Review: Turrican 1 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 17)

Equipment Used/Recommended

  • MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 – you can replicate this with the Steem emulator.
  • Any of Automation 448, Flame Of Finalnd 41, Medway Boys 90, Pompey Pirates 53, SuperGAU 791, Vectronix 757
  • Speedlink USB Joystick


– MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62
– Any of Automation 448, Flame Of Finalnd 41, Medway Boys 90, Pompey Pirates 53, SuperGAU 791, Vectronix 757
– Speedlink USB Joystick

My Review

So we continue through the rich seam of beloved 16-bit classics in ST Format Issue 17, moving on from Shadow Of The Beast to Turrican. Where Beast offers a slower pace but cheap deaths in service to fantastic visuals, Turrican offers slightly less visually on a technical level (no parallax) but the art is fantastic. Just like Beast, you probably already know about Turrican, it was wildly popular on the Amiga and had a decent following on the ST too. My own experience of the series, until this review, consisted of playing the demo of Turrican 2 on the cover disk of ST Format Issue 20. I had a blast with it, but sadly I didn’t have enough money to buy all the games I wanted. I was time-rich and cash-poor, as is the way of youth, but that meant that cover disk demos got plenty of time and attention.

Turrican is a game which clearly draws inspiration from the Metroid games, featuring large levels with a lot of vertical space and a wide range of enemies to fight, and even the well-animated main sprite wouldn’t look totally out of place in that world. It’s a run and gun but that exploration elevates it against so many side-scrollers because let’s face it, moving on a single plane gets dull fast. Movement is crisp and controllable despite using up-to-jump, helped by a lack of input lag.

With many flying enemies to contend with, you might expect to be overwhelmed as so often those are the most irritating enemies, but Turrican has a clever response to that. Holding the fire button down while not moving charges a weapon which can be rotated in a full 360 degrees, but on the understanding that you cannot move. Its devastating power is impressive but the delay and the inability to move provides balance so that you must carefully consider its use. Without this careful balancing it’s likely that nobody would use the other weapons.

Thankfully the other weapons are pretty decent too, and well-balanced. Your standard blaster is perhaps a little underpowered but power-ups can transform it to fire in up to 5 directions at once in an arc ahead of you, or swap it to a far more powerful laser. Additionally, when you’re in a tight spot, holding the joystick down and holding fire will place a mine on the ground which will explode and deal with nearby walking enemies. For emergencies (and you get very few of these so it really should be an emergency) hitting space activates an energy line – effectively a device to kill everything on screen, while alt fires a grenade (clearly they ran into the limitations of a single-button joystick).

This careful weapon balance forms part of the smart design which makes Turrican feel hard but fair. None of the spikes erupting from the ground of Shadow Of The Beast, very very few areas that are designed to elicit cheap deaths, Turrican is for the most part scrupulously fair and you are a master of your own destiny.

The only place where perhaps there is some question mark is a section where you have to jump up through a set of vertical platforms. Now most platform games regard a platform as solid only on the way down – this allows you to navigate more easily. In Turrican you bump your head on the platform above you. This is also a legitimate choice as it can be the foundation of some good navigational puzzling. In this case there’s a mechanic which correctly gets trailed earlier in a low-risk setting, a technique we’ll all be familiar with from the Mario games. With a stack of platforms vertically aligned and no other way to reach the top, you jump out from the current platform then manoevre back to where you start horizontally. With up-to-jump this can be quite tricky. Certainly I struggled a few times but that was fine as the consequence was manageable. Less fine was encountering the same approach with a load of spikes below. It ramped up the tension no doubt, but it felt a little less honest than the rest of the game’s design.

Who thought a vertical scroller was a good idea?

The other misstep for me is the vertically-scrolling shooter sections. They sound ok on paper, and they might have worked, but the 360-degree firing weapon is taken away and you can only fire horizontally. While one could design a horizontal shooter in such a way for that to work, they haven’t done that. It’s a shame as one should always encourage experimentation, but on this occasion perhaps it needed a little longer in the oven, some tweaks to enemy design and to the layout of the environments to make it work.

Returning to the technical for a moment, the graphics are fantastic. Technically perhaps they might not impress as Shadow Of The Beast, with no backgrounds as such, no parallax, just floor/wall tiles on a blank background, but the art style is excellent, and the speed and smoothness achieved is remarkable for an Atari ST (even if not quite at Amiga levels). The game throws around some massive sprites at times and doesn’t show signs of slowing down (though it’s notable that when the really huge sprites appear the scrolling stops – in part an artistic choice to frame the battle but likely also a technical one). Additionally, the music is fantastic, even in the ST’s chip variant, and while the Amiga version is no doubt the definitive edition the ST retains a charm of its own in its take on some fantastic music (and in the intro we do actually get samples of comparable quality to the Amiga).

