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The ST Format Challenge

hariseldon

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Aug 22, 2018
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So I'm going to attempt something a little bit odd. I'm planning to work through all of the issues of ST/Amiga Format and ST Format (ST/Amiga Format ran for 13 issues and then split into two magazines - ST Format and Amiga Format - so I'm starting there) at http://www.stformat.com/ playing the games I would have bought each month. The first month will be a little different as that issue is something of a catch-up of the great games that had been released already and thus aren't getting reviewed in that month's issue, in addition to the usual review schedule. Given that this includes the magnificent but bloody huge Dungeon Master, I'll likely leave that til the end and circle back to it, instead focusing on the limited number of games reviewed this month.

Methodology: I will be using the Steem emulator, as found at https://sourceforge.net/projects/steemsse/. I have a number of TOS images which should hopefully mean that everything works, and will be obtaining my games from a range of sources, including some of the old scene groups such as Automaton and DBUG.

I plan to, for each issue, pick a selection of games and give a brief write-up first on what experience, if any, I have of the game, why I selected it, and then submit that post. I'll then play the games in question and create write ups reflecting that experience. I don't currently plan to do videos but we'll see how it goes. There's no set schedule to this, but likely it'll take a really long time to work through all of them, especially when we get to the bigger, more sophisticated games later in the machine's life.

Index

STAF Issue 1 - July 1988 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257573355
Leathernecks - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257574873
Virus - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257574873

STAF Issue 2 - August 1988 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257575503
Captain Blood - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257593842
Sentinel - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257667858
Corruption - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257669082

STAF Issue 3 - September 1988 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257674919
Whirligig (aka Space Cutter) - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257675130
Arkanoid II - Revenge Of Doh - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257676344
Better Dead Than Alien - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257676441

STAF Issue 4 - October 1988 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257677157
Nebulus - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257689119
Summer Olympiad - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257742123
Starglider 2 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257759589
Hostages - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257766713 (thanks Havoc2049 Havoc2049 )

STAF Issue 5 - November 1988 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257844276
Star Goose - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257887707
Super Hang-On - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257887920
Elite - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257960910

STAF Issue 6 - December 1988 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257961525
Speedball 1 (VERY brief look) - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257976189
Powerdrome - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257977416
Rocket Ranger - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258077292
Driller - Skipped for now - does anyone fancy reviewing it?

STAF Issue 7 - January 1989 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258079341
R-Type - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258080340
Chuckie Egg - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258081231
IK+ (International Karate +) - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258102453

STAF Issue 8 - February 1989 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258103332
Baal - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258104085

STAF Issue 9 - March 1989 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258198435
Dragon's Lair - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258201963
Crazy Cars 2 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258210036

STAF Issue 10 - April 1989 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258211662
Populous - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258241707
Zak McKracken - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258539268
Barbarian 2 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-258539277
Ultima V - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-259089027

STAF Issue 11 - May 1989 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-259090944
Archipelagos - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-259109733
Vigilante - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-259136205

STAF Issue 12 - June 1989 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-259137522
Battlehawks 1942 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-259138800

STAF Issue 13 - July 1989 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-259139826
Weird Dreams - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-259207929

STF Issue 1 - August 1989 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-260605245
Bloodwych - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-260608283

Games I will be playing after this is done get the coveted HariSeldon GOLD award...




ST/Amiga Format Issue 01 - Download



This issue was the first and didn't have many game reviews. It featured:
- Interceptor (Flight Sim - Electronic Arts £24.99 - 91% ST/Amiga Format Gold)
- Virus (Thingy - Firebird £19.99 - 86% ST/Amiga Format Gold)
- Outrun (Racing game - US Gold £19.99 - VERY generous 71% as it was terrible on the Atari ST - came with the Power Pack that contained my 520STFM)
- Thexder (No fucking idea - Sierra £19.99 - 61%)
- Firepower (Tank shooty thing - MicroIllusions/Activision £19.99 - 58%)
- Sundog: Frozen Legacy (No fucking idea - FTL £14.99 - 64%)
- Leathernecks (ShootEmUp - Microdeal £19.95 - 76%)

The first games I will be looking at are (videos not mine):


Leathernecks




I remember my parents getting this waaaay after it came out (I got my 520STFM in Christmas 1989, this ST Format issue was in July 1988). It was absolute shit. Slow as hell, and I didn't get very far in it. Thankfully it was budget, £3 or something similar, and thus it wasn't quite such a painful waste of money. I remember it being ponderously slow and never really going anywhere, with god-awful graphics that looked like they belonged on an 8-bit machine. I wonder if my memory was accurate.

Virus





At school we had Archimedes machines (albeit way past 1988), and I got to play Zarch on those occasionally. Time to find out if it holds up on the Atari ST. Virus was released by Firebird, one of the labels under which Microprose released games (albeit this may be before Microprose's involvement), and gained an ST/Amiga Format gold with 86% (later you'd need 90%). I remember noodling about with it on the Acorns but never really getting to grips with exactly what you were expected to do, and finding the controls to be utterly shite.


Join Me...
So, join me as I delve into the murky depths of late-80s to mid-90s gaming. Who knows if anyone will give a shit, but I'll hopefully have some fun doing this.


Useful Links

https://www.oocities.org/siliconvalley/vista/5975/sewerdoc.html - A list of what games are on what Sewer docs disks - you'll find them all in the next link
https://archive.org/details/Atari_ST_TOSEC_2012_04_23 - basically contains everything you'll ever need in terms of games and software, magazine cover disks, the demo scene, documentation, etc
https://sourceforge.net/projects/steemsse/ - Steem emulator
http://www.stformat.com/ - ST Format Magazine issues
https://www.exxoshost.co.uk/atari/games - Some disk images from the various pirate groups
http://stonish.net/menus_disks_choice - Another large archive (horrible UI though)
http://atari.8bitchip.info/ASTGA/astgam.php - Another archive of games
http://atari.st/pacifist/ - The wonderful PacifiST emulator, plus a lot of nostalgia
 
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hariseldon

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Reviews

Leathernecks




Well, it started badly with the disk complaining about an in-memory virus, which obviously I don't have on my emulator. So, I had to hunt down a non-broken version.

So, having got a working copy.. ooooh boy. So first up it seems the game is expecting 4 players, there's only 1 of me, so my chap on the left moves while the other 4 don't, and so the screen scrolls and they die. Good start. Sampled screams but the bitrate is so low as to be horrendous (considering what the likes of Gauntlet in the early days and Mega Lo Mania later on were able to achieve). The music is the usual plinky plonky rubbish, uninspired and likely to be forgotten in about 3 seconds. Animation and movement in general is jerky, with no visibility of where your bullets are going and often no idea what just killed you, and with the player only able to shoot upwards no way to shoot enemies who produce bullets that jerk along the screen in 16-pixel intervals (and thus can't be avoided).

Gameplay is sufficiently un-fun as to leave me throwing this one in the bin after about 10 minutes. And that was me doing my absolute best. Old games were sometimes shit, and this is a perfect example of that.


Virus

Off to a bad start with another virus message - I suddenly realised I had TOS 2.06 on an STE on instead of an older one like 1.02 on an STFM. Let's see if that helps. Problem solved, and that's probably what caused my Leathernecks woes.

A couple of false starts as I crashed into the ground, I eventually got the controls reasonably under control. Left mouse button give me lift, right button fires a bullet and the mouse tilts my spaceship with thrust coming from the underside. It's a tricky beast to control.

Graphics aren't as smooth as the more powerful (and vastly more expensive) RISC 32-bit Acorn machines from which it was ported, but that's not the game's biggest problem. The controls are awful but beyond that there's not much to do. It feels like a tech demo. It looks pretty, no doubt, with the lovely 3d landscape with palm trees and houses on a little archipelago, the particle effects from your thrusters, but it feels like there's nothing to do and shooting anything when it's so hard to damn well control the god damn thing is just an impossibility. Thankfully, I never actually managed to find anything to shoot. Instead I just found myself hurtling around an empty wasteland, awaiting my inevitable crash.


So what next?
Issue 1 is a bust, but that's because it represents the early days when games developers were either lazily porting 8-bit games to the new 16-bit devices or just not understanding the new hardware. It's an awkward phase where the games just aren't that good. There were some classics, like Dungeon Master, Sentinel, Captain Blood, Bubble Bobble among others, but they were too early to feature. I'll come back for them later though.

Onward to issue 2!
 

hariseldon

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Welcome to Issue 2 - Download



This issue came out in August 1988. It begins with brief previews including Pool Of Radiance, Maupiti Island (which I could have sworn came out MUCH later), Empire Strikes Back, Better Dead Than Alien and Starray. The latter came with my Atari ST and was... ok. Brief mentions for Driller and Dark Side (Freescape games - see also Castle Master and 3D Construction Kit), and mention of a sequel to Captain Blood (which I think became Commander Blood).

