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The ST Format Challenge

Stiflers Mom

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Wanted to love Zak McKracken back then, but had the same problems as you.

Barbarian 2 was such an amazing concept for a continuation, but the game itself was really not much to talk about..
 
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hariseldon

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Wanted to love Zak McKracken back then, but had the same problems as you.

Barbarian 2 was such an amazing concept for a continuation, but the game itself was really not much to talk about..
I was so disappointed at how bad the port was tbh (zak). I love Lucasart's work but honestly I think the engine just wasn't ready at that point. I'll definitely give it a shot on gog with the posh version though, which is how I recommend anyone play it. There's no value in playing it on the ST when a better version exists.

Re Barbarian - no attachment to it for me so I went in somewhat cold, but the controls were just awful and that jerkiness was horrific. The later ST games when the ST really it its stride about 3 years later really didn't suffer from those issues to the same degree, as I think developers got a better handle on things.

Currently working on something for Ultima V, the UI isn't presenting too many issues. Initially just dicked about with it to figure out how it handles but I'll likely have a proper read of the manual at some point this week so I can be a bit more educated on what I'm doing and where I'm going as at the moment that's where the gaps are for me. It handles far better than Zak and Barbarian though and being turn based can be a bit more forgiving too. I like what I see so far and hope I can get a decent report on the game at some point. I do also need to improve my writing at some point, as while it makes an ok consumer report I suspect there's not enough flavour in there to make it interesting enough. There's a bit of me that would like to turn this project into a proper site with a bit more meat on the bones but it would require time and energy, and infinitely better writing skills!
 
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SirTerry-T

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I loved both Barbarian games to be honest. I won a copy of the first game for my Speccy along with a giant poster in an art competition C&VG ran at the time.
As a 15 year old lad there was a lot to like in the game.....and poster.
Had a lot of fun with its sequel on my ST, that decapitation move was very satisfying!
 

hariseldon

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I loved both Barbarian games to be honest. I won a copy of the first game for my Speccy along with a giant poster in an art competition C&VG ran at the time.
As a 15 year old lad there was a lot to like in the game.....and poster.
Had a lot of fun with its sequel on my ST, that decapitation move was very satisfying!
The poster was indeed brilliant (if I'm honest it may have formed part of my motivation for covering it). Tbh there's potential there but it really needed some thought put into the controls - I suspect though that they just don't work on the single-button joysticks found on the Atari ST and may have worked better on something like the 6-button mega drive controller. In a way it also came a little too early in the ST's lifespan as had it come out later it would undoubtedly have been smoother and less laggy.

Interestingly it looks like someone did a beefed up version of Barbarian for the Amiga a couple of years ago:


.. and it doesn't look bad tbh.
EDIT: Just found out that this was for the Amiga 1200 so not entirely a fair comparison (the 500 being closest to the STE and the 1200 being closest to the Falcon).
 
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Havoc2049

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You were a little harsh on poor old Zak McKraken. Like all the ST Lucasfilm Games on the ST, they were a port of the PC EGA version and looked way better than the 8-bit C64 version. Plus, the disk drives on the C64 took forever and a day to load a game, even with a fast load cart.

Atari ST


C64
 
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hariseldon

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You were a little harsh on poor old Zak McKraken. Like all the ST Lucasfilm Games on the ST, they were a port of the PC EGA version and looked way better than the 8-bit C64 version. Plus, the disk drives on the C64 took forever and a day to load a game, even with a fast load cart.

Atari ST


C64
I think the problem may be that it's built for that lowest common denominator. The original release was for the C64 (according to wikipedia - I'm willing to be corrected). A quick scan of wikipedia suggests that Zak was the last one built first on 8-bit as Indy was never released on C64, nor Loom, or Monkey Island. It means that it really can't do the more sophisticated stuff the later games do, and the visuals really do have that 8-bit look about them in terms of having to be super-simple. For me though, the biggest problem was just how unresponsive it was. I honestly can't recommend it except as a historical curiosity because the GOG FM Towns version is so much better.
 

Havoc2049

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Adventure games can be a little tedious and frustrating to begin with. I never played Zak McKraken myself, or Maniac Mansion. I have played Loom (my fav out of all the old school Lucasfilm adventure games), The Last Crusade and Monkey Island.
 

hariseldon

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Adventure games can be a little tedious and frustrating to begin with. I never played Zak McKraken myself, or Maniac Mansion. I have played Loom (my fav out of all the old school Lucasfilm adventure games), The Last Crusade and Monkey Island.
Absolutely they can be - I've played most of the Lucas classics, and more modern classics like Technobabylon which you should try out if you haven't. I'm not sure though if we might have hit a misunderstanding. My problem with the game isn't with its content, which is why I'm saying the gog version is a sensible choice. My problem is with a poor port. Clicking things doesn't give a response in a sensible time, the text for what a thing is only comes after you click on it instead of on mouse-over (rendering the "What is" function somewhat pointless and making finding hotspots an absolute nightmare) and sometimes you have to click multiple times to make something happen.

Clearly it's a product of being among the early iterations of SCUMM and they hadn't yet ironed out the usability niggles, and thankfully they improved many things in later releases to improve quality of life (though I think moving away from the verb wall in later releases was in some ways a poor choice). Thankfully, a good version exists, which still has some of the problems mentioned but at least runs reasonably smoothly and without being impaired by god-awful latency.
 

ethomaz

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Como to see some Street Fighter talk (I don't know why I read ST as SF).
Left disappointed.
 
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What a stellar thread ! Totally awesome and big big up to the OP !
As a proud former owner of a 520ste. I totally agree with some quotes :
Supercar 2 is a total masterpiece.
Xenon 2 is the shit
Loved swiv too.

Keep this thread alive at all costs.
 

Randall365

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I enjoyed Zak McKraken on the ST - mind you I had only played adventure games on the ST up to that point and it still felt like a significant step down from Monkey Island/Indy/Loom. If you have played a VGA game it must seem appalling at first glance and the cursor is strange to say the least. One to play with an FAQ handy too.
 
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hariseldon

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Never played any of the LucasArts stuff. Missed out I guess.
Their stuff still holds up pretty well - I suggest hitting Monkey Island 1-4 (and yes I like 4 before anyone says anything), Day Of The Tentacle and Grim Fandango. You will laugh until you shit your pants.
 
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Nitty_Grimes

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I’m lying and full of shit. Played Monkey Island 2 and Indy: Fate of Atlantis I’ve just remembered.
 

D.Final

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What a stellar thread ! Totally awesome and big big up to the OP !
As a proud former owner of a 520ste. I totally agree with some quotes :
Supercar 2 is a total masterpiece.
Xenon 2 is the shit
Loved swiv too.

Keep this thread alive at all costs.
I fully agree
 

hariseldon

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Apologies for the long delay. Been caught up in a lot of work and my new Nintendo Switch - this one was also a bitch to review and tbh my lack of expertise means the review sucks, but in the end I decided to get SOMETHING out so I could move on and not abandon the thread forever.

Ultima V


ST Amiga Format Review



My Review
Download manuals



So, reviewing Ultima 5 is something that would ordinarily take a fuckload longer than I have spent on games so far, so this is going to be more an exploration. In a way many of these reviews have been an exploration of how I cope with the jank inherent in these older games. I've been a little surprised in that some of the more out there games turned out to be ok once I got used to them, but for instance Zak McKracken caught me out - I expected to be able to cope without too many issues owing to being fairly familiar with Scumm games. The thing that has tended to put me off most has not been so much arcane interfaces or weird keyboard shortcuts (though there have been some cases of poor controls putting me off - Barbarian 2 was a perfect example of that) but performance. When the jerkiness, the low frame rate, is so bad that it prevents proper timing in a more arcade-ish game, or when it makes clicking on things too tricky (and tooltips pop up waaay too late) as in Zak.

So, this review will be a short slice of life to see how I handle a very unfamiliar game series. The oldest RPG I've played is Final Fantasy 7 (original) which I've been playing a bit recently and enjoying, but I've not played anything older than that (I really didn't take much of an interest until Morrowind - until that point RPGs were just not of interest to me as while I loved shows like Knightmare on TV I wasn't really that into orcs and elves which was where most RPGs were - though perhaps you could count Dungeon Master from 1988 to which I devoted hours of gaming time) and the big question is whether the missing quality-of-life improvements and the probably-awful graphics make it impossible to get any enjoyment from the game, or whether it's something I enjoy and will come back to later.

