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The ST Format Challenge

Havoc2049

Member
Mar 30, 2011
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Great review of Midwinter. I’ll definitely have to check it out. It’s nice you are getting to some better computer games, after slogging through craptastic arcade conversions and developers trying to chase the console crowd with crappy action console style games, which are great on consoles, but were usually crap on computers back then.

Dragon’s Breath is a solid strategy game with a few action segments and great graphics. The dragon breeding is a little complicated at first, but cool once you get it down.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Great review of Midwinter. I’ll definitely have to check it out. It’s nice you are getting to some better computer games, after slogging through craptastic arcade conversions and developers trying to chase the console crowd with crappy action console style games, which are great on consoles, but were usually crap on computers back then.

Dragon’s Breath is a solid strategy game with a few action segments and great graphics. The dragon breeding is a little complicated at first, but cool once you get it down.
Yeah we’re heading into more my turf now. Midwinter is amazing provided you get past the controls. Re Dragons Breath I can’t wait to give it a try, seems like an insanely ambitious thing and also something that doesn’t have a modern equivalent.
 
H

hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Castle Master


ST Format Feature (previous issue)




ST Format Review



My Review



For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04. On this occasion I've chosen Automation 247. This is another very simple intro - a nice digitised image, scrolly text and some actually quite decent music. On to the game.



So we get a castle with an animated dragon, and then we get to choose whether a knight is rescuing a princess or the other way around. You can guess which I chose.






Controls are... interesting.






So, I arrive outside the castle. Let's see what awaits. As you can see, the geometry is far simpler than in Midwinter, though perhaps having a flat floor isn't such a bad thing.



Somehow I remembered that to open the drawbridge one must throw a rock at the black button on the left. I think I saw it in the ST Format review or something. Anyway, onwards.



So I have to time my way past the brown block that's going up and down. Just a brief word on technicals - sound is reasonable enough with simple spot effects but the frame rate is probably worse than Midwinter.






A quick wander into the courtyard and then into one of the.. I want to say tents.. takes me into a room where what I think is a bat attacks me. I throw some rocks at it. On vanquishing the best I find a really shit key.



Is that a horse?

So following adventure logic I click on everything (right-click does actions, left click throws rocks) and I find a key in the well in the courtyard, so I now have two keys. Time to find some more places of interest.






I enter the South East tower - let's see what I find. The first door needs a key I don't have but the second opens.



So I'm in the kitchen and it does actually look like a kitchen. Cheese on the table, a pot boiling in the fireplace. I'll eat the cheese and see if it kills me. It doesn't. There's a key hung up in the room which I assume will unlock the room next door. This theory proves correct and I enter.



So I think this thing wants to kill me. There's no RPG levelling up, no weapons, so I presume throwing rocks will eventually kill it. This does not work. I escape and make my way to the door at the end of the corridor.



I find myself in a plain corridor and there's a sign on the wall. Right-clicking reveals this. Most of the signs seem to be similarly unhelpful. Following the path takes me back to the gatehouse and then back to the courtyard. Time to try another door.



I arrive in the chapel, which seemed to feature in a lot of review screenshots. Other than some cheese on the floor there's not much to it.

If you want to see someone more skillful than me playing have a look at this walkthrough.


Overall it's a fairly basic game, still rooted in 8-bit gaming. Not a bad game but I think the limitations of Freescape were beginning to show and I think they were probably right to finally milk it with the 3D construction kit and move on.
 
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Nitty_Grimes

Member
Aug 4, 2015
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Working on normal connection for me. Out of interest, what VPN do you use I’m thinking of investing.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Working on normal connection for me. Out of interest, what VPN do you use I’m thinking of investing.

NordVPN. Seems solid enough. I mainly use it so I can maintain some privacy on corporate wifi etc.
 
H

hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Dragon's Breath


ST Format Review




My Review





For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 - I'm not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won't let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On this occasion I've chosen Automation 300. This intro isn't hugely exciting, a picture of some boozy pirates, some terrible chip music, a scroller. Very low-effort.




So, we get the logo, then some scrolly text with a nice wibbly reflection at the bottom while some awful chip music warbles on.




Before I go any further it seems wise to discuss what the game is. So it's not your usual hack and slash or shooter or whatever else. Dragon's Breath is a strategy game. Your objective is to find 3 pieces of a McGuffin for reasons I really won't bore you with (the story is dull as dishwater). To do this, you need to get one of your dragons guarding each of the 3 pieces in different towns and villages on the map.

This means that you need dragons. In this case you need to hatch them from eggs, and you need to make them as strong as you can. You do this by cooking them slower on a lower heat. Cooking dragon eggs costs money, which you collect in taxes from towns and villages under your rule. You will need to capture towns with your dragons and search those towns for the McGuffin - capturing towns also generates cash. There's a spell book with which one can cast spells on the eggs, the hatched dragons, my towns, and the enemy.





So, to the game. I get to pick one of three characters, I'll be lazy and pick the bloke on the left. I'm not sure it makes much difference but Greta Thunberg on the right is scary. Interestingly it looks as though there's some palette-splitting going on here as moving the mouse below a certain point changes its colour to red.





So I arrive at a map. This is the world. I click on my character's portrait and begin.




This is where the magic happens. The icon row at the bottom is important. There's a picture of me, but that doesn't do anything just yet. Next a return to the map screen, then an icon to check my dragon collection, with only one dragon currently available.




Mousing over different bits of the dragon reveals different statistics. It's pretty of course but I'd prefer a straightforward table. This dragon is a bit short on eyesight, wisdom and strength, but at least he's healthy. Nothing a good spell can't fix.




Next up is the eggs screen. Continuing a theme of gorgeous pixel artwork wasted on a poor UI it's not immediately clear why there are different-coloured eggs, nor does the manual explain anything useful. I eventually figure out click an egg then click the empty space in the middle to get the egg ready. I click and drag the valve on the right to what I think is minimum heat as that leads to stronger dragons (though for the life of me I can't remember where I read that). I do the same for all 4 eggs so I have a set of fearsome dragons ready to cause chaos.




Clicking from the egg screen to the spell screen via the crystal ball icon gets me here. I'd like stronger dragons. This will require that I decypher the spell book. Ingredients are on the shelves and mousing over them reveals their contents. There are 3 tools, from left to right: Cutting, grinding, mixing and adding unaltered. There's also a bunsen burner (which will be familiar to anyone who hated chemistry lessons at school). There's a condenser on the right. You can adjust the flame and the condenser using knobs nearby. Between that and the different ingredient types, it seems that spells will have quite a few possible combinations.

Reading the shelf and cross-referencing with the book, it seems I have Acrus (a power modifier), Churl (has power over the mind), Tius (directs spells at humans and villages), Rasqon (directs spells at dragons), Ceeocor (directs spells at eggs), Magoem (also directs spells at eggs but be careful of side-effects), Igele (negative mind/sense), Ulin (see Tius), Haloros (mind control), Mionacal (not clear what it does), Arolig (improves flight at a cost to strength) and Oreganse (growth).

I want to get a better egg so I'll use Ceeocor as director, Ulin to improve eyesight and mind at a cost to power and growth, and Oreganse to try to counter the negative effects. This is definitely a game where you'll want your notebook to scribble out spells to re-use them. The Ceeocor must be mixed with no bunsen or condenser, Ulin will be added with the condenser and Oreganse will be ground and burned. That took a while... And there's no feedback on whether or not it had any effect.




Looking at the books is revealing. I have some money, not enough frankly, and there's a trader waiting for me.




Clicking the door in the main menu brings me a trader selling spell ingredients, but at this point funds are tight and I'm not sure the ingredients actually do much.




Back in the book I can check out gossip. Not sure how much help that is - maybe the full game had a proper paper map or something.




A quick look at the map and I find a village I might like to check out. Let's send my dragon there.




More zeal improves your chance of capturing the square but at a cost to your dragon's health. I'll use the minimum zeal. I need to wait a game month to see if it was successful.




It turns out I only chose raid rather than capture. Let's try that again.




So I've captured a village, fantastic. I'm going to hike the tax. I have a dragon so they can bite my shiny metal ass. Gotta wait for my 4 eggs to hatch before I can do anymore work.




Looks like my finances are dire. More tax needed.




The enemy is camped in my back yard. I am NOT happy. Still waiting for dragons. The books are finally balanced and a healthy profit coming in so I can hopefully get somewhere once my dragons are ready.




I've lost my village! Nooooo! So.. no village, no tax money and currently no dragons. This isn't going well.




My dragon hatches, but then my dragon in the village where he was overthrown gets killed by the enemy's dragon.. what? Even worse, that animation wasn't MY dragon hatching, it was someone else's. For fuck's sake.




And I'm fucked.




Someone got their dragon killed.

In the end though, I have no money, no villages and no dragons. I'm fucked.

So, the game.. is it any good? Well it's no Midwinter. It's not bad, and things like the spell system make it seem very deep, but it's really quite shallow in that really you're just trying to build units to attack and balance a budget. The magic, in truth, is mostly hampered by an arcane interface and an awful manual - it would possibly feel less deep with a proper interface (even something as simple as previewing the effect of each action before committing to it) but it would be a lot more manageable for my modern sensibilities. As it is, it feels like the magic is padding a game that isn't as deep as it likes to think it is.

Graphics are mostly static, and they're pretty, but the shots shown in magazines were deceptive and conjured something in my 10-year-old imagination that the game couldn't deliver. Sound consists of awful chip music.

In the end, there are better games doing similar things - I'd much rather play Powermonger or Mega Lo Mania if I want to fight battles.

Resources
Manual: http://www.replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.3073
Spells: http://www.replacementdocs.com/download.php?view.3075
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
So issue 10 was interesting. There were certainly other games I could have reviewed that would have been of interest to someone. Space Ace and Escape from... might have been interesting, as could Kid Gloves, but in the end I had to narrow down to a smaller selection of games so I can make my way through this at something approaching a sensible pace. Issue 11 is one I didn't have, it's a quieter one with really the main interest coming from Resolution 101 and Player Manager, plus the remarkable sight of the utterly awful Codemasters Italia 90 game getting 60% for a game where you could walk up the pitch in a straight line and score every fucking time (as discussed earlier in this thread).
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
ST Format Issue 11 - Download


The World in May 1990
In the UK the new version of the Rover Metro came out. It was a shitbox.



In almost-as-bad news, inflation hit an insane 9.4%, compared to the more typical 2% of the last decade. Bobby Robson announced the coming World Cup would be his last. It would be glorious and he would go from a figure of tabloid hate to a national hero. France, always the pricks, banned British beef due to BSE fears, while John Gummer (agriculture minister) fed a hamburger to his 5-year-old daughter for a photo opportunity.