Big features on CD-ROM which was still some way away from being a thing in home computing. We were still in the land of floppy discs with their 720kb of space (though with a bit of judicious formatting you could push it to 800kb or even a little bit more).

This issue sees Screenplay given its proper name (it's notable that in issue 1 the index lists it as screenplay but then the actual page says golden games - perhaps an old title they forgot to remove). In this issue we have the following games:

- Captain Blood (Weird space exploration alien language thing - Infrogrames £24.95 - 91% Format Gold)
- Corruption (Text adventure with still graphics - Magnetic Scrolls £24.95 - 91% Format Gold)
- Jinks (Amiga only so who gives a shit)
- Legend Of The Sword (RPG - Rainbird £24.95 - 88%)
- Sentinel (Fucking weird thing - Firebird £19.95 - 82%)
- Pandora (Arcade Adventure - Firebird £19.95 - 63%)
- Return To Genesis (Defender clone - Firebird £19.95 - 74%)
- Pinball Wizard (Pinball - Anco [yes the kick off people] £19.95 - 70%)

That's more like it. Captain Blood I've played a little before and will have another crack at, though it is a long game and may necessitate longer between posts. Corruption I'd like to try as I have little experience of text adventures but have heard good things about the Magnetic Scrolls games, and finally Sentinel - a strange little game I've wanted to try out for years.

This is a very odd month with 2 VERY left-field games, which are going to really give me a challenge.

Captain Blood






Sentinel



Corruption



Sadly there aren't any good videos of a text adventure, you'll be surprised to hear! I'm going to have a rest tonight but will likely get onto these over the weekend. Wish me luck!
 
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Godzilla Emu

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Great concept for a thread hariseldon hariseldon :messenger_beermugs:.

Amusingly, great minds think alike and I've been doing this for my own entertainment (without realising you would create this thread) for the last month with the Commodore User magazine.

I always planned to return to the magazines one day as an Amiga OS refresher. But I ended up deciding to play all of the games reviewed that month instead and (re)discover the Amiga library as it evolved through the years. It's a brilliant way to discover any hidden gems that you may have missed back in the day and are no longer talked about.
 
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hariseldon

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hariseldon

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Captain Blood

I'll start with Captain Blood as I have a little bit of prior experience with it, albeit on an Amiga. Wait, what? But I had an ST, that can't be right. Well, as a teenager I thought it might be clever to upgrade my 520STFM to 1MB of RAM. Back then this involved soldering. You can guess the rest. This was towards the tail end of the system's life and I had a bit of pocket money saved up and saw an Amiga going cheap in the local independent computer shop. Picked it up along with a stack of floppies that were being sold individually for £1 with scribbled labels.. wait they had games and stuff on them - what the fuck? Anyway, I digress, I had previously played it on the Amiga so it seemed the most comfortable place to start, though Captain Blood is far from a comfortable game.

I'll begin with a bit of a background of what the game is, its story and what you're expected to do, all that scene-setting stuff that helps the poor bastard reading this get a taste of the game. So the story is that the eponymous Captain Blood has programmed a game, and then got sucked into said game in an improbable and very 80s way, and to make matters worse he has 5 clones which he needs to locate in order not to die, spread all over a large galaxy (32768 planets apparently - and forget about memorizing them, they get randomised with each new game) with 14 alien races. To do this he sends a ship to the planet's surface, navigates a 3d fractal wireframe landscape and eventually talks to an alien if one is present. To do so one must figure out the arcane language in which the aliens speak. Yep, the game has it's own sodding language. To think that all this ambition fit onto two 720kb floppy disks to be run on a computer with a mere 16-bit processor running at 8MHz packing only 0.5MB of RAM is really quite something - a feat matched only by Damocles rather more detailed single solar system on a single disc or Elite 2's galaxy.

On firing up the game the first thing that hits you is the music, by Jean Michel Jarre. Sure it's very computer-gamey, but this is before Xenon 2 Megablast or Speedball 2 - it was quite a remarkable thing at that time. You eventually get to the game start and we even have a speech synthesizer announce something, though it's not entirely clear what. So, my first job then is to send a ship (an Oorxx in the game's terms) to land on the planet. Let's see if I've still got the muscle memory for this. It turns out I haven't - I manage to crash into the canyon when I eventually make it there. Thankfully there seems to be no consequence for doing so though, it merely stops me and I have to figure out how to get going again. I eventually figured out that the mouse buttons controlled speed and I was soon on the move. Eventually I reached my destination and the screen was slowly converted into a proper filled 3D image.



I deliberately captured a screen in the middle of the 10-second process so you can get a picture both of the original wireframe from its moving state and what will eventually materialise.



And as you can see, some alien prick decides he wants a chat. On the top we have the alien, with his planet as backdrop, below on the left what the alien has said (apparently something's really fucking funny), to the right is whatever I'm going to say, and below is a set of symbols which comprise the game's language. Oh and that arm - that's my mouse pointer. When I'm done I click the lips hoping to god I've said something that makes some kind of fucking sense. Everything said is rendered by the speech synthesizer in its own unique gibberish. It's not something I can imagine ever existing today. I am however being afflicted by my mouse pointer wandering all over the fucking shop. I don't remember this. Off to google - I found https://argnet.fatal-design.com/bluddian.php which informs me that I need a cracked version. Ok let's get that and try again. Ah that's much better. Oh ffs I accidentally pressed the destroy planet button instead of the land on planet button.



The screenshot above demonstrates the careless disregard for health and safety from the ship's designers, as a poor unfortunate yellow planet disintegrates before my eyes. Why the fuck would you put the button to destroy a planet next to the one to land on it? What kind of madman would allow such a thing? I better scarper out of there before my genocide is discovered (or is it really genocide when each planet always seems to have a single alien on it?).


Time to pick a new place to go. You might expect that you'd click somewhere and the lines would align.. nope. You have to drag each bar into position to point to a co-ordinate. 80s user interfaces weren't always very good.



So off into hyperspace I go, with palette cycling psychadelic shenanigans, in search of new worlds to plunder and destroy. And it crashes. Third time lucky, let's see if I can actually get somewhere. I'm learning here that I'm going to have to use the emulator snapshots very very regularly. I land, get to see the alien and it's the same twat I encountered the first time when I had the shakey mouse pointer. Laugh it up shit-head - I might just destroy your planet for fun. Prick is bragging about being a bounty hunter, or perhaps a big bounty on his head. Maybe I should kill him. He doesn't like me, but knows reproduction 14.. maybe he's talking about the clone? Or maybe he's accusing me of being a paedophile. It's hard to tell. Ah reproduction 14 is on planet Migrax (his species) - ok so maybe he's talking about clones. But there are only 5. What? A missile is going to kill me.. ooookay. So finally he's stopped talking. I ask him to help me, he replies that he knows Sinox. Great, but who the fuck is Sinox? He wants to help me. An interesting turnaround but I won't complain. I finally figure out that you can scroll to get more words. So I ask where reproduction 14 is. He says on this planet and gives the co-ordinate we're already on. Oookay. Eventually he agrees to teleport to my ship. Not quite sure what that gets me but we'll see. Let's hyperspace somewhere and drop him off and see what happens.

And it's another crash. My patience exhausted for now, I put the game down and conclude that perhaps I should try something a little less buggy. It's definitely an interesting concept for a game but it's a little unclear what you're expected to do - the manual offers some guidance but not quite enough. That was definitely an adventure, and had it perhaps been a little less crash-prone I might have persevered longer. Still, I had fun, destroyed worlds, and met a weird alien. What's not to like?

Next up - Sentinel.
 
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hariseldon

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Sorry I've been a bit slow on this one - aiming to get the Senitinel done this weekend. The weekend after is a long weekend in the UK so I may have opportunities to make a bit more progress. There's about 7 or 8 years of magazines to get through btw though ST Format's peak years were probably in the first 3 years after the 1 year of ST/Amiga Format so this is going to take a bloody long time!
 

hariseldon

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Sentinel

Sentinel is a very strange game. To explain it as simply as I can, you are on a 3D island, and there is a sentinel which if it sees you will drain your energy until you die. Your goal is to get some height so you can drain the sentinel and defeat it (you need the height to see the sentinel's square). You do this for 10,000 islands (though I doubt anyone bothered). You move the mouse to the edges of the screen to slowly rotate the view (the Atari ST is capable of smooth movement but that's not something this game has gone for being so early in the ST's life). If you see a tree you can click on it to absorb one unit of energy, or a rock for 2 or a 'synthoid' for 3. You can right click a synthoid to transfer to it, then click on your old synthoid to absorb its energy and that's how you move. You have no other means of moving about the landscape. Rocks serve to give you elevation as you can jump on top of a pile of rocks without seeing the top surface, while trees serve to block the sentinel's view of you and thus stop it draining your energy. To place items you point the mouse at the square and press T to create a tree, B for a boulder and R for a synthoid.

