Vid Grid

The Jaguar CD originally came with two CD games packed in the box along with the system. The first of these was Blue Lightning, a fairly playable and enjoyable After Burner clone which had it's roots on the Atari Lynx. The second game was Vid Grid...and I use the term 'game' in the loosest possible sense, but that isn't to say that it isn't a fun and highly impressive showcase for the Jaguar CD's technical abilities.

As you may expect from the title, Vid Grid's main play mode presents the player with a music video that has been scrambled and it's up to you to unscramble the video in the fastest possible time (or before the video ends) in order to accrue points. Sounds stupidly simple - and it is - but I was also surprised at just how much fun it actually is. It helps that all of the music videos featured in the game are from genuine artists and bands (Ozzy Osborne, Guns 'N' Roses, Peter Gabriel and Aerosmith amongst others) and are some of their most well-known songs so you'll find yourself humming (or - God forbid in my case - singing) along with the tracks as you battle to unscramble them before they end.

There's a practice mode where you can get familiar with the videos if you've never seen them before, but the main meat of Vid Grid is the 'Standard' game where you are presented with a selection screen of videos and the stipulations are given - this includes the size of the grid (eg 3x3, 4x4, 5x5 etc) and whether the game has decided to flip or mirror any of the tiles. Sometimes, a stage will have multiple challenges, so that once you've unscrambled a 3x3 grid, it will instantly re-scramble into a 5x5 grid with some tiles that have the video on them mirrored. It's a bastard when that happens, I can tell you. There's little else to Vid Grid in all honesty, and it's probably a good thing that Atari chose to bundle the game with the system for free as I doubt many people who could potentially have paid £40 for it would have been impressed with that. What they most certainly would have been impressed with however, is the Jaguar CD's ability to handle all this video footage, at a fairly respectable resolution (OK, it's hardly HD but come on - this was 1995!) and then scramble it all up and still have it running at full speed with zero glitching or freezing. Ever since I first saw the quality of the Jaguar CD's FMV I've been impressed with how stable and clear it is - without exception - and Vid Grid only strengthens my stance that the Jag CD has the best video output (as in 'full motion video') of all the CD-based systems of the era. The 3DO's video is nowhere near as clear and the Mega CD's video playback looks atrocious due to the limited colour palette of the hardware. It's hardly something to shout from the rooftops, but at a time when other CD-based systems were awash with FMV games, the Jaguar CD was bereft of them even though it clearly matched a Video Cartridge-enhanced Philips CD-i for clarity and quality.

As a technical demo of the abilities of the Jag CD then, Vid Grid cannot be faulted...and as a tool for entertainment it also holds up fairly well. It has some great videos from some brilliant musicians and there are enough variations in the challenges to make you want to play on for longer than you probably thought you would. And I really wasn't expecting that at all.

Hover Strike

One of the first things I published here at Do The Math was a gameplay video of Hover Strike. I also wrote a little bit of blurb about how it was one of the 'better looking' games on the Jaguar, what with its fully textured environments and basic light-sourcing effects.

But I wrote that back in another time - a time before Battlemorph (which I like to call TBB. Not to be confused with Tuberculosis), and since Battlemorph entered my life, it has only served to show me the error of my ways when I described Hover Strike with such positive prose. But before I launch into a scathing attack on the game, let me fill you in on the background story.

On some distant planet or another, colonists have gone missing; Pirates have taken over; deadly machines patrolling the surface; you are sent in to clear a path for the Federation forces...blah, waffle, drone. Yep - it's a story you've heard in a quidzillion and one (eh?!) other similar games (it even crops up in the aforementioned Battlemorph and it's prequel), so you know the drill. Choose a mission from the initial five which are spread across the planet in different environments such as the ice cap, deserts, 'industrial' zones etc., and once you've selected a location you're given an objective to destroy. In the case of Hover Strike it'll either be a strategic object or structure such as a gun turret or a missile silo, or a guarded convoy of some description - and then you're dropped into the gameplay level to start waging war. It is actually extremely similar to the set up used in both Cybermorph and Battlemorph (and pretty much every other mission based shooter on the Jag) and shows a complete lack of originality on the part of the developers.

Originality aside though, I guess it was a tried and trusted method of setting up the story, the location and the reason for the game existing in the first place, so I totally 'get' why this structure was employed. Standard stuff so far. The issues begin once you start playing Hover strike though. Your heavily armed hovercraft (why is a hovercraft?!) is dropped on the planet's surface and then you careen around pinging off walls and hills, without any sort of idea where you're meant to be going or what you should be looking for. The controls are pretty horrid and the inertia-based handling of your craft, while probably intended to be 'realistic,' in fact make the game very difficult to actually play. The field of view is limited too, so you'll constantly find yourself facing the sky, the floor, the sky again, the wall, maybe catch a glimpse of an enemy as it takes pot-shots at you, and then the wall again as you furiously hit the 'shoot' button and try desperately to get away from whatever's firing at you with the accuracy of that sniper in Saving Private Ryan. Once you do find yourself in a quiet area of the map and have time to get to grip with the controls (you can drive forward and slide around as you would imagine a hovercraft can), you'll notice that the game can look quite impressive at times.

