Atari Jaguar – Dragon The Bruce Lee Story – Review

You’ve seen the film, now play the game. Are you worthy to be a master of the martial arts?

I have to lay my cards on the table. I’m no great lover of beat-em-ups. They’re one of the biggest movers of the games world though and have been for some time. With Virtua Fighter and Mortal Kombat as its rivals, how does Dragon shape up?

Dragon has several different modes of play. As a single player you can choose to follow the plot of the film or just take on the computer for some serious fighting. Two player options include human versus human and two humans versus a computer controlled player. You can also choose from five difficulty levels and three speeds. It’s a brave fighter who tried tough and manic mode.

You control Bruce against the various enemy fighters. The gameplay is the usual frantic hammering of buttons and joypad bashing. There are several modes of combat controlled by your Chi rating. Each successful hit boosts your Chi and each failure reduces it. When your Chi is high enough, you get access to different sets of moves. You also have to keep an eye on your energy level as each hit you take reduces your strength. Luckily, death isn’t always permanent and if your killed, you get a chance to reprieve yourself in one last fight for the right to return again.

There are a total of ten locations, each with a progressively tougher opponent culminating in the Graveyard where you meet the Phantom who was said to be the cause of the real Bruce Lee’s death. One location, the Long Beach Stadium adds an extra twist, you only get 60 seconds to defeat your opponent.

There are so many moves in this game that it would take a serious amount of practice to even remember them all, let alone use them effectively. I counted 39 in total! Luckily, most are a combination of the A, B, C and option buttons which makes it a bit easier in the heat of the battle. Which moves are available depends on the distance between you and your enemy. The manual recommends that you practice in two player mode but with no second player until you get used to the myriad of punches, kicks and throws. A few rounds of this and I was starting to get quite proficient at head stomps. Very satisfying.

The graphics are all hand drawn which in these days of digitised fighters in games like Mortal Kombat, is a bit of a mistake. The backgrounds are nicely drawn but nothing to get excited about. The animation is good enough. By current standards, Dragon is a bit of a letdown in this department. The sound is more of the same with adequate noises and tunes. The high scores and game settings are saved but you can’t save your current position in the story.

A nice touch is a short one page resume of Bruce Lee’s life until his premature demise at 32. I wonder if they’ll ever find out how he really died?

Dragon would have been a great game if it was released a couple of years ago. As it stands, it just can’t keep up with the current crop of beat-em-ups on other machines. It doesn’t even have the extreme violence of Kasumi Ninja to give it an edge. Mortal Kombat III is on the way for the Jaguar though so hopefully we’ll soon have a quality combat title to boast about.

Product Name: Dragon The Bruce Lee Story
Publisher:          Atari.
Telephone:         01753 xxxxxx
RRP:                  £49.99

Pros: Lots of moves. Chi feature.
Cons: Average graphics and sound. No game save.

Score 5

Atari Jaguar – Flashback – Review

Is Flashback more than a flash in the pan for the Jaguar? Iain Laskey regains his memory and reports back.

Flashback is US Gold’s first Jaguar release. Unfortunately they have decided to debut with a title that has been and gone on just about every other platform. With the game now a budget title for many other systems, is it worth the full price on Jaguar?

Flashback is a kind of graphic adventure albeit a fairly simple one. You have seven levels of running, jumping, shooting and general exploring to do as you attempt to get your memory returned. I found the gameplay to be intensely frustrating. A lot of tasks boil down to precise timing for a leap or shot at an enemy and if you get it wrong you have to start again from the last save point. You cannot save the game at any place other than the predesignated save points and these are far too few. Flashback does have a curiously addictive quality though. I found myself tearing out my hair in annoyance but still trying again and again to complete each stage.

The graphics wouldn’t look out of place on a SNES and US Gold really could’ve done something to improve them. One of the games original selling points was its use of rotoscoped graphics and these do work well with some very realistic animation of the main characters. However, the overall look is less than stunning. To be fair, they have packed the cartridge with lots of very different looking levels. At fixed points you also get movie sequences to help tell the story as it unfolds.

If you like this kind of game then I’d recommend trying it before you buy. It’s not terrible but then it’s not particularly good either. Far too many Jaguar developers are taking the easy route when porting games and the console deserves and can do much better than this.

