[Acorn Gaming]


Acorn World 1995

That the promised games arcade failed to materialise at this year's Acorn World show could be taken as something of a bad portent, but to be honest there weren't really any fewer new releases than there were at this time last year - you just had to search a bit harder to find them.

Eclipse were showing Tom Cooper's new game, the much-hyped Darkwood. The game, unfortunately, was a sad let-down - simply a slow graphics engine linked with distinctly average graphics and a garish use of colour (not to mention a hard-to-read font). There may be a good adventure sitting underneath the imperfect exterior, but if so then it seems to be struggling to let itself out. All those I spoke to at the show were surprised at how slow the game was - it was running at an average of one frame a second on a Risc PC 700! Turning off the Gouraud shading made it run smoothly, but that seems to rather defy the point of including it in the first place, and makes the game look even worse than it already does. The distance fade-out effect is rather strange, too - it omits every other pixel, which simply looks silly (especially at the mode 13 resolution the game runs at). (Since the show I've had a chance to play the demo, and I must admit the playability is excellent. In fact, despite the above I'm going to have to buy the game... ;-) ). Eclipse were also showing Dune II on CD-ROM, which really did look rather nice, and a simulator game called Global Effect, on which I won't pass comment since I haven't played it. It looked fairly nice, graphically speaking.

Oregan had no new games to show, but they did have a Burn 'Out game stuck in a standard arcade box with a steering wheel. It looked a bit less glitchy than the first release but if Oregan have a new version available then they certainly haven't told registered owners.

TBA had an impressive showing with a well-designed stand complete with lighting, music and dry ice, and they actually had something to show on it, too. A 3D shoot-em-up, The Cobalt Seed, was looking good, and I would have bought it had it not been for the fact that they were "not having them duplicated until next week" (even though it said it was available on the wall), which could well be a euphemism for "it's not complete yet". Also new was Command Ship, a "Meteors"-type game which didn't look like anything especially brilliant. TBA also had a large range of different joypads available. Particularly good value for money were their 8-button SpeedPad parallel-port joypads which were on sale for 10 pounds each, complete with software which implements Acorn's joystick SWI and also emulates both the keyboard and mouse. A two-pad version was available for 20 pounds. Non-show prices are 15 and 30 pounds respectively, I think.

The Hit Men had Rick Dangerous on show, an antiquated game which has been badly ported to the Archimedes. Unplayable is not the word! Terrible gameplay (loads of lethal objects are hidden until they've actually killed you, so you have to keep replaying the levels, learning where all the concealed spikes are) is combined with poor sound, bad graphics, and laughably pathetic animation. The game also runs a bit too quickly. Definitely one to avoid. A demo is on the Archimedes World cover CD-ROM if you'd like to go and laugh at it. The sad thing is that an entire stand was devoted to this one game. Oh dear.

Davyn Computer Services were showing Revolve, Psychore's latest game (also on the Archimedes World cover CD-ROM). This looks (and plays) more like a rather boring graphics demo than anything else. Rotate a spherical maze to roll round a ball collecting tokens. Fun for a minute, perhaps, and then just boring. Something to avoid. Other previously-released games were also available (and playable) on the Davyn stand, although disappointingly Stryker's Run III failed to make an appearance. High Risc Racing was there, a game so bad that it makes Rick Dangerous look good. Archimedes World featured a demo of it on a recent cover disc if for some strange reason you feel the need to try it out for yourself.

The Fourth Dimension had Spobbleoid Fantasy, a tired rehash of the rather lame game of last year, Spobbleoid (Acorn User have a demo on the latest issue's cover discs if you'd like to try it out). They also had Stereoworld, a rather interesting way of destroying your eyes, letting you watch those "dotty" 3D stereograms on your computer monitor, as well as play stereogram games! Also featuring was an Acorn "port" of Anagram Genius, which is actually a much improved rerelease of the now withdrawn shareware application Supergram, which has been ported and commercially released for the PC. This, for the uninformed, is the impressive program which can turn "Scottish National Party" into "Oh nasty tartan politics", "Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game" into "Embarassing ego of the century", and so on.

Acorn had some new games on show - sort of! TAOS was on display, running on a Risc PC, and had as one of its demonstration programs a rather bland version of Tetris. First game I've played running on an Acorn multiprocessor card, anyway! Another fun game they had was called "Attending the Multimedia Presentation", where you had to guess how many more seconds were about to pass before something else went wrong...

Finally, Krisalis yet again had some excellent show offers, selling most of their games at prices well below the usual retail one. The brand new Acorn port of the classic Infogrames game Alone in the Dark was on sale, and at only 25 pounds was excellent value for money. This is an excellent atmospheric adventure game which has been competently ported, and takes advantage of the Risc PC by using a "proper" 256 colour palette (as well as running at 50 frames a second with 'random texture' mapping). Playing this in the dark is not recommended (not if you turn the volume up, anyway)! The only thing missing from this port is the music - which is understandable, since making MIDI music play without a hardware MIDI synthesiser is horrendously complex (and slow), but it's still a shame. They could perhaps have provided MIDI output for those with suitable hardware, but I don't suppose there's enough market to make it worth it. Not having the music, however, does make the game sound effects even more dramatic - a haunted house is more creepy in silence, after all! When a loud bang occurs you really jump!

...this page last updated: 31/12/96...
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©Gareth Moore 1993-2003

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