As I stated previously, the whole game world is fully texture-mapped, as are the enemies and items that are littered throughout. The draw distance is quite short, but that's probably to be expected on this system. It's a shame then that the game handles so badly. The environments are full of divots and angled rises that will throw your craft all over the place and the way you have to move your target reticle up and down to fire at airborne enemies (whilst being chucked around and shot at) will drive you up the wall (yes - pun intended). As an early glimpse at what the Jag could do with fully textured 3D environments, Hover Strike is an interesting showcase, but the real problems come from the controls and the inertia engine employed. The graphics are actually quite good when it's not doing an impression of a flipbook animation, and you can see that the game does run quite well when you're in the external view (although it does have DOOM 32X style borders, and then some!), but as a pure gaming experience? Hmm. Hover Strike is hard to recommend. The music is alright though. And that's all I have to say about that, M'lud. On that note though, I wonder how the Jaguar CD version compares?

Only one way to find out...!

Oh, and apologies for the over-use of (here I go again!) brackets, grammar-fans!


Oh appears that the Amiga community have grown jealous of the Jaguar's superior processing power and all-round brilliance!

Well, imitation in the best form of flattery I guess...

Amiga CD64?! Hahaha! Capable of running Gloom in a window that only has 6" borders instead of 12"...

Rule The Jungle!

I always wondered why Atari never capitalised on the Jaguar name by advertising the system as some kind of powerful, sleek and deadly jungle predator. was called the Jaguar! It's become apparent that I must eat a massive, highly calorific slab of humble pie though, as it appears that somebody at Atari temporarily awoke from the semi-permanent brain fart that the entire management division was hit with in the late 1990s: advert involving the Jaguar (well, the Jaguar CD) in a jungle setting does infact exist. Thanks to Clint Thompson (@mindthreat on Twitter) for bringing this to my attention. The question remains though...why wasn't there more of this jungle-themed advertising? The potential for an amazing advertising campaign is unparalleled...even eclipsing SEGA's amazing 'Buoy' campaign. Erm...

On that bombshell, here's my own version of Jaguar hunting:


It's odd that Cybermorph is still a bit of a running joke whenever anyone mentions the Jaguar. Odd, because it is actually a very playable game, with tight controls and fairly decent graphics for the time it was was released. Yes, the continual mocking of the infamous green-faced AI companion grates somewhat...but you know what? If you don't crash into everything you can see, you won't hear her! 

Battlemorph is the sequel to Cybermorph and it appears that the developers took a lot of notice of the reviews and opinions of the first game, because it's a massive improvement over the prequel in almost every area. For starters, there is a coherent storyline that is played out from the very beginning of the game via some impressive pre-rendered FMV (along with a Sean Connery impression courtesy of comedian/actor Rob Brydon), and lots of briefing and weapons selection screens that are much, much better than those seen in Cybermorph.

The story (if you care), is that the antagonists from the first game - the Pernitians - have been pushed out of the human worlds of the Galaxy back to their own little shit hole. In order to stop them coming back for more, the Earth Defense Council sends a load of battle cruisers to the more remote planet clusters to patrol, but slowly (and rather predictably), the Pernitians return and start destroying these cruisers and taking over again. Enter the Sutherland - Earth's last remaining heavy cruiser. The Sutherland is sent to find the homeworld of the Pernitians and destroy them once and for all, and is armed with a secret weapon: the top secret War Griffon, which is an upgrade of Cybermorph's T-Griffon. So you jump into the cockpit of the War Griffon and jet down to the surface of various Pernitian-controlled planets in order to basically blow the crap out of everything you see, steal plans, destroy bases and even detonate entire planets.

If you've played Cybermorph, you'll feel instantly at home with Battlemorph as everything is pretty much the same...but better. The controls are virtually identical, and the game looks quite similar but it's the small improvements that will, weirdly, make the most impact on you. The onboard AI Skylar is now much less vocal (and has a blue face now!) and will only pop up to announce mission-specific stuff or if your shields are low/you've picked up a new weapon etc., and the music has been improved dramatically (in fact, I don't even think there was any in the first game if memory serves). The graphics have been improved slightly with lots more texture mapping, enemy types and benign indigenous lifeforms roaming around; and the draw distance and backgrounds have really been given a boost thanks to the extra storage on the CD format.

Perhaps the biggest new feature in Battlemorph though, is the new environments. Thanks to the War Griffon being much more advanced than the crappy old T-Griffon, you can now dive beneath the surface of any bodies of water you might spot and this adds a whole new dimension to the game as certain mission objectives or items can be hidden under the waves. The graphical effects used are really quite good, as everything goes 'wavy' as if it's being viewed through water currents. Other new environments include some first-person-shooter style bits where you travel through tunnels or go inside buildings to collect power ups.

Really, what you get with Battlemorph is more of what made Cybermorph a great game, but with a whole lot more added. CD-quality music and sound effects, more missions, great presentation and upgraded graphics. This is a perfect example of what could be achieved with the Jaguar CD and only makes it more painful that either the Jag didn't launch with a CD drive as standard, or that the add-on was launched earlier so developers had more time to make more games for it. A great game, with a lot going for it and if you own a Jag CD you should really own Battlemorph too.