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© New Core (background by The Union)

Mint Sauce is murder; keep Welsh sheep radio-active!
Jeff "Yak the Hairy" Minter


A SAZZLIN'N'DAZZLING REVIEW OF SOME LLAMASOFTWARE
by Richard Karsmakers

Special note: This introductory novelette should not be read by
any people who think that games like "Barbarian II", "Vixen" or
"Emanuelle" are sexist, members of anti-alcohol foundations or
people that think money lies heavy on the stomach. People that
hate Heavy Metal music had probably also better refrain from
reading this.

The temptations of an Arcade Freak

I wake up with an enormous headache. It seems as if a mercenary
annex hired gun is trying out his latest killer gadgets on the
inside of my poor skull. With every heartbeat, a throb slithers
through my head's veins, creating a feeling as if the very thing
is about to burst into pieces.
I open my eyes. At first, I only see some vague colours,
predominated by miscellaneous shapes that move in specific
patterns across my retina. As the colours sharpen, these images
disappear as though melting in the sun.
Ah...the sun! Can't someone put the thing off? Or at least close
the blinders? Even more violent throbbing sensations are finding
their way through my skull's nerves.
Pain! Pain! Can't someone extend a helping hand to this poor and
suffering soul?
I use all power that is left in my aching body to press a button
on the wall, labelled "Nurse (female)". I can barely avoid
accidentally pressing the button next to it, labelled "Nurse
(male)".

Sex

After a short while, the room is entered by a gorgeous brunette
- the likes of which would turn any healthy male's heart into a
smouldering heap of cells, slowly devouring the rest of the body
into utter foolishness and folly. She wears white nurse's
clothes: A mini-skirt and a blouse that should actually have a
few more buttons starting at the top. Her long, long, beautiful
legs are only covered by air molecules that seem to struggle to
be able to touch her. She blinks her eyes in a fashion that would
enrapture the very Pyramids of Gizeh, and with a casual move of
her right hand puts her hair in a way so that it congenially
covers one of her shoulders, glimmering like silk in a fresh
summer morning's sun.
With a voice that would have spontaneously melted the icecaps of
both Arctica and Antarctica, she sighs: "Can I be of any help to
you, sir?" (Please note the emphasis on the word 'any')
I open my eyes when I discover that her beautifully hewn body
stands in the way of the sunrays that try to pierce my eyelids; I
clearly see the shapes of what God must have had in mind when he
designed breasts blocking the light.
"No thanks," I mutter, "just close the damn blinders and I'll be
happy."
She looks at me, utmost wonder portrayed in her endearing
rainbow eyes. She then looks at her blouse, and slowly unbuttons
it. While doing that, she opens and closes her eyes regularly, as
if in slow motion. She wears a lovely teint of eye-shade, I can
now clearly see. Her hair still glimmers in the sun like purest
silk from far away Eastern countries.
Yeah....those are surely the things that God must have had in
mind...
She slowly turns around and walks to the window, closing the
blinders and drawing the curtains as well. She makes each move as
deliberate as possible, trying to make each and every animation
as seductive as it can possibly be. Soon, the room is only
lighted by a dim spotlight above the bed as she gently walks back
to my bed.
I must have been sleeping while she closed the blinders and drew
the curtains, as suddenly she isn't wearing her mini-skirt
any more, either. She now only wears some white lingerie that is
decorated with fine lace at the edges.
She sits down on my bed, and with her warm and lovely voice asks
whether I would like to touch her. When I don't respond to this
invitation, she shows even more wonder in those rainbow eyes of
hers, and gently puts one of my hands on her left thigh.
Her leg feels like velvet under my fingers. Purest, finest and
softest velvet, that is. I sense her warmth, and I hear her
breathing slowly as she moves closer to me on the bed.
She kisses the long and well manicured fingers of her right
hand, then puts them at my dried out lips.
No response.
She glances around as though someone might be looking, then
carefully removes the final part of textile that is covering the
upper part of her delightful body. She bows over me and puts her
lips on mine. Her lips are soft, warm and, like Dustin Hofmann
would say, wet.
She releases her lips from mine, doing this in such a lovely way
that many men would have found that even more exciting than the
actual kiss. This promises more!
Yet, there is no response whatsoever from my side. Glad to find
that no light was trying to kill my sensory nerves that had had
their best time processing the crushing pain in my head, I close
my eyes and nodd of again.
"Nurse," someone standing in the doorpost whispers, "you can
stop now."
A man wearing spectacles and a long white coat stands there. In
his hands he holds a notepad and a pen; on his coat hangs an ID
plate, reading "Dr. James Hamilton".
"No response to sex," he says aloud as he writes the words down.
The gorgeous nurse gets dressed and leaves the room.
"Creep," she whispers below her breath as she turns around just
before actually leaving. The last thing I could have seen when
she disappeared into the dark corridor was the sustained wonder
blurring vision in her rainbow eyes.

