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ST SOFTWARE NEWS by Richard Karsmakers

Since we haven't had this column since early June of this year,
it is this time quite big. Since I saw it was gonna be BIG
anyway, I also found the time appropriate to get some of the
games we forgot in the last four months or so (p)reviewed as
well. Also, I would like to use this article to write something
about the games that the company where I now work, Thalion,
makes. I will not award any ratings there, though (though one
surely can't expect me to be all too objective).
I actually have some pretty neat stuff lined up for you - which
I am glad to say, since game launches have been quite bad
recently with all those trashy 'conversions' being launched.
Here be the result.

Stormtrooper

A game we've had to wait for a very long time; Creation Software
already started advertising it about a year ago (maybe longer)
and now I finally had my chance to have a go at it.
After loading the game, one is soon met by an instantly
recognizable piece of David Whittaker music. Actually, I consider
this one of David's better and moodier compositions in between
all the (let's be frank) twenty-in-a-nickle stuff he has been
doing recently (also on the Amiga). Game graphics presentation
immediately leaves a very good impression (everything scrolls
very smoothly vertically), also because the graphics are plain
GOOD.
"Stormtrooper" is a horizontally scrolling platform game where
you control a soldier that has to clear several levels of baddies
and unlocking laser gates and invisible (and impenetrable)
shields of power. Animation is very smooth indeed, though the
actual horizontal scrolling is a bit irritating to look at. The
plot is thus similar to Psygnosis' "Baal", but I prefer the
"Stormtrooper" graphics and sound.
Soon, you grow to hate the enemies. There are not only huge
machine guns that wait for you, lurking in the distance and
splilling forth the occasional lead, as well as many different
human opponents, but there are also small robots you can't
destroy but you have to leap over. Really irritating, these
bastards. Lucky enough, there's a small radar on the screen that
tells you where they are when they have the indecency of coming
too near to you (within sight, that is).
There are nine levels with totally different graphics, and I
think this is a huge plus-point for the game - especially to
increase its lasting appeal. There's a destroyed city with
wreckaged houses, futuristic dungeons, underground city sewers,
an enemy parking lot in which some breathtaking enemy hardware is
present (as well as black soldiers you cannot kill), space ship
innards and a hypermodern control centre, among others.
Throughout these levels, thugs try to kill you, whereas laser
guns, spontaneously erupting boulders and monorail tanks also try
to shorten your life's expectancy.
"Stormtrooper" is a very good game indeed, though it would have
been much better with some SMOOTH horizontal scrolling (though I
gather this is a bit difficult with four planes and lots of
shapes). Animation is smooth, graphics are very good.
Rating: 8.5.

Skateball

Ubisoft (a French company operating from a true castle) is
working hard recently, and current releases include "Zombi"
and "Skateball". In spite of its quite original story and
viewpoint, the latter is a bit of a letdown.
In "Skateball", you play a futuristic and highly violent ball
sport, which is looked upon from the side. This brings along the
obvious horizontal scrolling, that is unfortunately bad.
The graphics are well above average, and the music is reasonable
although it has some pretty daft rhythm section sounds. I really
can't say much of this game because it didn't have much appeal
and I therefore really didn't play it that long (to be honest, I
just had a quick peek at the demo mode). Besides, I wasn't in the
mood to get a headache from looking at the horizontal scrolling.
Rating: 6.

Cybernoid II - The Revenge

NOW we're cooking!
This is truly an excellent game.
I have not played "Cybernoid I" extensively, so I cannot tell
you for sure if it's worth to get this one when you already have
the old one - but judging from this sequel I sincerely think it
is and you should.
The graphics are better - highly detailed, beautifully drawn and
extremely colourful. Everything moves fluently and the animations
are brilliant and varying. I especially like the horrible
monsters and all the eyes that are drawn with an artistic talent
that is unparalleled.
The music is also an entirely different story from the usual
stuff we get cast on the market nowadays: An enchanting tune with
some whipping beat and great melody (composed by Jeroen Tel;
programmed by Jochen Hippel).
In "Cybernoid II" you control a craft that has to penetrate deep
into caverns and dungeons on search for enemy obliteration and
gem collection. Hidden evils and vicious dangers hide in those
fiersome depths, and soon you will find yourself shot at in such
an incredible fashion that your trigger finger will get quite
some practise before leaving one screen - only to get trapped in
another one with equally menacing opponents.
Surely, Mark K. Jones did some truly outstanding work on the
graphics. The alien machinery as well as the monsters and
explosions are drawn excellently. I think it is high time that
Mr. Jones should be mentioned within the ranks of the Psygnosis
art wizards, Pete Lyon and the young German talents such as Erik
Simon and Thorsten Mutschall.
"Cybernoid II" is a worthy sequel. It's playable and very good.
Further in the game, it also becomes horrendously difficult! When
you die soon, the game leaves you with a sarcastic message:
"Stick to Cybernoid I"...
Pity it doesn't appear to save hiscores.
Rating: 9.

