"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Tonight I feature a special
interview with Mr. Paul Caruso about the dodgy subject of 'are
there, or are there not flying saucers.'
Good evening Mr. Caruso. Could you tell us your regarded opinion
about this nonsense regarding space travel, or even space
"Well, you can't believe everything you say and hear, can you?
Now if you'll excuse me, I must be on my way."
Excerpt "EXP" by Jimi Hendrix (from "Axis Bold As Love")
SOFTWARE REVIEW: LLAMATRON BY LLAMASOFT
by Richard Karsmakers
"I was slowly suffocating. I could barely see a glimpse of
light above me, way out of reach. All I could see were strange
items crashing down on me, as if desperately wanting to prevent
me from as much as thinking of reaching out to that light - the
light I treasured and adored, the light I needed to continue
Yet I sank deeper and deeper, until I thought my ears would
burst and my mind would implode. Vague memories I recalled, but
they could not soften the feelings of suffocation and potential
death that were threatening my being.
I tried to breathe but it only filled my lungs, yes, my entire
being, with the items that leapt down at me. I saw the glimpse of
light decreasing. It slowly disappeared until there was barely
Thinking back of the beautiful things in my life, I let myself
sink deeper. My lungs burst. My mind shrank. Julia. Heavy Metal
Music. Super Gridrunner. Lemmings...
None of it would remain where I was to go. None of it. I wept at
the thought, writhing in grief, but the tears were beaten away by
the items that kept on crashing down on my acheing body, reducing
my heart and soul to slush.
How I had loved life, but it would never be the same again... I
felt my life force flow away, drained into the vortex below me.
I spitted. I even tried to vomit. But there was no stopping the
continuous stream down my throat, into my lungs, through my very
"Indiana Jones," I read aloud whilst swallowing, "Ghostbusters!"
A thousand licensed titles dug into my flesh, straining to kill
my last attempt at resistance.
I looked around and saw Men In Suits. Horrible suits. Folded
They would probably drag my lifeless corpse away soon, smug
smiles plastered across their faces.
"NOOOO!!" I cried with all strength I had left.
Nobody heard me except for the Men In Suits. And they did not
heed my desperate calls.
They already started to smile.
Then, "Super Monaco Grand Prix" hit me straight straight through
the heart. A U.S. Gold marketing director stifled a chuckle. I
saw all colors and none for a brief instant, then I felt myself
fade away as Turtles washed over me..."
Gene closed the book and put down his quill when hearing quick
steps on the stairs, suddenly opening his senses to the sound of
children playing in the street before the apartment building.
Instinctively, he sensed the person climbing those stairs
A soft knocking on the door.
He tried to walk past the Screen to the door as casually as
possible, probably betraying more than he would have had he
dashed for it. It was indeed Julia.
"I told you never to see me here," he whispered, "the Thought
Police is always alert, you know that."
She glanced back over her shoulder, as if she expected someone
there. Hurriedly, she closed the door behind her.
"Be still, Gene" she said, "I had the Screen turned off."
"Doesn't matter," she replied, "it just is. I know someone at
He seemed to relax, but knotted muscles still betrayed a sense
of awareness. He felt odd. Why was she here? Why hadn't she
waited 'til the evening, when meeting him in the park would be
It appeared as if she had read his mind.
"I can't be in the park tonight, and neither can you," she
checked the screen to see if it was really switched off, then
continued, "there's a Meeting this evening. At Jonathan's."
Eager fires sparkled in Gene's eyes. "A Meeting? Tonight?"
The sound of the children playing outside had ceased. He
suddenly became aware of that. She heard it, too. He ran towards
the window, carefully parting the curtains slightly to allow him
to cast a glimpse on the street below.
Together with the increasing sound of marching feet, he saw a
Squadron of uniformed men come around the street corner. The
sound of their boots was threatening on the cobbles, which were
still wet with the early morning's drizzle.
He hurriedly closed the curtains again.
"Thought Police!" he rasped, "Were you tailed?"
She shook her head, but it seemed as if she wasn't completely
sure. "Maybe it's not us they want," she said, "maybe someone
"Silent," he interrupted her, daring another look through a tiny
opening between the curtains.
