The Dark Court

Reviews of new c64 demos.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"The Works" by Panda Design

The Works
Panda Design
score: 5/10

One of the few advantages of a more compact scene is that it's easier to follow the progress of certain people & groups. Case in question: Panda Design, less than a year old and seemingly consisting of just one person (although 'officially' there are 2 more guys involved), radiantx. This is his fourth demo in about six months time, and like his previous production "Blueprint for Organic Toy" it's certainly quite charming, built around a catchy tune. More important though is the fact that he doesn't seem to take things too seriously, resulting in some firm tongue-in-cheek moments, my favorite being the 'this sentence describes itself' cut-scene lyric.

There's still a lot left to be desired though: the creator's inexperience shows in the crude transitions, and some ideas deserved a much better execution. Another weak point is the low visual quality, which given the fact that the other members of the group supposedly are graphicians is quite ironic. Let's hope they'll be more involved next time because right now radiantx is just not good enough to pull all the weight by himself.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

"Beertime IVA" by Dekadence

Beertime IVA
score: 6/10

Dekadence have always been more miss than hit for me, with only Beertime 2 leaving a somewhat favorable impression. Their 'big screen' style has its fans though; at the time of writing this is in the top 10 demo list on csdb. Now we all know that doesn't mean much (the voting system there has been defect from the get-go) but it's clear that people like it. And it's not hard to see why: it features some really cool effects (reminding me a bit of the old Reflex demos), timed to a great soundtrack. Too bad about that 'mandatory' plasma creeping up again, and the complete lack of coherency. Still, as far as Dekadence demos go, this one's pretty good.

"Living" by Glance

score: 4/10

I have a confession to make: if it wasn't for my friend and fellow Focus member Ben specifically asking me to do so, I would never have reviewed this demo, as it's rather hard to write about something that leaves you cold. Still, I made a promise, so here goes nothing ..

Glance is a relatively new demogroup from Turkey, founded in May 2004 but just now making itself known to the world. The only real active Turkish scener in the last few years, Nightlord, is part of the team, just like a bunch of ex-Bronx members. Too bad that here their combined experience results in a rather lacklustre product, with only a few moments of mild inspiration before once again falling back to many-times-done-before effects. Graphically it's not very good either, with the much discussed 'frog and the city' picture even succeeding in making my eyes hurt. Not a demo I really want to see again, that much is sure.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"8 Bits Die Hard" by Red Brand

8 Bits Die Hard
Red Brand
score: 5/10

The demoscene in Holland has been in a pretty bad state for quite a while now: there are just a few groups left, with only Xenon & Focus actually making an impression in the last 5 years. Compare that to countries like Germany or Sweden and it's clear that things are looking very bleak. Worse still, there has been virtually no 'new blood' coming in.

So imagine my surprise when on this year's Primary Star an until then unknown Dutch group competed with a fast intro, a tune and most importantly, a demo. Even better: both of its members can really be considered newcomers, although one of them apparently is also in 'Raccoon'. Not that I've ever heard of that group either ..

On to the demo then. Simply put, for a debut it's a pretty decent effort. The highlight is the intro which really gets you in the mood with a nice semi-digitized-graphics effect. After that the other 2 parts and especially the loader are a tad disappointing, but overall it shows a certain promise. I wouldn't go so far as to say that they are 'our' future, but with the addition of a good graphician and a little more originality, they might come a long way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"Accumulator" by Silicon ltd.

Silicon ltd.
score: 6/10

For most (Dutch) sceners the name 'Silicon ltd.' will always be synonymous with some of the best parties organized in the early 90's. They also released a lot of demos, but unfortunately these were not of the same quality. After their last production, "Bloempjes & Bytjes", scored a miserable 10th place in the demo competition at The Party 4 the group dissolved. Some of their key members formed the pc division of Success a little while later, where it finally 'clicked': they did some rather funky demos, making a nice impression before, once again, fading away.

And now the year is 2005 and, like several other groups from yesteryear, they have returned. Unlike most of those other groups however they didn't decide to just pick up where they left, but rather start a-fresh. Fresh being the operative word here: the demo radiates a very pleasant vibe with its groovy graphics and energetic tune. Ofcourse it has its flaws too: some of the effects are either bad (blocky plasma!) or non-existant, and it's both too short and very lightweight. But in the end it's bound to make you feel better, and sometimes that's all that counts.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

"Hello:FRIEND" by Fairlight

score:8/10 (GEM)

I guess by now we all know what to expect of a 'typical' Hollowman demo: lots of dialogue, talking heads, strange graphics, (vector) animations, the odd hardcore effect and, as final ingredient, the theme.