In US news the US and the Soviet Union agreed to end production of chemical weapons. More importantly, Microsoft released Windows 3.0.



Elsewhere in the world Latvia declared independence from the USSR, the WHO removed homosexuality from its list of diseases, and Burma elected Aung San Suu Kyi in a landslide but the result was nullified. The world would bang on about the injustice and then hand her the Nobel Peace Prize before she turned to the dark side as the recipients so often do.

On TV we had the debut of Vic Reeves Big Night Out and err... that's about it.

The film charts are mixed. The Hunt For Red October is at #1, followed by Nuns On The Run with Eric Idle in drag, oh I'll say it, it's a shit chart.

The album chart still has the Carpenters at #1, with Phil Collins still at #2. UB40 were shit. It's a really shit chart.

The singles chart is a relief, with the wonderful Killer by Adamski (later credited to Seal) at #1. I quite like Kylie's Better The Devil You Know at #2 - it's good old fashioned cheery pop music and insanely catchy - Kylie was an absolute goddess. Dirty Cash by The Adventures of Stevie V at #3 is a brilliant song. Opposites Attract with Paula Abdul and the cartoon cat is better than it should be, while Beats International round out the top 10. The singles charts saved us from terminal shitness.


The Magazine
Issue 11 came out in May 1990, and was another issue I didn't purchase. I would soon get more regular. The cover feature is on the topic of piracy, which was a big problem in those days. There's a bit of racial stereotyping which we wouldn't get away with today (especially given most other covers feature white people).

In the news, awkwardly Atari were getting fingered for piracy in Taiwan. There was an advert of sorts for Compuserv, charging £13 an hour to dial up, no doubt in addition to standard phone charges. News was otherwise quiet.

The piracy feature details how the small ads in many magazines featured warez dealers looking to make contact with gamers to supply games they'd downloaded from BBSs. It was apparently a big problem but not one I had much experience with. It's a worthwhile read though I'm not sure how real the interview with an 'ex-hacker' is.

There's also quite a big feature on comms - I wonder if BBSs will become a big thing... Maybe if they linked them all up into one big BBS that might work. I'll bet anyone here £5 that at least one of the featured BBSs were engaged in distributing pirated software.

The cover disk features a demo of Resolution 101 but that couldn't possibly have influenced the review score, could it.

Previews
We have a preview for F-19 Stealth Fighter with a shockingly shit screenshot considering how good the game actually is (oops, spoiler). We also get some pretty screens from Wonderland, and a brief mention for Paradroid 90. Hewson never quite managed to make the shift to 16-bit as they never really embraced the change of gameplay styles. We get a screen from Dynasty Wars which seems a reasonably interesting beat em up, while Projectyle is a future sports game I've never heard of. There's a big preview for Imperium but in truth it's not a game that held much appeal for me.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Resolution 101 (3D War On Drugs - Logotron - £24.95 - 93% Format Gold)
Klax (Puzzle - Domark - £19.99 - 87%)
Theme Park Mystery (Multi-game - Mirrorsoft - £24.99 - 80%)
Starflight (Space Sim - EA - £24.95 - 70%)
Player Manager (Kick-Off with a management game attached - Anco - £19.95 - 93% Format Gold)
Italia 90 (Worst football game ever - Codemasters - £4.99 [and not even worth that] - 60%)
Soccer Glory (Football management - Tanglewood - £19.95 - 29%)
Manchester United (Football - Krisalis - £24.95 - 60%)
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (Football - Audiogenic - £19.99 - 75%)
Fire And Brimstone (Ghouls n Ghosts clone - Microprose - £24.95 - 84%)
Frontline (War game - Cases Computer Simulations - £19.99 - 49%)
Pinball Magic (Chess - US Gold - £19.95 - 71%)
Warhead (Shit space game - Activision - £24.99 - 90% Format Gold)
Infestation (3D Rentokil In Space - Psygnosis - £24.95 - 69%)
A Dark Sky Over Paradise (Adventure - Interactive Technology - £7.95 - 63%)

Of those, the ones that interest me most are Resolution 101, Theme Park Mystery, Player Manager (which I played to death as a kid) and possibly Infestation. I'm also going to have a look at Super Cars 1 - it was never covered in ST Format but appeared in Ace around this time so it seems appropriate.

For those playing along at home, I'll be sourcing pirated releases from my TOSEC collection. Here's a list of releases, likely you'll also find decent releases at AtariMania.
- Resolution 101 - Automation 293, Flames Of Finland 26, SuperGAU 341, Medway Boys 74, Pompey Pirates 39, Vectronix 848, D-Bug 186
- Theme Park Mystery - Automation 357, Flames Of Finland 22, Vectronix 544
- Player Manager - Automation 331, SuperGAU 332, Pompey Pirates 25, Vectronix 143/893
- Infestation - Automation 269, Flames of Finland 4, SuperGAU 157, Pompey Pirates 29, Vectronix 628
- Super Cars - Automation 229, Fuzion 18, SuperGAU 332, Pompey Pirates 27, Vectronix 408
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Infestation


ST Format Review


My Review



For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 - I'm not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won't let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On this occasion I've chosen the Automation release here but the menus were both kinda cool in there own ways so here they both are. Automation had the better music.










The intro is undeniably pretty, with obvious parallels to the intro for Shadow Of The Beast in terms of animation style and smoothness.



Another loading screen...

And then the game.. honestly I couldn't make head nor tail of what I was supposed to do and I couldn't find a manual online. 3D stuff going on, I pressed buttons, wiggled the joystick, nothing happened. Bollocks to that. Sorry, this one isn't worth the effort.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Theme Park Mystery


ST Format Review



My Review

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 - I'm not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won't let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On this occasion I've chosen the FOF release which opens with an acknowledgement of my STE and some cool tracker music.



The game opens with a fun intro, some cool sampled music as elements add to form the final picture.

I had a quick look at the manual to see what the controls are.. nope, there's no clue on how to play the fucking game.


So it turns out the controls are a mix of joystick and mouse. I use the joystick to walk up to the first item on the right, a crystal ball.


Nope, nothing doing here.


I retrieve some tokens, put a token in the slot, nothing happens. I click everything, to no avail.


Oh good, one of those claw machines. Animating at 1 frame per second with only a button to grab, no controls to determine where to go, this is not fun.

I'll just put this one in the pile of "what the fuck were they thinking?". There were some truly shit games in the 16-bit era.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Resolution 101


ST Format Review




My Review

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 - I'm not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won't let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. On this occasion I've chosen the Medway Boys release (Disk 74). I enjoy their releases as they usually have cool artwork, they may not be technically that exciting but I like the art style. In this case they've managed to cram 5 games on one floppy which is also quite impressive.

So, Resolution 101. It's a game in which you hunt down criminals, and there's some guff in the story about a resolution that lets you exit your sentence by killing crooks or something of that nature. It is what it is. Before carrying on into the game however I want to note how ST Format played a version that didn't yet have sound. It was not complete. It tells you that little has changed in the world of game reviews. By the way the sound is shite, the chip music is dire.




The loading screen is ok, and the start screen is nicely drawn too. Into the game.


So the graphics are a mix of sprites and fairly simplistic 3D. It animates pretty rapidly, STF weren't kidding when they called it fast though I'd hesitate to call it the fastest.


The game is pretty simplistic in that basically you just go shooting people and collecting what they drop. It's really not too exciting in truth. I rather preferred the developers earlier work Archipelagos.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
The good news is that the next two games are likely to be much much better - Player Manager and Supercars.
 

Havoc2049

Member
Mar 30, 2011
2,524
1,954
930
Arizona
Crazy that ST Format only gave Starflight a 70%, when the game was a hit for Electronic Arts and spawned a sequel in Starflight 2, along with a sub-series in Star Control and Star Control 2. Most people consider it a classic. Mass Effect was very much like Starflight, but Starflight had even slightly deeper gameplay.

Computer Gaming World magazine gave Starflight a cover story and a large four page review.
CGW Museum - Galleries
From the review:
"In short, Starflight has to be the best science fiction game available on computer. Warm approval is certainly due Rod McConnell for his creative initiative and over-all direction, Joe Ybarra for taking the risk to produce more than either a "shoot-em-up" game or a sci-fi "D & D;" Greg Johnson for his work as lead designer and primary character creator (Guide Of Development?); Alec Kercso for a dynamite programming achievement; T. C. Lee for the aforementioned graphic sequences; and Bob Gonsalves for the sound sophistication. Some will talk about Sundog and others will speak in hushed tones about Universe I, but Starflight will hold a special niche for a long time and give many months of pleasure before the final exploration occurs."

I just picked up my first ST game in several years, Captive. I've wanted Captive for a while, but not willing to pay some of the stupid high prices for old arse disk media that could die any day. ST games are still fairly cheap in Europe, but shipping prices have got out of control over the last several years and the shipping is often times double the price of the game. Captive is a first person sci-fi dungeon crawler, where you are stuck in a satellite prison, with only a laptop and you have access to control four droids, that are on another planet and you have to travel to various bases on nearby planets to complete missions and unlock the prison and free yourself. There was also a sequel, Liberation: Captive 2, on the Amiga CD32 of all systems. A cool thing about Captive, is that it's scalable on the ST and can be played on a base 512k ST, but also takes advantage of 1 MB of RAM and even the STE, with DMA sound and enhanced graphics. It's too bad that approach didn't become the standard for the ST line.

 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Player Manager


ST Format Review


My Review

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62 - I'm not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won't let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. I've picked Pompey Pirates 25. Not one of their more exciting menus, the music is decent enough but the big show-off factor comes from the rapid palette-switching being used to create the bars.


It seems the copy protection didn't impress the crackers much, or maybe they were just showing off.


Player Manager was probably the game I played more than any other as a kid, to the enormous irritation of my parents (though everything irritated them and they rather regretted my existence so that's not necessarily a bad thing). I was, like most boys of my age, football mad, and the combination of Kick-Off's match engine (I'd never played Kick-Off) and a decent management engine made for a genuinely thrilling game. This review will have some bias, and I'm ok with that.


Controls in the match are as per standard Kick-Off, with a joystick (good thing I brought my ST joystick with me) while the management side is controlled with fairly standard mouse controls.


We have the traditional player generation at the start of the game, which was found in Championship Manager too. I had similar issues when I built a small management game, there was no fast way to generate all that player data (though I was working in STOS Basic - I imagine machine code or C would get you something faster). This would traditionally take 10-20 minutes, which is where I'm glad my emulator features a fast forward.


