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The ST Format Challenge

hariseldon

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Super Hang-On

Super Hang-On is another game that came with my Atari ST in the Power Pack.



(yeah I'm using a pirated version)

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



My Review
The power pack came with Super Hang-On and Outrun. Outrun had the glamour, the Ferrari, the multiple routes to the end, but it was also not a particularly good conversion on the ST. Super Hang-On on the other hand, it was fucking brilliant.



Like most racers of the time it used stripes to convey a rolling road, with sprites by the roadside to help the illusion of speed, the view from behind your vehicle. Like other games, while initially showing you alongside other racers, those others would leave you in the dust at the start never to reappear, because it was a time-trial and not a race, with bikes appearing at random as you made your way through the stages.



Courses twisted and turned, offering wonderful verticality and sweeping bends as you try to take each bend at the fastest speed possible, pushing forward to accelerate and holding down fire to activate turbo. Crashing into anything was a mere delay, not the end of the game, though with limited time to complete each stage you don't have time to dawdle.



Graphics are excellent, but sound too is worth a mention. While using the Atari ST's notoriously dodgy sound chip, it manages to convey each of those classic Super Hang-On tunes (which WILL get stuck in your head) beautifully and the music in Super Hang-On remains some of my favourite in any game. Sure it's not as nice as on other platforms, but with what was available at the time it's bloody lovely.

A bonus worth mentioning - while most games only let you put 3 letters on the high score table, Super Hang-On lets you have 4, which offers a perfect opportunity for filth. It's got to be worth it for that alone.
 
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hariseldon

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Elite


Elite is a game that most people will already know about, a space trading/combat game set in a miniature recreation of the universe. This version crams 8000 planets in 8 galaxies into 512k of RAM - a feat that I can only assume involves some use of procedural generation. Elite 2 would go further many years later but at the time this was enormously impressive, though of course the planets themselves aren't hugely detailed, nor can you land on them - they are merely backdrops for the stations you visit.



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



My Review
As has become my approach for the more complex games in this series, I started with the manual. It starts by telling you a bit about the ship, which is middle-of-the-road, a reasonable trade ship that can also handle a bit of combat if need be. It moves on to telling you about how you progress through the ranks starting harmless, moving through mostly harmless, poor, average, competent, dangerous and elite, and how the law works (if you're seen doing something naughty the police will shoot at you). Some details on flying with guidance on key controls come next.



I decided to pause this and practice flight, starting with the most precise job, docking. I started by trying to use the mouse, but I'll save you from making the same mistake. Don't do it. There's some strange idea of the mouse being like a joystick, so that if the mouse is in the centre then you've centred movement, while if you move it around it doesn't move in the manner you might expect from a PC FPS, instead it will remain in continuous motion as if a joystick was that far from the centre. There's also a very odd dead zone in the middle that's quite hard to guage. So, don't use the mouse. Use the keyboard.

< Roll left
> Roll right
S Dive
X Climb
SPACE Speed up
/ Slow down

The rest of the manual details other controls for hyperspace and jump options, but my first mission was to dock. As already mentioned, I first attempted this with the mouse. It did not go well, while I did manage to get to the space station (after spinning wildly trying to get pointed at something), I managed to crash into the wall, continuing the theme of me trying these games and being utterly shit at them. I then figured out that the keyboard was better and docking turned out to be a piece of cake. Thank fuck for that.



The space station bears some resemblance to the ones in Elite Dangerous of course, as you'd expect, but vastly less detailed - to dock you just fly at a black rectangle and hope. It's a bit jerky, but it is at least filled vectors unlike the 8-bit versions. This was actually pretty impressive until much later in the ST's life when the likes of Damocles and the Midwinter games made larger leaps (both of course offering far more detail albeit in more constrained locations). Sound is absolutely dreadful, no music other than the intro screen, no ship noises and just some annoying beeps to let you know when you or someone else has fired a shot.

So, back to the manual, aiming to find out some more.



******* a couple of days later *******

I tend to play Elite Dangerous as a space trucker and I'm hoping to do the same here (and managed to figure out the buying and selling before going back to the manual - yeah I'm awesome). Noting that I started on an agricultural world and that I could buy food cheap there and sell more expensively on an industrial world, I purchased food and headed for leesti. I left the station and engaged hyperspace, with all its fancy tunnel-effect, and arrived near my chosen world. I jumped to get closer but was interrupted by pirates. After a lot of faff trying to figure out where the buggering hell it was and wrestling with awful controls I finally shot one down for 0.5 credits. That was worth it. Shot down another, ended up taking down 4 ships which I was quite proud of considering how bad he controls are. The lack of yaw in particular is doing my fucking head in. A couple more goes lead to similar outcomes.



The approach to energy is quite interesting, and I think unusual for the time, in that your shields will regenerate from the energy you have stored, but that energy is also depleted by shooting, while the energy bank itself replenishes at a fixed rate - it means that you have to be careful with your shots, not wasting too many. It creates an interesting mechanic and of course Elite Dangerous goes a step further by allowing you to determine biases for where energy should go.

Another interesting mechanic is the idea that you can jettison from a ship to be taken to the nearest safe space, and as your wanted level is tied to your ship, you can clear your wanted status, and you get given a new Cobra [the starting ship] (minus its cargo). This means that if your wanted level is too much, you could sell everything, go back to a cobra and then jettison from the cobra to get your wanted level back to 0 without losing anything. Whether that is intentional is of course anyone's guess but it allows a way out if the heat gets too much.

Sadly, for me, all these great ideas are tied to a game that controls poorly, making it too hard to get to the game underneath all the jank. I don't think I'll be coming back to this, maybe Frontier Elite 2 will be better.
 
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hariseldon

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Issue 6 - Download


The World in November 1988


Previews
The previews here are a bit more unknown to me than previous weeks. Puffy's Saga I don't know, but a quick Youtube suggests it has much in common with Gauntlet. Turbo Cup is a racing game I've heard of but never played, Galactic Conqueror looks like a standard space shooter, along with Outland, then there's a pepsi ad-game. They ended up being quite big in the 90s with games featuring the 7-up spot and the Quavers mascot proving to be big hits. This one I've not heard of so I can only assume it was awful.

The Munsters looks like standard platform license fare, Thunderblade seems to be a shooter of some kind but google has been inconclusive. I see F-16 Attack Fighter and I suspect that's the game that eventually came to be known as F-16 Combat Pilot. I found it a bit too complex as a kid, preferring Microprose's F-19 instead. We finish up with Superman and Lasertrain which look deeply uninteresting.

Reviews
Missing the cut this month were Spitting Image and Return of the Jedi owing to the publishers sending blank disks, cybernoid owing to being all graphics and no substance, Daley Thompson Olympic Challenge on some flimsy excuse, and some uninteresting junk.

Games reviewed this month:
Powerdrome (3D space racing game - Electronic Arts - £24.95 - 95% Format Gold)
Rocket Ranger (Collection of minigames in one overarching story - Cinemaware - £29.99 Amiga or £24.99 ST [unusual] - 90% Format Gold)
SDI (Shooter - Activision - £19.95 - 85%)
Pacmania (Isometric Pacman - Grand Slam - £19.95 - 80%) - note the version shown is the Amiga version which is MUCH better looking than the ST conversion
Battlechess (Chess - Electronic Arts - £24.95 - 85%)
Colossus Chess X (Chess - CDS Software - £24.95 - 87%)
Speedball (future angry sports game - Imageworks - £24.99 - 80%)
Zero Gravity (3d pong - Lankhor - £19.95 - 75%)
Driller (Freescape game - Incentive - £22.95 - 70%)

That's actually quite an exciting selection. I've played Pacmania (came with my ST), Colossus Chess and Speedball and enjoyed all three, while Driller is intriguing as I never got a chance to play a freescape game though I did dabble with the 3d constructor demo on an ST Format cover disk. Then there's Rocket Ranger which I don't quite know what to make of. I'll give it some thought and choose some suitable games to review in due course.
 

hariseldon

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Just had a quick look at Speedball 1 - I wasn't planning to review it as it's probably sensible to wait for Speedball 2 and review that, however I just wanted to note a couple of things. First up, I played Speedball 2 back in the day but never Speedball 1, and honestly I thought the difference would be just things like the more pinball-ish additions found in speedball 2 rather than anything particularly substantial. It was a shock tbh. The game had much less polish - it had that bitmap look of course but it was missing something in the artwork, the menus were ugly (which is unusual for bitmaps), and the violence felt less meaty. The big thing however was the tiny tiny pitch. It scrolls vertically only, instead of full 8-way scrolling as found in Speedball 2, which makes the pitch insanely narrow (and thus tiny) given how zoomed in it is. Also, it's REALLY fucking easy. Insanely so. Speedball 2 can still offer a decent chalenge but Speedball 1 - honestly we're very lucky Speedball 2 got made given Speedball 1 is pretty mediocre.

Anyway, enough of that bollocks. I reckon I'll probably have a look at Rocket Ranger, Driller and Powerdrome, time permitting.
 
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hariseldon

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Powerdrome

It's likely you won't have heard of Powerdrome, the EA racer from 1988. It's not enormously well-known but it's a little something different from the norm at a time where most of what was being released was platformers and shooters, with most racing games being Outrun-clones. 3D filled vector racing games were certainly unusual at this point.




ST Format Review

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





My Review

I decided to dive straight in, and on my first few floundering attempts using the mouse I managed to crash into every wall, floor and ceiling possible on the test track (a simple oval). I then decided to read the manual (http://www.lemonamiga.com/games/docs.php?id=1272), which informed me that the mouse is preferable to the joystick. I then found the option to switch to the joystick and found myself profoundly disagreeing with the manual. The mouse suffers from similar problems to Elite, with the mouse moving around an area that represents the position of the joystick. Why on earth hadn't they figured out better ways of doing things as found in games like Battlehawks 1942, where if you move the mouse left the plane banks left, move it right it banks right, and that's it, with simple and immediate movement. To top it off, there's lag. So, joystick it is, the proper control being sufficient to make the lag manageable.



