ST SOFTWARE NEWS by Richard Karsmakers
People often say that the summer is the quitest time around when
one's talking about software launches. Well, I feel I can safely
say that this summer uptill now hasn't shown any signs that
support this theory. As you will see, this time's issue of ST
NEWS is quite filled with reviews (e.g. "Airball", "Barbarian"
and the FS II Scenery Disks) and I might add that this article
also has quite a respectable size this time.
Let's cut the crap and go on with the news that's reached me
Rainbow Arts has recently launched a "Xevious"-like game called
"Sky Fighter". In the game, you actually fly an object along a
nicely scrolling underground, during which performance you must
shoot objects to increase your fuel quantity, avoid crashing into
other flying things and remember which ships you see on enemy
bases. The setup really is quite the same as "Xevious", but
Rainbow Arts chose the include a bonus element: On each level
some enemy bases scroll by, contianing one of four possible ships
to identify (1 basis scrolls by on level 1, 2 on level 2, etc.).
If you remember all well, you get a complete refuel and more
bombs for the next level.
The graphics are much better, as are the programming tricks the
people of Rainbow Arts used. The intro is accompanied by some
very well digitized music, which unfortunately has to be listened
to to its full extend before playing can be started. "Sky
Fighter" is one of the few games that use digitized music (or
sound) well (another one is "Barbarian" from Psygnosis).
Alltogether, I consider the game to be better and more luxurious
than "Xevious", but still a bit too slow.
The American company Accolade (a split-up from Activision) has
succeeded in launching one of their first games for the ST - the
baseball game "Hardball". They used to be well known on the '64
for games like "Psy-5", "Law of the West" and of course
"Hardball". The ST version is (but you could have guessed that
already) better than that on the '64, but the setup has remained
the same. You actually have to play baseball using the regular
rules - and during the innings your position (field or batter
plate) changes consequently. The graphics are very well done,
with eye for every detail (like a man blowing bubble-gum just
behind the plate), and the game features player-exchange and many
more advanced playing options like stealing, bunt, and all kinds
of effects when throwing or batting. Different pitchers feature
different throwing techniques (there must be quite a database
inside that game, pooh!).
The music is a bit 'dry' (typical Ed Bogas style), but then I
suppose this game doesn't need multi-voice four-channel super
sound. The program features a piece of music on inning-change,
when all homes are occupied, and at other situation during game
play. "Hardball" can be played with one or two players (two
player mode does require two joysticks), and may be called a
classic among sports games (much better than Gamestar's
"Championship Baseball" I previewed in an earlier issue of ST
NEWS). Especially for baseball-or softball freaks, this game can
be really addicting, although (again, as is the case with many
games) you need to get used to making the proper joystick
A bit of a downer is First Star's "Boulder Dash Construction
Set", a game program that also features the ready-to-play levels
from "Boulder Dash IV". This game had been expected to be
launched a long time ago, but it still kept itself out of sight
on the Atari ST. Now it has finally appeared, but I must say it
is not as good as I thought it to be - a bit of Commodore 64
quality (in the negative way) I would say. The graphics are not
ultimately stunning, and the contruction kit is a bit difficult
to use now and then. The ready-to-play levels that come with the
game (enter 'game1' when the game requests a game name) are far
too difficult to play (especially for me, being not what one
would call a "Boulder Dash" addict even back on the good old
Commodore 64). The only positive thing about the game is that the
programmers have succeeded in thoroughly duplicating the music
and sounds effects from the '64 (not that they were so good on
the '64, but still).
I think you'll only like this game when you're used to playing it
on the 8-bit machines, or better even if you happened to be an
addict to it. For 'normal' people, I think it would cause a huge
'I want my money back' rush to any store that sells it.
Rainbird's "Guild of Thieves" was already announced for last
year's autumn, and now I've finally succeeded in getting my hands
on it - a bit less than a year overdue. Yes, the graphics are
again as stunning as those from "The Pawn", its predecessor, and
the front-picture again uses many-more-than-16 colors. Actually,
I think "Guild of Thieves" is just another "The Pawn" with
different pictures, a different plot, different texts and perhaps
a different software protection scheme. Ho! Don't misjudge my
remark - "Guild of Thieves" is not bad at all! I think everyone
who really enjoys playing adventures should at least have played
it - or even better, he/she should have bought it.
