Saturday 5 June 2010

Star Goose

Because apparently everybody knows the bird is the word.

Came across this one accidentally. It's a shoot 'em up called Star Goose, released in 1988 for DOS computers. It also showed up on Amiga and Atari ST computers... though they're all essentially the same thing.

Birds, tanks, space and collecting round coloured objects for no particular reason. This sounds very familiar.

Made by a small company known as Logotron, Star Goose is a tricky shooter that nobody remembers and even fewer actually care that much about. It's nothing hugely interesting but it adds various twists to the genre and is still very nice to play. Presented in 16 colour EGA graphics, Star Goose on DOS looks a bit more dated than its Atari/Amiga siblings, but the gameplay is identical.

The only major advantages with the others version are slightly more varied palettes and a musical score... which isn't actually that great, even on the Amiga. Supposedly the soundtrack was composed by one of the more popular Amiga composers of the time, a man called Fred Gray, and though it certainly isn't horrible... I wouldn't call it memorable. The DOS game relies solely on the PC speaker so it doesn't have the benefit of music outside of a couple of jingles, but on the plus side, this version offers a higher and more stable framerate, which is always a plus in scrolling shooters.

The game stars a character called "Scouser-Gitt" (I kid you not), who pilots a ship-tank-thing called a Star Goose across a tiled cyan landscape with hills. Your mission is to obtain six coloured jewels dotted around the map. Your ship will always travel forwards, looping around if you haven't got all six jewels by the time you reach the exit. You have a limited amount of fuel, ammo, missiles and health, which you can fill up on by entering tunnels (or in the case of missiles, gate-things). The view then changes and you get to collect resources, Sonic 2 Special Stage style.

In the mean time, you'll be getting attacked by various enemies and have to avoid obstacles. And this leads to one of the game's biggest flaws - it expects you to know what's coming. There are a few types of enemies that will kill you in one shot if you don't react quick enough, but the problem is, you won't expect them unless you've travelled on this map before. Even if this isn't your first try, the only real chance of success is using missiles, which are slightly less user friendly than your traditional firepower. It's a bit unbalanced as other enemies barely scratch you and can therefore be defeated easily, whereas these things exist solely to put you back a few screens and waste time.

The level design follows a similar pattern. Occasionally you'll be presented with a dead end that you can't avoid (because reversing is impossible). It expects too much of an average player, namely the ability to predict the future.

However, the lives system is generous. Lose a life and you'll repeat the stage, but all enemies you've already destroyed will remain dead. Get a game over and you won't start the entire game again, you'll just begin at the last level you were on without any punishments. A good thing, because deaths are plentiful.

Things are slightly unpolished, one example being the fact the game will start by itself after a short while of not pressing anything. There's also no change in scenery, and though the hills and levels do remind me of RollerCoaster Tycoon for some reason, it does get a bit dull after a while. Even though the Amiga/Atari ST versions change the palette every stage, it's still the same graphics but with a new coat of paint. You can't criticise a 1988 game for not having sound (because the first commercial game to support Adlib sound cards would be Dark Ages in 1991), but it does put it behind most other scrolling shooters that didn't have these restrictions, especially those in the arcade.

So don't get too cocky Star Goose. You're a decent game but you haven't stood the test of time that well. Still, I can't help but congratulate such a stupid name and if I were ever to continue the adventures of another certain bird that spends time by the water, this would have certainly made a cameo of sorts.


  1. "released in 1988 for DOS computers. It also showed up on Amiga and Atari ST computers... though they're all essentially the same thing" What?! They aren't remotely the same thing; they are completely different hardware with unrelated operating systems.

  2. The music in this game was quite memorable for me. I pulled the game up yesterday on youtube... hadn't played it for over 20 years and remembered every note.