Alcohol

Next, another girl comes in. She is wearing a black miniskirt
with a small white apron embroidered with lace, a black blouse,
black tights, high heels and an alice-band (also with lace) to
keep her long, curly black hair tidy. Her large, brown eyes look
at me, lying on the bed with open mouth, still nodding. She's
also much of a looker, but that was already clear by the
aforesaid. She pushes a small carriage in which various bottles
containing variously coloured liquids are positioned. Her hips
sway enchanting to and fro as she pushed the car next to my bed.
She simulates a modest cough in order to get my attention.
She simulates another one for the same purpose.
Yet, I simply nodd on.
The girl looks to the door, in which' post the man wearing the
long white coat still stands. He signals her to remain subtle,
and to open a bottle and hold it under my nose.
She seems puzzled when looking at the carriage, as if she
doesn't seem to know what to select from this vast collection of
fluids. To be perfectly honest, this lovely girl probably truly
doesn't know.
"Eighty-five percent," she reads aloud, fetching a flat bottle
with "STROH-RUM" written on its label. She gently lifts up my
head and holds the bottle under my nose. Within seconds, the
whole room is filled with the smell of liquor - a smell that
would on its own be enough to get quite brainmurderingly drunk.
She pours the equivalent of a quadruple "STROH-RUM" down my
throat, immediately stepping back a few paces.
Apart from enormous quantities of droplets appearing all over my
forehead, arms and neck, nothing happens.
No move. No response.
Now, it's her turn to display lots of wonder in her fawn eyes.
The man in the long white coat signals her to use another
bottle, trying to pronounce a word without actually speaking it.
"Ah...Plantiac," the girl agrees, and takes a bottle containing
a brown fluid. "Hmm..thirtyfive percent.." she says approvingly.
She pours a bit of the fluid into a small glass, takes a sip
herself and then holds it under my nose. For a fragment of a
moment, it seems as if I indeed open my eyes.
The lids don't agree with what they're told, however, so they
remain closed. Even a glass of the best Vieux ever, Plantiac,
doesn't succeed in drawing my attention or even waking me up.
The divine smell of Vieux enters my nostrils, yet there is no
effect to be noticed. The sweat on my body disappears, however.
"Fawn," the man with the long white coat whispers, "that will be
all."
Tears well up in her eyes as she seems to realise that her job
wasn't performed satisfactorily. As she passes the doctor, he
says: "You've done the best you could. Go and have a drink. It's
on me."
Just before actually leaving the room, she turns around and
looks at me. "Creep," she whispers below her breath.
The doctor looks up from his paper.
"No response to alcohol. The patient does seem to have a certain
effect on women so that they start calling him 'creep'", he
speaks aloud as he writes the word down.
"Next." the doctor says.