Running Automation menu disk 221 I'm presented with an attractive-in-an-80s-way lady and some actually quite decent chip music in which to select my game. I don't fancy Starbreaker so Ultima 5 it is.



Into the game - the logo partly in flames - we have some inoffensive chip music that's quite fitting to this kind of game - cheery and uplifting and a bit ancient. The first UI humdinger, I try the 'onward' option and find myself stuck in a loop because there are no saved games yet.



Let's try again - Create a character - I shall name him Cuntius. Transphobic fucker asks if I'm male or female - does the bigoted cunt not know I'm non-binary?



Moving to a big wall of text I am grateful at least for one rarity in old games - readable text in a decent font. Setting the scene for figuring out my character. A series of questions will determine who I am, in a manner I'm sure many RPG fans will be familiar with. I'm sure some people know what to answer to get the alignment they want but I answer honestly and let the chips land as they may. The questions are suitably weighty - questions where there isn't a clearly good response to give. Lots of thys and thous - all very medieval England.






Aaaaand it crapped out. Let's try another cracked version. Eventually I get it sorted and manage to start Cuntius' journey towards greatness. Dear fucking god the graphics are shit.



So it looks to me like Dwarf Fortress with a tileset. Controls are interesting. Initially I had some luck moving around by moving the mouse and clicking (an arrow appeared to indicate direction according to whether the mouse was above, below, to the left or right of the player sprite) but it seems keyboard is the more sensible choice given the many commands:

A Attack
B Board
C Cast
E Enter
F Fire
G Get
H Hole Up
I Ignite
J Jimmy
K Klimb
L Look
M Mix
N New Order
O Open
P PUsh
Q Quit and Save
R Ready
S Search
T Talk
U Use
V View
X X-it (what the fuck does that do?)
Y Yell
Z Z-stats
Space Abort turn

Commands are issued by pressing the key and then a direction, so to get something to your North you'd press G and then the up arrow.

The quick reference card also provides detailed stats on the weapons, which makes some sense. While a modern game can pop up a tooltip to show you a weapon's stats, with a resolution of 320x200 one has to leave some information out of the software and put it in the supplementary materials instead, if for no other reason than there's no nice way to present that information on screen. We also have a chart of spells, and honestly I'm actually quite excited reading this stuff.



Wandering around I come to a well and wish for poo on a stick. Sadly I get no such poo, nor do I know where the coin came from. Plucked from my cavernous anus no doubt. Onwards.

I wander the woods some more, encountering a farm but no farmer. Where are all the people?



Going north past a certain point it asks if I wish to leave. This leaves me in a forest - I didn't initially realise but each square represents one area like the one I was just in. The hut and surrounding forest is one tile and I can return to it by choosing to Enter it. This may be teaching granny to suck eggs, in which case I apologise, but this is new for me.

Not being entirely sure what to do at this point I decided to dig deeper into the resources that came with the game. We have:
- a 2 page journal
- a 2 page quick reference (keyboard, weapon attack points, armour defence points, and a chart of spells)
- an 8 page reference card (from the c64 version - I couldn't find an ST version)
- a 60 page lore book

Firing up the emulator once more I attempted to get back to where I was, only to find that the emulator would lock up and refuse to continue playing. Back to the start again for me. In the end, the slog of getting it to work, an interface which gives too little away, and insufficient time and energy lead to me giving in and moving onto the next issue of ST/Amiga Format in search of fun.

For those who are interested, and don't want to faff with an emulator, there is a version on gog.com in a collection which also contains Ultimas 4 and 6. I found that while it got me away from the horror of the emulator and rid me of the incessant disk access, it was still a bit too dated for me to really get much from it.
 

hariseldon

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Issue 11 - Download


The World in April 1989
Probably the biggest event of April 1989 was the Hillsborough disaster, in which 95 people were killed at an FA Cup Semi Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The Sun would go on to make itself unwelcome forever on Merseyside by blaming the fans with support from the South Yorkshire police. That Liverpool fans were also involved in the Heysel disaster in 1985 seems to go unnoticed, and my own experience of Liverpool fans is that they tend towards drunken violence and arseholery. The month was plagued with strikes as the London Underground was paralysed and workers building the Channel Tunnel went on strike over pay and working conditions.

In Scotland Margaret Thatcher's hated Poll Tax was introduced as a new way for councils to tax their residents. This would go on to cause national rioting once it made its way to England and Wales. The tax was considered unfair because it was a flat rate based on the number of residents rather than the previous basis of land value, which meant that 5 poor people in a hovel would pay more than 1 person in a mansion.

In America 300000 demonstrators marched in Washington to legalise abortion. I don't know enough of the topic to say whether it was peaceful or not. It doesn't seem that much else was going on in America at the time.

In Poland, Solidarity was legalised, allowing participation in the coming election, precipitating the overthrow of Communism in Europe. In China protests started in Tianemen Square. They would not end well.

In film we see The Dead Pool at number 1, Twins hanging on at 3 to fund Arnold Shwarzennegger's Humvee habit, Rain Man hanging in at 7 and Naked Gun at 9. Lower in the charts we see Terry Gilliam's Adventures of Baron Munchausen at 13 and Tom Cruise trying to recreate the success of Top Gun with Cocktail at 14.

The album chart sees Deacon Blue on top, followed by Simply Red. Strong entries include Madonna's Like A Prayer at 6 and Guns and Roses Appetite For Destruction at 8.

The singles chart saw the Bangles on top with Eternal Flame, Simply Red with If You Don't Know Me By Now at #2 (clearly the public was keen on sloooooooow stuff), but thankfully Madonna's Like A Prayer (#3) and Paula Abdul's Straight Up (#4) showed the public didn't completely lack taste. Jason Donavan had sadly slipped from #1 to #6, just ahead of the brilliant Transvision Vamp hit Baby I Don't Care (#7) and Donna Summer's banger This Time I Know It's For Real (#8). Holly Johnson at #9 with Americanos was another strong entry. Overall I'd still class this top 10 as waaaaay better than any in 2020. That the rest of the top 40 included Guns and Roses Paradise City and International Rescue by We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It further illustrates the quality out there.

On TV we had the infamous incident on Going Live where someone rang in to abuse Five Star..


.. while John Snow would join Channel 4 News, replacing Peter Sissons, ready to become famous for his Swingometer and Game Of Thrones.

The Magazine
This issue sees a bit of a revamp to the layout (note the fancy new logo) and a new editor, for a very short period. On the disk, ST owners get Arhipelagos while Amiga owners get Blood Money. I used to spend so much time playing cover disk demos, looking back I can't think why as often you only got a very limited slice of game but I had fun with them all the same.

Exciting news came that Dragon's Lair was going to come to the ST after all, though frankly the version for the ST would prove to be absolute shite compared to the Amiga version. The theme for the magazine was flight sims, with the cover giving a Top Gun-esque feel, back in the days when computer games were all about macho things like planes, cars and guns. An interesting feature looks at the differences between home sim games and professional simulators, with a couple of suspicious-looking screenshots. I am of course amused to see a boast of a computer that can generate 500 polygons every 50th of a second.

Among the software reviews the highlight is surely Deluxe Paint 3, but this was of course for Amiga owners. On the ST side we had a review of the grey import of Calamus (a DTP package) - the US version had quite a few bugs but on the other hand it was £250 (£625 in 2020 money) vs the price of the UK version at £400 (£1000 in 2020 money).

Previews
The previews this month include a game truly of its time, Gilbert, based on the brilliant Gilbert the alien as seen on Get Fresh on Saturday morning TV in Britain.


The game was almost certainly utter shite, though it remains to be seen if it was as bad as Ed The Duck, based on the character from Children's BBC's broom cupboard. Foreign visitors to this page must surely be wondering what the fuck is wrong with British people at this point, but both were that typically anarchic late 80s kind of awesomeness which, in truth, I miss.

