ST SOFTWARE NEWS by Richard Karsmakers
Since the launch of ST NEWS Volume 3 Issue 3, many new software
titles have been launched. So let's get going right away, for
time is short (as well as money).
All games work only on color monitors, except where otherwise
From the guys at Software Creations, known from their ST version
of "Bubble Bobble", comes the U.S. Gold release "Bionic
Commando". In this game, you become a paratrooper that gets
dropped in a forest (that's level 1, anyway) and that has to
fight his way up to his base. The only tools he has for his aid
are a long rope (kinda Indiana Jones whip) and a machine gun.
Graphics and gameplay are brilliant, and I have never ever seen
Frank play a game that much as this one (which may be called
highly seldom!). The music is very good, too, and differs
depending on which level you are (there are a total of five
Personally, I think that "Bionic Commando" is one of U.S. Gold's
finest releases ever, featuring a good plot, excellent arcade
conversion, great graphics, good music, superb animation and
enthralling gameplay. It's one of the better games to be releases
recently. I'd like to give it an 8.5.
For those among you that really are either too weak or too lazy
to play the game the way it should be played, I have included a
small GfA Basic program in this issue of ST NEWS: A program that
can make a trainer version of "Bionic Commando" - this means that
you have limitless lives and that you can complete the game in a
very short time. Anyway, it worked perfectly with the copy of the
game I saw. You will then see helicopters, giant Transformer-like
stampeding creatures and much more....
The Great Giana Sisters
If a game has the power to enter in the ST NEWS pop poll on
number one (NUMERO UNO!!), it is a token of its quality and
playability: Micro Partner's "The Great Giana Sisters" is one of
those amazing games, written in Germany.
The great strength of "Giana Sisters" is the enchanting plot,
smooth gameplay and the excellent music (probably the best
musical score ever heard uptil now on the Atari ST is added to
"Giana Sisters" is a platform game, where one or two little
girls (depends on whether you have selected one or two players)
have to collect GEMs, avoid (or flatten) nasty monsters and
discover hidden features (bonus levels, time warps, etc.). The
graphics are perfect for this game, just like the music, and the
joystick control is perfect, too. On the way to the end (there
are about 25 to 30 levels, so I've heard), the player has to
solve numerous puzzles, that vary from being simple to being
It's just a VERY nice and VERY playable game, that I would
recommend EVERYBODY to go and buy. It's definitely worth a 9.5.
One TIP for the freaks: On level three, just after the second
time you've had to jump over a hole in the ground, there's a
hidden stone in the air. Just jump straight in the air between
two and four positions from the left edge of the plateau you're
on, and you will be warped to level 6. This will avoid that
terrible bouncing ball that comes at the end of level 3!
Last Picture Show
This is a demonstration picture show from a hackin' group called
ICG (International Cracking Group). It consists of several
pictures in "Spectrum 512" format that were ported over from the
Amiga. There's a very nice intro (with SMOOTH horizontal
scrolling and some rasters as well as music), and this is the
first "Spectrum" slideshow I have seen that doesn't use (or
suppresses) the actual "Trio Inc." slideshow program. Excellent!
The artwork is, of course, of superior quality. All the pictures
seem to have been digitized on the Amiga, and the process of
conversion to the ST seems to have done no harm.
According to its name, the "Last Picture Show" is said to be
ICG's last slideshow. Pity. I hope they will make some more shows
anyway. I'd give this one an 8-.
Another brilliant game comes from the UK company Elite, and is
called "Thundercats". Finally this game has arrived, since I had
been longing to hear the Rob Hubbard music that was supposed to
be in it.
First thing that appears is the title-screen, drawn in superb
graphics. Next thing, the startup screen appears, together with
the music from Mr. Hubbard. "Thundercats" is probably the last
thing Hubbard ever did on the ST, for he is now programming
mainly on the '64 (and Amiga) for Electronic Arts in the U.S.
again. Anyway, "Thundercats"' music is very good, though not one
of the BEST I've ever heard of him.
One may call "Thundercats" the male version of "Vixen", but with
better scrolling and a different (even somewhat better) style of
graphics. The leading character here is armed with a sword (later
in the game, this can be replaced by a gun or even a scooter).
The levels (there are about 6 levels, excluding the bonus levels)
are supplied with different scenery, different baddies and
different obstacles. This creates an appealing game that one just
HAS to play for a longer time in order to see more of its graphic
"Thundercats" is one of Elite's best game on the ST yet, and
will probably not be beaten by its follow games until "Space
Harrier" appears (I've seen screenshots that nearly made me lose
consciousness!). "Thundercats" deserves a 9-.
