Review: Murder

Murder!

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve picked Pompey Pirates 58. That’s one hell of a picture! The music is pretty good by chip tune standards, technically this isn’t anything special, scrolling text, etc, but for me that picture just makes it.

So I decided I should grab the manual and the scenario is actually quite low-key. A murder happens, you’re an amateur sleuth and if you don’t solve it then Scotland Yard will arrive and take over – the murderer isn’t necessarily going to get away because you didn’t solve it. The game claims to have 3 million murders. I assume that means that the randomisation of elements allows it to generate 3 million different murders. This is early procedural generation in a way, and not knowing the murderer in advance should give some replayability though I do worry that it will mean the story isn’t as tight as something like say Cruise For A Corpse (even if Cruise does lose it towards the end it is brilliant for much of its duration).

A simple loading screen leads us into…

.. an options page disguised as a newspaper. Here one can set parameters to randomise the murder by changing the date, difficulty (where it says novice), the type of house and the name of the house. I’m going to go novice as this is my first attempt at the game.

So this is the proper title screen then. We get some sampled thunder sounds with lightning generated by palette-swapping, and then a scream!

So this is where the murder happened. We know who died, and who found the body. It begins.

The main play area is quite small, with small but well-animated sprites, presented in greyscale. The tools around however are more colourful, but there are really two colours with different levels of brightness, which allows the appearance of more detail. There doesn’t appear to be any sound.

So it seems the victim was shot, and does that mean WITH a colt 45 or there’s one on the body?

I finally figure out (sort of) how to talk to someone. I have to right-click to swap the pointer for a magnifying glass, click on the person til the portrait changes, then click the question mark (top right). Now I can use the icons to construct questions.

Selecting person A brings up a list of people to talk about. In this case the scroll arrows (top of screen just left of the portrait) let me scroll the list – it turns out there are 23 people to talk to/about. My gut feeling is that’s too many – most murder mysteries work with a smaller cast to keep things manageable.

As I feared, the randomised nature of things is leaving this a bit empty.

I finally manage to highlight an item, a candlestick, though frankly I can’t see it in the graphics. There are no fingerprints, so that’s that ruled out. I have tried repeatedly to examine the table near the body, and the wardrobe, to no avail. A wine glass is found (not visible) upon clicking examine on a treasure chest in an adjacent room. It also has no fingerprints. The trouble here is that objects seem to be stashed randomly, without much thought, and not necessarily visible, which makes this worse than a pixel hunt, which is further compounded by very dodgy detection of whether you’ve actually clicked on anything. Certainly my attempts to click on people have proved somewhat hit and miss.

I’m going to call this one early as while I was super-keen to try it out, and the concept is great on paper, the execution is clearly sufficiently flawed to make it really not a great game, and there are some clear issues with the structure even aside from that.


The verdict
So I had Murder down as the game I was most excited to play in issue 14, outside of Kick Off 2 which I had high hopes for due to my love of Player Manager (Kick Off + management) on the ST and Goal (kick off 3) on the Amiga. Visually it’s lovely, and one could argue there is potential there, but the choice to randomise things in the name of replayability has led to the first playthrough just not being much fun. Randomly placed objects aren’t great (and even worse when you don’t even have pixels to hunt to get to them) but worse is talking to characters and just getting generic text from each of them. That is the flaw of generated murders, where in Cruise For A Corpse each character is a person with relationships but also a way of talking, a personality. Here they are merely pieces of a puzzle, and are therefore much less interesting. This is a game designed by programmers, not writers. All this makes it a little less tragic then that the implementation is poor, because the poor controls are not hiding some potentially great game. It is still however disappointing to me as the ST Format review did such a good job of selling the game to me. C’est la vie.

Resources
Manual: https://www.mediafire.com/file/34r2mk5bwq4zbne/murder_manual.pdf/file (I’ve taken jpgs from another source and compiled them to a PDF for convenience)

Review: Monty Python

Monty Python

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve picked Pompey Pirates 56. The Medway Boys intro was a bit dull, and the Automation menu didn’t even bother featuring music. There’s some music on this one, but most important of all is a Monty Python-inspired ramble in the scrolling text. Some dead parrot sketch, some argument sketch, a bit of everything.

We get treated to a sampled “Monty python’s flying circus”, then some cherubs with bugles fly in and we get treated to an abominable chiptune interpretation of the Monty Python theme tune.

A hook animated in quite a Python style opens gumby’s head and bits of brain escape. I presume I must find them.

The hedge keeps following me, getting up on little legs to chase me or withdraw as I go back.

A brief walk and… this. I’m treated to the larch.

A brief animation in which his head is pulled off and attached to a fish and I must now control gumby the fish.

The levels get progressively sillier. The animation is solid with a decent framerate but difficulty is poorly judged and gameplay pedestrian.

Ok, just to remind us we’re playing a Monty Python game.

And here they are, throwing pillows at me. They could at least whip out the comfy sofa.

Finally I get my body back after the mediocre shooter.