He looked intently at what was developing in the street.
One of the Thought Police officers had halted in front of a
house on the other side of the street.
"You're right," he said, sighing in mute relief, "it's not us."
He opened the curtains wide. She came to stand next to him.
"It's the...Tails...Tolers...whatever they are called," she
observed with a voice of incredulity, "who would have thought
"Who would think it of us?" he put bluntly.
The Thought Police had forced the door open now, and entered the
house. A shot could be heard. After a while, an officer came out
with three children and a woman, weeping. Another carried a box.
"Illegal games," Julia whispered.
Gene nodded slowly.
At that moment, a black car with sirens and flashlights came
around the corner, stopping precisely in front of the house where
the officers now stood, holding the woman and her three children.
Out of the car came a man. He wore a tweed suit and tie,
casually glancing around through top fashion glasses. Around his
wrist was a gold watch. He held a cane.
The officers jumped in line, saluted.
"A Man In A Suit," Gene gasped.
They could see the man inspect the box with games. He took out a
random disk, tossed it back after a quick inspection. After
signalling the box to be loaded into the trunk of his car, he
turned his attention to what seemed to be the youngest of the
three children. A little boy, probably not yet 10 years of age.
A wry smile wrung his lips.
He made a casual remark to the woman, who now started to weep
even more vigorously, and seemed to beg the man for mercy. She
tried to release herself from the iron grip of the Thought Police
officer. With a quick move, the Man In A Suit hit her across the
face with the cane.
His face didn't even as much as flinch.
Blood appeared from a gash across the woman's cheek. She stopped
sobbing and looked at the man with eyes wide open in fear mingled
The man put his gloved hand on the thin hair of the boy, as if
trying to soothe the child. Another Thought Police officer now
emerged from the house carrying a computer system. Upon a sign of
the Man In A Suit this, too, disappeared in the trunk of the car.
The man asked something of one of the Thought Police agents,
after which this officer gave him a gun.
The Man In A Suit toyed a bit with the gun, spoke to the woman.
She began to weep again, desperately struggling to get free.
The man put the gun on the little boy's forehead and pulled the
Gene promptly closed the curtains. Julia looked shocked.
The shot reverberated through their minds.
A sound could be heard of a car door slamming shut and a car
leaving. The siren was turned off. The sound of marching growing
distant indicated that the Thought Police, too, was leaving.
"You'd better call the Department and tell 'em the Screen's not
functioning," she said, "otherwise they may get suspicious."
She hurriedly kissed him, opened the door and left.
Gene sighed deeply, suppressing an urge to look outside again.
He went to sit down in the one corner of his room that could not
be seen by the Screen, picked up his quill and opened the book.
"October 13th 2004," he read aloud as he wrote down the words.
It was past eight that evening when he retrieved his coat.
The Screen was working again, and spilled forth the usual amount
of propaganda, soaps and advertisements. He knew that someone,
somewhere, was watching him. An eerie feeling of discomfort, and
he still hadn't quite grown used to it.
It seemed to him as if this afternoon had never really happened.
The air conditioning had made the scent of Julia's perfume vanish
quickly, and apart from a dark red patch on the pavement on the
other side of the street nothing indicated that the Thought
Police had ever struck.
But he could not banish the vision of the Man In A Suit holding
the gun to the little boy's forehead, the sudden sound of the
shot that had mercilessly hurled the lifeless body to the ground
- every detail of sight and sound seemed impaled on his senses.
He shook his head, hoping that would make it vanish. It didn't.
He put up his collar, opened the door and left.
The wind was remarkably chilly. It tore at his coat, as if
trying to make sure he would notice it.
The street lights threw a disembodied, eldritch light,
emphasising the dreariness of the slow rain that had started
about half an hour ago.
He stayed close to the buildings, melting into the shadows each
time he heard faint steps of other people in the streets. There
was no curfew yet, but there was a substantial chance of being
arrested after dark - the Thought Police consisted mostly of men
that'd rather shoot first and ask questions later (if at
all). And, of course, Gene would rather not be leading strangers
to one of the Meetings.