Other, more serious, previews include Bio Challenge from Delphine Software (makers of Future Wars, Operation Stealth, Another World, etc) which was a side-scrolling shooter inn the Turrican mould claiming to show 140 colours at once on an ST. The ST could of course only show 16 colours from a palette of 512 but even I, making games at 12, could do a bit of palette switching to get around that (you swap the palette half way down the screen for isntance to double the count). These techniques tended to cause incredibly bad slowdown of course, but looking at a video I found online it actually looks pretty smooth, though in truth it's not flinging a lot of big sprites around the screen.

We also see brief mentions of Bomber (a flight sim by the looks of things), Thunderbirds (based on the puppetty TV series) and a game based on Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. Another Freescape game to follow Driller comes in the form of Dark Side and Pacland seeks to cash in on Pacman's popularity after the excellent Pacmania but it looks like this...


.. dear god what an absolute turd. The games I made in GFA basic at the age of 12 were better than that.


Reviews
Missing the cut this month were some absolute shockers - as always there's a strip poker game in there (I can't imagine what ST/Amiga format had against those games) with a comment on the ugliness of one of the strippers which would surely not be allowed today..


I'm going to go ahead and say the ugly one they're referring to is Frances.

Games reviewed this month:
Blood Money (Shooter - Psygnosis - £19.95 - 92% Format Gold) - Amiga version. The ST version would be reviewed later in ST Format issue 2 and get 90%
Archipelagos (Weird 3D Strategy Thing - Logotron - £24.95 - 84% Format Gold)
Running Man (Side-scrolling platform beat em up running at 3 frames per second - the Amiga version was marginally better - Grandslam - £19.95 - 73%)
Ballistix (weird ball sport thing - Psygnosis - £19.95 - 64%)
Road Blasters (Chase HQ Clone - US Gold - £14.95 - 58%)
Fright Night (Weird horror game - Microdeal - £19.95 - 88% but not a Format Gold.. what?)
Jug (Shooter - Microdeal - £19.95 - 72%)
Vigilante (side-scrolling beat em up - US Gold - £14.95 - 70%)

Of those, I'd like to review Blood Money but I'll probably wait til we get to the ST Format review, Archipelagos has the look of the kind of weirdness that came out in those days with games like Sentinel and Towers Of Babel..


.. so I kinda want to figure out what the hell's going on with it. I'm tempted to give Fright Night a look too, as once again I'm not entirely clear on what it is, and maybe Ballistix and Vigilante are worth a look, the former for being weird and the latter for looking kinda cool. I'd say it's a much weaker line up than issue 10, but thankfully consists of games that take a little less time to review!
 
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The oldest RPG I've played is Final Fantasy 7
This is criminal! :messenger_tears_of_joy: FF7 came out just after a whole slew of legendary RPGs. At least play Chrono Trigger, which still holds up very well with minimal to no grinding necessary.

Really fascinating thread. Thanks very much! Never had an ST, but I did have a C64 and SMS at the time, so I appreciate the era.
 
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hariseldon

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Archipelagos


ST Amiga Format Review



My Review

My expectation is that this one will have something in common with Sentinel, which I played and enjoyed earlier. Reading the manual and seeing talk of draining energy from stones does little to dispell that expectation. Specifically I need to destroy an obelisk, which requires that I destroy each of the stones which supply its power. Destroying a stone requires joining it in a continuous land path to the obelisk.



Squares are coloured green for land, yellow for sand, red for infected land, brown for infected sand and blue for sea. So far so simple. The manual then goes on to explain that some trees don't move and are thus safe, while arboreal trees spin while moving up and down and move towards you, infecting land as it goes. It seems I die if I rest on a sea or sand square, or an infected square, so rest only on green. Got it. Had a first crack at it and.. yeah this makes no fucking sense. The manual is not wholly helpful if I'm honest. Time to watch someone who knows what the fuck they're doing on YouTube. Ok.. so clicking on the rocks gets rid of them. Got it. So I start again, wander around, click some rocks and they disappear, but some rocks I can't click. I can click somewhere to go to that location but it seems to heavily overshoot. The music (standard crappy chip tune) speeds up and becomes more dramatic as time runs down. I run out of time due to faffing about trying to click on the unclickable.

Here's someone else's video so you can see the rough idea.

Eventually I figure out that not all of the things I'm getting rid of need getting rid of. Here's a shot of me finishing the first level. Only 9999 to go!



Ok so now I know that the rocks at the bottom right indicate how many I have to destroy to complete the level. That's good information. Above that the bar indicated energy. That energy allows me to use F1 to create sand squares between islands. A second press will make a land square surrounded by sand.

The same basic process gets me through level 2..




Island 3 is similarly a single island so no land joining required. It takes me a little longer. That chip music is getting steadily creepier (or maybe it's staying the same and it's just getting to me more). It's actually surprisingly good use of sound, and very very unconventional compared to what was being done in those days. I went with headphones for this as the wife is watching Masterchef and that's ended up being quite a good decision!





Rattling through the levels I've not had much in the way of challenge (the main tricky bit is finding where the rocks and the obelisk are) and I'm wondering when that's going to show up. I'm enjoying the atmosphere though, and the sheer strangeness of the game. It is definitely a game to put in the same weird category as Sentinel. 9 levels down, still not much in the way of challenge - it's like the developers made an engine and had a great idea but didn't know how to build a puzzle with the tools they created (and to be fair I'm not sure there's enough limitations to your actions to make that possible).





On the potential for puzzles - I think they made a bit of a rod for their own backs having 10000 levels. There's no way to make 10000 good levels. The second problem is that the mechanics don't offer much scope for challenge outside the difficulty of finding the stones. You need to get rid of stones to get energy to build bridges between islands, so the most difficult it can ever be is finding an order, maybe incorporating the trickiness of building a green spot in the middle of a large gap to allow you to traverse it. That doesn't really offer enough to create a real challenge.




On a technical level - the movement isn't especially smooth, but like the Sentinel it doesn't matter. The graphics are ugly and yet they evoke a strangely alien and hostile environment, and similarly the sound is technically awful but brilliantly designed. I feel like it's a brilliant wrapping on a game that isn't quite there.
 

hariseldon

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So I had a look for some of the games listed above to see if any were worth reviewing. Noting that Fright Night looked interesting, I checked my usual sources and couldn't find it, despite the review saying coming soon on the ST. Looking around it seems that only the Amiga version actually got released (I could be wrong but that's certainly how it looks). So that leaves Ballistix and Vigilante.

Vigilante


ST Amiga Format Review


My Review
As you can see in the review above, ST/Amiga Format gave Vigilante 70%. Still graphics were rated 3/5, moving graphics 3.5/5, and lasting interest 3/5. These are scores that indicate the game isn't completely horrible. I have to ask what kind of crack Mark Higham was smoking. The game is so bad that I had to make a short video to show how bad it is. Don't worry, I don't speak on it.


So we'll start with the sound. It's a shitty chip tune. Even worse, when you kick someone in the face, there's no indication of it via sound. Even the shite Double Dragon port managed that. Ok how about graphics? Well a kick is 2 frames, as is a punch. Walking looks like . I'm not quite sure what's going on when you attempt a flying kick but it looks like he's spazzing out. You have no vertical movement, it's all on a single plane. The enemies line up to be punched. Animation consists of so few frames because if they had more frames you'd be waiting a week for the punch to complete, because it runs at 1 frame per fucking second.

Honestly, it's an absolute unmitigated turd, even by 1989 standards, and ST/Amiga Format gave it a 70% rating. Seventy fucking percent.
 

hariseldon

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So I gave Ballistix a go to see if it was worth putting the effort into it for a review. It's not so here's something a bit more mini. Visually it's not bad - hints of Bitmap Brothers Speedball in there in some ways. It maintains reasonable smoothness primarily by virtue of not really animating much. The choice of joystick control instead of mouse is a bit odd for what it does.