And now an argument (with a very brief speech sample)..

Gumby proceeds to eject the sausage and spam collectibles from his mouth into the hole as a voice shouts sausage or spam.

So we’re avoiding random dropping anvils..

So these guys are doing badly animated silly walks…

The Verdict
So I love Monty Python, and it’s cool that ST Format got someone quite silly like Captain Sensible to do the review (and to be fair it’s well-written if missing the gameplay), but the game is just nothing. It’s lazy, it’s just “here’s a thing you remember from Monty Python”. It’s memberberries before South Park made them, but it’s attached to a pretty mediocre game and understands little about its source material. To be clear it’s pretty enough and the art style is cool, they’ve clearly created something which will create good screenshots for reviews, and it’s competently coded with sampled sound, reasonable frame rate, etc, but outside of that it’s just chucked together without real love for gaming even if they likely are fans of Python.

Coming Next: Murder! A murder mystery game which will round out issue 14 as we head into issue 15 with its legendary spine text, it’s ‘king brilliant.

Review: Harley Davidson – The Road To Sturgis

Harley Davidson – Road To Sturgis

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. The release of choice is Automation 510, and we get a fairly plain intro – funky text, some fairly decent music. There is actually one quite impressive effect of lights spelling out the names of various cracking groups, moving around in 3D.

We get a simple intro, I choose new game and give myself a name.

This is either a difficulty selector or a Larry-style “let me see tits” option. The amount of hair on the bloke on the right does not change, disappointingly.

Is this an RPG?

So I better get some fuel and then join an event I guess.

Got fuel but there’s nothing doing, I guess because this is where I start. Maybe time to hit the road. Back to the bike menu and time to Exit City.

So I’m on the road. Taking a while to get used to the controls – for some reason the joystick isn’t working (well it can accelerate, brake and change gear but it can’t turn) so I’m using the mouse. Left and right to steer, left button to accelerate, right button as clutch and space to brake. Clutch while accelerating to change up a gear, or braking to go down. It wasn’t quite intuitive at first but I got the hang of it

I’ve been pulled over for speeding, I’m at risk of getting a ticket. Let’s talk my way out of it. Oh and I missed a chance to pick up a hitchhiker before but didn’t get the screenshot, but I’ll try to get one later.

Thankfully the course is not exactly challenging – I suspect it’s more about simulating a long cruise than racing like it’s Super Hang On, as there’s no timer or anything. It’s a sedate trip between cities, I guess the competitive element is at those cities.

Tried to pull over to pick up the hitchhiker but didn’t quite manage it. I’ll try again. Sound is mediocre, the road well animated, your biker’s jacket blows in the breeze, but overall presentation is probably the game’s strength.

Finally managed the stop – took a few goes, the problem is the hitchhiker comes up so fast and there’s input lag on the brakes.

And I now have a woman on my bike – that’s more like it. Let’s ride. I actually have a feeling the road is infinite until you get the girl, then you can actually get to the next city. We’ll see if that proves to be true.

And I’m dead, from crashing into an oncoming car. Oops. Let’s try this again now I have some idea of what the fuck I’m doing.

So, back on the road, I finally figure out that in options > controls I can choose joystick, so I do precisely that. It makes a big difference, even if I do lose some of the precision steering. Picking up hitchhikers is certainly a little easier.

Impressively, vehicles on the road do seem to be actual vehicles, in a position, and if you overtake them they’ll be behind you and if you crash they’ll overtake and you’ll have to catch them again. It’s not a race of course but it’s interesting that the game does this.

After an absolute age I finally make it to a town. Let’s see what’s there.

This shop is different because it’s a different oil company on the pump.

I refuel and am greeted by this digitised woman – I presume they felt this would get males excited. Next up, time to join an event.

This could be challenging as I don’t have a clue how to play poker… So I end up on a bike, and there are women at the side of the road, but it’s not at all clear what I’m expected to do. The manual is unhelpful.

The Verdict
In some ways what Harley Davidson is trying to do is quite modern, with the obvious comparison being Euro/American Truck Simulator. The game is about driving from city to city, with no time limit, no racing, and there’s an RPG element judging by the stats though I haven’t seen any evidence that they are used for anything. However, the driving then lacks the magical zen of Truck Sim – in part because of the road hazards, in part because the environment is dull, in part because you don’t get any music. To me, if they’re going for a chill game (which the lack of time limit and the speed limit would suggest) then the potholes etc need to go. It’s like they put them there because they felt they had to. The same goes for cars running you over if you’re going too slow.

The other problem, and one not uncommon for games of this era, is that there’s a lot going on that it just doesn’t bother to tell you about. It threw me into a ‘poker run’ without giving me any indication what one is, and the manual tells me nothing. It’s hard to play a game where you don’t know the rules.

The funny thing is a modern update would probably be quite cool, with things like the sausage-eating minigames etc. The game was ahead of its time in that chill out driving wasn’t a thing back then in gaming, it was all Outrun or Super Hang On, but they didn’t quite nail the implementation. Still, a cool idea and I’m glad they tried something different.

