Monday, August 31, 2015

Alien World


Alien World is a shoot 'em up written by Gary Antcliffe (Blazing Thunder/Yogi's Great Escape) and was released in 1992 by Hi-Tec Premier Software. Ignoring the dreadful title tune which you should immediately skip, the game itself is a cross between the likes of Menace and R-Type, with a dollop of Venus Flytrap thrown in for good measure.

Wow. The action is relentless and immediately hits you with a ton of pitfalls like red-hot streams of molten lava which shoot up from pools of glowing red death. It isn't long before you feel a little Blood Money creeping in as the scrolling alternates between horizontal and vertical but I liked the parts which aren't scrolled automatically - allowing you to move at your own leisure. However, gravity does play a part to affect this, think Flappy Bird or SantaFly!

  
The intro is pretty cool but over with all too quickly which is a shame.

  
Right from the off you'll need to get used to gravity and aliens that you cannot kill...

Graphically, this is outstanding with ultra smooth scrolling - best experienced using a real Atari ST, of course. Everything looks beautiful with rich colours and fast movements but the only thing I'm left wondering about is the bland grey background. Perhaps a few stars would have been better? The sound effects are okay...

Gameplay is what matters so I'm impressed with this tough nut release. Sure, it's learning curve is immense, and will take some effort to master, but stick with it!! It's challenging but fantastic fun and sure has that "one more go" appeal. Yup, Alien World is freakishly fun and should entertain for hours so grab the floppy or HDD version now.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Starquake

Of course, this is the Atari ST conversion but I've also recorded the ZX Spectrum game too :)

Today, I thought that I would descend deeper into the realms of retro gaming with an old great that I've not played since I was 14 years old, Starquake by BubbleBus / Mandarin Software. Like most people, I did not own an expensive Atari ST in 1985 and was instead using a ZX Spectrum. Yup, I've not played Starquake since the mid-80s!

You're a BLOB (BioLogically Operated Being) which has crash-landed on a planet and it's your job to save it before it implodes! Each screen is filled with cutesy (yet annoying) baddies that can zap away your energy or kill you outright. Thankfully you have a weapon but they are relentless with their swarm-like attacks. Curiously, you have no jump ability but instead, can build temporary platforms that help you reach those higher places which is cool.

 
The intro is short but not without good humour before the craziness begins!

 
Arghh those security doors!! But the beautiful artwork makes up for it, almost! ;-)

Also dotted about the map are hover-pads which you can make good use of. Starquake is such a big game and one which will instantly appeal whilst you somehow get yourself completely lost as you wander from screen to screen. There are tasks to complete, like collecting objects and computer codes, which is a lot harder than it sounds. Oddly, you cannot collect items when using a hover pad... so be prepared to think!

Overall, I found our Atari ST version to be a little harder than the original Speccy game but its definitely a brilliant conversion of the 8-bit classic. Graphically it's miles better but I must also say the music is a chiptune joy and I really enjoyed it. Yup, I highly recommend this oldskool Christmas cracker which offers a massive, long-term challenge.

Starquake can be downloaded via Old Games Finder and this is a map of the Speccy game, which I love.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Encyclopaedia of Atari ST Demos


The Encyclopaedia of Atari ST Demos is a new website being written by ST Survivor, a fella with an impressive portfolio of graphical works under his belt and now he has decided to share that knowledge. Check it out! :-)

  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lotus Turbo Challenge II


If there was one game that I always enjoyed on my old Atari ST, it was Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge. The semi-realistic physics helped to make it utterly addictive without ever crossing over into boring old simulator land. It has such amazing graphics, almost an arcade-like quality, with fun gameplay that was both exciting and challenging.

Lotus 2 is quite different from the original in a number of ways. Firstly, you will notice that you have the entire screen to drool over the graphics and you aren't racing a number of laps around a typical circuit because we now have checkpoints to beat as we road trip across the American continent. Also, there are weather conditions to endure which crudely add an element of pseudo-realism - even if the other drivers fail to use their headlights at night...

  
Vroom!! The roads are absolutely superb and certainly offers a thrilling challenge!

  
Other racers balance the gameplay - without ruining your experience - but they don't use their lights!

I also think they captured the feeling of speed incredibly well - almost Vroom standards - with extreme velocities. Strangely, our car appears to be running on fairy dust because there is never a need to refuel this sexy Esprit or Elan soft top. Which is good, who needs that kinda realism? These differences certainly help Lotus II leap away from the original and into a whole new driving experience whilst remaining familiar to the original in many respects.

Lotus II is an incredible Bullrun and zooms high into my Top 10 of Atari ST racers. I cannot recommend this belting racer enough so grab the floppy or hard disk installable game right now. I absolutely love this speedster!!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Carlos



Les Adventures de Carlos was released in 1994 by Microids and you are in control of a bearded fat man wearing a rather odd costume! This might sound odd but your best friend appears to be a parrot who helps you out fighting off the flying nasties. Each level is stuffed with lots of baddies, however, you have no gun and need to use your enormous weight to squish everyone! You can even use some of that blubber when falling great heights, this creates a miniature earthquake thus killing anything nearby. Whatever works, right?