So.. a ball is dropped onto the playfield and your objective is to get it into the opponent's goal. You do this by moving your arrow around with the joystick and pressing fire to fire balls in the direction indicated by the arrow. The other player controlled by the computer can notionally do the same but in the couple of games I tried, no such thing occurred, so I won the games far too easily. It's a nice idea in some ways but the execution is lacking because of the piss-poor opponent, and honestly when it comes down to it I'd rather play Speedball.
 

hariseldon

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Issue 12 - Download


The World in May 1989
In the UK, Margaret Thatcher hit the 10 year milestone as Prime Minister, she would not be in the job for much longer. A divisive but hugely important figure in British politics, she reshaped the nation and battled the unions to restore order to British society and modernised a country that had previously been the sick man of Europe. Among the left however she was mostly known as the milk snatcher, due to taking away free school milk.

In football Liverpool beat Everton in the FA Cup final while Arsenal won the first division (which is now known as the Premier League) - they beat Liverpool courtesy of a goal in the last minute of the last game [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_0–2_Arsenal_(26_May_1989)].

In the US, Disney World opened its doors for the first time, Oliver North was found guilty of criminal charges in the Iran Contra affair, and the Magellan probe was launched towards Venus. Elsewhere, the first McDonalds in the USSR began construction in Moscow, and in China the Tianemen Square protests continued with a crackdown from the Chinese government.

The film charts are truly awful - to the point I'm going to skip it entirely. Click if you dare.

The album chart is a mixed bag with Jason Donovan at #1, the brilliant Simple Minds at #2 (though not with one of their better albums), the god-awful Clannad at #8, actually the charts are horrible. Please let the singles chart be better...

The singles chart has the wonderful Kylie Minogue at #1, something I'm ok with as she's the sexiest woman alive. Queen are at #3 with one of their weaker tracks while London Boys sit at #4 with a brilliant song you've probably never heard...


.. and we see Holly Johnson and Transvision Vamp rounding out the top 10. Acid House starts to make an impact on the charts with The Beatmasters and Who's In The House at #11.


Not much happened in the world of TV - May was a bit of a dull month in many respects.

The Magazine
This issue is a blatant attempt to sell the magazine with sex. What it actually pertains to is whether games like Leisure Suit Larry and the many crappy strip poker games should be available to under 18s. For the former, I say why not. For the latter - I reckon they'd be better off paying a tramp to buy them a copy of Playboy. Pages 61-67 cover the topic, and quite a few pages have tits on them, out uncensored. I'm not sure that was allowed back then without being on the top shelf so I can only imagine someone got a slap on the wrists.

On the cover disk we have the excellent Colossus Chess X for the Amiga while the Atari ST gets Flair Paint (both demos).

Previews
The previews section sees Microprose Soccer, created by the team which would go on to be Sensible Software, creators of the legendary Sensible Soccer. We see another Freescape game previewed in the form of Total Eclipse. Finally we have a rundown on things coming from Mirrorsoft - Highlights are Xenon 2 from the legendary Bitmap Brothers and the less legendary 3D weird thing Interphase which would eventually be given away free on an ST Format cover disk.

Reviews
Missing the cut this month.. no idea because that section is missing. Looking at the reviews that made the cut perhaps they didn't have many choices.

Games reviewed this month:
Time Scanner (Pinball - Activision - £24.95 Amiga/£19.95 ST - 67%)
Lords Of The Rising Sun (Minigames - Cinemaware - £24.95 - 84%)
BattleHawks (WW2 Flight Sim - US Gold - £24.99 - 73%)
Vindicators (Shooter - Domark - £19.99 - 71%)
Millenium 2.2 (Strategy - Activision - £24.99 - 86%)
Typhoon Thompson (No Fucking Idea - Domark - £19.99 - 86%)
Voyager (3D shooty thing - Ocean - £19.99 - 76%)
Thunderbirds (Platform shooter - Grandslam - £24.95 - 77%)
Squeek (Puzzle - Loriciel - £19.95 - 52%)
Bio Challenge (Turrican-ish - Palace - £19.99 - 86%)
Darkside (Freescape - Domark - £24.95 - 87%)

Of those, really only Battlehawks is worth reviewing. I played it a fair bit when I was younger and had a real blast with it, so I'll be pretty happy to have a bit more time with it.
 

hariseldon

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Battlehawks 1942


ST Amiga Format Review


My Review



As a kid I absolutely loved Battlehawks. It came in a beautifully designed box with a ring-bound manual (see link above) that was a really fascinating read, weighing in at 144 pages. Controls aren't too complicated with mouse or joystick steering your plane and fire/left-click firing your cannons. L toggles your landing gear, F for your flaps (used to slow the plane down and get lift as you come in to land) and B to open/close the air brake. + and- set throttle, J jumps from the plane and Q quits the mission to get your evaluation. Your numeric keyboard offers different views from the cockpit.



The game throws you into a menu to choose your mission - moving the mouse up and down selects different options and clicking makes the selection.



The mission briefing tells you what to expect, and lets you set up your plane for battle.



I chose to use the mouse for control as it's done right here. Moving the mouse left will roll to the left, to the right to the right and so on. The precision and flexibility offered is excellent.



Graphics are solid if unspectacular. Being at sea means the game doesn't need to render much ground detail but the planes look lovely when you get close to them. The frame rate isn't the smoothest but it's good enough and doesn't negatively impact upon gameplay.



My first engagement goes well, with me successfully killing off the enemy.




But that's just training. Time to have a crack at a real mission. Watch me die.

Let's set up the parameters for the mission.



I pussied out and picked Veteran instead of Ace, but otherwise stuck with defaults. The mission is to bomb and sink a carrier.



Those blue and white planes are on my side, so I must not shoot them!



There's a smoking carrier...



Here's a close up view of another boat.



And here's what happened after I got hit by flak and plummetted to the ground.



And the full facepalm.



So while I suck, the game is damn good fun. It presents what it needs to present reasonably well, it's got a beautiful manual (if you can get hold of an original boxed copy it's wonderful), and the gameplay is excellent. It was good to go back to my childhood for a while, but the game is a good game beyond mere nostalgia. That said, there is a sequel (Their Finest Hour - edited for brain fart) which I've not yet played, so that might prove to be the better game.
 
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hariseldon

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Issue 13 - Download


The World in June 1989
In some ways June 1989 was the beginning of the end of Thatcher's government as Labour won its first national election in 15 years (winning most of the votes in the European elections). In China the Tianemen Square protests reached their finale, with the military set against civilians in a fight the civilians could never win. Tank Man would prove himself a legend.

News is otherwise quiet though China's news is seismic enough all on its own.

The film charts feature Road House at #1, Beaches at #3, Childs Play at #4, the rest of the chart is fairly mediocre.

The album chart is fairly weak, with Jason Donavan still at #1, Queen at #5 with one of their weaker albums, really it's hard to find anything to recommend.

The singles chart has Jason Donovan at #1 (Neighbours really was a hit factory in combination with Stock, Aitken and Waterman). The standout tracks are Soul II Soul's Back To Life and Guns And Roses Sweet Child Of Mine, and maybe Manchild by Neneh Cherry. Acid House continues its ascendency with D-Mob at #11 with It Is Time To Get Funky.


On TV John Craven presented his last ever Newsround, but otherwise not much happened.

The Magazine
This is the final issue of ST/Amiga Format before we depart for the new and improved ST Format. We're getting closer to games I actually know! There's an article asking if paperless offices will ever be a thing - in lockdown I think we've discovered that yes they will. The theme for this month's magazine is piracy, and they actually manage to make the connection to the demo scene but in later issues they seem to forget all about it while becoming increasingly angry about piracy.

On the cover disk, the ST gets Spherical and Amiga owners get Wicked.

