Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gauntlet


Gauntlet is an arcade masterpiece with a basic design that is simple, yet genius. It's a combination of a dungeon crawler with an extreme kill-em-all mentality which results in an unstoppable solo or multiplayer experience. Yep, 1-4 people can enjoy hacking and slashing their way through tons of hellish underground levels!!

We are offered an opportunity to play as one of four groovy heroes: a Warrior, Elf, Wizard, Valkyrie and each have their own characteristics for strength and battling the nasties. I personally go straight for the Warrior because he's bound to be the Samson of the group, and thankfully there is no Delilah. Each character needs to be fed, so don't be doing anything daft like shooting food which will have a serious effect on your health.


The object of Gauntlet is simple - kill and escape. Trapped in a 100-level creepy dungeon and everything lurking inside wants to eat you. So it's up to you (and any potential co-op players) to kill everything and find the exit in order to ultimately escape the hellish catacombs. Keys are littered everywhere which unlock access to restricted areas and you shall also note the booty which is conveniently left for you, collect them for extra points.

The monsters are some of the most varied I have ever seen which adds so much to the dungeon feel. We have ghosts, demons, grunts, lobbers (I hate those!) and lots more. They all have their own evil attributes and almost all born from something called a Generator - so destroy these first to cease the onslaught of hatred against you.

 

Finally, Death is here. Yep, literally Death himself and he is almost impossible to kill so try to avoid him whenever possible. Which brings me nicely onto the magical potions you can discover scattered about most levels. By collecting these your chance of survival is greatly improved and will certainly help during an encounter with Death. Hint: do not assume he is a single individual making a single appearance so be wise with your potions.

Stop whatever you're doing and download this wonderful game via Klaz' Hideaway (both hard drive and floppy versions). Every ST owner knows how much this olde struggles on the stock 8MHz computers so Klaz has implemented support for faster computers. My own Mega STe runs at 16mhz and delivers far better framerates!! Overall, you should be playing this right now because Gauntlet is pure retro gaming gold. 10/10

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mad Professor Mariarti


Professor Mariarti is a 5-level platformer in whacky laboratories that range from a biological lab to futuristic space rocket development. However, as a result of some dodgy experiment going mental, everything has strangely come to life and taken over. To make matters worse, they aren't in the best mood and have also grown body parts, like eyes and legs. I think we better fix this problem and clear out the various labs before it drives the Professor, potty!

 
GEM-green? But seriously, don't let the garish colours put you off this fantastic game.

There are four levels to choose from with a fifth only playable after completing the first four. I've been playing the Computer Lab level today and there are many strange creatures populating the rooms, lots of hazards to avoid, and many puzzles to solve. Don't worry too much, these puzzles aren't exactly mind-blowing and are often be as simple as flicking a switch. However, there are some puzzles that will require a little more thought - take a look at the massive pressure chamber which is lethal without first wearing a divers helmet!

The baddies are a most interesting bunch and quite humorous. Sadly, the slightest contact will zap valuable energy and potentially kill you dead. It seems nothing you do will permanently kill them - use your trusty collection of greasy spanners and kaboom they've gone but, seconds later, they are back for more. Actually, this is a good mechanic and certainly keeps the game interesting and fun to play without any empty and boring screens. Also, weapons can be upgraded at using the terminals but that costs money so don't forget to collect any coins scattered throughout.

 
These puzzles are tricky and possibly enough to drive you insane. Enjoy the loony bin!!

Mad Professor Mariarti is a challenging game and so addictive with bucket loads of humorous personality. Some of the puzzles are a little vague and obscure but you'll soon get how this platformer thinks. I highly recommend this, especially if you prefer a platformer that requires a little more effort from the old grey matter. Great game.

8BitChip has the download (both floppy and HDD) plus Stickhead has a fantastic video to watch!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Frenetic


Frenetic is a vertical scrolling shooter released in 1991 by Core Design with gorgeous graphics that are rich in colour with big sprites. The gameplay is quite good but nothing that we haven't seen a million times already. However, I am very impressed by the well-balanced mechanics which meant that I didn't reboot to activate the trainer.

Frenetic is okay but it's nothing special. I think this is because I'm getting the distinct whiff of another weak Amiga port which is a shame because Core has done much better in previous years. The visuals are great but the audio is pitiful and it's also very annoying to lose all your power-ups after a life is lost. Yep, there's that whiff of a lame port again...