Overall movement is smooth despite the lag, and this is of course because actually it's not pushing many polygons around. That's a sensible decision given the limitations of the machine, better to have smoothness and speed than prettiness. The problem however is that the controls are pretty bad. The game was notorious back in the day for being hard to fly and I can see why. Looking at the differing manuals for the ST and Amiga version (the Amiga version arrived later) it seems the Amiga version got an option to increase the centering strength which I presume was in response to complaints about the difficulty. If that is the case it is probably the better version. I tried the C button and got nothing so I presume that it never made it to the ST, which is a dreadful shame.

Sound isn't particularly exciting, the ST can do better but I've heard worse.



Overall I'd call this a fantastic idea poorly executed. There were many such games early in the ST's history as developers adapted from 8-bit machines of lesser capability to the vastly capable ST (though it's fair to say some early ST games were less impressive than some of what was put out for the C64). It's not something I'm pissed off about though - developers were still figuring out what works and what doesn't, and taking risks. Where now even the worst games are at least basically controllable, mediocre but at least capable of doing what they set out to do, the life of the ST contained many absolute stinkers that would never see the light of day today, but those stinkers were the by-product of creativity unbounded by convention, a rich seam of enthusiast developers creating for fun, not profit. More power to them.

 

hariseldon

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Loved SDI on the ST, got it for Christmas.


That artwork is lovely - it's actually one of the things I really love about that era. The artwork often bore very little resemblance to the game but it set the scene wonderfully and did such a good job of standing out on the shelf in ways that so much current box art just doesn't.
 

Nitty_Grimes

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Yeah, I got that and R Type for the ST that Christmas. However my disk for that was defective or for some reason it would never load on my ST.
 
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hariseldon

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Yeah, I got that and R Type for the ST that Christmas. However my disk for that was defective or for some reason it would never load on my ST.
My ST came with R-Type - I never played the arcade original so it’s hard for me to comment on the quality of the conversion but it always seemed like a good solid shooter.
 

hariseldon

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I think the 16 bit versions were received quite well.
Just spotted that R-Type is in the next issue so I'll have a proper crack at it then.

I thought it might be useful to just mention a bit about how my setup is evolving. Sadly I don't have a CRT TV to work with, nor an original (horrible) Atari ST mouse, nor the god-awful joystick, so instead I'm using my Microsoft wireless mouse and an 8bitdo M30 megadrive controller. It's not perfect but it's better than using an xbox controller for the job, and back in the day you could plug the mega drive controller into the ST (same ports).

If I can figure out getting a decent CRT filter onto Steem I'll get that going at some point, but the options are limited so maybe I should look for an alternative emulator.

EDIT: Rocket Ranger review is in progress - considering dropping Driller and just doing Castle Master when we get there as that's the definitive Freescape game.
 
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hariseldon

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Rocket Ranger

Note that the game requires use of a copy-protection code wheel which has been brilliantly recreated at https://www.oldgames.sk/codewheel/rocket-ranger (UK release) and https://www.oldgames.sk/codewheel/rocket-ranger-us (US release) if you want to play along. Note that they are different.

Cinemaware have a particular style, their games often graphically excellent and featuring an array of minigames. Rocket Ranger is no exception to that. Visually splendid, with a true 16-bit feel that few games of the era have, and with ambitious ideas executed in perhaps limited ways due to the capabilities of the machines, it still paints a way forward for games.



ST Format Review

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





My Review
Loading the game I get the wonderful Atari ST desktop in all it's lime-green splendour and double-click the program icon, noting the helpfully-placed list of codes which will really do nothing useful for me as the numbers scroll by (I presume the intent was that you'd print them on your dot matrix printer but that isn't so useful now - this is presumably to get around the copy protection wheel, but more on that shortly).



This being a pirate release, we have the traditional classy intro screen.



This one failed me however, with a demand later on for a disk that didn't exist, so I swapped to a different release, this time with no desktop but with this wonderful intro.



From the outset it's clear that Cinemaware want to live up to their name - the opening having that lovely art-deco look evocative of the era around which the game revolves. An opening animation followed by exposition text presented in black and white gives way to a riot of colour and a rather dashing chip tune gets you in the mood. The opening animation is far beyond the standard of the time (although admittedly using some cheap tricks like palette-cycling), being closer to the kind of thing we'd later see from the likes of Delphine, Microprose, etc.






The game drops me in at a menu where I head to the war room. Nazi efficiency is currently 80% and I need to drop that down so I can stop their evil plans. And yes these are actual Nazis, not the modern kind. Someone decided that moving a mouse pointer was better done with a joystick than a mouse (on a machine which will almost certainly have a mouse in one port and a joystick in the other as the mouse and joystick ports are in an awful spot on the STFM [under the machine] which was thankfully fixed on the STE).




Checking some reports I find out I have to destroy a moonbase (how the fuck are nazis on the moon?). First up, let's move my agents. They're all over the fucking place, and it seems to me the nazis will mostly be interested in Europe so let's do something about that. I move my agents from around the world to cover the main European countries. Before I can complete the moving though my man in Persia detects a secret base, with rockets. Well obviously I swap him to resistance and prepare to get over there and kick some ass.




Trying the British and American code wheels - one simply dumps me in the ocean while the other requires more fuel than I have, so back to the war room and some more infiltration and...



Spain has a rocket base, and both versions of the wheel give numbers I can actually do. Let's see which one's right!



So that one's wrong.. let's try the other one. Thank fuck for emulator snapshots. Finally, success!



So now it won't detect disk 2 no matter what I do. At this point, having fucked around with code wheels for ages and all sorts of other non-running hassles, my patience is running low. Time to attempt the 3rd fucking copy of this fucking game.

So, trying to recreate the steps of my previous run through.. Turns out this time Spain is holding a prisoner, and I should probably do something about that. Predictably the first code-wheel value I choose is wrong, but the 2nd, the British one, is right. Brilliant, and now the game is bitching at me that the zeppelin is moving too quickly. Still, time for a fight.



First I find myself in a Space-Harrier-esque (albeit without the speed) section, taking out some planes at an impressive 2 frames per second.




I succeed, greeted by some text informing me that I've rescued the scientist. Unfortunately I fucked up and didn't have enough lunarium to get home, so had to call an SOS and the nazis had a party while I was out of action for 3 months.





So now we have a zeppelin factory in England (because Britain isn't a thing), the nazis have taken Russia, my spy in France has been shot, and my spy in Italy too. This isn't going well. Time for a hail mary, let's go intercept the zeppelins in Yugoslavia.





Ok now I'm on a roll, time to go to Russia and see what's up. Another punch up, like the last. The beat-em-up section is very very basic and it soon becomes apparent that the only way to actually hit the guard is with the low shot, so it becomes a game of waiting for his guard to move elsewhere and hit him. His attacks are not terribly effective. It looks ok, albeit with crap animation, but honesty there's no gameplay there. Off to Italy then as it appears there's no way to intercept the zeppelin. Nothing there, despite nazis killing my spy.

In the end I just find myself not caring enough to continue and call it a day. Fundamentally this is a collection of pretty but poorly-executed minigames that don't add up to a whole lot of fun.
 

Nitty_Grimes

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Loved it. Great post.

Never managed to get to the moon because I could never beat the 4th guard.

Interesting fact. Used to have a program that could take screenshots by holding down keys, so took loads of them from this game and used to try and edit them in Degas Elite for my own amusement.
 
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hariseldon

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Loved it. Great post.

Never managed to get to the moon because I could never beat the 4th guard.

Interesting fact. Used to have a program that could take screenshots by holding down keys, so took loads of them from this game and used to try and edit them in Degas Elite for my own amusement.
I think I'm slowly finding a format for this stuff - think I'll try to get more screenshots in if I can, though obviously some games lend themselves to it more than others. I did notice an increase in difficulty between guards 1 and 2 but beat both reasonably easily - the third would probably have been a bit harder as the guard defended much much better in the 2nd fight than the first, though still didn't offer much in offence. I was more a Canvas guy myself (primarily because it came free with ST Format later in its life - I even programmed a clone of it for shits and giggles in GFA Basic).
 

hariseldon

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Issue 7 - Download


The World in December 1988
December 1988 was an eventful month, with probably the most famous (for those of us of a certain age) moment being Edwina Curry's outrageous assertion that most British eggs had salmonella. Egg sales were affected badly. This was however only the 2nd most shocking thing about Edwina Curry, as it later came out that she'd been shagging John Major (British PM for a while). Later that month we'd have the Clapham junction rail crash, and finally we'd have the Lockerbie plane crash (which would later be shamefully copied by British country sheep and shagging soap Emerdale).

Looking at the film chart (https://www.25thframe.co.uk/charts/box-office.php?chart=19881209) we see the utterly brilliant Who Framed Roger Rabit at number 1, proving the British public had great taste, though we let ourselves down with Willow at number 2. Scrooged with Bill Murray was however a better effort (primarily because Bill Murray in his prime was unstoppable). The rest of the chart is unremarkable as we see A Fish Called Wanda slowly sliding out of the charts.

Looking at the singles chart (https://www.officialcharts.com/charts/uk-top-40-singles-chart/19881211/750140/) we see that Britain actually has fucking awful taste. Mistletoe and Wine from the definitely-not-a-pedophile Cliff Richard at number 1 because who doesn't love a shit Christmas song, followed by Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan with Especially For You cashing in on the public's inability to tell the difference between actor and character (they played a couple in the Aussie soap Neighbours), followed by Suddenly by Angry Anderson which was played at the wedding of the characters Kylie and Jason played in Neighbours (the show was HUUUUUUUGE in the UK back then and any Neighbours star could pretty much guarantee a pop career). A decent EP from Erasure (ok one good song, Stop), some utter shit from Bros, the excellent dance hit Good Life by Inner City and then Phil Collins singing a song he put out for Buster, and then it gets REALLY shit. Status fucking Quo.

