STAR RAY by Richard Karsmakers
A very cold and hard autumn wind is blowing outside. Gusts of
rain smash into the window panes and make me feel even more
lonely and melancholic than I feel (if you know what I mean).
It's dangerous to go outside now; only in last saturday's papers
could be read that the rain had the pH of vinegar...
Sweet thoughts about Patricia (the current lady of my heart -
which she'll probably be for quite some time to come) are
floating through my brain, together with the fondest wish to be
with her now, keeping one another warm while listening to the
violent weather outside. If only that could be true...
Tomorrow, I will have to perform a heavy zoology test - which I
will probably not make successfully since I haven't done anything
for it so far. As usual, at times like these, I get sudden
enormous amounts of inspiration and then I just have to write;
whether it is good for my academic future or not. You shouldn't
feel too guilty now (I already doubted you would), since I
couldn't think of anything else but Patricia anyway. She is now
present in every cell of my brain - even the whole rest of my
body. She's gorgeous, sensual and adorable, nice, understanding
and lots more that is none of your business. She's THE girl for
Isn't it strange? It is as though, outside, the clouds are
gathering to form a large circle in the skies. A circle out of
which purple light appears. It is raining harder and harder.
But listen to me now, again talking like a raving mad about
girls, girls and nothing but girls. ST NEWS is no medium created
for the sole purpose if spilling forth my oral diarrhoea upon
you, is it? So I will now continue with that what we are all here
for: A "Star Ray" review.
I'm just wondering at what the plot of my introductory novelette
will have to be. I can't seem to come up with a decent one.
The growing pains of Cronos Warchild (Part II)
(For those of you that hadn't guessed it already: This is
where the introductory novelette starts)
Location: Kryptium, a small and remote planet somewhere in the
Universe. Further details not present in database.
Atmosphere: Almost entirely carbon monoxyde and sulphuric acids.
High water concentration indicates large seas
covering its surface.
Lifeforms: Only minuscule creatures still alive in the seas.
Remark: Formerly inhabited by humans. Now automatic production
"What the hell are we here for?!" murmured Cronos Warchild,
mercenary, when he checked the readout on his machine's plasma
His fist was smashed against the control panel, causing his
craft to make some rather unusual movements through the damp and
quite dangerously acid sky.
Had he known that a computer freak had once been down there,
hundreds of years ago, being sad and lonely and staring outside
to the gusts of rain smashing against the window pane, Warchild
might have felt a bit comforted.
Then again, he might have not.
He murmured a bit more, turned some knobs on the panel and
pushed some buttons. The sterile readout screen vanished, to be
replaced by the even more sterile face of the Home Base Android.
"Good...." (the Android looked at his watch) "...evening, sir.
What may I do for you?"
At a location quite near to Warchild's, only way back in the
fourth dimension, a lonely computer programmer sat in his room.
He was also watching the night sky solemnly, listening to gusts
of rain smashing against the window pane. Yet this man was
completely unaware of any such problems as those that occurred
with Warchild - nor for those that occurred at a relatively
minute distance eastward and that mainly involved a stunning girl
whose name shall not again be mentioned here as well as the
writing of a good introductory novelette with a more or less
He was playing with his moustache, much in the way his father
had always told him not to when, suddenly, he bent forward and
typed some code in an assembler program. To an outsider it might
have appeared like he was momentarily freakin' out. He looked at
the lines, assembled the code and executed the program.
"S(censored)t!" (Warchild just uttered an, unfortunately
commonly used, pseudonym for an animal's excrements)
"Pardon me?" the Android on the other end of the line staggered.
"The word you just utilized is on the list of banned words, as
specified during the Thatcher Convention, July 1989, and I am
therefore authorized to ban YOU from this intercontinental
support network. Thank you for contacting us. Don't bother to do
so again. I wish you a good..." (the Android checked his watch
and shook his head at his own lack of memory) "...evening. Have
fun being left on your own accord."
The screen went black again, and after a picosecond pause the
planet's status readout reappeared on the screen.
Warchild's only reaction to this fact was the utilization of an,
unfortunately also quite commonly used, pseudonym for the process
through which most higher organic lifeforms (especially those
with a backbone and that live on dry land) try and indeed often
succeed to multiply themselves.
Had the Android not immediately disconnected the line, Warchild
would probably have tried one of his Kill-o-Gadgets on him,
electrocuting him at distance, or something likewise.
But the Android had, so Cronos couldn't.