Less complex but probably just as addictive is Kingsoft't
"Maniax". Ever heard of "Styx"? "Styx" was a game on the good old
Commodore 64, in which you had to guide a dot through a
rectangle, drawing a line that would fill a piece of that shape
when it touches another filled part or the border of it. This was
made more difficult by small monsters that move on these lines
(that you may not touch) and various baddies in the rectangle
that may not touch you or a line that you are currently drawing.
Well, "Maniax" is just about the same, but with a main
difference that no fill pattern appears but that a picture
becomes visible in those parts that you have succeeded in
enclosing. The more of the picture you reveal, the more visible
it becomes - until you reach the treshold (a percentage after
which you have filled enough of the screen and you continue to
the next level).
What makes "Maniax" stand out among other games like this?
On the first place there are the picture that are revealed.
These vary from good to simply excellent (Colisseum in Rome).
Further, there are bonuses moving over the screen that (when you
touch them with your dot) allow you to start shooting, planting
dynamite sticks, or that give you an extra life. I like this
bonus element, which adds a new and thrilling dimension to the
game. "Maniax" deserves a rating of 7.5, mainly due to its
hookability. I hate the intro piccy and intro music, though.
Stock Market Game
Let's get on to the "Bummer of the Month": Tynesoft's "Stock
Market Game". I must say I have not even LOADED the game, but
handed it over to Frank Lemmen who was initially enthusiastic and
proposed to write a review. Next time I spoke to Frank, however,
his enthusiasm seemed to have died somehow (I do like
understatements!) and he told me he could not possibly write a
review of this 'thing'. I won't quote him any further.
So, for the first time in the history of ST NEWS, an article
contains a review of a game that's no review (if you get my
drift). No rating, either.
I just think you should net get your hands on it unless you're
in the Stock Market business yourself. It's D.U.L.L.!
By the way, the game costs 69.50 Dutch guilders at Homesoft,
Holland. Harry, I'm afraid I cannot bring myself to thanks you
for this one, sorry!
Why on earth does U.S. Gold publish "Shackled" when they have
"Gauntlet II" already?!
"Shackled" can be safely called a "Gauntlet"-clone, featuring
scrolling that's much worse, graphics that are not much good
either and sound......I don't remember what the sound was like so
I honestly can't tell you whether it's good or not. Anyway, you
can't sell a game ONLY on good music, so this is hardly
I think that, if you buy "Shackled", you will become quite
disappointed. Maybe not immediately, but you WILL once you've
caught a glance of "Gauntlet II". So I suggest you get your hands
on "Gauntlet II" instead - it might cost a BIT more, but it's a
"Shackled" hardly does any better than a 6.
What happened to those good old Micro Value super bargains?
Didn't "Plutos" and "Liberator" sell at ridiculously low prices?
Anyway, Micro Value's new release, "Elf", increases the price
level up to 69.50 Dutch guilders (at Homesoft, Holland).
Being much of a Tolkien fan, sharpening my ears whenever I hear
words that might hint in the direction of dwarfs, hobbits,
wizards or the fair folk (that's elves). So I was quite
enthusiastic when I received "Elf", and I kind of hoped that this
would be a good game.
Well, if I would say that "Elf" is bad, I would lie. But I would
lie when I wrote that it was excellent, too. "Elf" looks very
much like Elite's "Beyond the Ice Palace". You are an Elf that
got lost in wild old Pumpkin King's Royal woods and you have to
find two halves of a Golden Pumpkin within a certain time. If you
don't, you will be destined to tend the Slimeweed Path forever.
There are 250 screens of 'multi-directional, superbly graphic
animated screens' (that's a quote from the package) that you have
to explore. The graphic artist of this package, however, seems to
have underestimated the importance of a good colour palette and
has selected some pretty awful colors. The characters set is
quite ghastly, too. Animation might be quite flawless, but the
things that are animated don't look too good.
"Elf" is a slightly-below-average game - quite playable but not
altogether as excellent as many other releases I have seen. I'd
consider giving it a 7.
Ever liked "Academy"? Then you'll no doubt like "Phantasm",
Exocet Software's most recent release. Although the graphics
around the main playing screen might seem to some to be slightly
chaotic, all other graphics (including some solid-model 3D stuff
in the actual game) are very good, and I also liked the way they
Personally, I didn't like "Academy" at all, but it was plain to
see that there was more than the eye could meet in the first
session. I just didn't feel like giving it a second session, nor
did I feel like that with "Phantasm". ALL introductory graphics
and animations are extremely well done, as well as the picture
that appears JUST before you get warped to whatever combat zone
you prefer (there are many). The music is also very good and
quite lengthy, too.
There are several levels of difficulty, quite some different
combat features and a lot more. "Phantasm" deserves an 8.