Previews
Previews have become a bit more substantial, with Hewson's Astaroth featuring, plus Navy Moves (sequel to the excerable Army Moves - surely it can't be as bad as that can it?), Sleeping Gods Lie and High Steel. Wow the quality bar is low. With so few previews it seems there's not much out there. Perhaps this is a product of the magazine coming to an end and everyone preparing for the two new magazines.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Total Eclipse (Freescape 3D Adventure/Puzzle - Microstatus - £24.99 - 78%)
Forgotten Worlds (Turrican-ish - US Gold - £19.99 - 86% Format Gold)
3D Pool (Tennis - Firebird - £19.99 - 71%)
Pirates (Strategy - Microprose - £24.99 - 74%)
RVF (Motorbike Racing - Microstyle - £19.99 - 68%)
Weird Dreams (Side-scrolling beat-em-up/minigames - Rainbird - £24.99 - 81% Format Gold)
Savage (Space Harrier/Turrican-ish - Rainbird - £24.99 - 61%)
Demon's Winter (RPG - US Gold - £24.99 - 68%)
Wicked (No fucking idea - Activision - £19.99 - 80%)
Grand Monster Slam (Weird Sports Game - Rainbow Arts - £19.99 - 54%)

Of those I'd say Weird Dreams is the main game of interest. I might have a look at Total Eclipse but I'm not doing too much Freescape until we hit Castle Master which really is the apex of that series of games.
 

hariseldon

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I thought it might be nice to talk a bit about what's coming up in the next few issues as we move from ST/Amiga Format to pure ST Format.

Issue 1 is pretty cool as we have Bloodwych, a game I've wanted to try out for years. It's a Dungeon Master/Eye Of The Beholder/Legends Of Grimrock game but it has its own take on that. We also have Waterloo which is one of the Turcan strategy games where as a commander you type commands for your armies to follow and you work with a limited single perspective of the battlefield - orders take time to arrive and may get intercepted. It's really quite a sophisticated thing. I've never played one so I'm looking forward to it. Issue 1 may take a while as both are pretty big and sophisticated games.

Issue 2 has Blood Money, a shooter, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (I think I might have picked it up on budget as a kid - it was awful but I might review it for fun) and Robocop. However, the most notable title is Kick Off - a classic not bettered until Kick Off 2 which itself held the crown until Sensible Soccer came along.

Issue 3 features Games Summer Edition cashing in on.. the Olympics? A year late. Ooookay. It also has New Zealand Story and the Bitmap Brothers classic Xenon 2. Strider might also be worth a look though I have concerns about early ST developers being able to do justice to it.

In issue 4 we're looking at games like Altered Beast, Continental Circus, Interphase, Space Quest 3 and Stunt Car Racer. There's even an Indiana Jones Lucasarts adventure in the SCUMM engine. So many possibilities.

As you can see there's a lot of cool stuff in the pipeline so thank you to those who have stuck with me despite sloooooow progress. I hope you find my content to be worthwhile. I'll likely take a rest for today before looking into Weird Dreams to wrap up Issue 13 of STAF (I might have a look at the others to see if anything is worth looking at) and then we can get to the good shit.
 
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Nitty_Grimes

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Weird Dreams they used to have a sequence on the kids programme on a Saturday. Might have been Motormouth?
 

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Nice Battlehawks 1942 review. Love that game and the sequel, Their Finest Hour, is even better. Many of the reviews in ST Format are complete trash. They rate crappy arcade ports and other quick cash grab shovelware games way too high and classics like Battlehawks and Pirates way too low. Demon’s Winter is a pretty solid and unique RPG as well, yet that got rated lower than Vigilante.🤦 They only get it right every now and then.

BTW, Wendy James and Transvision Vamp. 😍🤪

 
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hariseldon

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Nice Battlehawks 1942 review. Love that game and the sequel, Their Finest Hour, is even better. Many of the reviews in ST Format are complete trash. They rate crappy arcade ports and other quick cash grab shovelware games way too high and classics like Battlehawks and Pirates way too low. Demon’s Winter is a pretty solid and unique RPG as well, yet that got rated lower than Vigilante.🤦 They only get it right every now and then.

BTW, Wendy James and Transvision Vamp. 😍🤪

That reminds me - I definitely need to do Pirates. I played a sequel at some point donkeys years ago so it’s worth checking the original.

The early ST Format reviews are definitely iffy but I think they got better when there was more quality out there in 90/91. That said, I didn’t just look at the score - the screenshots and description would usually give a solid idea of whether the game was for me (though they did a poor job off highlighting performance issues).

With what I’m trying to do here - it’s ended up being a trip down memory lane but I also want to provide enough info for people to play the games, hence giving keyboard info etc, while giving a flavour of the gameplay. Hopefully it’s fun or useful or both.
 
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hariseldon

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Weird Dreams


ST Amiga Format Review



My Review

Weird Dreams begins with a fairly decent intro by 1989 standards, though sound is limited to chip warblings, and then we find ourselves in a room with pink things wandering around and a dangly pink dildo moving around that will kill you if it hits you (in fairly dramatic fashion).




Quite what is going on in this scene is anyone's guess, certainly it's a mystery to me. In its defence it looks fairly competent, and the frame rate isn't too bad, though the walk animation for the main character has the pecularity that upon stopping he stops mid-stride rather than putting the airborne leg back down. Most games revert to the default standing frame in these situations.

Anyway, a bit of googling later and I found out that in that scene I'm in a cotton candy machine and must jump onto the pink dildo to escape. Let's see how that goes. Still dying. Let's grab the manual at http://hol.abime.net/1683/manual and see if that gets me anywhere. Well fuck me sideways with a dead horse. A 64-page wankfest of a novella, and a reference guide to figure out the keyboard controls. Nothing helpful then. Right, off to Youtube.

Eventually I found a useful guide to the first screen, it seems I have to collect the blobs flying around to get them stuck to me but avoid the big stick, and only when the stick is replaced with a fresh one should I jump onto it. That sounds logical. And wrong.

In the end, after about 20 goes, I couldn't get past the first screen. And there lies my greatest gaming shame. That said, to me this seems to have similar flaws to Dragon's Lair and Space Ace, judging from my own experience and watching some YouTube videos, in that some slick graphics disguise a lack of gameplay which mostly consists of pressing the right button at the right time in a very limited action scene, rather than any meaningful gameplay.

If anyone wants to take a look at someone more skilled than me...
 
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hariseldon

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ST Format Issue 1 - Download


The World in July 1989
In the UK we started to see the first signs of a forthcoming recession as house prices dipped, falling for the second successive quarter, having doubled over the previous 3 years. Labour continued to increase its lead over the Tories in the polls, in many ways mirroring current events with the media hating Thatcher and Tories proving shy - we would have another 8 years of Tory government.

In America Seinfeld debuted while Oliver North was fined $150k for his involvement in Iran-Contra. The B2 Stealth Bomber made its maiden flight (and what a sexy bit of kit it was) and Robert Tappan Morris Jr became the first person to be prosecuted for releasing a virus. Oh and the Game Boy came out. This machine was incredibly underpowered compared to most of the hardware of the day but its portability combined with an impressive library of games which focused on gameplay over technical matters led it to be a massive success.

Elsewhere in the world, South African president P W Botha met Nelson Mandela face to face for the first time - an early step toward ending the cruelty of apartheid. In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest - she would be released in 2010 to much fanfare, only to prove to be every bit as bad as the old regime.

The film charts feature Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Burbs and the absolute classic They Live. What a fucking chart!

The album chart is a mixed bag, with Soul II Soul's debut featuring a couple of excellent tracks, Appetite For Destruction still there along with Transvision Vamp's Velveteen, but there's also Simply fucking Red and Jason Donovan. Oh, and fucking Clannad. Who the fuck was buying that shit?

The singles chart had the brilliant Back To Life from Soul II Soul, but it also had Sonia, one of Stock Aitken and Waterman's many talentless drones. The Pet Shop Boys were there at 5 with a song (It's Alright) which was sadly a bit preachy but it was still fundamentally an absolute banger. The rest.. not a great time for music. The late 80s and early 90s were frankly a bad time for music in the UK.

On TV we had the first episode of Interceptor on Channel 4. It's brilliantly bonkers.



The Magazine
Finally we're here, we made it to the first issue of ST Format, which when you think about it is a tad ridiculous considering the title of the thread. Of course I'm also largely to blame for slacking off for a few months. Anyway, we're here now, but should we have come? The cover is.. well it's interessting I guess, though I'm buggered if I can tell what's going on. The disk features a demo of Bloodwych and a full version of GFA Basic 2 (a later version of which is what I started my ST programming career on, having dabbled on the Amstrad CPC as an 8-year-old).