Resources
Manual: https://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=776

Next up, Monty Python.

Review: Kick Off 2

Kick Off 2

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Medway Boys 75 because it was one of the first pirated disks I ever encountered, as a download from Tik’s Atari Palace in the very early days of the internet, to be run on the old PaCifiST emulator. There’s a very fetching troll, some reasonable music, text doing what you’d expect.

Kick Off 2 is the sequel to Kick Off, which spawned a management game using the same engine (and still letting you play, unusually for a management game) called Player Manager. Kick Off was, at the time, regarded as the greatest football game ever made, and its sequel offered a few improvements on it, not necessarily revolutionising anything, but making it slicker and more of a rounded package. Kick Off 2 would reign supreme as the football game of choice until Sensible Soccer made an appearance.

The Kick Off games take an approach to football which was unusual at the time, and is even more unusual now. Many games of its era had the ball glued to the player’s foot, while today FIFA has hardly evolved. The Kick Off games presented the ball as a separate entity to be tamed. It would bounce off you if you approached too fast from the wrong angle. Control was a tricky business with the player kicking the ball away as he ran and getting closer as the ball slowed down – it was in this slowdown of each step that you had a chance to turn your player or trap the ball to pass it. Control used the single button well, with the fire button trapping the ball if held on the slowdown, or shooting the ball otherwise, while a quick reversal of direction would make your player chip the ball. Tackling was done with the fire button to slide tackle, or you could attempt to walk into the ball (but not through the player as some games of the era allowed).

We get a simple loading screen, nothing too fancy, and then a menu which has a similar graphical style to Player Manager. We get a practice mode, we get to have different kit designs (KO1 just had one team in red, the other in blue, no matter what you chose)…

… and the options menu lets you choose different pitch types, referees (Frank Zappa anyone?), etc. There’s been some decent upgrades. If there is a disappointment it’s that the soggy pitch doesn’t look any different, though that would require background tiles which would undoubtedly impact speed (where Kick Off uses palette-swapping to create grass stripes to convey movement instead).

For those who don’t know, in the early 90s there was Kick Off, and then a bit later Sensible Soccer. Those are the two greatest football games ever made. I will fight anyone who disagrees.

Kick Off 2 came out in a world cup year, so it’s surely no coincidence that we get a simulation of an international tournament – it might have been nice to have some South Americans too but perhaps they’d have got into legal trouble. I think there might have been a world cup version, it wouldn’t surprise me as Kick Off was milked as badly as The Sims. Steve Screech and Dino Dini were a great team but I don’t think Anco was the most well-run company in the world.

Oh wait, we do have a world cup option, under special events. Press continue, then continue through the group matches you don’t care about, until you get to England. Highlight the C and press FIRE to turn it into a 1 (for player 1). Then continue to start the match.

So, Frank Zappa is the ref, we’re going down the pitch, let’s go.

The teams line up, Gary Lineker is checking he hasn’t shat himself and is figuring out why he hates Brexit while Gazza is figuring out just how pissed he plans to get.

Oh for fuck’s sake. So I may have gone for a cheeky slide tackle.. I’m down to 10 men. Moments later I get my first decent chance of the match, a darting run down the right, followed by a diagonal in from the corner of the box firing just wide. More goalmouth scrambles see me in with a chance, but nothing.

Well, I can’t say it’s not been coming. The keeper’s bailed me out more than once. 2-0 follows shortly after the restart. This is going badly.

The final score is NOT pretty. Holland were very good in 1990, and so that’s reflected in Kick Off. An embarassing start but perhaps I’ll do better in the easier group games. Ireland and Egypt must be easier surely?

Kick Off 1 vs 2 vs Amiga
It’s worth discussing how Kick Off 2 differs from Kick Off 1 and how they differ from their Amiga versions at this point. Cosmetically it looks pretty similar. Sadly the pitch doesn’t show its condition, and we haven’t gained any bells and whistles. However kits may now use a variety of colours and patterns, be they stripes or solid or sashes or squares. The animation remains excellent with the small players throwing themselves into every game with gusto. The sprites are simple, but the animation is so good at conveying life. The ST version, as mentioned before, uses palette-swapping (so it’ll let the monitor do the first 20 rows with a dark green background, the next 20 rows in lighter green, then the next 20 with dark green and so on) to convey movement. This allows the ST to achieve the blistering speeds which lend Kick Off its pinball-esque qualities. The Amiga version, by contrast, has a proper tiled background (which means you can have stands and that little semi-circle at the top of the penalty area and you can have the centre circle unlike the ST which is restricted to only drawing the straight lines on the pitch. I feel the Amiga version loses a little bit of speed, but not enough to be a problem.

Returning to differences between 1 and 2, the match engine hasn’t really changed much. There was an ill-fated experiment with power bars for shots in one of Kick Off 1’s many expansions but thankfully these don’t make it to Kick Off 2. The big feature is aftertouch. You can add bend or lift to your shots by changing direction on your joystick after shooting. AI was better too. In reality Kick Off 2 was not a big jump from Kick Off 1, but it’s still an awesome game.