Verdict

Turrican is a genuine classic, one of the best of its type, though perhaps bettered by its sequel. There really is so much right and so little wrong, and the music driving you on through waves of carefully-balanced battles without slowdown, without excessive disk-accessing, where enemies are clear and readable, that’s worth its weight in gold. I commend this game to you all, on ST or Amiga.

Review: Shadow Of The Beast (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (issue 17)

My Review

Equipment

  • MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62
  • Automation Menu Disk 356 / Flame Of Finland 26A/B, Medway Boys 87
  • Speedlink USB Joystick

If you’re reading this website then it’s very likely you already know about Shadow Of The Beast – a game which anyone who had a home computer in the early 90s will remember for its stunning graphics. Amiga owners got it first, with ST owners having to wait a year longer – an age when you’re 10. The game was absolutely epic – some of the best presentation seen outside of the likes of Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair (which, let’s face it, were not games). Amiga owners had a full year to show off their game with its amazing graphics and sound – but when the ST version came out it was perhaps a bit of a shock to those who had seen the Amiga version.

The sound certainly wasn’t too far behind in the intro. Once out of the intro and into the game the differences become more apparent, with the Amiga’s numerous layers of parallax scrolling not entirely replicated on the ST (though to be fair it makes a valiant effort), we also lose a big chunk of the top of the screen (the area with the beast logo and life counter) to shrink the play area and keep speed up. Scrolling is less smooth but the bigger difference is the main character’s animation being far more jerky (and to their credit ST Format address the shonky animation – they didn’t always do that). The colours are also a lot more limited, the ST’s 16 simultaneous colours vs the 32 of the Amiga – where the Amiga could have two or 3 hues with a good range of colours to create detail, the ST could only manage two main hues with a small range of detail colour, and usually one hue was reserved for the player. The music stopped too, with just a few chip sound effects to wake you up where the Amiga carries on playing that wonderful music. In many ways one could argue that this was the game that confirmed the Amiga’s superiority (sorry to say that in an Atari ST review). It must have sold a hell of a lot of Amigas.

Now that’s not to say the ST version looks awful. The developers used the machine as best they could within its limitations and took on a mammoth task translating the Amiga version with all its extra colour and dependence on the Amiga’s custom hardware to the ST – you can clearly see why it took a year. Most ports up til that point weren’t hugely different – not much effort was generally put into using the Amiga’s custom chips when it was easier to just write code that makes the 68000 do everything – that makes the code more portable between the two machines and thus you can get two versions out with less work, which makes good commercial sense. It has since been shown that Beast could have been better, though…

Have a look at what you could have won…

Now clearly that video is just a tech demo, it’s not a full game which requires collision detection, controls, etc (it’s likely that in a demo certain corners were cut because you don’t have to allow for the player controlling anything) so it’s hard to say that the game could have looked exactly like that, but it’s running on a 520STFM and it’s smooth. The difference is enormous, and perhaps the dev was in over his head (not unlikely given the game was a year late). One should however also credit the fact that this is something built 25 years later when developers had a far better understanding of how to extract more from the machine, and weren’t working under commercial time constraints – with a labour of love and no time limit you can get a lot more done.

Unfortunately the differences don’t stop at graphics and sound. Fairly early in I encountered another difference – the well you go down – on the ST you can get to the bottom and wander around but can’t get through the door, but on exiting it just tells you it’s an uncomfortably warm day, while the Amiga version doesn’t let you off the ladder but does hint at the need of a key. It makes me wonder what else got lost in translation. Further in I encounter missing enemies, it’s clear corners have been cut to get this out the door.

More egregious is the responsiveness of the controls. Because the range of your attacks is quite short but enemy movement quite fast (and in some cases quite cheap – random spikes appearing out of the ground are definitely cheap) your window of time to hit an enemy is pretty short. On the Amiga I was generally able to hit enemies on time from the word go. This was not the case with the ST version because the game ran so sluggishly (although there is quite a lot of variation depending on how much is going on on any given screen – it slows to a crawl when the really big sprites come out). Beast 2 solves this problem with a weapon striking out over a longer range which makes the ST version more playable (it also helps that it’s a far better port – still a little jerky and not as colourful but much closer to the Amiga game) so perhaps the developers learned some lessons.