Titan

Really original games don't get along as often as they should
(games like "Tetris", "Populous", "Little Computer People" and
some more). But here is one again: Titus' "Titan".
Actually, "Titan" is an "Arkanoid" clone that has been
grotesquely mutated.
For starters, the bricks you have to tear down and the ball that
has to do that can move in a playfield that is much bigger than
the screen. The screen scrolls semi-smoothly and very fast with a
small shape in the centre - that's your 'bat' (though it doesn't
look like one). Because of that fast scrolling you sometimes tend
to lose track of your ball's location.
But let's start at the beginning: The intro graphics are already
very good, and the menu even features some fully useless but oh-
so-nice tricks that we would normally only find in demos and
hacker's intros (good job, Titus!). There's some digital intro
music that I don't particularly like but that has to be listened
fully.
Then the game starts. At first it is quite simple, but it gets
more difficult at quite a devastating (though not TOO
devastating) speed. Stones appear that have to be hit many times,
or stones pop up that you can destroy but your ball can't. There
are also stones that your ball can pass but you can't, and stones
with skulls on 'em that mean certain death with you touch 'em
yourself. Even on level 9 (which was where I stopped since I
feared addiction), I had seen teleportation stones, sliding
stones, intricate (and annoying) mazes and more.
To keep track of the ball and the general shape of the maze,
there is a small radar screen on the right of the playfield. Very
handy indeed. The sound effects are very good (some of them
digital). Ball control is a pain in the posterior at first, but I
only played the game once and I got used to it already.
Playing "Titan", especially on the first couple of levels, is
more a question of time rather than skill. The game starts to be
addictive right away, and I wanted to play on and play on because
every new level had a new challenge - something new, unexpected
and enchanting.
If I would have had time enough, this game would surely have
succeeded in reducing me to a trembling "Titan" addict. Lucky for
me, it didn't. So beware if you get it.
Rating: 8.5.

Galactic Conquerer

Another one of Titus' recent products, though FAR less
appealing than the aforementioned "Titan", is "Galactic
Conquerer". It is a 3D kind of "Space Invader", in which things
(mines, meteorites, enemy crafts) just keep on coming towards you
in a rather dull fashion.
Just blast 'em and try to survive - that's the motto.
Some of the graphics are above average, the sounds are all
digital. I think this game fails to keep lasting appeal. There
seem to be a lot of missions, but they are all rather alike -
what I saw of them, anyway.
Rating: 6-.