About three dozen people were huddled together in a cellar
beneath a 19th century house. It was rumoured that the owner of
the house was one of the Department people, one of the few who
did not believe in the System and instead sought to battle it
slowly from the inside. Some rumours even went as far as stating
that he was one of the top System people, but nobody knew that
for certain. He was never present on any of the Meetings.
Jonathan's had become a popular place of saviour for original
games programmers ever since the Men In Suits had taken over full
global economic power, instituting a law against the production
and use of non-licensed products. People that had been living
software industry legends in Pre-Licensed times led a life of
renegades now, and these Meetings were the only occasions when
they would be partly like their former selves again.
A hushed silence had passed over the people gathered in the
cellar when Gene related what had happened that afternoon
opposite the appartment building where he lived.
"Pigs," someone said, "they're pigs. Pigs in fancy clothing!"
Most of the people here were men like Gene himself - young,
refusing to submit to the absurd laws inflicted by these ruthless
Men In Suits; people who refused to believe that the only viable
products were licensed products, people who spitted on the names
of "Ghostbusters", "Back to the Future" and "Moonwalker". They
had all liked the movies, but the games inflicted upon them by
the Men In Suits were of a quality only liked by mothers doing
Christmas shopping - and their children, who apparently didn't
know better and probably never would.
A new load of Originalist games had arrived today, and there was
even a new computer system with them. These soon got all
attention as there were some really good ones among them,
including some rather spiffin' original text adventures featuring
a mercenary annex hired gun.
The system was installed, and Gene watched as someone started
playing a rather nice shoot-'em-up game where you had to collect
various animals while shooting all kinds of other objects.
The kid handling the joystick was surely very talented, and when
he had lost all his lives, after half an hour's playing, he was
already allowed to enter his name in the hiscore table.
He was at the top, having forced the name of the previous
hiscore holder, one "Stu Taylor", down by one entry.
"Wait!" Gene gasped, feeling a sudden sense of despair arise in
him, "Taylor! You see that name? Stu Taylor!"
The whole hiscore list was filled with Taylors.
Someone asked him what was the significance of this, and Gene
explained: It was the Taylors who had been struck by the Thought
Police that afternoon. Not the Tails or Tolers or something. Now
he knew their proper name!
This system had been theirs. The games had been theirs. All had
been confiscated that very afternoon by the Man In A Suit that
had murdered the little boy.
Then there was only one possibility...
Had Julia arrived already?
There was a sudden noise. Sounds of panic. Frantic movement. The
lights were smashed, plunging the room in total darkness. There
were cries. Some shots. A sudden, searing hot pain in his left
Then everything went black.
The depth increased.
The blackness around him whirled ever downward, and the light
that reached him from the little bright spot far above him grew
less even as he watched.
His skin was bruised by the impact of many dark things crashing
down with an ever increasing vehemence.
He tried to cry, to grasp out towards that spot of light. It was
as if he felt the rays of light release him, like a rope breaking
with a movie hero hanging on it.
And this time he knew there was nothing to save him for falling
endlessly. There would be no rescuing ledge. There would be no
strong arm of another hero snatching him away from certain death.
He was beginning to lose his senses. Already, the light seemed
to be getting more intense, coming towards him rapidly although
he still knew himself to be falling.
There was no mistake now. The light seemed to come nearer - up
to the point where his eyes hurt of their brightness even though
he had closed them.
Gene opened his eyes, suddenly aware of a pain in his left
shoulder. He felt with numb fingers, discovering a band-aid
wrapped around it.
Bits and pieces came back to mind. The shots. The hiscore table.
The sight of a Men In A Suit shooting an innocent child.
His head hurt, too. He must have dropped down on something after
he got what he reckoned was a shot wound in the shoulder. There
was a bump on the side of his head.
He looked around to take in his surroundings. There was no
mistake about it. He was in a prison cell. A Thought Police
He had always imagined these cells to be dark and damp. He had
thought they would be made of filthy concrete, dark grey with
Originalist slogans written all over them - some written in
Reality struck him almost like a physical blow.
