Cap’n’ Carnage, Atari ST

Cap’n’ Carnage is so bad that the programmer hasn’t even spelled the word “captain” correctly in the game itself… When you see a mistake like that you know you’re playing a low quality piece of software. Professionals do not make that kind of mistake on commercial releases. Oh dear me, this game is bad…

It’s a side-scrolling shoot ’em up – of sorts – except the controls are sluggish; the action is boring, and the graphics are truly terrible.

There’s so little of value in Cap’n’ Carnage that all I can say is: I played it, so you don’t have to. And even then I only played it once…

If I had to sum up the game in one word (without swearing) I’d have to say “moribund”. And – as Alan Partridge knows full well – that means “dead or dying”. Cap’n’ Carnage is really only worth loading if you like bad games, or are a masochist. Which pretty much equate to the same thing.

Cap’n’ Carnage was developed by Golden Sector Design, and published by Energize in 1991 (a British/German co-production I believe). I think they’ll probably all want to forget it ever existed… As do I, to be honest.

More: Cap’n’ Carnage on Atari Mania

StarRay, Amiga

Developed by Hidden Treasures and published by Logotron in 1988, StarRay is a decent 16-bit side-scrolling shooter for the Amiga.

It plays a bit like Defender, where you are blasting alien invaders and stopping them from stealing your planetary energy. You move left or right, looking for enemy on your scanner, blasting them with your forward-mounted laser as soon as they are in range.

Back in 1988 StarRay caused a bit of a stir with its colourful, smooth-scrolling graphics and arcade quality gameplay. Today, the graphics don’t have quite the same impact, but the gameplay is still just as good. StarRay is definitely better than your average Amiga shooter.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StarRay

Albion, PC

Blue Byte‘s 1996 PC release, Albion, is a classic science fiction role-playing game.

Albion mixes traditional 2D graphics – in this case overhead, isometric style – with first-person 3D sections. You begin the game on a spaceship playing Tom Driscoll – a pilot on a shuttle sent by the DDT corporation to scope out a nearby planet for mineable minerals. Tom’s ship malfunctions, causing him to crash, and he finds himself on the target planet

The fantasy storyline is quite good. Especially for a German developer – the English dialogue is full of humour and is very well-written for the most part.

Getting going in Albion is a challenge, but once you’ve got a party member with you the game really opens up. Combat is turn-based and simple enough to get your head around, and exploration is generally fun.

With perseverance (or a walkthrough) you can create a party of up to six characters, which makes combat a lot more interesting. Actually, it makes the whole game a lot more interesting.

Albion is a superb game overall. It isn’t too well known and is quite hardcore as an RPG, but it is beautifully constructed and absorbing to play. It’s still available to buy online now. I suggest giving it a go if you’ve never played it before and like unusual RPGs.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albion_(video_game)
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/albion

Amberstar, Atari ST

Amberstar is a huge, sprawling Role-Playing Game that was first released by German developer Thalion in 1992.

It’s a game that certainly does owe a debt or two to Richard Garriott‘s famous Ultima series, although Amberstar is unique (and good) enough to stand on its proverbial own two feet.

Amberstar is a truly brilliant game, but it does have a problem or two. Mostly with getting started – or gaining a foothold. It’s a slow and painful process. The interface and conventions are all a bit old skool and archaic, but when you get used to them the game really opens up. Getting past the first few dungeons, though, is a real task. Especially if you attempt it blind. I recommend playing with a walkthrough or guide – otherwise you’ll likely get nowhere.

In my mind, though, Amberstar is arguably the best game ever to come out of Germany. At least during the 16-bit era, and that’s saying something because a lot of good games came out of Germany during that period.

High praise indeed, but Amberstar is a classic game that plays much better than it looks and is well worth a play today.

See also: Amberstar PC MS-DOS version on The King of Grabs

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amberstar

Hard ‘N’ Heavy, Atari ST

Hard ‘N’ Heavy was created either as a sequel to The Great Giana Sisters, or was originally a Giana Sisters game itself, such is the similarity between it and the aforementioned.

The funny thing is: I see Hard ‘N’ Heavy as another thinly-veiled ‘dig’ at Nintendo, because – if you look at the title screen, and the design of the game graphics – I’d say that this is a clone of (or sly tribute to) Metroid on the NES!

