Review: Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. There are a couple of scene releases, one from Fuzion and one from Automation, I’ve gone with Fuzion here as I’ve not featured them before. This one has a really good bit of chip music, genuinely well-composed. The visuals are standard demoscene fare, lots of wibbly text and scrolling text, as well as a very basic graphic equaliser. These guys haven’t mastered using the overscan area, maybe they did better in a later release.

ST Format rather savaged this game, lamenting Eddie Murphy looking like he had anorexia and the chip tunes used for music. They rightly point out that the movies are mostly a vehicle for Eddie Murphy doing what Eddie Murphy does, and one has to question how that will translate into a game which can never have his manic energy, or at least not in this stage in the development of games. 49% is not a good review score.

It doesn’t start auspiciously, with a chip tune warbling interpretation of Axel F. The badly digitised shot of Eddie Murphy looks like it has a lot fewer than 16 colours.

Oh boy. They weren’t kidding about anorexia. The screenshots in the review really don’t do justice to the mincing anorexic on my screen. On a positive note, animation is smooth, scrolling is pretty good, but the characters are poorly drawn. Start to crate is 0s. Literally a fuckload of the bastards, straight away.

I should explain, for those who don’t want to read the STF review, that the game is basically 4 games representing sections of the movie (which was pretty old at this point). Imaginatively the first section is a mince-and-gun. Enemies spawn from nowhere and are easily taken out with a single bullet from your gun which has infinite ammo. It seems walking into some grey boxes on the floor kills you, as they are apparently explosives. Slowly but surely the explosives and bullets take their toll. It’s not super-challenging, but it is monotonous. Endless crates and guys in blue uniforms. It’s so bad I can’t even be arsed to get to the car bit (which involves the flinging of crates apparently).

Review: Wild Streets

Wild Streets

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. There doesn’t seem to be a warez release for this but thankfully Atarimania had my back. We start with a nicely drawn loading/logo screen, as we patiently wait for the disk to chug.

Sampled sounds to go with the panther screen – police sirens followed by some sampled music. It all seems pretty slick so far. Fire to start.. wait an age to load…

So it’s me and my panther. I have a real panther at home and the intro where the panther is lowered from a helicopter reminds me of how pissed off he gets when I pick him up. A look of pure rage, that says “I’m going to shit in your shoes”. Animation is good, frame rate impressive, it’s a stark contrast to Black Tiger. Quite frankly the cat is animated beautifully, it’s an absolute work of art that would only later be matched in Another World. You know the scene I mean. The only time it’s not so good is when he’s in mid-air. Sound is decent, seems to be sampled, and though it gets repetitive quickly it’s still better than average for this stage of the ST’s development.

So how have they achieved this visual perfection? Well, for starters, there’s no scrolling. This is strictly flip-screen, which means it’s a lot less work to move the graphics around. Second, all the enemies seem to be clones. Third, I reckon there’s likely some performance benefit to everything being on a single plane, no 2.5D like Double Dragon or Streets Of Rage (which is a shame – it would have helped the gameplay). It means that vast chunks of the screen see no movement whatsoever, making it a lot easier to work with.

All the locations …

.. seem to look ..

.. the same.

Honestly, it’s a technical treat, no doubt, but I’d say there’s not much there. The panther looks great but really it’s just a difficulty adjuster, it doesn’t meaningfully affect gameplay, and really for me a beat em up on a single flat plane doesn’t tend to bring much interest anyway – you lose the tactical elements and crowd control options that come with a 2.5D approach.

Review: Black Tiger

Black Tiger

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. This is Automation disk 240. The intro has some ok music, some wibbly text with a palette-shifting text giving the impression of scrolling, bouncy balls, etc. The user of overscan here is pretty clever stuff.

Dear god that logo font is unreadable! so.. we get a bit of sampled music then the game kicks off. I get attacked early on by some chap walking in so I fire knives and other shit at him – all in glorious 2 frames per second with farty sound effects. The backdrops are pretty, no doubt, though ultimagely there are two colours with many shades.