Back to the World Cup

So, Ireland await, fresh from being thrashed by Egypt. By the way, getting good screenshots is an absolute bastard of a job with a game that’s this fast-paced. Just so you know.

The teams line up – Stuart Pearce calls the Irish captain a poof, setting up a grudge match.

The game is going well, I’m getting some decent shots in, but I do also enjoy an occasional slide tackle. You have got to rough them up a bit, otherwise they get uppity. This mirrors my approach to real world football where I make up for a lack of skill by running fast and kicking people.

My love of fouls gets me in trouble again…

Doing quite well, making chances.. and another bad tackle. Bollocks. We still manage to get some decent shots in but their keeper saves them all. We make it to half time at 0-0. There is still hope.

A third sending off. Maybe I should try to be less dirty. The goal comes, it’s inevitable, I’m 1-0 down. The match gets ever more stretched but remains 1-0. I’m out of the World Cup. The Sun are going to compare me to a root vegetable.

Time to play Egypt. Who have just beaten Holland after thrashing Ireland. Fuck. I rain shot after shot on their goal, but their keeper lets nothing in.

The Egyptians are physical as hell, and a foul injures my midfielder. Still I press on. I hit the woodwork, I force saves, nothing. Half time comes, 0-0.

Here’s my chance – Egypt foul me in the penalty area. PENALTY!!

The arrow goes back and forth – I must time my fire correctly, and not leave it too long so I don’t stick it into the clouds…

Finally a goal! My player runs off doing summersaults to celebrate, the crowd goes wild, we’re finally winning one!

And then Egypt equalised.. fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Then another.. 2-1.

In frustration my players start lashing out, and it’s a sending off after a vicious slide tackle. But as least we managed to injure one of the bastards. He hobbles off (nice animation btw) and a sub comes on.

Another ignominious defeat.

Quite possibly England’s worst ever performance in a World Cup.

The Verdict
As a kid I had so much fun with Player Manager, and later with Goal. Kick Off 1 was fun, it took me some work but I eventually got reasonably good, but I couldn’t get near Kick Off 2. Difficulty is a lot harder, and I attribute this to a couple of things. First up, the opposition players tackle perfectly. If the ball gets within a certain range of the player, the opposition player will come away with it, while humans are messy and fallible. Second, the goalies are much harder to beat, and this takes away some of the chances for a jammy win. Those two issues make it really hard to beat the AI, even if you do get reasonably good at the traditional tricky control system (I’m not amazing but I’m ok, should be able to do a little better than those results certainly.

In the end, Kick Off 2 is really damn hard, and doesn’t offer an enormous amount over Kick Off 1 except to extend its bare bones modes into a proper selection of cup, league and World Cup. The difficulty however is not necessarily a good thing like in Dark Souls, where that difficulty is fair. It is instead a game of its time, where limitations are covered by some slightly cheaty jumping to position. A good game then, but perhaps better to play Player Manager or Kick Off 1 instead.

Next up, Harley Davidson.

Other people’s videos
During research for this I encountered some interesting videos which I thought I should share with you.


See also: Kick Off 1, Player Manager

Review: Last Ninja 2

Last Ninja 2

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Pompey Pirates 42. The menu is fairly plain with the artwork you see above and scrolly text moving far too quickly for me to be able to read it. The music is quite poor. This one comes with a Damocles mission disk and a game called Nova which I swear was a freebie on an ST Format cover disk.

So we get a credit sequence presented like a stage play with the curtain rising and falling. I can’t help noticing the huge amount of space taken by the bottom score panel and whatever that is on the right.

Wow – on first load this actually drew the screen like a Turcan wargame – where you could see the additional elements being added. Not sure if it’s an intended gimmick or really poor programming. The playable area is tiny however and the graphics look distinctly EGA. I had a look at the C64 version and the ST version really wasn’t as far ahead as it should be, and of course the c64 has better sound. Animation is smooth but then again there’s nothing else moving on screen. Controls are peculiar, with the sprite not changing its facing direction until you roll the joystick – otherwise it’ll backstep and sidestep. Picking something up involves holding down fire and using a downward diagonal.

So the screen draws weirdly again and I’m beginning to think it was an artistic choice. Odd, but ok.

A brief fight leaves my opponent on the floor – it wasn’t exactly riveting stuff, but perhaps my own lack of skill with the game played a part. Still, I couldn’t help feeling I’d rather be playing Double Dragon. I punch something at the end of the room, but nothing happens other than it changing colour. Back out to the rooftop I guess. One of the interesting things is the C64 version has less clutter which means you can more easily see where you can and can’t go – the extra graphical detail actually works against the ST version.