Product Name: Flashback
Publisher:         US Gold
Telephone:        0121 xxx xxxx
RRP:                £39.99

Pros: Lots to do.
Cons: Basic graphics, frustrating gameplay

Score 5


Atari Jaguar – Hoverstrike – Review

Hoverstrike adds a new twist to computer gaming. This time you have to save the human race by taking on the Terrakian pirates in an armoured hovercraft!

Hoverstrike puts you in the seat of a state of the art military hovercraft. Only you can defeat the Terrakian pirates with your firepower and cunning. Your task is to launch a pre-emptive strike in front of the main Federation armada, knocking out as much of the enemy as possible.

Hoverstrike follows the standard formula of having to complete various missions. Each one is based on certain terrain types such as water, ice or dessert. After the short mission brief, a quick animated scene shows your craft being dropped by a mothership. At this point the mayhem begins. This game is fast and furious. As soon as your hovercraft touches down, tanks, aircraft and other assorted  nasties start to attack.

It takes a little while to get the hang of the controls. Your hovercraft behaves just like a real one. If you’re flying forward and then turn, you don’t suddenly change direction, instead you start to slide sideways, gently changing direction as you do so. You can either fly this way or use the brakes to fly in a go-stop-turn-go kind of way.

Your main weapon is your photon blaster. Depending on the mission and what items you come across during the game, you can also have different missiles, mortars and flares. Your craft has a targeting system that can lock on to the nearest enemy allowing you to fire off guided missiles without having to worry too much about your accuracy.

Your hovercraft is equiped with a radar which shows primary targets, enemies and bonus items in different colours. This helps enormously. Your cockpit also shows fuel and shields.

Once each set of missions is completed, you move onto the next level and a new set of missions. The first ones are quite straightforward but even on level 2 you have some quite tricky fighting to do and it only gets harder.

You can just play this game like a standard shoot-em-up but you won’t get far. Once past the early levels, you have to start using your head as well as your trigger finger. Some missions are virtually impossible unless you make strategic use of the terrain, dodging around hills and hiding in valleys, ready to ambush your target.

The graphics are a mixed bag. On the plus side, everything is fully texture mapped. Some of the enemy vehicles and targets are beautifully rendered and look very convincing. The night time missions use shading to great effect creating an eerie sensation as you fly along in almost total darkness. On the downside, the frame rate, whilst very fast, is also very choppy. As you manoeuvre your hovercraft, it is all too easy to become disorientated as the walls and sky jerk about in a rapid succession of totally different views.

The sound is adequate. The in-game effects are basic and the music is good enough but overall, Hoverstrke is rather weak in this department.

There is only one game save and this has to be made when each mission has been finished. When you start the game, you have a choice of a new game or returning to the save.

Hoverstrike has some nice touches. The texture mapping is good and the pace is energetic, a bit like Cybermorph on speed. Unfortunately, the poor sound and sometimes choppy animation detract from what could have been a much better game. Try before you buy.

Product Name:    Hoverstrike
Publisher:            Atari
Telephone:          01753 xxxxxx
RRP:                  £49.99

Pros:        Excellent rendered graphics. Fast and fun.
Cons:          Average sound and a little repetitive after the first few missions.
Score         6

Atari Jaguar – Iron Soldier – Review

Finshed AvP and looking for a great new game to show off your Jaguar? Iron Soldier could be just what your looking for.

Iron Soldier puts you in charge of a forty-two foot high robot known as an IS or Iron Soldier. That alone is a tempting start. Your job is to defeat the Iron Fist Corporation who have conquered all the world’s governments with a military dictatorship. Your robot has been captured from the enemy and with it rests the hopes of the resistance movement.

The aim of the game is to complete sixteen missions. Each mission requires you to destroy a target or penetrate enemy positions  At the start of each one, you have to equip your IS with the various weapons you will need to complete the task. These range from assault rifles and grenades through to the ultimate weapon, a cruise missile.

Once the game begins, you can start blasting your way around. The main enemies are tanks and helicopters and these can be easily dispatched  with a quick shot of your guns. More advanced missions introduce super-tanks, planes and other nasties which are harder to deal with.