Now we come to deciding the name of our club, and our player. I can play in position or play the whole team in a more traditional Kick Off style. As a kid I always went with the former, so that's what I'll do today.



This was of course before the Premier League, so we have old-fashioned Division 1, 2, 3 and 4 in truncated form, 10 teams in each of the top two divisions and 12 in the bottom two. I'm not sure whether the truncation is due to memory or fitting everything on screen but weirdly I don't remember having an issue with it as a kid. We start in division 3. I'll be playing Birmingham City, Bristol (it's not clear whether it's City or Rovers), Cardiff, Fulham, Huddersfield, Preston, Reading, Wigan, Shrewsbury, Rotherham and Northampton. I have no idea which teams were good in 1990, though it's quite possible the randomly-generated players don't reflect that anyway.


So this is the home screen. It doesn't look like much but it's where the magic happens.


This is my squad. It looks like 3 players are out of contract. Now the Bosman ruling wasn't a thing back then, but I can't remember quite what happened when players were out of contract. My gut feeling is there was a tribunal to determine the transfer fee.


Stats aren't quite Championship Manager person. We have a forward who is very very quick (tops out at 200) with magnificent passing stats and decent shooting. He's going to be useful - he's also out of contract. I better sort it.


I'll offer a 3 year contract. That allows me to get up to division 2 and then chuck him for someone better. My best (and youngest) keeper is also out of contract, while the defender out of contract isn't amazing. Now the attributes that matter are the skills and pace. I've evaluated my players.

GK:
- Andrews: the best of our keepers, young, good enough to do a job for a few seasons.
- Ward: A reasonable backup, could probably be a reasonable midfielder if required.
Defence:
- Morgan: too slow despite decent tackling
- O Davis: Quick and capable, young. We'll keep this one.
- Cole: Mediocre pace and tackling (130s for both)
- Rogers: Quick but lacking tackling skill. Not obvious where to retrain him.
- Langley: Good tackler but possibly too slow.
- Bailey: Quick enough, decent tackler but would be a better midfielder.
- D Davis: Quick but his tackling is shite
Midfield:
- Saunders: Quick but his passing is ok at best.
- Stevenson: Fast but passing is decent.
- Hari Seldon: The player manager. A magnificent beast of a man.
- Morris: Lacking pace and a poor passer. One to sell.
- Osborne: Fantastic passer, very good shooter, not the quickest but useful to have around.
Forward:
- Fisher: Quick enough, average passer and shooter.
- Jones: Very slow, decent shooter, mediocre passer.
- Watson: Super-fast with fantastic passing and good shooting. Would be an amazing midfielder.
- Newman: Quick enough, a strong shooter with good passing skills.

My starting 11 is likely to be [Andrews], [O Davis, Langley, Bailey, Cole], [Stevenson, Seldon, Osborne], [Fisher, Watson, Newman]. I could do with another decent player in each area, probably the defence is the most urgent.


It seems the coaching staff agree with the need to improve defence.


Let's go look for some players.


No idea what his skills are like, but the guy's got pace. Should be worth a look. I click buy and it turns out that you get an x/10 ability rating here. My guy is 0 so I'm going to skip and look for a better option. Annoyingly you can only look at 2 players in this way per week, so I'll go to match day instead. I'll be playing Birmingham.


We should have half a chance of beating them.


I pick my squad and go to the pre-match screen. Time to go.


Time to play my first match.



A magnificent headed goal gets me a 1-0 win.


And we're 3rd in the league. A decent start.


Time to try to buy a player.



The next match goes less well with Rotherham scoring an early goal, but thankfully I manage to get a late equaliser.


Oops, maybe I spent too much money. Oh well.

So clearly I can't go and run a whole season, you'll all get bored shitless if I describe it and the review would take an absolute age. However, I have enough that I can judge the game, based on now and back in 1990. The game is fucking magnificent. It's got the Kick Off magic, married to a very decent management engine, with a tactics editor, a simple transfer market, etc. Clearly it's a little cut-down from real football and the names are fake, but the truth is the simplifications make it more fun, quicker, vs the awfulness of the modern Football Manager games where it feels like work, but your efforts have almost no effect on anything that actually happens.

There isn't a game like this. By the time of the sequel (which I think came out on the Amiga but not the ST) Dino Dini had gone, so what we got was an anaemic management game with no playing element. Now if someone could graft Dino Dini's Goal to a management game like this, I'd be in heaven.



Resources
Manual: http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=1235
 
H

hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Supercars


ST Format Review
There isn't one.

My Review

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STFM, running TOS 1.04 (it didn't like the STFM) - I'm not on my usual PC and for some reason the version of Steem on this one won't let me have a maximised window without going full screen, so screenshot sizes may vary. I've picked Fuzion for this one, mainly because I don't often choose them. The picture isn't much but there's some music and scrolly stuff.


I never played SuperCars 1 as a kid, though I did play the sequel (on the Amiga I think). The sequel oozed charm in what wasn't necessarily an enormously exciting game from a technical standpoint, but the gameplay was rock solid, and that charm really made a difference. It's a top-down racing game, which were ten a penny, but it was presented with wit and consistently put a smile on my face. Time to test the prequel.


We get a simple intro screen and then I get to enter my name...


.. and as always I keep it classy (I somehow got the frame where the final E was flashing - it should say ARSE).


Time to choose a car and track I guess.

The Fuzion release then died. I tried STE and STFM to no avail. Time to go Pompey Pirates.


The Pompey Pirates release worked thankfully. Graphics look a bit older, closer to 8-bit in many ways, than the sequel.


An easy start, the other cars were so slow. Controls were solid, scrolling was a little jerky though.


Time to upgrade my car a bit. I went on to win the next couple of races comfortably, getting the car repaired a few times along the way. I've had no need of weapons so far.


I thought I'd click on one of the cars in the main screen to see what happened. This is the beast I desire.

Going through the 9 races that make up a season, the tracks get trickier and you find more cars on the road. This ups the difficulty, and in the standard gameplay loop it necessitates upgrading your car. All standard stuff. Sound is just chip music but it's actually really good chip music, you'll be humming it for weeks. While not exactly unique, the gameplay loop is well-done, it's a very good example of its type. In truth it's not quite as charming as its sequel, in part due to rougher graphics, but it's clear the foundations to a good game are there. I'll save the Hari Seldon Gold for the sequel.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Christ. Player Manager looks like a bad STOS game now.

It really isn’t. The manager interface isn’t the prettiest but it runs smoothly and gives you the info you need - bear in mind Championship Manager was also ugly. The match engine may look simple but in motion it’s a work of art, the speed it runs at is extraordinary and what separates kick off from the games released before it which all had lag to some degree.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
ST Format Issue 12 - Download


The World in June 1990
In the UK the bans on British beef were lifted after the BSE crisis, while the planned high-speed link between London and the Channel Tunnel was shelved. John Major proposed an alternative to the EU's proposed single currency, a currency which would circulate alongside existing currencies. In hindsight it would have saved the EU a lot of headaches as it would have left member states freer to fix economic woes. JK Rowling began writing the first Harry Potter book.

In US news Ohio had 88 tornadoes. Why the fuck would anyone want to live anywhere that has that kind of shit going on? Universal Studios opened in Florida.

Elsewhere in the world the World Cup began in Italy. England would go on to the semi finals, their greatest performance since winning the tournament in 1966, and a feat not repeated until 2018. West Germany would win, though before long they would just be Germany.

On TV Art Attack made its debut with Neil Buchanan doing outsized art projects. Not much else went on as most people were busy watching the World Cup.

The film charts had Pretty Woman at #1, and The Witches at #7. The rest isn't of much interest.

The album chart was poor, with Soul II Soul at #1, Jason Donovan at #2 and a best of album by Talk Talk at #3. Pavarotti got #8 due to the World Cup where Nessun Dorma was the official tune.

The singles chart featured the greatest football song ever, World In Motion by New Order and some England players. The John Barnes rap would become the stuff of legend. At #3 we had Chad Jackson with Hear The Drummer Get Wicked (choooon!) while Elton was at #5 with Sacerifayce. Roxette with it Must Have Been Love and Betty Boo Doin The Doo, plus the Charlatans with The Only One I Know and Wilson Phillips Hold On make for a VERY strong top 10. Hell, even further down the chart you had Snap with Oops Up, Black Box with Everybody Everybody which only got to 16 ffs.


The Magazine
Issue 12 came out in June 1990, and was my third issue, and probably one of my favourites. The theme for this issue was music, and as a result it came with a tape of some music made on an Atari ST, and it was really catchy. See http://fading-twilight.atari.org/br...twilight_dual_layer_dvd/TUNEZ/DEMOS/ST/STF12/ if you want to have a listen. I just found it and my god it tickled my nostalgia bone.

The cover is probably one of the slickest looking covers yet, reflecting perhaps an increase in budget. The coverdisk leads with Starblade which was immensely pretty but shallow, and honestly it was never entirely clear what was going on. Visually it's an absolute treat, no doubt, but as a kid I couldn't find any gameplay in there. More fun (with 2 players at least) is a little PD game called Deeplair. You each control a submarine and your objective is to shoot your opponent. Simple.

News is interesting, with rival distributors of Calamus (hugely expensive DTP package) at war - the official importers charging £458 while NNS were importing grey imports for £343 and packaging it with ROM chips to change your TOS version to allow it to run what was presumably the US version. All very shady.

There's a decent little feature on the general composition of a piece of music, not particularly specific to any one software package, so there's explanation of basic song structure and what MIDI is and how it works, and so on.

Previews
This month we have two pages of previews, with International 3D tennis getting a big feature, a tennis game using vector graphics. It was insanely ugly, but I remember having a good time with it on the Amiga back in the day. Saint Dragon also features, a shooter about which I know little. Prophecy gets a mention (a platformer), while Ocean's F29 Retaliator gets a screenshot. I never played it, as F-19 Stealth Fighter covered my flight sim needs so well. AMC gets a screenshot, from the makers of Army Moves so it can fuck right off. A Bomber Mission Disk features, as does Battlemaster which still makes no sense. Tetris in a well, Welltris, gets a brief snippet, and we get a first look at Flood from the Bullfrogs (not one of their more celebrated titles).