Targhan

Here we have a game that succeeded in stirring me right into my
guts and into my heart - and in the positive fashion, that is.
After games that aroused quite a discussion in UK magazines
(need I mention the example of "Manhattan Dealers" being
mentioned a 'drug-dealer promotion game'?), Silmarils have now
done a game that should get raving reviews by anyone with a
slight presence of taste and programming knowledge.
Because there are again some girls wearing nothing more than a
bikini and men wearing but a pair of leopard skin trunks, some
people may regard this game as being 'sexist' again. If you
belong to these people, please read my piece about "Software
Ethics" in ST NEWS Volume 4 Issue 3.
Let's get going.
Not soon after loading has been initiated, a beautifully drawn
intro picture is spitted on the screen by a small "S"-shaped
dragon. I sat back in my chair with increasing hopes and respect
for the person responsible for the artwork, hit a key and waited.
And I waited.
Even more...I waited.
I wasn't even irritated by the fact that the whole game was in
French but...
I fear I have hereby made clear one MASSIVE DRAWBACK of the
game: Disk B takes AGES to load. There might be some digi music
and some neat graphics slammed on the screen, but about FIVE
minutes of loading is quite absurd.
Absurd?
Yes. That's what I thought when I was waiting. I even went as
far as thinking that booting up the next game would be handier.
My finger was already ghastly close to the little grey button on
the back of my ST.
Then, loading ended.
Was I glad I had waited. It was worth every darned millisecond
of the wait (besides - I had to go to the loo and I could do so
during this tideous procedure).
The game started.
I couldn't believe my eyes at the graphical excellence that was
slammed on the screen. There stood Targhan (the game is a bit
like "Barbarian II") in a forest at dusk. The sun was setting in
brilliantly drawn backgrounds behind the many very well drawn
trees of a dense forest.
The sounds were also incredible. Very atmospheric sounds of owls
howling and the soft steps of Targhan on the soil could be heard
as I walked him into the next screen.
Every screen is totally different and there are many details
that require some full appreciation. In the background, slender
deers walk between the trees. Scared little squirrels climb
hurriedly into a tree as Targhan enters the screen with his huge
physique. Birds fly over the clouds of early dusk. In the village
in the trees (to the right and up), people hastily close the
blinders as Targhan catches their sight.
It's all (I know it sounds hard to believe) very realistic and
extremely atmospherical. Targhan also walks with a quality I
uptil then only found in few games - actually, a comparison with
the Master of the Universe television cartoons popped in my mind
immediately. Thick branches and the occasional leaves move in
front of Targhan; the trees move behind him.
Very well done indeed.
But you mustn't forget: It's a "Barbarian II" look-alike. In
some of the next screens, Targhan meets some enormous wolfheaded
dudes wielding double-bladed axes, little (as well as full-sized)
devils, winged bats, smaller men that desperately wish Targhan
not to invade their village and even girls with bow and arrows.
These have to be killed swiftly - the corpses crumble into
skeleton remains as this is done.
I didn't particularly like the slaughtering of that rather nice
girl (wearing the obvious bikini), as it is one of my most
strongly held beliefs that females are made for the sole purpose
of being adored, loved and cared for (especially gorgeous ones) -
and not for being brutally slaughtered. But these are my personal
(maybe somewhat mediaeval) viewpoints.
"Targhan" is definitely a HUGE game. Not only in proportion, but
also in impressiveness. It enthralled me from the very moment I
could actually start playing. Its atmosphere is magic. I think I
fell in love. Each time when I see the beautifully drawn skies
with the mountain range topped on them, I can but merely sigh.
Pity for the loading time. Otherwise, it would have gained a
9.5 for sure.
Rating: 9.

Teenage Queen

This is no review, nor a preview: It's a re-review. As some of
you may remember, good old Piper slammed this game right to the
middlepoint of the earth because he found it sexist.
I disagree with him totally now I have seen it myself.
It is the best Strip Poker program I have ever seen. The
perspective with the hands (the best drawn hands I ever saw) and
the highly detailed cards is excellent, and the other graphics
are also very good indeed.
It is my opinion that one should try to value a game on its
graphics, sound, playability, addictiveness, etc. Not on moral
values that seem to differ so quantumleapingly between
individual people - such as a game being 'sexist' or even
'blatantly sexist' or not.
I find it, as I stated already, the best Strip Poker program I
ever saw. And I consider it worth AT LEAST an 8.

Action Fighter

Possibly one of the most flawless arcade conversions to date is
"Action Fighter", originally by Sega but now done by one of
Microprose's labels (or maybe even Microprose itself?).
At first, "Action Fighter", may be easily mistaken for a
smoother scrolling "Major Motion" clone ("Spy Hunter" on 8-bit
machines). But it isn't.
As you drive along on a vertically scrolling street with your
motorbike, you can gather extra weapons by collecting flags and
entering the "Sega" truck and gather additional strength by
collection cylindres with letters on them.
Soon, you end up having a car with double-fire and rockets.
On a certain point on each level, you get wings and get blasted
off in the air. There, you have to destroy various ships at sea
as well as various other air-to-air opponents. Graphics are ideal
for an arcade conversion, with humoristic details such as waving
men in boats and small men lying tied to railroad tracks.
In the long run, "Action Fighter" is a bit repetitive and VERY
hard in air-to-air combat. I quit after level 5, since the
repetition was too obvious. Graphics differed still, but not
enough.
It's a very good conversion though - equal to the excellence of
what I consider to be one of the best arcade conversions ever
made, Probe Software's "Metro Cross".
Rating: 8-.

Ammotrack

Before you start complaining that you can't find this game in
any shops, please shut up.
This is one of the two games present in the "ST Action" cover
disk of their September issue, written by Hewson's John M.
Phillips. And a great game - that needs to be mentioned.
Before I start to say anything about this game, I'd like to
mention the other of the two games featured on that disk:
"Skulldiggery". A truly bad game with lousy scrolling, lousy
sounds...lousy everything, really. Discount prices and free
offerings obviously didn't help to give this lousy game a good
mileage, so that's why they supplied it as a 'freebie' to "ST
Action".
Good thing "Ammotrack" is there.
"Ammotrack" is the pre-quel (what the hell is the opposite to
sequel?!) to "Eliminator" John did for Hewson, and it can be
seen. Not that the game is unoriginal, but since it is just about
as playable, fast, filled with bonuses, and weirdly addictive.
I got kinda hooked immediately though I was just in time to
notice this and quit playing the game in order to be able to do
other (more important) things.
For the £2.95 "ST Action" now costs, this is a ridiculously
excellent game. Get it! Get it!
I would even like to say: Get it!
Am I repeating myself?
In comparison with other games in general, the game deserves a
rating of 8-; in comparison with other games at £3 (Public Domain
stuff), it deserves a capital, bold and underlined 10!!