You can tread on tanks that get too close or punch buildings until they collapse, often revealing hidden ammo or new weapons which can be picked up. Later missions can be very tough unless these newer weapons have been found so it’s well worth doing some serious demolition to the cities as you wander about.

The various buildings have different properties. The fuel tanks have to be treated carefully as shooting one can create a chain explosion, damaging your IS. The Control Towers have to be destroyed quickly as they help to co-ordinate the enemy.

Unlike other weapons, the cruise missile has to be controlled all the way to the target. When fired, the screen changes to show the view from just behind the missile as it flies along. You have to guide it around buildings and other obstacles to the target. You can even fly around yourself if you want.

The graphics are impressive with a good sense of 3D. As you walk, you can look around  to see what’s going on. You can even look down to admire those iron legs stomping about on the enemy. The explosions are excellent with a mixture of huge flaming blasts and big chunks of debris flying about. On later levels it’s well worth just getting a big set of guns and shooting the place up to see the spectacular carnage.

The helicopters and tanks are particularly well done with texture mapped surfaces that look very realistic. Some of the buildings have excellent shading that shows off the Jaguar’s huge palette of colours to good effect.

The sound matches up to the graphics with a range of suitable moody tunes and good sound effects. In case you can’t wait to hear the tunes for later missions, the options screen lets you play them all.

Unlike many Jaguar games, the delay as each mission ‘loads’ in minimal. The game remembers which missions have been completed and any new weapons you have found. To round off the package, you get a joypad overlay. The manual has a replica of this for photocopying in case the original gets mislaid. Nice one, Atari!

Atari have a winner on their hands with Iron Soldier. It’s great fun to play and the missions often require some serious thinking rather than brute destructive power to complete them. The graphics and sound are well up to scratch too. This is the sort of game the Jaguar was designed for.

Product Name:    Iron Soldier
Publisher:            Atari.
Telephone:           01753 xxxxxx
RRP:                   £49.99

Pros:  Great graphics, great gameplay.
Cons: A few more missions wouldn’t go amis.
Score 8

Atari Jaguar – Power Drive Rally – Review

(Another ST Review article from days gone bye)

Power Drive Rally steers its way on to the Jaguar. Iain Laskey puts on his crash helmet and gives it a spin.

Time Warner Interactive have finally arrived on the Jaguar scene with their first title, Power Drive Rally. This is an enhanced version of the title Power Drive that was released on the SNES and PC some time back.

I must admit to have been expecting another average game having played it briefly some months back. How wrong could I have been! This game has obviously had a lot of effort spent on it and now oozes playability and great attention to detail.

Power Drive Rally starts you off with a choice of 2 standard cars. From here you go through 48 different races in a bid to complete the rally. At each stage, you need to perform a qualifier race before going up against the computer controlled car. If you complete the race in the given time, you win cash. If you’re first, you get a bonus. If you lose you have to pay again to race. The object of the game is not to run out of cash. If you do then it’s all over.

After each race you have to spend your precious winnings on repairs to your car. After several races you can upgrade to a better model, funds permitting. Periodically you get put through a skill test which involves reversing, stopping on lines and finding your way through a circle of cones within a given time. This is easy the first few times but soon gets much harder. By level 20 onwards, trying to turn tight circles in snow becomes a real test of your control and when every cone you hit loses you 15 seconds, it can become a bit frustrating too. However, it does have that ‘just-one-more-go’ factor that keeps dragging you back for more.

The various courses are set in different countries. Weather conditions from dry to snow along with day or night racing all help to add to the atmosphere. If you’re unlucky enough to be driving past water when lightning strikes, the flash can really dazzle you. In addition, the roads often contain obstacles that can be steered around or tackled head on. It’s great fun to see your car bounce through the air after hitting some rocks.

The control of the car is excellent. You can make full use of the different conditions to skid and slide around corners. The dynamics are spot on and it feels very realistic when driving. Each type of car has genuinely different driving characteristics and needs to be learned to get the best from it.

During each race, your navigator barks out the directions such as ‘right 90’ and ‘left hairpin’ to warn you of the track ahead. The computer controlled car is fairly easy to keep up with initially but gets much more proficient later in the game and becomes extremely hard to beat but never so hard as to put you off.