The Verdict

Clearly the Amiga game isn’t perfect, it’s a tech demo and that’s ok, the art looks gorgeous, the music is wonderful and the game creates a great atmosphere. There’s value in that, the game isn’t super-inspired but there’s enough there that you can have some fun with even if I’m not generally a fan of single-plane side-scrolling punchers. At the time those visuals will have wowed people because of the huge sprites and the technical quality of the audio would have had jaws dropping, while now 30 years later the thing that gets our attention is the art. The art style is what makes a game’s visuals stand the test of time, not the number of huge sprites or how many polygons it has or being 4K or how many teraflops the console powering it requires. And in this case the art is gorgeous.

The problem however is that in a game that lives and dies on its art, visual and sonic, if transplanting that art loses significant amounts of quality then the game doesn’t really work anymore as it doesn’t have gameplay chops to back it up (and in this case the gameplay is worse, adding insult to injury). Worse still, the C64, while blessed with chunky pixels and rather rectangular trees, does a better job of retaining the spirit of the Amiga version than the ST does. Certainly I’d rather play that version, which is a damning indictment of the ST conversion.

How is the C64 version so good?

So, should you play it? Well, probably not if you have an Atari ST. The Amiga version is worth a go as a gorgeous tech demo, and you’ll have some fun with it. I’ve not yet played Beast 3 so can’t comment on that but I will just say that it’s probably wise to skip Beast 1 and go straight to 2 as it’s a far far better game, and the ST version is a far better conversion with its speed and lag issues less of an issue due to the longer-range weapon.

Resources

Manual: https://thecompany.pl/manual/190_shadow_of_the_beast-manual.pdf

Review: Paradroid ’90 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (issue 17)

My Review

Equipment

  • MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62
  • Automation Menu Disk 390 / Medway Boys 91
  • Speedlink USB Joystick

In 1985 Hewson (of Nebulus fame – one of my all-time favourites) released Paradroid on the Commodore 64 to massive acclaim. It was remarkable at the time in taking the shooter formula and adding to it a layer of strategy with the player swapping into different enemy ships by hacking them, and is still highly regarded to this day, voted the best game ever on the C64 by Retro Gamer. Paradroid 90 was the 16-bit release, which appeared on the Atari ST and the Amiga in 1990. Five years after the original, it didn’t quite attract the same level of acclaim as games had grown significantly in complexity and gamers had different expectations – it scored a solid but not spectacular 78% in ST format where the writer observes that while it might have been fine 5 years ago (1985) it doesn’t match up to modern classics like Xenon 2. Some of this reflects the tendency of ST Format to value slick graphics over gameplay – they felt unable to rate Pipemania highly for instance because graphically it wasn’t special, but it’s a game which held up brilliantly and still has a following today. ST Format cannot be blamed for not knowing which games would hold up decades later of course, the magazine is a product of its time and we were all obsessed with the latest new shiny graphics, just as kids today are with the Playstation 5 vs the Xbox. Of course back then there was a bit more of a jump between generations (which is part of why Paradroid gets a relative kicking of course).

The gimmick that makes Paradroid 90 is that instead of a more traditional upgrade system of picking up powerups, it instead allows you to take control of different enemies. This is done by switching into zapper mode (holding down fire while not moving) and bumping into an enemy. This then triggers a minigame. The problem is that I couldn’t find any damn useful guide anywhere on how the thing worked. The manual (or what I could find of it) really didn’t do a great job of explaining anything – this was not helped by the only scan available being in French and the only English available being a text transcription which misses the images to help establish what they’re talking about. Thankfully some very kind people at Amiga Addict Discord saved me from being the dumbass who couldn’t do the Cuphead tutorial (though to be honest I really suck at that game).

I spent some time trying out the Amiga and C64 versions of the game to get a bit of a feel for the evolution from C64 and also to see what the differences between ST and Amiga versions were – one must do proper research after all. First up, the opening music on the Amiga version is far more brooding, which is admittedly an easier feel to achieve with samples than a beeping Atari ST, while the ST’s music sounds quite cheery. Once into the game it’s just sound-effects, no music, and the ST version is actually a pretty good effort, with the chip being used well to create some unusual sounds – the sounds and music are different but for me each has merit. I’d say that there’s not too much in it between Amiga and ST in terms of smoothness, certainly nothing intolerable, this is probably helped by scrolling being vertical which was always where the ST was happier.

Going to the C64 version for a moment, the chunky visuals of the C64 make for a more readable environment for me – the 16-bit edition’s first level in particular can be a bit of a red mush on the first level, though this improves on the second (thank you Youtube). The hacking minigame also benefits from a more readable visual, with greater clarity brought to a fairly abstract puzzle. Additionally, the game offers a lot more information through text in the C64 version, with information about the nature of the hack. Returning to the shooting bits – the number read-outs on the droids seem to relate to their power, and the game does seem to accept abstraction more, while the 16-bit versions don’t present the player with that same level of information.