The cell was entirely white, and seemed to be made of plastic.
No spots anywhere, and no writings either. The corners could
barely be seen as it was all perfectly white and well lit by a
lamp that allowed no visible shadow. No shadow, that is, except
for that of his own body that was lying on the ground.
His clothes, so he noticed, had been changed too. He was dressed
all in black. Except for his face and hands there was no patch of
skin visible. The blackness of his clothing was complete. It
seemed to be able to suck up every particle of light cast at it,
much in the way everything else in the cell seemed to radiate it.
One of the walls turned out to have a door in it. It was not
until someone opened it that he actually discovered this.
This person was dressed in white entirely. Even the visible skin
on hands and face seemed to be preternaturally pale. He could see
by form of her body under the tight white suit that it was a
woman. She beheld him wordlessly, oppressing him into a mute
silence merely by the way she looked at him in utter disgust and
She seemed to examine him, watching every square inch of his
body and every line on his face.
The invisible spell by which she had seemed to bind him to
silence suddenly broke. But by the time he found out he could say
something she had already turned around and left, carefully
closing the cell door behind her.
A panel in one of the other walls suddenly opened. Behind it was
a Screen. It displayed a message.
"People don't want to be saved."
Gene had heard of the terrible things that were supposed to
happen to people caught by the Thought Police. He had never
really believed them, but after what he had seen this
How long had he been unconscious? It could have been...
A new message was displayed on the Screen.
"It is October 15th 2004."
Some basic arithmetics told him he had been out for two days.
Two days! Would Julia know? Perhaps she...
The Screen now displayed someone in a prison cell. The cell was
entirely white, and the prisoner was dressed entirely in the same
colour as well. As the camera zoomed in on the person, he saw it
was a female. A girl in her late twenties.
"Bastards! Bastards!" Gene shouted at the top of his voice. He
started to get up, to hit the Screen or find something to hurl at
it, hurl himself at it. A sharp ache in his shoulder reminded him
he'd better not. His knees gave way so that he sank back to the
floor, moaning in pain.
"Bastards..." he muttered under his breath, looking up to see
the picture of Julia in her cell replaced by another message.
"People are happy."
What are they trying to do with me? He thought.
The answer to his question was almost biblical.
"We want to make you see the error of your ways."
Now Gene remembered. He had heard stories of fanatic
Originalists disappearing, only to reappear after some weeks as
if nothing had happened - with the only difference that they were
now Licensists. The Department had its methods to change people's
minds. Even if it took weeks or months, they would succeed. Or
the victim would turn out insane - to be disposed of accordingly.
Death or Licensism. A brute choice. He thought ruefully.
The Screen's answer was prompt.
"Death or Licensism. Your choice."
Damn it! This screen can read everything in my mind!
"Death or Licensism. Your choice."
The machine didn't even bother to react to Gene's thought. Why
react to the obvious?
"I'd rather be dead than be submitted to that which you call
Licensism!" Gene shouted.
Swiftly, the Screen displayed another message.
"As you wish."
Only some moments passed, after which he heard someone unlock
the door to his cell. A woman dressed in white came in. Another
nurse. In her hands she held a small tray on which some small
bottles were located. Her hair looked familiar. And those eyes
"Julia!" he exclaimed.
"Gene." she replied. Her voice and expression betrayed no
"What have they done to you?" he asked, "Why..."
He felt the power of speech give way in mid-sentence as she
looked him straight in the eyes, binding him to silence by the
same spell the other nurse had used.
"We have done nothing to her," the Screen read.
Gene's eyes spoke to her of fear and infinite sadness, but she
had already transferred her gaze to the bottles - and a syringe
that she carefully and meticulously started to fill with various
quantities of the various fluids present in those little bottles.
He saw her prepare his death. He found he didn't have the power
to move. Betrayed by his friends. Betrayed by the woman he had
lived to love. Killed by the woman he had lived to love.
He looked around, knowing he would not have much time left to
do so. He strained to keep his eyes away from Julia, causing his
eyes to focus on the Screen. There was another message there.