Power Drive Rally is full of wonderful little details such as the tracks left by the cars, tinkles of broken headlights when you catch barriers and changing engine pitch inside tunnels. Reversing lights come on to help you during those delicate backwards manoeuvres.

The graphics are nicely detailed and well animated. The cars and other objects cast realistic shadows. The sky is reflected in water and the reflections moves as you do. The tunes complement the game well. The spot sound effects as well as the navigators voice are all clear.

There are very few Jaguar games that I would consider essential purchases but Power Drive Rally is one of them. The whole game feels very polished and is great fun to play. After what has been far too long, the Jaguar is finally getting games worthy of its power.

Product Name:    Power Drive Rally
Publisher:            Time Warner Interactive
Telephone:           01604 xxxxxx
RRP:                   £49.99

Pros: Loads of tracks, speech, attention to detail, realistic dynamics.
Cons: Can be frustrating, only one opponent.
Score 9

Atari Jaguar – Pinball Fantasies – Review

If Pinball be the food of love, play on. Iain Laskey plays with his silver balls.

Pinball Fantasies is another of the increasing flow of 3rd party games for the Jaguar. A familiar game to owners of other systems, how does the Jaguar version shape up?

Pinball Fantasies on the Jaguar has been uprated with 32,000 colours and user customisation producing what is claimed to be the best version yet.

There are four different tables each with a very distinct flavour and style of play. Up to 8 players can compete at once which can make for great fun when you have a bunch of friends playing together.

The gameplay is generally good. Most of the tables are great fun and very addictive. The action does seem a little slow to begin with but Pinball Fantasies is more about precision play than speed. However, some of the more obscure combinations of events needed to achieve bonuses are so convoluted as to be impossible to achieve through anything other than pure luck. Stones and Bones is by far the easiest in this department and is probably the best one to start with.

The graphics are very colourful with nice detailing. Some tables look realistically ‘used’ with dented tracks and rust marks.

The main tunes are fine to start with but soon start to get repetitive. Luckily they can be switched off leaving just the sound effects which are excellently varied and clear.

The whole game is bright and breezy and should provide hours of fun for all but the most jaded gamers. If you like pinball type games, Pinball Fantasies will not disappoint you.

Product Name:    Pinball Fantasies
Publisher:            21st Century Entertainment
Telephone:           01235 xxxxxx
RRP:                    £44.99

Pros:     Four very different tables. Good audio effects. Addictive.
Cons:    Music rather grating after a while, Some bonuses are more luck than skill
Score     8

Atari Jaguar – Rayman Review

(More ST Review Jag stuff from history)

Possibly the most eagerly awaited title for the Jaguar has finally beamed onto the streets. Iain Laskey finds out if it was worth the wait.

Rayman is one of those classic ‘cute’ platform games. The object of the game is free the Electoons and ultimately free the Great Protoon in order to return Rayman’s world to harmony and vanquish Mr Dark who has caused all the chaos to start with. Initially you have very little in the way of abilities and skills. As you finish certain sections, you are rewarded with new skills and powers to help you. Some of these are permanent and some only last for that level. Unusually, you can return to previously finished screens to try them with your new abilities. A nice touch.

The gameplay is the usual platform affair with lots of jumping, climbing, crouching and walking as you explore the world. The levels are well designed and help you to get into the game gently.

The holiday doesn’t last too long though and soon you have to start to work quite a bit harder. Some enemies take quite a bit of dodging and shooting to finish them off. You can punch down berries and use them to float about on the otherwise fatal water, enabling you to reach power ups and some of the Electoons. Much use is needed of swings, moving clouds and more to complete the levels. There are hidden bonus levels which can be accessed by collecting Tings and finding the hidden Wizard. There is also a hidden breakout type game but I won’t spoil it by saying how you find it. There’s a lot of skills to be mastered in order to finish each level.

What really separates Rayman from its peers is the excellent animation. The movement of both Rayman and the various other characters is superbly done. It really is just like watching a cartoon. Tiny details abound. When you die, Rayman appears on a stage and if you continue he bows and cartwheels off stage. Deciding to stop playing results in him despondently slouching off the other side of the stage. Wonderful! There are one or two oddities though. Periodically Rayman looks at you and seems to be talking but no sound comes out. Maybe an unfinished feature?