Coming back to wider gameplay, the aim of the game, as with most shooters, is to blow stuff up. Your goal is to clear out all the androids who have apparently gone a little mad. In-game there’s not much evidence of this though – most of them just wandering the halls minding their own business until I shoot them right in their shiny metal faces. Am I the monster? Is this a fever dream where I’m murdering innocents? It’s an unusual setup that differs substantially from the majority of shooters out at the time in that the opposition are far less directly antagonistic, and tend to be in ones and twos rather than any kind of waves. It’s a more sedate shooter. That said, it is also brutally difficult. You don’t have lives. If you haven’t stolen a robot, if you get blown up, that’s it. If you have stolen one, blowing you up sees you out on your own and in that vulnerable state. Effectively you have one life but can get a second by hijacking a robot, but can never have more than that. An added hindrance is that you have an element of line-of-sight visibility to enemies – they disappear when they go into another room, only to reappear when you enter.

The gameplay loop itself is solid enough, though the shooting feels lacking in punch. The minigame is a welcome attempt at something new (or at least it was in 1985) and even in 1990 this is a game that stands out from the rest of the shooters, as for whatever reason it doesn’t seem that many games iterated on what Paradroid did (which I presume is why they saw a gap in the market). The shooter half of the game in some ways bears a closer resemblance to modern FPSs than the shooters of its era – that probably sounds a little bit mad but you don’t tend to find waves of enemies coming at you these days outside of the likes of Doom and Serious Sam – it’s more about picking off lone enemies or a couple of enemies in many cases.

The Verdict

All this is a lot more than I’d usually have to say about a shooter, and that’s in part because it’s an important shooter and in part because it does a few things differently. The idea is sound, but I can’t say I’m 100% convinced that the additions make this a better game. To me it’s not clear that hijacking ships is better than upgrade pods. The minigame is a nice idea but it feels a tad random, but it’s clearly an integral part of the balancing of the game – to get some screenshots of the second ship I used a cheat and one of the options was disabling the minigame – the problem is that this makes it very easy to just take over any ship you like and removes much of the challenge. The fact that this was hidden behind only a single keypress rather than a cheat code suggests that perhaps the developers knew the difficulty wasn’t quite balanced right.

Add in the readability issues where I would rather play the C64 version and it becomes tricky to recommend Paradroid 90 – it’s a shame as there’s a good idea in here just let down by issues with execution both in the hacking minigame and the readability of the levels.

Resources

Manual: https://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=1194

Here’s a video of someone who knows what they’re doing…


The C64 version:

Review: James Pond (Atari ST)

https://i0.wp.com/www.atarimania.com/st/boxes/hi_res/james_pond_-_underwater_agent_millennium_d7.jpg?w=782
James Pond going cheep (that would work better in a bird-themed game…)

ST Format Review

ST Format gave the game a fairly positive review

My Review

Welcome to another games review in the ST Format challenge. Today we’re taking a review from ST Format Issue 17.

Equipment

  • MiSTer box running the Atari ST Core – 1MB STE running TOS 1.62
  • Automation Menu Disk 321
  • Speedlink USB Joystick
Another Automation intro – non-Brits might not understand the reference

We now find ourselves in the territory of games that were a little bit slicker than the early years – the kind of games that would eventually come to define the later 16-bit years, where graphics and sound were polished and recognisable mascots fronted games – a trend which would reach it’s home computer zenith with Zool. Visually the game is an absolute treat, opening with a playful riff on the MGM lion roar and continuing through to a game which takes its underwater setting and runs with it. The various species are beautifully drawn and well-animated, and during the action the music feels fairly appropriate for a spy thriller.

A playful homage to the MGM lion

The game itself is reasonably straightforward – it’s a side-scrolling.. I hesitate to say platform game because James floats, what with him being underwater, but structurally it’s a platform game, just one with rather free and easy movement. That could have been terrible, no doubt, but the developers did a reasonably good job of creating tight spaces to navigate and enough enemies to deal with to make your escape fairly trisky.

Emerging from the pipe like Mario, but this is a very different kind of platformer. Here I have 3 lives left and have rescued 0 of the 6 lobsters. I need to collect the key (down and fire) and run into the caged lobsters to free them.