The album chart (https://www.officialcharts.com/charts/albums-chart/19881211/7502/) was no better, with Now 13 at number 1, followed by Cliff Richard (Nooo!) and the lovely but not yet great musically Kylie, lots of greatest hits and compilation albums and honestly there's little there I can muster enthusiasm for. Dark times. No wonder we needed decent games to make life worth living.

The Magazine
This month's edition features discussion of colour printers (quite the novelty at that time) and hard drives (with an increible 30mb of storage space!), along with a review of the Shoot Em Up Construction Kit, a creature responsible for so many shit Public Domain games. Flair Paint comes up, though I preferred Canvas myself and Amiga owners will always choose Deluxe Paint (which wouldn't see an ST release til 1990).

Previews
The previews this month are mostly games I don't know an enormous amount about. There's Purple Saturn Day which is I think fairly well-known among 16-bit enthusiasts, but also lesser titles like The Incredible Shrinking Sphere, Jug, Spherical, The Paranoia Complex, etc which I know little about. Weird Dreams rings a bell and might be one to check out when we get there, but I'm not sure I can find the same enthusiasm for Garfield - A Winter's Tail.

Reviews
Missing the cut were Joan Of Arc (no idea), Menace and IK+, the latter I think I might review as I know it got rather a better reputation later in its life.

Games reviewed this month:
Thunderblade (Vertically-Scrolling Shooter/Space-Harrier rip-off - US Gold - £24.99 - 92% Format Gold) - the frame rate is horrendous - how the fuck did that get 92%?
R-Type (Side-scrolling arcade conversion shooter - Activision - £19.95 - 96% Format Gold)
Live And Let Die (Bond-themed boat-racing game - Domark - £19.95 - 83% [very generous])
Chuckie Egg (Platformer - Pick & Choose - £19.95 - 75%)
Return Of The Jedi (isometric shooter that's zoomed in way too close for good gameplay - Domark - £19.95 - 72%)
Galactic Conqueror (Space Harrier in space - Titus - £24.99 - £24.99 - 78%)
944 Turbo Cup (Racing - Loricel - £19.99 - 70%)
Lombard RAC Rally (Racing - Mandarin - 80%)
International Soccer (Chess game - Microdeal - £19.95 - 70%)
Pioneer Plague (Amiga-only so who cares - some use of HAM mode for 4096 colours but on fairly static screens)

Of those, the ones that look most interesting to me are probably R-Type and Chuckie Egg - I might pick up IK+ too from the games that missed the cut, for a fairly manageable set of reviews after a run of rather high-effort reviews. Note that I decided to skip Driller last month and focus my Freescape efforts on Castle Master when I get to it.
 
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Nitty_Grimes

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Mind you this thread is all going to end in tears when I tell you about my mate who had an Amiga 500 brought it round to our house and showed me the intro for Blood Money and then the demo Puggs in Space.

However, we still have a long way to go yet :)

My ST (even though it was the STFM) had the single sided disk drive - can you believe it? 360K available to me on a disk. Eventually I saved up enough money to buy a double sided drive from Evesham Micros (they'll be advertised in that mag at some point!) then I was introduced to the second side of the ST Format disk!! (Well it wasn't you didn't turn it over lol)

Me and my other ST owning mate spent hours trying to store the most amount of public domain stuff on a disk. Crunch was a thing even back in those days!!!

Then of course it introduced me to the Cuddly Demos and the Whattaheck demo by The Carebears.

This is definitely bringing it all back. Please continue :)
 

hariseldon

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R-Type




ST Format Review

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




My Review




R-Type is a conversion of an arcade classic, handled by Electric Dreams who did such an excellent job with Super Hang-On. As you'll likely already know it's a side-scrolling shooter set in space, with the simple objective of killing anything that moves (and if it doesn't, kill it just in case it starts moving).




The game eases you in gently but if you're an idiot like me, you can still die. While the flying nasties are a problem if you're as cack-handed as I am, the bigger problem is the tiny bullets floating around, which seem to be about 2 pixels by 2 pixels (admittedly chunky pixels). With the game a little jerky, especially compared with the [utl=[MEDIA=youtube]xmEhC91k3MI[/MEDIA] version[/url].



The game lets you throw a decent number of bullets around (to an extent that early on strafing up and down while mashing fire is a valid strategy) and as a bonus holding the fire button down grants you a fireball of different sizes depending on how long you power up, as a means to do some crowd control.



Space becomes more constricted as you progress, with nasties coming in from all angles and of course the perennial shooter vulnerability comes up, that if it's not directly in front of your ship you can't fight it. The game does throw a lot of sprites around the screen but I can't help wondering if it might benefit from shrinking some of them for a more zoomed-out view in order to let the ST cope a little better, given framerates do drop a bit.



Enemies are a step up from the Space Invaders school of patterned attacks, coming in waves but being willing to deviate from the pattern and react to the player, as well as hiding behind obstacles. The bosses are pretty awesome too, featuring some lovely artwork and clever ideas (see below where your best approach is to get in the middle and shoot as it rotates around you).

Enhanced Version 2015
http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-r-type-deluxe_30442.html - requires 2mb+ STE.







When I was hunting for an R-Type disk image (as it's not in TOSEC) I found this enhanced version, made in 2015 for the STE, with a rather exotic 2MB of RAM (which almost nobody had back in the day). It's much closer to the Amiga version offering smoothness the Electric Dreams version lacks. This is in part due to the STE's superior hardware and in part due to the better hardware knowledge (the later ST games were so much smoother than these early ones which really suffer from a lack of technical knowledge at the time as developers were moving over from 8-bit and figuring out what these machines could do).

The smoother and more responsive controls make it easier and more enjoyable, so if you're not a purist you may find this version a better choice.

Verdict
Overall it's a decent shooter doing lots of clever things and certainly a good game for its time, and I had a good time with it even though shooters aren't really in my wheelhouse.
 

hariseldon

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Chuckie Egg
Note that Chuckie Egg is not in the tosec - it can be found at http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-st-chuckie-egg_8928.html


As a bonus, here's the cover art for Chuckie Egg 2. Fucking nightmare fuel.


ST Format Review

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


As you can see, it only merits half a page, and yet the review is full of praise for a simple concept done well. The score is lower than you might expect but perhaps reflects the fact that it's not more ambitious, or perhaps that they didn't get quite enough of a cash bribe.

My Review


I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting a huge amount. I have tended to enjoy a good single-screen platformer before, such as the wonderful Bomb Jack and the less well-known Mouse Trap (budget shit but for some reason I enjoyed it). Like both of those it owes its existence to lesser 8-bit machines and displays their limitations. It's not particularly inventive, it's not technically that accomplished in moving a few tiny sprites around, and yet I liked it. Visually for some reason it brings to mind the later Quaver-selling domino-pusher, Pushover, which is no bad thing.



Like Mouse Trap it's an old single-screen game and the physics have a lot in common, in that once falling or jumping your motion is set in stone with no means to alter it, albeit unlike most games Chuckie Egg will carry your momentum in the reverse direction if you crash into a wall, where most games will just kill your forward momentum instead. This can get quite annoying when jumping up a small flight of steps. Ladders are also an annoyance, requiring remarkable precision to join them and suicidal button-poking to get off, though I eventually figured out that holding the joystick diagonally could overcome this issue.

Enemy AI is simple, the enemy walking along a path and turning 180 at the end of it, with a random decision as it reaches a ladder to either carry on, or go up or down the ladder (though how an ostrich can climb a ladder is anyone's guess). Music is grating chip tune drivel.

So with all this wrong with it, why do I like it then? Because the limitations make it run super-smooth and let you focus on the puzzles, which are maddening but bloody good fun. This game absolutely flies (sometimes a bit too quick - it can make timing jumps tricky) and serves as a better showcase for the ST's capabilities than some far more complex games. It's a game I intend to return to, and one in which I will record a wide selection of rudely-named high scores.

 

Perry Simm

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Just wanted to say that this thread is amazing. Love the concept of going on this historical journey with a modern perspective. Very informative and enjoyable, and if you had an ST as a kid (like me), pretty nostalgic too.

I vividly remember my times with Starglider 2 (which definitely had the intro music - emulators seem to have a problem with it, same with the Amiga version on WinUAE), having no idea what to do. Not understanding English didn't help. Flying into the sun and watching the whole screen melt was the highlight.

My parents didn't allow me to play Hostages (too realistic and violent!), so I did in in secret when they weren't home, trying to get to the final part as quickly as possible, because it was the closest thing I had at the time to a first-person-shooter :D
 
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D.Final

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

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

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

Index

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

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

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

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

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

STAF Issue 6 - December 1988 - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257961525
Speedball 1 (VERY brief look) - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257976189
Powerdrome - https://www.neogaf.com/threads/the-st-format-challenge.1533843/post-257977416
Rocket Ranger - Coming Soon
Driller - Coming Soon


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




ST/Amiga Format Issue 01 - Download



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

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


Leathernecks




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

Virus





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


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


Useful Links

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

hariseldon

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Just wanted to say that this thread is amazing. Love the concept of going on this historical journey with a modern perspective. Very informative and enjoyable, and if you had an ST as a kid (like me), pretty nostalgic too.

I vividly remember my times with Starglider 2 (which definitely had the intro music - emulators seem to have a problem with it, same with the Amiga version on WinUAE), having no idea what to do. Not understanding English didn't help. Flying into the sun and watching the whole screen melt was the highlight.