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Sim City (Violent Golf Game - Infogrames/Maxis - £29.99 - 92% Format Gold)
Dragon's Lair (Interactive Cartoon - Readysoft - £44.95 - 43%)
F-19 Stealth Fighter (Flight Sim - Microprose - £29.99 - 96% Format Gold)
Projectyle (Future Sports - EA - £24.99 - 86%)
Dynasty Wars (Beat-em-up - US Gold - £19.95 - 68%)
Rotox (Rotating shooter - US Gold - £19.99 - 81%)
Cyberball (Violent future sport set in 2022 - Domark - £19.99 - 80%)
Imperium (Strategy - EA - £24.95 - 87%)
Final Command (Adventure - Ubisoft - £19.99 - 82%)
Ghosts N Goblins (Hack And Slash - Elite - £19.99 - 69%)
Starblade (Space trading adventure - Silmarils - £19.99 - 51%)
Dan Dare 3 (Shooter - Virgin Mastertronic - £19.99 - 63%)
Photon Storm (Jeff Minter Shooter - Atari - £19.99 - 51%)
Bubble+ (Bubble Bobble with extra levels - Infogrames - £19.99 - 38%)
Toyottes (cute platformer - Infogrames - £19.99 - 81%)
Chronoquest 2 (Adventure - Psynosis - £29.99 - 88%)
Dungeons, Amethysts, Alchemists & Everything (Text Adventure - Atlantis - £4.99 - 69%)

Of those, the ones that interest me most are Sim City, F-19 Stealth Fighter, Toyottes, Bubble+ and Projectyle. Obviously nobody needs me to review Sim City but I'd like an excuse to play it again so tough titties - I played it to death as a kid and I still maintain that it's the best Sim City. F-19 you may be less familiar with, but along with Sim City, Player Manager and Midwinter 2 it was one of the formative games of my childhood where I spent countless hours bombing shit out of the enemy and blowing up migs. Toyottes is one I liked the look of as a kid and the art style still looks really cool judging from the ST Format screenshots so I'm finally going to give it a go. Finally Projectyle always looked fun to me as a kid so I'll give that a quick look. Sadly I was unable to find Bubble+ anywhere.

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.
- Projectyle - Debug 65, SuperGAU 364/495, Superior 73
- Toyottes - Automation 260, Flames Of Finland 5
- Sim City - Automation 292, Fuzion 8, SuperGAU 457/780, Medway Boys 72, Vectronix 631/774
- F19 Stealth Fighter - Automation 424 (patch/fix), Flames Of Finland 34, Pompey Pirates 45/52, Vectronix 318
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Projectyle


ST Format Review


My Review

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I've gone with DBug menu disk 65, my first DBug release of this series. The intro menu isn't visually that exciting, but it does have a fantastic chiptune version of the old Formula 1 theme. It's fucking glorious.



So this is a game that wants to be Speedball with 3 sides. What this amounts to is a plus-shaped pitch where 3 of the arms each have a goal, and the fourth arm has 3 goals. In theory that's quite a fun, if wild, idea.



The game itself seems about a year out of date in terms of graphics and sound, with jerky scrolling and an unanimated sprite for each player. Movement lacks the sharpness of Speedball or Kick-off, with momentum creating a sludgy mess of control, while the puck physics are dire as you really can't figure out what direction it's going to go in. With the sprites too large for the small area of play it prevents any kind of tactical play, especially as you don't have the full run of the pitch, instead each square having 3 player sprites (one from each team) and the players being confined to their square, with the puck moving between squares by means of a tunnel (which further limits tactical scope). What you end up with is something akin to small children playing football in a tiny room with everyone running after the ball in no discernable shape. This does not make for great gameplay.




I had hoped for rather more from this, but it turned out to be a bit of a turkey.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Toyottes


ST Format Review


My Review

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I've gone with Automation 260, primarily because the Flame Of Finland releases tend to be a bit samey. This one isn't anything special technically but it does give us a glimpse into the future with the angry lesbian who would perhaps be a theybian today.



So we get a rather poorly-drawn (or rather some bits well-drawn, some bits unfinished) loading screen with some chip music, not a hugely inspiring start.


We get dropped into the level with a wonderfully-drawn monster who looks quite a bit like one of the chaps from Monsters Inc - the player sprite is the tiny mouse near the lift with a C above it in the middle of the screen. We have some sampled sound to introduce the level, and off we go.


So it seems he wants an umbrella, some cheese, a present and some other things. I'm not sure what I'll get in return but he seems friendly so I'll be nice and help out. Looks like the only way out of the room is through that door, so off I go.


There's a nice transition effect as we switch rooms and overall animation is crisp, though I do detect some lag.


It seems the levels are 2.5D in that you can go into and out of the screen a little. Scrolling is done in increments, rapidly so you don't notice the frame rate hit or any jerkiness. It mostly works.


Here I've entered a pipe and I'm going to use the pipe system to get some cheese in the next room.


Running into a bat I find myself in a fight, with a cartoon dust cloud.



Exploring a little more I find the game a little shallow.


I eventually die.

So, I must sadly report that the game is disappointing. The graphics are perhaps too small for what they're trying to achieve (it might have worked at a higher resolution but the ST wasn't capable) and the gameplay is somewhat lacking with the laggy controls and not much in the way of movement options (no jumping etc). It's a game that makes for wonderful screenshots which look great in a magazine, but it forgets to do the other thngs well. It's quirky, it's very French, and it has some charm, but there just isn't enough gameplay to make it worth playing.
 

Havoc2049

Member
Mar 30, 2011
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Arizona
That Charlatans video brought back some memories. As a Depeche Mode, New Order and The Smiths fan, I loved that next British Invasion in the early 90’s of The Charlatans, Jesus Jones, Happy Monday’s and EMF.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
That Charlatans video brought back some memories. As a Depeche Mode, New Order and The Smiths fan, I loved that next British Invasion in the early 90’s of The Charlatans, Jesus Jones, Happy Monday’s and EMF.

Musically it's interesting. The album chart was absolutely dire but the singles chart was super-vibrant with loads of really cool dance music coming out and yeah we're heading into the time where you get some really interesting acts in that zone. It rather passed me by at the time but it's stuff I enjoyed later in life.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Sim City


ST Format Review




My Review

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I've gone with Medway Boys 72 which features a cool graphic, the usual text bouncing and scrolling and some chip music which for some reason makes me think of Lady Gaga.

Sim City isn't exactly a hidden gem, it doesn't need me to review it, but I want to play it. I happen to think it's the best Sim City, because it kept things at just the right level of complexity without irritations like Sim City 2000's slopes preventing building in certain places etc. Sim City is of course one of the greats of the 16-bit era, alongside Populous and Lemmings, and like Populous (to which it owes some debt) it spawned a whole genre.


Sim City uses GEM to drive its windows, which means that you start from the ST's desktop. Still, at least the Medway Boys were kind enough to customise things a little.


Well bugger. Bombs. I'll try an STFM instead. I'll also swap release as I don't want the trainer.


Well that's a nice dragon. Decent chiptune too.


So this is the screen that started it all. Quiet and unassuming, but the start of something great.


It would be rude of me to not pick a sweary name.


A brief wait for the terraforming, while the mouse pointer changes to the busy bee - the equivalent of the Windows hourglass.


So who can remember the copy protection? It was awful. Dark red paper with black text to prevent photocopying. Even as a kid I struggled with it, god knows what you'd do if you were in any way visually impaired.


And here I am, with virgin land ready to build my city. I've opened a map (Windows -> Maps) to get a bigger view as the editing view is quite close up and scrolling is slow. It looks like we'll end up with 3 separate districts - we'll start with the North of the river and position power and industry against the North edge. I'll need to provide rail links to the further reaches once I expand more, so I'll need to account for that in my layout planning. Nearer the river I'll have residential and commercial long term, though in the early days I'll have to bunch them up near the dirty stuff to avoid roads and power lines eating my entire budget.


So here's the beginning of my city. I've gone with nuclear power, and left room for expansion to the south with additional plants. Obviously I'm aware of the risks but it's just a better deal than coal. Commercial demand is low while industrial is high, as is typical of the early game, but commercial will ramp up later. In the meantime I have enough space for commercial enterprises to provide a bit of pollution cover to the housing. I'll likely expand southwards over time and those roads will be replaced with a railway.


I sensibly knock the tax rate down a bit to attract people and businesses to my neighbourhood.


Just demonstrating how pressing Q while the mouse is over something gives you some useful information. As you can see businesses are starting to move in, as are residents.


As you can see here the commercial district is still empty, but you can also see traffic starting to build up around the industrial zone. Longer term I'll need to put some railways in there.


And now I have a town! As you can see I've decided to do some early work on the traffic problem, hopefully I won't regret the expense.


It's starting to build up now. Now the graphics came in for some criticism at the time and to be fair, technically they're not great. The green areas are ugly, while the scrubland with its brown background and 3 pink dots in each tile isn't exactly great. However, the roads and rail are functional, the train (animated at 2 frames per second) looks ok, the traffic represented as dots on the road tells you what you need to know and even with the limited pixel count the junctions look like junctions. The houses, a mere 8x8 pixels each in a 24x24 square, or 24x24 towerblocks, look strangely recognisable, and the commercial buildings look great. The industrial areas are recognisable and the power station looks brilliant too. There's a clear art style away from the awful landscape and it works. What's most important however is that it's readable. It's something that people underestimate the importance of, something Nintendo have mastered (which is why they've retained the simpler graphical style). It's immediately obvious looking at the screen what's going on.


We're losing a little money but that's ok. I can lower the percentage spend on transport if need be, but at a cost of roads falling into disrepair. Similarly, once fire and police are a thing I can choose to defund the police if I want to save money and have more crime.


It looks like it's time to get a police station with crime beginning to spike.


We now have a police station - hopefully that'll do some good.


I've built a little too fast and had to raise taxes as the money is starting to run low, but as you can see population is increasing steadily, and people are generally satisfied. Pollution will be a little less of an issue once I build more property away from the industrial zone. Housing costs are one of those things you just have to live with in this game, as areas with low cost just cause crime and don't raise much tax while costing a fortune in police coverage.


As you can see, the city is building up more, with the residential zones becoming high rise, and the commercial zones are getting bigger, and you can see how demand is spiking.


Woohoo, we're now a city! The budget comes up shortly after and looks dire so I cut transport and police spending and up the tax rate to 8%. Meanwhile the citizens demand a fire station. They can go whistle. As I patch up roads the population continues growing and demand is high so I push 12% tax - I need the revenue. Industrial demand drops heavily but commerce and residential are still growing.


My popularity is beginning to take some hits, with population growth slowing and taxes and crime being big issues. I am now at least funding police so the crime will improve, though I'll need to keep taxes high for a bit so I can build reserves to fund expansion.


With some slightly crap chip gunshot sound effects I'm told that crime is a big problem. The problem however is that my police stations have a tiny area of influence, so I'd need to have one ever 4 blocks, which would be prohibitively expensive.