There's a feature on how a punk group uses a 1040ST to power MIDI instruments, though it now transpires that basically the whole music industry was using them, brilliant little machines that they were. In the news section, we have the revelation that the STE would arrive by Christmas, though no mention of the compatibility issues which would plague it. The STE was of course an enhancement (and indeed the E stood for enhanced) but it wasn't a big enough step up for existing ST owners and most developers would continue targetting the lesser STFM machine because it had a larger install base. This of course meant there was little reason to buy the STE.

We have a brief history of Atari, including their involvement with the Amiga, which I'm sure some of you would find fascinating. In software reviews we have Hisoft's C interpreter and the wonderful STOS Compiler. STOS was my 2nd Atari ST programming language and it was fucking brilliant. While a little too slow for commercial games (Baby Jo was made in STOS - its lack of speed clearly a product of that heritage) it was wonderful for simple public domain games and would go on to power a whole industry.

Previews
The big features here are Blood Money and the new Indiana Jones game coming out for The Last Crusade. I recall playing an Indiana Jones game on the ST as a kid and I wonder if that's the one - if so it was utter shit. Palace's Castle Warrior gets a mention, though I have no idea what it is, and Ooze from Dragonware gets a dark screen that you can hardly see. A feature on Microprose is welcome, with Verminator coming from Firebird (one of their labels) and Microstyle getting Rainbow Warrior (yuck) and Xenophobe, while Microstatus gets Midwinter, Survivor and Tower Of Babel. Midwinter was of course awesome.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Phobia (Shooter - Mirrorsoft - £19.95 - 65%)
Kult (Fuck Knows - Exxos - £24.95 - 73%) - more weirdness from the people behind Purple Saturn Day
Bloodwych (Dungeon Master Clone - Mirrorsoft - £24.99 - 95%)
King Of Chicago (A Cinemaware Game - Mirrorsoft - £19.95 - 61%)
License To Kill (Minigames - Domark - £19.99 - 76%)
Garfield - A Winter's Tail (Minigames - Softek - £19.95 - 70%)
Let Sleeping Gods Lie (Freescape Clone With Shit Graphics - Entertainment International - £24.99 - 72%)
Astoroth (Side-scrolling platform shooter - Hewson - £24.99 - 72%)
Waterloo (3D war strategy game* - Mirrorsoft - £24.99 - 91%)
Sky Fox 2 (Shooter - EA - £9.99 - 58%)
Red Lightning (Hex-based strategy wargame - No publisher or price listed - 64%)
Navy Moves (Utter shit** side-scrolling shooter - EA - £19.95 - 69%)

* So Waterloo is a game in 3D where you can only view from the position your general would actually be in, and where you issue commands to your troops through a text parser. Those commands are then taken to the appropriate unit by messenger, but the messenger might be intercepted en route. Very detailed stuff, with incredible depth, insanely slow, and probably a bit too hard for me!

** So I got stuck with Army Moves as a kid. It was fucking terrible. The shittest side-scrolling shit of a game known to man. Utter utter shit.

In terms of reviews, I reckon it would be rude of me to not cover Bloodwych, especially as I've long wanted to give it a go, though it'll take a while to get a good solid take on that (though if you're still reading this thread you're used to long waits). I might have a brief go on Waterloo to demonstrate my utter incompetence and see if Navy Moves is really as bad as I expect.
 
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hariseldon

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It's good to see this thread back. 👍




A lot of good songs in that chart but there's a nice Fatboy track at 31.

Oh how I love Greta's angry face. There was some fun stuff starting to emerge around that time in Acid House (D-Mob being the most prominent example in that chart) but any chart that contains Clannad ft Bono is beyond redemption!
 
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hariseldon

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Just looking ahead a few issues I reckon I'll have some fun stuff fairly soon.

- Issue 2 has Kick Off 1 and Robocop, with Blood Money (Rockstar's 3rd game [in their original DMA Design incarnation]) and The Last Crusade also ought to offer some entertainment.
- Issue 3 has New Zealand Story, Strider and Xenon 2 (absolute classic)
- Issue 4 has Altered Beast, Interphase, Stunt Car Racer and Space Quest 3
- Issue 5 has Double Dragon 2, Future Wars, Shinobi, Tower Of Babel, Pro Tennis Tour and Drakhen so picking reviews is going to be a fucking nightmare.
- Issue 6 has batman, Ghouls N Ghosts, Hard Drivin, Jumping Jackson, and Turbo Outrun
- Issue 7 has Chase HQ and Ghostbusters 2
.. and then we get to my first issue of ST Format - Issue 8, with Beverly Hills Cop, Black Tiger and Wild Streets.

ETA for issue 8 somewhere in 2030!
 

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Bloodwych


ST Format Review



My Review
So to get this up and running I fired up the latest version of Steem SSE and chose a 1MB STFM with TOS 1.00 (the release which ran in all of the gaming machines until the STE came out later in 1989). My first attempt used Automation's menu 122, which also features Winter Olympiad, a game I can heartily recommend. Other releases are available, such as that found in the TOSEC collection. The pirate into menu features some suitably jolly music and hte now-standard scrolling text so beloved of the demo scene, and I can press 1 to enter the game.





It's worth setting the scene a bit, this game is fundamentally a Dungeon Master clone (see also Captive and Eye Of The Beholder). For those who haven't played Dungeon Master, a more modern comparison would be Legends Of Grimrock. If you've not played those.. well, imagine an RPG where instead of free roaming around a map you're walking, in a party of 4, around a dungeon that is mapped as square tiles. Each move you make moves you to the next tile, so your movements are only ever in those 4 directions. Bearing in mind this was before texture-mapped 3D was a thing, so it allowed developers to substitute pre-rendered walls and combine them inventively to create an illusion of 3D. The transitions were not animated, instead you jumped instantly from tile to tile. Enemies moved in the same way, the sprites scaled as they got closer.

Dungeons and Dragons and assorted ripoffs were somewhat popular, evidenced by the enormous popularity of the kids TV show Knightmare which put teams of nerdy kids into dungeons filled with traps, monsters, wizards and the occasional dragon.


Bloodwych takes the Dungeon Master formula and adds something remarkable to it - split-screen 2 player action. Sadly I don't know anyone else masochistic enough to play a late-80s blobber, so I won't be able to review that side of the game, but if you do know someone then you're in for a unique experience. The second addition is that not everyone in the dungeon is hostile, in fact you can even talk to some of them.





We begin rather less slickly than with Dungeon Master, an ugly menu allowing us to choose our champion - I preferred the way DM drops you at the entrance and lets you wander the maze looking for a champion. Graphically the choice to build for 2 players has led to the screen being somewhat constricted, the view doesn't expand to fill the available space, instead where the screen would be split horizontally for the two players, one half is simply centred. This constriction makes the view a little less pretty, but more troublingly leads to the text being tricky to read (though this is also not helped by the developers choosing a god-awful font).

If you compare the screenshots below with Dungeon Master's simple screen covering stats and inventory (click here) you can see that the interface is suffering from being scrunched up, but also suffers from some generallly poor design (that font being an absolute crime). The spell insterface looks an absolute horror and the manual offers no real clues but I hope all will become clearer as I play. Onwards.









A person.. thing.. stands in front of me, animation consists of the sprite moving from side to side but not much beyond that. In the absence of better ideas I recruit the bastard. Looks like he might be a fighter. Next bloke explains he's a cutpurse so I add him. I finish up adding some lizard chap, and my party is complete. Two fighters, a thief and an adventurer. No wizards because I didn't find any.

Conversation seems rather limited, as one would expect of a game of this age. My early impression is of a game that was mightily ambitious but was perhaps thwarted by that ambition. The two-player mode is a great idea, but most people will spend most of their time in single-player mode, and that mode seems crippled by the tiny screen through which to view the world and an interface crammed into a tiny space. Outside of usability issues, the graphics do a pporer job of presenting a real place. Where in Dungeon Master it's easier to get a sense of where one is, the layout in Bloodwych is not so well conveyed through graphics, and the spaces themselves aren't so well designed, leading to a feeling of being lost, but lost in a bad way.





