Jaguar CD-ROM
AFTER numerous false starts and non-appearances, the CD-ROM add-on for the Jaguar quietly slid into the shops at the beginning of this year. Bundled with two full games, a demo and an audio CD, it unlocks the massive storage space offered by the CD format in an easy to use package.

THE drive itself slots neatly into the Jaguar's cartridge slot. A new port on the top means you can still play cartridge games, and you leave the JagCD plugged in full time. A separate power supply is provided, which is a bit of a nuisance considering the original specs intended it to be powered by the Jag itself. The fit between Jag and JagCD is solid, and the unit feels well made. Starting a CD game is simple  insert the disc and switch on. Any cartridge games plugged in always take precedence, so remember to remove them if you're playing a CD game.

WHILE both the Jaguar and the JagCD can produce stunning stereo sound, the basic kit routes all sound through your TV. With the JagCD offering playback of standard audio CDs, this is a real annoyance. The VLM revitalises your record collection, but who wants to listen in mono? To get the stereo sound, you'll need a lead to connect the Jaguar to a stereo TV or hi-fi amplifier. Why no headphone socket, Atari? If anything deserved one, the JagCD certainly does.

ANOTHER gadget you'll need to fork out for is the memory track cartridge (30, The Console Centre). Whereas cartridge games use battery-backed memory or a password system to save your games, the JagCD offers neither as standard. Without the extra cart, you can't save a game's progress at all. With complex games like Myst, this is a huge downer, so remember to include it in your budget.

CRITICISMS aside, we like the JagCD a lot. It opens up new worlds of gameplay, and provides a novel way to enjoy your CD collection. The design and construction is excellent, other than the lack of stereo sound capabilities in the standard kit. With some excellent software already available, we think it's worth adding a JagCD if you're serious about your Atari gaming.

BLUE LIGHTNING

HERE'S a sound idea. Take a really old game which wasn't that good anyway  from Atari's Lynx handheld console, and update it to utilise the power of the Jaguar and JagCD. Eh? Exactly. That's what Blue Lightning is  an updated conversion of the creaking arcade flight simulator from Atari's pocket pal.

TO be fair, it does improve on the Lynx version by a mile. You start by undergoing a series of training missions, after which you're drafted into the full Blue Lightning squad ready to tackle the real missions. As with all of the pack-in games, Blue Lightning is chock-full of moving video footage. Strip away the eye-candy though, and you're left with a fairly basic pseudo-3D aerial combat game. You can fly one of three planes to begin with, and success in the missions rewards you with new fighters and bombers. Weapons are initially limited to cannons and missiles, but later missions offer napalm (we kid you not) and cluster bombs as well.

YOUR plane has three basic throttle controls  cruise, airbrakes and afterburners. Coupled with the simple weapon controls, this actually makes Blue Lightning an easy game to get to grips with. You can't hit the ground, but avoiding mountains and buildings is a good idea. Whether you're fighting enemy jets and choppers or bombing fuel tanks, it's actually a lot of fun. We can't see the appeal lasting all that long, but it's not half bad for a quick dog-fight when the mood takes you.

VIDGRID

PROBABLY the most visually striking item in the CD bundle, VidGrid is also probably the most limited in gameplay terms. VidGrid takes the ancient sliding-block puzzle concept and updates it for the JagCD with tons of full-motion video footage. Rather than solving puzzles made from simple static images chopped up and rearranged, VidGrid slices and dices moving video for you to solve.

THE puzzles are easy to begin with, as the videos are only split into nine pieces. To solve the puzzle, you drag squares of video to the right place in the grid. As your skill develops, VidGrid gets harder by expanding the size of the grid to a maximum of 35 pieces. Other challenges are introduced when segments of video appear either upside down, horizontally flipped, or both. Whatever level you're on, you need to unscramble the video before it finishes playing to continue.