And here we see the beginning of the downward spiral of shit. In truth, it'll be hard to get back from this as my ongoing costs require a certain size of population which I can't maintain due to the crime that goes with it and the need for intolderable tax rates.

I have failed as mayor, but I will have another go tonight, because I fucking love this game. Failing is fun. This time I'll build a much smaller industrial complex at the edge of the city, joined only by rail to a residential area, keeping them very separated to keep crime down. This time it'll work, I'm sure it will.



Resources
Manual: https://www.starehry.eu/download/strategy/docs/SimCity-Manual.pdf
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Likely that'll be it this side of Christmas - I'm planning to go build a better city but will then return with F-19 Stealth Fighter. The scary thing is that after 30 years I still remember all the keyboard assignments. Happy Christmas Atarians and Amigos.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
F-19 Stealth Fighter


ST Format Review



My Review

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I've gone with Automation 424, not one of their more exciting menus (fairly mediocre chip tune and some scrolly text) but it gets the job done. Into the game.


A cool intro with the stealth fighter fading into view (to illustrate the stealthiness of it) with a nice sampled tune, then into the copy protection and setting up my pilot.


Choices choices.. kick Saddam's ass or go deal death to some commies?


So I chose an air-to-air mission, fighting commies, with full realism and difficulty settings. The mission generator suggested this. I need to destroy a transport plane which will undoubtedly have a fighter patrol around it, and then blow up a Surface to Air Missile battery before returning home. I pick the fuel pods, the mavericks for blowing shit up on the ground (4 of them in 2 bays), and 4 sidewinders for some air-to-air fun.


Time to take off. The vector graphics look a little primitive by modern standards but in motion they do a decent enough job that you can tell what's what.


Here's a missile's-eye view of the plane I'm about to blow up.


And it's dead. See the pilot's parachute by the red aiming reticule? Naturally I try to shoot the pilot but to no avail (probably no collision detection enabled - boo).


More planes turned up, the dogfight got intense and I didn't keep an eye on my altitude and.. this is awkward.


My bloated corpse is eaten by maggots.

Let's try this again. Let's get properly into the mood this time.


You are not permitted to read the rest of this review until you have listened to the whole song. I will know, and I will kick your ass.



New pilot is ready to go. 2nd Lt Hari 'BuzzTheTower' Seldon at your service.


I pick commies, conventional war, top level opposition and realistic landings for maximum points. That's what I used to run back in the day and that's what I'll run now dammit. So, I need to destroy a plane orbiting an airbase (a TU-95 Bear), before blowing up a Surface to Air Missile battery and then land at Gutersloh. Simple.



I get to choose a plane, but in truth it doesn't make much difference. For all the talk of realism in the manual and in the ST Format review, the flight model is actually pretty arcade.


I've gone with a loadout of sidewinders (you only get 3 of the longer range amraam per slot - I'm happy to get up close and personal) and 4 mavericks despite having only one ground target to destroy. The idea is that I'll also take out some radar sites and other bits and pieces just for fun. I usually use either Mavericks or Slicks. The Maverick is guided and most of the time hits its target, while the slick is a dumb bomb, which requires a bit more precision and work and leaves you vulnerable to enemy fire while lining up your bombing run though you do get 3 per slot which is better. For my purposes the Maverick is fine.


Time to start my mission. Before continuing, I just want to highlight how good the pixel art is in this game. The coffee swirls in its cup and the background even on this simple page is lovely, and you've seen some of the beautifully-drawn stills earlier in this review. While the game is all about those vectors, for me the bitmaps do much to evoke atmosphere between missions.


So here I am at take-off. I remember all the key bindings even though I played this 30 years ago. I remember 7 is autopilot, 6 is gears, 8 is bomb bay doors, I remember space switches weapons, I remember return fires missiles, I remember F2 toggles between air-to-air, air-to-ground and navigation modes, I remember F3 toggles the map display from map to tactical view with z and x handling zoom levels in both. I remember the + and - do engine power with shift making it go 100% either way. I remember the camera modes are selected with /.,m keys for each direction with B picking the next item in that direction. I remember shift + z or x speeds up or slows down time. I remember alt+d toggles detail levels (0 is smoother). No idea why all this is still in my brain all these years later, but it is.

I also want to take a moment out to discuss the manual. It's a hefty tome. Microprose made big games with big manuals. This one is every bit as massive as the Midwinter manual. And it's excellent. It covers a lot of ground, teaching you basics of combat techniques and telling you a lot about the plane and its history. It's the kind of thing that made paying £30 for a game seem ok. You also get a proper map in the box.

That sense of detail continues in the game - night missions for instance get a proper night sky with stars in the right place just in case your HUD dies. Brilliant stuff.


So, I head for the first target, the TU-95 Bear. For this trip I have plenty of fuel but I'm running a little lighter and slower than full speed so I can have a bit of fun en route. The F-19 is not an agile fighter plane, it will stall if you get too clever with it, but it's good enough with decent missiles on board to take down some migs. I intend to do precisely that.


There's an SU-27 Flanker ahead. The SU-27 and the MiG-29 were Russia's finest, with the SU-27 in particular being an absolutely gorgeous plane with a huge power-to-weight ratio that reminds me of the F-15 Eagle in some ways. It'll be a job to take it down, much harder than dealing with the likes of the MiG-21, 23 or 25. The ground is reasonably clear, just a couple of patrol boats but nothing I'm particularly worried about. The SU-27 is flying away from me however - there's a bigger problem with a MiG-29 heading straight for me.


Here it is, another of the harder planes in this game. I'm keeping my radar signature small so it probably doesn't even know I'm there. Hopefully I can sneak up and blow it up before it even knows I'm there. I bump up the power to give me a bit more thrust and reduce the risk of stalling in a dogfight and prepare for war.


It's turning my way - but that's just part of its patrol. It means I'll be able to close down the distance quickly though which is good as this is a plane that can easily outrun the F19. A few moments after this screenshot I'm spotted. There's a radar lock on me. I must deploy my radar jammers which makes me a little more visible but a little harder to shoot.


I've taken a hit but I'm still going, and that's my missile flying towards the MiG. He's dead.


My bomb bay doors are jammed open though due to the missile hit, which means I'm more visible to radar. This is going to be challenging. I'm going to have to just go for it and forget stealth.


The Su-27 has returned - I better deal with it unless I want my plane to be full of holes. I destroy it with my guns but there's still more bogeys on me.


I should be able to deal with a MiG-31, they're not so dangerous. Shit.. a SAM site has fired at me. Chaff released as it gets near keeps me in the air.


I've got three bogeys ahead and to my right a SAM site flinging missiles at me. This is not going brilliantly.


SU-27 dealt with via my cannons and a MiG-25 meets the same fate. I've got a bogey behind me....


My primary target! Well then, time to unleash hell.



Another one bites the dust. Time to find my secondary target (the SAM site).


Oh for fuck's sake I've done it again - chasing a MiG without due care and attention for the ground. Will I even learn?

So.. is the game any good? Well yes actually it really is. It's fucking amazing. Sound isn't anything special, the vector graphics.. well pyramid mountains aren't great though the planes have pretty good detail while maintaining an acceptable frame rate. The pixel art is wonderful, but the key thing is that the game is just fun. It's in that space between the seriousness of Falcon and the more arcade games like the modern Ace Combat series. As such it's a gap nobody is willing to fill these days but I wish someone would because it's brilliant fun.

The game itself is of course a beneficiary of releasing when kids loved planes. 4 years on from Top Gun it was still cool to love planes, it was ok to be male and like that kind of thing, and this game absolutely uses that to full effect. The bar scene when you get back from your mission in one piece, the medals on your uniform, all these little touches bring Top Gun onto your computer and it's fucking glorious.

I will caveat that there is a better version of this game available on the PC, and it's called F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter, and it's available on GOG. It's fundamentally the same game, but with better graphics and a few more places to go blow shit up. This does of course speak to a certain stagnation that took place at Microprose as they never really figured out the next steps. Upgrading that aging graphics engine was certainly necessary but before that point they could also have upgraded the mission system which is the game's sole flaw. As such, there's no dynamic campaign, no actual war really going on. Instead there are a set of targets for you to blow up and each mission selects from a list of targets at random for you to shoot down. It's cool, no doubt, but with a proper dynamic campaign where the effects of your action could be felt it might have been a little more immersive.



Buy
PC Version on GOG - it's inferior to the ST/Amiga version

PC Sequel on GOG - same game, better graphics

Resources
Manual: https://www.mediafire.com/file/n1hjrky9dlt98dh/Manual.pdf/file
Keyboard Overlay: https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/347250/manuals/Quick_Reference_Card.pdf
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
PS After finishing the review above I decided to have another try from an earlier save state on the same mission.. it went like this.


So early on I decided to take out the radar to reduce the shit flying my way. This did not prove terribly effective. Note the planes on my arse. I took two missiles, buggering up my avionics (no autopilot for me, nor even a direction arrow) and my radar jammer. Still, I pressed on, taking down plenty of planes, some with missiles, some with guns, including the primary target, that Bear.


Next to the primary target (a SAM battery) was a radar station. I took it out with my last-but-one maverick, and then fired my final maverick at the secondary target. This is a missile's eye view. Somehow it missed. I then had to go in low and take it out with machine guns.


Time to land this sucker. Tense doesn't even cover it. I've not landed a plane in a sim in something like 25 years.


Angle is ok according to ILS, but little do I know it's giving me a horrible flight path.


Getting a little closer, the range worries me considering I need to get the bearing from 304 to 360.

Landing gear is down, flaps are out, this angle looks horrible. You can hopefully see the runway ahead.


Landed that sucker. Phew, I'm not dead!


A brief summary before the proper debrief. A good score, and I took out a hell of a lot of planes and 3 additional ground targets beyond the primary.




















I'll take that AFC, very happy with that. If you do really well you get promotions too.



And finally I get to get pissed. Fuck yeah.


Get in.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Cocked up and forgot manual and GOG links in the review. Fixed. I've also updated the index which was about 4 issues behind.

So, 25 issues done. Next issue is issue 13 with the legendary Damocles. One of the all time greats.
 