I advise that you skip this and play something else. There are a ton of quality titles to choose from! However, if you so desire to torture your ST then you can download either the floppies or a hard drive version. Good luck!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chuckie Egg II


After playing the Atari ST version of Jet Set Willy, I then remembered that we also had another 8-Bit platformer by Lothlorien, Chuckie Egg 2. This made me incredibly happy because I love the old Speccy platformers and I oddly I never remember playing the Atari ST conversion back in the day...

Now, before I begin, I must say that Chuckie Egg 2 is perhaps my favourite ZX Spectrum game ever made. I'm not sure what it is, although I know it's not that buzzy sound effect when Harry moves! I personally think it's the open-world aspect as exploration is key to winning me over and there is a massive map. I just love it!!

However, here ends my positivity because the Atari ST game is absolutely terrible. Sure, it looks and sounds better but it's the gameplay that matters over how something looks and sounds. Sadly, this is completely void of any because Lothlorien appears to have done everything they possibly could to ruin this old 8-Bit beauty.

The controls suck. Guiding Harry around any screen is nigh on impossible because he moves far too quickly and now looks like he's eaten too many chicken burgers. So, it's hard enough accurately guiding this fat man around the screen but the jumping mechanic has been completely ruined. It's just wrong and it simply does not work.

I wanted to record a video but I couldn't get by the first few screens - which is terrible because I have explored every inch of this game on the Speccy. So what went wrong? This is an embarrassment to see it running on my Atari ST and I wonder how on earth it ever got by Lothlorien's quality control dept is anyone's guess. (Yes, I jest)

Possibly the worst Atari ST game ever? So play it on a ZX Spectrum and stay clear of this!! 😡

LINKS

 - If you're feeling stupid then a floppy disk can be found using Old Games Finder.
 - A hard drive installable game can be found (no) thanks to 8BitChip.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jet Set Willy


Yes, this is the Atari ST game and not the original running in emulation.

Who hasn't played with Mr Willy in one form or another over the decades - surely the most respected series of 8-bit platformers ever to grace our CRT screens? Well, here is the Atari ST's attempt at Jet Set Willy which is a perfect replica of the original and mimics the gameplay without any unnecessary bloatware "improvements". It's completely authentic and guarantees the same level of entertainment you experienced back in 1984.

Although finished, JSW was never released as Software Projects probably felt that people's expectations had changed since 1984. I can see their point but it's still a massive shame because I feel the produced something authentic and extremely playable. Don't believe me? Then look up. A polished original gem.

Okay, enough of my talking because now it's time to help Master Willy clean up his messy mansion. He is extremely tired and strangely hasn't realised that he could simply sack Maria and just get in bed... Doh!

LINKS

 - Download Jet Set Willy from my own Dropbox file server.
 - AtariMania has a download and an interesting piece of text to read on their website.
 - Here is a pretty darn cool map of the entire Willy Mansion. Ahh, the memories!!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chaos Engine


Not too dissimilar to the mighty Gauntlet, the Bitmaps unleashed Chaos Engine back in 1993. It's a top-down arcade shooter where you get to choose from a selection of cool characters before running around sexy-looking levels with only one purpose - killing baddies. Okay, there is a [minor] puzzle element but this game is all about reaping death!

   

Each character has their own unique skills so I advise that you should play each one to find out which you prefer. The environments are extremely interesting, both their wicked mechanics and visual styles which create a wonderful Victorian England theme and more. Co-op is enabled whether you're alone or with friends and I love having a computer controlled player fighting alongside you. This really helps, especially in the later levels, and is implemented well without ever taking over. However, it is embarrassing when he grabs the coins quicker than I can.

   

The graphics are literally outstanding - from start to end - with their beautiful artworks, detailed sprites and gorgeous landscapes. It's obvious just how much time and commitment went into its production and then those talented Bitmap Brothers decided to take it a step further and make use of the hardware scrolling on the Atari STe. It's only a shame they didn't use the DMA coprocessor for the audio which I feel is a missed opportunity.

   

I have always ranked the Bitmap Brothers as one of the best 16-Bit developers and the freakish charm of Chaos Engine certainly helps to prove this. I couldn't say whether it's better than Gauntlet because it's similar but also very different. However, I can say that this is a remarkable and addictive shooter stuffed full of action and I love it!!

