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Alive 10

 I don't quite remember why and how but the other day on IRC we started talking
 about  "old" ST games  we had  played and  loved for so many hours ! Of course
 everyone has his fave games in mind, most of them about 10 years ago, but this
 was when I started wondering  about how  true my memories  could be... Well it
 reminded me of ROBOCOP I had once played on an Amstrad (or was it a C64 ?) and
 I thought the game looked good and truly liked the sampled voice in the intro.
 Truth is  that I  happened  to  see  the  game  some  years later and was VERY
 disappointed by what I had  thought to be  an awesome  game :( Could it be the
 same with those games we had cherished so much ?

 Being at my parents, I decided to dig up a  few oldies  and took them home to
 face the truth : were there still any good ? Would I radically change my mind
 and put them back in the attic ? Well just read what follows to find out :)

 Oh and before we get started, I'm only talking of ORIGINAL copies here, that's
 why I'll also have a closer look at packaging and manual. Now we can go !

EPIC (published by Ocean, developped by DID)
Released in 1992, 2 floppies
Type : 3D shooter
Requirement : basic ST

 Ocean has never been known for producing good games, they were better known
 for releasing a game after any blockbuster movie  had scored well. But this
 time we were  given  an original game from the makers of F29 Retaliator and
 Robocop 3, back then two very nice games in 3D.

 First it proved quite tricky  to launch the game though  my floppies had been
 safely secured in  their original  package. More than once, I ended up with a
 red screen clearly meaning that the floppy couldn't be read at some point. It
 seems I had met the problem  quite early  since I also have  a hacked copy of
 that first floppy... and of course this one worked :)

 I remembered the intro featuring sampled msx from some space movie and showing
 many detailed screens with  3D ships. Erm, the music is still here, quite okay
 and backgrounds look more than decent tho their artists didn't know much about
 true dithering :) However the  3D scenes look  SO  slow that I wondered when I
 could have thought it was fast and smooth, hey memories from another time :)

 Choose a pilot nick and get started. The game looks and plays like any flight
 simulator except that you are in outer space :) Not some many ennemies, damn,
 cannot even find them ! Mouse controls seem a bit awkward too and it all goes
 not so fast... After shooting  at  anything  for some time, I decided to stop
 here. I'm not going to play that game again now :(

 Packaging included a silverlike  booklet in different languages and also weird
 3D glasses, you know that kind with a red and a blue lense. I seem to remember
 that the game included some space inspired poster that was to be seen with the
 glasses, hence creating 3D resemblance.

Bottom line : thanks to  my copy I managed to run the game but soon got bored 
to death and not that impressed  anymore. I believe that 3D  was okay for the 
90s tho I've seen much better in other games or demos from the same time. Not 
going to the trashcan but almost :(

THE CHAOS ENGINE (published by Renegade, developped by the Bitmap Brothers)
Released in 1993, 2 floppies
Type : overhead 2 players arcade game
Requirement : basic ST but is said to use STe specs (blitter and palette)

 No one can decently forget about The  Bitmap Brothers who brought us so many
 great games  like both  Xenon, both Speedball but  also Gods, Cadaver, Magic
 Pockets and their last ST game, The Chaos Engine. They were mostly known for
 their greast artist Marc Coleman if I remember  well and also for making fun
 and addictive games. Let's see if that still proved true now.

 As with  EPIC, my first  floppy refused  to run, doing that  wellknown reading
 noise that means it's no use trying anymore :( Again, I found a hacked copy of
 boot disc and  hence managed to  run the game. The intro shows nice gfx coming
 with a module that sounds  not so good to  my hears and  below the  quality of
 other BB games. Hard to  tell  if the  gfx use  the STe  extended palette, you
 would have to run the game on a simple ST instead. But from snapshots I saw on
 the internet, there SEEMS to be quite a bunch of differences !

 As the intro ends, you are prompted to insert disc two and soon the main menu
 appears. That game requires 2 players but you ask for a CPU guided partner if
 you have no friend at hand. This help proves smart and very useful.