This video (not mine) shows you what it all looks like. I won't do screenshots for this one as there's not much to be gained from them.


So let's talk about the first island. I start with a tree in front of me so I absorb it, and build some boulders to get some height (given I can't move to surfaces higher up because I can't see the ground) and place a synthoid atop. Moving to the synthoid I absorb my old self and look for the next place... and the sentinel kills me. This is going to take some figuring out. Another go, dead again. This game is fucking hard. I'll be honest, I did have to have a look at a couple of videos to figure out some of it, though the manual was actually quite helpful in figuring out how to do things. What neither of those told me was how to beat the god damn sentinel. There is no way in hell anyone would release this game in the modern era!

I eventually got the sentinel on the first island, getting enough height to see his square and click on it, which felt strangely anti-climactic. What now? A quick look at the manual told me to go to his square - ok, done. Now what? Press the hyperspace key. Which sodding key is the hyperspace key? The manual doesn't tell you. I'll tell you. The hyperspace key is H. Having completed the level I get a code for the next level, so I can come back to it.



Ok so I lied about screenshots. Why level 6? No idea. In other annoying news, when you enter the level and code, you can't fucking press delete if you cock up the typing. Ah 80s user interfaces.



After some real confusion where I couldn't see anywhere to go I finally fucking twigged that I needed to build a boulder tower and climb it so I could transfer to a nearby ledge. Above you can see my boulder tower, with my old synthoid atop it.



That's the prick I want to kill. What an absolute prick. He's currently looking away from me so I'm safe. As soon as he turns my way I'm fucked. I need to get some height so I can absorb and kill him. It's a dog-eat-dog world.



Well this is a bold strategy cotton. Let's see if it pays off.



It did not.

So, in what is rapidly turning into Hari Seldon Fails At ST games, I accept my defeat (I'll be back later to beat the son of a bitch but I want to keep these short enough to be interesting and have half a chance of making some bloody progress on these). I'd never played Sentinel before and actually, despite being the strangest game, it's weirdly absorbing and while it took a bit of work to get into, once I was there I enjoyed it - a game I have no nostalgia for as this is the first time I've ever played it. I suspect with a proper tutorial and maybe a bit more signposting of what the sentinel is doing you could make a decent game out of this.



Next up - Corruption.
 
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hariseldon

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Corruption

I've never played a text adventure. Well, a brief bit of fiddling with Hitchhiker's Guide, but that's about it. Indeed my adventure gaming expertise mostly consists of lots of Monkey Island, Leisure Suit Larry 1, a bit of Technobabylon more recently, Day Of The Tentacle, etc. As you can see, I gravitate towards the funny, and the graphical. This will be a test of patience, but a large part of the point of this is to try things I've not done before, so here I go.

This one benefits least of all from screenshots, after all it's just text. And while Captain Blood has a gameplay loop that can be represented in a fairly short write-up as seen, and Sentinel repeats the same gameplay loop for 10,000 islands, a text adventure is a story and in a way it's hard to review it without playing the whole thing. I'm conscious that in describing my experience I'm basically taking some decent writing and replacing it with my own shittier writing. We'll see how this goes as I'm not 100% sure of the best way to approach this write-up.

So I arrive at the start of the game, apparently at work, having just been promoted and finding myself disappointed at the quality of my new office. A surprising thing is that each new location must be loaded from disk. Given the text nature of the game means it likely uses very little RAM (admittedly less will be available owing to the baffling decision to start from GEM [it uses the mouse but doesn't use the menus so why???] instead of autobooting - meaning a 512k ST probably has about 360k to work with - that still means you can get half a disk in memory, which should allow it to be loaded in 2 or maybe 3 parts.

Now the first thing I am going to do, like any sensible person, is try to type some rude stuff. Sadly the game does not oblige. I can't ask Margaret for sex, nor can I fuck anyone, nor can I shit on the floor. All this is an immense disappointment. Having left my office and arrived at the apparently sturdy and unfriendly Margaret's adjoining office I am unclear about exactly what I can do. I have a stack of trades to be completed this morning however so I should probably get that done.

I head out of the office, into the corridor and into the bathroom. Surely there must be opportunities for rudeness here, right? Before doing that however it occurs to me that I should probably check my clothes for any potential inventory items. Ah, a credit card and key. Excellent, they'll be useful at some point I'm sure. Why items in my clothes aren't already in my inventory I have no idea but I had a vague memory of something similar in Hitchhiker's guide so I thought I'd check. So, back to rudeness. I try to piss in the sink, and thankfully it recognises the command, but sadly won't allow me to do so, insisting that I must restrain myself. So be it. Onwards. I move towards the cubicle which apparently smells terrible, and it seems I'm allowed to piss in that. Excellent.

Time to leave the fun of the bathroom aside and head to the dealing room. Perhaps we can play midget bowling? On entering the room I'm told the serious fraud office want to talk to my boss. I should probably go let him know. There's a surprising amount of freedom and the text parser is pretty solid. I can for instance upon realising my pocket has a credit card and key just say "take credit card and key", instead of having to type get for each item. Asking people about things also seems fairly robust, so the company lawyer was able to tell me about the serious fraud office - too underfunded to tackle the big things apparently. Most people seem to know there's something shady going on. I need to dig deeper, but first I have to figure out how the buggering hell to get to the boss to let him know about the serious fraud office. He's on the floor below and there's a lift, but I can't seem to get to it. Ah, fire exit. That's it. I find out as someone uses the fire exit. Interestingly, characters move around, from place to place. I expected it to be more static, but they're not. It's a surprisingly sophisticated game in that regard.

It doesn't spare the cliches, with the boss's secretary described as a dumb blonde, stupid and easy to take advantage of. I attempt some naughtiness but she says she'll report me for sexual harassment. I didn't realise that was a thing in 1988!

Figuring out exits seems a challenge. Some are hidden behind doors the game doesn't tell you about, and you only get them listed among exits (type "exits") when they've been opened. Thankfully the game has enough sense not to make you "open door" then "go north", instead recognising that you probably want to open the door and use the exit if you say "go north".

Continuing my sexual harassment quest I catch up with the boss and let him know about the serious fraud office before going in for the kiss. Apparently there's nothing wrong with being gay, but my character isn't. I try licking him and he gives me a funny look.

Time to go to the car park. I examined my key earlier and discovered that I own a BMW. I want to find out more about it. I get a screwdriver from the glove compartment. My attempt at driving the car is however thwarted by traffic and I drive back to my parking space, not something I have a choice in. So, I'm stuck here. And now I can't get out of the fucking car. I can open the door but there are no exits, I can't leave.. what do I have to do to get out of this fucking car? Finally my misery is ended as a copper comes and arrests me. At least I'm out of the fucking car. So what have I done and is this the end of the game? After a long description of the trial in which I play no interactive part, I am sentenced to two years in prison and my game ends with a score of 200.

All in all, a fun time and maybe I'll do better next time.
 
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hariseldon

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Welcome to Issue 3 - Download

After the oddities of issue 2 we find ourselves in issue 3, named as September 1988 but like all games mags actually released the month before.



The previews section features an eclectic mix including future classics Speedball, Police Quest 1 and Operation Wolf. Further into the mag we find an interesting article on how developers create their games, focused primarily on the graphics, and finally we land at Screenplay. In this issue we have the following:
- Whirligig (Space exploration - Firebird - £19.95 - 84% Format Gold)
- Space Harrier (You know what it is - Elite - £19.99 - 83% Format Gold)
- Skychase (Wireframe flight sim when the ST can do solids - Imageworks - £19.99 - 78%)
- Arkanoid - Revenge Of Doh (Breakout clone - Imagine - £19.95 - 80%)
- World Tour Golf (Football game - EA - £24.95 - 78%)
- Mortville Manor (Whodunnit - Lankhor - £24.95 - 78% [Amiga])
- The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars crap wireframe space blaster - Domark - £19.95 - 60%)
- Better Dead Than Alien (Shooter - Electra - £19.95 - 75%)

As you can see, it's a piss-weak lineup compared to the previous month. Some of those scores are a little generous I suspect, with Whirligig looking bloody awful but featuring as their lead game on the demo disk (no I'd never suggest the two things were linked) and Space Harrier being a solid conversion given how the ST was being used at the time, with reasonably fast graphics and an audio sample that was super-low bitrate but still had plenty of character. It came with my ST when I got it and I had a good time with it, albeit there was little lasting value in it.