My parents didn't allow me to play Hostages (too realistic and violent!), so I did in in secret when they weren't home, trying to get to the final part as quickly as possible, because it was the closest thing I had at the time to a first-person-shooter :D
Glad you're enjoying it. I'm having a lot of fun doing this, even the awful games are interesting in their own way and it's giving me a real education into game design which I'm hoping to apply at some point to bringing some of the ST/Amiga sensibilities into a modern game with some of the quality of life stuff we expect today added - I'd love to make a modern version of Mega Lo Mania for instance, especially if I could add multiplayer (my day job means the server code would be a piece of piss for me). It's interesting for me to see where my tolerance is now vs where it was when I was a kid - I definitely tolerated some shitty UI back in the day but I don't have quite the same tolerance now, though I do feel like it's building up, I'm losing some of the ADHD modern life (bloody phones) has given me and getting better at reading a manual before I play the game (they can be a bitch to find). Overall I'd say doing this is good for my mental health and improving my mental faculties, which has to be a good thing.

You may be right about Starglider 2 but I'd need to get hold of an actual Atari ST to check that out - sadly having just bought a switch (and a new GPU for my machine in the VR room) I'm pretty sure my wife would murder me if I bought another gadget, I'm stretching my luck as it is!

My parents weren't too arsed about violence. My ST came with Double Dragon for instance (I had a lot of fun with it despite it being a terrible conversion - I can still enjoy it today tbh) which was pretty violent, and Predator (though this was less of an issue as the game was so shit I didn't play it - even 10-year-old me felt that was too shit to play). I wasn't generally that interested in shooters though (other than a demo of Turrican that came with ST Format - I played the shit out of it). Most of my ST gaming time was spent with SIm City, Damocles (absolute work of genius), Powermonger (ok a wargame is a little bit violent), Mega Lo Mania, Midwinter 2, F-19 Stealth Fighter, etc. I do wonder looking at the games now with their crappy frame rates earlier on whether the ST's limitations pushed me towards slower play which might have done me some good. Maybe that contributed to me going down the path of learning to program which led to my career today. The ST was a hell of a gateway drug. (it also led me to making music to the extent I even got my stuff played on the radio back in the 00s a couple of times - not much but I was quite proud of it)
 

hariseldon

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IK+ (aka International Karate + aka Chop 'n' Drop on American C64)
IK+ is the sequel to International Karate, developed by Archer Maclean who would later become synonymous with the green beize, following huge hits with Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker and Archer Maclean's Pool.



ST Format Review

Sadly there wasn't one, and that is an injustice I intend to fix right here, right now.

My Review


In IK+ you face a series of 3-way fights, where getting the most points wins you the round, finishing 2nd keeps you in the game and finishing 3rd sees you at the game over screen and thinking up a suitably sweary name for the high score table (and no that never gets old).

It contains some of what would become trademarks of Archer's style, with pacman wandering into the screen in the background (just as in his snooker games the balls would sometimes grow faces and blow raspberries at you), wonderfully smooth animation (helped no doubt by the fact that actually the game isn't throwing that much stuff around the screen), and surprisingly deep gameplay.



The fights rely heavily on timing, with an impressive 17 moves available from different combinations of fire on/off and joystick direction (as detailed in the manual which I recommend reading before you play), though this does sometimes make it a chore to get your character to face the right way to face a specific enemy. Interestingly none of these controls suffer from the madness inflicted on us later by Street Fighter games and their imitators where you'd have to wrestle the joystick into 14 different positions with perfect timing to execute a move, it's just one movement, time it right, and hope it hits.



In many ways it's a strikingly simple game, there's no story that I can discern, there's no power ups, there are admittedly some quite silly minigames between fights but they seem to be there just for shits and giggles rather than to serve any real purpose, much like beating up a car in Street Fighter 2. If I could add something to the game it would be a practice area, with a stationary dummy to hit to get used to the controls, but perhaps that's just my modern bullshit sensibilities coming out, perhaps the game is the practice.



Presentation is fantastic with a lovely water ripple effect in the background and super-smooth animation, and there's a satisfying sampled slap sound when you hit someone, though the colour palette is distinctly early-Atari-ST and the background art style isn't amazing. Music hints at traditional Japanese sounds in much the same way Kung Fu Fighting does, but it's all good fun (even if it is a chiptune). Notably there's no discernable input-lag, the only lag coming from the animation itself which is fair and once you understand that it becomes second nature to time your attacks to perfection.

You should play this game, it's a thoroughly good time.
 
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Dr.Morris79

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I bloody loved Corruption on the Amiga. Still own it too, I was a sucker for text adventures since the C64. I might have to dig some put for a trip down memory lane!
 
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hariseldon

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I bloody loved Corruption on the Amiga. Still own it too, I was a sucker for text adventures since the C64. I might have to dig some put for a trip down memory lane!
You should - these games hold up surprisingly well. The thing is the writing is of it's time but I kinda like that, I enjoy the window they give you into the sensibilities of the time. There are still some text adventures released today but I honestly don't think you'll find the quality of writing and design you did in those days because at that point it was the zeitgeist and some of the brightest minds were trying to one-up each other to create the best quest, where today it's more niche and modern sensibilities make it harder to do some of the more daring things you might hope for. It's a product of a time and we can celebrate it as such, though the sad thing is that we won't see more.
 
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hariseldon

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Issue 8 - Download


The World in January 1989
The UK was pretty quiet, with the only notable events being Muslims protesting in Bradford against Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, burning his book, a harbinger of things to come and a lesson we failed to heed. On the international stage, it was the end of the Reagan presidency as George H W Bush was sworn in as the 41st president of the US. Meanwhile, Ted Bundy was busy being executed after being convicted of murders in Florida, ending a devastating trail of murder.

In the world of film we saw Red Heat taking the top spot from Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, while Young Guns also proved a hit. Short Circuit 2 was looking like a solidly successful sequel to one of my favourite 80s films, while Roger Rabbit hung in there. The rest of the chart was serviceable. In music we see an album chart headed by Erasure with the utterly wonderful The Innocents, containing A Little Respect, Ship Of Fools and Chains Of Love, Kylie continued to ride high, Roy Orbison was strangely popular, far too many greatest hits albums proving that even then album sales were mostly about old people, Bad was in its 71st week in the charts, and Enya had a record in the top 10 which is surely as good a reason as any to commit suicide. The singles chart was mercifully better, despite being headed by Kylie and Jason. Neneh Cherry's Buffalo Stance at 3 is still an absolute banger while Inner City hang on with Good Life, while Mike and the Mechanics Living Years is still pretty strong and the Fine Young Cannibals do their thing with She Drives Me Crazy. An absolute gem at number 10 with the first socially-distanced single as Gene Pitney and Marc Almond worked together across the atlantic without the internet to deliver the fantastic cover of Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart. I absolutely love it. Finally we have Waiting For A Star To Fall by Boy Meets Girl, the most 80s song in that chart with a truly 80s video to match (the mullets are amazing).

The Magazine
It's always difficult to find much quality after everyone's got their games out for Christmas, and this issue is no exception. Atari get some flak for a tendency to announce exciting new hardware projects as being weeks away when they're actually months away if they turn up at all (and earlier in the issue there's one such example, the Super ST with it's 16MHz 68000 CPU instead of the usual 8MHz, though it's possible this eventually became the Mega STE (the Mega ST was already out). STAF list Virus as the year's best game (a curious choice), and Super Breakout as its worst. There's an interview with Steve Bak, creator of countless 80s games but probably best known for James Pond, Star Ray and Spitting Image. We have a review for a touch screen which surprises me a little - I had no idea they were a thing back then.

Previews
Some interesting games in the previews section including Dragon's Lair (reviewed next issue for the Amiga, arriving much later for the ST), Silkworm (shooter), Gemini Wing (shooter), and Interphase (weird 3D game later found free on the ST Format cover disk). Those high points are paired with a game around the Dandy comic, and some games I don't recall seeing before.

Reviews
Missing the cut were Anco with another bloody strip poker game (later they became more known for the Kick Off series of football games - unmatched until the arrival of Sensi), the god-awful conversion of Double Dragon (which despite being jerky and slow was a lot of fun), a beat-em-up centred around Spitting Image in which Maggie Thatcher could fight the Pope, and some other not-particularly notable drek.

Games reviewed this month:
Purple Saturn Day (Weird French Game - Infogrames - £24.95 - 98% Format Gold) - I don't remember ST format ever going beyond 96%, surely a record, and indicative of how the scoring was a complete mess in STAF compared with the later STF
Baal (Run and Gun - Psygnosis - £19.95 - 91% Format Gold)
Galdregon's Domain (Dungeon Master Clone - Pandora - 87%)
LED Storm (Top down racer that seems to only involve going up the screen - US Gold - £19.95 - 71%) - looking at YouTube footage that's a generous score
Night Hunter (Vampiric side-scrolling fang-em-up - EA/Ubisoft - £19.95 - 69%)
Incredible Shrinking Sphere (Ball-rolling maze thing - Activision - £19.95 - 80%)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Utter shite movie cash-in minigame collection - Buena Vista Software - £29.99 - 70%)
Cosmic Pirate (Absolutely terrible shooter - Palace - £19.95 - 79%)
Talespin (not a game - adventure game creator - Microdeal - £49.95 - 4/5)

I will almost certainly review Baal, and will have a look at Purple Saturn Day and Galdregon's Domain to see if they're games I can get anything fun out of.

EDIT: 3000 views for this thread - pretty impressive! More than I expected.
 
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hariseldon

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Baal



ST Format Review



My Review
Baal is a run and gun, with a graphical style that is typically psygnosis, with hints of Shadow Of The Beast which would come years later. Speed is maintained by having quite a small window for gameplay, and this proves effective as the animation is crisp, though it does noticeably slow down around the generators if you've destroyed them. The downside of this implementation however is that you can't really see far enough ahead, something exacerbated by the odd way that scrolling works, where it only moves if you're quite close to the edge of the screen. The scrolling itself is smooth, though I notice that it never scrolls diagonally, only horizontally as you walk or vertically as you ascend or descend a ladder. I presume there are technical reasons for this.





