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%% UseNet Review - StarDust by Mike Schwager %%
%% firstname.lastname@example.org %%
Stardust, version unknown
Blow up rocks! Asteroids on steroids! Explosions! Chaos! Mayhem!
A modern version of the classic "Asteroids". Gameplay fully updated and
modernized, with cool graphics and sound. Awful copy protection, though.
Name: Bloodhouse Oy, Ltd. Bloodhouse UK Ltd.
Address: P.O. BOX 40 Bromley Lane
00331 Helsinki Chislehurst, Kent BR7 6LH
$49.95 (US); it can be had for about $27 (US).
SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS
1 Meg Agnus required.
Must boot in PAL mode.
Works fine on my 68000/68030 based, accelerator-equipped
Reportedly works well with a basic 68000-based machine.
Does not work at all with a 68040-based machine
None. Chris Hames' "Degrader" may come in handy for you,
though. Get it from Fish Disk 866. It allows you to boot
in PAL mode on an older Amiga like mine.
Disk based. Not hard disk installable. This game uses a terrible
copy protection track loader scheme. May the programmer never create
another program again. The world will be better off. If you want to save a
game, it will attempt to save it on disk 2. It comes on 3 disks; all of
them are copy protected. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
MACHINE USED FOR TESTING
Amiga 500, 4 Megs 32-bit Fast RAM, 1 Meg Chip RAM.
CSA MMR 68030 Accelerator w/FPU (ran it on 68000-only mode, too).
2 floppy drives.
Supra SCSI controller.
157 Megs of Hard Disk space.
On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with a plus sign for extra credit
(same as the comp.sys.amiga.reviews "micro review" format):
Lack of bugs: **
Copy Protection: *
I bought this game from a poor soul who couldn't get it to work on
his A4000. Well, it works fine for me, but it took a little hacking
about. At first, I tried to get it going on my stock configuration. It
ran the introduction just fine, but when it finally got to the main
map-screen (where you select your missions), the screen had some
horizontal lines spaced regularly down the left 1/3, and it would not
respond to any input. So I finally got it to work by doing the A500 Fatter
Agnus PAL hack - a hardware switch which allows me to boot in PAL mode.
Then I discovered Chris Hames' Degrader program, and that allowed me to
boot in PAL mode without any hardware hacking. I guess those of you with
newer Amigas don't have to worry about it. But make sure you boot in PAL!
Here is what it's like: You put your Disk 1 in and boot up. An
intro screen comes on that was shamelessly borrowed from Star Wars. In
it, words scroll up telling some silly story about how these rocks are
out to destroy the universe. You can press the joystick button to
continue on immediately, but watch the whole thing the first time.
There's some animation in there that's cool.
After a few minutes of disk grinding, an options screen is
displayed, and you can make some selections. You can decide if you want
the music on or off, how many lives you get (3, 5, or 7), and a few other
Then you press the joystick button, and you get to the
"map-screen." I will try to describe it... really it's much simpler than
what I've been able to write. Your ship is a little sprite. There are
5 rectangles on the screen, each one representing a "world," and your
ship is in the rectangle on the upper left. As you move your ship left
and right, up and down within the rectangle, you see on the bottom of the
screen a brief description of the "level" - its difficulty rating, any
special enemy ships present... that sort of thing. So you position your
ship over a level you want to go into, and press the joystick button.
Your ship spins around, the disks grind, and soon you find yourself in an
asteroid field. But such an asteroid field! I don't know how they did
these rocks, but they look great. Apparently they're all texture mapped,
ray traced images. They really look nice. Your job, of course, is to
get rid of them. So you shoot at everything and anything that moves.
Just like in real Asteroids, the rocks blow up into smaller and
smaller pieces. Finally, you blow away one of the smallest pieces. You
may or may not get a little token. The token is labeled, and it gives you
bonus things - maybe a faster gun, an extra life, some points, more
shields, more "energy" (you lose energy whenever you collide with
something), etc. If you die, you lose a little bit of your gun speed.
