Pushing The Limits: Stardust
This showpiece didn’t result in instant stardom, but Bloodhouse’s debut was a strong foundation
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.