Summer of Fun
There is no way to stop the Pacman Influenza. This summer I
managed to proof this. I stayed at my parent's home for about 3
weeks this summer. The weather wasn't that perfect at the
beginning so I decided to spend some time with my trusty
1040STFM. Honestly I planned to code a bit but I couldn't resist
playing a few games. Actually except for some minor 50/60HZ
tools I didn't code anything during that period.
This article is intended to bring a few short reviews of classic
ST games. Quite similar to an article ST Survivor did write for
a past issue of Alive, this one intends to focus on the point if
a game that is 15 years old can still make as much fun in 2005
as it did in 1990.
No doubt compared to the modern PC and current game consoles
like the XBOX or the upcoming PS3, the plain STF is a limited
machine. But a game should give fun, enjoyment and entertainment
regardless of its technical standard.
I played a lot more ST games than the few mentioned here but
those are the ones that I played most this summer and them all
offer unique points of joy and fun. As a side note, since the
gaming sessions with my old friends back in 1990/91 I prefer to
use the good old Competition Pro joystick, a silver/green one in
Wings of Death
Is there much to say about this classic ST game? I acquired an
original copy via eBay a few months ago and I simply played this
a lot. The graphics are smooth and well drawn, the soundtrack by
Mad Max is furious and the game itself turned out to be well
balanced. For some years I didn't like the difficulty of WOD but
after playing it extensively I discovered that it is a well made
game and driving the ST to its peek. Only few other games on the
ST use the machine at this level while providing an equal level
I must admit I never did beat Level 7 but it is possible with
some care to get as far as Level 5 with no problems with Level 6
becoming rather bitchy. A personal choice of weapons per level
is surely needed. I prefer the power beam even if the player
moves less speedy with this. It saves the hassle of pushing the
fire buttons too often. Just press and blast away.
Definitely a runner in 2005; such straight shoot'em up games are
always great if well presented. And WOD surely conforms to be
well presented. If you haven't played WOD yet, you should
definitely do so!
Rick Dangerous (both parts)
Yep, I love those. Technically not in the top ten of ST games,
these win with their great playability. Although not easy to
play along, these jump and run games are nice. You always have a
chance for Rick to make it and when you fail you always know it
was your fault and not the one of the computer. This makes me
come back once in a while to Rick Dangerous.
This game concept still sells well on all platforms. Actually
Rick Dangerous is exactly Tomb Raider, just without 3D graphics.
The developer company of both series is the same, Core Design.
The game play is 99% the same, run, climb and jump around, shoot
the baddies and keep an eye on your ammunition supply. Nothing
new about Lara Croft, Rick Dangerous was first! Go, Rick, go!
Fire & Ice
Another jump and run title and one that convinces the player not
on the technical side either. The scrolling is a bit jerky
sometimes and the music really becomes annoying after a while.
But this game offers a lot of interesting features which in
return bring me back to it. The main character is called Cool
Coyote and its sprite is well drawn. It just looks nice. The
baddies are interesting as well, ever wanted to shoot penguins
or moles? Also some extras are offered as well as the usual jump
and run stuff like the clock, secret stones and areas as well as
the well-known coins to collect for an extra life.
The copy protection is annoying though. You have to match parts
of a key on screen to fit one in the protection table. This
table is very hard to read being red on red. This jump and run
is a matter of taste, personally I like it and I had quite some
fun with this game in the summer.
Frontier: Elite II
Now comes the big one. I have been an Elite fan since 1989 when
my brother brought the first part home. For a long time I didn't
like the sequel, mainly because the playability on the ST is
mediocre, at least when it comes to combat and manoeuvring. This
time I decided to give it another go. I can only say, take your
time and read the manual. The navigation is not a simple thing.
The scenery is the same, this time you start in our own galactic
neighbourhood. The star systems in the so called Core Systems do
exist in reality. Sol is our own sun so if you want to visit
Earth or Mars just fly to the Sol system. Ever wanted to visit
Tau Ceti? In Frontier you can do so with ease. In comparison to
the old Elite, you have a lot more to discover. All systems are
different and have various numbers of stars, planets and
asteroids. This time you can buy different ships and the
equipment handling is a lot more realistic. You cannot simply
buy all gadgets and hope to have cargo space free like you had
in the old Elite. This time all equipment like lasers, ECM or
your hyper drive costs cargo space so for each type of ship you
have to find a balance between armament and cargo space.
Compared to Elite the old Docking Computer is a lot cheaper
here. Called Autopilot it is practically a must have allowing
you to have less problems with navigation. Docking at stations
is still possible with manual control but reaching your
destination planet without autopilot makes it a hassle. The
simulation of the space flight itself is rather realistic by
relying heavily on trust vectors. You can turn your nose
anywhere but it does not mean that your ship will be flying into
that direction. A very interesting experience and it takes some
time to get accustomed to. Actually playing with this system for
a longer period will make you think that the old Elite one is
Other cool things in Frontier are the cargo and contract
bulletins where you can accept missions and offer transportation
services for money. Trade is a bit boring though, more than half
of all goods are worthless to trade with as you can't make money
with them. Computers, robots and the food stuffs are OK though
and you can fully earn your first real ship with trading. Just
take care to find a suitable trade route first. All systems have
special needs and offerings. It does not pay to trade with
robots between manufacturing systems.
You cannot buy all goods anywhere. In a mining colony food stuff
and animals will be very rare and you can assume to be paid well
for them there while on a terra-formed garden world you will
find those to be cheap and readily available.
The choice of different ships (and I mean at least 20 different
types of ships to be bought) is wonderful. From fast and sleek
fighters to a 300t freighter anything is possible. The
Constrictor is currently my favourite, a well balance between
range (14 light years) and possible equipment as well as cargo
space. It's a bit bitchy to dock manually though but just use
the Autopilot and set the time acceleration to maximum.
All those aspects of simulation have their price. Except for
menus and trade all is presented in 3D polygonal graphics. The
humble ST is working very hard on those and the frame rate is
hardly more than 10fps, even less with planets, stations and
ships on screen. Music and sound is a bit dull but doing their
I love this game for its depth, the endless possibilities, the
real universe and the whole lot of available ships to use. This
game also runs on Falcon (for better frame rate) but with VGA
60Hz the music replay is faster. It seems the Timer C method was
unknown to the developers, or left out for other reasons. All in
all a marvellous game, even if there is a technical downside
(low frame rate).
Last but not least the following games had also a good chance to
make it here. Just to mention Lethal Xcess, Sidewinder, Flying
Shark, The Addams Family, The Great Giana Sisters and Nebulus.
Even with its limited hardware, the ST still is a valuable
entertainment platform. Beside hundreds of really crap games
(just browse through the Automation collection - urgggh) the ST
offered more than a handful of really great titles. They still
offer an interesting experience in 2005 and it is possible to
get lost with ST games in the same way as it was in 1990.
So a final question to my readers: Have you played Atari today?
Simon Sunnyboy / Paradize for Alive, 2005-09-25