|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
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.
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
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
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
|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.
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
Contact: The Console Centre (01484 544926)
Min System: Atari Jaguar.
Good range of bundled software.
The VLM is superb.
Needs extra cables for stereo audio.
STF Rating : 80%
First Published: ST FORMAT 84
Author: Frank Charlton