Nope, this game is utterly fucking boring. I am bored. Bored shitless. It’s not terrible, but there’s just nothing very interesting happening. It’s a nothing game with poor controls in part due to the dire frame rate. This feels a lot like an early ST game.

There’s really very little reason to recommend this game unless there was some attachment to it in childhood. It’s not particularly ambitious and yet even despite that it fails to deliver.

Review: Rings Of Medusa

Rings Of Medusa

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. This is Pompey Pirates #37, quite a simple menu with a cool picture of a knight, some sscrolly text and a graphic equaliser in the border, along with a decent chip tune. It comes with a trainer if you need it – I’m going to try to play without it.

So, long story short, Rings Of Medusa (ROM from here on) is a strategy game. Medusa is turning your people evil and it’s your job to find 5 rings, put the in a temple and thus force a fight with Medusa. To do this I need to earn money to fund an army to find the rings. Money can come from trading, attacking caravans, conquering towns and plundering their treasuries, finding raw materials, finding treasure and gambling in the casino. There’s a 5 and a half page story to wade through (see link to manual below) if you feel the urge, but the objectives are reasonably clear.

So, I click and hold the mouse to drag my icon around, days elapse as I trudge the map. I find myself at a town with a good selection of amenities – I presume that clicking on them will make something happen. Graphics so far are lovely, sound is fairly standard sound-chip warble, nothing exceptional.

My attempts to buy some iron or gold or anything fall apart owing to no icon being available to buy anything – it appears to be greyed out. Ok, let’s try the temple. I find out that there’s a treasure at 14-04 S, 34-39 W. I’ll note that down and see if I can figure out how to use those numbers. A quick trip to the bank and that seems easy enough to manage – presumably putting money in the bank keeps it safe should something happen to me.

I leave the town in search of treasure. Let’s see what I find. Nothing. On to Gloria Springs. Disappointgly the town graphic is identical. I can’t buy anything and I have nothing to sell. So, towns evidently aren’t useful to me yet. Treasures too. Time to attack a caravan. Unfortunately I can’t find one, but I get intercepted and lose everything, which leaves me a bit fucked.

So I go to a town called Falcon and discover the red flag icon on the right, if you’re in a bank, robs the bank. Free money, excellent. I needed that as I had none. It only works once. Time to head to the pub. Let’s bet my ill-gotten gains. I will of course save-scum until I win this game of blackjack. I’m cool like that. This is blackjack with weird rules. Thank god I have the manual. Ace is worth 11, the queen, marked with a D is worth 3, the jack (B) is worth 2, and the king 4. Peculiar. This explains my first few losses – I had no fucking idea what was going on. The letters I suspect are a product of the game being German. Maybe that’s how germans play blackjack.

WOOHOO! I won and got some money! See the nonsensical cards?

So anyway I wander around and manage to buy things in one store and sell in another to make money, all very Elite, in fact one could easily argue that this is Elite in medieval times for most of the gameplay loop.

Eventually I ran out of steam a bit, but I can see myself giving it another shot sometime to see if I can do better in battle (which I suspect I would if I bought enough troops and fed them well). It’s a good solid game which perhaps could do with slightly better documentation (the manual is terrible) and usability – the visuals are nicely done and the concepts are sound. Watching a lets play I found out that if I had scouts I could detect caravans and the likes, which would be very helpful. I had a good time in my couple of hours with it – if I wasn’t looking to get more games played (with Midwinter, Damocles and Sim City lurking in the distance making me get a bit greedy) I’d have gone on longer and I probably will come back to it. I reckon I’d have had some fun with this as a kid. I had good instincts.

Resources
Manual: http://www.atarimania.com/st/files/rings_of_medusa_starbyte_instructions.PDF

ST Format Issue 8

ST Format Issue 8 – Download

The World in February 1990
In the UK Ayotollah Khomeini renewed his fatwa on Salman Rushdie, a move which turned out to be the tip of a large iceberg we’re facing today. A bomb exploded in Leicester. Other than that, not much.