And a trap door has opened. I guess there’s an adventure element to this then. Looking around youtube I see there’s a spectrum version too – this game gives me the impression it was made for 8-bits first and then 16-bits later. That ties in with reality, with Last Ninja 2 first appearing 1988 and taking 2 years to arrive on the ST. Had it been released in 88 it might have looked a little less out of place but the truth is this game looks and feels out of date, in 1990 it just doesn’t hold up.

Falling down the trapdoor I am in another room, with another likely trapdoor. I presume I need to get it open? There’s a key on the floor to pick up using the convoluted controls, and a door at the back which seems like an obvious place to go. Trying to pick up the key I conclude it’s not to be picked up and head for the door, but sensibly check a youtube video. It turns out you need to be incredibly precise.

Numerous attempts to pick up the key fail. This is not great game design.

I give up and go outside where a guy wants to beat me up. Always one guy. Never a bunch of them like in Double Dragon – probably to keep frame rates sane along with the tiny action window.

He’s a bloody heap at my feet. Not sure a ninja should be quite this conspicous.

Verdict
This is a bad game. A very bad game. It was clearly released way too late, it sticks far too closely to its 8-bit heritage. Frankly I’m a little puzzled by ST Format’s praise for its looks, as much as I’m confused by it getting a score of 86%, but then again some of the scoring back then was pretty random. ST Format’s score is the highest of the main 16-bit magazines, with CVG giving the ST version 77%, ST User giving it 72% and Games Machine giving it 70%. However, Amiga Power lay into it with 33% (source: https://www.mobygames.com/game/last-ninja-2-back-with-a-vengeance/mobyrank). I’ll go with Amiga Power on this one.

Review: Back To The Future 2

Back To The Future 2

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Medway boys 84, in part because I don’t want to always use Automation. It’s not a very exciting menu – the word Medway Boys floats around, there’s some scrolly text and there’s an awful chiptune rendition of Axel F. However, for all its faults, it has Mad Professor Mariarti on it, which is awesome. Still, Back To The Future and Axel F, the most 80s thing ever.

The crackers kindly inform me that I need 1MB and that the end screen is shit. Well, that’s good.

We get the imageworks logo, the film logo and then a poorly-animated attempt at the intro because where we’re going we don’t need roads. Accompanying this is a limp rendition of the theme tune using the ST’s wonderful sound chip.

“Marty, you have got to come back with me” “Where?” “Back to the future”

And into the game. So I’ve got to skate along, pressing fire makes Marty clap. Or punch I guess, it’s not immediately clear. It’s also not always in time with me pressing the button.

Oh good, my first death.

So I have letters to pick up, I guess, no idea why. Picking up Pepsi bottles gets you time it seems. Not product placement, honest. The taxi looks cool in motion, and the frame rate isn’t the worst. Music is standard chip tune bollocks. Hitting a car is death.

I punched a girl. I feel bad about it. Locations from the film show up in the backgrounds which is nice – clearly they had actually watched the movie, which is more than can be said of some film licenses. Biff is wandering around with his cane and various wankers on hover boards harass you. However, it’s just a bit crap isn’t it. Why do I do this to myself? Oh by the way I switched to my desktop. It has a working o key, absolute luxury. My laptop will shortly find itself flying.

The difficulty is pretty bad, but I’m not convinced it’s because the game is hard, more that the controls are so unresponsive. I’m going to use the trainer just to get a bit of an idea of what awaits me later on.

Half way through the level we switch to going up the screen. Yay. Oh and that’s the Doc. (this turns out NOT to be half way through the level – not even close)

There’s a police car, oblivious to the violence. Curiously direct hits don’t always do any damage to the person you’re fighting.

Oh for fuck’s sake I’ve already been past this fucking thing the other way at the bottom of that fucking road. As the level goes on it becomes increasingly clear there’s a LOT of recycling going on. By the way, going up the screen, cars come up from the bottom so if you’re at the bottom (because you want to give yourself time to avoid things coming at you from the top) you’ll get hit by cars.

It goes on for-fucking-ever. I eventually lose the will to live. Film licenses suck. Apart from Westwood’s Bladerunner. But every other fucking film license sucks balls. This one feels like it’s about 2 years out of date vs other games of the time. A disappointing effort.

Review: Antago

Antago

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. There’s not a proper menu disk with it on but there’s an Atari Legend crack so we’ll see if it works. This one gives us a chiptune but not much else, just some chiptune music and some text, with a little scroller at the bottom.

So Antago is a board game of sorts, and to help figure out the rules I’ve included a link to the manual (see below). The objective is to get 5 in a row, horizontally, diagonally or vertically (so basically connect 4). It’s a tiny bit different to connect 4 however. Where Connect 4 requires you to drop the token from one side, Antago lets you insert the token from any side, which pushes other tokens in the row/column along. This isn’t possible however if the last inserted token of your opponent is among them. By the way I’m doing this review with an intermittenlty broken o key on my laptop. That is officially unhelpful.

So, we get an intro with some sampled music, not anything terribly exciting but it’s solid enough, and a background with some palette cycling to animate the lightning around the outside. The loading is quite long and slow.

