It is said that all creatures evolved from a lower life form.
It can thus be concluded that sand has evolved from Amiga
Joke from the Atari ST Users Association
DEMO REVIEW: THE LIGHTNING DEMO BY THE PENDRAGONS
by Richard Karsmakers
Let's have it right away: Nowadays I hate megademos that have a
game-like main menu. The "Lightning" Demo even possesses a
particular bastard main menu even to those standards. I hated its
main menu right from the start.
However, the life of a software/demo reviewer is never said to
be an easy one. It's something I've come to grips with quite a
while ago, and now I just had to get down to putting this into
While I checked out this demo I was almost freezing my balls
off. The central heating is OK, but I earn so little money
nowadays that I can only have it burn at about 15° instead of
what I'd really like - i.e. something close to 20°. Outside, it's
quite cold as well. It isn't raining, but a peculiarly slow
drizzle makes you wet when you go outside anyway.
You will probably completely fail to see what all that has got
to do with a megademo with a real mother of a main menu. Well, it
hasn't got anything to do with it as such, but it just shows the
agony I'm in.
Am I not pathetic? Large sums of money are known to be the most
perfect cure for this, though, so please send me some. I might
even be tempted to thank all friendly donators in the next issue
of ST NEWS.
I am being really silly here. I will therefore start immediately
with what I set out to do in the first place: Writing a review of
the "Lightning" demo by the French crew Pendragons.
What first strikes you when booting the demo is that it is of OK
design, but not as good as e.g. "Ooh Crikey". It has to be said
that this latest Lost Boys demo was somewhat of a classroom
example of 'being well designed' and all, but "Lightning" just
leaves an overall impression of not being very inspired, not well
thought about. All scrolling messages (those of the Overlander
screens coming close to exception) are short or even really
short, the music is brutally cut off when it has to stop, and the
upper border is almost never used (or not at all?).
However, it has to be said that the Frenchies are making
progress. Design is getting better even if it's still not
perfect. Now all we need is some more original ideas, and
possible the dream of each demo freak: A 100% Overlander
But, alas, we don't have one of those yet.
I'm drifting off the target of this article again.
OUCH! (Not O.U.C.H.)
After booting the disk you get an intro. "Pendragons Present"
and that kind of stuff. Most graphics in this demo were made by
Megadeth, one of the Pendragon members. He's quite good.
Then we get the main menu. As I said, it is a bastard to go
through. You control a bouncing being called Bill by means of the
cursor keys. Although responsive and easy to use, it is all quite
slow and it is not possible to keep a key pressed and see Bill
the Being walk repeatedly in one direction.
Although the main menu is full-screen, that's about the only
'stunning' thing about it. Instead of the usual huge scroller
somewhere, they've opted for a small scroller at the top. There
are also small tracking sprites spelling out "Pendragons" on top
of the whole thing. But the menu as such is not even parallax. I
mean I couldn't do even this, but from a 1991 demo programmer one
expects more than this. My sceptism might be blamed on the fact
that I reviewed "Ooh Crikey" and "Punish Your Machine" before I
started doing this one, but I haven't heard many 'oohs' and
'aahs' from others watching this demo either.
In the rest of this article I will also give you direction on
how to get to all the demo screens in the quickest possible way,
so as to avoid unnecessary strolling around the rather extensive
The playfield is divided into two levels, of which the second
consists of two parts. They only scroll vertically, and you can
have yourself teleported from one spot on a level to another spot
on that same level - or, indeed, to a spot on the other level.
To get to the nearest demo screen, walk down. Never mind the
"Megadist" screen that you can't get to right now. Just walk down
and bear to the left. At a certain stage you will find you've
got to cross a bridge - do that and walk up, then left across
another bridge. Don't walk into the teleporter dish just yet and
hop good ol' Bill on top of the door labelled "Boink".
