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The theme of violent future sports is hardly a new one, after all Rollerball brought us visions of psychopaths in a high-tech arena as far back as 1975. More recently, films such as The Running Man (which in turn was a pale interpretation of the original book) have revitalised the interest in violence spectator sports, as well as introducing the idea of TV game shows that are played literally to the death.

High-power future sport games are also a well-visited theme as far as computer games are concerned. The most notable is Psygnosis' Killing Game Show and the Bitmap Brothers' Speedball. Smash TV tends to lean towards the game show theme more than the sports view, being heavily inspired by The Running Man.

Didn't they do well?
The year is 1999. The Generation Game has long since been assigned to the archives as people cry out for more powerful and violent TV shows. There is one company however that has a show that pulls in bigger audience ratings than any other network program. Smash TV features big ash payouts, fabulous prizes and more blood and sweat than any other TV show in history.

The game is played by one or two contestants under the control of you and a friend. You are given a simple machine gun and a rudimentary set of body armour. The lucky (?) contestants are thrown into a metallic arena with four doors. Through these doors emerge crowds of baseball-bat wielding thugs with one intention: to beat the living daylights out of you! In order to complete the round, you must destroy a set number of opponents. This allows one of the doors to open up, forming a linking tunnel to the next arena.

As you progress through these rounds, more vicious opponents start to make an appearance, including the explosive Mr Shrapnel and the bothersome UFO drones. However things are not quite as grim as they seem. Various tokens appear from time to time to give you extra powers, including speed-ups, grenade launcher, rockets and shields.

Occasionally a prize will be thrown into the arena. The prizes are either in the form of packages - which correspond to prizes such as cars, holidays, VCR's and toasters - or as piles of cash which can be picked up to increase your bonus. Unfortunately, in order to collect your bonus you need to beat Mutoid Man, he waits at the end of the current maze and trundles out of a hole in the wall when you approach. To defeat him you need to blow the gunners from the tank base, blow off his arms and then zap his head. Gruesome - but the audience loves it.

The scores on the doors
The Amiga conversion of Smash TV loses a lot of the frantic feel of the coin-op. This is partly because the only way you can play with two joysticks is either with two Bugs or by gluing two sticks together on the table! This would be OK if a similar system to Llamatron (a great game which, like Smash TV, was also born out of the ashes of the classic Robotron) had been used to allow you to fire in different directions, but in Smash TV you have to hit a key on the keyboard. This greatly disrupts the flow of the game, resulting in the loss of lives.

Another annoying point is the fact that the screen is a lot shorter than in the coin-op. This means that the wild feel of the original hasn't ben carried across, since you haven't got the space to play with. The graphics and sound are a bit messy too, with some extremely garish colours and scratchy sound effects being used to portray the action.

If you've never played the coin-op, then the game may very well hold your interest for a very short while, but anyone who is expecting to play the hit arcade game on their Amiga will be disappointed, since the game lacks the substance and action that is required for a challenging shoot-em-up.



Der Preis ist heiß!

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Wer viel, oft und gerne in die Spielhalle geht, könnte schon mal über den gleichnamigen Acclaim-Automaten gestolpert sein. Jetzt können alle Stolperer daheim bleiben, denn Ocean hat die vogelwilde Ballerorgie auf den Amiga umgesetzt.

Erwartungsgemäß erfreuen sich im Jahre 1999 Gameshows noch größerer Beliebtheit beim TV-Publikum als heute. Kein Wunder, gewinnt man dann doch seine Goldbarren, Toaster und Videorecorder nicht mehr bei so schlappen Veranstaltungen wie dem Glücksrad - stattdessen dürfen die schwerbewaffneten Kandidaten in einer Kampfarena alles niederschießen, was ihnen in die Quere kommt!

Auf dem Computer-Screen entpuppt sich die tödliche Show als Ballerspektakel der allerhektischsten Sorte.

Die zahlreichen Einzelarenen in jedem Level sind leicht schräg von oben zu sehen; auf dem Boden werden ständig neue Bonussymbole für Extrawaffen (alles, was man sich vorstellen kann) und die ganzen feinen Gewinne (überwiegend Haushaltwaren) angelegt.

