FROM OVER THE BIG WATER
By Marshal M.RosenthalMULTIFACE TOOLKIT
Welcome to England. I'm here to look into the ST scene, and the good news is that business is thriving. You can find ST software all over the place here, unlike New York, where it's scarcer than hens' teeth. My favorite place to buy software is Boots, a combination department/drug store that is like K-Mart and Wool-worth's rolled into one. There just happens to be an Atari show going on in London, and we'll be looking into a few of the upcoming programs. Before we start, here are some tricks passed on to me for U.S. Gold's Roadblaster. If you type "LAVILLASTRANGIATO" while the car is on the starting line, pressing "F" refills the fuel tank, pressing "S" advances it to the next stage and pressing 1-4 adds special weapons. Now, on to those previews.
Altered Beast (Activision U.K.) will be growling its way to the ST in a bit. This arcade translation requires you to walk softly and carry a big fist—a fist that becomes massive as you change from a wimp into a Supertough Beast. Meanwhile, there are all sorts of ugly things trying to take you out while the landscape scrolls merrily from left to right. The fun part of whomping these jokers is watching the "glow" from the sheer power of your blow when you punch or kick them, and seeing them fall apart or disintegrate.
Horror Soft's Personal Nightmare may prove challenging, or perhaps a bit silly. I mean, you find Elvira on the advertising! Nothing to see yet, but it's being billed as a new kind of icon-driven game that purports to have incredible sound effects and superb, fully animated graphics, all brought together by a highly sophisticated user interface. (Who writes this stuff?) In all seriousness, though, Personal Nightmare could prove interesting, so keep it in mind. More on this when there's more to tell.
Xenon was a well-liked game, so how can Xenon II: Megablast fail? Again we find the Xenites out to destroy Earth (why does every Tom, Dick and Thingo want our planet?) by shooting off Timebombs into our past. Your mission is to go into each level of the past—which means evolutionary levels up into the space age—and defuse those bombs. Of course, there are all kinds of obstacles, like reptiles, insects and the like. Huge sprites and three-layer parallax scrolling could make this one a big hit.
Domark is best known for James Bond games, so it's a nice change of pace to see Vindicator (developed along with lengen games). Based on the Atari game co-op. you are required to drive a Super Tank through the merciless Starbase controlled by the evil Tangent Empire and blow the place up.
There are a few difficulties, like other tanks out to smash you to bits and rotating turrets tossing flak. Keeping on the move and taking offensive action (i.e. blasting everything that moves or doesn't move) is the best policy here as you scroll about. So make speed a priority for your tank. There will be opportunities along the way to run over Fuel and Keys (obvious what they're for), plus Stars. The Stars let you purchase added firepower and other extras in the "Shop" between Starbases.
Digitized graphics and excellent sound effects enhance what is basically a well-worn theme. Joystick control is a bit strange to get used to at first, but then becomes very intuitive.
Unfortunately, sampled music at the start can't make up for the incredibly poor quality of the sound effects. The visuals are a great treat though, with big explosions to accompany your blasts and lots of animation accompanying lank and turret movement.
Should being inside a metal shell seem cowardly, feel free to lake on the entire eight worlds laid barren by the evil BIOS. Forgotten Worlds (U.S. Gold) requires that you, and a companion if desired, wipe out all of the "caretakers" that BIOS has left on each planet so that the people of the galaxy can get on with business as usual. It sounds like a good deal to you, since who would expect much smarts out of a character that looks like a punker who kissed a high-tension wire? Anyway, this means flying in all directions, shooting in all directions and generally having a great time going after everything that moves. Each world ends with a big baddie to whack. Hopefully, by then you'll have acquired something more powerful than a piddling laser gun.
Which brings us to the reward given for wiping out evil: Money, which can be used to buy that bigger gun or extra life. Of course, it just hangs their waiting to be taken while a zillion meanies are trying to demonstrate what you'd look like from the inside of a working microwave oven.
Digitized graphics and excellent sound effects enhance what is basically a well-worn theme. Joystick control is a bit strange to get used to at first, but then becomes very intuitive. There really isn't much time to think here.
Some products never make it to our shores, but Romantic Robot's Multiface ST may be taken off the shelves entirely. This device is a personal copier that "freezes" games/programs, then allows them to be saved to disk. There are many advantages to this, in addition to some obvious problems. European software houses take piracy seriously, as there's so much of it, and there's pressure to remove from circulation products that encourage piracy. Still, Multiface has some good points, so a closer look is in order.
First, the hardware consists of a cartridge that plugs into the ST, unlike a U.S. device called Switchback, which works through the printer port (you also run a cable between the RGB port to the monitor). Having all its needs in ROM means that there's no need to load any software. Pressing a button on the cartridge stops a program flat and then brings up a menu-driven command screen (even includes on-screen instructions) that saves the data out to disk. This could be a great way to save graphic screens for use in paint programs (of course, Romantic has a disclaimer stating that not all programs will work). This data can also be altered with the Toolkit program, included. Clever modifications with the Toolkit can make games easier to play since, after it has been "tweaked," the data can be loaded back into the ST, and the program continued from where it was saved. Compressing techniques work with a format that adds more space to a disk as well. To prevent improper use. Multiface requires that the cartridge be attached when running a saved program.
An added goody is an optional Disk Organizer program, which uses RAM for copying, meaning fewer disk swaps for single-drive users. Mass copying and deletions may be executed, plus disks can be compacted for faster loading.
The maual is quite readable (though a bit cheesy in assembly) and goes into extra functions, such as when to use the ST reset button if the "Magic" button fails, and how pressing Fl can also re-enable a malfunctioning joystick.
We'll continue with previews next month. Until then, 1) look both ways before crossing the street, and 2) remember (which I didn't) that English drivers drive on the left side of the road.
Activision U.K. Ltd.
Manor Farm Road
England RG2 OJN
Unit 2&3 Holford Way
England B6 7AX
54 Deanscroft Avenue
London, England NW9 8EN
Unit 3, Addison Industrial Estate
Blaydon, Tyne & Wear
England NE21 4TE
Ferry House, Lacy Road
London, England SW15 1PR
XENON II: MEGABLAST
The Bitmap Brothers
Marshal M. Rosenthal has been a photographer and writer in the overseas market since the early days of the Atari 2600. His photographic/written features and pictorials can be found in major computer- and entertainment-related publications throughout England, France, Germany, Sweden, Mexico and the U.S.