should be aware of.
The first internet access companies for commercial users started selling access in the US and Holland – the internet was still several years away from becoming mainstream – I wouldn’t get to use it for another 6 years (and that was on the single connected machine at school).
On TV Mr Bean made his debut on ITV, sadly he would never be funny. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles made its debut on BBC1, and Baywatch made its debut on ITV. Tissue sales soared.
The film charts saw Parenthood with Steve Martin at #1, and Turner & Hooch at #2, as Back To The Future 2 remained a huge hit at #3. Kylie Minogue’s The Delinquents featured at #4 but I’ve never heard of it, and the other new entries are something of a mystery.
The album chart sees Phil Collins at #1, followed by Kylie, Jive Bunny, Tina Turner and Jason Donovan. A very 80s chart to open the 90s.
The singles chart saw New Kids On The Block at #1 with Hangin Tough while Kylie had a new entry at #2 but there was some hope with the 49ers at #3 with Touch Me and Mantronix at #4 with Got To Have Your Love showing the ongoing rise of dance music, with D-Mob at 7 also putting in an appearance, along with the fantastic Got To Get by Rob N Raz ft Leila K.
The Magazine Issue 7 came out in January 1990 (yes it’s called the February edition but you know how these things work). The cover theme is digitisers, while the coverdisk has a game called Skate Tribe which I’ve honestly never heard of. Digging deeper it seems to be a full game created in STOS and given to ST Format by Mandarin. I might have to give it a test for shits and giggles. More interestingly there’s a section on multiplayer gaming using RS232 with a brief section on connecting via modem, which was quite a feat when you consider 300 baud modems were the standard of the day (that’s 300 bits per second – just under 40 bytes per second in other words). I’m not sure how you send enough data to keep games in sync in that scenario but frankly it’s impressive that anything worked at all. Obviously the games that work best are slower more tactical games like Populous. For me, remote play is all well and good, there are wonderful things about it like (in the modern era) finding yourself on track with Max Verstappen or Rubens Barricello on iRacing, but at the same time there’s really no substitue for being in the same room as the other guy, be it co-op or vs, with the gentle abuse that comes with it. The ST didn’t entirely lend itself to that because not many games were designed that way, but also because of the god-awful decision to have the two joystick ports under the machine, with one serving as the mouse port, and the problem that swapping too much would lead to the solder separating on the motherboard.
In the news we see that STOS is among many applications which don’t work on the STE, though a patch was on its way. It seems a lot of software simply didn’t work on the STE, and while the news article doesn’t say this, it’s because a lot of coders used undocumented tricks to get more out of the hardware, which the STE didn’t necessarily allow (because Atari simply hadn’t considered those things). In truth, backwards compatibility was harder in those days, as there was less communication between developers and hardware manufacturers and things tended to be less documented.
In more positive news, the STacy (the ST laptop) finally made its way into shops. A big heavy beast of a thing, it was more of a portable ST than a laptop, in that the battery didn’t really have the grunt to get useful work done. The Stacy 1 was a 1MB machine with a floppy drive at just under £1k, while the Stacy 2 had a 20MB HD and 2MB RAM at £1299 and the 4 had 40MB/4MB at £1799. Expensive as fuck.
There’s an interesting reveal that Delphine had put in some STE sound magic in Future Wars and not bothered to tell their publishers – I might give that a try to see if it’s true. I might also switch up my review spec from STFM to STE fairly soon.
One thing that might prove to be of interest to some is the C tutorial – it starts in issue 7 and runs for a few more issues after that, and given the older machines are simpler it might be a nice place to start learning C for some people. The Desktop section is also pretty interesting in that it goes in-depth into things like image file formats, something pretty hardcore that you’d never see in a modern computer magazine, and certainly not on the net outside of specialist technical locations.
I notice a bit of a theme in Gamebusters, where many of the games in the Power Pack are covered. One could speculate that it’s to shorten the life of those games and stimulate spending but that would imply Atari being bright enough to think of that and ask ST Format to do that.
Previews Previews this month feature a fun selection. There’s Grimblood about which I know nothing, there’s Hunter Killer which is a submarine game I spent hours trying to make some fucking sense of as a kid after getting it on budget or a compilation or something of that ilk, there’s BAT which had a remarkable reputation but never persuaded me to part with my cash. Theme Park Mystery gets a mention – a game I was definitely curious about but again it didn’t quite get my cash (in part because I had very little – in those days games were much more expensive than now, and I was a kid with no money).
Gravity is an interesting-looking game which could be brilliant but is more likely to be shit. Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters looked like a fun little arcade conversion, Starflight looked not especially interesting, and then there was the Bitmaps oddest game, Cadaver, which I loved the demo of, and can’t wait to try out the full game.
Reviews Games reviewed this month: Chase HQ (Racing Game With Guns – Ocean – £19.99 – 71%) The Seven Gates Of Jambala (Platformer – Grandslam – £24.99 – 78%) P-47 Thunderbolt (Shooter – Firebird – £24.99 – 67%) Twinworld (Platformer – Ubisoft – £19.99 – 69%) Ghostbusters 2 (Movie Tie-In – Activision – £19.99 – 62%) Iron Lord (RPG/Strategy – Ubisoft – £24.99 – 90% Format Gold) The Untouchables (Movie Tie-In Mini-games – Ocean – £19.99 – 81%) Beach Volley (Volleyball – Ocean – £19.99 – 62%) Time (Adventure – Empire – £24.95 – 79%) North And South (Strategy – Infogrames – £24.99 – 58%) Kenny Dalglish Soccer Match (Football – Impressions – £19.99 – 32%) Warp (Shooter – Grandslam – £19.99 – 20%) Star Wrek (Adventure – Castlesoft – £19.95 – 15%)
So among those I’d definitely like to review Chase HQ as I really wanted it as a kid but never got round to buying it, while the masochist in me wants to see if Warp and Star Wrek are as bad as the scores indicate. Possibly a look at Ghostbusters 2 and Untouchables might be in order. Iron Lord I’ll probably have a look to see if I can get a review out of it, though I don’t want to do it an injustice given it’s not really my area. Finally I’ll hunt down the STF 7 cover disk to give the free game on it (Skate Tribe) a shot.
Untouchables ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. This game got a release on an Automation disk – menu #223. We get treated to some tits. Thanks guys, I’d say that makes this the best menu yet. The music is shit but who cares, we…More
Ghostbusters 2 ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. This game got a release on an Automation disk – menu #442. That seems quite late vs the other games in this issue so the question is was it delayed because they couldn’t be bothered because…More
Warp ST Format ReviewSee previous post My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. This game got a release on an Automation disk – menu #285. This menu features lots of wibbly text, and it takes some doing to figure out the buttons to get each game, but I…More
Star WrekNo box available ST Format Review My ReviewFor this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 instead of my usual 1.04 (which only works on STs). This didn’t have a scene release but thankfully exists at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-star-wrek-the-voyage-of-ussless_11381.html. Star Wrek got 15% which is the lowest score I can remember seeing in…More
Chase HQ Before we go any further can we all just agree that this is one of the best bits of box art ever? It made me want the damn game. ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with my usual 1MB STFM (tried an STE but it did not go…More
Skate TribeNo Box Image ST Format ReviewNo ST Format Review My Review So this one’s a little bit different. This is a game that came free with ST Format issue 7, made in STOS. It doesn’t seem to have had a commercial release, having come 2nd in a competition. Let’s see if it’s any good.…More