I had one particular flying nasty cause me problems in this respect, in that I shot it, passed it to go and shoot the generator, it respawned behind me where I needed to go, but I couldn't get close enough with the terrible scrolling to see much of what was shooting me, and it kept on respawning within seconds of me shooting it, making it impossible to pass because any single contact with the monster is instant death. This follows a pattern of somewhat unfair difficulty in that right at the start you face a couple of creatures shooting at you who flatten between shots so you can only shoot them when they're shooting you, because you can't crouch. You can jump but then you miss the only opportunity to shoot, and you can't jump over them (in part because the jumping is terrible). The only option is to keep shooting and take the hits.




Controls are tight, with instant response and even ladders being easy to navigate, and you can shoot from them. Sadly the jumping controls are poor and you can't fall any distance, no matter how small, from a ledge without dying.




One pleasing aspect of the game is that the developers clearly anticipated my vulgarity, making it quite plain that my filth won't make it to the high score table. While it's fun to put filth up, it's also quite fun to know that the developers took the time to think of the different filth I might put in.





There's no doubt that visually it's impressive, and perhaps that's why ST/Amiga Format gave it such a high mark, but as a game it has perhaps too many irritations to achieve its potential.


 

D.Final

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Glad you like it - did you have an ST? What did you play on it?
Personally I have never owned one.
But when I was very young I used to play it at my father's house. And I had fun, even if for a very short time, with games like Powerdrone, and R-Type above all.
 
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Dr.Morris79

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You should - these games hold up surprisingly well. The thing is the writing is of it's time but I kinda like that, I enjoy the window they give you into the sensibilities of the time. There are still some text adventures released today but I honestly don't think you'll find the quality of writing and design you did in those days because at that point it was the zeitgeist and some of the brightest minds were trying to one-up each other to create the best quest, where today it's more niche and modern sensibilities make it harder to do some of the more daring things you might hope for. It's a product of a time and we can celebrate it as such, though the sad thing is that we won't see more.
It is sad indeed. I managed to pick up a pre owned C64 Mini last week and am currently trying to get these old games onto it for old times sake. I would use my original hardware but darnt touch it due it being buried under a time warp at my fathers house.

I'm glad you reminded me of Corruption too, I currently have a Raspberry Pi set up with an image of most of my Amiga library so i'll be playing that sooner rather than later :)
 
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hariseldon

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It is sad indeed. I managed to pick up a pre owned C64 Mini last week and am currently trying to get these old games onto it for old times sake. I would use my original hardware but darnt touch it due it being buried under a time warp at my fathers house.

I'm glad you reminded me of Corruption too, I currently have a Raspberry Pi set up with an image of most of my Amiga library so i'll be playing that sooner rather than later :)
I'd love it if once you've given it a good thrashing you were to post a few thoughts or a review here. Indeed any of the Amiga collection, given there's a decent crossover with the ST.
 

Dr.Morris79

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I'd love it if once you've given it a good thrashing you were to post a few thoughts or a review here. Indeed any of the Amiga collection, given there's a decent crossover with the ST.
I will indeed :)

I always wanted an Atari ST back then for the music capability. Back then I remember only having an Amiga 500 with Octamed, I spent most of the time pulling music from games (Flashback and whatnot) or writing crummy bootloader tunes so my mates would hear some guff jingle with some rubbish picture i'd made in Deluxe paint when they loaded a game they'd borrow

Ha, I miss those days. I just checked Ebay for an Atari ST too just out of interest, they're still not cheap :O
 
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hariseldon

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I will indeed :)

I always wanted an Atari ST back then for the music capability. Back then I remember only having an Amiga 500 with Octamed, I spent most of the time pulling music from games (Flashback and whatnot) or writing crummy bootloader tunes so my mates would hear some guff jingle with some rubbish picture i'd made in Deluxe paint when they loaded a game they'd borrow

Ha, I miss those days. I just checked Ebay for an Atari ST too just out of interest, they're still not cheap :O
I just made the mistake of going to Ebay - the temptation was real. I had to quickly close the X as my Switch arrived today and I'm 99% sure the wife would murder me.
 

hariseldon

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Never played BAAL, I'll have to check a YouTube video of it.
It's worth a look definitely - technically quite strong and gives hints about where psygnosis were heading with the likes of Shadow Of The Beast later on, just they hadn't yet learned some of the important gameplay lessons, so there are some bits of silliness that could have been ironed out with a bit of playtesting.
 

hariseldon

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So I bailed on Purple Saturn Day because it was an abysmal collection of utterly unplayable atrocious minigames. Too much like hard work!

Issue 9 - Download


The World in February 1989
In Britain, with its most recent addition of a 4th channel on terrestrial TV back in 1982, Sky TV broadcast its first satellite TV service in Britain, eventually introducing the nation to WWF, The Simpsons and MTV and fundamentally changing the way we watch TV - now instead of only 4 channels of crap we had hundreds. Meanwhile, ITV got its rival to Aussie soap Neighbours, airing Home and Away for the first time and on the BBC Eastenders killed off Den Watts.. or did they? Following last month's protests by British Muslims over Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, in Iran the Ayotollah placed a fatwa on him, condemning him to a life of uncertainty - the first high-profile case of what would become an ongoing pattern culminating on events like the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The last Soviet column left Afghanistan, and the first GPS satellite went into orbit paving the way for us to all become lazy bastards dependent upon Google Maps to get around.

The film charts were pretty good, with the utterly wonderful Naked Gun on top spot, Die Hard at 2, Arthur 2 at 3, Cocktail at 4 (ok so that's not so good). In albums there's a lot of movement week to week, but for the week I've picked we have a mix of the Fine Young Cannibals, Roy Orbison (twice), Gloria Estefan, New Order, Mike and the Mechanics and Elvis Costello. Definitely an eclectic mix, but overall vastly higher quality than you would find in the chart now. In the singles chart we find that Marc Almond and Gene Pitney have made it all the way to number 1, the excerable Michael Ball at 3, but some genuine bangers present like Bobby Brown's My Prerogative, Morrissey's Last Of The International Playboys and Holly Johnson's Love Train.

The Magazine
After very slim pickings in issue 8 we come to issue 9 with its similarly slim pickings, but rest assured 3 of the remaining 4 issues of ST Amiga Format (before we move to ST Format proper) are absolute bangers. The big features this month include a discussion of emulators and a round-up of input devices (some very strange). News features some interesting discussion of grey imports (see page 7) and the announcement of the Mega ST 1 - a puzzling machine considering the existence of the 1040 and when one considers the Mega ST 1 doesn't have the blitter chip etc.

Previews
Previews include the brilliant Battlehawks 1942 and Populous (I intend to cover both), along with some games I know less about like cybernoid 2 (shooter), Timescanner (pinball), Dragonscape, Thunderwing (shooter), Knight Force, Vindicator and Guardian Moons. Not an enormously exciting selection.

Reviews
Missing the cut were yet another strip poker game (this time from Infogrames), Phantom Fighter (shooter), Spaceball (breakout/tennis), and some absolute drek.

Games reviewed this month:
Dragon's Lair ('interactive' cartoon - Entertainment International - £44.95 - 92% Format Gold) -- this is the Amiga version - the Atari ST version would later get a score in the 40s if I recall, ST Format having wised up to the lack of actual gameplay in this tech demo
War In Middle Earth (Wargame - Mastertronic - £19.99 - 91% Format Gold)
Hybris (Shooter - Gainstar - £24.95 - 82%)
Crazy Cars 2 (Racer - Titus - £19.95 - 71%)
Sword of Sodan (Run and stab - Gainstar - £24.95 - amiga only so who cares - 76%)
Custodian (Jetpack shooter - Hewson - £19.95 - a very generous 73%)
Dream Zone (Weird adventure thing - Gainstar - £24.95 - 65%)
Last Duel (Shooter - US Gold - £19.95 - 63%)

I think I might cheat and review Dragon's Lair even though the ST version was quite a bit later, as at that time there will be a lot more to cover, and I'll probabl have a look at Crazy Cars 2.
 

D.Final

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So I bailed on Purple Saturn Day because it was an abysmal collection of utterly unplayable atrocious minigames. Too much like hard work!

Issue 9 - Download


The World in February 1989
In Britain, with its most recent addition of a 4th channel on terrestrial TV back in 1982, Sky TV broadcast its first satellite TV service in Britain, eventually introducing the nation to WWF, The Simpsons and MTV and fundamentally changing the way we watch TV - now instead of only 4 channels of crap we had hundreds. Meanwhile, ITV got its rival to Aussie soap Neighbours, airing Home and Away for the first time and on the BBC Eastenders killed off Den Watts.. or did they? Following last month's protests by British Muslims over Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, in Iran the Ayotollah placed a fatwa on him, condemning him to a life of uncertainty - the first high-profile case of what would become an ongoing pattern culminating on events like the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The last Soviet column left Afghanistan, and the first GPS satellite went into orbit paving the way for us to all become lazy bastards dependent upon Google Maps to get around.

The film charts were pretty good, with the utterly wonderful Naked Gun on top spot, Die Hard at 2, Arthur 2 at 3, Cocktail at 4 (ok so that's not so good). In albums there's a lot of movement week to week, but for the week I've picked we have a mix of the Fine Young Cannibals, Roy Orbison (twice), Gloria Estefan, New Order, Mike and the Mechanics and Elvis Costello. Definitely an eclectic mix, but overall vastly higher quality than you would find in the chart now. In the singles chart we find that Marc Almond and Gene Pitney have made it all the way to number 1, the excerable Michael Ball at 3, but some genuine bangers present like Bobby Brown's My Prerogative, Morrissey's Last Of The International Playboys and Holly Johnson's Love Train.

