ST SOFTWARE NEWS by Richard Karsmakers
Here I am again, bringing you some quite recent news about new
software on the Atari ST, while Metallica's most recent "...and
Justice for All" CD sounds through my small student's room.
Before I start off, I think you might like to know that, on last
June 13th, the Amazing Cracking Conspiracy (ACC) existed for
three years. On that date, but then three years ago, Frank and
myself 'cracked' our first program - back on the Commodore 64.
Sigh. The good old days seem to go before you know it. It makes
me think about life and the meaning of me being. About all I have
done (wrong AND good). About the history of ST NEWS - that
started two years ago last July. Two monumental birthdays that we
somehow seemed to forget a little.
As I write this, Metallica's CD is playing. You knew that
already. But my heart also feels heavy. Yesterday, I was
contacted by my very first girlfriend, Patricia. It really
knocked my off my socks - I didn't know that talking to her on
the phone could have such an impact after over seven years (about
EXACTLY seven years ago, we were 'going with each other'). So
that's another 'birthday' that was almost forgotten. In spite of
the fact that we were merely thirteen or fourteen back then, we
had quite a passionate relationship and I think one could even
safely assume there was some REAL love...
But....WHY on earth am I tellin' you all this? Why am I
confronting you with my unbearable lightness of being?
Narrator: I know it, Ritchie. You're sad and want to share your
sadness with others to enlighten it. Are you sure? Wasn't it
just some obsolete kind of subtle exhibitionism? No. That's far
too beautiful a description for what you're doing to your readers
now. Don't get too frantic, now. What can I do instead? I
suggest you keep your mouth shut and start writing about those
darned software titles that were launched in the last half year
that you and that Stefan pall of yours were too lazy to publish a
new issue of ST NEWS. Now. Get on with it. OK. And remember: The
answer is Forty-two.
News Channel Volume 1 Issue 2
Let's kick right off with a program that was sent to us just
about the MINUTE it was finished: The disk magazine "News
Channel", Volume 1 Issue 2. I have not tested it as thoroughly as
John did with their previous issue in our previous ST NEWS issue,
but I could not resist to writing down some of the things I don't
like (or, rather, like less) about their magazine. Sorry, but I
could simply not resist to some of the basic tendencies built
into mankind - survival. Though I have to admit that their new
issue doesn't appear to have any lethal bugs in it anymore (like
was the case with their first issue).
First, I want to say something more (yes....) about the
'scrolling story'. In our previous ST NEWS issue, John said that
their color scroll routine code was in fact written by our own
Stefan Posthuma, and that he didn't get any credits in "News
Channel" though they used his routine. In issue 2, Erik van Esch
denies this fact. Well, I won't spill any words on it anymore,
except that I would like to bet quite something on us telling the
truth. But let's, for the sake of peace, give them the benefit of
the 'doubt'. Okay. Stefan didn't write it. Satisfied? (Stefan
remark ... Uuuuuhhhh...)
Their second issue is dedicated to Jean Michel Jarre - something
that I resent for the mere fact that we cannot dedicate our next
ST NEWS issue to this master of synthesized sound now. Pity. We
should have been faster, so it's our own fault. They have
included a digital sample of Jean Michel Jarre's in their mag,
and I must admit it sounds great (and touching the mouse doesn't
block it anymore). The actual soundchip music, however, has quite
some disadvantages. It's TEX's "International Karate" music,
which runs too fast on monochrome and cannot be turned off.
Further, it seems to buffer a few variables on a screen memory
location in the menu bar. Not really neat. But the fact remains
that they the "News Channel" writers have shown an excellence of
taste by selecting this superb piece of music programming
(probably one of Jochen's best ever).
Some further disadvantages (yeah, I found some more!) are the
lack of a scrolling message on monochrome (scrolling on
monochrome is MUCH more simple then scrolling on color. So if you
can write a color scroller - as you claim to have done - why not
write a mono scroller, too? Should be a piece of cake!) and some
'crooked' English sentences.
Oops. I will now defy the laws of nature. I will cast aside the
principles of survival and give away some positive points. First,
I was pleasantly surprised by the animation in their magazine
picture (ALSO ON MONOCHROME). It comprises a picture taken from
Gremlin's "Mickey Mouse" (which is, by the way, a very nice game)
with an animating nose. Really neat. And I like the ghost's T-
Shirt design! Further, something I found really nice was the fact
that an article was included with all the answers to the 160
questions that are asked at the start of "Leisure Suit Larry in
the Land of the Lounge Lizards". That will surely make a lot of
people happy. Something that I also found really interesting was
their series of articles about arcade hall machines, though I
really doubt if it fits in an ST magazine (which I also doubt in
"ST Action", by the way).