In US news there was a pay dispute in MLB and Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson. Voyager 1 sent back the famous Pale Blue Dot photo. US flights stopped allowing smoking on flights under 6 hours long.

Elsewhere in the world in the USSR the communist party voted to end its monopoly of power, opening the way for elections. Nelson Mandela was released. German reunification was agreed. Big news, all happening at once. I miss the days when news was so good.

On TV Sky Movies was encrypted and became Sky’s first pay channel. Quantum Leap made its debut on BBC2. The Mitchell brothers arrived in Eastenders.

The film charts have Honey I Shrunk The Kids at #1, a good, honest fun while I know less about Sea Of Love and Internal Affairs. Overall though it seems a fairly weak chart.

The album chart sees Phil Collins remain at number one, but the rest of the chart isn’t great. Tanita Tikaram is in at #3 off the back of World In Union for the rugby, Cat Stevens is at #6, I suppose we do at least have Technotronic at #8 with Pump Up The Jam so it’s not all shit.

The singles chart has some absolute ABSOLUTE MEGA-BANGERS. Sinead with Nothing Compares 2 U (written by Prince) is an all-time classic, while I’ll always enjoy a bit of Technotronic and can do the whole rap to Get Up at #2, Dub Be Good To me at #3 is fantastic, what a top 3!


The Magazine
Issue 8 came out in February 1990, which means I probably got it for my birthday, my first issue of ST Format. For that reason it’s a big deal for me. This is where it all started, on my 10th birthday, I started to find out a bit about life beyond the Power Pack.

So the cover feature is about upgrading your Atari ST – in truth I don’t think most people did more than perhaps upgrade from 0.5MB to 1MB RAM, maybe the single-sided disk drives got upgraded, but that’s about it. The coverdisk features a full copy of GFA Raytrace. Where now ray-tracing is done in real-time, in those days I would write out some code to define a scene and then leave my ST on overnight crunching the image to produce some reflective balls on a checkerboard floor, as was compulsory at that time. There was also a program called Ani ST which was a fantastic little animation package which tweened your animations for you – another full program though this one had started off commercial before migrating to PD.

In the news, the STE’s compatibility troubles continued, though Atari were beginning to get a handle on things, putting out fixes to public domain libraries for distribution. ST Format actually ran a feature on the STE fiasco (it was so bad that in the letters page they even advised someone to stick with their STFM and not bother upgrading) and I’m going to include it here because it is pretty damning stuff.

That’s a big old list of incompatible games, and Atari blaming programmers isn’t the brightest move, especially when it seems Atari didn’t give the software houses enough time with the machine to get fixes ready to go. Atari were not a well-run company. On a positive note, the Lynx was finally shown at the British Toy Fair, though we all know how that machine went.

In hilarious news which frankly sums up the state of the industry at that time, a 17-year-old was running a mail order company (Xenon Technologies) and.. well I’ll link to the page for the full story, but according to police he “cocked up his business” and his dad was sending letters to people awaiting goods and making sure cheques weren’t cashed. Oh dear.

We get a review of Sequencer One, which would be given away on a coverdisk in a couple of years and would bring me into the world of Midi music as I plugged it into a Yamaha PSS-480. Very kind of STF to save me £79! The C tutorial continues, there’s a DTP tutorial, there’s Magnetic Scrolls bitching about how Sierra had deals with Tandy to help shift units and how Level 9 were pointless because they just copied other people’s shit (meow)