THE video footage used is all music video, provided by US record company Geffen. They all fit one particular musical flavour, which will either boost or vastly limit your enjoyment of VidGrid  rock and heavy metal. There are eight full videos on offer here, ranging from the power thrash of Metallica's 'Enter the Sandman' to the less abrasive 'Cryin' from Aerosmith. The snag is obvious  with only eight tracks, you'll soon get sick of unscrambling the same old videos again and again. It's a wonderful tool to show off the power of your Jaguar, and a treat to begin with, but runs out of steam all too soon.

MYST DEMO

MYST is a hugely famous point-and-click graphic adventure game which first appeared on the Apple Mac, where it sold by the bucketload. The Jaguar version is available now, and appears as part of the JagCD bundle in a limited playable demo form. In the full version, you're stranded on a mysterious island, and it's up to you to discover what's going on, and how you get off. Myst is acclaimed for its superbly rendered scenery, and the Jaguar conversion beefs up the graphics from the original's paltry 256 colours to take advantage of the Jag's 24-bit colour capabilities.

THE demo is very limited though, and there's not a huge amount to do. You're restricted to exploring one building the Library  and there's not a lot going on. It does let you get the feel for Myst's free-form plot and simple interface, though. There's also a stunning slideshow of scenes from the full game to drool over, and some superb video and audio footage. You probably won't play with this for more than an hour or so, but it does provide a decent taster for the full thing.

TEMPEST 2000 SOUNDTRACK

AN odd one this, and no mistake. The only bundled item which isn't Jaguar-specific, it's a standard audio CD containing the soundtrack to Atari's legendary Tempest 2000 game. T2K was renowned for having an upbeat pounding techno soundtrack which fit the pace of Jeff Minter's explosive colourfest perfectly. It's a bit odd to strip music like this from the context it was written for  to accompany a game  but it works. It's not a direct copy of the game audio, either. Original musicians IDI have remixed and re-recorded the whole affair, with added and expanded tracks thrown in. With 12 tracks of clear digital audio lasting almost 64 minutes, you'll either love it or hate it, depending on whether you're into screeching techno wallop noise or not. We're not, and we still enjoyed it. It works well with the JagCD's VLM, too.

VIRTUAL LIGHT MACHINE

ANOTHER product of Jeff Minter's fevered imagination, the VLM is actually built into the JagCD hardware itself. A direct descendant from Jeff's earlier attempts at light synthesizers' ColourSpace and Trip-a-Tron (both on the ST), the VLM is very odd indeed. At the most basic level, it's an interface enabling you to listen to standard audio CDs on the JagCD. Rather than provide a simple set of controls to stop and start the CD playback, Minter has unleashed a mind-bending tool which produces psychedelic lightshows in time to your favourite music.

STICK a disc in, and you're confronted with a photon storm of the highest proportions. When we first heard about this we thought it'd be nothing more than a gimmick to fill up some space on the JagCD's ROMs... but we love it to bits! Of all of the features offered by the JagCD bundle, the VLM is the item we've played with the most. We've gone back again and again armed with different audio discs, just to see how it performs. The VLM packs 9 effect banks, each containing 9 separate sound-to-light effects. You can either instruct the VLM to trigger different effects randomly, or use the joypad to skip through the banks yourself. Some types of music work better than others  heavy rock stuff with a high sound level isn't as good as a piece with shades of light and dark, for example. Shove a favourite CD in with the VLM set to randomize, and you'll produce something to stop the conversation at any party.

Product: Jaguar CD-ROM
Price: 149.99
Contact: The Console Centre (01484 544926)
Min System: Atari Jaguar.

 

Highs

Good range of bundled software.

The VLM is superb.

Jaguar

Lows

Needs extra cables for stereo audio.

STF Rating : 80%

Jaguar CD-ROM

Article Type: Review
First Published: ST FORMAT 84
Author: Frank Charlton
Category: Hardware.


Jag CD

 


Blue Lightning

 


Vid Grid

 


VLM