Once you clear a level, you are back on the map screen. There you
can select another level. Once all the levels are clear, a mother ship
comes to get you. You destroy the mother ship (it's not so easy), and
then you are done with that "world". A "W" icon appears on the map
screen in your rectangle. You move over to it and press the joystick
button. Now you "warp" to the next level: your ship spins around, floppy
disks grind, and soon you are heading down some sort of tunnel. Rocks
and mines are zooming past you. Your job now is to avoid the mines and
avoid or (preferably) destroy the rocks. It's not too hard to get through
the tunnel, but it is somewhat hard to get through AND destroy a decent
number of rocks. Again, the graphics here are excellent. How did they
make those realistic-looking asteroids come towards you and grow
gradually larger like that? Nice job.
Some levels have weapon transports. If you kill them and pick up
the icon that's left, you get different weapons. Some of the weapons have
different abilities and/or a higher overall speed. For example, each shot
of the basic gun shoots three bullets simultaneously in a small fan
arrangement. The next weapon available to you is a bouncer, and though
you get only one bullet with each shot, the bullets bounce. It also has
a higher available firing rate. The next is the "plasma" gun. I'm not
sure yet if it's better or worse or what. It seems like a regular gun,
with maybe a higher available firing rate.
Eventually you'll die, and Stardust will tell you how horrible you
are at playing the game. If you've gotten far enough, when you get back
to the options screen you will see a code. Write that down; when you
start the game again in the future, you can get to the warp tunnel just
prior to the "world" you died in by typing in that code. You will come
in with the same number of lives that you had at the time you originally
did the warp level. That's nice, so you don't have to start all the
lower levels again.
A small manual, written in English, Francais, Deutsch, Italiano,
and something else - Finnish, I think. It covers the basics, but there's
not much necessary for a game like this. I wish it explained what the
little numbers on the left side of the screen are for: they appear when
you are in the meteor-blasting screen.
LIKES AND DISLIKES
I like the graphics and the sound.
One nice thing about real Asteroids was you could have 5 bullets
in the air at once, but they came out as fast as you could shoot. This
gave you at least a feeling that in an emergency, if you needed to shoot
fast, you could. Stardust's gun is sluggish. What a drag. That's the
one gameplay criticism I could make of the game.
I like not having to start over all the way after I die.
I really, really, really HATE that trackloader (copy protection). I
want to be able to install the game on my hard disk, or at least run
something from s:startup-sequence before the game comes up (like "pal" by
Nico Francois). I wish they'd used key disk copy protection at worst.
Disk 2 is used the most, and I wish I could copy it, because it won't
last too long the way the game makes it spin constantly.
You must un-write-protect one of the disks to save the high
scores. I don't like that either.
COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS
As games go, it's pretty good. Compared to the original
Asteroids, Stardust's graphics and sound are generations better. The
ship is frustrating to control because you just can't always blast off a
quick bunch of shots in an emergency, like you could with Asteroids.
But in every other respect, Stardust is light-years ahead of Asteroids.
AUUGH! DAMN! Lousy, lousy loader. It's fast enough, sure, but
you can't put the game on hard disk, the floppies spin endlessly, and my
disks sound like they're going to give birth to a cow. Some guy named
"Wanton" was supposed to have programmed the loader. He needs a spanking,
badly. And the company deserves a verbal lashing for accepting it. I
haven't seen a gross disgusting loader like this in years. Of course,
I'm not normally a shoot-em-up gameplayer. But I wonder what the
publisher is thinking when they sell software with these "features"?
Reportedly does NOT work on the A4000.
REQUIRES that you boot in PAL mode. I didn't have a hardware
switch on my A500, so I installed one to get it to work. But then I
found Degrader, and so I'm a little happier.
Unknown, for they are in England and I am in Chicago.
If your disks go bad, send them to Bloodhouse along with 2.50
pounds UK and they will replace them. At least, that's what they say.
Explosions! Destruction! Chaos! Rocks! Stardust takes Asteroids
a step further with cool graphics and sounds. After a while you get used to
it and the game play still is... pretty good! It's fun. Rating: ***+
AmigaWorld gave this game an "A" rating, but it was a pretty quick review.
They didn't even mention the compatibility problems with the Amiga 4000.
To me, I can give a product a solid "A" only if it demonstrates
consideration for the customer. Stardust's trackloader is a big slap in
the face: it's as bad as the game itself is good.
Copyright 1994 by Mike Schwager. All rights reserved. Permission
is granted to spread this far and wide over the known galaxy. Go ahead
and quote bits and pieces of it if you like. Just don't alter its
contents, and make sure to credit me with the text.