The world in 1988

Dear god the late 80s were terrible. We have one good song (Kim Wilde), couple of mediocre tracks (Kylie and Yazz) and some absolute dross. The album chart is little better, though credit where it's due for Bad, while the movie chart features only 7 films. Is that because not much was in the cinema in those days? To be fair, the movie charts are the best of a bad bunch, with Beetlejuice being brilliant, and I enjoy Coming To America and Crocodile Dundee 2, though I can't be sure what people were thinking when they voluntarily went to see Police Academy 5.

Back to the games
For this issue I'm going to have a look at Whirligig in part because I have no bloody idea what it is and I'd like to see if I've got what it takes to figure out these older games (to be fair, issue 2 suggested that I can get a reasonable handle on them which is reassuring - at my age I worry that I may be losing some grey matter).




(video is not mine)

Dear god that looks shit. I'm doing this for you guys - suffering through some god-awful shite just to entertain you.

I will then have brief looks at Arkanoid and Better Dead Than Alien and report on those, though I don't think I'll be going into quite as much depth as others. Onwards and upwards.



Note: If there's something you want me to cover let me know, or any ideas for expanding this thing and making it a bit more interesting.
 
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hariseldon

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Whirligig (aka Space Cutter aka fucking kill me this game is fucking awful) Review

I had a little look into Whirligig at https://www.atarilegend.com/games/games_detail.php?game_id=96 and noted that the game was designed and programmed by Mike Singleton - a name I recognised instantly. He was responsible for Midwinter 1 and 2, two of the greatest 16 bit games ever made, so you'd have to assume the game is good, right? The rest of the names listed appear to have mostly only worked on this one game - I must assume that it was not a success.

I had some trouble hunting down a manual for this one, the best I could find was http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=1504 so that's what I used to guide me through this game. The copy protection demanded a word from the manual (a common tactic in those days) and thankfully it matched up (I tried a random word thinking it was cracked - it was not) so it appears this is the actual manual.

Looking at the manual I see something in common with Midwinter - god-awful mouse controls. And when I fire the game up I see that this is actually the case. To speed up you move the mouse forward, and to slow down you move it backwards. Turning left and right comes courtesy of moving the mouse left or right, but while I am not 100% certain, it seems that the mouse is perhaps being moved around a box where each side represents maintaining movement in that direction. If one could see the box it might make the game easier to control, but as it is there is no feedback other than your ship's movement in response to extraordinarily sensitive mouse controls.

Firing missiles is interesting. I kept wondering why when firing missiles they'd fly off in random directions - and some of those directions would involve circling back and hitting my own ship. Well, it turns out they're heat seeking, and if they can't find anything to kill (or if they just plain miss) they circle back and kill your ship. What kind of fucking madman would design that? What utter fucking cretinous buffoon would think that a sensible plan? It's just one of an array of baffling design decisions. There is no map, so you just float through space not really knowing where to go, zoomed in too close to have the foggiest idea where aliens may be. Some kind of radar might be nice, maybe some arrow pointing to where you need to go, some fucking background markings other than a tiny scattering of points that are presumably stars.



Here's a rare shot of my ship actually being near something. I had to kamikazi those ships to get the screenshot. I suffered for you. For you, and was it worth it? Those dots.. those are all you get most of the fucking time. Slow, jerky, streaking across the screen like the developer himself personally shat on my screen and the juice is slowly dripping inevitably towards my keyboard.

This is not a good game. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I do however hope that it in some way contributed towards the greatness that was Midwinter. It was a product of a developer having an idea for a cool technical thing to do (the ship seems to be a vector with shading reacting to some kind of light source, and it's an impressive size) with a clever mechanic (the heat-seeking missile that gives up and shoots you instead) without necessarily thinking through the consequence for gameplay. This is what happens when a programmer designs a game instead of a designer.

I can only assume that ST/Amiga Format gave it such a high rating because it was their magazine cover disk (this happened surprisingly often) or because they were paid a large cash bribe. I can also assume that the presence of the demo negatively affected sales as people realised that the game was utterly, irredeemably shit.

I am delighted to say I will never touch this god-awful shit-stain of a game ever again.
 

SirTerry-T

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Man, this takes me back to my youth as an ST owner.
Loved Captain Blood, though I never encountered any game crashes...maybe an emulator issue?

That game, for me, was Infogrames at their peak "Frenchness" and I don't mean that in a derogatory way. Infogrames back then were renown for their wonderfully quirky games, always with great production values. BubbleGhost I remember as being a great little isometric game in the vein of Ultimate Play The Game's finest Spectrum releases and Drakkhen is a classic too.

Broderbunds Typhoon Thompson was always one of my favourite ST titles, looking forward to it hopefully appearing at some stage.

Great thread!
 
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hariseldon

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Man, this takes me back to my youth as an ST owner.
Loved Captain Blood, though I never encountered any game crashes...maybe an emulator issue?

That game, for me, was Infogrames at their peak "Frenchness" and I don't mean that in a derogatory way. Infogrames back then were renown for their wonderfully quirky games, always with great production values. BubbleGhost I remember as being a great little isometric game in the vein of Ultimate Play The Game's finest Spectrum releases and Drakkhen is a classic too.

Broderbunds Typhoon Thompson was always one of my favourite ST titles, looking forward to it hopefully appearing at some stage.

Great thread!
Yeah I’m 90% sure the Captain Blood issues are emulator related tbh - I had a bastard of a time even getting a working version of the game too. Maybe it’d work better with PacifiST (the first ST emulator I remember finding in the 00s where I’d then go download games from Tik’s Atari Page. Good times.

I loved my Atari ST. Many of the games do hold up well, certainly the classics anyway. Sentinel for instance, while hard as nails, was fun. Same with Corruption - though I did kinda make my own fun with that. I think it’s also worth highlighting the missteps too like Whirligig to avoid rose tinted glasses obscuring my view of the time and avoid trivialising the journey to where we are with our workable uis and cheap games.
 

hariseldon

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Arkanoid II - Revenge Of Doh

So there is some kind of story, and it's told in a slightly star wars fashion over some wibbly warbly chip-tune bollocks, but fundamentally it doesn't matter. This is a breakout clone. A good one, but nevertheless a breakout clone. For what it is it's solid - the graphics are decent enough, the sound is very typically ST beeps and burbles, no music while you're playing. It does suffer from the low frame rates found in many early ST games which makes controlling the bat a stuttery experience. While later in its life developers found ways to get around the lack of specialist sprite-shifting hardware in the STFM or shifted over to the STE with its superior firepower, much of that early output reeks of 8-bit, shoddily ported to superior hardware while never really pushing it.

To get to the nuts and bolts of the gameplay, much is standard. The ball - initially glued to your bat - goes off in a random direction, hits a brick and comes back again. Most bricks will disappear immediately and grant you points, some bricks will take a few goes, some bricks will drop a bonus which you'll have to catch with your bat. Some bonuses include double-bat, multiball, a fireball which takes out swathes of bricks, and so on. You also have some aliens floating around for the ball to hit. So far so interesting. But how does it feel?

Between my finger and my thumb,
The squat mouse rests, snug as a gun,

Under the brickwork, a clean rasping sound,
When the bat stops the ball from reaching the ground:
My bat, batting. I look down.

Til it's straining surface among the spaceships,
Judder slow, coming up 30 pixels away,
Jerking in rhythm through brick drills,
Where I was batting.

[Not my video]
 

hariseldon

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Better Dead Than Alien



Better dead than alien is a vertical shooter akin to centipede or space invaders. The marketing and title screen try to give off a B-movie vibe but that never really makes a difference to the game. I used a mouse although you can use a joystick or the keyboard. The mouse allows more rapid and precise movement as any FPS player will tell you, and that's why I used it. Overall it's a simple enough shooter, without any major depth or replayability. Like many games of its era it's cursed with horrendous framerates (10 fps at best) and this does lead to a lack of responsiveness.



It looks ok, but while the sprites for the enemies change from round to round, that has no real impact on the game, the ships continue to fly in formation, one will break out once in a while and if it misses you it wraps round to the top again. The game is easy because the enemies are mindless, but your firing rate is so slow that it quickly becomes a boring repetitive slog. The ST is capable of more than this and Better Dead Than Alien should serve only minor archaeological interest.

Next Issue
With one proper review and two short ones, that wraps up issue 3. Rest assured issue 4 is much better and features games I intend to spend a bit more time on.
 

Nitty_Grimes

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The game does seem to feature a lot of random ways to fail.
It’s all timed, you had to be in certain places at a certain time to collect the evidence you need. There’s a section where you get run over and have to escape from hospital that was a total pain in the arse too. Not one of Magnetic Scrolls’ finest hours if you ask me. The Guild of Thieves and Jinxter were much better.
 