The Magazine
After very slim pickings in issue 8 we come to issue 9 with its similarly slim pickings, but rest assured 3 of the remaining 4 issues of ST Amiga Format (before we move to ST Format proper) are absolute bangers. The big features this month include a discussion of emulators and a round-up of input devices (some very strange). News features some interesting discussion of grey imports (see page 7) and the announcement of the Mega ST 1 - a puzzling machine considering the existence of the 1040 and when one considers the Mega ST 1 doesn't have the blitter chip etc.

Previews
Previews include the brilliant Battlehawks 1942 and Populous (I intend to cover both), along with some games I know less about like cybernoid 2 (shooter), Timescanner (pinball), Dragonscape, Thunderwing (shooter), Knight Force, Vindicator and Guardian Moons. Not an enormously exciting selection.

Reviews
Missing the cut were yet another strip poker game (this time from Infogrames), Phantom Fighter (shooter), Spaceball (breakout/tennis), and some absolute drek.

Games reviewed this month:
Dragon's Lair ('interactive' cartoon - Entertainment International - £44.95 - 92% Format Gold) -- this is the Amiga version - the Atari ST version would later get a score in the 40s if I recall, ST Format having wised up to the lack of actual gameplay in this tech demo
War In Middle Earth (Wargame - Mastertronic - £19.99 - 91% Format Gold)
Hybris (Shooter - Gainstar - £24.95 - 82%)
Crazy Cars 2 (Racer - Titus - £19.95 - 71%)
Sword of Sodan (Run and stab - Gainstar - £24.95 - amiga only so who cares - 76%)
Custodian (Jetpack shooter - Hewson - £19.95 - a very generous 73%)
Dream Zone (Weird adventure thing - Gainstar - £24.95 - 65%)
Last Duel (Shooter - US Gold - £19.95 - 63%)

I think I might cheat and review Dragon's Lair even though the ST version was quite a bit later, as at that time there will be a lot more to cover, and I'll probabl have a look at Crazy Cars 2.
Cool reading
 

hariseldon

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Dragon's Lair



ST Amiga Format Review



ST Format Review (July 1990)


Cheating

As you can see I've included both the early ST Amiga Format review and the later ST Format review so you can get a sense of the evolution of the magazine and how it reviewed games, and also because I'm kinda cheating by reviewing this because there was so little quality in this month's mag - additionally the Dragon's Lair and Space Ace games are very much a category to themselves, for better or worse. To make things a bit fairer here I'm including a screenshot to show the ST vs the Amiga. As you can hopefully see, the quality gap between the machines is pretty big, the ST's limited palette requiring duller backgrounds. Clearly ST Amiga Format got to review a better-looking game, but the content was the same and I think ST Format's review does a better job of discussing the game.

When comparing the reviews and their scores it's worth noting that in ST Amiga Format reviews VERY rarely go under 70%. It's got to be a real stinker to get that low. As ST Format finds its feet however review scores start becoming more realistic. If we look at what is probably the peak of ST Format, issue 17 in which 50 games are reviewed, 8 games get under 50%, 2 get something in the 50s, and 4 in the 60s. That's just over a quarter of the reviews, and indicates a shift in policy over time.

My Review
So Dragon's Lair comes on 4 disks on the ST compared to 6 on the Amiga, and costs £44.95 on both. In today's money that's roughly £113 ($137). That's a hell of a lot of money, so expectations are high. Reading the two reviews you'd be forgiven for thinking they were entirely different games, and while there are definite graphical differences I'm not convinced they matter too much.



The game is a port of the arcade hit, which had been fairly successful due to its incredible graphics, though it seems people overlooked the flaws in the gameplay as a result. Releasing in the arcades way back in 1983 and using laserdisc technology (think early CD) it wowed crowds and undoubtedly made many people part with their quarters or 50ps or whatever they had to hand, before sending them away disappointed at the lack of game.



Gameplay is relatively simple in that you watch a cartoon sequence unfold and guess what joystick direction or fire button is pressed, and you have to time it perfectly. Failure to time it correctly results in a messy death. In some ways those death sequences are a large part of what people have enjoyed about the game, which is good as if you don't die it takes 12 minutes to complete the whole thing. Yep, that's 12 minutes for a game that costs £113 ($137) in today's money. Not the best value for money.



Now while the graphics are impressive in some ways (even if the palette is reduced on the ST such that the castle walls for instance are a mere 3 colours) they aren't especially smooth, though neither are those on the Amiga to be fair. Sound is sampled but used sparsely, it would have been impressive at the time no doubt.



The game is an undoubted technical marvel, but unfortunately it suffers from, as ST Format mention but their predecessors failed to, a complete lack of game underneath all the glamour. This game has somehow been incredibly successful, releasing on every god damn platform known to man, and yet it's utter bilge. I mean it really is awful. I'm in no doubt that most people (and at that time it would have been mostly kids) bought it to show off to their mates how amazing their computer was (though how the hell they found £45 is anyone's guess - my pocket money would never cover that and even in 1996 I was only making £2 an hour working in a supermarket) and perhaps for that purpose it's worthwhile, but as a game it's utterly worthless and without merit.



The game as a movie
save yourself the trouble of playing it, just watch this from the superior Amiga version instead.
 

hariseldon

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Crazy Cars 2


ST Amiga Format Review


My Review
Crazy Cars 2 opens with a still image using stippling effects to give the impression of more colour than was actually present and a sampled tune rather than the usual beepy chiptune fare. However, that's about as good as this game gets. This game is terrible (sorry for the spoiler).



Let's start with a ridiculous decision to make mouse control the default. In fact, it is from there that much of the awfulness stems. So you start up and weirdly pressing your fire button accelerates (because the ST interprets this as the right mouse button) but then you try to steer and nothing happens. Eventually I figured out that it was defaulting to mouse steering. And it's awful. With no interface to speak of before the race starts, it instead requires you to press F7 to change control mode between mouse, joystick and keyboard, with no indication on screen of the success or failure of this action.



Eventually I get the joystick working, and come to realise that the steering wheel you see is being controlled by the joystick. Now this is not the first, nor the last, game on the ST to make this mistake. Midwinter 2 is still the one where this particular feature most grates. The end result though is that instead of the muscle memory and physicality of feeling your joystick return to centre, you have to use the joystick to move the wheel left and right, with the end result that it's impossible not to simply zig-zag down the road. Still, the developers foresaw that pain and instead present you with a straight road with no corners for large parts of the game (and not much in the way of roadside sprites). You can complete large chunks of it simply by holding the joystick forward, up until a cop car comes up and then you're fucked becuase if you touch it your car explodes.



For the life of me I have no idea how this got 71%. Either the reviewer was a total dickhead or they were getting money. I notice that these early ST/Amiga Format reviews don't have the writer's name credited so maybe they got a work experience kid to review it. Either way, shit review and shit game.

Just so I can finish on something pleasant, here's an advert from this issue of the magazine for an entirely different and probably better game.

 
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hariseldon

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Issue 10 - Download


The World in March 1989
News for March 1989 is somewhat sparse. Time merged with Warner to become Time Warner, George H W Bush banned import of certain assault rifles, and the Exxon Valdes spilled 240000 barrels of oil into the sea. At the oscars, Rain Man won best picture, with Dustin Hoffman picking up best actor and for best actress Jodie Foster won for The Accused. The quality of the competition was poor. The 12 nations of the EC (as it was then) agreed to ban production of CFCs by the end of the century to solve the big environmental scare of the day, holes in the ozone layer.

In film we see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dani De Vito as Twins holding top spot ahead of Rain Man and Dangerous Liasons, Terry Gilliam's Adventures of Baron Munchausen pops in at #6 (a film I've never seen - I adored his other film Brazil though), and the rest of the chart is pretty uninteresting.

The album chart sees Gloria Estefan on top, deposing Simply Red from top spot, Texas arrive at #3 with Southside (from which the hit I Don't Want A Lover is taken), Sam Brown holds on at #6 while we have greatest hits from Bananrama and the Style Council and Michael Jackson's Bad spends its 81st week in the charts. Roy Orbison is not in the top 10. The singles chart too is mercifully free of Roy, with Jason Donovan taking a break from Neighbours to have a number 1 record, followed by Madonna's magnificent Like A Prayer, a shit charity record at #3, a fantastic Donna Summer hit at 4, the brilliant Stop from Sam Brown at 5, the also fantastic Straight Up from Paula Abdul at 6, then absolute shit from 7 to 10, but overall it's a good chart with some absolute bangers. Other notables include Guns and Roses with Paradise City entering at 21, We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It with International Rescue (seriously it's a banger) at 23, and Marc Almond and Gene Pitney finaly heading out of the top 40 at 39 after 10 weeks.


On TV we had the 2nd Red Nose Day, a day on which comedians go on TV and yell at us to give money to charity. Mike and Angelo made its debut on ITV, as did Children's Ward. March was quiet for new content however.



The Magazine
This month's issue of ST/Amiga Format gives away a copy of Devpac 1 - an extraordinarily generous offer considering Devpac is the favoured tool of game developers on the 16-bit systems (where one had to program in Assembler to get any kind of speed - C was too slow and BASIC was waaaaaaay too slow). There's a big feature on computer vision, a remarkable thing to cover considering it's only in the last few years with the advent of neural networks and machine learning that such a thing has even been possible.





We have a discussion of whether adventure games are dead - of course we all know that adventure games died after the release of Escape From Monkey Island, their corpse occasionally resurrected by Telltale and Wadget Eye for the modern era. In a way the discussion of the dumbing down of games because people only buy flashy graphics is familiar to gamers today and all through history, but I thought it might be a nice read for some here.





Previews
This month's previews include weird pinball-thingy Ballistix (not a wholly accurate description but I'm not sure what would be), a game of the cartoon of Ghostbusters, Blood Money (shooter from Psygnosis), Battletech (RPG), Airborne Ranger, Outrun Europa aiming to right the awful wrongs of Outrun in an ambitious game featuring motorbikes and boats in addition to the usual cars, Millenium 2.2 which honestly I have no fucking idea what it is and Vigilante (beat-em-up).

