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Alive 5

     A Mekka Mega surprise from Ephydrena!

We  met a very nice chap at Mekka Symposium.  He was previously unknown to a
lot of us Atarians as well.  But with over a thousand people at Mekka,  many
of them complete dickheads,  the odds were sort of in our favour that one or
two cool people made it there as well.

He brought a rather relaxed presence to the party.  And something pleasantly
surprising  too.  In  an uncharacteristically barren desert for  Atari  demo
releases, he announced that the Amiga group Ephydrena had rallied around him
to produce an entirely new demo for the Falcon.

He  also  told  us that it was a new kind  of  production,  somewhat  unlike
anything that had gone before, "Noisier than the average Atari demo.." Those
were  the  words he used to describe it (or something like  that?  My  brain
functions weren't so great by then.  The Mekka Symposium weekend was turning
into one of those KGB or CIA sponsored survival of interrogation  techniques 

My brain didn't function that well when it came to the demo viewings either.
First impressions were indistinct, and largely of the basis that the showing
itself was poorly organised. I came home, vowed to wait for the finished and
optimised  version,   and  when  the  deadline  for  this  issue  of  Alive!
approached,  I finally downloaded the Mekka version,  confronting it for the
first time on the small screen...

This  demo Runs in 14 megabytes of RAM (or above) only,  it seems to  prefer
some  kind  of  accelerator,  a CT2 is ideal.  Also a 100 hz VGA  screen  is
required.  This  demo  rules out a lot of base hardware,  and interest  from
those remaining sceners determined to stick to the 4 Meg memory limit. There
is quite a hefty download too,  three megabytes odd, which depacks to over 5
megabytes.  This  from  an original Amiga animation format which  packed  to 
170kb originally!?

So what do we get?

The initial presentation is freaky,  a scarecrow-psycho face smears onto the
screen  and  off again.  This is the only use of colour in the demo,  as the
rest  of it adopts an extremely downbeat and moody black and white  persona,
or shades of browny-grey.  On reflection, Nerve should have made a demo with
lots  of  bright  colours that could easily be seen  on  the  big  projector

Some  stark  white  on black background title credits drip on  and  off  the
screen.  It  also seems that the 100 hz on my VGA monitor isn't quite there,
as we get a sort of wrap-around effect,  which I don't remember from the big
screen showing.

There is a rippling bubbling texture screen next, it is still dark.

Then  some anxious and shivering moire type patterns oscillate  uneasily  on
the small screen next.

Getting  to the mid-part of the two minutes and thirty seconds of the  demo,
with  a high speed black and white animation in a dark rave style  next,  my
screen double faults again.

Then there is more moire (get that!) with different patterns crowding one on
top of the other.

Then  there is a bitch of a screen to describe.  Nerve sets a task which  is
nearly  impossible  for conventional demo reviewers.  But I try  anyway!  It
consists of something like a shade bar 'v' and inverted 'v' appearing at the
bottom  and top of the screen respectively.  These appear and fade one after
the other.

Almost home now, and an Earx coded guest screen awaits. This comes back with
a gloomy sepia-shaded version of the scarecrow head that we saw at the start
of the demo.  it seems to be smouldering,  as if on a bonfire?  Earx adds in
some  semi  transparent  smoke  to  boost  the  effect.  This  is  the  most
conventional  screen on the whole demo.  Hope we see something of Earx's own
demo sometime?

Smoke gets in Earx's Eyes!

The  end screen returns to the sparse black setting,  as a little fuji Atari
logo flaps its 'wings', then flys away.

A GEM dialogue box at the end of the demo tells you the frames per second it
averaged, something between 15 and 48 frames per second on my CT2.

The  music fits the show very well.  Everything in the 'conveying a sense of 
anxiety  and foreboding part of the soundtracker music disk' has been  used,
along  with  some  harsh,  almost chiplike white-noise percussion.  The  end
result is pretty cool, cutting off suddenly at the end.

Works  very  well as a 'mood' rather than as a conventional demo.  Does  not
work  at  all well on big screen.  To get the best from it, look at it closely
on the small screen as an intimate and close-up experience.

It felt rough-cut and not totally finished.  The demo ran satisfactorily on my
hardware,  but others  may  have had problems?  Lived up well to its 'unusual'
pre-billing, and I would dearly like to see the final version, maybe optimised
for the CT60?


Overall  - 70% - Interestingly different,  too hard to mark  conventionally,
and screaming out for tidying up, optimisation, maybe some more effects?

CiH for Alive! Mag - June '02

Alive 5