Your task varies from level to level, but usually consists of saving or collecting a number of things. The count is shown on the panel at the bottom of the screen, next to the timer – the top number represents the things to save/collect and the bottom represents how many you’ve managed. On the opening level for instance you’re looking for keys (the control for picking them up is somewhat unweildy with the expectation that you press down and fire simultaneously – this does not always work) with which to free lobsters before a diver reaches them. You can see a boat on the surface with a diver jumping out and making his way to capture the lobsters. On another level there’s an oil rig which needs to be dealt with, so you pick up sticks of dynamite and drop them at the base of the rig (surely that would cause oil to spill everywhere – and should we be encouraging terrorism in a kids game?).

Just to show I’m not completely incompetent

Another level sees you escorting fish to the exit pipe, though the fish are really quite ugly and it’s not immediately obvious that this is the goal. One of the things that takes a little getting used to if you’re still in the modern gaming mindset where things tend to be laid out on screen with arrows to follow, tutorial levels and being told not to leave the game area, is that these older games are sometimes a little obtuse about what they expect of you. We’ve had F-29 Retaliator for instance where mission briefings were not in the game but instead in the manual, and the same is the case here. Reading the manual we find the requirements for each mission, with the tasks getting trickier each time, with the collectables being found futher away from the dropzones in more inhospitable locations. One nice touch is that the levels have suitably bond-themed names like For Your Fins Only, A View To A Spill, The Mermaid Who Loved Me, etc.

Avoid the radioactive waste, trap the snail in bubbles. I only have one life left.

While mostly slick, there are of course a few small technical things to consider. Compared to the Amiga’s sampled sounds for instance the chip music isn’t anywhere near as impressive, nor is it as clearly Bond-themed in the pre-game screens (the Amiga version sails pretty close to the wind legally tbh). Also of note – the Amiga version does actually provide instructions about what you’re expected to do, where the ST version does not (perhaps they thought ST owners were smarter than Amiga owners). The scrolling is not bad by ST standards, but not great, and curiously the Amiga version is similar. While it moves around as you’d expect, there seems to be a jerkiness to it that I can’t quite put my finger on, almost as if the scroll is lagging behind the action on some level and then rushes to catch up.

This is your fishy home complete with satellite TV dish – the ultimate status symbol in the early 90s.

The Verdict

I had a good time playing it, though I can’t be sure how much of that was childhood nostalgia. Clearly the art work for the game is a big part of the game’s identity – mechanically it’s decent and fairly well thought-out but not outstanding, but visually it does rather stand out from the crowd. It’s a shame that more wasn’t done on the audio side – Jumping Jack’Son showed that the ST can be made to do some cool things on that side, so it could have been a little closer to the Amiga, but alas we get chip music.

If you don’t rescue the cuddly pink fish they turn into the fanged menaces shown here.

Clearly a game is not defined solely by the quality of its graphics, nor solely by its gameplay. A game can attain greatness with poor graphics and amazing gameplay, but we should recognise that well-designed art and sound can elevate an average game by investing the player in that game. This is clearly such a case, and the result is an enjoyably jolly experience, a game that doesn’t take itself terribly seriously but will generally give you a good time.

But if you do find a cuddly pink fish it’ll happily follow you to the exit pipe

Resources
Manual: https://segaretro.org/images/e/e6/James_Pond_MD_US_Manual.pdf

Yes I’m a child. Still, not quite as fun when you have so much room to swear. My finest work remains Xenon 2 with only 3 letters,

Review: Rock Star Ate My Hamster (Atari ST)

ST Format Review

My Review

Equipment:
MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62
– Automation Menu Disk 242
– Keyboard



Rock Star Ate My Hamster is a very simple management game, about managing a band with the goal of making a shedload of cash. Strictly speaking including it here is a bit of a cheat as it’s actually quite a bit older than this, but as its original release predates ST/Amiga Format this cheat allows me to review the game.



For those unaware, the mechanics are pretty simple. Each game turn represents one day, in which you might arrange a publicity stunt (which leads to a mock-up newspaper representing success or failure – tits or death is failure)…



… have your band practice or perform at gigs, among other activities. What then follows is that your gigs will get different audiences depending on how successful the practice and publicity stunts were.



Similar loops exist around releasing singles and albums. In many ways the formula is quite similar to the modern Kairosoft games like Game Dev Story, with Rock Star being a distant great grandparent to those simple but surprisingly addictive little mobile games.