Previews
Previews this month we have Cloud Kingdoms which looks fabulous, Kid Gloves which is a basic platformer, Never Mind which looks like it has a hint of Cadaver about it and the extraordinary Dragon’s Breath which I desperately wanted as a kid but for some reason utterly unknown to me never got in my collection. We also have Psygnosis’ Infestation (3d vector game about gassing aliens), Stryx which I know nothing about, the mediocre Emlyn Hughes International Soccer and Conqueror (Virus with tanks). More importantly we’ll get the magnificent Midwinter in next month’s issue. Which I didn’t buy. Because I’m an asshole.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Black Tiger (Run and gun/stab – US Gold – £19.95 – 70%)
Dark Century (Tanks in Raytraced Space – Titus – £24.95 – 52%)
Beverley Hills Cop (Movie Tie-In Multi-Game – Tynesoft – £19.99 – 49%)
Rings Of Medusa (Strategy? RPG? – Starbyte – £24.99 – 69%)
Gravity (Very peculiar space game – Imageworks – £24.95 – 93% Format Gold)
Dr Doom’s Revenge (Spiderman/Captain America in 1v1 fighting and jerky scrolling minigames – 29%)
Austerlitz (War Strategy with typed commands in 3D – Mirrorsoft – £24.95 – 92% Format Gold)
Wild Streets (Scrolling beat-em-up – Titus – £19.99 – 71%)
Aquanaut (Dolphin fucking simulator – Addictive – £24.99 – 41%)
Kick Off Extra Time (Football – Anco – £9.99 – 49%)

Black Tiger looks like fairly typical fare for that time and yet I remember as a kid wanting to give it a shot, swayed as I was by pretty graphics. Thankfully I didn’t. Dark Century is an interesting one in that it made the bold claim to be raytraced. The first raytraced game in fact. Now that claim comes in an issue distributing GFA Raytrace which would take several hours at best to render a scene, which would rather demand that I call bullshit on it, and yet ST Format were undoubtedly fooled.

Beverley Hills Cop looks like one that could be fun or could be shit – it’s the traditional movie tie-in consisting of mini-games representing key scenes, though given the stand-out feature of Beverley Hills Cop is Eddie Murphy being awesome I’m not sure how well that would translate to a game. Rings Of Medusa is one I remember seeing as a kid and being wowed by the screenshots which really did look like something from another world. Being older I can appreciate they’re probably mostly static but at the time they offered so much possibility and intrigue. I will probably have to give it a go, though I suspect finding a decent manual will be key to getting anywhere with it.

Gravity is such a peculiar-looking game, from the bloke who made Bomb Uzal – it’s one I’ll need to have a closer look at before deciding whether or not to review as youtube didn’t exactly give much away other than that it has the worst intro music ever. Dr Doom’s Revenge looks nice in stills but I had a look on Youtube and dear god it’s awful. I reckon I’ll take a look at Austerlitz – I have a vague recollection that I had one of these games as a kid and was shit at it but the concept always intrigued me, this idea that as a commander you’re stuck in place and have to send orders to your captains via messengers who might get intercepted en route, those messages being text typed for the parser.

Wild Streets might be my quick and easy review, it looks lovely and got my attention as a kid. Aquanaut less so. I loved kick off (or more accurately Player Manager) but it looks like Extra Time is a dodgy cash-in. I vaguely recall Anco doing a lot of that kind of thing back in the day – this ‘data disk’ seems like nothing more than a basic patch tbh, charging a tenner for it is a bit rude.

So, there’s a few there I’d like to take a look at, we’ll see what time allows.

Reviews This Month

Review: Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. There are a couple of scene releases, one from Fuzion and one from Automation, I’ve gone with Fuzion here as I’ve not featured them before. This one has a really good bit of chip…More

Review: Wild Streets

Wild Streets ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. There doesn’t seem to be a warez release for this but thankfully Atarimania had my back. We start with a nicely drawn loading/logo screen, as we patiently wait for the disk to chug. Sampled sounds…More

Review: Black Tiger

Black Tiger ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. This is Automation disk 240. The intro has some ok music, some wibbly text with a palette-shifting text giving the impression of scrolling, bouncy balls, etc. The user of overscan here is pretty clever stuff.…More

Review: Rings Of Medusa

Rings Of Medusa ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. This is Pompey Pirates #37, quite a simple menu with a cool picture of a knight, some sscrolly text and a graphic equaliser in the border, along with a decent chip tune. It comes…More