What we then get is a screen that is made up of three parts. The
top border contains a flipping Pendragons logo. The lower borders
(and the sideborders atthat height) contain a scrolling what a
rather not so good looking font. Between the scroll and the
flipping logo is the actual screen, that consists of a 2-plane
grey background on top of which a large ball is bouncing. Anyone
seen the 1986 Amiga demos (on the Amiga)? That's the kind of
red/white ball I mean. On top of that we've got five 2-plane
balls that track each other, and three small pictures of France
(chauvinists!) as well.
The scrolling text mentions that it's already one year old and
that they're not even proud of it themselves. Well, I'd like to
heartfully share that opinion, and therewith I'd like to rest my
Getting to this screen is the proverbial piece of cake. Simply
hop down onto the teleporter dish close to the "Boink" screen and
you end up in the enclosure you saw earlier. There you can now
enter the door labelled "Megadist".
I don't know why this screen was actually included in a
megademo, as it is of no use whatsoever except for, when among
programmers, to show off it was possible. What is comes down to
is watching a pixel orgy that is supposed to represent a
vertically scroller message. Each character is a quadrangle in
which the actual alphanumeral is hewn out, brightly coloured. As
these go up on the screen, they twist and turn and vanish into
the distance, come back again, etc. Apart from the fact that the
scroller text as such as very short and very uninteresting,
fiddling with the function keys within a matter of two or three
seconds results is mixed pixels being hurled at you. None of it
If you don't touch the function keys at all, it is possible to
read the text - but it's still a painfully tireing procedure.
They say all calculations are real-time. Swell.
The music is very good, by the way. I think I recognised Mad Max
in it, but I am not sure. It is quite long and generally good.
But all in all, I liked the title picture logo of this screen
As you leave the previous screen, get down on top of the
teleporter dish. This will take you to about the farthest down
spot you've been on so far, where you can proceed your quest.
Just walk down and then left across the bridge. You'll spot the
next screen right away - "Silent".
First thing you wish when you enter the screen is that it would
have been as silent as its name implies. Instead, however, you
get some digital music thrown at you that is very bad even by the
worst standard. The lead voices drown in a cacophony of white
noise and the percussion has the name 'Amiga' written all over
it. I mean the sound of this demo sets back the standard to pre-
"Big Demo" times.
The screen itself consists of a thin parameter status bar, a
Pendragons logo at the top and a scrolling text in which the
characters are made of dots. We're talking 3D here. It is
unreadable, so first thing one has to do is put all parameters in
the status bar down to '000', with the exception of the last one.
This ensures that you can read the scroll, but takes away what
little spectacle the screen had. Another mega-short scroll text
here, by the way. I suppose this screen is rather clever but,
like "Megadist" it's simply too freaky for anyone but authentic
machine coders to appreciate (and maybe these even don't like it
As you leave the aforementioned screen, walk down across the
zig-zag bit. Almost outside the screen at the right you will see
another door which' name is a mystery as its largely hidden
behind the plastic of your monitor (well, mine at least).
Enter it and be amazed.
This is the best screen of the entire demo, the "Plasma" screen.
I had seen this one before when the Overlanders submitted it to
the Delta Force I.C.C. #2 Coding Competition. It's coded by Dim
of the OVR chaps, and it just too brilliant to be true. I don't
want to attempt describing it, as it will do no justice to it. It
suffices to say that it totals to a 74 minute show of rather nice
colour (i.e. plasma) effects, introduced by text screens that
tell you what's happening. This "Plasma" screen is much more
stylish than all the "Colourshock" thingies you see nowadays, and
very very subtle.
Even the music is very good, made by Doclands of OVR. Even the
design is good - you can quite a text screen be pressing ESC,
quit a plasma screen by SPACE. Leaving the whole demo is done by
I wish all screens in this demo were of a quality like this.
Unfortunately, with the exception of the second OVR screen that
comes close, there were none.
Walk left and down when exiting the "Plasma" screen. Continue
left - don't let yourself yet be lured into the teleporter dish
at the right! You will see a screen labelled "Multi".