Cuddly Demos

I think "Cuddly" is a grotesque understatement for the potential
uniqueness of this demo made by the Swedish Carebears. I was
originally planning to write a full length feature review about
it, but eventually I lacked time and courage.
But do mark my use of the word 'potential'. For the demo didn't
quite look so great on my system: A 1985 ST. Many screens
flicker, and many lowers borders are just not there. I understand
that this was caused by the fact that there were no old STs to
test the "Cuddly Demos" on, and that therefore The Carebears
thought everything worked.
Well, it didn't. But I thoroughly enjoyed watching the many
(MANY!) screens on another guy's computer.

All together, I think the "Cuddly Demos" are very good. They use
hardware scrolling for the first time (which everybody ripped out
already, so it seems), but I still prefer the solid "Union Demo"
because it works on all systems.
Nevertheless, I find the "Cuddly Demos" worthy of a 9.5!

Bad Company

Now this is what I call a 'hot preview' in the middle of the
lots of old stuff that you have already read in this article.
Steve Bak's "3D Marine" of which I spoke in ST NEWS Volume 4
Issue 4 is now finished and is marketed by Logotron Entertainment
under the name "Bad Company".
It's the FIRST EVER TRULY 3D SCROLLING game. There's no vector
graphics and no "Space Harrier"-like colors on the floor, but
REAL graphics. The 'scrolling' is very smooth, and the game is
even playable.
The first game that springs to mind when you see "Bad Company"
is "Space Harrier". Though it is more complex and the player
sprite moves a bit slower, "Bad Company" is still playable though
it is sometimes a bit hard to see what's coming at you because
you can't see directly in front of you.
The graphics were made by Chris Sorrell and Pete Lyon, and are
really well done. The demo version I got from Logotron's director
Ian Saunter didn't have any music, though the title screen said
that it was David Whittaker's.
There are eight different player sprites, or heroes, where you
can choose from. One of them, quite remarkably, is called
"Chronos Warchild". When I noted that, my ego was boosted right
to the ceiling.
Good job, Steve! Your game deserves an 8+!

Chambers of Shaolin

The first product launched by the new German software company
Thalion is "Chambers of Shaolin", a martial arts game with more
to it than meets the eye. Since Thalion intends to produce and to
keep on producing high quality games with high playability, the
excellent graphics, animation, sounds and music are only logical
to expect and are therefore very obvious throughout the game.
Actually, "Shaolin" is the first game that uses the lower border
for irrelevant graphics ('irrelevant' since not all monitors can
display the lower border as much as others), as well as true
hardware scrolling in a stunning end sequence - a trick recently
discovered by one of the Thalion programmers.
The thing with "Shaolin" is that it is no typical martial arts
game: Before you actually start to fight the sequence of four
fiersome opponents, you have to train a character in the six
Chambers of Shaolin. This means testing your strength, speed,
agility, and much more.
"Shaolin" breaks new ground even in the market of martial arts
games. Well done, Thalion.

Seven Gates of Jambala

What happens when a wizard's apprentice gets naughty and his
wizards gets angry? Find out in the second Thalion release, a
smoothly horizontally scrolling jump'n'run game where young
Dravion enter the place only full-fledged wizards dare to
challenge: "Seven gates of Jambala".
Again, this game features some stunning soundtracks (one for
each of the seven levels) and great graphics, adding up to a
massive load of monsters to challenge (including some pretty
vicous and sizable endmonsters). Examine the many rooms to find
extra weapons, vital information or extra points...but don't get
lost in the intricate labyrinths!

Warp

This game, the third and final Thalion release in 1989 in the
form of a mazed "Space Pilot" variant, should be ready as you
read this. As usual, it's got some great soundtracks and stunning
graphics, and its technical brilliance is quite stunning, too: It
features the first ever 16-way smooth scrolling on the ST!
The earth is occupied by the Myrons and you have to conquer all
Myron installations on all of our solar system's planets to free
the earth. After getting used to the controls, this is a very
nice game to play. A full review can be found in an older ST NEWS
issue: Volume 4 Issue 1.