An den Seitenwänden befinden sich Tore, durch die die Gegner hereingeströmt kommen - und das tun sie mit Begeisterung und in rauhen Mengen! Schon nach kurzem findet man sein eigenes Sprite kaum noch wieder in diesem Tumult von Schlägern, Blutwolken, Panzern, Tretminen, Bonussymbolen, Robotern, Kugeln und herumfliegenden Fetzen...

Das kommt optisch recht nett rüber und wird auch akustisch ansprechend mit knalligen FX und viel Zuschauergejohle untermalt. Aber steuern läßt sich dieses Chaos leider nicht so toll, weshalb die acht (!) Leben meist schnell verheizt sind. Daher sollten sich nur Experten an dieser Show beteiligen - am besten zu zweit, da sind die Überlebenschancen etwas höher. (od)



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The bloodiest, most violent, most senseless arcade machine in history - and now it's on the Amiga. Get ready for total carnage!

Big money, big prizes. Yep, the stakes sure are high these days when it comes to arcade conversions. Take Smash TV, arguably (and as far as I'm concerned, certainly) the best arcade game of the past few years. No surprises to find Ocean with the licence, but more of a shock to find conversion duties being handled by 3D driving game supremo ZZKJ.

I'll come clean right now, and admit that for me the release of the Amiga version of Williams' ultimate slaughterfest was just as important as any of those more brain-based classics like Mega lo Mania, Monkey Island and Eye Of The Beholder. It may be the most single-minded, dumb and violent game around - but it's also one of the best (and that's probably got a lot to do with all the aforementioned traits).

The basic gist of the game (for anyone who hasn't been to an arcade in the last three years) is that TV sports have become increasingly violent to meet the demand of viewers. The violence and the ratings rise until one show becomes an all-consuming national pastime - Smash TV.

Similar in many ways to the game show featured in The Running Man movie, one or two warriors (simultaneously, of course) plough their way, arena by arena, through a TV studio bursting with wads of cash, bonus prizes, and several thousand human, robot and bio-mechanoid nasties.

As you can probably guess, the idea is to clear each arena of the requisite number of nasties, collecting as many goodies as possible along the way. This presents players with one or two problems. One - the sheer number of bad guys, who all either home in, explode at, or shoot at our hero(es). Two - in order to have any chance against this army of death each player has independent firing and movement controls. To achieve this the arcade machine uses one joystick for movement and one joystick to angle the player's weapon (just like Williams' ancient Robotron coin-op - the game which Smash TV is essentially an update of).

This being the '90s there're also four End-Of-Level Guardians in there. First up is Mutoid Man - half man-half machine, all evil (as they say). Scarface and The Cobra Twins are the next two, with the TV show's presenter himself to battle it out with in the final arena.

And so we come to Ocean's miniaturised Amiga version - and I really do mean miniaturised. Before I go on though, I ought to stress one very important point - I do really enjoy this game. It's good fun, and the two player mode is great. Having said that though...


I really do enjoy playing it, but I believe it could have been better. Much better.

AIMING FOR THOSE DIZZY HEIGHTS
The first noticeable thing about Amiga Smash TV is that the playing area is soooo much smaller than in the arcade original. And as you'd expect, this leads to all kinds of problems. For a start, the whole relationship between the warriors, the play area and the bad guys has been altered to compensate for the smaller screen size. Movement patterns aren't quite the same, and collision detection is far more uncertain than in its arcade parent.

There's a lack of fluidity in the control, too - strange when even the C64 version has managed to capture this element of slickness - an essential part of an Williams arcade game. And then there're the End Of Level Guardians. While in the arcade original lives were only lost through bad judgement or stupidity, this version alters the difficulty level drastically and those lives just go tumbling away. In the arcade game the majority of lives are lost in the main arena screens. In this version getting through the first set of arenas to Mutoid Man is relatively easy, but getting past him is nigh on impossible. This doesn't seem fair at all.

There are other, less important but nonetheless niggling, irritations with Amiga Smash TV - the way the speech samples are used in the wrong situations and the general inaccuracy of sound fx and mix, the lack of scrolling between arenas (Amiga owners have to make do with the screen blanking, save for a Smash TV logo) and so on.


Good fun, and the two player mode is great

Whatever the reasons for it, the word 'cheap' springs to mind. The control system is less than idea, too. For those unlucky enough not to own two joysticks (or four and an adaptor in two player mode) then a fire-in-the-direction-of-movement system is used. This simply doesn't work. It means that in order to shoot at something the warrior must run straight at it. There are two keys on the keyboard to lock the firing, or reverse it, but in practice these are just unusable - the game is far too frantic.