 Then we reach the  first level : gfx are  again  of good quality but nothing a
 mere ST could produce in my humble opinion. It all moves fast enough including
 a multidirectionnal scroll that  could have  been smoother if truly relying on
 the blitter... but I'm no  coder :) As for  sound, well  there's  almost none,
 maybe a few  tasteless fx here  and there but no ingame music as with too many
 games from that time. Too bad.

 I played until the end of the first level and found that action was not that
 thrilling, nothing in comparison to a game like Turrican (tho maybe I should
 have it started  again  and check  for myself :). Move forward, shoot, shoot,
 pick up a few coins  and  items and you  make it till the  first  gate quite
 easily. Then this review stops  as I only  get an error  message of the kind
 "can't read file blabla". No luck trying again :(

Bottom line : I wasn't disappointed by the game overall quality as it still 
shows the skills of BB gfxmen. To  speak the truth if  my original floppies 
still worked I think I  would have gone further into the game. Maybe then I 
ould have grown bored very fast, that I'll never know :)

I was happy when having a look at the packaging to find the usual booklet but 
also 6 cards of very nice  quality showing every  character specs ! Something 
quite unusual and very cool to keep ! But  ST owners also  find a last minute 
sheet reading that "due to  the ST  limitations, all speeches are missing but 
are replaced by specific sounds or additional  messages". Hey wasn't the game 
supposed  to use  STe  features ? Since there's  no ingame  music, I  believe 
sampled sounds could easily have been  implemented... But we're not  going to 
write history again :(

STARDUST (published by Bloodhouse, developped by Aggression)
Released in 1994, 3 floppies
Type : asteroidslike but with a lot of enhancements
Requirement : STe or Falcon only

 I'm not sure whether that game was released in 1994 as printed on the floppies
 or the year after that... Anyway there is no need to introduce this  game that
 was ported to the  STe by greatly skilled coders of Aggression, famous Finnish
 democrew. I remember playing  thru the whole game with a lot of fun, let's see
 if that's still true.

 I was happily surprised to notice that  the original  floppies still work !
 After some loading, the star wars scroller got displayed with a nice module
 playing at the same time. You quickly  reach the  main menu using  extended
 window with upper  and lower  borders removed. Also there  are more than 16
 colors displayed tho the flickering effect is kinda rough to the eye. Don't
 waste more time and get into the fight !

 Choose the first  level and  get ready to  blast asteroids off the screen. As
 before the window is extended, very nice gfx, a cool module  playing, sampled
 sfx and raytraced sprites both for your ship and all asteroids, not to forget
 bosses at the end of each world.

 It goes fast and  smooth, plays  good from  the very  start ! I remember a few
 slowdowns in the last levels featuring a lot of big sprites but these are very
 scarce. It's a bit hard to get into controls  again but with a little training
 you become a fierce  defender. The tunnel  sequences between  two worlds still
 look and play very fun too, tho we get back to the usual 320*200 window.

 The package looks kinda poor compared to other games reviewed with only a slim
 booklet, the 3 floppies and  nothing more. But if I'm not wrong, that game was
 distributed with little money as no publisher thought an  STe game could sell.
 Well I don't think the guys of Aggression actually grew rich with sales :(

Bottom line : still looks gorgeous and making full use of  STe specs as only a 
talented democrew  could do ! Extended  screen, up  to 320*240, sampled fx and 
several modules make it a  sky rocket even  though it only features 16c (truly 
don't think the ingame gfx use more). Gameplay  is almost  perfect as you only 
need to  use 'space' to reach  the  weaponary, what  kills  a bit  of the game 
tension. But I think I'm gonna play the game AGAIN and AGAIN because it really 
rocks ! Now I only wish someone could make it hd installable as swapping the 3 
floppies between some sequences is a bit boring for an old donkey like me :)

                                                            STS signing off

Alive 10