Reviews
Missing the cut were yet another strip poker game thistime from Tomahawk, Codemasters with the excerable Advanced Ski Simulator, US Gold's Human Killing Machine criticised for being too easy (game journalists calling a game too easy????), and Prison. Not an especially distinguished bunch. Controversially Barbarian 2 didn't make the cut, though that might be becuase there's a decent selection of games in this issue (albeit they seem to review such a tiny number of games [7 in this issue] - maybe they didn't have enough reviewers at that time).

Games reviewed this month:
Ultima V (RPG - Microprose - £24.95 - 86% Format Gold)
Populous (God Sim - EA - £24.95 - 92% Format Gold)
Cybernoid II (Shooter - Hewson - £19.95 - 70%)
Denaris (Shooter - US Gold - £24.95 - 83%) - Amiga Only
Titan (Weird Breakout Thing - Titus - £19.99 on ST, £24.99 on Amiga - 79%)
Zak McKracken (Adventure - Lucasfilm - £24.99 - 71%)
Silkworm (Shooter - Sales Curve - £19.95 - 70%)

I'm certainly going to cover Populous, a game of tremendous importance as it invented the God game but also birthed Bullfrog as we know them today (until that point they'd done some mediocre arcadey games but after this they became known for their more strategic releases like Powermonger, Theme Park, Theme Hospital, etc). I'd like to cover Ultima V though I suspect my skills in that area may be lacking and I might not do it justice. I'm keen to try out Zak McKracken as while it's not the first game to use the SCUMM system (that honour falls to Maniac Mansion) it's still an important link in that particular chain. I'd quite like to have a look at Barbarian 2 which missed the cut, though I'm aware that 4 games for one magazine may slow output somewhat. Let me know your thoughts guys. These bigger posts take a couple of hours typically, the game reviews themselves are a mixed bag but for instance Populous would take a while to review properly if I wasn't already familiar with it, Ultima will be a bit of a challenge, Zak should be ok as I've played a fair few Lucasarts games over the years and Barbarian should be ok being an arcade game.
 
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hariseldon

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Populous

Check out that box art - it's a cut above the standard of the time and really helps the game stand out on the shelf. EA had a budget and could really splash out on quality artwork and marketing.


The ad looks pretty damn cool too. It's all in keeping with the EA house style of course but does such a good job of selling the experience of playing Populous.

ST Amiga Format Review



My Review


So, just to get it out there, I'm cheating a little by using a cracked version that comes with the Promised Lands expansion - this means there may be some small differences with the game released in early 1989 but it ought to be close enough. The manual is pretty essential as I couldn't remember what the various icons did - I got mine at http://macintoshgarden.org/sites/macintoshgarden.org/files/manuals/Populous_Manual_Amiga.pdf and while that is the Amiga version it's perfectly applicable here.



If you're reading this it's likely that you already know about Populous, but just in case you don't I'll provide a bit of backstory and discuss the game. So Bullfrog at this point had put out a couple of fairly mediocre games, one being Druid 2 and the other being Fusion. It seems those were just quick projects to pay the bills until their true passion project came out, and that project was Populous. Populous was the first god game and Bullfrog would use the same isometric style for Powermonger (one of my favourites) and Populous 2. Later Bullfrog would go on to create Syndicate, Magic Carpet, Theme Park and Theme Hospital, all of which were enormously successful, the latter two being huge favourites of mine, though it must be said that the years between Theme Park and Theme Hospital were low on quality. Dungeon Keeper would follow after Theme Hospital however, with Populous The Beginning and various iterations of Theme Park rounding up the releases. One can see a decline after Dungeon Keeper as Molyneux departed to form Lionhead Studios and release the bat-shit insane Black And White, where he would make outlandish promises which would only half make it into the game, setting a pattern that would see him eventually create the awful Godus and Cube games and that cunt from RockPaperShotgun calling him a liar.



The objective is to defeat the other god. You don't have any direct control of your people however, so it's not an RTS in the traditional sense. What you can do is set off earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters in the opposition's land to disrupt their population until such a point as you can invade. You also need to grow your own population, and the best way to achieve this is to flatten the land so they can build more. Bigger houses take longer to fill but have more defensive value, so you will want to bugger up a bit of land to push your people to go and look for somewhere else to build, before returning the flattened land to make for easy building.



Sound is not particularly exciting, but the visuals are excellent. The 3D landscape looks fantastic, the simplicity of its shape rendering it readable, the book on which the worldmap sits looks gorgeous, the houses and castles look great, and the little people wander around doing their thing. It's not quite as refined as it would become in their later work but for the time it's quite extraordinary. In a way Populous is one of the first games to truly showcase what 16-bit computing could really achieve, moving beyond the arcade conversions that were the vast majority of releases at that time. The game even allows you to connect two STs together for a two-player game (which was a rarity at the time).



The game isn't without its flaws. It doesn't run super-quickly or super-smoothly despite limiting the playable area to a small window, and the view is so zoomed in that it's hard to get a wider picture of what's going on, something they fixed in Powermonger by having zoom levels. Also, the icons aren't that obvious and the game does a poor job at times of telling you why you can't do something (in that it just doesn't tell you anything).



Despite its flaws, his game has an important place in history, showing you don't need a high score, you don't need rapid reflexes, you can make a game that requires thought. It paved the way for games like Sim City later on to offer more direct control and its lineage can be quite clearly seen to Black And White far later. It's a fun game in its own right but it's also an important game.



As to whether it's worth playing today, I would argue that it's probably better to play Populous 2 instead, but Populous 1 is still pretty awesome and you'll have fun playing it.

 

hariseldon

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Games I'm really looking forward to covering

Bloodwych
Bloodwych is a game I never played on the original ST and have still yet to find time for on an emulator, but it's one that absolutely fascinates me, in part because I loved Dungeon Master and so more of the same is fine by me (hence loving Legend Of Grimrock in more recent times). That it adds a 2-player mode (alas there's no chance of persuading my wife to join me on this one) and lets you talk to the monsters makes it that little bit more exciting. I can't wait to try it out.

Xenon 2
Quite simply one of the all-time great home computer shooters, a game from developers who made some of my favourite games over the years, the legendary Bitmap Brothers. The music alone makes it revolutionary on the ST, let's hope it delivers.

Stunt Car Racer
Geoff Crammond is a god of racing games. His F1 racing games were what directly led to my current sim-racing addiction that has led to my man-cave containing a wheel, pedals, triple monitors and VR rig. Stunt Car Racer was one of his quirkier titles however, and I want to see Geoff off the leash.

Future Wars
I loved Operation Stealth up until the stupid maze bit, and Cruise For A Corpse was similarly brilliant albeit the plot fell apart at the end. Another World was fantastic though Flashback wasn't my bag. I want to see where it started for Delphine.

Chase HQ


Beverley Hills Cop and Black Tiger
Both, in hindsight, are clearly terrible games, but they appeared in the first ST Format I bought and looked so exciting. I need to find out just how bad they are!

Midwinter 1 and 2
I adored Midwinter 2 but never got to play Midwinter 1. I'd love to know how it changed between those two releases.

Rainbow Islands and Pipemania
I didn't buy issue 9. My first issue was issue 8, and my next was issue 10, so I missed a month with Midwinter 1, Rainbow Islands, Pipemania, and even the really quite odd E-motion.

Dragon's Breath
Breed dragons and send them out into the world to capture villages. The game had amazing graphics and I desperately wanted it as a kid though I suspect the magic system would have eventually driven me up the wall.

Ivanhoe
One of the best-looking side-scrollers on the ST - I can't wait to have a crack at it.

Italia 1990 (Codemasters)
The worst football game ever made. I can't wait to truly describe its awfulness. This in an issue with the legendary Player Manager (Kick Off with a management game strapped to it - I was addicted as a kid), Resolution 101 and Theme Park Mystery. There's a lot in that issue that I want to have a crack at.

F-19 Stealth Fighter
This game was an absolute masterpiece - I played hours and hours of it, racking up so many kills (and being shot down myself pretty frequently too). It allowed me to live out the Top Gun dream in a sleek modern invisible-to-radar jet that may have handled like a brick but was brilliant fun to fly, with difficulty and complexity just the right side of the arcade/sim divide.

Sim City
Quite simply one of the greatest games ever made and one I still return to today.

The Toyottes
As a kid I was desperate to have a go at it - the cute little mice doing their thing in a platform caper that looked enormous fun.

Damocles
Another game I poured hours and hours into. A truly British work of genius from the wonderful Paul Woakes. Honestly, the man was a god of old-school gaming and created a whole solar system that, despite featuring no actual people, felt utterly alive, full of mystery and wonder.

Back To The Future 2, Kick Off 2, Antago and Murder
Issue 14 was strong. Ok so BTTF2 isn't a great game but it's part of something bigger - Back To The Future was a huge part of my childhood, one of the greatest film series of all time. Kick Off 2 was the best football game for so long until Sensi came out, while Antago is an intriguing little puzzler I was desperate to get but could never acquire and Murder looked so exciting, a murder mystery with thousands of different murders to investigate (in all probability a procedurally-generated nightmare of boredom but who knows).

Cadaver, Operation Stealth, Leisure Suit Larry 3, Rick Dangerous 2
Issue 15 was the ST really getting into its stride with the Bitmap Brothers wonderful Cadaver, a game that stands out from their usual work. Delphine brought their brand of point and click with Operation Stealth (a Bond game by any other name - and named as such in some territories). Leisure Suit Larry 3 appealed to the horny little bastard that I was at 10 and Rick Dangerous 2 was one of the best platformers seen on the ST.

Mean Streets and BSS Jane Seymour
Issue 16 brought two wonderfully exciting-looking point-and-click murder mysteries I was desperate to play, but alas never got the chance to.

