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
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
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
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
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
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