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SirTerry-T

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Do you remember Stir Crazy featuring Bobo? Totally Infogrames :messenger_grinning:
Oh yes! The potato peeling sub level!
That's what I'm talking about, all the those great quirky games. I think North and South, the strategy game based on the American Civil War may have been one of theirs too?
Teenage Queen was a very pleasant pinball game to own when you were a spotty, hormones raging 16 year old lad as well!

I did love my ST, had an Amiga later on (thanks Rumbelows) but my fondest 16-bit home computer memories were on Atari's machine (thanks Silica Shop), even when the games were lacking some of the polish that the Amiga version had.

I think it was probably due in some part to the status that the Atari brand still had a bit of back then, they were sort of Sega to Commodores "Nintendo".
 

hariseldon

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Issue 4 - Download


The World in September 1988



After a lacklustre issue 3 we arrive at the far-more-promising issue 4. Indeed I had trouble choosing what to review, not because there was too little quality (see last week) but because there was simply too much. The October issue, arriving in September, saw the magazine delve into the 68000 line of chips, responsible for powering the Atari ST, the Amiga, and the Mega Drive, with only the SNES choosing a different part among the major 16-bit players. The 68000 also found its way into arcades and into Apple's hardware (indeed Atari had to change the menus in GEM to avoid being sued by Apple for being a bit too similar).

Before getting to the games I want to briefly cover one serious package reviewed.



This is an ad for STOS, which appeared in the same issue as the review, below. Was the score influenced by the ad? Who knows. What I do know is that I acquired STOS free with an ST Format cover disk about 4 years later.




I was about 7 years old when I first got an Amstrad CPC 464, an old crappy 8-bit with 64Kb of memory. It had basic, and you'd get the listings in the magazines of the day. I'd type them out, get it working, be dissatisfied with it and tweak it and make it more to my liking. Little did I know that was what I'd be doing for the rest of my life. Fast forward to 1992 where I got GFA Basic also free with ST format and began making games and serious software (art packages, music software, etc). GFA basic lacked gaming chops though - moving sprites around was painfully slow and while I was making some sort of game, they were running at 3 frames per second on single-colour backgrounds and the platforms were sprites because I had no idea background tiling was a thing.

Another year later STOS turned up on an ST Format cover disk. It came with the compiler (which I think came a little later) and a bunch of utilities so I think what I got was a little better than what ST Format reviewed. I had an absolute blast with it and the quality of my output improved dramatically. It wasn't exactly commercial-quality stuff but it did the job and I learned a lot working with it.

While it didn't have much impact on the commercial scene, with only Baby Jo coming out fairly late in the ST's life, STOS was a big factor in the Public Domain scene, unlocking so much creative talent that might have otherwise been wasted. Later AMOS would come to the Amiga, though while its featureset was superior its impact would be lesser - partly a product of coming later in the machine's life. STOS, in my opinion, paved the way for modern tools like Game Maker, Unity, etc.

Back to the games...
Among the previews we find something of a mixed bag, with greatly-lauded games like BAT and Elite mixed in with the oddity that is Battle Chess and the dross that is Spittting Image.

Moving to the reviews, we have a decent selection, but then they tease us by telling us about the games that didn't make it. I know little of Bubble Ghost, Streetfighter 1, Impossible Mission 2, Vixen, Tanglewood and Bermuda Project. The most important bit is that we miss out on Nebulus (aka Tower Toppler). That for me is fucking criminal. I will be reviewing Nebulus because missing it was a travesty. The following games did make it into the magazine:

- Starglider 2 (Space exploration - Rainbird - £24.95 - 95% Format Gold)
- Federation Of Free Traders (Elite clone - Gremlin Graphics [of Lotus Challenge fame] - £29.95 - 85% Format Gold)
- Eliminator (same dev as Nebulus) - Racey shooty thing - Hewson - £19.99 - 70%)
- Vectorball (Sports thingy - Mastertronic [budget label] - £14.95 - 63%)
- Carrier Command (Rainbird - £24.95 - 85% but not apparently a Format Gold) - reviewing the Amiga version
- Hostages (Jerky run and gun - Infrogrames - £24.95 - 78%)
- Starray (Defender clone - Logotron - £24.95 - 79%)
- Summer Olympiad (Olympics knock-off - Tynesoft - £19.95 - 77%)

These are the games I'll be reviewing with reasons for my choice:

Nebulus

This game came with my Atari ST and honestly the moment I saw that tower it absolutely blew me away. It was the moment when my jaw dropped to the floor at something so comprehensively better than anything I'd played before on my old Amstrad. The fact that the game was super-tough but insanely addictive was.. ah but let's not spoil the review.

Starglider 2

Starglider 1 came with my ST I think, and I wasn't enormously enamoured with it, but Starglider 2 seems so highly regarded by fans that I ought to give it a shot.

Carrier Command

I never played this back in the day but it seems so ambitious for its day and on that basis I really should give it a go. I sense that it'll be one that requires a bit of effort to review so it may not be super-quick in turning up.

Summer Olympiad

I never played this, but I did play its predecessor, Winter Olympiad. It was a budget release at the time and I had a blast with it. The graphics were smooth and well-drawn and the gameplay more fun than you might expect, so it's only right that I should give its sequel a try, even if its choice of sports is somewhat eclectic. I reckon I might also cover the prequel briefly just for fun as a bonus.

So - 4 full reviews after 1 full review and a couple of half-reviews. This issue is really a big step up. Likely this is my last big post for this week in this thread but I'll be preparing content through the week and next weekend so hopefully I'll get some reviews up in a reasonable time.

If there's something you'd like me to focus more on, if there's something I'm missing, or if I'm just plain wrong about a game you love, let me know.
 
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hariseldon

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Oh yes! The potato peeling sub level!
That's what I'm talking about, all the those great quirky games. I think North and South, the strategy game based on the American Civil War may have been one of theirs too?
Teenage Queen was a very pleasant pinball game to own when you were a spotty, hormones raging 16 year old lad as well!

I did love my ST, had an Amiga later on (thanks Rumbelows) but my fondest 16-bit home computer memories were on Atari's machine (thanks Silica Shop), even when the games were lacking some of the polish that the Amiga version had.

I think it was probably due in some part to the status that the Atari brand still had a bit of back then, they were sort of Sega to Commodores "Nintendo".
I vaguely recall seeing a review for North and South at some point - my pocket money being limited I didn't invest. On the teenage hormone front I think the big thing I remember was Elvira, if I recall Zero had an interesting cover related to that game.




There's literally no fucking way that would fly now but it was cool. I did buy that issue, but I can't think for the life of me why.
 

Havoc2049

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Cool thread, hariseldon! This issue has some excellent games. Carrier Command and Starglider 2 are classics, although both aren’t really quick pick-up and play type games. Hostages is a guilty pleasure of mine and I put in many hours into it over the years and have finished it numerous times. I can even do a write up for you if you want.


 
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hariseldon

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Cool thread, hariseldon! This issue has some excellent games. Carrier Command and Starglider 2 are classics, although both aren’t really quick pick-up and play type games. Hostages is a guilty pleasure of mine and I put in many hours into it over the years and have finished it numerous times. I can even do a write up for you if you want.


Absolutely if there’s something I’m not covering it’d be cool to have others cover it.
 

Randall365

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Top thread - I got my 520STFM in May 1991. It came bundled with Space Harrier, Outrun and... Carrier Command!

Carrier Command was fun but you could play it for days - or just keep restarting until you spawned next the enemy carrier - go in all guns blazing and victory!
 
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SirTerry-T

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I vaguely recall seeing a review for North and South at some point - my pocket money being limited I didn't invest. On the teenage hormone front I think the big thing I remember was Elvira, if I recall Zero had an interesting cover related to that game.




There's literally no fucking way that would fly now but it was cool. I did buy that issue, but I can't think for the life of me why.
There were a few Elvira games I think. One of them was a pretty decent point and click adventure if I recall.

An earlier post mentioned GFA basic...that triggered a memory from those days. Me and a friend knew a guy who was a bit of a coding whizz, he wrote a great (really great) little graphics package in GFA basic. We took it down to either the Atari Show or Home Computer Show (can't remember exactly) at the Alexandra Palace.

Edit- it was the "Atari User Show"






Anyway we showed it to the GFA guys who were suitably impressed by it enough to give the guy an offer. That was sort of how he got a foot in the door of the business....me and my pal followed him a bit later ;)
 
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hariseldon

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A rare Monday post. We'll see if I get more done in the week this week.

Nebulus

Time to correct a travesty of justice, ST/Amiga Format not reviewing Nebulus.



On Christmas Day 1989, 9-year-old me got a hell of a surprise. There was a bloody big box in some wrapping paper. Being a greedy shit like most kids, I ripped the packaging off and found this beast.



I was absolutely delighted - it looked so cool. So I got it all out of the box and assembled and it looked something like this..



