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Alive 5

    CiH sharpens his mouth, takes aim....

It's been a while since I reviewed one of these.  In fact,  there is still a
little  bit  of  residual hesitation on taking on the latest  issue  of  the
Undercover  magascene.  Not  so distant memories of  denunciations,  finger-
pointing, and a poisonous atmosphere tinged many previous dealings with UCM.
Will it be different now? (Reviewer steps forward nervously..)

UCM  was  originally killed off when it got to issue  20.  Something  called
'Alive!'  was  due to take its place.  But it turned out that you could  not
keep  Moondog  down for long,  as he returned to writing,  firstly under the
stillborn  'Instabil'  label,  and in 2001,  with a revival of the  original
Undercover concept.  Issue 21 came out at the second Error in Line,  and was
well  received,  although it generated a little bit of controversy over  how
the non-Moondog editions were put together.

We  are now looking at the brand new issue 22 of UCM,  which is only a  year
after the EIL 2 revival issue. Why has it taken this long?

Well  one  reason is apparent when you scan down the menu to see  who  wrote
what.  This issue isn't exclusively Moondog written to quite the same extent
as issue 21, but he generated the majority of text in this issue, as well as
having prime responsibility for putting it all together. There has been more
help  this time though,  as willing contributors such as Peylow and the  Mad
Butscher  have stuck their fingers to the keyboard to assist in  the  sticky
art  of text creation.  We also see some help from other tSCc people such as
Ray and M.C Laser in small but significant ways.

There is no intro this time,  but we are not too worried.  An intro is nice,
but only the icing on the cake. You would consider UCM as a hardcore diskmag
for  keen text fans who like their reading solid and absorbing,  with as few
distractions getting in the way as possible.  There is a little bit of extra
coding  in  the goodies folder,  as a nice little bumpmap screen,  the  last
visible coding lifesign from sometime God-Botherers Spirits,  is disinterred
for posterity to enjoy.

Back  to the magazine,  and the first thing we see is a neat intro piccy  of
some  fat and happy hippy by Kritikill/Flash.  Any resemblance to  currently
active  scene  members  is  coincidental,  I'm sure!   The main  menu  is  a
pleasantly  slick affair,  a conscious effort to go as far as possible  with
the  UCM  shell in its current form.  The menu graphics consisting  of  some
smartly shaded  top and bottom bars and menu dividers, also by Flash of TNB.
There  seems to be a little bit of a Bladerunner influence,  combined with a
little  bit  of  'Alien'  in the design.  Quite moody  and  emphasising  the
hardcore nature of the magazine you are about to start reading.

Musically, the one mod and three chippies format is unchanged, with tunes by
DMA SC (Modfile), and chippies by Tao and 505.

According to the issue statistics,  there are around 99 articles,  with over
700k of uncompressed text. This is quite an impressive read, but then it has
had a years preparation.  Sounds like a lot of the later Maggie issues then!
The  'classic'  UCM,  in the late nineties was always interesting  to  read,
often controversial of course, but never dull. Would it prove to be the case
this time?

The first article to check out for most people, the editorial, does not give
too  much away,  as it is mainly a resume of Moondog's crowded schedule  and
missed release dates over the last year. We get our first taste of UCM as it
was,  and  Moondog's  endearingly  'hands-on' approach in  the  letters  and
feedback column. The reader bears mute witness to some disagreements over an
enthusiastically harsh UCM 21 review of 'ST Offline',  the Chris Swinson and
Lee  Round  produced  'grab-zine'.  A fan of ST-Offline cannot  contain  his
disgust,  and  Moondog answers back in kind!  Both the main editors are also
motivated to write in, ironically producing more text in their defence, than
they bothered to write for ST Offline!

Some news comes next,  top billing is given to forthcoming tSCc productions,
namely  future  issues  of Fading Twilight and Ray's  creation  of  the  STe
version  of  Castle  Wolfenstein.  There is also a more general  Scene  News
column,  which  I always personally enjoyed reading from the old style  UCM.
Here,  there  is  happily  not a lot of change from  that  well  established
format. This column digs into some obscure corners, even where there is only
a little news.  This is a good effort,  but we sense there is nothing really
big  just  over  the  horizon (sigh!) But that is not  the  fault  of  UCM's
attempts  to deliver the news,  rather it is a problem for the general scene
as a whole.

UCM  22  does  manage  one scoop,  by courtesy of fortunate  timing  of  its
release.  They are first with the news from the Mekka Symposium 2002. We get
a  brief report from MC Laser which tallies with my sleep-deprived  memories
of that sad fiasco. Just wait until we give you the detailed lowdown in this
issue of Alive! There is quite a bit of information on the current movements
of  the German scene,  the health or otherwise of which is one of  Moondog's
pet preoccupations.

There are some brilliant interviews. This was another highlight of old style
or classic UCM.  Again,  the news from Rome is good, there is no significant
change  here.  We  get  a  very  revealing interview  with  Illegal  of  the 
Replicants,  a  potted insider history of that famous froggie cracking crew.
We also hear from new boy Spex of contemporary scene legends Escape.  And we
then  hear  from Misunderstanding and Coincidence  of  another  famous  and
controversial crew, Imagina.