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lmimmfn

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Great review, i thoroughly enjoyed it, i think i only tried F117A once but with no manual i was useless at it :), loved me some Gunship 2000 back in the day, what an amazing game. F29 was good fun too, bit arcadey with bad collision detection but loved the gfx
 
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hariseldon

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Great review, i thoroughly enjoyed it, i think i only tried F117A once but with no manual i was useless at it :), loved me some Gunship 2000 back in the day, what an amazing game. F29 was good fun too, bit arcadey with bad collision detection but loved the gfx

Tbh I reckon you should give F117A a shot - once you memorise the keys it's a piece of cake (and to be fair it's slow enough paced that you could just have an ipad next to your PC with the key card on it and refer to it as necessary and you'd be fine). In terms of active play you will use F3 to switch the left monitor between map view and tactical view (the grid) so you can see the planes around you, and the bottom right keys on your keyboard let you cycle between cameras in different directions - again once you do it a few times it becomes second nature, and finally F2 to switch from Air-to-Air (shooting planes) to Air to ground (blowing up radar/SAM/etc) and nav (cities), with space bar switching weapons, 8 opening and closing bay doors and return firing missiles. Get used to those and the rest are used reasonably rarely (maybe also remember 2 for chaff if a missile has radar lock on you [the R is lit up on the right] or 1 for flare if a missile has IR lock). I still remember decades later so it clearly stuck with me, perhaps I'm not the most unbiased judge of controls therefore!
 
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lmimmfn

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Thanks, yes, ill definitely give it a whirl. Its amazing how we remember keys after all these years, i was the same with Deluxe Paint and Brilliance earlier on it the year, didnt even have to think about the keys to do what i wanted, good old muscle memory :)
 
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hariseldon

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Thanks, yes, ill definitely give it a whirl. Its amazing how we remember keys after all these years, i was the same with Deluxe Paint and Brilliance earlier on it the year, didnt even have to think about the keys to do what i wanted, good old muscle memory :)

Sometimes I wish my brain would do a better job of remembering more useful things though. I swear sometimes my brain is too full.
 
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hariseldon

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ST Format Issue 13 - Download


The World in July 1990
In UK news, England went out of the World Cup, losing the semi-final to Germany on penalties in what would become a national tradition. UEFA lifted the ban on English clubs which had been in place since the Heysel disaster. Nigel Mansell announced his coming retirement from F1, and Graham Taylor was appointed England manager. It would not go well. Most importantly of all, my wife was born.

The US entered recession, while George Bush signed legislation to protect disabled workers from discrimination.

Elsewhere in the world East and West Germany officially merged their economies. Martina Navratilova and Stefan Edberg won Wimbledon. Belarus declared sovereignty in its quest to escape the USSR.

On TV the big event was the World Cup final, with the three tenors singing together for the first time - Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma would be the highlight. Oh and some football happened too. MPs voted to make televised coverage of the commons a permanent thing. Stars In Their Eyes (in which people would try to sound like famous singers) made its debut on ITV. Masterchef made its debut on BBC1.

The film charts had the weakest of the Back To The Future Trilogy at #1, after Tremors had a couple of weeks in the top 10 before exiting rapidly. Dick Tracy was the big budget feature, while Tom Hanks did his thing in Joe Vs The Volcano. I'm genuinely curious as to what the buggering hell "I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle" is like. I'm also curious as to whether Lord Of The Flies is any good - the book is of course magnificent but I don't know much about the film.

The album chart had Pavarotti at #1 due to the world cup, while Elton John occupied #2 with an album that contained only 1 decent track. With too many greatest hits albums, the chart is pretty miserable.

The singles chart is mixed. Elton at #1 with Sacrifice is decent enough, Pavarotti at #2, Craig McLachlan continued the wave of Neighbours stars releasing singles but while it was catchy enough it wasn't anything special. Roxette's It Must Have Been Love is a banger, and everyone loves MC Hammer's You Can't Touch This, while One Love by Stone Roses is ok, but overall it's a weak chart with a novelty single at #7 (Thunderbirds Are Go).


The Magazine
Issue 13 came out in July 1990, and was my 4th issue. It's actually a pretty decent read, even if the cover is pretty lame. The theme, it appears, is a helpdesk of sorts, a newbies guide, that might be expected more in January's issue than July's. Still, it gets better inside.

The cover disk's headline item is a demo of Battlemaster. As a kid I really couldn't find a good game in there, due to muddy graphics, poor controls and there just not being much to it. The disk page cites Gauntlet as inspiration but I'd be much happier playing Gauntlet as it does something this game has forgotten about - readability. In Gauntlet it's really easy to figure out what's going on, every object's purpose is clear and you know which bits of screen are trying to kill you. Not so in Battlemaster. It's one of the things Nintendo is pretty unique in these days.

In the news, we have Atari's CD-ST. Quite why anyone thought a machine with 0.5MB RAM would be of any use running software from 650MB media is beyond me - it was simply too early for the tech to be usefully applied to the computers of the era, especially given they didn't have the processing grunt to push data around at that rate. Obviously there was some hype around FMV and with 20/20 hindsight we can see that it's shit, but surely the clues were there with how awful Space Ace and Dragon's Lair (which were effectively FMV games) were. Not much else going on in a quiet month.

Here's a video of someone demoing an Atari ST CD unit.


Suffice to say it didn't achieve any level of commercial success. I reckon it might have worked if they'd bundled the Falcon with one, but then again the prohibitive cost might have made the Falcon even more of a failure.

We get an interesting discussion around cheap synthesizers you can plug into your ST and the one I had as a kid gets a mention, the legendary Yamaha PSS-480. While the keys weren't touch-sentitive (ie no variation of velocity) it did do polyphony well and it was well-specced for MIDI and allowed you to generate your own sounds (albeit they were shit). It's where I learned a lot about making music, as I used the free copy of Sequencer One from a later issue of ST Format.

Previews
There's a mix of gold and shit this month. You've got Metal Masters which I think is a mech fighting game, Gold Of The Aztecs looks like a shit fantasy scrolly stabby game, and there's Satan from the muppets who brought us the excorable Army Moves and Navy Moves. In more positive news there's a shot of "Murder!" (the ! is required) which I always liked the look of though I suspect it might end up not living up to my idea of what it would be. Another rather interesting title is the Monty Python game. I love all things Python, as any good Brit should, so that's relevant to my interests. Meanwhile Core (of Tomb Raider fame) had Corporation in the works - looks like a futuristic dungeon master game. The cream of the crop though is Life And Death, where you get to be a surgeon and operate on people. Screenshots always looked super-exciting.

ST Format has been shifting in these last few issues to give broader coverage to gaming, perhaps realising that games were a larger part of the target market than they originally thought, and the previews section has shifted a little from the 2 pages with a screen for each game to having additional segments that you'd recognise in modern games magazine previews.

In this issue for instance we have a lengthy preview of Magnetic Scrolls game based on Alice in Wonderland, and the windowed system it uses. It's actually quite an interesting evolutionary dead-end, and evolutionary dead-ends are always fascinating in that they offer a bit of insight into how games evolve. In this case, where Zak McKracken took adventures in a different route in escaping the bounds of text adventures by using a point and click interface with verbs and inventory supplementing a full graphical environment, Magnetic Scrolls had roots in text adventures and so their approach is in many ways more traditional. While the graphical image is clickable and interactable, they've also got windows with text descriptions in the traditional text adventure style, and have icons for movement, and listing items in the room and so on, with menus to interact with those objects. In a way the visuals are simply shortcuts to push parsed messages to the parser and to present the available options to the user to avoid the hassle of typing (while still allowing them to do so). It's a layer that sits atop the standard text-parsed adventure, instead of being a direct replacement for it. It's clever, but you can see they were bound my thinking around text adventures rather than consideration of graphic adventures. One suspects they went down that path because they knew they could no longer charge full price for text adventures and wanted graphics that would look nice in a review, but didn't quite go far enough in ditching text because that was what they were used to.

The second preview is a little bit naughty. Their graphics editor was working on a game for EA, and we have a 3 page preview for that game which frankly looks ugly as sin. Next issue it will get a Format Gold.

The third preview centres on Bullfrog, and thus it's pretty interesting. I've posted it in full below for you guys to enjoy, but I'll also just talk about it for a bit as I can obviously look at it with a bit of hindsight. Their humble beginnings as makers of serious software and then the mediocre Fusion certainly don't hint at greatness, and you can clearly see that Populous made them. Without Populous we'd never have heard of Peter Molyneux, we wouldn't have Theme Park/Hospital, we wouldn't have Black & White, and the world would be a less fun place.

The story around the naming of Powermonger is interesting, showing that even in 1990 software publishers were using focus groups, something I didn't think was the case. As it is I do wonder if the game might have been more successful as Warmonger (the original title) or one of the suggested titles Megalomania, which Sensible Software would later use for their magnificent game.

The focus is clearly on Powermonger and one gets the impression that Flood was knocked out as a quick project to keep the books balanced and possibly to train up some of the newbies. There wasn't much hype pre-release and it barely gets a mention here, though it did get a Format Gold (possibly because the magazine writers were a little too friendly with the devs - who knows, I guess we'll find out when I play it).

One interesting thing is that even here Peter is bullshitting a little. He talks about designing your ranks (presumably the uniform your soldiers wear) and that absolutely isn't in the game. Similarly there's mention of neighbouring fishing villages playing a game of baseball which I'm pretty sure is fictitious. The killer feature is named villagers going about their business - my suspicion however is that it generates the names and tasks as they appear on screen and forgets them as they disappear, but it does a decent enough job of creating the illusion so I'll let him keep that one. Powermonger is a VERY good game by the way.





Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Damocles (Explore a solar system, save a planet from a comet - Novagen - £24.95 - 94% Format Gold)
Wipe Out (Tron Light Cycles on water - Gonzo Games - £19.99 - 64%)
Flood (Platformer [from Bullfrog] - EA - £19.99 - 91%)
AMC (Run and gun from Army Moves devs - Dinamic - £19.99 - 69%)
F29 Retaliator (Flight Sim - Ocean - £24.99 - 76%)
Midnight Resistance (Run and gun - Ocean - £24.99 - 41%)
Khalaan (strategy - Rainbow Arts - £24.99 - 59%)
Thunderstrike (Abstract 3D shooter - Millenium - £24.99 - 88%)
Treasure Trap (Isometric adventure - Electronic Zoo - £24.99 - 81%)
Atomix (Puzzler - Thalion - £19.95 - 79%)
Rourke's Drift (Strategy - Impressions - £24.99 - 46%)
Skidz (Shit skateboarding game - Gremlin - £19.95 - 71%)
Prophecy 1 (Platformer - Wired - £19.99 - 67%)


Of those, the ones that interest me most are the Treasure Trap and the legendary Damocles. The latter was one of my favourite games growing up, while Treasure Trap was a game that interested me but I never got round to. I want to take a look at Flood because it's a Bullfrog game I've not played, though honestly it doesn't look like anything special. Finally I think it would be useful to have a look at F29 Retaliator to compare it with F-19 Stealth Fighter.