Can anyone tell me why this skeleton is wearing shoes? It's a puzzling idea, given he is wearing nothing else. Annoyingly, because he's there I can't move forward to press the button to open the damn door. This is in fact a common theme throughout the first area, finding myself trapped by gibbering idiots wandering around blocking my path. Give me Dungeon Master's paintings any day (if for no other reason than you can see their sodding stats).





Can't I just go to bed? I expected to be able to click on the draw to open it but this proved to be futile. The bed is purely decorative. Why does a dungeon have beds?





Rosanna Swifthand. Must.. not.. make.. filthy.. joke.

I'll be honest, this game tested my patience in a bad way and was probably not the best comeback for the ST Format Challenge as honestly it's a bit of a turkey. There's a chap who played rather more than I did [http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2012/08/bloodwych-more-than-i-wanted-to-chew.html] and perhaps his comments offer more validity than mine - he notes that the gameplay is repetitive, the setting derivative, the NPCs a nice idea but never actually useful, overall he's quite scathing and I'm inclined to agree with his assessment. A disappointing game.

Resources
Manual: https://mocagh.org/miscgame/bloodwych-manual.pdf


In other news I've finally updated the index in the first post in this thread.
 
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hariseldon

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Navy Moves



ST Format Review


My Review
The kit for this was latest version of Steem SSE, selecting a 1MB STFM with TOS 1.00 (the release which ran in all of the gaming machines until the STE came out later in 1989). My first attempt used Automation's menu 180. Other releases are available, such as that found in the TOSEC collection.





After choosing Navy Moves 1 or 2 (I didn't realise there was a sequel - I chose 1) I get a decent title screen.





Now before continuing I want to show you the absolute horror that is Army Moves.


The game is an absolute fucking turd. Not one redeeming feature. Shit music, shit graphics, shit difficulty. Anyway, on to Navy Moves.

So the first challenge is to take this boat past some mines. The boat jumps by pushing up on the joystick. Timing is critical. When I say critical I mean impossible.








The boat makes an annoying droning sound which will make you want to kill yourself. Each time you fail you go right back to the start. Graphics run reasonably for an Atari ST game though they are somewhat muddy and indistinct, the game is a fucking abomination.

Here's a Youtube video of someone else playing it. This game is VERY VERY bad. ST Format gave it 69%. Games journalists were shit even back then.

 
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ST Format Issue 2 - Download




The World in August 1989
In the UK the West Midlands Police Serious Crime Squad was disbanded after years of fabricated confessions - the police were not defunded in general, just the rotten department disbanded and replaced with a less corrupt unit. Electronic tagging was introduced, allowing some offenders to be placed back in the community with minimal risk to the public.

In America, for the first time, a privately-owned rocket put a payload in space, a TV satellite. Elsewhere Gazprom (Russian energy production) became a state-run enterprise, and would many years later be used to hold Europe hostage by threatening to shut off gas supplies - a key tool in Putin's international ambitions. In South Africa, president P W Botha was replaced by F W De Klerk, the man who would end apartheid. Voyager 2 approached Neptune and Triton.

The film charts look pretty damn good. Tum Burton's Batman at #1 (the only decent one), the less brilliant Licence To Kill at #2, Katate Kid 3 at #3 and Indiana Jones at #4, though the less said about Police Academy 6 the better.

The album chart sees little movement from the previous month, with the only new entry of any significance being Gloria Estefan with Cuts Both Ways.

The singles chart were a tad bonkers. Jive Bunny at #1, which was a mash-up of swing tracks over a video featuring a cartoon rabbit, while at #2 we had Lil Louis's French Kiss which consisted of a dance track with a woman having an orgasm, followed by more conventional fare from Kylie, Martika and Liza Minnelli (by far her best track), and the wonderful Shakespear's Sister (You're History). Outside the top 10 is the brilliant Ride On Time by Black Box and Pure by the Lightning Seeds (who would be bigger in the 90s), London Nights by London Boys was an absolute corker and Days by Kirsty MacColl was another brilliantr song.

The Magazine
Issue 2 saw a demo of Blood Money on the cover disk, and a cover featuring mug shots to celebrate Fun Face being reviewed and a demo on the disk. Inside the magazine we had an animation tutorial, and more importantly a joystick article featuring such monstrosities as a stick that was modelled on a grenade, but mostly focused on how they come to be. Atari were predicting big things for the Lynx (a handheld colour console intended to challenge the gameboy but stymied by terrible battery life and lack of games) and the Portfolio (I'm not sure that ever saw the light of day) and the STacy ST laptop. Mastertronic acquired the Monty Python license and entrusted development to Core Design (they of Tomb Raider fame). A new law came into effect in the UK to fight software piracy - it had no effect. GFA Basic 3 finally came out (which explains why the previous issue gave away GFA Basic 2), while we also have a feature looking at industrial design which highlights Steve Jobs' work with NEXT. A brief sojourn into the world of BBS (think of it as the internet before the internet was really available - you dial up to a remote computer and it serves you content).


Previews
We had a promised release for Dragon's Lair marred by single-sided drive owners only getting half the game, while there was some doubt over whether the game would work on a 520 (though that being the case, surely 1040s mostly had double-sided drives making the half a game redundant). Screen 7 planned a William Tell game (topical) while Domark had a conversion of the arcade smash Hard Drivin in the works. Activision were teasing Bomber, Super Wonderboy and Dynamite Dux.

Reviews
Games reviewed this month:
Robocop (Sidescrolling platform shooter - Ocean - £19.99 - 56%)
Red Heat (Sidescrolling beat em up * - Ocean - £19.99 - 52%)
Verminator (Very pretty platformer - Rainbird - £29.95 - 83%)
Leonardo (top-down weirdness - Starbyte - £19.95 - 62%)
Blood Money (Shooter - Psygnosis - £24.95 - 90% Format Gold)
Quartz (Shooter - Firebird - £24.99 - 75%)
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (Platform + minigames - US Gold - £19.99 - 90% Format Gold)
Chariots Of Wrath (6 random games - Impressions - £24.99 - 59%)
The Quest For The Time Bird (Adventure - Infogrames - £24.95 - 78%)
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Rodeo Games (Horse stuff - Tynesoft - £24.95 - 83%)
Kick Off (Top-down football - Anco - £19.95 - 88%)


* this one's really weird in that it appears to only show Arnie from the waist up. Now this features some impressively large sprites but it also means no kicks, just punching. Scrolling left also seems like an odd choice when most scrollers go right.


Needless to say I'll take any excuse to play Kick Off, but I think Robocop, Verminator, Blood Money and Indiana Jones might be worth a look too - I'll see how much I can squeeze out of them.
 
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hariseldon

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I think Army Moves came free with one of the Amiga mags. It was shit.
I think if I recall Army Moves was one of those games that was £3 or something like that - I vaguely recall one day my parents coming home with that, Leathernecks and Italia 1990 (the Codemasters game). It was a dark time.


This video explains some of the awfulness of the game. Honestly it's absolutely hilarious how bad it was - I'd win every match 20 fucking nil and I'm absolutely shit. Impressive stuff.
 
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Bullet Club

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I think if I recall Army Moves was one of those games that was £3 or something like that - I vaguely recall one day my parents coming home with that, Leathernecks and Italia 1990 (the Codemasters game). It was a dark time.
I remember there being ads for ultra budget games that were being sold in petrol stations and newsagents in plastic sleeves for around that price and it was those sort of games.
 
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hariseldon

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Fucking hell. A flip screen football game!!

Atrocious.
Yep - I mean I managed to make a platform game with proper 8-way scrolling at the age of 12. If I could do that then I'm sure as hell professional programmers could. However to me it's the comical AI that's the thing. Walk through player, get ball, walk to goal with nobody tackling you, tap, score.
 

hariseldon

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Kick Off




ST Format Review



I'd love to know what on earth posessed ST Format to run the review with such a vibrant background, making the review basically unreadable.