All in all, "News Channel" is growing to be better and better.
Though a better layout and audiovisual presentation could do
wonders still! Ah, yes: The mag is now supplied on a double-sided
disk or on two single-sided disks.
"Arkanoid II - Revenge of Doh", the long awaited sequel to
"Arkanoid", could have turned out to be the best game ever (if
you ask me, that is). Well, it does definitely leave the original
game behind on all fields: There are MORE bonuses, MORE levels,
BETTER playability, yes, even HIGHER addictability! The sound
effects have been greatly improved, the graphics are better, and
the animation is even smoother.
Whence my sceptism?
"Arkanoid II - Revenge of Doh", has a level that is so
staggeringly enormously difficult, that it decreases playability
and addictability in a couple of minutes from unexperienced
heights to....well, to zero. The level I'm talking about is level
32. It's an enhanced version of the original game's last level
(level 33). But each time you die, you have to start anew with
blasting away the head! And when you have done so, you enter at
an incredibly difficult part where you have to tick away
something that I would describe as a lump of malformed brains. If
you die there (a fact with a devastating probability rate), you
return to the good old head again.... AAAArrggh! That's no fair
play, Mr. Peter Johnson!
This, together with the fact that the game doesn't even perform
a simple function called "Hiscore saving", makes it impossible to
be the perfect game it easily could have been.
For those among you that want to try anyway, I have added a
small program on the disk (called "ARKAN_II.LST", in the PROGRAMS
folder) that can make "Arkanoid II" into a trainer version and
vice versa. Thanks to Dave Boshoven for that! The trick failed to
bring me past level 32, because I unfortunately lacked
perseverance after dying a zillion times there.
On the Commodore 64, it all started with an old game called
"Manic Miner" (I don't remember which company it was published
by): Games in which the player controlled a small character that
had to conquer many screens with baths, moving obstacles, fatal
doggies walking around, many stairs, moving floors, even
elevators and dozens of flashing objects that had to be collected
by the innocent player. There was "Monty on the Run" and dozens
of others, even a sadistic and very bloody version of these games
called "Infernal Runner" (by Loriciels - I wouldn't mind an ST
version of THAT!).
Now, Grandslam has published the first of these games on the ST,
and it's called "Chubby Gristle". Chubby is a very fat traffic
cop, that has one thing in mind: FOOD. And that's what all those
flashing objects I hinted at are: Food. It's really very chaotic,
and I fear it's far too chaotic for someone as orderly as me (I,
being one of those orderly students, always 'rage for order' so
to speak). The graphics are reasonable anyway, though I wasn't
particularly fond of the sound.
I do have a nice trick, though (this time NOT from "ST Action"):
If you type BUUURRP during the intro (when shapes move across the
screen), and hit your RETURN key after that (the screen should
flash once), you have limitless lives.
A phrase that jumps into your mind when you talk about "Typhoon
Thompson" is 'perfect animation'. Long before the game was
actually launched on the ST, a non-interactive demo went round
that already displayed some of the remarkable qualities of the
programmer's animation-programming capabilities. It was definite:
"Typhoon Thompson" (also known as "Air Earth", "Rare Earth" and
"Air Raid" back then, since now title screen was present) was to
set new standards on the ST as far as animation was concerned.
Its author, Dan Gorling, was known to me as far as about four or
five years ago, when I got the game "Choplifter" on my good ol'
Commodore 64. It was a very simple game, but very nice to play.
With "Typhoon Thompson", he has succeeded in giving U.S. software
company Brderbund a fantastic game to sell. Well, it was about
time, because they're still leaving us in the lurch with regard
to Lode Runner (utterly deep sigh of addictiveness), Karateka,
Print Shop and more.
"Typhoon Thompson" is a 3D game, in which you are a small boy
that has to collect items (such as a dagger and a hammer - more
to follow in further levels) for two spirits so that they can
free the sprites (or something like that). The setup is really
simple, but every movement (boy walking or jumping, boy being
thrown off a flying objects, other objects moving in to drown the
boy) is drawn so neatly and animated so smoothly that it defies
description. I can in fact only say that you'd have to see it to
understand what I mean. So I suggest that's what you ought to do.
The game also saves hiscores, by the way, and there's some nice
music too. "Typhoon Thompson" surely answers to quite some of the
points we mentioned in our "Open Letter" article!