Aesthetically, Carlos looks and sounds really nice with gorgeous colours and beautiful sprites. However, the gameplay was designed to have scrollable levels and this poor ST port has push-scrolling - in all directions. This means that everything stops while the screen is pushed along and can become extremely irritating, especially during a diagonal jump which may require the screen to scroll in two directions. Now, this method might work perfectly well for some games but Carlos was designed to scroll and thus fails miserably.

The Atari ST has a wealth of decent platformers so we don't need rubbish like this. Don't bother loading this.

LINKS

 - I do not recommend Carlos but masochists can download it for floppy and hard drive.
 - Here are some level codes: Level 2 = BONGO / Level 3 = GALET / Level 4 = PATAU / Level 5 = SIRTA

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

How to emulate an Atari ST

Like most people, I've spent the recent years emulating an Atari ST and, since starting AtariCrypt, I have also been asked tons of questions about emulation. These questions are usually about TOS versions and the various settings within Hatari. So let's keep this simple for a real-basic outline of what you should know to get started playing the awesome range of Atari ST games on your Mac (PC and Linux should be the same but I cannot confirm)

Firstly, there are two basic models of the Atari ST. The original Atari ST and the enhanced Atari STE (Blitter, more colours, DMA audio, analogue controls, hardware scrolling, a newer version of the OS)

1) If you want to play a commercial game then the chances are it'll be for the original Atari ST model.
2) If you want to delve in deeper (shareware, music, demos) then you should probably emulate the Atari STe.


ST/e specs?

1) For the ST, I would recommend you choose 1 or 2mb RAM and run with TOS 1.04 (sometimes TOS 1.02)
2) For the STe, I would recommend you chose 1 or 2mb RAM but run with TOS 1.62 (rarely does this alter)

For the most part, these settings will work really well. I personally tend to stick with a basic setup of Atari STe with 2mb RAM and TOS 1.62 to play floppy disk games. And possibly 4mb for some hard disk-based games.


So what should you download?

1) Download the emulator itself - Hatari or NoSTalgia (major update due soon)
2) Grab yourself a copy of The Operating System (TOS) and there are lots listed on ATARIWorld.
3) Many websites have lots of ST floppies to download but the best places are Stonish and Old Games Finder who links to many different online archives. Hard disk games are available from 8BitChip (see GEMDOS in first pic)


My own Hatari settings!

I have captured several screenshots of my own Hatari preferences. Okay, there is nothing mind-blowing here, I simply hoped this might be of some use to any newcomers. Any questions then feel free to comment below:







Monday, August 03, 2015

Alpha Waves


Alpha Waves is a unique game if ever there was one! We are to pilot an odd spaceship (that looks like a wedge of cheese) which is trapped within a massive multi-roomed cube. Each of these inner rooms is littered with platforms that function to progressively bounce you higher into the air and is your means of transportation.

We bounce independently, as if on a trampoline. But this is only when using the platforms, if you don't then gravity takes over and you sink to the floor like a lead balloon - because your craft strangely has no upward thrust, only forwards. So use them wisely and skim from platform to platform to ultimately reach the dizzy heights and an exit. All this may sound silly but it's quite a cool concept that is well executed and very easy to pick up and play.

  
Oh heck, how am I going to reach that platform over there? Hang on, somethings coming!!

Two gameplay modes are available: "Action" has a time restriction whereas "Emotion" gives you all the time in the world and is useful for newcomers or those simply wanting a more leisurely experience. Controls are best with the joystick and navigation is improved by pushing up or down to change your viewing angle. Interestingly, a shadow is cast by your craft which helps to pinpoint your position perfectly. Some rooms contain obscure baddies which can annoyingly get in the way and knock you off position - watch out for the "snake" creature!!

Graphically this may appear simple or even crude but it's actually mightily impressive! The Atari ST is very working hard to display an abstract world of 3D filled-vectors with zero distance clipping. Faster computers will knock it out the park but the 8MHz Atari ST performs so fast and fluently. Heck, it even runs in high resolution so you can see all the polygons at 640x400 without any slow down (but I personally preferred the whacky colours in low resolution).

  
Ah, these look like an easy couple of rooms... until a circular abstract beast decided to attack me!

I personally rank this as an amazing game and a perfect example of what is lurking within the Atari ST archives just waiting to be re/discovered. It might not appeal to all, but Alpha Waves certainly helped invent a new genre which nobody ever expected and it which plays great with many unique challenges which will require lots of skill and perseverance. Who would ever have thought bouncing your way through a cube could be so much fun?

Alpha Waves can be download and run from a floppy but is obviously best run from your hard disk. Enjoy!!