We get a menu where we can choose to play single player or two player, set the computer level, etc. Really not loving all these os.

This is the setup. In this case I’m the devil, and the CPU is the angel, but it can be the other way round. Either way, the key thing is it’s devil vs angel, and they’re absolutely charming. When the devil wants to get past the angel he shoves the angel out the way. It’s the little things.

A win for the horny little devil. AI is not the sharpest.

In the end it’s wonderfully charming but perhaps lacking in depth – my tactic was quite simple in just pushing along one line – the angel briefly tried to interject by placing a counter in my path but I was able to dislodge it by pushing it off in a later turn. I was more or less unopposed on my line – I didn’t try to stop my opponent as I didn’t need to – he interrupted his own progress by trying to interrupt mine.

My gut feeling is that the ruleset suffers from some similar problems to tic tac toe, in that there’s no room for sophistication in tactics, meaning that one can’t really have a meaningful game.

Note that I spent half this review trying and failing to fix my laptop key. Copy/paste was necessary to get o working.

Resources
Manual: http://www.replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.4597

ST Format 14 Cover Disk – Robotz and Mike Yocum

From the cover disk application listings.. anyone else seeing some dodginess with the developer’s name? Or do I just have a filthy mind?

Robotz

ST Format Review
Nope

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. Just for fun I’m going to review a little freebie on the ST Format 14 cover disk. I’m doing so because I remember it being quite a decent crack. It opens with the intro screen you see above and a nice bit of crunchy sampled sound.

First up, it’s single-screen, no scrolling. Probably wise given the ST’s limitations – it allows one to focus on gameplay without too much work getting performance out of it. The result of course is that it’s super-smooth. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was hitting 50FPS (because in the UK TVs ran at 50Hz).

Here’s a screen. Touch the wall, death. Touch the metallic turrets, death. Touch one of the bullets they fire, death. Your bullets only stun the turrets temporarily. The goal is to destroy the red thing (takes a fair few shots) then you can kill the robots and escape. The robots move in an almost turn-based fashion, while the red generator remains stationary, with initial positioning fairly random.

As you go on it throws multiple generators at you and tougher enemies but the format remains much the same. It’s obviously not going to stretch anyone’s brain but it’s a good honest bit of fun, remarkably built in only 5 days. Presentation is excellent and really the only fault I can offer is that with walls being death it asks you to squeeze through tiny gaps to which a digital joystick is not ideally suited.

Of course I had to do a silly high score.

Hope you guys don’t mind me covering some more esoteric things like this – I reckon there’s some interesting stuff to be found outside of commercial releases. And yes I will be covering Entombed when we get there.

ST Format Issue 14 and the stench of corruption (Magic Fly)

ST Format Issue 14 – Download

The World in August 1990
In UK news BA had a plane stolen by the Iraqi army at Kuwait airport after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, while back home the heatwave saw temperatures hit 37.1C (98.8F). Labour had a 15 point lead over hte Tories (probably because of the poll tax) and while Iraq was taking British hostages, Lebabon was releasing them with Brian Keenan freed. BBC Radio 5 began broadcasting, covering news and sport.

The US news was pretty quiet outside of the middle east, but the Magellan landed on Venus which was pretty exciting.

Elsewhere in the world Iraq invaded Kuwait, with the UN ordering an embargo against Iraq. Meanwhile Bulgaria elected its first non-Communist president in 40 years, and the South African government and the ANC began talks to end Apartheid. Egypt, Syria and 10 other Arab states voted to send military forces to Saudi Arabia to discourage Iraq from invading.

On TV we had the debut of Channel 4’s music program The Word (a program which would epitomise the anarchic style of 90s TV), while the last episode of Miami Vice would be shown on BBC 1. Channel 4 would also debut Drop The Dead Donkey.

The film charts are absolutely killer this month with Days Of Thunder at #1 (ok so it’s Top Gun with cars but I like it), Gremlins 2 at #2 and the utterly fucking brilliant Total Recall at #3 (dropping from #1 the previous week). We also have Back To The Future 3 and Dick Tracy in there too, with Pretty Woman remaining in the chart and Spaced Invaders which sounds like something potentially fun (the whole film is on Youtube).

Yeah that looks quite something. They don’t make films like that anymore!

The album chart isn’t very exciting with Elton at #1, Madonna’s album for the Dick Tracy movie at #2, Phil Collins, Pavarotti and NKOTB still there, even MC Hammer and Craig McLachlan. Not a good chart.

The singles chart features the utterly dreadful Turtle Power by Partners In Kryme (to coincide with the release of the movie) at #1 and Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini at #3 for fuck’s sake. In more positive news there’s Tom’s Diner at #2 and Naked In The Rain at #4, plus Roxette at #9 with Listen To Your Heart. At #12 we see Together with Hardcore Uproar and Bon Jovi at #13 with Blaze Of Glory, plus Technotronic with Rockin over the Beat ft Ya Kid K at #15 so it’s not all bad.