The game from which this ST NEWS' picture has been taken is
Dinamic's "Army Moves" (published by Ocean). We also had to wait
quite some months before it was actually launched after the first
advertisements, but it has been worth waiting for. In spite of
the fact that "Army Moves" is in fact a (C-64) "Battle Through
Time"-like game of "Moon Patrol", it's quite nice because of its
good graphics (of which the title page we used is an excellent
example) and the very nice music (wasn't it based on the "Great
Escape" movie tune?). The latter was done by David Whittaker.
The player controls a vehicle through levels where he has to
avoid being shot by helicopters or other flying army stuff, while
simultaneously jumping over voids in the underground. It's one of
those highly playable games, and very well looked after with
regard to all the finishing touches.
Ubi-soft has recently launched a "Gauntlet" look-alike called
"Puffy's Saga". In the game, you are a creature that has quite a
striking similarity to the leading character in "Pacman" - which
you can choose to be either male or female at the beginning
(though it can be mutated during the game, too). The game has
about the same disadvantages as the first "Gauntlet": All
movements become slower when more shapes appear on the screen,
and the scrolling is bad (they've annihilated that problem partly
by only scrolling the screen when a new one has to be entered).
The digitized sound effects are great, however, and some of those
can even be classified as being 'humorous'. There are quite some
bonuses, and the graphics are very good. With regard to the
latter, I was very nicely surprised by level four, in which I
found a multitude of smoothly moving dragons breathing fire with
the appropriate sound effects - although this animation's
complexity slowed down the game to quite some extend.
Concretely, the game is nicer than "Gauntlet", and about just as
good as "Gauntlet II" in many respects (of which the intro, of
course, is not one). It's just very nice. I like it, anyway.
Mafdet and the Book of the Dead / Luxor
A quite new software label called Software Horizons (which in
fact seems to be Paradox) has recently launched three games that
were announced a little over three or four months ago: "Veteran",
"Mafdet and the Book of the Dead" and "Luxor". I have had a
chance to look at the latter two, and I will talk about those
"Luxor" is a game that can be compared to "Defender": You are an
astronaut with a rocket on his back, that has to fly over some
landscapes, trying to get enough points to advance to the next
one by killing all kinds of aliens. The ultimate goal is to find
a fairy that will grant you your wish. I played the game for a
while, but found it very disappointing that, after having played
it for a mere four minutes, I encountered the fairy on level 3.
My wish was granted and the game started anew with the intro
picture. So I consider this game to be too simple. If even a
deranged student like yours truly, who hadn't even as much as
touched a joystick in over two months, can complete the game
within such a finite time, it is definitely too simple.
The graphics are quite good, though.
The second game is "Mafdet and the Book of the Dead". In this
game, you are a white panther that has to collect all kinds of
objects in an Egyptian environment (anyway, the environment
displayed remarkable similarity to the stuff on Iron Maiden
"Powerslave" CD). The panther is animated somewhat less well than
in "Vixen", but still quite good. Other creatures (Egyptians,
bees, scorpions, mummies, whatever) are animated with about the
same quality. The background graphics are very extensive and well
drawn, too. In fact, the graphics are better than any of the
other Paradox games I can succeed in recalling. The game should
have been a horizontal scroller, but the programmer obviously
found it easier to simply move the screen in 2/3 screen-size
chunks. Not so neat.
So "Mafdet" can be considered a remarkable achievement in
quality in the Paradox range of software (except for "ST Karate",
which was great - two years ago).
In the middle of the summer, Llamasoft's Mr. Jeff Minter finally
considered the time ripe to launch the follow-up to his
"Colourspace" light syntheziser, this time called "Trip-a-Tron".
I immediately called him, and asked him for a review copy. "Yeah,
allright. It's on its way in a minute!" was his spontaneous
comment. That was about three months ago now and, as you will
have no problems in guessing, I still haven't received anything
even most remotely looking like "Trip-a-Tron", Mr. Minter's
remarkable new and utterly sophisticated light synthesizer.
But news is news, and news was "Trip-a-Tron". So I visited some
usergroups until I finally had the possibility to work with the
program for a while (although I fear it must have been an illegal
version - where do we end if magazine reviewers have to lower
themselves to looking at illegal copies of software simply
because the companies do not send it - or the damned post rips it
off?!). There was no user manual, as you might have guessed, so I
really couldn't see much. There are sequence recording (and
playback) possibilities, advanced parameter adaption options,
menus that look slick, good graphics, funny alert box remarks,
extremely psychedelic visual effects and a whole host of extra
functions that I could not possible all test out.