My Review
Kick Off is, for anyone who had an ST, a game that you already know. You either had it yourself or your mates had it, or one of its many later variants. Like an early The Sims, the game had many minor updates in the form of addon disks and expansions adding little to the game, but it also spawned Player Manager (which took an enhanced Kick Off and added an excellent management game - so good that Championship Manager basically passed me by), and later Kick Off 2, which for me is the ultimate football game. Later, Anco and Dino Dini would part ways, with Anco releasing a Kick Off 3 which really had little to do with the first two games, while Dino Dini went to Virgin Interactive and released Goal, the true sequel. I had Goal on the Amiga and its attacking play was a revolution, though defence was very very difficult. Anco never really recovered from Dino Dini leaving, releasing a series of sub-par games including a terrible Player Manager 2 - in truth before Dino they were nothing, purveyors of strip poker games, but Dino elevated them to a new cult success that could never last forever.

For this review I'm using Automation's Menu 76, on Steem with a 1MB STFM and TOS 1.0. The menu has a rather fun little background...





The title screen is simple, not as pretty as the box, nor as pretty as what was used in Kick Off 2 and Player Manager, but gets the job done.





From the title screen we get to a simple menu to choose a game mode - it's all very bare bones with little hint of the greatness that lies ahead.





The game itself is very simple, deceptively so. Sound effects are limited to the sound of boot on ball, the referee's whistle, the crowd booing a foul and cheering a goal, and a voice sample telling you about a foul, while the pitch is represented only by the white lines for the edge of the pitch and penalty areas, missing the centre circle. To create a feeling of movement, instead of using a texture for the pitch, the developers opted instead to palette swap down the screen to create the illusion of a striped pitch - this has the effect of making the ST's notorious huge border look like part of the pitch (though lines and players don't appear in that area of course). You have some basic HUD elements at the bottom indicating a goal kick or corner, the score and the number of the last player to touch the ball (in his team's colour), and you have a radar on the left showing you where all the players are. Player sprites are small but well-drawn and animated - personally I like them but some people prefer the tiny men of Sensible Soccer - these are chunkier footballers.





This simplicity allows Kick-Off to be lightning fast, running at a rate unmatched on the ST. This smoothness allows games to be fast-paced affairs, a big contrast to the later, more cerebral affair of Sensible Soccer. This early iteration doesn't have named teams, nor does it have named players, so all you do is decide the level of your team and your opponent and crack on with it, reds vs blues. Later releases would allow more options in this area.





Controls are simple - you run towards the ball (your player is underlined) and either try to nick it off the opposition by walking into the ball, or pressing fire to slide tackle, or if the ball is in the air pressing fire to jump for the ball (this is also how you head in crosses). Once you have the ball, it is not glued to your feet in the FIFA fashion. When running you kick the ball ahead, and the ball moves a little ahead of you and then you start to catch it up, and it's only in that latter phase that you can control the ball. Tap and hold fire here and you'll be able to trap it, ready to pass to another player, selecting one of 8 directions on your joystick, no automated passing here, when control switches to the other player you'll have to intercept what is almost certainly a wayward ball. If you tap the fire button any other time you'll take a shot. Later releases featured aftertouch allowing you to bend and dip the ball, but this first iteration keeps it simple, omitting this. There are no power bars, nor would there be in later releases, it is simply a game of pure football.





Slide tackles often end up mistimed and lead to fouls, though if I'm honest in my case it's usually intentional, but the referee (unseen) will give you a yellow card if it becomes too frequent, and your player might get a red if you go too far, making the match that bit harder as you go down to 10 men. I vaguely recall in Player Manager that getting 5 players sent off would lead to the match being abandoned, but I have yet to test this in Kick Off 1.







Yes I did deliberately foul in the box to get that screenshot.

Newcomers are initially put off by the ball not being glued to the player, and the insane speed of the game which makes it hard early on to control the players (often running around the ball instead of to it) but once you get the hang of it, the simple one-button controls become second nature, a far cry from the convoluted 50-button controls of FIFA which seem more like a Street Fighter game than a football game.

Scoring a goal is one of those absolute delights that newer football games can't match - on getting my first goal I let out a yell that scared the cats, I was so elated to have got one, having struggled through a few matches trying to re-acquire my old skills from 30 years ago. Once it kicked in though, it felt so good. The passing started to feel natural, the rhythm of the game made sense. What I wouldn't give to persuade my wife to join me for 2 player - she isn't keen though. Two player is where it shines even more, as this is a game designed around playing a single match - it does have a league competition but the primary focus is just playing a match. It's football in its purest form.





That win felt so good. I can heartily recommend Kick Off, though you might want the newer Kick Off 2 instead as that has a few useful features added and is the superior version.


 
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Nitty_Grimes

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So, Kick Off then.

Remember the graphics were never as good as the Amiga (standard!)

When playing, if you had a strict / harsh ref, you could trap the ball with the fire button and keep moving the joystick up and down to move the player. Eventually the computer controlled team would foul you and with said ref, would send a player off. Except you could keep doing it so if you did keep count, you would score a gaol and only the opposition keeper would be left on the pitch meaning the game could not kick off again.

I remember Russia being the fastest team (might even be USSR? Cannot remember now) in the league settings.
 

hariseldon

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Robocop







ST Format Review




My Review
For this review I'm using Automation's Menu 96, on Steem with a 1MB STFM and TOS 1.0.




So Robocop begins with a lovely loading screen with a sampled voice giving the prime directives. It's worth remembering that at this point sampled sound was rare and quality artwork wasn't always a given on loading screens. There's a really slick animation of Robocop grabbing his gun when it flicks between title screen and high score. I press fire to start.




Oh dear. Robocop has haemorrhoids. He has a very strange gait, and the top half of his body remains stationary. His jump is.. well it's a single frame with him in a crouching position. Gameplay consists of walking along punching things. No other moves available and so far the crouch only seems to be used to avoid slow-moving bullets (though you don't actually crouch low enough to avoid them), and the jump not at all (which is good because it has a really weird control where you must crouch first otherwise it doesn't work).



You eventually get a gun and can direct it ahead, diagonally up or diagonally down, but that does little to break up the gameplay loop. Animation is slow. Movement is slow. Finishing stage 1 sees you battle a big robot you'll recognise from the movie - to be fair it's a decent size though animation is shit.





A brief interlude at a shooting range where you have to use dodgy joystick controls (why can't I use the mouse) and then it's back on the streets. Stage 2 ends with a fight against a bloke in a van. Another minigame, this time face-matching.



Honestly the game is a cash-grab, a truly shit cash grab. It sold a fuckload of course, because people bought it for the name, because the Robocop movie was awesome. This game however was typical of film conversions of the era.
 
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hariseldon

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Verminator




ST Format Review



My Review
For this review I'm using Automation's Menu 181, on Steem with a 1MB STFM and TOS 1.0.



After a lovely Automation intro screen (not strictly part of the game but who cares) we get to a start screen that weirdly requires you to move your pointer around with your joystick, without it ever being entirely clear what any of the icons does. Anyway, I clicked one and the game started.






The game is insanely pretty. The huge sprites and incredibly detailed backdrops laden with colour are really quite impressive, far beyond the standard of the time, though sadly frame rates take quite a hit as you'd expect. I might have expected a port to the Amiga to run faster but googling suggests no such port exists, which perhaps was a missed opportunity. There isn't any scrolling as such, it's more a flip screen with an animated transition. I suspect part of the reason for the flip-screen approach is the remarkable graphical detail.



The gameplay is standard platform fare where you run, jump and hit things with your hammer. Unfortunately someone seems to have forgotten to ship a game with this tech demo. The hammer just passes through things and eventually the enemies die, but with little feedback and no feeling of connection. Jumps are, once launched, set on their trajectory, and they are unsatisfying. We've all come to expect better jumping from Mario et al but even on the Atari ST in those days there were platformers with better jumping mechanics.



The lush graphics are not without cost, aside from the frame rate. It's clear the developers wanted to show off, and they did so admirably, but the huge sprite makes it impossible to see much of the level, and this combined with the poor jumping mechanic means you don't have particularly exciting or taxing platforming, just simple jumps and the avoidance of slow-moving objects.



Navigation is tricky - while there are signs indicating money in one direction and some scales in another (maybe justice?) it doesn't seem to really ever get anywhere. In the end, the game is deeply unsatisfying.



Overall this feels like a wonderful showcase of a developer's talent, but one which is unsatisfyingly empty in its execution. Not one I can recommend sadly.



 
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