Teramis

This game will be the technological revolution of the nineties,
setting trends for those who follow. It will be a vertically
scrolling shoot 'em up, comparable with a futuristic version of
"Ikari Warriors". What makes the game stand out among others is
the enormous load of screens (over 130 totally different
screens!) and the fact that it is the smoothest game ever seen on
the ST: It updates the whole screen 50 times per second (compare
with "Bubble Bobble" - 25 times per second - and "Blood Money" -
sometimes even 10 times per second)!
This is the first game that will fully feature vertical
'hardware' scrolling (which scrolls the entire screen - all four
planes - in about 50 scanlines time, if that means anything to
you). It will be zany, it will be absurd, it will be humorous, it
will be difficult, it will be addictive, and it will have a giga-
endmonster called "Ronny".
Due for release in January, programmed by the frontrunner of a
new generation of 16 bit whizkids, Michael Bittner (who also did
"Warp", by the way).

No Second Prize

The fastest 3D graphics ever seen on the ST are about to enter
your screen in the autumn of 1990 when "No Second Prize" hits the
market. All existing games, including "Hawk", "Bomber" and
"Interphase", will seem slow by comparison. With a display rate
of 20 to 40 frames per second, "No Second Prize" is destined to
be the fastest 3D action game ever made, programmed by a
remarkable Swiss talent, Christian Jungen.
When seeing this demo, even Jez San (who did "Starglider II")
was stunned and lost control over all control of his lower jaw
muscles. This futuristic, action packed racing simulation will
stun the world, rest assure!

Dragonflight

One of the most impressive Role Playing Games ever to be
launched will no doubt be "Dragonflight". You lead a party of
four, that has to find magic lost and dragons fled. The graphics
and animations are incredibly smooth and varying, and there are a
lot of subquests, too.
This game will have taken three years of programming when it's
ready, and will easily enter the ranks of the "Ultima" series.
Due for release in January 1990.

Thalion 1990

Of course, Thalion is working on some more titles. One of them
is another Role Playing Game called "Amber Star" (first of a set
of two, so I'm told). All I know is that the designer works with
me in one room and that it's set to be BIG. And there's even
going to be a sequel.
A game that I am designing myself is provisionally called "A
Prehistoric Tale". It will be an incredibly addictive platform
game that will combine everything you ever wanted in a platform
game - plus lots more! Giant animated dinosaurs, hundreds of
bonuses and 128 levels (plus some hidden rooms and bonus levels)
are just waiting to be conquered.
In my dreams, I envision this game to be the Christmas hit for
1990 - and it is therefore set to be released in autumn of that
year.
And there will be more! Just a couple of the titles will be
"Jambala II" (16-way smooth scrolling platform game that scrolls
the whole screen in all colours), "Spellbinder" (working title
for a vertical shoot-'em-up that will bring more zapping than any
title before) and probably some more.

Stormlord

A very fine release indeed, is "Stormlord" (a horizontally
scrolling platform game from the British software company
Hewson). Your task: Collect keys and free captured faeries. The
graphics are truly excellent, and the sound is also very good
indeed (ST conversion by a guy called Jochen Hippel). The game is
quite difficult (some say TOO difficult), but it is very nice
indeed. The graphics and animation are very smooth though not
perfect (every second VBL). There is also a very nicely done
teleporter option, though it takes too long.
The program gets a 7.5

Ferrari Formula One

Electronic Arts' rumoured 'classic' among racing simulations is
now also actually available: "Ferrari Grand Prix".
There are sixteen different tracks, accurate to the actual 1986
race season (including turbo-based cars). All the backgrounds are
also specific with the tracks, and the backgrounds tie in with
the track instead of the usual bit of graphics that just scroll
to and fro in other racing games.
The difference with other racing games is that it is extensive
and detailed. There is a pit, driver-turning-look from the
cockpit, and rear-view mirrors as well. You can actually slide as
well, and lose traction on separate tires. All tires will wear
separately, and e.g. on a track which mostly has right hand turns
you will wear down your left tires faster. You can specify
gearbox, engine, tire types (each wheel independently), and lots
more. Everything is selected by the mouse (the whole game is
mouse-controlled). You can also put your car in the windtunnel
where you will actually see the smoke running along the body,
though much if it can only be done at your home track - which is
Ferrano in Italy. The game also counts the actual time you need
to travel and practise, for a real Grand Prix season emulation.
There is no need to specify everything, though: You can also
select default options - and you can also let the program (your
'adviser') hint at these.
"Ferrari Formula One" is no 'go ahead and drive the damn thing'
program. There is MUCH more, and I think I have even left out
some of the things we've seen. There's three levels, and you can
also just manage the car and not actually race at all.
So far the description. Now for the actual criticism. The still
graphics are very good, but everything that moves (especially the
actual racing) is quite un-smooth (to say the least). The racing
bit is virtually unplayable and extremely unattractive to the
eye. Sounds are also quite naff.
The program gets a 7.5, because it is so extensive and
realistic. If the driving would have been better, it would no
doubt have earned a whole point higher.
But I did like the Ferrari logo sticker that came with the
package, that now 'speeds up' my harddisk.
The game is available at £24.99. Thanks to Lesley Mansford at
Electronic Arts for sending it.