The Magazine
Issue 14 came out in August 1990, and was my 5th issue. The theme this month is how the cost of a game is divided between publisher, retailer, developer, etc. This is illustrated by a spiv on the cover, presumably representing the shady motherfuckers who ran software houses at that time.

In terms of news, Deluxe Paint finally made it to the ST. Deluxe Paint was an absolute powerhouse in the world of 16-bit art packages though the Amiga was its more natural home. They get their art editor to discuss what is an EA release, though fail to join the dots here and mention his work on an EA game (Magic Fly – more on that later).

The STFM got an upgrade to its version of TOS, to version 1.4. In general one didn’t upgrade because TOS was in a ROM chip on the board, rather than the approach we see today of storing the OS on writable media. There’s a brief mention of a game which ST Format would never review, but which you may recognise in my avatar – Mad Professor Mariarti. A brilliant game – one you should all try – and I’ll be reviewing that when we get to roughly its time of release. In other news, Captain Sensible reviewed a Monty Python game. A mad world indeed.

There’s a report on the British Music Fair in which highlights include an amazing 1.2GB hard drive. Madness. However, beyond that the show was further evidence of the ST’s place in the music industry.

The TT was getting closer to release and we discovered that it would run at 32MHz vs the ST’s 8 and the Mega’s 16. £2530 would get you a TT with 2MB of RAM and it would be available in October. I so wanted one as a kid though looking back, outside the 68030 chip, it was underspecced.

In the feature on where your money goes, ST Format conclude that 12.5% goes to the distributor (men with vans), 15% to VAT (UK sales tax), 40% to the software house, and 32.5% to the dealer (the shop). There’s some discussion of the cost of film licenses – I suspect they’d cost a bit more than the quoted £250k today. One quite interesting thing is that they go into some detail about the cost of an advert in ST Format, as well as that of getting your game included as a cover disk demo. It’s refreshing openness and honesty about what goes on behind the scenes and is probably quite an interesting read to some here.

The cover disk features demos of the mediocre Yolanda and the excellent Rick Dangerous (presumably the publishers trying to get some publicity given ST Format failed to review it). There’s reference to a new version that’s not quite as tough, so maybe that’s a reason for the demo too. You also get a cool Graffiti tool to graffiti your desktop. I was going to do a screenshot but then embarassingly realised I’d forgotten how to run desktop accessories. There’s also a funky speech synthesizer which sounds like Stephen Hawking. Needless to say I just made it swear.

We get a pretty full and detailed discussion of all the ST error codes and what they mean plus some guidance on where to start with BASIC, discussion of daisy-wheel vs laser printers, ant other techie bits.

Public Domain and Demos
I thought it might be nice to cover some of these especially as once we get out of the golden age that’s pretty much all there is! There’s some discussion of Budgie’s licensware concept where Budgie receive royalties for PD libraries distributing their games. Among them is Safe As Houses which looks like a decent version of Monopoly. Beyond Budgie there’s a fun little desktop accessory which melts your screen, a free spreadsheet program called Opus which looks surprisingly good, and Quizmaster for making your own quizzes (handy for exam revision).

In the world of Demos we have a Dragon’s Lair demo which takes scenes straight from the laser disk, EDEM11 playing 28 bits of music, STE Demos which show off the STE’s sound chip and blitter, plus some sound samples with graphics showing 400 colours on screen.

Previews
The first preview is for Betrayal – a strategy game about which I know very little. There’s a brief mention of a James Bond game – The Spy Who Loved Me. I suspect it’s one of those 4-games-in-one jobbies. Snow Strike gets a mention, the adverts always looked pretty good but I had a look at a YouTube of someone playing it and it’s utter shite. Chuck Yeager lends his name to another flight sim, though I’ve not played it. There’s some RPG action in Legends Of Faerghail but the stupid name puts me off. Alcatraz has a pretty screenshot but it’s not quite clear what it is. Murders In Space looks interesting, there’s not been much in the way of Murder Mystery games on the ST, though this month we have Murder! under review.