The system used in Jeff Minter's Llamatron - where the fun fires automatically, and all pressing fire does is lock it into the direction you're currently moving, a direction it continues to point in even when you scoot off at a different angle - would have been a much better bet.

There's been a lot of arguing at AMIGA POWER about this one. Half the office thinks that the game concept is simply too slight to stand up as a full price product in the first place. Then there's Stuart who, like me, loves the arcade machine, but believes this to be a very poor conversion, losing all the magic of the original. And then, there's me. I'm disappointed, sure, but I still like it - if only there hadn't been so many compromises made in the conversion.

The reason I'm being so negative is that I believe it could have been better. Much better. Maybe because I'm such an avid fan of the arcade machine I'm being too picky, and expect too much from the humble Amiga. I don't know - all I do know is that if it had been a true copy of the arcade machine I'd be tempted to give it the highest rating in AMIGA POWER ever. But it isn't, it's just a groovy little blaster. Buy it, but don't put it at the top of your list.


ZZKJ: TOTAL CARNAGE - HE LOVES IT

ZZKJ - ex-computer journalist and games hacker, reclusive programmer, and now author of the Amiga version of Smash TV. Who better to ask about the trials and tribulations of the conversion, and to answer the question: "Just why isn't it the same as the arcade machine?"

To kick off, how long did the Amiga conversion take?
Too long!

It seems like we've been waiting forever for a new ZZKJ game.
A few deals fell through between this one and Super Monaco, which is why there's been such a long delay. I actually started Smash TV in April or May, but it took so long because the graphics weren't ready in time.

Are you a big fan of the Smash TV coin-op yourself?
No. I'd never seen, played or heard of it. I was sent a video of the game being played though, and thought - yeah - that would be fun. Anything but another driving game.

And how pleased are you with the finished result?
It's not too bad. I'm not too dissatisfied with it. I'm never happy with a finished product, though. After all, I am the author of the thing.

Was it your intention to merely create a playable interpretation, or were you out to make as close a conversion as possible?
I wanted something as playable as possible, but also as close to the original as the machine would allow. I think that people who enjoy playing the arcade machine will enjoy playing my version, though it's obviously not identical. To be honest, I underestimated the complexity of the arcade machine. There're just so many little details to try and cram in. It was a nightmare, but at the same time it was fun to do. As far as I know just about every touch was implemented.

There seem to be some fundamental differences between your version and the arcade machine, though. The screen size is different for a start.
Well, not only would it have meant a complete re-write for the American screen display to try for full screen, but it would have been impossible on a standard Amiga. There just isn't enough memory or CPU time to play with. You've got to remember that it uses 32 colours, which instantly adds to screen processing time. And there's a hell of a lot happening at once - sprites whizzing around all over the place. If I was writing for an Amiga 3000, then yeah, I could have done a full conversion. But it just wasn't possible within the limitations.

There seem to have been quite a few extra changes though.
Well, the movement patterns aren't identical for a start. And the graphics or rather their relationship to each other, aren't the same as the arcade machine's. It's simply down to lack of memory and processor time, and the reduced screen size. It's not arcade perfect. It couldn't be. Changes were also made during playtesting. In the end it wasn't so much a case of how close to the arcade game it could be, but how playable we could make it.

So lack of power meant a smaller screen format, which forced further changes to the game.
Yeah. You've got to remember that even the aspect ratio of the display is different. The arcade machine has a pretty square display, whereas the Amiga version has to work to a grid of 40 x 25 cells.

But what about changes, to, say, the End Of Level Guardian screens? Mutoid Man for example - the way that the blue balls appear all the time, rather than just when a warrior moves in front of him.
Again, it was changed to suit the Amiga version rather than stay true to the arcade one. That screen does play differently - there are safe areas in my version which aren't in the original, for instance. But as time passes, they become progressively more dangerous. Elements were changed to suit playability. That it is fun in its own right was the main concern.

And was it a conscious decision to lot the warriors leave the screen before the baddies have all been wiped out?
Yes, it simply saves time. Otherwise you'd be hanging around forever blasting Mr Shrapnels and things.