Female lead in a robo suit? Yes. Platform game with a ball-shooting weapon? Yes. Hard ‘N’ Heavy is a big “flip you guys!!” from Rainbow Arts to Nintendo, after the Giana Sisters debacle. I think anyway. 🙂

As professional and “neat” as Hard ‘N’ Heavy is, it isn’t a particularly captivating game overall though. You can choose which kind of weapon you use. The ball destroys certain platforms and can change the direction of moving enemies, which is alright. The flamethrower seems kind of useless initially but later you discover it kills only certain enemies. Gameplay is pretty basic.

Maybe there’s more to Hard ‘N’ Heavy and I just didn’t dig deep enough… I didn’t try the two player mode. The graphics are nice enough. The jumping inertia is a bit slow. It’s annoying that you can’t go backwards in a level… It’s alright. Nothing special. An interesting curiosity created by very talented people, first released by reLINE Software in 1989.

More: Rainbow Arts on Wikipedia

The Great Giana Sisters, Atari ST

The Atari ST version of the infamous The Great Giana Sisters is as good-looking as the original Mario game it is ‘satirising’. It is chunky and colourful and characterful, although gameplay wise it is not a patch on the Mario Bros. games.

With a Blitter installed, or emulated, the Atari ST version even scrolls smoothly, which is a blessed relief. What is a blessed relief, actually, is that there is an Atari ST version at all. With Nintendo pressurising the game’s publisher(s) to remove it from the market, it’s surprising that any 16-bit conversions were made. Developer Rainbow Arts must have completed them early.

Anyway, The Great Giana Sisters on the Atari ST is one of the best platformers on the system, but – like most ST platformers – is not a patch on the best platformers on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I’d put that down to ‘feel’. Very few Amiga or Atari ST platform games had the frame rate or the level of control to make them ‘feel’ better to play. Increasing the frame rate in an emulator goes some way to combat this, but then you have to play the game at increased speeds. It’s a strange one. The Great Giana Sisters I feel does benefit from the extra frame rate an emulator can give.

What is also interesting is that later – after The Great Giana Sisters had been pulled from distribution – Rainbow Arts re-worked it and re-released it as Hard ‘N’ Heavy; another platform game, only this time with absolutely no relation to Mario!

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Giana_Sisters

Rendering Ranger: R2, Super Nintendo

Rendering Ranger: R2 is a rare run-and-gun game from the end of the life of the Super Nintendo. It was published by Virgin Interactive in Japan only in 1995. Which is strange for a German game…

Rendering Ranger: R2 was designed and programmed by Manfred Trenz at Rainbow Arts – the guy known for creating the Turrican series of games. Unsurprisingly it features run-and-gun style gameplay, although there are side-scrolling shooter sections (in the vain of Nemesis) as well.

Rendering Ranger: R2 is also unbelievably difficult.

It’s like everyone on the project thought: “the SNES is dead and I’m just wasting my time, so let’s make it ridiculous!”

Having a European game get a Japan only release is both perverse and – at the same time – a tribute, making sure someone actually got to play it…

Rendering Ranger: R2 is nicely-produced too, so it would’ve been good to have enjoyed it more. As it stands: I can only take so much of it. Rare, or otherwise. This is a headbanging game.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendering_Ranger:_R2

No Second Prize, Atari ST

No Second Prize is a 3D motorbike racing game from German developer and publisher Thalion, with mouse controls and an emphasis on fun, rather than realism.

Which suits me, because realism in these games can really become a problem when all you want to do is complete one lap of the course without crashing, but can’t seem to be able to do that.

Thankfully, No Second Prize is fairly easy to get the hang of. Swiping the mouse left and right banks the bike when cornering, and within a few races you will no doubt be good enough to be challenging for first place (in the easier races at least).

Of course: much better motorbike racing games have been released onto the market since No Second Prize was first released in 1992 (Road Rash 64 springs to mind), but this game is still worthy of a play right now. Especially if you like race games. It hasn’t aged too badly, at least on the playability front. Graphically No Second Prize is basic, but fast and smooth and reasonably colourful.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalion_Software

Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, GameCube

Throughout history, man has always strived to recreate the original Star Wars battles on video-gaming hardware, to enable grown men to act like children…

And 2003‘s Rebel Strike is a veritable ORGY of Star Wars-related combat, from run-and-gun style, third-person shooter sections, to piloting virtually every craft in the Star Wars universe (including an enemy scout walker). There’s Co-op play, Versus combat, and split screen for up to four players. It’s great fun, but Rebel Strike is no X-Wing (or TIE Fighter), because there isn’t a great deal of depth. I actually thought that some of the sections were a bit too short. Oh well. I guess that’s modern attention spans for you.

More: Rogue Squadron III on Wikipedia