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.
- Flood - Automation 313, Fuzion 9, SuperGAU 346, Medway Boys 76, Pompey Pirates 43, Vectronix 517
- Treasure Trap - Superior 74A
- F29 Retaliator - Automation 377, Pompey Pirates 38, Superior 75, Vectronix 480
- Damocles - Automation 294B, Fuzion 13, SuperGAU 488/955, Medway Boys 73, Pompey Pirates 41, Vectronix 803
 
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hariseldon

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Nah, the PC version runs faster at a decent framerate.

It’s faster but the colours are EGA or something like that judging from the screenshots - not pleasant. Faster frame rate is nice, no doubt about that, but tbh the slower rate didn’t cause me any issues.
 
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lmimmfn

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Ohhh lucky for some with their '90 model wife :) j/k couldnt resist!

I really loved Flood, unique game that was so easy to get into.

Looking forward to the F29 Retaliator review, its timing was perfect for the Iraq war and precision fire and forget missiles being shown on the news and watching missile view in game.

AMC was impressive on the CPC but cant imagine the 16bits added anything and games from that studio were hard as nails and just frustrating.

Interesting on the ST CD, Commodore also made a mess of CD, had the CDTV which looked fantastic but was overpriced for an A500 with a CD drive, then released the A3000, A4000, A600, and A1200 without CD drives or official CD expansions. Theres an A1200 prototype but never released, you could of course add a PC cd drive as a hack but unless it was in a tower it looked like crap.

Amiga - the computer that i regard as the first mass market multimedia machine, and the owner just ignored CD ffs lol.

For me i really missed not having a CD drive in my A1200, all the magazines provided CDs with loads og game demos, utilities and media that i could never use, grrrr :)
 
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hariseldon

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Ohhh lucky for some with their '90 model wife :) j/k couldnt resist!

I really loved Flood, unique game that was so easy to get into.

Looking forward to the F29 Retaliator review, its timing was perfect for the Iraq war and precision fire and forget missiles being shown on the news and watching missile view in game.

AMC was impressive on the CPC but cant imagine the 16bits added anything and games from that studio were hard as nails and just frustrating.

Interesting on the ST CD, Commodore also made a mess of CD, had the CDTV which looked fantastic but was overpriced for an A500 with a CD drive, then released the A3000, A4000, A600, and A1200 without CD drives or official CD expansions. Theres an A1200 prototype but never released, you could of course add a PC cd drive as a hack but unless it was in a tower it looked like crap.

Amiga - the computer that i regard as the first mass market multimedia machine, and the owner just ignored CD ffs lol.

For me i really missed not having a CD drive in my A1200, all the magazines provided CDs with loads og game demos, utilities and media that i could never use, grrrr :)

Yeah I didn't do too badly considering I'm an old bastard - playing games from my childhood that came out before she was born does remind me that I'm a wrinkly old fuck though.

Flood review is nearly done, posting shortly.

F29 - I'm looking forward to trying it out. Tbh F19 obviously sold well on the back of the gulf war (and they were smart enough to put a middle-east campaign in) as well as Top Gun still being reasonably fresh in kids memories as they'd rent it from Blockbusters, so really it was a perfect storm. Hopefully F-29 is as good.

AMC - tbh ST Format noted it has nice graphics, is a bit easier than Army Moves, but brings nothing new to the table.


Yep, nothing new or interesting there sadly. I suspect they just weren't great game designers.

I reckon the A1200 and Falcon were just at the cusp of being able to properly make use of CD technology, it wouldn't have been useful at A500 level and as you say the CDTV was overpriced. The 1200 though had a shot though the CD32 failed, in part because much of what was released was just A500 ports with CD music or other minor enhancements, and if you were lucky you got an AGA version. An external plug-in CD drive would have helped the A1200 but it didn't work out. The problem really is that both Atari and Commodore came up against the limits of what small-ish companies could do with proprietary platforms, while the PC was able to be more agile with its open platform and the consoles were backed by behemoth companies with huge marketing budgets. They never stood a chance - ironically had they gone down the licensing path they might have got somewhere though lacking their own CPU designs they'd not have become another ARM.
 
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hariseldon

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Flood


ST Format Review



My Review

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I've gone with Fuzion 9, in part because I've not used many Fuzion disks, but also because the menu has some hilariously bad artwork (I've had to spoiler-tag it). Scrolling text is the usual, the music sounds vaguely familiar..



For this one I had a look at the Amiga version too as it seemed worthwhile to make some kind of comparison. This section for instance still has the sampled sound but the colour isn't as good as the Amiga version, and it seems like the sound is of lower quality. It's a nice enough animation though, reasonably well put together.

The loading picture requires rather more dithering than the Amiga version due to the ST's more limited palette. The Amiga gets some sampled music but the ST gets silence.


We're into the first level with a "Let's go". The Amiga has a few sampled noises but no music, and the ST is the same. Scrolling is the big difference. Where the Amiga camera follows the player around smoothly, the ST scrolls in stages, with rapid moves when they happen, to disguise the weakness of that area of ST performance. Character animation is reasonably smooth. Controls are a little sticky and the sticking to walls and ceilings feels a bit gimmicky and I think has resulted in less time spent perfecting the jump.


One absolutely unforgiveable mechanical failure is that there seems to be no clear rhyme or reason behind getting out of one level and moving to the next. It doesn't happen when you collect the last piece of rubbish, and on first glance there's no door (or at least not one that does anything).

Looking at the manual it refers to end of level teleporters and says that in-level teleporters can be invisible and that must be what I encountered. This took me to a place I didn't see any obvious way in or out of but I somehow accidentally made my way back and eventually found the end of level transporter. And now here I am on level 2.


Completing level 2 - this section was a bit of a problem in that the monster you see up top can't be avoided or killed as I can't get a weapon and his patrol path makes it impossible not to hit him. Btw that's the teleporter my character is over.


It's revealed in https://codetapper.com/atari-st/st-bullfrog-part-1/ which I think is taken from the ST Format Bullfrog Assembler tutorial that Flood was Sean Cooper's first game. He would later create Syndicate so he did at least get better but really it's fairly clear here that this is a training exercise for a new coder disguised as a game. Frankly if you compare it with Entombed for instance, which came free on an ST Format coverdisk and was allegedly its developer's first Assembler game, and achieves smooth scrolling on an STFM, it's clear that the trainee wasn't yet up to standard.






I'm not sure why ST Format gave Flood a Format Gold - I suspect the Bullfrogs brand name counted for a lot and to be fair it's not a bad game technically and it tries to do something new, but the level design is weak, the art direction isn't the most inspiring, and it really doesn't do much to stand out from the crowd.

Resources
Manual (French): http://hol.abime.net/581/manual
Manual (English): http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=666
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Treasure Trap


ST Format Review


My Review
For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I initially went with Superior as nobody else bothered cracking this one. Superior were previously known as Flame Of Finland and their menus are a bit bare bones. In this case however the menu simply didn't work. In the end I found an image in the TOSEC collection among the non-pirated releases, an STX file which requires pasti.dll to run. The downside of this is that I can't use Steem 4, having instead to downgrade to 3.9 which for some reason won't let me have a maximised window, instead running full screen. This means I may have some inconsistent screenshot sizes.


So the game has a fairly crap loading screen with a god-awful chiptune rendition of "row row row your boat". Not a great start.

Before continuing, for anyone who couldn't be arsed to read the ST Format review, Treasure Trap is an isometric game in which you explore a shipwreck. I'm stripping it for cash while trying to avoid nasties. Air is a problem but pockets of air can be found scattered around. Simple. ST Format make the comparison with the 8-bit classic Head Over Heels and the screenshots certainly convey that. I'm hoping for something that scratches the Cadaver itch, but let's see what we get.


Ok so we have a marginally better chiptune as we go into our animated intro, and actually that animated intro isn't bad.


We're off to a bad start. It took me quite a while to realise that the player sprite is hiding behind the door.



Eventually I managed to nick the gold from on top of the crate, but the other two pieces on the ground were impossible to collect (which is annoying as a Youtube video shows someone just walking up to them and collecting them). Similarly the Youtube video shows someone using the door at the top, just walking up to it and opening it, and that also doesn't work. I've set all the keys up, I know what keys do what, in the end in sheer desperation I just press everything, but to no avail. I suspect that the orangey sphere on the floor is required to open the doors, but as the game won't let me pick it up I'm somewhat screwed.

Eventually, after much faff, I find out that I must jump on the key (space) and pick it up while I'm on top of it with D. That seems logical.



On to the second room. The doors are unlocked, all I need to do is pick up the gold on the table and atop the stack of crates while avoiding the starfish and the jellyfish. I can't jump high enough for the crates so I leave it for now.


Yet again I arrive in a room unable to see my sprite. Worse, staying still too long results in being killed while moving incorrectly results in being killed. I manage to take the door on the right after a few goes.


I jump at the stack of boxes and manage to push the top one. It falls to the ground and creates a step so I can exit to the right.


Not sure how I get to the door up top, but I'll need a key for the one on the right.


Oh so those boxes moving up and down are lifts.. cool.


Another room - this time I can see where I'm going. There's an air canister on the table. Gold in the corner, I'll get that before moving on.


And another simple room, I need to get some gold but the question is how do I get to the door up top?

Eventually I hit one fish too many and die.



Here's a map of where I went apparently.

So, is it any good? In a way it is. The graphics are well-drawn, the animation is solid and reasonably smooth, and the world is well-realised. It does have some design flaws as I've noted above, basic quality of life things with a touch of unfairness, plus controls are quite dodgy aside from the weirdness of picking things up (they're not very responsive). The bigger problem however is a shallow gameplay loop. Get gold/key, go to door. In many ways I probably would have rated this higher if Cadaver wasn't a thing, but as it is I'd personally choose Cadaver over this. It's not a bad game by any means, I did like it despite its flaws and you'll probably have a good time with it. It's just unfortunate that the bitmaps came along and showed how it should be done.

Resources
Manual: https://www.gamesdatabase.org/Media/SYSTEM/Microsoft_DOS/manual/Formated/Treasure_Trap.pdf
 
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hariseldon

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I'm really having to be quite versatile in my gaming to get these reviews done. I don't always get them right, and some games I just can't wrap my head around, but it's definitely an interesting experience for me, and hopefully is proving to be of interest to others.
 

Havoc2049

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Astro Marine Corps is a decent action shooter/platformer on the ST with cool graphics, sfx and music. It's no Contra, Metal Slug or Turrican, but I enjoyed it back in the day.
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
I think I'm going to pass on F29 Retaliator. There are some horrible design decisions like referring to the manual for mission descriptions, horribly dated menu system, lack of waypoints as far as I can tell when flying, and so on. In its defence the 3D engine is smooth as fuck, though detail seems a lot lower then F-19. The problem is that F-19 has rather spoiled me, and F-29 has made a pretty poor impression in my short time with it. The manual clarifies very little.