Let's hope that Mr. Minter gets to read this article, and will
immediately send off a review copy. Then I might be able to write
a better review than this.
Good programs pop up with great regularity from France now. One
of those games is "Operation Jupiter", a game that I
unfortunately only saw in the French version.
A group of terrorists occupy an embassy, and it is the player's
responsibility to save the embassy personnel. Therefore, he has
to put up to three ATS (Anti Terrorist Squad) members on certain
positions around the embassy, after which they can snipe off some
terrorists on distance. When that has been done, they invade the
building (by lowering themselves to the windows using ropes) and
fight the terrorists using automatic weapons. They have to be
careful not to shoot (too much) innocent people, though.
When all terrorists have been killed, a picture is taken and the
It doesn't sound alltogether that nice, but if you realise that
everything is brought to the player in fitting graphics with many
an excellent piece of animation and digital as well as soundchip
sound effects, this surely increases the game's attractiveness.
Graphics are great, and the music is the usual Infogrames quality
(not bad, quite nice). It's a massive game, and it comes supplied
on two disks.
One of the graphically most pleasing games to have been launched
recently is Gremlin's "Mickey Mouse" - not at all to be mistaken
with Sierra's "Mickey's Space Adventure". It's got one of the
most accurate intro pics ever conceived (that's probably why the
"News Channel" guys used it), and all the other graphics are
perfectly functional and very well drawn.
In fact, "Mickey Mouse" consists of several sub-games. A set of
these games has to be completed before you can go on to the next
level (the next tower). A sub-game is completed when Mickey bars
to door to it. The first, "Gauntlet"-like level is for example
completed when you have found wood, nails and a hammer to do so.
The music is also quite nice but very 'dry'. Ben Daglish didn't
particularly do his best job here, though I doubt if he actually
was instructed to do so.
"Mickey Mouse" is huge, very large and just very nice. Though it
can become a teeny weeny bit boring after playing a long time.
A new sports game to set standards on the ST is Tynesoft's
"Summer Olympiad". It was to be expected that it would be very
nice (after having played "Winter Olympiad"), but nobody would
have thought a sports game could be so beautiful . Because that's
what it is. The graphics are mindcrunchingly well done, and the
music is also very nice to hear (done by Wal Beban). The graphics
artist, Paul Drummond, surely knows how to make graphics into
pure ART. Especially the intro pics of the individual disciplines
are excellently drawn.
Selecting the disciplines is done in a very original way: You
are presented a picture of six TV screens - and whichever TV is
currently animating will also be played when you select "Start
Game". The six parts of the game are:#
- The opening ceremonies.
Though nicely drawn and supplied with nicely animated with
flames that could satisfy the pyromane in me, it's plainly a bit
- Skeet Shooting.
This is quite accurate, especially when using the mouse.
Shooting more than one of those clay things is quite difficult
for me, though. Scrolling is fast (the scene is two screens in
size) but not quite smooth. That doesn't bother here, really.
- Triple Jump.
A real joystick killing event, featuring smooth diagonal
Quite complex. Just watch the spectators closely, and you will
notice them taking picture, talking and even eating those round
green things that don't spoil your teeth that are normally
referred to as 'apples'.
This is beau-ti-ful! You dive off a tower, making the weirdest
movements in the air before hitting the water (where you, of
course, try to make as little water move as you can). A gull
flies by, and I seem to remember a small "Tynesoft" zeppelin too.
This is what I call 'neat programming'!
The remarkable thing about this event is that it is 3D! The
spectator's stand slowly grows as you run towards it, and the
hurdles as well as your fellow players are always displayed in
proper perspective. Very nice, too!
Concluding: "Summer Olympiad" is a very nice piece of
programming, very well taken care of, extremely playable and just
The most recent launch at Hewson's is "Cybernoid". I had been
looking forward very much to this program, since the music was
said to be converted by Jochen from TEX from an original
composition by Jeroen Tel. The version that I had the chance of
seeing, however, didn't have that good music. But the graphics
are really great. Everything moves brilliantly, and the colors
are well selected. "Cybernoid" is a very nice game, but I miss
the expected music...
See you in the next issue of ST NEWS. The Narrator drops in
again: Good, Ritchie. I ought to compliment you on the fact that
you haven't shed a word nor a tear during your previews. Oh. I
had quite forgotten about that now. But now you mention it...
WEEEH! Sob sob, mutter, sniff. Keep cool, pal! I didn't mean
to... Sob, weep. Deep sigh.
Ah, shove it!