We  catch  a  variety  of show reports written from  from  a  bilingual  Mad
Butscher  viewpoint.  So we see EIL 2 from an 8-bitters perspective for  the
first  time,  and  he  takes in a couple of Czech parties.  There  are  some
nostalgic  thoughts  from Moondog,  on fifteen years of Atari demos,  and  a
"whatever happened to?" article about the 1994-tastic group 'New Trend'.

To  round up the Atari Scene section of the issue,  the entire UCM  realtime
text  from EIL 2 is reproduced,  strange utterings from Felice about what he 
was  going to do in Amsterdam and all.  Oh how we all recoiled in the shared
memory of our days at Dresden!

Next up, we get some coding for fun by Peylow of T.O.Y.S, who starts to show
you  how  to make your own 'Wait' demo.  This is followed by  some  Tat-like
efforts  at a coding tutorial from Ray,  who likes to slip in the odd bit of
hard maths in his text.

There  is  a  selection of demo releases from the  Mekka  party,  also  last
September's  Unconventional  Party,  and various points  inbetween.  Moondog
seems  to be less enthusiastic for the slideshow styled releases He  managed
to  give  one  Satantronic effort zero % in some areas!  He's  clearly  been
spoilt  by  what was shown to be possible at EIL 2,  but so were we all.  He
manages  to be honest without overdoing the brutality,  and kept the axe  in
the cupboard.

When it comes to reviewing diskmags,  we tense and suck in breath,  awaiting
the worst! But we read his review of Alive 4, and relax. Moony has been very
generous  in  his assessment and his criticisms are  constructive  ones.  He
seems  to like what he read!  He is also very fair-minded about Chosneck  as
well.  Moondog  demonstrates  that he  can be a very able reviewer,  when he 
self-disciplines  himself not to let personal opinions get in the way  of  a 
professional job.

This  fairmindedness,  and ability to overcome past disagreements  continues
into  his  game reviews,  it seems he has made his peace with the  Reservoir
Gods.  He  rates  Chuchu  Rocket highly.  There is also a review of  Painium
Disaster,  and  we  get to hear about such rarities as a preview of the  not
generally available Lynx version of Aliens vs Predator.  Just a pity there's
no screen grab ;-)

More  miscellaneous areas are covered,  such as a a track-by track guide  to
Depeche  Mode's album "Exciter".  This leaves Moondog lukewarm,  and what is
this  at the bottom of the selection menu?  It looks like a crateload of old
stuff, or rather the Error in Line reviews, which were intended for a UCM 22
with  a much earlier release date.  We also get a first impression of 'Ace',
the  softsynth from New Beat courtesy of Remo,  who is enamoured,  up to the
point where he has to pay for it.

Moondog  gets  very very keen on the 'Hmmm demo',  managing to give  that  a
score of 88% overall, with 100% on the music! It is nice to see that Moondog 
expresses  his  liking for something,  as strongly as he has  expressed  his 
dislike in the past. All the other releases are covered in a way which gives
a  slight  edge  to  the  more  hardcore  non-expanded  old  school   Falcon
productions, which is fair enough.

This  review  sample skims through the available articles,  There are  other
worthy  texts,  such  as some PS2 game reviews from Peylow,  more multimedia
stuff,  and  a reinvention of the Lamer Test or the Hidden Article  Question
Quest, that uses the shell supported linking system within articles to other
articles to good effect.

Generally,  UCM  22  is  a  good long read,  with lots of  information  from
Moondog,  reflecting  his particular interests and priorities,  but he's the
editor,  and a certain amount of ego tripping, and showing off in speciality
areas is allowed after all.

I liked the general tone and tenor of this issue of UCM a lot more than  the
earlier  ones.  UCM  has  successfully moved away from its  Maggie  war  era 
defensive  and  strident  tone,  Moondog manages to exercise  fair  critical
judgement, without going over the top in a shrill and angry fashion. We hope
to see more UCM issues in this vein.

I don't know what Seb is going to think of UCM 22 in his part of this double
header review, but I liked it!

Smart use of basic UCM shell, seems to tease extra features out of it? 
Smart design and decor of the issue. 
Lots of articles to read. 
Many of these articles pretty in-depth and interesting. 
Good, going on for brilliant interviews. 
Criticism kept objective and in proportion. (Well done Eric!) 
Review weighting and percentage scoring felt accurate. 
Generally an enlivening and positive read.

Too long to wait between issues. (Tell me about it!) 
Still not quite enough diversity of contributors, UCM 22 is overwhelmingly a 
Moondog production. 
Old music button freezing bug still plagues us all! (And on Alive! too.)  
Not a lot of humour,  but this is purely a difference  in 
style. Errm, shit out of ideas here!

CiH, For Alive! Mag,June '02

Alive 5