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Alive 11
A Summer of Fun
(Classic Games reviewed)
       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
        my case.

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
        of enjoyment.

        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
        totally crap.

        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
Alive 11