Leisure Suit Larry III - Passionate Patti's Pursuit for Pulsating
Pectorals


I have had the chance to fool around with this game a bit
because we (Thalion, that is) actually have a PC at out disposal
and I have been playing this hot new release for hours in recent
days.
As you could expect, you again become lovely Larry Laffer in his
lizardly leisure suit, looking for love (in several wrong
places). But this time his wife has abandoned him, and a female
by the name of Passionate Patti is also on the lose!
But Larry doesn't let that refrain him from having a good time!
And I must admit that "Larry III" is definitely the most X-rated
of them all. In this version, censorship only exists if you're
too young...
This is really an excellent game, and the puzzles are average to
difficult (though I am at the moment stuck at a bit over 700
points - out of a possible 4000). The graphics system has been
greatly improved and the animations are extremely varied.
I am not sure how many disks it will be on the ST, but on the PC
it is 8 disks...
I will, nevertheless, award this game with a 9. It's great.

Krypton Egg

Just when you thought people were about never to write any
"Arkanoid" clones any more, a company called Hitsoft publishes
"Krypton Egg". And it's not 'just an "Arkanoid" clone'. No. It's
one that is incredibly difficult, addictive and even (I know this
sounds highly improbable) original.
The programmers have found even more bonus effects, and this can
make sure that there are literally a hundred or more shapes
moving and jumping on the screen at time. There are also MANY
colors (so much that they tend to be a bit irritating or even
headacheprovoking). The digital sound effects (everything is
digitized) is not too bad, but seem to have gone through a
ruthless overdrive device...
In a time of relatively few "Arkanoid" clones, I think this is
really something people want. And therefore it's worth an 8.5.

Roller Coaster Rumbler

In this game, you are driving a Roller Coaster Cart. It is a 3D
perspective.
A game with a lot of hype and excellent still graphics, but a
game concept that should get the concept people shot at the spot,
and slow '3D' graphics. There is no variety in the gameplay
whatsoecver, and you just have to shoot...shoot....shoot. Sounds
are naff and action is slow.
A shit game (sorry for my words). Pity about the graphics, that
could have used for a far better game. This game gets a 4.

Dominator

The first thing that catches the eye after loading System 3's
"Dominator" is a fantastic game logo. The graphics are
breathtaking indeed. Also, the 'concept by Mark Cale' line tends
to arouse some excitement.
Alas. When loading has ceased it turns out to be a terribly
boring, vertical shoot-'em-up with good graphics but only TWO
shots in the air at once (which, dear Mr. Cale, is at least four
times too few for a decent shooting game!). The scrolling is
quite smooth but slow, and thus the whole thing is really
describable in two words: Slow and boring.
If I were to design a game like this, I would be ashamed of
myself. The digital sound effects slow the action even more down,
so I am afraid this is not much of a playable game.
A 6.

Verminator

"Verminator" from Rainbird (say: Microprose) took one and a half
year of waiting, after the first screen shots reached the press
(and yours truly). What has become true of the hype around this
game, in which you work for the Tree Counsil Sanitation Division?
The graphics are, no doubt about that, very good. The music (by
David Whittaker) consists of a very gay tune. But the rest is
somewhat of a letdown (though the letdown could have been bigger,
I hasten to add). The 'smooth scrolling' from which the press
releases spoke turns out to be scrolling that only happens if you
walk out of a screen into the next. And this scrolling is all
except flawless, let alone smooth. 'Block scrolling' is a far
better description, I should think. The sound effects are
digital.
All in all, "Verminator" is not what Rainbird had expected us to
believe, though not too bad alltogetgher. I'd like to round it
off with a 7.5.

Dragon Spirit

It might have been that I played the PC Engine version of this
vertically shoot-'em-up arcade conversion too much, and therefore
I do not think particularly highly about this game, either. It's
just another one of those dozen-in-one games that started off
back in 1986 with "Xevious". The game is playable, but ionly
just, and the graphics are moderate and too slowly animated. The
sound effects are rather bad, and the attempt at a bit of
sideways scrolling is pathetically blocky.
The game is extremely difficult at start, though it becomes more
easy (and thus, more playable) as one learns not to get ripped
off the extra weapons - and, indeed, one learns to gather some
extra ones.
This is not the game I had been expecting. So we'll just have to
remain waiting for a GOOD shoot'-em-up like this. It does not
deserve much more than a 6.5 (and therefore I don't give it any
more).

