Push­ing The Lim­its: Star­dust

This show­piece didn’t re­sult in in­stant star­dom, but Blood­house’s de­but was a strong foun­da­tion

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS -

Learn how Blood­house’s shooter pushed 16-bit home com­put­ers

» Plat­form: Amiga » De­vel­oper: Blood­house » re­leased: 1993

It’s fair to say that Star­dust wasn’t a tremen­dously in­no­va­tive game, when taken at a pure play de­sign level. Es­sen­tially, it was an en­hanced ver­sion of As­teroids – a rel­a­tive relic of gam­ing at 14 years old. Even the idea of a 3D space shooter had been pulled off many a time be­fore. How­ever, nei­ther of these ideas had been ex­e­cuted on a home plat­form with quite the level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion achieved by Blood­house.

In the main stages, colour­ful an­i­mated scenes serve as a back­drop to the As­teroids-style ac­tion, but the truly im­pres­sive as­pect of these sec­tions is the en­emy graph­ics. Ray traced as­teroids fly across the screen, sav­ing me­mory by us­ing a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent colours to rep­re­sent their re­silience. The oc­ca­sional sim­i­larly de­tailed en­emy ship also puts in an ap­pear­ance, boast­ing ef­fects like mul­ti­seg­mented sprites. The game also fea­tures op­tional ex­tra mis­sions, which ac­counts for the Thrust-style screen­shot found on this page, with its writhing scenery and warped back­ground.

But it was the 3D tun­nel stages that re­ally set the game apart from the games that had ap­peared on the plat­form pre­vi­ously – there was none of the jerk­i­ness that plagued games such as Space Har­rier II. The tun­nel an­i­ma­tion was cre­ated with in­cred­i­bly lim­ited re­sources, but was big enough to scroll and con­vey a sense of move­ment, and an­i­mated fast enough to cover its lim­i­ta­tions. By lim­it­ing these stages to just two en­emy types, there was enough of an an­i­ma­tion bud­get for the sprites to ap­pear to grow nat­u­rally as they ap­proached the screen, thus avoid­ing the com­pu­ta­tion­ally dif­fi­cult task of true scal­ing.

Star­dust was an awe­some achieve­ment on the Amiga, re­vi­tal­is­ing a clas­sic but with the small flaw of an ex­treme dif­fi­culty level. The game scored well in the press as a re­sult – scores ranged from Amiga Ac­tion’s low 78% to scores of 88% in Amiga For­mat, 89% in Amiga Power and 91% in The One. An en­hanced ver­sion ti­tled Su­per Star­dust was later pub­lished for AGA Amiga plat­forms, this time hav­ing been picked up by Team17. Blood­house would soon merge with Ter­ra­mar­que to form House­mar­que, which is still go­ing strong to­day with games like Re­so­gun, Nex Machina and Su­per Star­dust VR.

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