What you get is a full-screen starfield with a large Pendragons
logo behind everything and 1-plane tracking sprites spelling out
"Triton" on top of everything. About 8 identical horizontal
scrolls, filling all of the screen, pass by between these (2
plane font). The tracking sprites and the font never overlap, by
the way. By alternately scrolling the about 8 scroll lines left
and a bit to the right (not all at the same time), a kind of
waving effect is produced.
Best thing about this screen is the music - made by Lap of NEXT,
and I seem to recall having heard it in "Punish Your Machine" (in
"Coast", to be more precise). As I said there already: A very
good piece of music.
Now allow yourself to be lured into the teleporter dish on the
other side of the wall. A bit of walking will have to be done for
that, but it will eventually happen. Hopping onto this teleporter
will transport you to the top bit of level 2.
Go down and then right and up to get near the closest screen
here. It's called "3D Designer", and you will probably have
spotted it immediately after arriving at this plane of existence.
What we get is a pseudo-"CAD 3D" proggy built into the demo.
Basically, the screen is divided into four equal parts - three
object view screens and one option screen where you can specify
options, although most 'don't work in this version'.
I personally think that a screen like this does not belong in a
megademo at all. The "Union Demo" hidden soundtracker screen was
OK, but wouldn't we all be rather flabbergasted of the next TCB
demo would contain a non-usable "Soundtracker", or even a "3D
Designer"? So I think this screen is totally superfluous. They
haven't even included some default demo shapes. Nothing.
Shadow of the Beast
Relieved, you will exit the "3D Designer". Get back to the spot
where you came from (i.e. down, left, up) until you can't get
further. Don't go right yet! Instead, go left and down into the
door labelled "Shadow of the Beast".
This screen is quite clever I guess. First of all there's a 2-
plane frame bouncing up and down on top of the whole thing. This
frame includes some text - like what the demo's called and that
kind of thing.
Behind this 'frame' the neat thing takes place: A smooth
horizontal scroller with approximately 14 parallax layers of
mountain, clouds and ground - although none of these overlap. Not
bad, but if it weren't for the background rasters it would be all
too obvious that the scrolling graphics are 2-plane as well.
There's music as well (not digital), it's a full-screen (except
for the top border with which they all seem to have problems) and
there's "TRITON" characters bouncing up and down in a sinus in
the lowest part of the lower border as well.
In the main menu scroll, the programmers already mention that
the hidden screen will not be hard to find. Indeed it wasn't. You
are actually forced to find it, for otherwise you'll have to
press reset to get out of a confinement...
Go down to the teleporter near the "Shadow of the Beast" door.
This will teleport you right to the downmost (most Southern) part
of the top part of level 2 (Still with me? Good). Go right and
down, then up as far as you can go. In this confinement there is
no way of getting out....unless you try to hop on a wall. And
indeed, the topmost middle bit of wall can be jumped upon and is
as a matter of fact the teleporter dish that transports you
slightly up and to the left - into the bit where you can enter
the "Hidden Screen".
Why not enter it?
So one does.
They said they were not proud of this demo. It was more than one
year old and the routines used were obsolete. Well, I can do none
less than agree with them once more. What you get is a screen
with no lower border, displaying a cockpit of a spacecraft out of
which' windshield you gaze to behold several smoothly
transforming 3D solid objects rotating. The routines are awfully
slow, the colours are badly chosen. It's indeed not much of an
Better exit it quickly.
This is where we can laugh.
First go down to the teleporter dish near the "Hidden Screen".
This will take you to just above and to the right of where you
started level 2 in the first place. Go up and to the right, where
you will find another teleporter. This will take you to the
bottom bit of the second level. Go up and left, into the door
What you get now is a full-screen consisting of three parts. The
top is a 2-plane Pendragons logo. The lower border (and
corresponding sides) has a large scroll text. The middle bit has
a 1-plane background of three witches or magicians or something.