And the collision detection? It's sometimes possible to run straight through a gang of thugs.
In the arcade machine it's actually possible to run through some of the bad guys also, though a good run up is necessary. But yes, the collision detect is deliberately more lenient, to make up for screen size. When you consider the number of enemies on a single screen, it would have been impossible otherwise. It takes a good player about an hour to work through the arcade machine, and it takes about the amount of time with my version. So I think the difficulty level is pitched about right.

So what's your next project?
It's the Mega Drive version of Smash TV. The Mega Drive is totally and utterly unsuitable to the game. I didn't actually know that I'd have to do it when I took the job on, so goodness knows how it will turn out.

After spending so long with the game, you must be quite fed up with it by now.
No. I still enjoy the game. They've only just taken the arcade machine back off me. I wasn't too fussed to see the back of it, but I still enjoy playing it. It's just the most mindless machine ever. Everybody I know loved the arcade machine. It's just so unbelievably violent. Brilliant.

Do you intend to continue handling conversion, or does the idea of an original game appeal?
I'd like to do a game by somebody who knows nothing about computers. Games programmers are almost always crap designers. They rarely know how to actually design a good computer game.

So how much of a computer freak are you?
The last thing I want to do when I'm relaxing is to play video games. I like them, but I'd much rather spend time with human beings. A lot of programmers are geeks who spend all their time with their machine. Human beings are infinitely more interesting. I can't love a machine - it's an inanimate object, y'know?

EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE

Here we see just one of the possible routes to Mutoid Man, the first End-Of-Level Guardian. From the main stage, it's swiftly into the first arena, where Big Guys With Clubs are the only baddies to worry about. Things swiftly get nasty with the introduction of Mr Shrapnels (exploding fat guys), gun emplacements, tanks, and lots of mines, but it's not all work work work, as the fifth arena offers the chance to collect loads of bonus prizes. Once again, watch out for those mines (cunningly hidden behind the parcels!).

Smash TV
Smash TV

ARMAGEDDON DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN
It's power-up city in Smash TV. If reality is giving you problems, why not just nuke it?
Smash TV Power-up Icon
Smart bomb - kerpow!
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Extra speed boost!
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Scatter bullets
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The longer lasting shield
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Mortar bombs
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Spinning death
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Rocket launcher
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Spinning laser orb
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An extra life - collect it!
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Long range arc bombs

Smash TV logo CU Amiga Screenstar

Smash TV, the coin-op, typifies shoot 'em ups, with big guns and plenty of things to blast. Remarkably, though, it has no fire buttons.
The game is based on a futuristic game show, where the contestants have to fight for their lives while winning prizes such as VCRs and cars. Each room the players enter has four doors through which armies of baseball-wielding bad guys charge, aiming to cripple anyone who comes near them. Naturally, the only way to survive is to kill everything.

To make things extra difficult, every five rooms huge armed guardians make unwanted appearances and are virtually impossible to kill. The first is a half-man half-tank creature that has to be blow up five times before its guns are silenced. If anything, though, it's a little too difficult to overcome so early in the game.

This is one conversion I have been really looking forward to as the coin-op is one of my all-time favourites. Ocean have managed to capture all the excitement and most of the features of the original. The coin-op cleverly solved the problem of having a human character run in one direction and shoot in another. Until now, coin-ops such as Mercs and Ikari Warriors used rotational joysticks, where the stick could be turned to alter the direction of fire. Smash TV, however, features two joysticks: one to steer the contestant and the other to fire the gun the direction it's pushed. The Amiga version also uses this system, and it works very well providing both sticks have got suckers and a flat surface to stick to. There's also a single stick method where you can only fire forwards, but this method isn't quite so successful.

One of the attractions of the arcade machine is the huge amount of things to shoot. At any one time there can be up to fifty robots, humans and other deadly players all dishing out their own brand of violence at once. Much to my surprise, the conversion also has this inordinate amount of gun fodder, and it's this that makes the game such a success.

Each level is made up from a series of rooms, which are laid out so it takes at least two goes to see them all. Occasionally, there are also rooms littered with cash, prizes and an above average amount of enemies.

The graphics are slightly disappointing. They're neither as tight or as smart as their coin-op relatives. Still, there are a lot of sprites on screen at once and, when they're blown apart by a grenade, who really cares what they look like? The sound effects are also more than competent and throw up a cacophony of sound as the player smashes into the oncoming thugs.

Smash TV has all the place and action of the coin-op, despite lacking its polish. This is one of Ocean's best conversions to date and will definitely find favour with fans of the arcade machine.