The thing I like best about this game, by the way, is the "DO
NOT DISTURB" card you can hang on your cabin door. "DANGER ZONE",
it further says, "Mission in Progress". Some guy will one day
give Exocet a packaging award if Psygnosis doesn't pinch it away
before their nose.
"Phantasm" sells at 79.50 Dutch guilders at Homesoft, Holland.
Rainbow Arts have recently published "Street Gang", a
"Renegade"-type street combat game with moderate graphics, a nice
intro and superb music (three voices with an additional digital
speech/rhythm section voice).
The principle it quite vicious: You have to walk the streets and
kill about every living being walking there. Others try to waste
you, too. You can get down into the sewers, walk on the streets,
and more. I have only seen this game for a short while, and
nobody around seemed to be enthusiastic about it. Animation and
graphics are just a bit above moderate. A 7.5.
Don't you software buffs start worrying now: This game has not
even been launched, yet. Mr. van Horen from Homesoft just sent me
some demo material, so that I could write this short preview.
"Summer Olympiad" is the sequel to Tynesoft's "Winter Olympiad",
the game that redefined the ST's limits by using smooth
horizontal, twin-speed horizontal and diagonal scrolling. Of
course, what I have seen is just demo stuff, but it doesn't
appear to me that "Summer O." is breaking any more limits. I have
so far seen four three events:
Skeet shooting: Clumsy scrolling and strange target control.
Graphics are moderate.
Diving: The vertical scrolling is a bit blocky, but the graphics
are excellent and so it the animation.
Fencing: It seems like the fencers have rusted joints, and the
graphics are average. Control seems not too logic, either.
Let's stick with sports games for a little while longer, and
let's get inside where the rain doesn't bother us anymore.
Databyte's "Indoor Sports" takes us there, and lets us play air
hockey, bowling, darts and ping pong.
The music is about the same quality as that which is produced by
good old Activision's "Music Studio", and I wouldn't be surprised
if it had indeed been done using this outdated music program.
Anyway: No drums, no rhythm of substance - bad. And the terrible
thing is that you seem to be destined to listen the whole piece
of intro music to its full extend before the actual game starts!
Air hockey: Control and graphics are nice, but it's difficult to
win from the computer opponent.
Darts: I like this one. Graphics are very functional, but after
you've selected strength and direction to throw, some animation
appears that looks rather 'dead'. Dart arrow behaviour is quite
Bowling: Throwing the ball is a nuisance, that you have to get
used to. You look at the player from the side, and once the ball
is definitely rolling, you see a bowler's point of view. Quite
Ping pong: Completely unplayable, if you ask my opinion. The
player always has the tendency to hit when the ball appears to be
at the right place - in truth, is appears to have passed
already?! I like "Pong" better.
"Indoor Sports" will be nicer when you play it longer, and I'd
like to give it a 7.5.
Another excellent arcade conversion game (original by Sega) is
"Alien Syndrome", what I'd like to call a faster version of
"Pandora" - also less complicated and therefore perhaps more
attractive to hollow-minded people like myself.
You're on a space ship and you have to rescue fellow-humans from
the evil hands of many monsters. You look at the scenery from
above, and that's why the similarity with "Pandora" is perhaps so
apparent. All you have to do here, however, is blast hell out of
all those monsters (some pretty neat monsters are present on all
levels), thus staying alive to rescue all people.
Graphics are simply staggering, though the scrolling in the game
is quite lousy - lucky enough, it doesn't influence gameplay that
"Alien Syndrome" is a very nice but very large game. Graphics
keep on varying (and the strangest monster you meet in an
"Obliterator"-like variety, too). It's surely worth an 8.5.
"Side Arms" (published by U.S. Gold's label Go) is the last
product I wanted to talk about in this ST NEWS column. This is
also an arcade conversion game (originally from Capcom), and also
converted by the people at Go. And they've done a pretty damn
good job, too, if I may say so!
In "Side Arms" (with nice intro sequence, by the way), you are
an astronaut with rocket pack that floats through space and that
has to kill all kinds of meanies, nasties, creepies and baddies,
varying from hostile spacemen to plain aircraft and similar
flying trash. The game features (in various stages) horizontal or
vertical scrolling, which are both quite smooth. Graphics and
gameplay are really great, and there are lots of bonuses that
convert your gun into a mega-blaster, flame thrower or something
else. The opponents are present in an enormous variety, too. This
two-disk game is one of the most extensive shoot'-em-up games I
have ever seen. That one earns a 8.5, too.
Well, that's about it. I hope to see you all back in the next
issue of ST NEWS (which will most probably be Volume 3 Issue 5),
somewhere after the summer holiday. Bye for now!