In the game, you are once again lost into the Kingdom of
Kerovnia, where you have to join the famous "Guild of Thieves". A
simple task, so it would appear. But it just ain't.
The packaging is once again impressive (just the way it should
be, in fact): It contains an issue of "What Burglar", some hints
& tips, and several smaller documents. Again, the writing
accompanying the game displays excellent taste of humour as
well as mastery of the English language (just read the 'Kerovnia
Guild of Discreet Entry and Removal Operatives (Dornbrook branch)
Indenture and Contract of Service' and you'll probably grasp my
meaning). Really, a 'must' for all dedicated adventure freaks!
Just when First Star was doing "The Boulder Dash Construction
Kit", an unknown programmer called Thomas Kraatz from West
Germany was making a "Boulder Dash" for the ST as well. And I
dare say he did a far better job! Except for some strange English
in his scrolling message (great scroll, by the way!), the game is
better than the 'official' "Boulder Dash" on all accounts: The
graphics are very good, the sounds are better (and display a good
dose of inspiration and creativity) and the overall impression is
much better (all graphix are switched with rolling, flipping, and
other things that are really nice to see). Even the things that
could have been done in much simpler ways that everyone would
have accepted are done with lots of programming tricks!
The game itself, of course, it quite the same. The graphics might
be better, but it still is a "Boulder Dash" and I don't like
these games at all. But Thomas surely deserves a chance to break
through, in spite of the fact that some two-bit editor of some
two-bit magazine happens not to like "Boulder Dash". In fact,
since I've got my hands on this kind of "Boulder Dash" (by the
way, the whole program is less than 70 Kb in size!!), I might
just start playing this game...
The best program that I've seen in recent weeks and that I have
not written I true review of, is D3M's "Tonic Tiles".
Everybody knows "Arkanoid" by now (not? Then you will probably be
called 'backward' when you're appearing in the games' society) -
that super-"Breakout" with the good graphics, nice playability
and high addictability (remember? '9' on the scale of "Plutos"!).
Someone called Micheal Sportouch of D3M must have thought that
"Arkanoid" wasn't good enough and he designed a new "Breakout"
with much better graphics and truly terrific sound (some
digitized, some not) - "Tonic Tiles". Well, it should be much
better, since it is three times bigger than "Arkanoid" and I
doubt that it works properly on half Megabyte machines (I haven't
tried, to be honest).
Just after startup, the player is met by some swell-digitized
drumming, that continues during the largest part of the loading
procedure (which takes quite a while, I might add). But after a
while of listening, the front picture appears with different
music - a picture that uses 16+ colors (the third commercial
product that uses more than 16 colors at once in the intro,
together with "The Pawn" and "Guild of Thieves"). It really looks
great! Then, after another bit of loading, the menu screen
appears, from which you can select one or two players, and from
which you can also select the starting level (though only the
first 16 levels). During play, you immediately see that the
graphics are far more impressive and you hear the very well
programmed sound FX, mixed with some digi-stuff as well. Whereas
Peter Johnston (who did "Arkanoid" for the ST) used only a few
bonus elements (the cylinders falling down), Mr. Sportouch
thought to include even some more: Sometimes, a 'clown' appears
that give 10,000 points when touched, and hitting a flashing
stone causes a credit of 5,000 points. And the sound FX....just
amazing! I once again had to look under my ST to look if some
bastard had dared to put an Amiga soundchip there without my
bleedin' permission! Only a shame that the actual movement of tha
bouncing ball(s) isn't as smooth as in "Arkanoid", but that's
the only disadvantage of the game, together with the fact that
the game has to load in every single level from disk.
Yes, "Tonic Tiles" might in fact be called a better version of
"Arkanoid", and comes together with a commercial editor (that,
unfortunately, only allows the first 16 levels to be edited -
maybe the DMA (who did the "Arkanoid Construction Kit") will do
something about that?!). Shame of the 'bumpy' ball movement,
otherwise it would have wiped "Arkanoid" clear off its feet...