The graphics are generally very good. With 65,000 colours, smooth scrolling and over 50 animated characters, everything just looks and feels very polished.

The controls are well chosen and perfectly balanced. The numeric pad isn’t used, only the top half of the controller is utilised. Some games are awkward to play due to the control method but everything in Rayman just feels right.

The only real criticism I can raise is regarding the music which is rather too tinkly and twee and soon starts to grate. Luckily you can turn it down. Ubisoft claim there are 45 tracks so what it lacks in quality, it makes up for in quantity. The sound effects too are adequate and plentiful but nothing fancy. The PSX version has superior sound but being a CD it should have. For a cartridge based title though Rayman doesn’t do too bad.

You can save 3 different games with your initials and a percentage counter shows you how far you have got as well as a map showing each location visited.

Rayman was first demoed almost a year ago and even then looked impressive. Since then it looks like Ubisoft have been busy fine tuning every element. It looks great and plays like a dream. Whilst it would have been almost impossible to live up to the hype, Rayman comes very close indeed. This is one of the more expensive Jaguar games but it won’t disappoint. Rush out and buy it today!

Product Name:    Rayman
Publisher:            Ubisoft
Telephone:           0181 xxx xxxx
RRP:                   £54.99

Pros: Animation, well thought out levels, addictive
Cons: Lacklustre audio.
Score 8

Super Burnout – Review

Motorbike racing comes to the Jaguar with Super Burnout. Iain Laskey gets on his bike.

Having been a fan of Super Hangon on the ST, I was keen to see how Super Burnout compared to its illustrious predecessor. With a variety of tracks and race conditions, there is much here to keep you occupied.

The game allows you to race against a friend or against a field of computer opponents. The computer racers play a pretty mean game and also improve as you do making it very hard to win on all but the easiest settings.

Initial impressions were less than favourable. The graphics whilst very fast, looked basic. They could have put much more detail into both the static screens and the main game. There are some nice touches though such as a trail of rubber as each bike accelerates away. Also, drone bikes are perfectly capable of crashing into each other. However, after the first race I was initially unimpressed.

Each track has the current best time and best average time recorded for it. This is where the trouble began. After the next race I was awarded a best time. That was the beginning of the slippery slope. Addictive? This game is the embodiment of the ‘Just one more go’ concept. Every time you raise the stakes, you just know you could shave an extra tenth of a second off the record next time.

Super Burnout is fast, fun and addictive. When you introduce the two player options, you have a recipe for success. It may not look as pretty as the state of the art race games but it has gameplay by the bucketful. The only real letdown is that the two player option is just between two humans, no computer drones race against you.

Product Name:    Super Burnout
Publisher:            Atari.
Telephone:           01753 xxxxxx
RRP:                   £49.99

Pros:  Fast smooth graphics. 2 player option. Addictive.
Cons: Graphics could be more detailed.
Score 8

Syndicate – Review

(and another blast from the past)

In the future, wars will be between huge corporations, not countries. Syndicate throws you into the battle for global supremacy.

Syndicate is set in a future where the world is run by huge corporations. Your job as an executive in a syndicate is to gain control of world territories. This involves sending your cyborg agents out on missions which if successful, enable you to ultimately conquer the world.

You start each mission by equipping your team with weapons and equipment. At this point you can also invest money in research to upgrade your cyborgs later on. It’s best to keep an eye on the corporations balance and each mission should be carefully budgeted. When you are happy with your team, you can start the mission.

The missions involve such tasks as killing other agents or coercing enemy scientists over to your syndicate with your Persuadertron. To achieve this you can use individual agents or group them together. You then try to find your targets. A scanner is pretty much an essential piece of equipment for your cyborgs as it helps  to identify who’s who. Guards can be easily killed but enemy agents can be a bit tougher. A good way to handle them is to travel in a vehicle and use it to run them over. Your agents can have their perception, intelligence or speed temporarily boosted by drugs. Beware of overuse though as they become used to the drugs and start to need larger doses to achieve the same effect. The various missions can take considerable time to finish although some such as assassinations can be quickly completed. As you progress you gain access to better weapons and equipment such as gauss guns and pass cards which can get you into secure areas as well as identifying you as an enemy policeman.