Money

The room is now entered by cigarette wielding babe with long,
lank, incredibly blonde hair, lightblue eyes, bright red lips,
long legs and a tight blue skirt just below the knees. She
nonchalantly blows a few puffs of smoke to the ceiling in a way
that would have made Jerry Hall jealous. Her hips dance as if in
a supernatural trance in a way that would have made Mick Jagger
go nuts instantly (and forget all about Jerry). She wears a very
tight white blouse that leaves nothing to guess about the shapes
of the upper part of her anatomy.
Her necklace is one of silver inlaid with many a diamond; a
solid golden bracelet ornaments her right wrist whereas the other
one is sublimified by a Rolex watch. Her left breast supports a
priceless brooch. If my nose would have been open to any alien
impressions, it would have sensed a most extravagantly
ridiculously absurdly expensive perfume (one of those 'turn-the-
men-on-because-it-brings-out-the-worst-in-'em' brands, most
probably Loulou). But it wasn't, so it couldn't.
She also sits down on my bed, and from somewhere she gets about
tenthousand real US dollars that she starts to move back and
forth under my nose. She smell of fresh paper money appears to
have more penetrating power than her expensive perfume, as in my
dreams I now vividly imagine myself swimming in a warehouse full
of thousand dollar bills - much in the fashion like a member of
the Duck family would.
Yet the potence of the smell and the associative thought is not
enough to make me wake up. At times, I only see coloured shapes
moving in specific patterns across my retina, sometimes littered
with sound effects.
I make a sudden move with my right hand, as if wanting to catch
a mouse and pressing its fire buttons rapidly. The woman startles
and nearly drops her cigarette on the bedlinen.
"Creep," she hisses, slaps my face, stands up and walks away. In
style.
Even the way in which she did this would have made Mick Jagger
go berzerk. Just before passing the doctor, who is scribbling
something on his notepad, she turns around. If I would have
looked, I would have seen something like wonder in her bright
blue eyes before she vanished into the darkness of the corridor.
Only the tap-tap sound of her high heels can be heard for a few
moments longer, until that also fades away into silence.
"No response to money," the doctor sighs, "NEXT!"

Heavy Metal

Another, rather common, girl now enters the room. She wears
amazingly high stiletto-heels on which she seems barely to be
able to balance her gait, fishnet stockings, an extremely tight
pair of leather black trousers and a torn Metallica T-Shirt;
various metalware covers her neck and arms. Her hair is dyed
almost perfectly white, and falls in broad curls over her
shoulders. Bright pink lipstick and blue eyeshade make her face,
and she appears to be chewing some kind of cheap bubble gum.
Under all the superficial impressions, she can still be seen to
have been very pretty, once.
In short: A girl that would turn every headbangin' nervewreckin'
muscletorturin' freakin' heavy metallunatic on, referred to as
'tart' by many potential mother-in-laws.
The smell of artificial strawberry flavour fills the room as she
lifts an enormous 2x50 Watts Ghettoblaster off one of her
shoulders and puts it down on a small desk next to my bed. She
plugs it into the nearest mains socket and presses a button. A
small drawer flips slowly out, in which she puts a small shiny
disc. She looks at the label approvingly, and presses another
button. The drawer closes and a slight whizzing sound arises from
the machine.
Within seconds, the hospital room is filled with the noise of
Heavy Metal Mayhem, blackened noise and hoarse cries
declaiming death, hell, destruction, murder and genocide. The
girl starts jumping all up and down the room, wildly banging her
head. That surely ain't no wig she's wearing.
The doctor observes me silently in the doorpost. He is now
holding his fingers in his ears, and he is writing with his
right foot on the notepad that now lies on the ground.
As the vocalist's chainsaw massacres, the guitarists exploding
strings and the drummer's atomic invasions are ready to plunge
into a second cacophony of sound barrier obliteration, the doctor
frantically signals the girl to shut down the device.
She breathes hard as she moves the hair out of her eyes (and
mine) and adjusts her torn Metallica shirt.
I still lay there. Not affected by it all. Still no response
whatsoever. Not as much as a twitch.
"The man's a bloomin' creep!" the girl cries as she unplugs the
Ghettoblaster and runs off, almost knocking down the doctor. Was
that wonder to be seen in her eyes?
"No response to Heavy Metal," the doctor writes down, "no hope
left. Case terminated. Patient 20.18.5.1., Karsmakers, Richard
C., sufferer of the Arcade Insanity Destruction Syndrome, will be
put to sleep. Permanently."
He beckons someone who had apparently been waiting in the
hallway all the time during these sessions.
Another nurse, looking like an identical twin of Gloria Estefan,
comes in. She wields a hypodermic syringe labelled 'Cyanide'. She
rolls up my sleeve and sticks it in my arm, then slowly injects
the liquid into my veins.
The last things I see are small coloured objects flying across
my retina in a specified pattern. My hands make a last sudden
move, trying to grab a mouse to press its buttons. As my life and
last strength flows away from me, I motion the nurse to bend
over to me. Hoping to get a chance to hear my last confession, an
oral version of my will, or even receiving a last regretful kiss
of farewell, she does so. I whisper something in her ear.
A moment later, I utter my last breath. Cyanide works fast and
efficiently.
"Gridrunner?" the nurse wonders, "what a creep!"