Do the names Janko Mrsic-Flogel and Mungo Amyatt-Leir ring any
bells? No? Do the names "Fireblaster", "War Zone", "Space
Station" and "Protector" ring any bells? They should, otherwise
you're only a very new-bread ST user or a non-game addict. These
Eidersoft products were launched about a year ago, and now they
have launched a fifth title: "Metropolis". At first sight, the
game looks much like "Warzone", but soon you'll find out that you
cannot just ride straight, but also to the left, to the right and
to below. You have to guide a craft through Metropolis, thereby
destroying everything you encounter and collecting different
I think "Metropolis" is quite a poor game - it looks too much
like the other four with regard to graphics and the music is
almost just the same (why don't the people at Eidersoft/Paradox
contact good old Jochen from "TEX"). Not really much to get
Something to get more excited about is California Dreams/Logical
Design Works "Vegas Gambler", a gambling game that works on
color-as well as monochrome monitors. The program was designed
and programmed by Marek Popiel and Wojtek Kosmalski, with help of
Marcin Szostalowski and Maciej Markuszewski for the graphics
(which are excellent!). After quite some loading and the display
of some well drawn graphics, you can select from four gambling
games: Black Jack (21), Poker, Roulette and Slots (a Fruitmachine
or one-armed bandit). After selecting one of these games, a
message 'loading.....' appears on the screen, while the disk
drive doesn't do anything at all (strange?! I suppose they try to
get the Amiga spirit into ST owners this way). It takes far too
long a time before that damn message disappears, but then the
player is met by some well-done and good taken care of graphics.
The two guys with the difficult names I mentioned above surely
know what they're doing - they have supplied the game with good
graphics and animation.
The game furtheron has a small disadvantage - while playing, it
sometimes asks for a code that is located on a 'copy protection
card'. You'll have to start digging into the commonpile of trash
near your computer system to dig it up, after which you have to
search a character and click on the right number with the mouse.
This sounds like that stupid Microprose protection back on the
'64, that is not only unfriendly to illegal copiers (I suppose
that's why they did it) but also unfriendly to legitimate users.
Except for some of these minor disadvantages, the game can be
called very good, at least much better than "ST Vegas" or "Video
Vegas" that appeared on the ST much earlier. Another bad thing:
The music is quite unoriginal - 'The Entertainer' - and not
really wel done when compared with e.g. some of the "TEX" music
(have I now complimented you enough, Jochen and Markus?).
The people of the commercial disk magazine "F.A.S.T.E.R." in
Canada have recently released their seventh issue: Volume 2 Issue
1 - The First Anniversary Issue. They have once again made sure
that their magazine attracts attention because of good graphics,
excellent resource programming and use of music (though the music
is quite lousy, and sometimes a note keeps 'hanging' when you
switch it off). Everybody already knows what "F.A.S.T.E.R." is
all about - it is just like ST NEWS, but with better programs to
be offered, less actual information (especially news), a much
faster page-viewing mode and a lot of 'buzzers and bells'. Not
bad, really, especially since the price of the disk magazine has
gone down to almost a PD price.
This issue once again manifests the troubles that arise when you
have become commercial and when you have to supply worldwide
distributors with the programs even before it is actually
launched - we see reviews in this last issue of e.g. "10th Frame"
and "Publishing Partner". Hmm. Not really up-to-date, I would
say. But the nice programs that they offer (that can be loaded
and executed from the magazine and that work on all monitors -
color and monochrome) and the splendid artwork make up for this
In Holland, the magazine can be ordered through Panatco, Kamille
3, 2811 RD Reeuwijk, Tel. 01829-5308. A subscription of one year
(6 issues) costs 100 Dutch guilders. In West Germany, people
should contact Dr. Alfred Hüthig Verlag, Postfach 102869, 6900
Heidelberg, West Germany. "F.A.S.T.E.R." can be bought seperately
there at DM 24,80 (a bit too expensive, if you ask me!). Other
people should contact the people of "F.A.S.T.E.R." themselves, at
"F.A.S.T.E.R.", P.O. Box 474, Boucherville, Québec, Canada J4B
6Y2. A year's subscription for U.S. citizens costs 50 U.S.