"What a cruel fate. Better than Licensism?"
Yes! He thought, Yes!
But he felt his heart give way within him. He himself doubted
the certainty he had tried to assert with that thought.
The Screen's analysis was quick and harsh.
Was his life worth spending for The Cause? Was he maybe the last
of the Originalists left? Was it worth dying an unknown
The Screen still had the same message. Mute, but overpowering
all his senses.
He thought back of some of the games he had played. Had not the
original games been so much more fun than the licensed one? Had
he not played many original games much longer than licensed
Indeed I have! He could feel a new inner strength, fuelled by
the experience of having played original games. He knew it was
worth dying for the Originalist Cause. And after him there would
always be more Originalists.
Good games get played anyway.
He saw the syringe's needle disappear in his arm, but didn't as
much as flinch. Death would embrace him - a far better
alternative than Licensism.
Julia removed the needle after injecting all the fluid in his
veins. Without a word, she turned on her heels.
Gene's last words were nothing more than a whisper, barely
audible even to himself: "I have always loved you, Julia."
She didn't look back, oblivious to the pitiful dying man in the
cellar. She closed the door behind her, not bothering to lock it.
The Screen went black.
For Gene, everything went black. For the final time.
He had to strain his eyes in order to see the vague spot of
light now, so far away and above him now that it seemed nothing
more than a minute star. No matter how big the sun might be that
formed that star, to him it was minute and it had no power to
warm him, nor the power to shed any light on him.
Pictures flashed by him. He could see a ghost holding up his
fingers in the form of a "V", just before it was torn away by a
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle, which was in its turn obscured from
his view by a giant "Moonwalker" logo.
He closed his eyes.
A llama beckoned him.
Some of you will be familiar with the game "Robotron" (a game on
8-bit Atari and Commodore 64). In case you are not, please accept
my description that it is "A game in which you have to control an
entity across a screen where you have to collect things and shoot
other things that have a tendency to touch (and therewith kill)
Cult arcade king Jeff Minter of Llamasoft, has, like no other
could, revamped this old idea into a game that can match the
trend of better, more, nicer and more playable: "Llamatron".
Taking the typical Minteresk approach, the things you have to
collect are animals the likes of sheep and cows, and you control
not a robot but a llama. The things that you have to shoot and
that generally try to collide with you vary significantly (toilet
paper rolls, cigarette boxes, Cola cans...you name it).
Whereas the old "Robotron" was kinda boring, Jeff has added a
whole lot of colours and fancy sonix, and he has also succeeded
in adding a lot of things to the gameplay. The monsters do no
longer 'just' try to equal their screen position with yours, but
there are also ones that shoot if you kill them (hedgehogs
shooting some spikes), evil brains that mutate the beasties you
have to collect, frantic fractals that shoot and need to be hit
many times before they die, and loathsome lasers that kill you if
you cross their paths at the wrong times (of course there is
more, but I wouldn't like to spoil the fun of discovering them
Apart from the many bright colours and the brilliant sonix
(we're talking loads of craftfully digitized effects here in the
1 Meg version, more than you can shake a sampler at) there's of
course the typical "Robotron" explosions that really give you the
idea things are happening. These explosions look like....well...
just see for yourself, and remember those of "Die Filth" (the
game-ish demo thingy we had on offer in one of our Volume 5
Only having player two press the fire button to start the game
severely screws up things, so you'd better not do that.
Minter is the BEST
I think it's pretty obvious that both Stefan and myself are true
Minter Maniacs. In the times of "Andes Attack" and "Super
Gridrunner" we already completely freaked out (that was late 1988
or so), and the day we visited him during the July 1989 LateST
NEWS Quest was also one of the most enjoyable of the entire trip.
It may therefore be that we are both somewhat biased towards
what we think of the Cult Master himself or anything he tends to
However, it just so happens that most of the things he does are
pretty damn brilliant. I am not talking three data disks of fancy
graphics here, or a flippin' magnanimous name attached to the
stuff, but sheer playability, playing fun and other things that
really count. I mean functional graphics that are fun to see, I
mean good sonix that fit the game, and I mean oodles and oodles
of gameplay. I don't think I'm biased when I say that Jeff Minter
is one of the best specialists on the field of gameplay, learning
curves and addictiveness.