Robocop

Yep, an oldie.
This game was launched somewhere in spring of this year, I
believe, and is therefore a likely candidate for the 'oldest game
this issue' to be (p)reviewed. In the game you're the half-man-
half-robot copper that blasts its way through all evil scum of
the criminal world. This setup led to the game being banned in
West Germany (even before the Amiga version was done - har har).
Peter Johnson did a good job on "Robocop", which is a conversion
of the arcade machine with the same name. The scrolling is quite
smooth, the animation is quite good, the music is quite nice, the
playability is quite good, and the hookability factor is quite
high.
Thus, I would like to conclude that this is a no-nonsense game -
and quite a good one at that. It deserves a 7.5.

Astaroth - The Angel of Death

This game has already stirred quite something in the software
world - which led to a compulsory re-design of the package
because of censorship. The original design, featuring a mostly
nude picture of Astaroth, the Angel of Death, was found to be
'not quite it' and the packaging is now plain black with a logo
on it - at least in England.
Strange folk.
"Astaroth" is a platform game with many rooms, with splendid
graphics by the master himself - Pete Lyon (who also did the room
layout and design). The animation is very smooth. You have to go
down the caves, trying not to get killed along the eight levels,
and you have to collect several things (bonuses, that give you
extra power, or levitation, or the means of throwing fireballs)
that are necessary for you to get past the end of the game - the
ultimate meeting with Astaroth, the Angel of Death.
There are about 240 screens (though you don't actually have to
visit them all), and the game is accompanied by sound effects and
excellent music by Jochen Hippel (yeah!). Each level has totally
different graphics.
"Astaroth" looks impressive and highly playable in spite of its
difficulty. It is available at £24.99. Thanks to Ms. Toni Waknell
of Hewson for sending the review sample. The game gets an 8-.

Stuntcar Racer

The latest game from one of the Microprose labels is "Stuntcar
Racer", a 3D vector graphics racing simulation along a stunt
track. Some way or another, I never got an originally sent to me
by Microprose's Julia Coombs, although I specifically asked one
when meeting her at the PC Show. Did she perhaps read the ST NEWS
Volume 4 Issue 4 hidden article?
Anyway, the game is what one would call 'nicely tuned'. Car
control is splendid, and driving is therefore exciting and quite
realistic. Jumping off ramps and stuff is really great.
But the disadvantage of the game is its repetitive gameplay.
It's just driving around a couple of courses, and the competition
element is only barely reached by that one other shape that races
around on the course. The 3D graphics are also not particularly
fast.
"Stuntcar Racer" stands out among many of the other current
releases, but could have been much better, to be honest. It gets
a 7.5.

Spherical

Mainly due to the truly mindstaggering graphics by the hand of
the extremely talented Thorsten Mutschall, "Spherical" has become
an excellent platform game - and the first German game ever to
become a hit elsewhere.
The game looks a bit like "Solomons Key", but is much bigger and
better of design. I really like the enormous monsters that pop up
every x levels...smoothly animated and beautifully drawn. Rainbow
Arts surely have a good title up their sleeve (which is an
exception, really).
It deserves an 8.5 on behalf of the graphics and playability.
The sound is rather bad - otherwise it would have had a 9.

Batman

I have had the chance to look at the mostly hyped game of all
times just before the writing for this issue of ST NEWS was
finished. And I must say (and it was no surprise) that the game
is yet another multi-clone (platform and jump'n'run section, 3D
section....can someone wake me up?). The graphics are indeed very
good, but the sound is reversely bad, and gameplay is not what
I'd call 'very exciting and original'. It's just another one of
those average licenses - though I am glad to say that (at least
technically) it's better than "Indiana Jones" and most of the
other U.S. Gold rabble.
By giving it a 7.5, I think it gets a bit too much even. It's
games like this that destroy the market by beating technically
far superior games that are also much more fun to play. I know
"Batman" will be the Christmas hit, but I don't like this. When
will a non-license be number one for a change?

Transputer

A company called AS launched an original "Arkanoid" clone that,
somewhere along the line, went totally wrong. The principle: You
have a 3D field of stones, and on the right you have your bat.
And you bump to the left and must destroy all the stones.
OK. It's original.
But the graphics are no hit stuff, and the animation and bat
control really suck. There are plenty of bonuses, but the game
didn't arouse any feelings of addictiveness in me.
A 6.5.

