by Baldrick/Anthill Software
Gem Panic is the consolation prize for the aborted 'Gem-Candy' competition.
The other motivation for this game seems to be to make a belated sequel or
revenge to an earlier Breakout style game for Gem called 'AstroPanic'.
Gem Panic is a sincere attempt to produce a fast shootemup on a Gem desktop
for fairly high-end Atari TOS platforms. The basic game is simple in the
extreme, shoot and keep shooting, remembering to dodge stuff coming down
towards you at the bottom of the screen.
We are talking a very simplified Galaxians type game, with two distinct
types of enemy. First, there are the common drone or saucer ships. These
have nothing more to worry about than their peerless artificial stupidity
routines. With these in place, they can randomly crash into you if you don't
get them first! Of more significance in the mortality stakes, are the
Bombers. These float around the screen in a somewhat butterflying fashion,
sprinkling their deadly cargo from time to time in a random and American
Your aim is to survive, and progress through the levels, accumulating as
high a score as possible. There are one or two tweaks to that, as Baldrick
has had a cunning plan to implement an accuracy bonus. If you manage to hit
your targets reasonably often, this has a favourable effect on the score.
But if you miss too much, say less than 25% accuracy, then you may find your
score being subtracted from by 10%!
The presentation, as per Anthill standard practice, is pretty good for a Gem
game. It can run in any resolution, even down to ST-mono, but it really
prefers a screen mode of 256 colours or more. The sprites are at a nice size
and detail level for an ST non-gem game, and the background clearly shows
that is has more colours than the bog-standard screen modes. The whole thing
is described as a 256 colour game, and I can't quibble with that.
Now screw your eyes up, and try double the screen resolution!
At least a 68030 is recommended, and more would be nice. Some people managed
okay with a Nemesis/Phantom class booster. I got differing results on my
two accelerated Falcons. The CT2, with a 25mhz bus, actually ran noticeably
quicker than my CT60 with a 20mhz bus. I'm not sure what the target market
is for this game, but even these two machines were starting to chug once I
got to the higher, more activity-dense levels!
The game engine supports lots of objects on screen, in fact, lots and lots
of objects on screen! It is almost too much for my current CT60 set-up,
hampered by not having SuperVidel yet, as the player sprite flickers and
starts to disappear off the screen. This slowdown does aid your survival as
you can plan your attack and evasion in these conditions more deliberately.
The game logic tends to throw your enemies from the left hand side of the
screen in pretty much the same old fashion each time, which makes life
easier too. It is not too hard to rack up a very high score, and a huge
number of spare ships.
But then I've yet to put any high score on the high score table, as at
anywhere from level 22 to 24, the game seems to stop dead where it is. The
last enemy has been cleared, but you are all alone and stay alone as the
next level never comes... I'm not sure if this is a genuine bug, or a loose
end still to be tied up? There may be a way around it, which is to let
yourself be killed near to the end of these later levels, this seems to
permit the next level to appear...
Having said all of that, there is enough inherent pace and fury to make this
an enjoyable blast. For a totally wild experience, if you have an
accelerated machine, you could try it in ST-mono, and you might be able to
spot the insanely quick blur that kills you, or possibly not?
It is configurable for playability/speed levels on faster machines, and you
do get a choice for the sound system, ranging from pure YM beepiness,
through to a range of sampled effects on either Xbios or GEMimg sub-systems.
With a little bit more work and rough-edge removal, Gem-Panic will be a
battle-hardened contender in the kill-em-up stakes..
Graphics:- 75% - Good looking for Gem, up to 256 colours onscreen.
Sound:- 65% - Functional and to the point.
Playability:- 70% - Generally good, but there's a nasty slowdown later.
Overall:- 75% - With all its little flaws, it still hits the spot.
CiH, for Alive! Mag,Jan '05..