Yes the mouse really was that shite, and you don't even see the god-awful joystick in that picture, but after the Amstrad CPC 464 I'd had up til then this was an absolute beast. And then there was the huge collection of games.



Classics like Afterburner, R-Type, Gauntlet 2, Super Hang-On, Space Harrier, Bomb Jack, Xenon, Double Dragon and Outrun. Lesser known gems like Overlander, Pacmania, Bombuzal, and utter tripe like Super Huey, Predator and Black Lamp. All of them to some degree impressed me when I put the disk in the drive but one game above all made my fucking jaw drop to the floor. That game was Nebulus.


Just fucking look at that. That amazing rotating tower, the reflections, it looks fucking brilliant. It's also fucking hard. That was my first go at the game in bloody ages and the muscle memory was still there, but dear god it's hard. The first level is manageable but the 2nd starts being just bloody vicious.

It has that trial and error nature of 80s platformers, where you have to learn which platforms will suddenly disappear from under you, and it has the need to learn the patterns of enemies etc. 8 levels of absolute vicious bastardry. Oh and a second set of 8 levels that are even more vicious. Seriously it's absolutely vicious, the Dark Souls of 80s platformers.

Urgency is added by the floating balls that come from outside the tower (you can see that in the video at 12 seconds) which means you have to time your moves properly. It gets more frequent as the timer runs down, adding an extra layer of difficulty.

Between levels you get some downtime shooting fish.


Sound is pretty good with a strangely Indian-sounding score in the title screen, though the game itself just has a few sparse effects. It does the job but it's not the star of the show. It's the graphics and the gameplay that do it. This game absolutely hooked me, even though I was bloody awful at it.

Rating:
Still Graphics: N/A (they're never fucking still)
Moving Graphics: 5/5
Soundtrack: 3/5
Lasting Interest: 5/5
Overall: 96% Format Gold

 
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Nitty_Grimes

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The months I spent playing Carrier Command and never once saw the enemy carrier.

I remember it was a good package from Rainbird; cassette of the music, nice manual and stickers in the box. Wonder how much a complete package would be on eBay...
 
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hariseldon

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Will probably tackle Summer Olympiad next before tackling the big ones (Starglider 2 and Carrier Command). I'll likely continue down the slice-of-life path I've been going down so far for bigger games, we'll see how that goes. With my first video addition in the Nebulus post I might do a few more bits but I don't particularly want to make this a video-based thing, I sure as hell don't want to talk on any videos, so they'll be purely to illustrate things if I do them. I'll try to stick to gifs though if possible.
 
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hariseldon

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Summer Olympiad



This is someone else's video - they played it so you don't have to.


In 1988 the Olympics visited the South Korean city of Seoul, and in the best tradition of the late 80s and early 90s, a million cash-in games were released, just as they would be for world cups and european cups. Some might get a license, and would get to call themselves Olympics 88 or World Cup 90 or whatever the event was, but many would have to make do with something almost, but not quite. And so we find outselves at the 1988 Summer Olympiad, with it's not-quite selection of sporting events.



We find ourselves at what appears to be a menu. You might expect to click on the skeet and get to do the skeet, or maybe click the diving to do that. Not so. You must instead click on the tooltip at the bottom, which serves as a start game button. 80s UI at it again.



So, clicking to start we find ourselves at the opening ceremony, one which would surely have made the Olympic lawyers get itchy had the game been good enough or notable enough to attract their attention. Thankfully, it's shit.



You may notice the skeet doesn't appear in the video above. I suspect that this is because the skeet was pulled from the very bowels of Satan himself. First up, if you find that you must play it, then for fuck's sake please use the mouse controls. They are utter shit but the joystick for this event is neither use nor ornament. Do you see that tiny black dot in the top middle area? You have to pilot the sight over that black dot and click the right mouse button. But the dot is moving at insane speeds and the mouse is about as responsive as an arthritic slug on valium. I somehow managed to hit 7, though I'm buggered if I know how.

Winter Olympiad also had a shooting event (actually it was a skiing between points and then shooting event) but the targets were still so the unresponsive controls didn't matter, but here.. what the buggering hell were they thinking?

Moving on we find ourselves at the triple jump. This one in theory shouldn't be too hard. Waggle the joystick to build up speed, press the firebutton before the jump line for the angle to increase and release when ready, before the jump line. The joystick response is however never reliable enough to actually execute the damn jump, rarely even making it to the sand, my best efforts persistently thwarted.

Moving to the fencing and we find once again that the lag between joystick press and on-screen action is such that I may as well be walking through a bucket of treacle, with lead weights tied to my balls, such is the disadvantage I face against my CPU adversary. This is not fun.

The diving is almost fun - the controls do at least make some kind of sense though I can't quite fathom the scoring - it's unclear what is expected of me but apparently I score well on tumble and entry, but 0 on pike.

Finally we have the hurdles. Waggle the stick to run and fire to jump. Simple enough. The 3D-ish graphics are pretty decent, though they do mean facing off against only 3 runners in a curious best of 3, but it works well enough, even if jumping is a little imprecise.

To check whether Winter Olympiad was as good as I remembered I decided to fire it up for comparison. First up, some sensible UI choices. It asks how many players and then lets you type names in, instead of considering an empty name to mean that you don't want to add any more. It lets you choose which events you want to participate in too. Good start. Music is jolly, chiptune rubbish but still jolly.

The downhill skiing is as bad as I remember. While graphically a delight, your skiier gets in the way so you can't see the damn obstacles, leaving me wondering why they didn't take the approach used by Seconds Out, of having a wireframe see-through character. There is a small 'first-person' view but that is neither use nor ornament.

The ski jump is still fun - fire to start, fire to jump off the end of the ramp, then up and down to straighten your skis while left and right lean your skiier as you seek to go as far as possible without crashing. Graphics are decent and it's generally fun. The biathalon is up next, as you ski from point to point, with each stop seeing you shoot at 5 (thankfully stationary) targets. It looks gorgeous and the controls are responsive.

Slalom controls well and looks decent enough as you scroll through its isometric wilderness, but I feel the difficulty is a little misjudged with some of the gates places in impossible positions. Playtesting wasn't big in the 80s. They save the best for last though with the bob sled. This is a fast-paced 3D 3rd person battle with physics as you manoevre your sled trying to keep it in the pipe through sharp turns that push you up over the edge. It's fantastic fun, even to this day, and what's more worrying is that I even remember the damn course having not played it in years.

All this begs the question, why is there such a gap in quality between the two games? For me, it's night and day, the difference is enormous and mostly driven by responsiveness of controls. Winter Olympiad is the vastly superior game and for the life of me I can't figure out how Summer Olympiad scored as well as it did in ST/Amiga Format.
 

hariseldon

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Starglider 2

When I first got my Atari ST, it came with Starglider 1, which had the absolutely fantastic theme music when it loaded (see video below), and an absolutely gorgeous bit of art on the loading screen.


The game however was a bit of a disappointment, wireframe graphics just didn't do it for me. Enter Starglider 2, correcting that issue. Loading Starglider 2 we get the loading screen which is somewhat less fun than Starglider 1, and lacks music - such a shame when the Amiga got this:


Of course the Atari ST's problems with audio are well-documented, it struggled with samples, but it can do them, as evidenced by Starglider 1, Xenon 2, Speedball 2, Mega Lo Mania, etc all of which used samples in wonderfully creative ways. Maybe the issue was one of RAM or disk space.

On loading, the game dumps you into an abstract 3D world where the floor is chequered to give the illusion of movement and I guess there are buildings on the ground though it's hard to identify them as such. I managed to get into space and shoot some pirates which was reasonable fun but it became abundantly clear that I was missing something - after all there had to be more to the hype than just a space shooter. I had another look at the ST Format review (this is from the days when the gaming press was made up of enthusiasts who could actually bring you useful information) confirmed this - it seems I needed to get 15 parts of a bomb to blow up the bad guy, as well as finding underground arms depots to get the weapons needed to destroy ground targets, which seemed to involve tunnels. It seems I needed to do a bit more research - my modern gaming ways of expecting arrows and in-world exposition perhaps failing me. Looking further, at a walkthrough (don't hate me - just wanted to get some pointers on where to start) it seems there is an expectation that I read the novella as that gives some indication of what to do. Right.. back in a couple of weeks.

[reads 'novella' with clear attempted imitation of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams - to be fair it's not as bad as I was expecting and raised a few chuckles - some lines like "The dignity of the stranger's bearing was eclipsed by the twin companions of defeat and despair mirrored in his large, brown eyes" - who writes that shit? - so the naughty Egrons want to build a beam in the Solice system using a magnetic planet with some moons forming some kind of defence... ]

Things I learned from the novella:

Planets: We've got Dante (think Mercury), Vista (think Venus), Apogee (admin centre - think Earth) with two moons Enos and Castron, then an asteroid belt, then Millway the big gas giant with seven moons, and finally Aldos with it's magnetic moon Q-Beta - the magnet which would drive the beam that would blow up Noveria.