The scroll text is the longest one of the entire demo - it must
be at least 15 Kb or something! One by one, each Pendragon member
is introduced to us. When their names are scrolled by, the entire
scroller flips. On top of the Pendragon logo, the name of the
current member is displayed (in 2-plane graphics).
Oh. Before I forget: Tracking sprites spelling out "The
Pendragon Team" fly everywhere (except in the lower border).
On top of the witches (or magicians, or something) we now get to
see digitised pics of the individual members in quite poor
quality, 2-plane graphics. The members are: Crystar, Extrem, FX
("Graphist" - when will the French learn that they should use
"Graphics man/artist" or something?), Mechanoid, Megadeth,
Nemrod, Silver and Terence (yes, the small one that gave a severe
flu to Bittner and ES during the ST NEWS International Christmas
Coding Convention 1990).
Anyway, a good laugh.
Our quest for the next screen gets quite complicated again. Go
down to the teleporter close to "Presentation". Hop onto it, and
you will find yourself in a maze quite to the south of where
you've been so far. No need to go up, however, for there's
nothing to be seen. Go right around the wall, then down and left
to the screen called "Ads'Oh". Enter it if you like.
If you've entered it, you will embark upon the second good
screen in this demo. It was done by (you guessed it) Adso of
everybody's favourite French crew, the Overlanders.
What you get here is some 4-voice 7.5 Khz digital music on a
full screen, with four raster bars functioning as VU-meters.
There is a sinussing lower/sideborder scroll, 7 tracking balls
and a rather large distorting "OVR" logo. Three pyramids made of
dots rotate and fly around the screen as well. I am not sure if
it's technically all that brilliant, but it surely looks great.
Now the quest gets complex again. Find your way out of the maze
to the south (i.e. down). Do not hop onto the teleporter dish at
the south wall or you'll be set back quite a it to the north for
which there is no reason at all. Exit the maze at the North left
and continue down over the zig zag thing. Then you've arrived on
the final patch of level 2, with the final demo. Evade the
teleporter on that, and hop onto the door labelled "4D Screen".
Actually, "4D" should have been "Real 3D" here. In other words,
you're advised to wear those peculiar red'n'blue glasses that are
supposed to assist you seeing things in 3D when the TV program is
broadcasted accordingly. So what this screen basically is:
Rotating 3D line graphics on top of a starfield that transform
into all kinds of shapes. One in red and one in blue, just next
to it. Although the transformations between the shapes are
smooth, the digi music is quite noisy and it's just a standard
screen (no scrollers, no borders gone, nothing).
There's no use in roaming through the levels now. Not unless
you're a masochist of some kind, that is. So you'd better press
the RESET button. This will load...
The Reset Screen
First, you get the word "reset" written all over the screen.
This takes a fair amount of time, which makes a thought dawn in
my mind: "Are they perhaps hiding some severe precalculation?"
Anyway, what you get after a while is a none too bad screen. The
music is taken from "A Prehistoric Tale" - it's the hiscore tune,
which is actually ripped from Yngwie J. Malmsteen's "Icarus'
Dream Suite" (which Yngwie ripped from some classic composer by
the name of Albinoni). So, in the "Lightning" demo it's a fourth
degree rip-off. But a good one.
The screen itself consists of a scroller, a load of rasters and
some 3D line vector graphics shapes. The nice thing is that the
rotating shapes are made as if they 'submerge' into a load of
rasters, in which they also 'mirror' - as if they're being
rotated partly through a liquid mirror. Looks neat.
The rasters, especially the ones in the lower part of the
screen, flicker a lot. The scroll also hampers sometimes.
I wish I could be more positive about this Pendragons megademo.
I do not want to kick them against the chins or something, but
it's just not a very good demo. It looks as if they had to do it.
The scrolling texts are too short and the screens are either too
freaky or technically far from breathtaking. I also hate those
large main menus, but I have kept that out of my consideration.
Dear Pendragons: Sorry. I hope you will do a better demo next
time. Please don't take this personally.
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.