An extremely violent gust of rain smashed against the computer
programmer's window again. He looked up from the keyboard,
realising that the weather wasn't particularly improving by the
The phone rang. He took the horn without hesitation; this new
game of his wasn't coming anywhere, anyway. No good plot. So
answering the phone wouldn't hurt his inspiration.
"Hello? Steve here."
"Yeah. Herbert here," the voice on the other end said, "is that
new game of you coming anywhere, anyway? Remember that the
deadline's not far off, please, Steve!"
"But, er...Herbert, listen, I've got this...."
"No time to chat now, Steve. Must be goin'! Be hearin' ya!"
Before the line went dead, the programmer imagined hearing some
sounds as if two plungers were taken from each other, and some
sighing and moaning.
Warchild's trigger finger was getting itchy. Something BAD had
better turn up soon so that he could get rid of his frustrations.
On second thought, something GOOD might also suffice.
He lowered his craft so that he was now below the thin layers of
purple mist that normally kept the planet's surface from sight.
Relatively small production platforms could be seen on the
planet's surface, regularly distributed.
His lasers spoke. One platform was blasted into thousands of
tiny fragments. A smile appeared on Cronos' lips.
If he would have looked in his rear view mirror, Warchild would
have seen the purple mists transforming into a disc-shaped
appearance, that seemed to draw matter to its centre.
Another message appeared on the on-board computer.
Steve, the computer programmer, was sitting back in his chair,
relaxed. Or, rather, seemingly relaxed. His mind was working
overtime. He had to come up with a decent plot, or he could
forget working for those Logotron guys again. Ever. He was not
even disturbed by the clouds outside, that now seemed to regroup
themselves around a centre out of which a soft, purple light
He closed his eyes and thought more. Completely unaware of what
was happening now outside. It was as if he had switched off all
his sensory organs - which, of course, he couldn't and therefore
hadn't, for good ol' Steve was no bloody Android!
A name suddenly popper up in Warchild's mind. A name that he had
never heard before. Together with that name, a vision came. A
vision of a girl of utmost gorgeousness, niceness, sensuality,
adorability, well....everything a guy'd want. For a moment, her
blue-green eyes met his. Although in reality this never happened,
is was as if Cronos' heart suddenly melted. A crust fell off.
He had been sucked in by the tornado of purple mist behind him.
Silence, only if it was for a microsecond.
BAM! (A very loud 'bam', by the way)
"Patricia?" the programmer suddenly wondered as he opened his
eyes again. He must have been dreaming, as he now saw a gorgeous,
nice, sensual and adorable girl walking over the surface of a
planet he had never before seen. A small craft was hanging in the
air, a craft that had just wiped out a small platform on the
surface, turning it into a heap of shapeless garbage in a
Everything seemed covered by purple light, something that even
Steve found extremely weird (him being a game programmer, that
should say something about the weirdness of it all). And where,
for heaven's sake, did this girl fit in?
Warchild spotted an alien spacecraft, soaring closer and closer
to the girl. Who was that strange chap down there, the one with
the moustache and the baldening head?
No matter what, the alien craft had to be zapped and evaporized.
Steve sat stunned in his room, his eyes wide open. The window
had been broken and the rain was staining the floor. He stood up
and looked outside, only to see more rain. In the far distance, a
small purple cloud disappeared into nothing. He felt the rain on
his eyes. It burnt a bit. "Damn it! Feels like vinegar!" he
Then, his face brightened up. He had just envisioned a great
plot. In his new game, the player would have to guard the
priceless energy cells of a new and mysterious planet, somewhere
in an obscure corner of the Universe. A modern-day version of the
good ol' arcade game "Defender". He decided to call the
planet...er... Kryptium would do nicely.
He felt a definite urge to introduce a gorgeous girl in the plot
but, remembering all the quarrels he had had with his wife during
his married life (including the three major ones, that other
people always called 'kids'), he decided not to do so.
He dialled a number on his phone.
At the other end, a click could be heard, some sighing and
groaning after that, and then a tired: "Herbert here...."
Warchild looked around. Not even the battered remains of the
alien spaceship were there to be seen. That mysterious chap and,
even worse, that mindstaggering girl had disappeared, too.
His presence here was useless, after all. He decided to go back
and kick some ass. His physician first, for he seemed to have
life-sized daydreams recently, and his analyst next. Last, but
surely not least, he would try out one of his Kill-o-Gadgets on
the guy that sent him here. The Behead-o-Axe? Or perhaps his
Blood-o-Sucker? He would see.