*****

The driving force (and probably sole programmer) behind the
British company Llamasoft, Jeff Minter, surely knows the laws of
arcade game writing. Not only is he able to create games that
combine speed, tactics and assorted extravaganza with many
bonuses, good sound effects and graphic representation, but he
also succeeds in publishing these games at the utterly remarkable
price of £9.95 (that's about 40 guilders in Holland, or $20).
Jeff Minter's viewpoint with regard to software prizes is that is
is ridiculous to make 16-bit games at twice the price of 8-bit
games that are equally difficult/easy to program. A viewpoint
that should be honoured, and that should be used by many other
companies as well!
So far the latest viewpoints of the latest top-selling arcade-
game author. Now for the actual review, 'cause that why we're
here for, no?

Gridrunner

Let's start right away with what I consider to be the hottest
shoot-'em-up (and the most addictive one, too): "Gridrunner". In
the heyday of the Commodore machines (VIC-20 and C-64), Jeff
Minter created "Gridrunner" on these machines, stretching the
respective systems to their limits with high speed, excellent
sound effects and - what's most important - addictive
playability.

The principle is simple. You are a craft that has to blast
everything off the screen. The objects vary in shape and movement
characteristics. Once blasted, they turn into quadrangles that
grow bigger and bigger - when they grow to big, they change into
a bomb that will drop down. So you have to blast every object at
least twice (the spiders sometimes even three times - or more?).
The strenghts of the ST version of "Gridrunner", alternatively
dubbed "Super Gridrunner", are the very subtle color effects in
the background, the enormous variety of hostile objects and the
excellent presentation. Many more than 16 colours are at the
screen at all times - and that even while at times literally
dozens of objects are flying all over the screen in set patterns
without a single one slowing down! One would almost conclude that
the ST suddenly has hardware sprite facilities...
Jeff Minter's unique sense of humour is littered throughout the
game. The start-up screen already states that 'ripoffs damage
your karma' - something that brought a certain other Dutch disk
magazine to my mind and which made me laugh heartily. From then
on, you're called "earthslime", "scumbag", and all kinds of other
words. Yet you don't particularly mind (at least, I didn't).
'Cause blasting is the word here. Lucky enough, the mouse-
controlled game features automatic rapid fire - which I
unfortunately only found out after numbing my trigger fingers for
several hours. Shoot everything that moves, but don't shoot the
llamas...they earn you 500 bonus points when touched. At times,
Ancipitals and Yaks also appear on the screen, supplying you with
extra bonuses.
"Gridrunner" is fiendishly addictive, and has the right degree
of addictiveness. The first levels are relatively easy, but they
increase in difficulty rapidly. So everyone's got something here.
It is possible to start at one of the first eight levels from
start on - I now always start at seven, since I didn't quite get
through that uptil now. But I'm practising.

Concluding: "Gridrunner" is THE shoot-'em-up sensation of 1989,
and will join the ranks of good old "Plutos", which it beats
easily on the subject of playability and addictiveness. It's
great, it's cheap, it's qualitively good...what else do you want?
If you add to that that it saves hiscores, that there are no
unfair aspects in the game and that many levels have something
completely weird and original in them...
Do the software world a favour and BUY this game instead of
COPYING it somewhere. Everyone can surely afford £9.95?