dollars, for Canadians it costs 70 Canadian dollars and for
people elsewhere on our dear mother earth it costs 75 Canadian
The French company Loriciels has recntly brought out "Bob
Winner", a game that is very difficult to describe. The author,
B. Auré, has succeeded in making a game that has characteristics
from a fight-game (like any Karate program) as well as a game of
skill. You are Bob Winner, and while looking at (digitized?)
graphics from Mr. B. Masson (not THE Mr. Masson from RSV, I hope)
you have to jump over barrels, dodge knives and flying bees (the
latter making an extremely annoying noise), jump over quicksand
and erupting mini-vulcanous and fighting several men that try to
box the hell out of you. Sound nice, doesn't it? Just like one of
those nice arcade machines, isn't it? But, how nice the
description might appear, and how nice the intro might be (which
is very well done, I might add), the game isn't really nice to
play. True, the animation is quite good, and so are the graphics,
but I am afraid "Bob Winner" makes use of the world's most awful
colour palette settings (and you know how I think about colour
palettes and the quality displayed by them). This characteristic,
together with the overall slow speed of the game, make "Bob
Winner" not exactly what I would call a 'winner' among other
It's a shame, since France seemed to offer such nice programs in
general. The average rating is just brought down by this one!
Our faithful correspondent Ruud van de Kruisweg has once again
succeeded in getting some news about software to be launched
soon: Palace Software is planning to launch "Barbarian" (strange,
but true - I hope they won't stumble into any trademark/copyright
problems with the people from Psygnosis), Artworx will do
"Minigolf", Spectrum Holobyte (from "Gato") will do "Orbiter",
Starsoft is planning to launch "Aliants", Microleague Sports will
publish "Microleague Baseball 2", Firebird will bring "Bubble
Bobble" and Accolade (known from "Hardball" on the ST) will write
"Test Drive". And for the text-adventure freaks, here's something
to wetten your appetite: Infocom will bring out "Plundered
Hearts", "Stationfall", "Lurking Horror", "Nord & Bert couldn't
make heads and tails of it" and "Beyond Zork". Brøderbund (from
"Lode Runner", remember?) will try to make an ST version of their
popular game "Karateka", Final Frontier will publish "Space M-A-
X" and "Lunar M-A-X", whereas Hybrid Arts will launch a game
called "MIDI Maze" (a game that you can play with many people at
one time, using the MIDI ports to interface the computers).
Activision is planning to do quite some arcade conversions
("Rampage", "Lock-On", "Championship Sprint", etc.), but it's not
yet known whether ST versions are planned. If so, they intend to
bring out "Enduro Racer", "Quartet" and "Wonderboy" first.
P.S. A note on Apple Macintosh software.
Since ST owners can now have a Macintosh emulator that is very
good and highly compatible with the actual Mac, the potential ST
software library can now experience enormous growth. Most Mac
programs are really excellent with regard to userfriendlyness (in
case of applications) or with regard to deepness and flawless
operation (in case of applications and games). After all, the Mac
is quite an old computer already, and there are lots of fine
programmers working on that machine that have succeeded in
increasing the quality level of Mac software above all other
standards. And we mustn't forget that the Mac, together with the
IBM PC, is THE best selling computer in e.g. the United States,
where the Amiga as well as the ST don't mean that much, and where
the Commodore 64 is still the only 'small' computer selling well.
"Aladin" (see full review elsewhere in this issue of ST NEWS) is
the first emulator that works perfectly on the ST, unlike the
"MagicSac", "MS-DOZ" and other emulators of the kind (even the
Amiga emulator is said to be a joke according to people who have
tested it in Germany's '68000'er'). So it might not take long
before we of ST NEWS can offer you some reviews of true Mac stuff
as well - in that case I will start a seperate Mac-column in ST
NEWS. I sincerely hope that many people will start porting over
Mac stuff to the ST (someone already did that with an excellent
game called "Shadow Gate").
There's only one thing that I would desperately like to see.
Until about half a year ago I thought I was the first one to
actually get the idea of writing a disk magazine, but then I
heard that there was something like it a long time before - on
the Apple Macintosh! I hope someone will port it over some time
so it is possible to have a look at that disk magazine as well.
It might give me some useful ideas for improving ST NEWS!
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.