We get a longer preview and developer interview for Core Design (of Tomb Raider fame) on the topic of their coming games Rick Dangerous 2, where we’re told we must refer to it as Rick Dick instead of Rick Dangerous but never told why. There’s a focus on more between-level cinematics, and a camera that tracks the player in vertical scrolling and an improved trap system with more detection points and triggering by dynamite, bullets, etc rather than just the player. These changes bring the game closer to its modern descendent Spelunky.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Magic Fly (Wireframe-3D space game – EA – £24.95 – 91% Format Gold)
Monty Python (Insanity – Virgin – £19.99 – 84% – Reviewed by Captain Sensible)
Debut (Planet Simulator – Pandora – £24.99 – 77%)
Breach 2 (Strategy – Impressions – £24.99 – 82%)
Yolanda (Single-screen hardcore platformer – Millenium – £19.99 – 58%)
Last Ninja 2 (Flower arranging simulator – Activision – £24.99 – 86%)
Kick Off 2 (Accountancy Rhythm Game – Anco – £19.99 – 92% Format Gold)
Blockout (3D Tetris – Rainbow Arts – £19.99 – 72%)
Battlemaster (Shit – Mirrorsoft – £24.99 – 82%)
Sly Spy (Didn’t get a Bond license – Ocean – £19.99 – 59%)
Back To The Future 2 (Multi-game film license – Mirrorsoft – £19.95 – 62%)
Antago (Super-charming puzzle/board game – Art Of Dreams – £19.95 – 84%)
Murder (Murder mystery – US Gold – £19.99 – 72%)
Harley Davidson (Motorbike game with minigames and sexism [YAY] – Mindscape – £29.99 – 76%)
Astate (Hidden object – New Deal Productions – £19.95 – 38%)
Wildlife (Safari Guns with cameras – New Deal Productions – £19.99 – 21%)
Treble Champions (Shit football management game – Challenge Software – £19.95 – 19%)
Official Everton FC Intelligensia – Amfas – £19.99 – 57%)
Shades (Online chatroom/game – Micronet – 8p/min [peak] / 2p/min [cheap] + Micronet subscription – 80%) – see https://www.prestel.org.uk/ for more about Prestel
Trash (Online chatroom/game – Micronet – 8p/min [peak] / 2p/min [cheap] + Micronet subscription – 92%)

The interesting bit here is Magic Fly. https://www.mobygames.com/game/amiga/magic-fly and https://www.mobygames.com/game/atari-st/magic-fly show the magazine scores for each version of the game, with nobody going over 70% and yet ST Format bizarrely gave the game 91% – a game that one of their staff had worked on. Amiga Power’s rating for the game is particularly scathing. To their credit they don’t hide the relationship, with the preview in the previous issue going fairly in-depth, but it’s still pretty egregious, certainly I’d like to see more of a mention in the review.

Of the games reviewed, the ones that interest me most are Monty Python for sheer silliness, Last Ninja 2 as it looks like an interesting take on the beat em up, Kick Off 2 because I want to see what changed from 1 to 2 and because Dino Dini is god, Back To The Future 2 because the film was amazing and I remember dicking about with a cover disk demo back in the day, Antago because it looks so charming, Murder because I always wanted to give it a shot and Harley Davidson because it looks like a cool take on motorbikes. I’m going to be busy!

For those playing along at home, I’ll be sourcing pirated releases from the TOSEC collection on archive.org. Here’s a list of releases, likely you’ll also find decent releases at AtariMania.
– Monty Python – Automation 508, Medway Boys 94, Pompey Pirates 56
– Last Ninja 2 – Automation 363, Flame Of Finland 29, SuperGAU 956, Pompey Pirates 42, Vectronix 169
– Kick Off 2 – Automation 69E (doesn’t sound right), SuperGAU 343, Medway Boys 75, Vectronix 9/204
– Back To The Future 2 – Automation 342, Flame of Finland 36A, SuperGAU 365/848/858, Medway Boys 84, Vectronix 626 — the first game is only on Vectronix 805, I might give it a quick go just for a crack
– Antago – No warez version – can only find at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-antago_11073.html
– Murder! – Automation 377, Medway Boys 99A, Pompey Pirates 58
– Harley Davidson – Automation 510, Flame Of Finland 33

Reviews This Month

Review: Murder

Murder! ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve picked Pompey Pirates 58. That’s one hell of a picture! The music is pretty good by chip tune standards, technically this isn’t anything special, scrolling text, etc, but for me that picture just makes it.…More

Review: Monty Python

Monty Python ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve picked Pompey Pirates 56. The Medway Boys intro was a bit dull, and the Automation menu didn’t even bother featuring music. There’s some music on this one, but most important of all is a…More

Review: Harley Davidson – The Road To Sturgis

Harley Davidson – Road To Sturgis ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. The release of choice is Automation 510, and we get a fairly plain intro – funky text, some fairly decent music. There is actually one quite impressive effect of lights spelling…More

Review: Kick Off 2

Kick Off 2 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Medway Boys 75 because it was one of the first pirated disks I ever encountered, as a download from Tik’s Atari Palace in the very early days of the internet, to…More

Review: Last Ninja 2

Last Ninja 2 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Pompey Pirates 42. The menu is fairly plain with the artwork you see above and scrolly text moving far too quickly for me to be able to read it. The music…More

Review: Back To The Future 2

Back To The Future 2 ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Medway boys 84, in part because I don’t want to always use Automation. It’s not a very exciting menu – the word Medway Boys floats around, there’s some scrolly…More

Review: Antago

Antago ST Format Review My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. There’s not a proper menu disk with it on but there’s an Atari Legend crack so we’ll see if it works. This one gives us a chiptune but not much else, just some chiptune music and…More

ST Format 14 Cover Disk – Robotz and Mike Yocum

From the cover disk application listings.. anyone else seeing some dodginess with the developer’s name? Or do I just have a filthy mind? Robotz ST Format ReviewNope My Review For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. Just for fun I’m going to review a little freebie on the ST…More