Looks like they're building defences on each of the 7 Millway moons so I'll need to take those out.
Landing on Apogee I need to find underground depots to pick up supplies for my barely-armed ship. Only Apogee will have the technical ability to build the big weapon needed to take out the big bad.
Go to the inner worlds first, keep the hell away from Millway and Q-Beta for now, seems like a sensible plan.
I need minerals from Dante, nodules are apparently lying on the surface. That'll get me lasers. Cool.
Castron supplies food, and they need wood from Enos.
Refuelling is done by breaking up asteroids, or by using the towers on Castron's surface, or hovering over Dante's volcanoes.
We need to capture a professor on Broadway, one of Millway's moons.
I need to keep battering their defences until the bomb is ready - slow up enemy construction.

So.. lots of exposition, lots of useful information, certainly a different way of delivering that info than I'm used to but now hopefully I am armed with the required knowledge to play the game.

Back To The Game
First try: I land on Apogee and scan the ground looking for a tunnel. No luck. Searching some more I find some power lines which maybe I could use to fuel up. Tried and failed, they seem to be more a perimeter fence unless I'm missing something. A further wander and I find a walker. It kills me, though I'm not entirely sure how. Rating: Dead so soon. Let's try again.

Second try: I spot a ship coming out of the top of a building - I wonder.. I aim for it and finally enter my first tunnel. Let's see where this leads.



Eventually I find myself in an empty room but happen to spot the text at the bottom of the screen - looks like someone's communicating with me. Asking if I'd like to build a neutron bomb. I reply yes obviously. I need to supply a case of nuclear material, a lump of mineral rock (Dante), a crate of castrobars (food - from Castron), a cask of Vistian wine (planet 2), an Egron mini rocket (no idea how to get that), an asteroid (oookay), a flat diamond, a cluster of nodules, and the aforementioned professor holed up on Broadway. I finally escape the tunnels (slow, jerky and not much fun) and head out into space.



Ahead we see the 2nd planet Vista and just behind it is Dante, which is where I want to go.



Making it to Dante I decide to perform the volcano refueling trick. I die - though it's not entirely clear whether the volcano is responsible. Let's go back to a save en-route to Dante.

Once again, I line up Dante, descend to the planet's surface with a brief period of confusion as a pirate shoots me with something that reverses the controls, but once again fall foul of whatever it bloody is that is killing me.

In the end my patience just wasn't there for this one. I wanted to like it, but ultimately it's a shooter with a few bits tacked on and it never creates a feeling of a real living world in the way that the Elite games of Damocles and Mercenary 3 managed to do. In a way, the problem is reminiscent of the comparison between Bioshock Infinite and System Shock 2, where one is just a shooting gallery with the trappings of story attached and the other is an immersive world that feels like a believable space.
 

hariseldon

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Thread Update
I've gone through and made some quality of life improvements to the thread.

1. At the top we now have an index linking to each game and magazine issue reviewed in the thread - if anyone else makes a review in the thread I'll add it to the index under the appropriate STAF/STF issue.
2. I've linked to downloads for each magazine issue in the heading for that post.
3. I've added a HariSeldon Gold award for games I reckon I'll come back to after all this is done. Big and bold, easy to spot.



Why So Slow?
A little bit of explanation on why these are taking so long. For each game I will obtain the disk image and get it working as best I can, and if it's something straightforward like a platformer I'll just crack on. However, some games are more complicated and require a bit more investigation. This takes some time - for example Starglider 2 required me to read https://classicreload.com/sites/default/files/starglider2_novella.pdf which isn't a 10 minute read. Manuals and novellas are often difficult to source so even getting hold of this stuff can be a challenge, let alone taking time to actually digest it. It's also worth noting that we're currently in a period that I'm not enormously familiar with - my ST years were a bit later, about 1990-1994ish - so there's a lot that I've not played before. Later the games will get more complex but there'll be a greater chance I've already got some experience and knowledge. On top of this I'm trying to get a good variety of content, so I'm playing games in genres that aren't my usual bag in many cases. Typically, each review takes me a few hours of time to get everything together, play a representative chunk of the game and put some words down (the quickest and easiest bit).

I do hope that this is of some interest to someone out there, certainly I'm having fun with it so hopefully others are too.
 
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Havoc2049

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In Hostages (released as Operation Jupiter in France and Hostage: Rescue Mission in North America), terrorists have taken control of the embassy and taken hostages! As the leader of an elite six man Special Operations Group, it is your job to infiltrate the embassy, free the hostages, eliminate the terrorist threat and lead your team to victory!

Awesome fan made trailer of Hostages and it’s sequel, Alcatraz.

Hostages is an action/tactical military sim and plays somewhat like a simplified 16-bit version of the original Rainbow Six. It was released by Infograms in 1988 in Europe, with the Amiga and ST as the lead platforms and ported to other platforms and territories over the next several years, with Mindscape handling the publishing in North America. The scenario in Hostages is even somewhat similar to the very first mission in the original Rainbow Six.

Hostages consists of three separate segments and each one has a different gameplay mechanic. Depending on the difficulty level, player skill and how carefully you play, the whole game can be completed in 15-30 minutes.

The first part of Hostages consists of placing three snipers on each side of the Embassy, so that they can eventually provide cover for the three man infiltration team. This part is a side scrolling stealth game where you need to avoid the terrorist spotlights. You can run, low crawl, dive roll and jump into the background, into windows, behind walls, doorways, etc, as you get your sniper team into position. If one of your team members gets caught in a spotlight, there is a chance they will be shot by the terrorists. Even with the better joysticks for the ST and Amiga, control wasn’t always as tight as you would want in this segment and sometimes your commando will dive and roll when you want him to low crawl or vice versa and it can sometimes lead to a frustrating death of one of your team members.

The second part of Hostages begins with your infiltration team fast roping from a helicopter onto the roof of the three story embassy. Most of this is shown from the snipers point of view and also an overhead map view of the embassy. You use the F1-F6 keys to switch control to each one of your snipers or infiltration team members, as they repel down the side of the embassy. If a tango shows up as a shadow in a window as an infiltration team member is repelling down the embassy, you can quickly switch to a sniper and and take out the terrorist. There is also a chance that it could be a hostage shadow in the window, so it’s to your advantage to get you infiltration team into the embassy as quickly as possible, to give you intel on the location of terrorists and hostages before your sniper starts shooting.

And thus begins the final stage of Hostages, which consists of an overhead map of the floor your infiltration team member is on, along with a tile based movement first person shooter view while in the hallways or an over the shoulder view while in rooms. There is a safe room up on the third floor of the embassy and it is up to the player on whether they want to lead all the hostages up to the safe room, kill all the terrorists or a combination of the two to complete the game. The location of the terrorists and hostages is randomly generated, so it is never the same game twice. It’s kinda weird switching between FPS and over the shoulder views, but the graphics look nice and the controls work fairly well and it all comes together for an enjoyable and tense experience.

Once either the hostages are saved or terrorists eliminated, the game ends with a newspaper headline and has multiple outcomes when completed, from complete failure to complete success and if you lose some team members, hostages get killed or you don’t complete the mission in a timely manner, anywhere in between.

Due to the randomly generated aspects of the game, various difficulty levels and how quickly the game can be completed, replay value is fairly high if you enjoy the game. While it is nothing epic, Hostages is definitely worth looking into and experience one of the earliest tactical military/police shooters out there.
 
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Stiflers Mom

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Nice, I played most of these games as well back in the late 80ies....

my impressions:
* Sentinel is actually a really clever puzzlish game, once you figure out what to do.
* It was fun to mess around in Corruption, but once I saw a walkthrough, I was disappointed I wasn't even near solving the game in any way, even after a week of trying almost any possible shit. That time mechanic in the game was innovative but flawed.
* Captain Blood is such a special experience. Kind of interesting, but ultimately flawed.
 
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hariseldon

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Nice, I played most of these games as well back in the late 80ies....

my impressions:
* Sentinel is actually a really clever puzzlish game, once you figure out what to do.
* It was fun to mess around in Corruption, but once I saw a walkthrough, I was disappointed I wasn't even near solving the game in any way, even after a week of trying almost any possible shit. That time mechanic in the game was innovative but flawed.
* Captain Blood is such a special experience. Kind of interesting, but ultimately flawed.
I agree that Sentinel is super-cool. I'm planning to come back to it once I've done this as it did rather impress me. It does also make me wonder if I should check out Tower Of Babel at some point - I believe we get to that in 1989 so I'll probably give that one a spin.

