The Single Button Joystick

Tag: Finland

Amiga Best Of… Stardust, Ziggy Asteroids.

by on Feb.19, 2013, under Amiga, Modern, Playstation 3, Retro

Stardust Box ArtControlling a spacecraft is the premise of a huge number of video games. It’s natural that something beyond almost all of our capabilities would be a popular genre. Just like walking to the shops and buying milk isn’t a popular genre, unless you’re a girl. Vast sexism aside, spaceshipping across the video game universe is generally regarded to have begun with Asteroids. Space War WAS around in the ’60s, but that wasn’t available to many people. Atari’s Asteroids had you control a spaceship in a wrap-around map. Blowing up the asteroids that fly through each level is the only way to survive and progress. Moving your ship is done by adding thrust and facing a direction (somewhat like tank controls). I almost never moved when I played it as a youngster as I’d panic and lose control of the ship.

From roughly ’89 to ’94 I hardly touched the Atari and Asteroids remained unplayed. Fair enough really, I had an Amiga to play! I had a good go at Blasteroids, which was something of a sequel to Asteroids. I enjoyed that quite a lot, but I never found myself completely drawn into it. Maybe it was too hard, who knows?

Amiga Power 28 Cover DiskMy interest in the Asteroids genre was rekindled with my first sighting of Stardust.  The Amiga Power cover disk that gave me my first taste of the game was fantastic, if a little misleading. It’d be nearly TWO years before I’d play the full game, given the release schedule. The bulk of the game involves flying a spaceship around dozens of wrap-around screens, shooting asteroids. Occasionally you’d have to shoot down a flying saucer and collect power ups. Your craft can be powered by different weapons and have its engine power increased. The ‘world’ map was divided into galaxies, each one having six levels. You were able to choose the order that you visited these levels, but it was always best to follow the correct order since you start the game quite weak. Each galaxy had an ‘end boss‘ fight at its conclusion, which featured a variety of huge and intimidating spaceships.

The tunnel sequences were difficult to screen capture back in 1993.

The tunnel sequences were difficult to screen capture back in 1993.

The game’s standout feature was its warp tunnel sequences. The view changed to behind your ship and you had to avoid incoming asteroids, mines and giant blades. The Amiga Power cover disk featured the first of these tunnels, hence giving a slightly misleading view of the game. When I bought the full game, I was initially disappointed that it didn’t have more of these sequences (they probably make up 5-10% of the game at the most) but I’ve since realised they’d be boring if used any more than that. Mixed in with these tunnel sections were underwater ‘multi dimensional shooter’ levels, much like the game Thrust and Sub-Terrainia. These levels posed more of a challenge to navigate, with only the walls and your own carelessness to fight against.

Stardust features a blistering dance/trance soundtrack, which every second Amiga game seemed to have. No complaints here, since it is fantastic (I’m listening to it as I write this).

I have the T-Shirt of thisStardust was a great version of Asteroids, with its detailed and colourful visuals, combined with some excellent variations in the bonus levels. Bloodhouse (now Housemarque), were the Finnish developer behind Stardust, which have successively remade the game four times. These remakes include the Amiga 1200 enhanced version in ’94 right through to Super Stardust Delta for the PlayStation Vita in 2012. Happily, these versions have been well received. It is comforting to know that a small developer from a small country can continue to do what it did 20 years ago, and still have a market.

 

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Legend of Grimlock?

by on Sep.09, 2011, under Modern, PC

This is a game that I have dreamed of since I was a small boy. Sure there have been plenty of Transformers games, but this is the first to let you take control of everyone’s favorite challenge loving, mechanical T-Rex: Grimlock!

The star of the show!

Far from the most cerebral of the Autobots, Grimlock offered little in way of sage counsel or strategic depth. His strength lies in… his strength! One of the strongest transformers, Grimlock’s raw power is matched only by his fearlessness. He gladly took the command from Optimus Prime to “Destroy Devastator”. It was a mission that Grimlock and his dinobot crew were only partially successful. I will be very happy tearing through crappy un-named decepticons for hours with this game. I’d imagine it’s in the style of God of War and…

After being brought to my senses by several sharp blows, I realised my error. The game I was so excited about isn’t called Legend of Grimlock, but Legend of GrimROCK. Ughhhh how contrived and time-wasting could my mistake get! Good Lord.

Looks dank!

The Legend of Grimrock is being made by Almost Human, a small Finnish developer. I am guessing that they’re being Finnish means the game will be hewn from frozen rocks, deep under some glacier. Not much else to do there except prepare for the next Soviet invasion.

From the first few glimpses at it, I’m very excited. It is a first person grid movement based RPG, set in a dungeon. You control four characters. Oh It is sounding very familiar. It has been many years since I’ve noticed a real dungeon crawler that wasn’t a mod for something else.

We've come a long way since 1993.

Very similar to Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master, it uses block movement so you’re moving in 2 meter increments. What sets it apart from these older games (at least in the small part I have seen) is being able to look up and down in a limited sense. No doubt this will make some of the puzzles a little more engaging for the 2011 audience, EOB and Dungeon Master were definitely limited by their perspective, since the secret door buttons were always in one of two places.

 

Not sure if there is any character generation as yet, but you do pick from a pool of pre-made dudes so this should give those min-maxers of you out there some leeway to make a power party.

I’ll keep track of this game’s development, for those of you interested in hearing what I have to say. Remember use the numpad to move, not the mouse. Mouse use results in getting lost very quickly.

Also, did you know Grimlock could breathe fire? Fascinating.

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