After a successful take-over, you can adjust the taxes in your new territory to help fill your corporations coffers. Don’t be too greedy though as higher taxes can unsettle the population making it easier for competing corporations to retake your land.

You can save your current position after each mission has been completed. There is only one save slot though so you can’t have different saves at the same time.

Every button on the Jaguars controller is used to manipulate you team. There are even several key combinations resulting in a bewildering array of options. It’s probably best to have the manual handy and open on the controls page. Syndicate doesn’t come with a controller overlay which is a major omission in such a complex game.

The graphics don’t really do the Jaguar justice unfortunately. They have been slightly improved over other versions but are still fairly basic. There is a new zoom feature which can be very useful. The scrolling is done in jumps although the animation of the agents is nicely done. The various still images look rather chunky and have few colours. The sound is better with a suitably moody soundtrack and lots of spot sound effects and samples.

It’s good to see 3rd party games beginning to appear for the Jaguar but it’s a shame to see straight ports of existing games with little attempt to make use of the Jaguars powerful sound and graphics. There is a lot to do though and there are enough options to keep you busy. Syndicate is a competent game but  whether it’s worth nearly fifty pounds is questionable.

Product Name:    Syndicate
Publisher:            Ocean.
Telephone:           0161 xxx xxxx
RRP:                   £49.99

Pros:  50 plus missions. Plenty to do.
Cons: Graphics could be much better. Fiddly to control.
Score 6

Theme Park – Review

If you thought theme parks were fun to visit, you just try running one. Theme Park from Ocean let’s you try your hand at building the best park in the world.

It was about 6PM. I put the kettle on, booted up Theme Park and started to play. After what seemed like half an hour, I realised I hadn’t made the tea. I glanced at my watch. 1AM. OK, so where did the evening go? The answer is Theme Park.

Before you build your park, you need to buy land. Initially only the UK is open to you  as it’s free. Later on when you’ve made some cash, you can move to different countries where the big money can be made. Next you choose which rides and food stalls you wish to add. Connect them up with some paths, add a few trees and a toilet or two and then open the doors to your public.

As the park starts to fill up, you need to keep an eye on everything. Litter can easily build up unless you hire a few cleaners. Rides can break down too requiring a crew of engineers to fix them. If you aren’t quick enough with the repairs, the ride will explode, killing the occupants and doing your park’s reputation equal damage.

As the months pass, the takings build up enabling you to purchase further facilities. You can invest in research for new items to help give your park an edge over the competition. If funds get low, borrow from the bank but be sure you can handle the interest payments.

You also need to keep an eye on your customers. You can check how happy they are and if they have any wants such as more food. If they get too unhappy, the word will get out and attendencies will fall. At the end of the year you can decide to continue building or to sell.

As your park grows, you need to install enough signposts to help your customers find the best rides. As time goes by you also gain access to more sophisticated attractions. Any which aren’t doing too well can be closed down and better ones built in their place. If any employees are under performing, you can sack them and hire better ones.

Along the way you have to deal with pay disputes, rising inflation and even other parks buying your shares. It’s a constant battle to keep your park at the top or even just profitable.

The graphics are amusing with some great animation on the various rides. Considering the original was designed for a PC with a high resolution monitor, the programmers have done a sterling job of keeping so much detail whilst making it playable on a TV although the screen seemed to be slightly too wide for mine and I couldn’t see the left hand side. You may have better luck. The audio is good enough with plenty of spot sound effects and tunes. Given the constraints of a cartridge, there is a lot of game packed in.

The game save is limited in that you can only save when you sell a park and all that is recorded is your cash and which countries you have built in.

The control system has been completely revamped for the Jaguar. I found it excellent, especially given the fact that the original used a mouse and menus. Top marks for this.

As is often the case, Theme Park is no 64bit super game. It is however very good fun. It’s lost very little in its transition from the PC and gained an extremely nice control system into the bargain. Well worth checking out.

Product Name:   Theme Park
Publisher:            Ocean.
Telephone:           0161 xxx xxxx
RRP:                    £49.99

Pros:           Superb gameplay. Very addictive. Good animation.
Cons:          Room for improvement in the graphics department. Poor game save.
Score         8