Now mechanically that might sound quite dull, it ultimately boils down to poking a random number generator and watching numbers go up, just like those Kairosoft games. However, what elevates it above mediocrity is that the game is loaded with charm, and more than most it carries a fair bit of nostalgia due to having send-ups of famous singers of the era, with Maradonna replacing Madonna, Wacky Jacko replacing Michael Jackson, Bimbo Baggins replacing Kylie Minogue, Rick Ghastley replacing Rick Astley, Jason Doner-Kebab replacing Jason Donovan (made funnier by Bristol’s infamous Jason Donner-van where you can get a kebab.. assuming it comes back after the ‘rona) and Stiff Pilchards replacing Cliff Richard. Each is accompanied by a grotesque cartoon depiction.



Graphically, the game isn’t especially demanding of the ST but it is presented with considerable charm. On the audio front, there’s a lot of sampled sound used, putting it a cut above much of what you’d typically find on the ST – little snippets of music to represent practicing, etc. It all adds to the atmosphere.

The Verdict
Rock Star is a charming little game, albeit one whos 8-bit origins are clear for all to see. It’s effectively menu-driven,

Resources
Manual: https://worldofspectrum.org//pub/sinclair/games-info/r/RockStarAteMyHamster.pdf

ST Format Issue 17 (Nov 90)

ST Format Issue 17 – Download

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is stf17_001.jpg

The World in November 1990
In UK news Geoffrey Howe resigned from the government over its European policy. Nobody noticed, even after a resignation speech which was like being savaged by a wet lettuce. Sky and BSB merged, but was still known as Sky – I’m pretty sure that’s usually called a take-over. Arsenal and Man Utd were docked points for a mass brawl. Michael Heseltine announced his intention to stand against Margaret Thatcher, the beginning of the end of her decade-long misrule. After failing to win an outright majority in the first round, she resigns paving the way for John Major to become Prime Minister (defeating Douglas Herd and Michael Heseltine). If only Theresa May had proved as easy to dislodge. It would take the Tories years to properly get over Thatcher, and her legacy would taint the Tories as the nasty party for decades, but it’s worth noting that she arrived into the job in a country which could not compete industrially due to union intransigence and transformed the economy into a modern one which could take on the world, for better or worse.

The US news George Bush, having promised no new taxes, proceeded to deliver new taxes. The UN passed resolution 678 authorising use of military intervention to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Elsewhere in the world the first World Wide Web page was written. In more positive news, the SNES was released in Japan. It would become one of the greatest gaming machines ever created.

On TV The Word was moved from 6pm to a late night timeslot allowing it to become more risque. In more serious news the Broadcasting Act 1990 deregulated British commercial broadcasting and set out terms for a 5th terrestrial TV channel. The new channel would require millions of VCRs to be re-tuned. Harry Enfield’s TV Programme made its debut on BBC2 – it would run for 8 years, being funny in 2 of them.

The film charts see Flatliners at #1 with Ghost at #2. More positively Goodfellas is at #5 and for the kids you’ve got The Little Mermaid at #6. There’s a version of The Handmaid’s Tale at #11.

The album chart has a top 3 consisting of greatest hits albums. To be fair, The Immaculate Collection is one hell of a greatest hits album, but it shows where the chart is. With the Three Tenors at #5, more greatest hits at 6 and 8, it’s a pretty moribund chart.

The singles chart isn’t much better with Unchained Melody at #1 and a god-awful version of Fog On The Tyne by Gazza at #2. There is better music in the charts with Kim Appleby at #3 with Don’t Worry (her first single since the death from cancer of sister Mel – the other half of Mel And Kim), amd The Beautiful South with A Little Time. Black Box have a more chilled song than their usual with Fantasy, while Kylie does what she does best with Step Back In Time. Paul Simon is slowly slipping out of the charts at 16 with The Obvious Child.

The Magazine

Issue 17 is another bumper issue, as we come to the run in for the Atari ST’s best Christmas. 50 games reviewed in one issue – the focus is clear, this issue is all about games. 220 pages is still some way short of Amiga Format’s 284 page monster, though there are fewer game reviews.

The news section teases something quite extroadinary – the ST Transputer. The transputer promised, for the price of a printer, to offer 15-20x the speed of an ST and a 16m colour palette. It seems that it was vapourware as the only transputer I can find mention of online is the Atari Transputer Workstation which matches up with one mentioned in the article. While the ATW is a standalone box this seems to be about a device you can plug into your ST to give it transputer-level power.

Atari’s strategy got only more confused, with the 520 STE being discontinued as the 520STFM was to become the base machine with the 1040STE the next machine up. Atari really never got the STE right, and shifting more STFMs simply ensured that no support for the STE’s limited enhancements would ever emerge.