It's worth noting that this may be a case of being too keen for dessert (Damocles) and not wanting to eat my vegetables (F29).
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Damocles


ST Format Review





My Review PART ONE

For this review I'm running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I've picked Automation 294B, which has a pretty simple intro. Scrolly text, music, a nice picture, simple enough.


Before I go any further it's worth giving a bit of back-story to this game. So Damocles is the sequel to Mercenary, an old 8-bit classic. Both games were written by one man, Paul Woakes, an absolute legend. Damocles was notable at the time for taking 4 years to make, bearing in mind the rate of development at that time made such a lengthy development process a truly bad idea. He pulled it off though.

The long wait for the game is even worked into the story, which goes thus. The planet Eris is going to be hit by a comet. This was figured out ages ago but nobody did anything other than talk and form committees. Eventually everyone evacuated and the President (Margaret - this was during the time of Margaret Thatcher and this is a British game) called for your assistance. You were unexpectedly delayed, and now have 3 hours to save the solar system. You are free to explore that entire solar system, but beware of time dilation when flying very very fast in space. Before you know it, time will run out and you'll see Eris get splatted by a comet. Unusually for the time, if you screw up the game carries on and you are still free to explore what's left of the solar system.

Your computer assistant, Benson, is wonderfully sarcastic in that very 90s way, and the whole game can be said to be very Hitchhiker's Guide in its sense of humour. If you're not dead inside you'll have a few good laughs here.

Once the game has loaded it throws you straight into the action - we arrive on autopilot into the Gamma system and head for Eris (straight ahead) diving straight into the atmosphere.


We make our way down to the surface. In shot are Capital City (green), Bare Island (brown) and Snow Island (white - at the planet's pole). Key West and Velos aren't in shot.


Coming in to land at the spaceport.


So we've landed, time to go and get the key for my car in that building. The car is the brown shape on the right. A quick note on performance. In flight frame rates are pretty good, around 20-30 fps I'd say. Walking around outside near complex shapes it slows down a bit, to something closer to 5 fps, but inside buildings it tends to speed back up again as it's not rendering quite so much distance. Controls are sane. Joystick to turn left or right or walk forwards or backwards, with R toggling run mode. Sound is sparse, some burbles for Benson talking to you, and some samples for the automatic doors, plus the occasional explosion sound when someone's shooting at you.

Objects in the game are presented as oversized objects like this. I can pick it up by pressing the up arrow, cycle my inventory with the side arrows (some will turn the 'Damocles' in the middle into a control panel of some sort) and drop the current selected item with a press of the down arrow. So far so easy.


With key in hand, this is my car. A little more on the control panel - the box saying Eris tells you the nearest planet, and to the right of that is your current speed. Below that are two co-ordinates - the planet co-ordinate and the local island co-ordinate, with the altitude next to that. The central panel becomes an interactive panel if you have a suitable object selected (you'll see that soon) and on the right we have the inventory. The red bar on the left deals with temperature, while the right deals with air pressure. The bar in the inventory tells you how full the inventory is. We have 3 lights below the inventory - the one lit up is run mode, the others tell you if you're getting too close to the ground in a plane or spaceship and whether you're under attack.

I'll (B)oard the car with the B button and (L)eave it with L, and set its speed with the keys 1-9, with space used to stop and the joystick controlling direction. My first task is to go to the president's occice at the end of the road.



I'm on the road, let's find this house. By the way - you can see the sun there - there is a complete (accelerated) day night cycle with all the planets orbiting the sun and moons orbiting the planets in the way you'd expect, and some of them are visible in the night sky, depending on which planet you're on.


This looks like it. Like most buildings in the game it features multiple rooms over multiple floors (we have entire tower blocks) and while the interiors are sparse it's still pretty cool. All of this is held in memory with no disk access whatsoever.


The president messages through Benson complaining that I'm here finally but was meant to be here months ago, that Eris will be destroyed in a few hours, and advising me to read the Damocles file.


Before I do that I'm going to nick the air conditioner so I have something to sell at a trading post and get some money.


The Damocles file. I pick it up, enter to open it, * to read, + and - for next and previous items. Simple. In it, I am informed that Eris is due to be hit by a comet - a parliamentary committee has been sitting for 30 years considering the problem, publishing many reports but not actually doing anything useful. There are 5 ways to solve the problem*, and we are told that Professor Hantzen has developed a bomb powerful enough to blow up the comet. The problem however is that Margaret and the prof had a falling out after a game of chess and aren't on speaking terms. Hantzen has since disappeared. The green party on Dion have put a preservation order on Damocles and may be quite pissed off if we blow it up - there are of course options to avoid such a thing. There's a large reward for saving Eris (well I am a mercenary) without destroying the comet - the reasoning being that a comet might be a useful tourist attraction. It then tells me to go to the lift at the end of the 2nd floor.

Upon arrival Margaret contacts me to let me know that while she's not there in person (having evacuated) she is there in spirit. She then gives me some co-ordinates for Hantzen's lab on Bare Island (06-05 - btw you will want a notepad handy when playing this game). She then informs me my spacecraft key is in the basement. Said spacecraft is waiting at the Moorby School Of Flying and tells me to use the road opposite this building to reach it.

* those 5 methods are basically different ways to blow up Damocles, or avoid blowing it up by blowing up Icarus before Damocles passes it. Icarus is this solar system's Mercury - essentially hot and useless.


This is my spacecraft. Now while I'm being asked to go to Hantzen's lab, I have a bit of prior knowledge from playing previously and will thus instead first go to 12-14 on Capital City to pick up something useful at the post office. It's a GPS device.


Here's the device - I'm being informed here that they've moved to a new office at 00-10 on Birmingham Island on Dion, which means there's probably something there worth knowing about. So, my shopping list for places to check out is:

Eris - Bare Island - 06-05 - Hantzen's Office
Dion - Birmingham Island - 00-10 - Eris Post Office Temporary HQ


Ahead is Bare Island, and you can see my A-Z computer in action telling me so. As I move around the island it will tell me what each building is.


Here you can see the road network for Bare Island. Typically a building is at each intersection and at even spacings along each road. This is how the game manages to achieve its rendering speed, because it never has to render more than one building at a time.


Now this is an accident but I appear to have found a building that might be useful. I'll pop along to his lab in due course but let's look at his admin building.


This is the lift in this office block and that's my spaceship outside. I can press B for the basement, G for ground and 1-9 for numbered floors. If the floor doesn't exist the lift simply won't move.


Here I am on the top floor of the building, I've found a Geiger Counter. Not terribly useful but on the other hand it makes for an interesting screenshot with the road outside in the background.


Getting lost, going the wrong direction, I end up at Hantzen Sales which seems like a worthwhile building to visit. Turns out it's very worthwhile as this is a teleporter. It can teleport me to 9 locations around the solar system.


Testing the teleporter I go to location 2 which turns out to be Verdant Party (green party) HQ. I'll come back here in a bit, I suspect it'll be useful, and it's faster than flying the spaceship to Dion if I want to get to the post office. I'll have to keep a note of where I leave my spaceship if I do though. Luckily it looks like there's a car outside and no doubt there'll be a key available somewhere in the building so I can steal the car. Back to Bare Island however, I need to get to Hantzen's Office.


Back at Hantzen sales I have a quick look for things to loot - a timed detonator in the basement seems like something that might be useful if I'm blowing up a comet. A happy accident of course but the whole point of the game is to explore and find interesting things. There are a huge number of interesting things to find scattered around the solar system. Some useful, some not.

I eventually make it to Hantzen's lab, finding Door Key B in the basement. Useful.


So here's some explosive just lying around. This seems like a bad idea.



His office - I need to drop the explosives for now as I don't have room in my inventory and need to pick up the notepad to read it. So this is a memo pad.
'Thu 12th: Monique - last night I fixed your word processor'
'Fri 13th: Monique - Letter to Novagen as follows: Paul - I know there's every reason to be late but I must have the four detonators complete and ready for me to prime by the 18th latest. Paragraph. Damocles is due in 2 weeks! - Regards - Ralph'
'Tue 17th: Monique - Letter to State President as follows: My dear Margaret - thank you for your letter. Paragraph. I do know that there are only 10 days to go on the project for the destruction of Damocles. Paragraph. The bomb is complete and although Novagen is behind schedule, the detonators will be posted to you and three other trustees in good time. Paragraph. I do look forward to our chess game next week. Yours affectionately - Ralph.'
'Wed 18th: Monique - Despatch detonators to trustees today'
'Fri 20th: Monique - None of the detonators have arrived! Please check urgently with Eris Post Office. I'm off to the country house for the weekend.'
'Tue 24th: Monique - It just will not do to know that all four parcels have been temporarily lost by the post office sorting office on Snow Island. There is no time to make any more detonators. I want positive results by tomorrow - Ralph! PS I'm with the state president this evening.'
'Wed 25th: Monique - If that */-#! phones - tell her I have gone on holiday - and not to Eris either - Ralph'

Looks like I've got work to do. Need to get to the sorting office on Snow Island to find out what's going on. First however I need to read the top secret file sat open on another desk in the same room. This is the Novabomb file. The penalty for leaking its contents is 15 years at Pan Hades labour camp. It tells of the Novabomb which is immensely powerful and can destroy even large planets. Its location is known only to the prof for delivery on the day. It should be placed on the surface of the comet for remote detonation. The bomb is safe for one hour of exposure due to radiation. It tells of the need for 4 detonators, which are disguised as everyday items.

Onwards, to Snow Island.

[End Of Part 1]

Resources

Map of Gamma System: http://www.atarimania.com/st/boxes/hi_res/damocles_novagen_uk_i_9.jpg
Manual: https://www.mediafire.com/file/a752wnzvhdhx51b/Damocles_Manual.pdf/file
Windows Conversion/Remake: http://mercenarysite.free.fr/mddclone.htm
My save so far: https://www.mediafire.com/file/it83g5meqwms7et/Damocles-001.sts/file - note requires Steem 4.02 D3D 64-bit R25.

Part 2
 
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hariseldon

Unconfirmed Member
Your F-19 and Damocles reviews are great and enjoyable to read. Both games are classics. I love all the Microprose releases for all the reasons you stated in your F-19 review.

Here is my Atari ST (with a few Atari XL/XE games) Microprose collection.


Great to see Grand Prix there. I played that so much. Microprose were a huge part of my gaming history, an enormous force for good in my childhood.
 
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