James Pond, Rock Star Ate My Hamster, Shadow Of The Beast, Turrican
Issue 17 with its 50 reviews saw 3 fantastic platformers (I had James Pond and Shadow Of The Beast - both looked amazing - and played the demo of Turrican to death) and Rock Star which is one of those weird little games that I just need to play.

9 Lives, Golden Axe, Speedball 2, Toyota Celica GT Rally
Only 34 reviews in issue 18 but they were good ones. 9 Lives looked amazing, at the time it seemed almost cartoon quality, a platformer starring a cat. Golden Axe and Speedball 2 I'm sure you're familiar with and Toyota Celica GT Rally from Gremlin (makers of the Lotus games) was brilliant - another game I spent far too long on as a kid.

Prince Of Persia
The first motion-captured platform game and one of those groundbreaking moments where something new and exciting comes along.

Powermonger
For me, the best of the 3 games Bullfrog released for 16 bit computers built on the Populous engine.

Wrath Of The Demon
Readysoft finally realised that the Dragon's Lair/Space Ace no-gameplay approach wasn't going to work and made a Shadow Of The Beast copy with amazing graphics.

Gods
More Bitmap Brother genius, though I think one of their weaker offerings. I played the demo a lot but looking back there are many weaknesses.

Elvira Mistress Of The Dark
Tits.

Killing Cloud
An intriguing 3D game set in a dystopian future.

Moonshine Racers
Because it was such a break from the likes of Outrun in some ways, while completely ripping it off.

Secret Of Monkey Island
The start of a legend. If you don't know it, get off this page.

Lemmings
Another absolute legend. Again, if you don't know it, get off this page.

Supercars 2
The most fun top-down racer with weapons ever made.

Hill Street Blues
Weird cop management game that intrigued me as a kid. I never got to play it.

Crime Does Not Pay
Such an intriguing game, I wanted it so much as a kid but never found the money.

Champion Of The Raj
Such an odd batshit-insane collection of minigames including hunting tigers...

F-15 Strike Eagle
I'd love to know how Microprose advanced the F-19 formula.

Maupiti Island
It looked such an intriguing adventure game.

Mega Lo Mania
Do you want to be on my team?

Lotus 1, 2 and 3
Because I love racing games.

Populous 2
You've seen my review of the first, now see my review of the best.

Mercenary 3
The brilliant sequel to Damocles, it reused a lot of assets and was quite late in arriving and thus never achieved the commercial success required, but it was a fabulous game.

Another World
We all know this one.

Knightmare
The game of the greatest kids TV show ever made. Sidestep to the left.

Microprose F1 GP
The game that set me on the path to sim racing and eventually throwing real race cars around British F1 tracks.

Parasol Stars
One of the great platformers, released late in the ST's life.

Wizkid
One of Sensible Software's weirdest outings.

Sensible Soccer
Finally, a successor to Kick Off 2.

Premier Manager
The less nerdy alternative to Championship Manager from Gremlin. I loved it.

No Second Prize
Super-fast vector 3D racing sim.

B-17 Flying Fortress
Microprose got enormously ambitious with this one, I can't say it worked entirely but it was an intriguing idea for a flight sim.

Chaos Engine
Another Bitmap Brothers classic.

Lemmings 2
A perfect lesson in how adding to a game can make it less good. The original is a classic, the sequel is good but just doesn't quite hit the spot.

Legends Of Valour
The first 3D texture-mapped game on the ST - a source of huge excitement for me at the time.

Zool
Amiga owners were so smug but we finally got it on our platform.

Frontier - Elite 2
Probably the last truly massive release for the Atari ST - in many ways a fitting way to go out.

Goal
Dino Dini created Kick Off, had a bust up with Anco and went to Virgin to make Goal. A fantastic game but sadly it didn't quite usurp Sensible Soccer.
 

Nitty_Grimes

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Don’t forget to add Flood also from Bullfrog to your to play list.
 
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hariseldon

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Don’t forget to add Flood also from Bullfrog to your to play list.
Yeah the above is far from being an exhaustive list - Flood is on there no doubt, and I do still also plan to circle back at the end to some of the great games ST Format didn't cover (either because they were pre-ST Format or they just didn't bother like Mad Professor Mariarti).
 

Perry Simm

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I like the arcade-like simplicity of the first Populous. That was definitely one of my favorites on the ST. If you're looking for a more modern version, I recommend Reprisal Universe. It's on Steam and GOG and practically the same game, but with a really cool progression system and a few nice QOL features, like allowing you to hold down the mouse button instead of clicking on every tile.
 
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Stiflers Mom

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This thread is a hard trip down nostalgia lane for what has been the gamer time of my life I remember the fondest.

Thanks for that, Hariseldon.. :)
 

hariseldon

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Just fixed a couple of typos and broken links in the STAF 10 post.

I like the arcade-like simplicity of the first Populous. That was definitely one of my favorites on the ST. If you're looking for a more modern version, I recommend Reprisal Universe. It's on Steam and GOG and practically the same game, but with a really cool progression system and a few nice QOL features, like allowing you to hold down the mouse button instead of clicking on every tile.
I'd say that Populous seems arcade-simple now but at the time it was a fairly big departure from the expected gameplay loops. Consider that the vast majority of what was released for the ST at that time was shooters and platformers, strategy games didn't really feature. It's a fantastic little game though and yeah Reprisal Universe is a decent modern take, I sunk a good few hours into it. Just whatever you do, never play Godus. Molyneux pretty much sharted away the last traces of goodwill left from his Bullfrog and Lionhead days. I think the thing is that at Bullfrog he had people around him to keep him sane, and the limitations of 16-bit computing meant that he was more involved in the code and thus had a better handle on what could and couldn't be done, but as he moved away from code and into a more managerial 'design guru' role he became more of a fantasist and was probably a nightmare to work for. It's a shame really as his work in the 16 bit era was absolutely wonderful.

This thread is a hard trip down nostalgia lane for what has been the gamer time of my life I remember the fondest.

Thanks for that, Hariseldon.. :)
Glad you're having fun. I'm enjoying going through all the old stuff. Looking through the mags when I made that 'stuff I want to review' post I reckon we'll have good material for another 35 issues or so, before it gets to that murky end of life phase where it's all public domain stuff and crap little companies nobody's heard of releasing absolute garbage that the mag has to give a good score because nobody else is releasing anything though maybe I'll get lucky and find a hidden gem. Maybe after this I'll do a similar run through Amiga Power.
 

hariseldon

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Zak McKracken


ST Amiga Format Review


My Review

Zak is the second release from Lucasarts using the Scumm engine, as later found in the Monkey Island games, Sam and Max, Grim Fandango, Day Of The Tentacle, etc. Classics, every one, but this is that rare thing, a Scumm game I've never played before. For anyone following along, you may wish to pick up the manual at https://openretro.org/file/4beafd838f3e71e98988cde8ab2df8ba2eb2120d/Manual (en).pdf - you might also want to look at playing the game on ScummVM if playing on the ST doesn't do it for you. I'll be playing the version found on Automation's disk 192 which features some fabulous sampled music in the cracktro.



From the off it's clear that this is a port from the 8-bit machines, not really utilising the ST's capabilities in the way Monkey Island later would. It has a similar visual with flat colours and limited detail to Leisure Suit Larry 1 for instance, which doesn't stack up so well against later releases like Operation Stealth. I won't hold that against it though because if it has that Lucas magic then who cares about graphics, but if graphics do matter to you then you may wish to go for the 256 colour FM Towns version available on gog.com for a fairly sensible price.



We begin in the office of the National Inquisitor bitching to the boss about having to make up crap stories and being sent to Seattle to investigate a vicious two-headed squirrel and write about a UFO incident 50 years ago.



An intro with some crappy chip music and animation at 2 frames per second (I may be being a tad generous with that) ensues as our hero has a weird dream, and we are deposited in his room to figure out what to do next, with the hint that you should make a drawing of the map you saw in the dream (I'm pretty sure I couldn't do that).



In typical adventure game fashion I leave the first room with a kazoo, a phone bill for $1138 (too many sex lines I presume) and a fish in its fish bowl. Sensing a clue I dial 1138 but get nothing. No messages on the answering machine either. God damn it this game is so slow and unresponsive.

Into a room with a huge TV. Let's see what's there. Meanwhile, in a secret room, aliens are plotting. The annoying noise emitted from my Atari ST however proves to be the final straw, my patience expired. I'd love to play Zak McKracken, but I don't want to do it on an Atari ST as this version is absolute shite. I'll recommend the GOG version instead.
 

hariseldon

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Barbarian 2


My Review
So I thought it would be worth giving Barbarian 2 a quick look. I would however contend that its best feature is the box in which the game comes, which at least has the advantage of tits. Everyone loves tits.



After a bit of loading we arrive at the warrior choice screen, either a bloke or a bird, with a well-sampled voice asking us to choose our warrior. The game itself also features some nice sounds, likely sampled, which work pretty well, including an excellent burp when a dragon bites your head off.



The fight itself is a bit too jerky to be as much fun as I'd like, but it's serviceable. I think they tried to cram too many controls into 1 button though.



As difficult as it is to remember all the combinations it also doesn't feel very intuitive to perform those joystick moves and it can also be a dreadful pain in the arse to turn your character around - indeed even when you press the right key combination, half the time it is ignored.



Fights themselves are short and brutal, with a decent helping of gore (within the parameters of c64-level graphics), but the jerky animation typical of ST games early in its life just lets it down and leaves the experience lacking in fluidity.



In hindsight I can see how ST Format decided not to cover it, especially when one looks at the games they did cover.

 

hariseldon

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I'm currently giving Ultima V a shot - grabbed a bunch of manuals at http://c64sets.com/set.html?id=123&title=Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny to help me along. It's mega-mega-ugly but tbh the graphics are readable and functional as far as I can tell and the game responds quickly to commands so there's some hope. Not planning a full in-depth playthrough as that would take weeks, but hoping to get enough to give a decent flavour for a review here.