This issue is the first of many double-disk issues – and while most would offer free productivity software, this is the first (and last) to offer a free commercial game. It seems there was an agreement later among the magazine companies to stop doing that as it both devalued the games and the written content of the magazines. Luckily in this case it did neither as Interphase is shit. The main disk was more mundane with a demo of Captive which for some reason just never grabbed me like Dungeon Master did, plus a replacement for the ST’s file selector dialog, a disk formatter and a sliding blocks puzzle with a picture of Bugs Bunny.

We get a hard drive round up, where £300 gets you a 20mb hard drive while £500 gets you 40mb. Alternatively you could have a rewritable optical drive for £3200 with the 600mb cartridges coming in at £250 each. We also get a feature on cheap 9-pin dot matrix printers (this referred to the number of pins on the print head, not on the lead). I had a dot matrix back in the day and the noise it made was quite extraordinary, it’s a wonder I didn’t add deafness to the near blindness my Atari ST induced in me.


Previews
The previews are pretty good this month. Toylota Celica GT Rally was a brilliant game, I look forward to playing it. Nightshift is a fun little platformer that looked fun at the time, I’ll try to get some time with that. Robocop 2 and Teenage Mutant Hero/Ninja Turtles add to the pile of terrible film tie-ins and Chase HQ 2 is there to show us how bad the ST is at arcade conversions. More film conversion capers with Total Recall and Dick Tracy – by the way all four film tie-ins mentioned so far include some element of side scrolling shoot/beat-em-up. What a surprise. There is one game offering something different – Killing Cloud. I never played it so I’m looking forward to giving it a look. Finally, Gazza gets his own football game. Again.

We get a large preview for Deuteros, a game of remarkable prettiness but which had next to no appeal to me personally – if anyone fancies reviewing it I’d be delighted to hear from you when we get there.


ST Game Charts

F-19 Stealth Fighter remains at #1, simply refusing to budge from the top of the chart and quite rightly so – it’s a fantastic game that I spent an obscene amount of time playing as a kid. Honestly it’s the best flight sim ever made. The top 3 is identical to last month with the mediocre Shadow Warriors at #2 and the brilliant Kick Off 2 at 3. While Battle of Britain is a welcome new entry at 4, along with the brilliant Operation Stealth at 6, sadly the god-awful bilge Battlemaster occupies 5 and appalling film tie-in Back To The Future 2 sits at 6. Cadaver and Days Of Thunder make low key entries into the charts at 23 and 24. That Codemasters awful Italia 1990 sits at #3 in the budget charts suggests an awful lot of kids had a truly appalling Christmas in 1990. Genuinely the worst football game ever created. One should not be able to win every match by double-figures without even trying.


Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Spindizzy (Isometric exploration – Activision – £19.99 – 91% Format Gold)
James Pond (Fishy platformer – Millennium – £24.99 – 81%)
Paradroid 90 (Shooter – Hewson – £24.99 – 78%)
Shadow Of The Beast (Side-scrolling exploring beat em up with gorgeous graphics – Psygnosis – £24.99 – 83%)
Gettysburg (Turcan Strategy – Arc – £24.99 – 93% Format Gold)
Voodoo Nightmare (Isometric explorer – Palace – £24.99 – 76%)
Turrican (Side-scrolling platform shooter – Rainbow Arts – £19.99 – 82%)
Dragon Breed (Side-scrolling shooter – Activision – £24.99 – 68%)
Spiderman (Puzzle game [serious] – Empire – £19.99 – 74%)
Strider 2 (Side-scrolling platform shooter – US Gold – £19.99 – 79%)
Ranx (Beat em up – Ubisoft – £24.99 – 70%)
Flip-It & Magnose – Platformer – Imageworks – £24.99 – 72%)
The Spy Who Loved Me (Movie Tie-In Minigame Collection – Domark – £19.99 – 80%)
Chuck Yeager’s AFT (Flight Sim – Electronic Arts – £24.99 – 34%)
Torvak The Warrior (Side-scrolling slasher – Core – £24.99 – 70%)
UN Squadron (Shooter – US Gold – £19.99 – 46%) – Notable for the reviewer moaning about it being problematic
Pick N Pile (Puzzler – Ubisoft – £19.99 – 46%)
Spellbound (Platformer – Psygnosis – £19.99 – 79%)
Atomic Robokid (Shooter – Activision – £24.99 – 82%)
BAT (Adventure – Ubisoft – £34.99 with free sound card – 92% Format Gold)
Legend Of Faerghail (RPG – Rainbow Arts – £29.99 – 90%)
M1 Tank Platoon (Tanks shooting each other – Microprose – £29.99 – 84%)
The Light Corridor (3D pong – Infogrames – £24.99 – 82%)
Blitzkrieg (Strategy – Impressions – £19.95 – 57%)
Fire And Forget 2 (Racing Game With Weapons And Flying – Titus – £19.99 – 48%)
Back To The Gold Age (Side-scrolling slasher – Ubisoft – £24.95 – 57%)
Lost Soul (Text Adventure – MPH Software – £9.95 – 68%)
Badlands Pete (Shooter – Arc – £19.99 – 32%)
Subbuteo (Weird football game – Electronic Zoo – £24.99 – 70%)
Cricket Captain (Cricket strategy – D&H Games – £24.99 – 73%)
Legend Of The Lost (Turd – Impressions – £24.99 – 22%)
Prosoccer 2190 (Future football – Vulture Publishing – £19.99 – 12%)
The Final Conflict (Strategy – Impressions – £24.99 – 75%)
Zombi (Dungeon Game with zombies – Ubisoft – £19.95 – 40%)
Blinky’s Scary School (Platformer – Zeppelin – £9.95 – 70%)
Treasure Island Dizzy (Platformer – Codemasters – £4.99 – 82%)
Rock Star Ate My Hamster (Business Sim – Codemasters – £4.99 – 68%)
Ranarama (Frog exploration – Players – £4.99 – 75%)
World Soccer (Football – Zeppelin – £9.99 – 66%)