This time it's all about "isolation": the main character caused an accident and as a result his friends have dropped him like a hot potato. After a while though it becomes clear that there's more to it: appearantly he did something else, something that's maybe even worse than causing another human being having to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

It may be clear by now that this is not really your average c64 demo. Instead Hollowman tells a story and manages to get the viewer (well, at least me) guessing about what really happened to the protagonist. This is quite a feat, and a serious step up from making people break their heads over how a certain effect was coded.

Hollowman is at his best when he injects personal elements into his demos, like he did with "Manhood" and "Pretending to see the light". But there's another side to him as well, that of the (technical) coder and graphician. In the past I've wondered if his demos wouldn't profit from 'better' graphics but I guess I have gotten used to his style, as I quite like them here. Even though they're a bit unclear from time to time they fit the demo perfectly, with the final picture as an excellent example. Coding wise it's as if he's no longer trying to prove himself, which is a good thing as in the past his urge to do so got in the way of the final result.

A great piece of work, showing once again that Hollowman is a true artist. I'm already looking forward to his next release.

Friday, August 26, 2005

"Irrational" by Chorus

score: 6/10

First things first: Demode 2 this is not. Instead it looks more like "Demode 50%" or "Demode - the leftover parts", with code & graphics that just weren't good enough for last years' surprise hit. That doesn't mean it's a bad demo though, and how could it be? the Hungarian super-duo of Clarence & Leon are masters of their craft, and with 'regular guest musicians' Drax & Fanta on board again, there's just way too much talent involved.

A lot of attention has been paid to smoothen up the design with small effects adding to the overall style. It even reminded me a bit of the first 2 demos WWE released last year - only of a much higher quality ofcourse. Unfortunately most of the main effects are of the 'seen before' variety, with only the last part making a more original impression.

In the end this demo is somewhat forgettable: 10 minutes after I checked it for the first time I had trouble remembering what I just saw. And while this was more than enough for winning a small party like Arok there is no doubt in my mind that this wouldn't have stood a chance at a bigger event like, for example, LCP (which took place a week earlier). So let's hope that when the day comes that Chorus faces some real competition, they'll step up to the plate and again show us what they really are capable of.

"Forgotten Bytes" by Science 451

Forgotten Bytes
Science 451
score: 4/10

This is the second demo by Science 451 since 'they' (actually just one person, H.O.) returned, and like its predecessor it contains rasters, lots and lots of rasters. But where 'Sixteen years of silence' at least possessed a certain charm, this one is just plain old-fashioned, nothing more. No wonder, since two of the parts, as well as the intro, were coded in 1988, and the only new part was created in the same vein. Unfortunately it makes for a very bland demo, with no redeeming features apart from the classic tunes.

All please rise ..

I've been reviewing c64 demos for diskmags since 1991, at first for the legendary Sh0ck, and later for other mags such as The Pulse, Driven and Scene+. I also have written a number of articles for the scene portal. And while I may continue doing that, it's time for the next step: a blog entirely dedicated to my rantings on new releases. 'New' being the important word here: I'll try my best to have a review of a demo written within the shortest time possible after it's released.

What I will not try to do though is review everything. A lot of the stuff today is just plain crap and doesn't deserve my time watching it, let alone writing about it. Instead I'll concentrate on the so-called 'gems': demos that, on a scale of 1 to 10, would score an 8 (Good), 9 (Excellent) or a 10 (Magnificent).

Since there aren't too many gems being made these days (only 5 last year!) I'll also give some attention to those scoring a little lower (6 or 7), because as I found out during all those years, a lot of people don't really share my taste in demos, and may feel that what I think is just decent, is in fact the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Way too many commas in that last sentence.

If a demo scores 5 or lower most of the time I will only mention it just to make sure people know I've actually seen it, in an 'also released' list. Right now I'm still doubting whether I'll publish the scores of such demos as well, or just leave it out. After all, nobody likes being told that their work only deserves a 3 out of 10. Still I guess I will piss people off, but then again, I've been doing so for many years with my reviews. Since 1991, to be precise ..

I am the Dark Judge, and this is my Court.