Where had all that purple mist gone?
As he left Kryptium's atmosphere, he looked in his rear view
mirror. He adjusted it so that he didn't see all those alien
spacecrafts that suddenly popped up from all directions and
started destroying the planet's production platforms, but so that
he saw his own hair, that he combed.
He smiled to himself. Er....on second thought, he'd better hop
over to his dentist instead of his analyst. Quite some work to be
Was it not yet too late to get involved with females?
Way back in the fourth dimension, and at a relatively minute
distance east of our computer programmer, a computer freak looked
outside and noted that it had stopped raining. He had almost
forgotten all his worries with regard to a certain girl as he
looked at a small purple spot in the night sky, high above him.
"I think I've got a nice plot for my introductory novelette", he
thought, "But let's hope the readers won't find it a bit too
He got up from his chair, now putting aside all thoughts about
the lady of his heart. He turned on his computer system and
"The Growing Pains of Cronos Warchild (Part II)" he spoke aloud,
as he typed the sentence on his keyboard.
Written by Steve Bak, with graphics by Pete Lyon and music by
David Whittaker, this game simply HAS to be good. Or has it?
There must be loads and loads of people that played "Defender"
in some earlier stage of their 'computer careers'. "Defender" was
one of the earliest Atari games ever to be developed, and
versions of this game no doubt have appeared on all accessible
computers ever. The plot: Some aliens are trying to invade your
planet (sometimes robbing away valuable treasured, or machinery,
or inhabitants) and you are the one who has to prevent that. You
must fly over a surface (horizontally scrolling) and blast every
damn alien that catches your sight. That's it.
The earliest "Defender"-like game on the ST was "Delta Patrol",
the monochrome shoot-'em-up game. Instead of a helicopter, "Star
Ray" features an "Attack of the Mutant Camels"-like (see C-64)
spacecraft (with similar controls). Instead of the monochrome
graphics, "Star Ray" features multi-coloured backgrounds and well
drawn enemy objects. Instead of a simple monochrome (blocky)
mono-speed scrolling, "Star Ray" features octal-speed scrolling
In "Star Ray", you fly over a horizontally scrolling planet
surface, where you have to kill every alien that you see - since
they try to pinch away Kryptium's valuable energy cells and those
are the ones you have to protect! The principle as ghastly
simple, and the plot just as ghastly unoriginal, but the game has
an enormous number of advantages over the original "Defender"
game (of which it, basically, is just a cranked up version) that
I summed up above. These still make it an excellent game by most
The intro picture with the digital (hhmmmm) intro music is
great, and everything else about the game is fast'n'furious.
"Star Ray" features, unlike "Return to Genesis", TRUE scrolling
in the horizontal direction which is not PERFECTLY smooth, but
very close to it. No wonder: Scrolling the background with EIGHT
different speeds must take up a lot of processor time. So Steve
Bak can be said to have done it again: Redefining the boundaries
of the ST's capabilities!
Concluding, it can be said that "Star Ray" is, together with
"Star Goose" (see the previous issue of ST NEWS) one of the best
Logotron releases yet (FAR above "Quadralien", that's for sure!).
The graphics and music make this an excellent super-"Defender".
If you didn't like "Defender", however, I wouldn't advise you to
get this one.
Name: Star Ray
Author: Steve Bak
Value for money: 7.5
Overall rating: 8
Hardware: Color only
Price: £25.95 (two disks + audio tape)
£19.95 (one disk version)
Remark: Nice for "Defender" junks!
"Star Ray" is, as far as I know, not yet officially available.
Thanks therefore go to the Stichting STEM (Henk van der Molen),
the official distributor of Logotron in Holland, for supplying a
preview version. When available, you should be able to get it at
Cuddly Cactus International (a division of Stichting STEM) for
about 63.90 Dutch guilders.
Their address (also for info):
Cuddly Cactus International
NL-1074 GN Amsterdam
Note of the author: I truly hope the introductory novelette
intro can be smoothly followed by you, readers! I am currently
busy reading Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time", whereas
I already finished "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" (by
Douglas Adams), so that I am now truly obsessed by the principle
of time gates, inter-dimensional waves and the scientifically
inexplicable. When mixed together with the equally inexplicable
feelings of devotion and love I now feel for but a complex
gathering of chemical reactions that are kept apart by simple
cellular membranes (generally referred to as 'human of the female
sex'), one tends to get stories like the above.