SOFTWARE MEGA-REVIEW: NEW PSYGNOSIS GAMES by Richard Karsmakers
Originally published in ST NEWS Volume 1 Issue 5, launched on
October 5th, 1986.
Everyone must have heard from Psygnosis' first game on the ST
(now, also supplied on expanded Amiga or Fat Mac), 'Brataccas'.
This used to be one of the very first games on the ST, but it
still sets standards for software to come.
Recently, they published two new packages: 'Arena' and 'Deep
Space'; again, Psygnosis seems to set standards.....
After booting up the program, one is welcomed by an astounding
picture of a metal owl, with the text "Psygnosis Presents". My
first thought was: "If the rest of the game is as good as this
picture, it will sure be a hit!". Well, after a bit of loading
(heavily speed-up!) another picture appears, which is just as good
(or maybe even better) as the first: A sturdily built owl that
just leaves his hawk-like space craft. If all goes well in the
game, you'll never see him back (as far as I know). This picture
also commands you to insert disk B. When you've done that, the
drive will start loading again. After a while, the screen turns
black and the game starts.
At first, the game looks very much like 'Star Raiders'. But soon,
it turns out to be a somewhat enhanced spacecraft you're in.
The dashboard is divided into four sections: from left to right
the on-board computer, steering part, weapon installations and
scanner. You can turn the on-board computer on or off by either
clicking on the "OFF" or "ON" word on the screen or pressing F1.
Once you've choosen to turn it on, you can select various options
(either with F2-F7 or the corresponding signs under the computer
display). Here you can order various drones (repair drones, energy
drones, and more), look if you're on course, specify your flight
target, and a lot of other things. The steering part consists of
one steering weel. You can 'drag' it left, right, up, down, etc.
with the mouse, thus steering your spacecraft. You can also
accomplish this by moving the joystick on port #1 or using the
arrow keys of your keyboard.
To the right of the steering wheel you can see a 2 by 3 grid of
option switches. Here you select missiles, quarks, and various
other options. You can e.g. retro thrust, lock/free windows, etc.
The scanner can be activated using either F10 or clicking the
arrow up on the screen (right of the 2 by 3 I've just talked
about). Here you can have a look at the positions of enemy
During game play, you're attacked by extraterrestrials, like Vexon
scouts, who whizz past you and blow hell out of you if you don't
know what you're doing. The action graphics are superb!
Your target is to trade a bit with various planets. As you gain
more money, the quest starts to be somewhat easier. But watch my
choice of words: easier, but not easy!
You must look out not to crash into any Vexon scouts, and you must
avoid being hit too often. When you don't do that, you end up
bleeding to death outside your craft, somewhere in Deep Space....
'Arena' is a sports game, for 1-4 players. One can compete in
various events: Hundred Meters (Dash), Long Jump, High Jump, Pole
Vault, Shot Put and Javelin.
Actions and options are choosen using the left mouse key (that
you'll have to double-click), whereas you use the right mouse key
twice to quit or pause an event.
After starting the game, I was quite disappointed. I had just seen
"Deep Space" and one can safely say that anyone can create the
"Arena" front picture (the second; the first is the metal owl,
again, which looks the same - very good).
But when I've inserted the second disk, a very nice picture
appears after a short while (again, short, because Psygnosis used
a disk-turbo). From this picture, that shows action scenes from
all the sporting events, you can select your event. You can also
choose to load or save a game, start a new game (with new names),
quit, or look at the score board.
The animation is very good, especially the individual movements.
The smooth link-up between movements could be done better, but
that's because I used to be very spoiled with looking at the
superb movement of sprites in Epyx' "Summer Games" (both I and II)
back on the Commodore 64 (cough! cough!). And now here comes the
only disadvantage of the game: It uses the keyboard to get the
athletes moving: the "A" and "'" key, to be exact. After starting
the event (after the appearance of the athlete, this can be done
by double-clicking the left mouse key), you have to press "A" and
"'" by turns. The quicker you do that, the better the performances
are (let's not talk about the keyboard). If you don't act
immediately, the athlete starts to say things (in "Brataccas"-like
air bubbles), like "We seem to be lacking the competitive spirit
here", "Will you pay attention", "Somebody...wake him up" or "How
about a game of Deep Space...another classic from Psygnosis".
After you've had your turn, an umpire appears on the scene, that
tells (or rather, insinuates) you how you've done. When you've had
a foul, he might say things like "It's a foul...ha....ha....ha",
"How Amusing" or "Oh...how very unfortunate for you...snigger...
snigger". If you've done a bad job, he comes up with sentences
like "My 4 year old son can do better than this...it's pathetic",
"Gasp..wheeve...cough..choke", "The moral of the story is....give
up", "Well, we might as well pack up now" or "Ever thought of
taking up golf". When you've made a foul at high jump, he might
add something like "How unfortunate....you seem to have knocked
the bar off....snigger". But the athlete isn't silent - he
automatically replies, with remarks like "Push off....shorty" or
"Out of the way...short stop". In those cases, the umpire
sometimes adds "OK Mr. Average".
All in all a very amusing game, but I think Psygnosis had better
used the joystick facilities of the ST instead of the mouse-and
keyboard facilities. And there are a few little bugs in "Arena" as
well: When you play Pole Vault, quite a big piece of the stick is
missing. You'll only notice it once it hits the ground - but you
will still not see it. And there's one more: Sometimes, another
athlete appears on the background (practicing, I suppose), who
seems to walk in front of some bushes an some other umpires on the
fore-ground. But these are mere beauty bugs. It's still a very
Name Deep Space Arena
Authors David H. Lawson Ian Hetherington
Garvan Corbett Colin Rushby
Graphics 8 7.5
Sound 7 6
Setup 8 9
During attractiveness 8 7.5
Overall rating 8 8
For more information, please write to:
Port of Liverpool Building
Liverpool L3 1BY
And here are some hiscores I made that you can try to break:
Long Jump 7.42 metres
100 Metres (Dash) 10.03 seconds
Javelin 70.21 metres
Pole Vault 4.01 metres
Shot Put 14.09 metres
High Jump 1.89 metres
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.