By mento 0 Comments
Hello there, all you ST fans and SEO victims looking for online blackjack. This turned out to be an inauspicious week, to put it mildly. French developers tend to pop up almost as frequently as UK companies do for this feature, and at least one of today's game is of French origin, so I felt it prudent to say something regarding the presently-ongoing kerfuffle over in Paris. Stay strong, and stay safe, mon amis. I realize a goofy little blog about a decades-dead computer system that was briefly big in Europe is hardly the place for contemporary news (especially the contemporary part), but I've been informed that the best thing to do is acknowledge it, condemn it and continue on as we always have.
On a lighter note, I've gotten pretty far into Toby Fox's Undertale. I won't hope to match the eloquence of Austin Walker's review, so rather than a proper review I'll be writing a sort of two-part article on it a little later: the first half will be the usual screenshot-focused Comic Commish that doesn't leave the tutorial area so I can designate it as a "non-spoiler"(ish) space to discuss the game's mechanics and themes in general, and then I intend to expound on the whole game further in a "post-script" text-heavy second half once I've beaten it and have the full picture to work from. It's a game that inspires a lot of introspective discussion on the conventions of the JRPG genre and the necessity of conflict in video games, to put it in essay terms. I'm hoping the final article won't be too essay-like, though. I hate essays. All those words.
Demo Derby Gamma: Blackjack Edition
Since we've reached episode twenty-one of ST-urday, I'm loosely basing this Demo Derby's coverdisk selection method around the number 21. I once again called upon mainstays ST Action and ST Format: ST Action #21 debuted in January of 1990, while ST Format #21 was published in April of 1991. Two games each, seven screenshots apiece. (Yes, I realize that totals 28 rather than 21, but what's a session of Blackjack without going hopelessly bust a few times?)
For the sake of variety, I also looked into a few other ST coverdisk magazines: the only other English-language ones I could find with coverdisks for their 21st issue included Zero, a precursor to the ribald, joke-y PC Zone (which would give a young Charlie Brooker his start). Zero was apparently pulled from shelves for a time after putting a risque strip poker game on one of its coverdisks. Alas, that was not the 21st coverdisk (and I really don't need a repeat of the Lady Sword incident regardless); instead, the 21st had a demo of Mindscape's Knightmare, which we already covered on the final day of the Estival ST Festival, and Robotz, which appeared on Demo Derby Beta. I also investigated ST Review, which is even more focused on technical/production programs for ST than ST Format. Their 21st coverdisk was entirely application-based, and it's hard to get any of that to work properly in an emulator.
Gremlin Graphics appears once again on this feature, like a tiny hairy man on the wing of an airplane to whom you cannot stop paying attention. 1991's Switchblade II, the sequel to Switchblade (doy), was yet another by-product of Europe's affinity for the 1989 Capcom hit Strider, which was adapted for the European home computer market shortly after its initial Arcade release.
Switchblade II has its bionic hero, Hiro, fight across side-scrolling 2D stages set in some dark, apocalyptic future filled with mechanical animals and a whole bunch of metal crates. (Don't even get me started on how short its start-to-crate score is...) It's not a bad game from what I can tell playing this short demo, but like the ill-fated Strider II/Strider Returns from UK devs Tiertex, it's a far cry from the Capcom classic that inspired it.
But hey, did Strider Hiryu ever have a robotic cannon arm? I didn't think so. Take that, Capcom! Maybe you should've thought of giving one of your classic characters a robot gun arm to... oh.
The late 80s/early 90s saw a wave of caveman platformers for reasons that - like the time period setting itself - are largely lost to history. Core Design's Chuck Rock, Hudson's Bonk and Data East's Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja to name but a few. Oddly, they seemed to die off just before Jurassic Park came along, so either that's some crummy timing for all the barely evolved loinskin heroes out there, or it meant that the game done changed by the idea that we can combine dinosaurs - the real reason anyone would want to set their game in prehistory, despite the inherent anachronism of pitting cavepeople against them - with people holding guns and/or Jeff Goldblum without worrying about including ugly, hairy, half-naked neanderthals for thematic consistency.
Prehistorik was French developers Titus Interactive's contribution to this neolithic overcrowding, and despite its characteristically cartoonish Gallic presentation it's a far more realistic take on early mankind's fight to stay alive in a less than civil time. The bearded caveman hero of Prehistorik is looking for food across its various regions, hunting the wildlife and scavenging for meat, fruit, milk and martinis. Only the bare necessities for survival. It's not quite the same as Adventure Island, where the constant intake of food kept the possibly-diabetic Master Higgins alive, but rather the player explores a level for as much food as they can find and bugs out of there before a time limit expires. The more food they find, the bigger the score bonus, though it won't mean a thing if they can't survive the dangers and escape in time.
I'd imagine more people are familiar with the later games in this series, where it eventually broadened from being exclusive to European computers to globally-released Game Boy and Super Nintendo games. To this day, it's probably Titus' most recognizable franchise. Either that or that Xbox RoboCop game that almost drove Alex Navarro insane.
Ah, the American South, as seen through a European filter colored by far too many Smokey and the Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard reruns. Where every Sheriff is overweight and kind of a jerk, and every good old boy is busy trying to move possibly fatal contraband liquor without the Sheriff's knowhow. Divorced from this element, Moonshine Racers is a fairly generic racing game in the style of OutRun or Rad Racer with their low "behind the car" perspectives that allows the player to see the upcoming course as they rush to meet it. It takes a page from Chase HQ's book, only switching the player's role from law enforcement to criminal and forcing them to not only beat the timer but keep ahead of the authorities. Well, authority. It's just Fat Sam the Sheriff, really.
Moonshine Racers is the product of Millennium Interactive, who we've encountered twice now in ST-urday: Kid Gloves and Yolanda: The Ultimate Challenge, from Demo Derby Beta. I apologize profusely to those of you living in the southern United States.
I did want to get around to Gods eventually, and doing this short demo version is perfect because I don't particularly care for the game, despite it being yet another incredible-looking The Bitmap Brothers joint. After Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine, both of which are presently available on Steam, Gods might have the highest profile of the remaining games in their library, having been released on both the Genesis and the Super Nintendo: a fairly unusual occurrence for a UK-developed game.
With Gods, The Bitmap Brothers brought out the usual assortment of non-video game talent to help out with the presentation: Simon Bisley, a talented comic artist and the inspiration for Simon Pegg's character from Spaced, designed the game's box art while John Foxx, originally of Ultravox and credited as Nation XII here, composed the catchy - but fairly incongruous to Ancient Greek gods - synth music: Check out this trippy theme music.
The demo doesn't have music, but it does show off some of the game's unusual features. The most touted of which at the time was how the game will configure its own difficulty to match the player's skill, spawning fewer enemies when they're taking too much damage and the inverse when the player's doing too well. It's a take on a universal, adaptable difficulty level that I've never really seen performed satisfactorily, even when it was tackled by the more modern Max Payne 2. There's something frustrating about being lulled into a false sense of superiority and having it ripped from you by an unnaturally difficult ambush, not to mention that feeling of being condescended to when the game "goes easy on you" because you're sucking so bad. Gods can be a bit on the obtuse side too, as so many Amiga/ST games seem to be, and the movement of your burly hero is sluggish as heck. Like I said, not really a fan.
That about wraps up another Demo Derby edition of ST-urday. I wonder if I shouldn't do a little more legwork next time and find some particularly noteworthy coverdisk exclusives to highlight, rather than follow the site's blueprint of a Demo Derby and fully exhaust a single disk's content before moving on. I'll think of something.
Until then. we'll have another six weeks of one-offs to look forward to. See you then.