Game Rating:

Name: Gridrunner
Company: Llamasoft
Author: Jeff Minter
Graphics: 9-
Sound: 9+
Playability: 10
Hookability: 10
Value for money: 10
Overall rating: 10-
Price: £9.95
Remark: Simply great. Get it!
Hardware: Color monitor, mouse
Hiscore (I'm VERY proud!): 5,011,120 (Level 57)

Andes Attack

Another £9.95 Llamasoft game that got excellent reviews
everywhere is "Andes Attack", an extremely enhanced version of
the original VIC-20 "Defender" clone. In "Andes Attack" you have
to defend a mountain range with llamas: Aliens want to abduct
them and mutate them, and that's just what you have to prevent.
But this job is not made easy. The most ridiculous monsters,
varying from HACDs ("Have A Crap Day"s) to Agima Kusstom Blyttrs
(very nice, Jeff!) enter the screen and try to make life hell.
I feel that there is no way better to describe the feel of the
game rather than to quote a part of the manual:
"Andes Attack is created for those who want gameplay with
gonads, not an emasculated and tarted-up version of a good game.
Okay, so AA doesn't have detailed full-screen scrolling backdrops
(which is good, because you can actually see you opponents
instead of losing them in the background), but it does have
complex, savage, satisfying gameplay; proper 'bits-fly-off-
everywhere' explosions; enemies you will really grow to hate
(especially the Hasslers and Elektrons) and a learning curve
that's steep but not too steep."
Right he is. The above doesn't sound all to modest, but is there
a need to be? After all, Jeff Minter is to arcade games what
Douglas Adams is to absurd humour, what Jimi Hendrix was to
guitar innovation and what Yngwie Malmsteen is for everyone
wanting to play guitar fast: A cult father and ultimate example.
To hell with modesty! Jeff is GOOD, and what he creates is
EXCELLENT and ADDICTIVE.

"Andes Attack" is also mouse-controlled; thrust in either
direction can be achieved using either mousekey, and three
additional keys conveniently located on the keyboard are used to
detonate Smart Bombs, to fire your lasers and to activate your
Shield. This may sound like much of a hassle (it did so to me,
anyway), but I can assure you that, once you're used to it, it's
a very good alternative to using a joystick and the keyboard!
Graphics are again excellent, and I particularly like the many-
coloured rasters that are going up and down the background screen
as you decrease or increase your ship's altitude. The enemy
objects are well drawn, move like hell, animate, and are an
EXTREME nuisance. And that's what we want to create a good
blasting atmosphere, don't we?
Though I prefer "Gridrunner", "Andes Attack" is no less
addictive, and here I would also like to say: Go and BUY this
game instead of COPYING it! Games like these are the only remedy
when your girlfriend just left you, or when you just found out
Tsjernobyl is not as far away as you thought, or when your best
friend just bought an Amiga and sold his ST, or when you have
just been pushed against the fence by 6000 headbanging
mettalunatics for four hours in a row! It's to be preferred above
demolishing telephone boxes or harassing your family, anyway.

Game rating:

Name: Andes Attack
Company: Llamasoft
Author: Jeff Minter
Graphics: 9
Sound: 9+
Playability: 9
Hookability: 10
Value for money: 10
Overall rating: 10-
Price: £9.95
Remark: Again: Simply great. Get it!
Hardware: Color monitor, mouse
Hiscore (Stefan's): Almost 300000

Many thanks have to go to Llamasoft for supplying the review
copies:

Llamasoft
49 Mount Pleasant
Tadley, Hants
England
Tel. 07356-4478

Special thanks have to go to Jeff "Yak the Hairy" Minter for
additional explanation of his views on 16-bit software prices,
and for his kind permission to go out with him to a local pub in
his Wales residence when we visit England in July (more about
this in the '4.4 Preview' article elsewhere in this issue of ST
NEWS
).

* Additional note of the editor *

WOW!!

In a ultra-hard core session of 'Andes Attack' I just reached
295000 (could be a little more)!

So how about it? Read all about my views on the Minter Games in
a separate issue elsewhere in this issue. Yes, the times are
back. 'Andes Attack' in the ONLY game on the ST that can drive me
genuinely mad. It is fast, hard-core, mega-zapping, ultra-
blasting and super, 'not normal anymore' addictive. I mean I just
HAVE to have another go at it. Yes, the times of old are back. I
remember when I used to do coding on the 64, after somer heavy
'Revenge of the Mutant Camels' and I do just the same now,
zapping my brains out on 'Andes Attack' and freaky coding
afterwards.

Also, each time I play the game, my respect for the programming
capabilities of Jeff grow. If you count the number of sprites
active at the same time on the screen, you'll come up with insane
amounts that every other games programmer only dares to dream
about.

OK, read more in the 'Jeff Minter Games' article I wrote!

Disclaimer
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.