Cybermind

A thinking game (or, rather, a puzzle game) from Ubisoft, made
by some chaps called S. & H. Bendiabdallah (!). In the game, you
control a helicopter that has to fly around a static screen where
all kinds of floppy disks are positioned. You must collect these,
by shooting away stones, moving blocks of iron, shooting against
reflectors, and no doubt lots more as the levels get along.
This is no game that I would call my cup of tea, but it is
original and playable. So I think it's definitely worth a 7.5.

Schoolyard Slaughter

This is really something special. Not only is this the most
tasteless game ever, but it is also one of the worst games ever.
It is made by Perv the Hermit and The Outlow of Sickworld
Software, and I am not sure whether this program is Public Domain
or not (if it's not, everybody who buys it should get shot).
The target is to schoot all kids that run from left to right or
right to left on an extremely bad drawn/generated schoolyard.
This can only be done by shooting them nicely, cleanly in the
head.
Lots of blood.
Kiddie dies.
Next kiddie comes.
Some of the little boys play with balls, and the girls all have
nice fluffy hair (as far as the graphic quality - or rather the
lack of it - allows this to be seen).
After the initial laughter at this piece of trash, I realised
that this is a really sick piece of software (hence the name of
the 'software house'). So, for the first time in the history of
ST NEWS, there's a 1 to give away. Because the program is
bad...and because it's sick.
Bwaarrgghh.

Renegade

One of those hyped Ocean games, so when I loaded it I naturally
assumed it would be somewhat of a letdown. Another license that
will sell hugely but that is genuinely bad.
The intro picture changed my mind. It was a very well drawn pic
of some arcade hall machines, and it was accompanied by some
nice loading music.
I was relieved to find that the nice music continued throughout
the game as well, but unfortunately that's about the only good
stuff there's to say about the rest of this game. It's one of
those kick'n'beat street fighting games looked in a semi-
perspective angle, with very bad graphics and a devastating lack
of playability.
Another piece of software that didn't live up to its excessive
hype.

Voyager

There is really not much I can say about this Ocean game,
either. I have played it only for a couple of minutes (so I don't
think a rating is in order, either), and that sufficed to let me
know that it is a 3D solid vector graphics game in which you have
to battle on several planets.
I only missed something in "Voyager": The certain sense of
'magic' that "Starglider II" definitely had.

Silkworm

Let's conclude this issue's "ST Software News" column with three
(well, actually two) game that I received from
Virgin/Mastertronic (thanks, Lesley and Brinn!). The first one to
be launched, a horizontally parallax scrolling shoot-'em-up in
which you are a helicopter that has to fly over enemy territory
(with the enemy of course seeking to annihilate you) is called
"Silkworm".
Although this game was said to have "the smoothest scrolling
ever seen on the Atari ST" (I think it was "ST User"), I was
somewhat startled to see that there are indeed totally blind
people that still think they can see (and that succeed in
convincing others that they do so, too!).
For the scrolling is totally unsmooth, and in practice actually
turns out to be a crash course headbanging (sideways). It's
really ashamedly bad.
The game itself is not bad, although it is quite hard. Also, the
scrolling (or rather, the lack of it) decreases playing fun
significantly.
I think the "ST User" reporter should be fired because he is
totally incompetent, blind, and easy to be bribed. And the game
gets a 6.5 (for trying).

Gemini Wing

You actually remember me saying "three, but actually two", don't
you?
Well...."Gemini Wing" failed to load AT ALL. So I canßt review
it (nor give a rating).
Sorry.

Shinobi

I am not sure what they all wrote in the press releases, but I
think the words "smooth", "action" and "play" could be read in
it. Well....it's not smooth, the action is difficult (and
repetitive and ugly) and it's hardly playable.
What we find here is yet another bad conversion - in spite of
the fact that the arcade machine is not bad at all.
It's a bit like a Japanese fighting kung-fu karate whatever
version of Ocean's "Renegade". The shapes are too big, the
animation is utterly unsmooth and the colours.....God, the
colours are probably sixteen of the worst colours actually
obtainable on the ST!
So I guess a 3 is in order here (well....maybe a 4).

So that's it for today, dear friends! I hope that this column
gave you a quick guide of which software you should and which you
shouldn't get. I would like to have written about more titles
(there actually were quite a few left) but the article became
just too big, and we did not want to use TWO pull-down menu
entries for this (the real time article is already SLIGHTY over
the top).
It just made me feel a bit angry because of all those hugely
selling arcade licenses that are generally pure trash (or worse).
Bye.

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.