BAT OUT OF HELL The Japanese put the humble baseball bat to rather dubious use during the Second World War, using it to torture captured American airmen. Imitating the ancient art of Bastlinado, a block of wood would be put under their ankles, and then the bat used to bludgeon their feet until they either submitted to questioning or feel unconscious. In the movie, The Untouchables, the baseball bat took a starring role as Robert DeNiro, playing the part of infamous gangster Al Capone, used the implement to savagley beat one of his cronies to a mushy pulp!
SMASH IT UP The contestants start the level with an extremely weedy gun. To help them, the show's produrcers teleport extra weapons in the arena. These include triple-fire guns, grenade launchers, rocket launchers and an extremely nasty set of whirling blades. The most useful, and least impressive weapon is the shield, which makes the recipient invincible for a short time and also very deadly to any nasties that touch him.
Most of the opposition are armed with clubs. Now and then suicide bombers waddle on, who explode into a cloud of deady shrapnel if a player comes too close. Some levels feature wall-mounted guns which take occasional, not to mention accurate, pot shots at any player who appears to be doing too well.

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Patrick McCarthy likes games that are sedate and thoughtful, with plenty of time between events to fully appreciate the ramifications of his actions. That's why he's so fat. Smash TV should sort the porker out.

Imagine, if you will, a game show so shallow and superficial that the horribly greedy contestants actually profit from stupid, immoral and despicable acts. Yes, that's it - The Price Is Right. Imagine another game show, in which those taking part are ritualistically hurt to provide the small-minded audience with cheap and nasty thrills at other people's expense.

You've got it - anything presented by Jeremy Bleeder. Now take the concept of these two shows to their logical (and more honest) conclusion - contestants want fame on TV and luxury consumer items, so they can just get in there and fight for them. Never mind getting enjoyment from other people's minor sufferings - let's do it properly and enjoy other people dying. Sounds pretty good so far, doesn't it?

By the kind of coincidence which you knew was coming, that's what Smash TV is all about. Fight your way through hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of muties, get power-ups and win cash for big prizes. If you've been in an arcade at all this year, you've probably seen it, so why am I wasting time waffling on about it? Well, there are other people besides yourself you know - people who may not be able to get into an arcade, Mr Selfish - and they have to be catered for too.

It featured a nifty two-joystick control system and was pretty damn hectic. The big news about this conversion is that if you happen to be a two-joystick family, Smash TV can also be controlled by one player using two joysticks. If you happen to be a four joystick family, two players can each play with two joysticks. There are also normal one and two-player options.

It's a simple enough premise: once you enter a room, there's no way out until you've wiped out the required number of baddies (about thirty million) who come pouring into the room from the various entrances. Once you've cleared a room, you can enter bonus rooms (which are even more hazardous than the regular ones, but reap bigger rewards).

Amiga reviewPatrick: Forget Rosemary Ugly's Pig And Sty Workout - if you want to lose weight in a hurry, play Smash TV. I've lost nine pounds in just two days. (Mind you, you can't leave anything lying about around here for five minutes).

If you're going to play the game in all its two-joystick glory (one controls the direction you move and the other the direction you shoot), you're going to need to find a way of securing two joysticks to the table while you wrench them around with your hands. Perhaps you could nail them down, or hold them with your revoltingly prehensile feet. Perhaps you can hire a peasant from the local village to hold them for you. They'd probably welcome the chance to be warm for a few hours.

If you only have one joystick, it doesn't really matter - the two-joystick bit is more of a 'replicate the arcade game' treat than a necessity, although it does make your expected life span considerably shorter. Perhaps you can get a mate round to play as a team.

Last time I saw action this hectic and violent (stand on a mine and your eyeballs fly across the room) was at a car-boot sale in Peckham (except the car-boot sale was marginally more violent). The minions charge at you from all directions. (I wonder who they are? And I wonder how the TV company hires these mutants to do the job of getting killed? They're probably researchers, if you think of them as ex-Oxbridge types, it just adds to the fun).

There are hundreds of speed-ups, power-ups, special weapons and end of level basts. The different mega-baddies - like Mutoid Man - can only be hurt by special weapons. Add this hyper-action to the multiple joystick-control system and you have something of a wow.

If you like the coin-op, you'll love this - it's very faithful to the original. Be prepared to get sweaty. Smash TV - play the game and regain your figure. Stop