As you’d expect when there are 50 games being reviewed (though quite a few of those reviews are compilations) there’s a decent number of interesting games being reviewed. I bit off a little more than I could chew last month, not being able to find enough time to give Mean Streets or Loom a proper go (I’ll come back to them, I promise), but hopefully I’ll do better this month. James Pond is one I had as a kid, a brilliant little platformer with gorgeous graphics and boatloads of charm. Then there’s Shadow Of The Beast – I had the sequel if I recall, so it’ll be fun to look at the original to see if it’s any good – the screenshots look gorgeous. Rock Star Ate My Hamster interests me as it’s an older release being re-released on budget where the original fell outside the ST/Amiga Format and ST Format releases. Turrican I have only played in the form of an ST Format cover disk demo, but I’m aware that its legend has grown over time, while enthusiasts tell me that Paradroid 90 is a must-play. I suspect BAT is one I really should play though I’m not sure how the sound card situation is handled – I suspect it may prove difficult to play properly.

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.

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.

  • Rock Star Ate My Hamster – Automation 242, Flame Of Finland 7, SUperGAU 473, Medway Boys 65
  • Paradroid 90 – Automation 390, SuperGAU 333/371, Medway Boys 91, Superior 149
  • James Pond – Automation 321, DBug 95B, Fuzion 25, Medway Boys 98
  • Shadow Of The Beast – Automation 356, Flame Of Finland 36A/B, Medway Boys 87, SuperGAU 383/4, SuperGAU 785/6, SuperGAU 858
  • Turrican – Automation 448, Flame Of Finalnd 41, Medway Boys 90, Pompey Pirates 53, SuperGAU 791, Vectronix 757
  • BAT – http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-bat-bureau-of-astral-troubleshooters_23556.html – not sure if this one will work

Reviews This Month

Review: Turrican 1 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (Issue 17) Equipment Used/Recommended MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 – you can replicate this with the Steem emulator. Any of Automation 448, Flame Of Finalnd 41, Medway Boys 90, Pompey Pirates 53, SuperGAU 791, Vectronix 757 Speedlink USB Joystick – MiSTer box running…More

Review: Shadow Of The Beast (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (issue 17) My Review Equipment MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 Automation Menu Disk 356 / Flame Of Finland 26A/B, Medway Boys 87 Speedlink USB Joystick If you’re reading this website then it’s very likely you already know about Shadow Of The Beast –…More

Review: Paradroid ’90 (Atari ST)

ST Format Review (issue 17) My Review Equipment MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 Automation Menu Disk 390 / Medway Boys 91 Speedlink USB Joystick In 1985 Hewson (of Nebulus fame – one of my all-time favourites) released Paradroid on the Commodore 64 to massive acclaim. It…More

Review: James Pond (Atari ST)

ST Format Review My Review Welcome to another games review in the ST Format challenge. Today we’re taking a review from ST Format Issue 17. Equipment MiSTer box running the Atari ST Core – 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 Automation Menu Disk 321 Speedlink USB Joystick We now find ourselves in the territory of games…More

Review: Rock Star Ate My Hamster (Atari ST)

ST Format Review My Review Equipment:– MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62– Automation Menu Disk 242– Keyboard Rock Star Ate My Hamster is a very simple management game, about managing a band with the goal of making a shedload of cash. Strictly speaking including it here is…More