"Llamatron" features everything a game should have. It even has
a nice intro and it saves hiscores. There's a neat tutorial built
in and it's all in memory in one go (don't know about the half
meg version, though). It's effectively done from a programmer's
point of view, and even the documentation is clear with the usual
bit of humour.
The most incredible thing about "Llamatron", however, is the
fact that it is shareware.
A shareware program is a program that can be copied and
distributed non-commercially as often as you want (and, indeed,
as often as possible) and that will be completely free of
purchase costs up to the moment where you decide to use it or
play it regularly. On that moment, you are expected to pay a
reasonable fee, a so-called shareware registration fee. This
makes it worth the shareware programmers' while to continue
developing more shareware products.
The advantage of shareware programs is that you can check them
out before you pay anything. Only good programs will sell that
way, and in the long run only good programs will be made. The
user is clearly the winning party there, whereas the programmer
doesn't lose anything, either.
The disadvantage is that you do not get any fancy packaging. But
do you find it worth to shell out two or three times more for a
product with fancy packaging that you have not been able to use
or play yourself yet?
The shareware fee of "Llamatron" is £5. Upon sending this to
Llamasoft you will get a newsletter and "Andes Attack" sent home
With but too few exceptions, games in the shareware circuit are
not very good. They are either overindulgently unplayable, or
demos of a commercial product you'll have to fork out some dosh
for if you want to play it all.
"Llamatron" may be a but overindulgent, but it's a complete
game, which also happens to be darned good. It's the kind of
stuff you would never expect to be available through other means
rather than the standard commercial network - with a price tag
I cannot say how happy I am to know that Jeff has done the first
ever good and complete shareware game. And the incentive towards
registration (i.e. paying those five squazoolies) is surely a
bonus worthy of your attention!
This honourable initiative, I reckoned, is worth more attention.
So that's why I am setting of a world-wide "Llamatron"
distribution network. That way, you can see for yourself what the
game is like, and you will notice that it is everything I told
Al you have to do is send a 3.5" disk with 2 International Reply
Coupons to my address (3 International Reply Coupons if you live
outside Europe). My address is: Looplantsoen 50, NL-3523 GV,
Utrecht, The Netherlands. You will then get the complete
"Llamatron" package (which consists of a one meg version, a half
meg version and an interesting document file.
A forthcoming shareware initiative...
As a matter of fact, this initiative of doing some really good
stuff for shareware has lead me to start designing some shareware
utilities, whereas Stefan and myself will probably soon start
doing a series of rather nice and humourous text adventures. More
about these initiatives will be revealed at a later stage, when
the utilities have been coded and at least one or two of the
adventures are finished.
The utilities I plan to launch under the name LAUGHWARE(TM), and
the adventures will be released under the name TALEWARE(TM),
which will both be names for specific variations on the shareware
But no more about this in this article.
Exit ST NEWS and play the game yourself!
"Llamatron" is a game that you should definitely never get. It
will cost you only some IRC's and a disk, which you'll get back
(OK, you're allowed enough time to read the rest of this article
and exit this issue)
Author: Jeff Minter
Value for money: 10
Remark: Wonderful! Unbelievable! Playable!
I would very much like to thank Jeff Minter for this game. I
will pray to the Gods of Software that you will earn enough money
with this for you to continue doing these wonderful things.
Hail and limitless praise, Mr. The Hairy! Some day, someone will
make you a Software Saint (if we don't do it before them)!
Hereby, the ST NEWS editorial staff declares that JEFF MINTER
a.k.a. YAK THE HAIRY is henceforth to be known as SOFTWARE SAINT.
People failing to comply to this solemn statement will have their
armpits infected by the spit of a thousand llamas and their
firstborns slaughtered for use in Showarma lunches!
We feel that Jeff Minter's name will forever be echoed through
the arcade game programmers' hall of fame. Hail, hail, hail,
hail, praise, praise, halelu(Cut! ED.)
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.