Captain Blood is a brilliant gem of an idea, no doubt about it. It is undoubtedly flawed though I wonder if perhaps I needed to do something akin to what I did with Starglider 2 and read a novella or something like that. Either that or perhaps paid more attention to the alien races section at the end of the manual (http://www.classicamiga.com/images/stories/jreviews/games/C/manuals/captain_blood[manual][scan].pdf) as I suspect that might have given me a better idea of what to do. I have a feeling that I may come back to it at some point.

Re the time mechanic in Corruption - it bears some resemblance to the way characters aren't rooted to the spot in Revolution's graphical adventures such as Lure Of The Temptress, but I suspect perhaps bears closer resemblance to Cruise For A Corpse where the clock advances for each clue you solve. Cruise had a better approach by advancing time when you complete a key action though rather than just for every move - that is, I suspect, the big flaw - one repeated I believe in The Last Express. I enjoyed it though and would love to dive back in at some point and see if I can get any further, though I suspect I may need a walkthrough given my shrivelled ancient brain can't really hack it anymore!
 

Stiflers Mom

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Captain Blood is a brilliant gem of an idea, no doubt about it. It is undoubtedly flawed though I wonder if perhaps I needed to do something akin to what I did with Starglider 2 and read a novella or something like that. Either that or perhaps paid more attention to the alien races section at the end of the manual
Yeah, a whole lot of these games made a lot more sense when you read the novella.
Especially Starglider 2. I remember this being my first "No mans Sky" :D.
I was just flying around and watching the landscape. It was amazing. But I didn't have any idea what I was supposed to do.
I read the novella last year, and it all became clear to me, suddenly.

Re the time mechanic in Corruption - it bears some resemblance to the way characters aren't rooted to the spot in Revolution's graphical adventures such as Lure Of The Temptress,.......
My impression was, that you were supposed to be at certain places at certain points of time. No idea how that was supposed to work out, since it's almost impossible to do everything in the right order by chance. I don't remember the game giving you hints about that either.

I loved the game's atmosphere, anyway, and it's weirdly enough one of my favourite gaming memories on the Amiga.
 
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hariseldon

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Issue 5 - Download


Wait.. what about Carrier Command?
To be honest I just couldn't get anything interesting out of it, struggling to find the motivation for it and honestly what I was writing was just utter shit. Better to leave it to someone else than do a shit job of it.

The World in October 1988

Musically it was a mixed month. Erasure had A Little Respect, Kim Wilde didn't trust strangers and Womack And Womack were still in the top 10 but the rest of the top 10 singles were awful. In the albums the Pet Shop Boys released one of their weaker 80s efforts, Kylie clung on, and the rest was absolute dirge. Films were better, Good Morning Vietnam with Robin Williams at his best, Buster (not cool to admit liking it but I do so tough titties), and the wonderful Beetlejuice still clinging on.

Previews
This month's previews were a mixed bag. You had some things I've never heard of like Lords Of The Rising Sun, Pioneer Plague and Dragon Slayer, then you have Rocket Ranger which I only know of by name. Finally we have Afterburner and Pacmania which both came with my ST and were reasonably solid (I'd rate Pacmania above Afterburner), Falcon which I've played a little of later versions on PC, and a preview for the wonderful Damocles which would eventually appear in August 1990 - one of the greatest games ever made and you can see a bit more about it at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-damocles-mercenary-ii_9951.html but rest assured I'll be giving it a full write-up because it's a game I adore.

Reviews
Without a teaser on the missed games (just a moan at the Royal Mail being shite, which in the 80s they really were as competition wasn't a thing), we find ourselves with 10 games reviewed:

- Menace (Shooter - Psygnosis - £24.95 - 90% Format Gold) - distinctly 8-bit looking with limited colours. Big sprites but not very smooth, doesn't seem to bring anything new to the genre.
- Fusion (Shooter - Bullfrog/EA - £24.95 - 82%) - Bullfrog hadn't yet hit their creative stride - this slow jerky shooter bears a passing resemblance to Xenon 1 (which isn't a compliment) but without the smoothness.
- POW (Operation Wolf clone - US Action - £29.95 - 84%) - Claims ST version imminent but I've not been able to find any sign of it on the internet so assuming Amiga-only. From Youtube the shooting looks somewhat better than Summer Olympiad!
- Powerplay (Pub Quiz Game - Arcana - £19.95 - 55%) - Christ they must have been desperate to review this shit.
- Luxor (Run and Gun - Paradox - £14.95 - 60%) - Play Turrican instead
- Stargoose (Shooter - Logotron - £19.95 - 68%) - Came with my ST - it's ok.
- Elite (You fucking know what Elite is - Firebird - £24.95 - 75%)
- Veteran (Another Operation Wolf Clone - Software Horizons - £14.95 - 60%)
- Operation Neptune (Underwater shoot-em-up - Infogrames - £24.95 - 70%)
- Super Hang-On (Bike racer arcade conversion - Electric Dreams - £19.99 - 65%) - criminally underrated
- Netherworld (Shooter - Hewson - £19.95 - 64% [60% for ST version as it's shit])

Slim pickings this month but I think I'll probably review Stargoose and Super Hang-On because I know them well, and Elite because I never got to play Elite 2 on the ST and only played Elite Dangerous on the PC (which was shite).
 

hariseldon

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Star Goose

Star Goose came with my Atari ST in the Power Pack, one of a huge selection of games. While not as big a personal hit as Nebulus, I did enjoy it at the time and it's good to revisit and see how it's aged.



ST Format Review
Before I start my review, here'e ST Format's take on the game.



My Review
My copy as a kid came without a manual (you can see the little cards for each game at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-power-pack_21792.html if you're curious).



As a kid I somehow missed the fact that alt controlled the left missile and caps lock controlled the right. As a kid I was a fucking idiot.

So, this time I thought it might be nice to actually read the manual. https://www.gamesdatabase.org/Media/SYSTEM/Commodore_Amiga/Manual/formated/Star_Goose_-_1988_-_Logotron_Entertainment.pdf if you fancy it, it's not a super-long read but it's a remarkable amount of effort for a fairly bog-standard shooter. Whoever wrote it is clearly a fan of Red Dwarf, even going as far as to name the ship's captain Scouser-Gitt. With a cheeky 4th-wall breaking bit about scrolling other planets blasting shit out of everything it's a cheeky attempt at 80s British humour and strangely endearing. I can't say I learned a huge amount about the game, other than the fucking keys I missed as a stupid fucking kid, but I will continue to read the manual first to reduce idiocy. This is important.

So, to the game. I insert the disk, enjoy the nostalgic glow of that crunchy floppy drive sound, and wait for the title screen.



What I get is actually quite a nice little animation, with the smaller ship dropping from bay doors on the bigger ship. I press fire and I'm thrown straight into the action. This shooter is a tad different to the average as it turns out, with a couple of seldom-seen features.

First up, and most obvious, is the terrain. It has height. If you shoot from down low and there's a mountain in front of you, your lasers will simply go into the side of the mountain instead of hitting whatever's on top, and this is because you're on the ground, not flying above it like most shooters. Additionally, sometimes the terrain stops and while it's not visually obvious that you're going over something lethal, your death soon makes that clear and you don't make the same mistake again. This adds to the challenge no doubt, but I'm not sure it's that big a deal beyond being a nice bullet point on the back of the box and a nice challenge for the programmers. It looks cool though. To get around this problem, if you have a mountain between you and a big threat, you can use a missile, but of course you have a limited supply.

That brings me to another unusual feature. Ammo is limited. I can't remember the last time I saw that in a vertical shooter. I discovered this at about the same time I discovered that holding down fire would autofire (unusual for the time - why do you think joysticks with autofire switches were so popular?). Autofire is rapid, and will drain your ammo fast. And then you're a sitting duck (goose surely).



Luckily there are ways to collect fuel, ammo and shield energy. Scattered through the level are coloured blobs corresponding to the colour of each meter. Additionally, there are tunnels which allow you to top up fuel and ammo.




The refuelling minigame requires use of momentup to get up the walls to catch the pods - so like a swing you go left, then right, then left to get higher up the walls, until you can get what you want. Of course if you speed up you can get more swing, but it also becomes harder to catch the pods.

Overall and the graphics aren't bad for this stage in the ST's development (not as smooth as some later games but overall decent enough). Sound is the usual warbly chiptune, not particularly memorable and you do at least have the option of turning it off if you really hate it.

There are some nice ideas, but it is a bit basic, and a lot of the 'challenge' is more to do with not being able to see far enough ahead due to being in too close to the action, and poor signposting, than it is to do with the scarcity or the terrain itself. I do consider that the game has something to teach in terms of game design however - if you're learning to make games this might be a good second step after your first vertical shooter.