• Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatCommodore 64
ReviewJason and Jeff

Main review

What is it with computer games and attempting to predict the future? We’ve seen some weird ideas in the past here at Oldschool Gaming but the story behind The Slarti And Stash Space Saga is that in the future drug taking has become such a heinous crime that banishment to space is the only accepted cure. Whilst it’s probably questionable as to if some habitual drug takers would even notice anything except, perhaps, when they got the munchies and tried to make the journey to the all-night garage or get a pizza delivered, it’s bound to nearly decimate the Chocolate Hob-Nob trade overnight!

The action centres around Slarti and Stash, a couple of stoners who are flung into deep space by the evil, draconian powers-that-be and the game itself is divided into three trips… erm, stages. Stage one sees our heroes aboard their spaceship, flying along a corridor of what appear to be blue vines and dodging between meteors, stage two is a boss battle of sorts, a skull-like creature with spindly arms and no actual body to speak of sits above a shield that must be destroyed, in classic Yar’s Revenge fashion, in order to damage and eventually destroy it whilst it’s minions weave their way down the screen leaving “children” in their wake to make things more difficult. The third and final stage is set on a distant planet as the player goes foraging for glowing mushrooms on the surface, this excursion being made more perilous by the presence of alien spiders and strange growths that sprout up to kill the hapless explorer.

So we get three games for the price of one then, that almost sounds too good to be true. And it is, because all three of these sub-games are weak games in their own right and not much fun to actually play whilst, even if the more obvious cosmetic bugs like the shuddering of the movement in the first stage or the glitches and stutters throughout the entire game are ignored, there are some serious flaws in the games themselves.

Collisions seem to be hit or miss, if you’ll excuse the pun, since they range from being overly generous to tighter than a cliched Scotsman, passing through badly bugged on the way with the third level probably being the worst offender since the player can sometimes be killed whilst re-spawning after a legitimate death even if there’s nothing there to actually do the killing! The code behind the control systems used throughout are terrible as well; during the first stage, pushing the joystick horizontally moves the ship whilst moving vertically changes the speed of some of the meteors but moving to a diagonal or pressing the fire button causes the ship to totally ignore the player. In the same way, trying to time the jumps over the spider during the third stage is frustratingly hard until the way the jump control is handled (push up and release for a long jump, push up and hold for a short one that serves no useful purpose) becomes apparent, at which point it’s ridiculously easy.

Everything just feels as though it was just slapped together, the graphics are a mish-mash of new material mixed up with ripped, the soundtrack is bland “euro disco” fare and there’s simply no sense of continuity between the three stages; having lots of energy after the first stage, for example, makes absolutely no difference to how the second plays out and there’s not even a score bonus awarded, so the emphasis is therefore on survival. To make matters worse, there’s no overall difficulty curve since the games aren’t particularly well balanced in their own right and the third stage is, on understanding the quirk in the control system, far easier than the second and the urge in the longer term becomes to not play at all. Since there are no redeeming features to persuade anybody to stick with the game past an initial play, that’s what will happen most of the time and probably rightly so.

Second opinion

The Slarti and Stash Space Saga consists of three stages, all of which are terrible. Really, really terrible. It’s rather hard to understand how truly awful it is, so to try and give you more of an idea I am proud to present what I call: The Dark Prince “The Slarti and Stash Space Saga” Saga, and I’ll start with from the beginning.

After the relatively nice start screen, complete with an irritating flicker and a suspiciously familiar looking scrolling landscape, we get straight into the game. Stage one sees us flying through space avoiding asteroids. Quite why outer space has blue branch thingies on each side and why the asteroids only travel vertically are never explained but I didn’t really think to ask because I was too busy having my eyes ripped out by the jerky scroller. The controls are hideous, not only do they choke if you press fire or a diagonal, but the ship moves too slowly to actually get a chance to dodge the asteroids that plummet down the screen towards you. Thankfully this isn’t a problem as you can happily sail through the level by moving to the far right and staying there whilst doing something more productive with your time, like slowly sand-papering your elbows off.

Stage two starts with a decent enough premise: Shoot through a moving border, kill the big baddie who creeps down the screen and avoid the smaller whizzy things. While you are blessed with the ability to shoot things, it doesn’t actually help. The whizzy things aren’t affected by your bullets and move much faster than your ship, making them impossible to destroy and impossible to avoid, providing you with a rich sensation of irritation. To make matters worse, the border sometimes lets bullets fly happily through it and sometimes isn’t even destroyed by the bullets. Most interestingly of all, despite the explanation text telling you that you need a headshot, you don’t have to even fire a single bullet. The stage ends once the baddie has progressed a certain amount down the screen, regardless of how many hits you get in. Nothing says quality like the main goal of the level being totally irrelevant.

Finally we reach stage three, a grossly simplified sort of weaponless Hawkeye with extraordinarily broken parallax, the usual disastrous controls and a nice collection of bugs. Aside from the enemies being so lethal that they can kill you twice in one hit, their movement gets stuffed up when you move making them truly unique. it doesn’t take too long to get used to, but it’s the simple sort of bug that should never be there in the first place. Once you get the hang of the jump though, which like every other control in the game doesn’t like more than one input at once, it’s easy enough to get through it, if you can be bothered that is.

Surely there are some good points though, right? Sadly not. The sound is fairly empty, the music is very bland and samey and even that gets broken when the stages are loading. Quite why each stage needs to be loaded separately when they could all happily fit in memory is beyond me, but I’m sure there’s a logical reason for this. The graphics range from God-awful to “clearly stolen from somewhere else”, it’s fairly easy to tell which are which, even though the ripped graphics have been broken as well. But it’s the overall feeling of hatred towards you, the player, that is most worrying. The vibe you get when playing is that you should be damn grateful that you were lucky enough to be allowed to play this game and any complaint you have about it is totally unjustified.

Ignoring all the “hate propaganda”, all the self praise and all the spelling mistakes which seem to make up most of the presentation of this test of patience, this is a well coded and interesting game. And by “well coded and interesting” I actually meant “horribly, horribly flawed, boring and totally ugly trash heap of a”. The sheer amount of problems both technical and gamewise, and the fact that with a little playtesting almost all of them could have been ironed out, combined with the inexplicable smugness of how brilliant this game thinks it is, makes this the most unlikeable mess I have ever played.

Editors note: this game contains images and text of an adult nature and covers various subjects that might be offensive to some more sensitive readers – please do not download this game if you feel that you are likely to be offended by such things.