LINKS

 - 8BitChip and D-Bug have created hard drive installable versions which are both superb!!
 - If you need Chaos Engine on floppy disk then Stonish have Adrenalin #37A  #37B Menu CDs.
 - Fancy some level codes? Well of course you do, right?
          -> World Two = T6MV6J4LGLCZ (Thug + Mercenary)
          -> World Two = 73VBPXY1PZV1 (Brigand + Navvie)
          -> World Two = QLVKM4YKJQVS (my own code!)
          -> World Three = 4WQZTTRG61MZ (Navvie + Gentleman)
          -> World Three = 2#YNLN7SR94W (Navvie + Brigand)
          -> World Three = JSP99G416LY2 (I've no idea where I found this!)
          -> World Four = PK2R9J6G5W4K (Navvie + Gentleman)
          -> World Four = C8737KFPBCDB (Navvie + Preacher)
 - ST Format featured a fantastic guide and a walk-through solution (issues: #51 #52 #53 #54)
 - Bitmap Bros have a cool website with maps, guides and more!
 - Let's Play have a great page with many info.
 - I love this game so much I went "out" and bought the Apple Mac conversion!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Damocles - Mercenary II


Update: Paul Woakes sadly passed away on July 15th 2017. RIP †

Today I bring you an online resource I recently found for Novagen's mind-blowing Damocles, aka Mercenary II. During a ramble across the virtual wastelands that is the internet, I found a great site by 'Symoon' dedicated to the series so I simply had to contact the man himself and you can read his response below :-)

Damocles is a game that I personally cannot recommend highly enough and one which should be experienced by all Atari ST players who love to explore an open-world adventure with non-linear gameplay. Now, ignoring your ever fruitful ticker-guide (Benson!) you're on your own and free to do pretty much whatever you choose. However, ultimately you have been paid to save the doomed planet Eris - which is about to be struck by a comet so it's our job to save the day. How you go about this is entirely up to you because there are many paths to take so the choice is yours. I cannot stress just how great Damocles is - a corker that oozes its intriguing adventure from every orifice!

LINKS

 - Take a gander at Symoon's excellent The Mercenary Site website!
 - ST Action featured a cool solution guide.
 - ST Format featured a solution in issue #20 and a cockpit guide in issue #13.

...The site is horribly old but, to me, the content is more important than its look - and spare time is a rare thing these days ;) .... (OOPS.. we started to talk about Hunter!) ... I also have fond memories of Hunter, except that the life was dropping way too fast! I cheated to block that and finished all the missions a long time ago. Real fun using helicopters or hovercrafts!

There isn't much to say about me - I can't call myself an active Atari ST owner. But my brother bought an Atari ST and we mainly played games with it, and I remain attached to it, but not as much as I am to my very first computer (an Oric!). You'll find a few occasional posts from me on some Atari forums under the nickname Symoon, but nothing worth talking about really ;)

I actually began the website around 1996, learning HTML to make a solution page for Mercenary III while I was doing the compulsory military service in France (I'm French, you guessed! ;)  I had struggled so much to get my copy of Mercenary III (I guess it hasn't been imported at all in France then) that I played it so much and found a way to complete it with all the solutions. There was almost no information about Mercenary III on the Internet at the time, and I had discovered the great Mark Sachs' guide to Damocles which inspired me. So it all began as "the Mercenary III solution page", designed in the same way…
Then the site grew little by little, as I added content very quickly thanks to many, many contributors. I recently read back old emails and was puzzled at how many people wrote me about it, and how interesting many of the messages were. I got in touch with many people from Novagen (first was Mo Warden), all very kind, and even met some of them. I'm so sad that Bruce Jordan, who lead the Novagen company with Paul Woakes, passed away 9 years go. First and before all because he really was a friendly man, and of course on more Mercenary-driven motivations, because he was a great source of information. The MDDClone, that appeared around 2002, also was a source of real motivation. Its author hadn't been here, I might not have kept updating the site so long - and certainly not with so much detailed content.


What I loved about the games?  I can't tell you really, I'd say the freedom feeling, and the first-person 3D which put YOU in the world (it wasn't that common at this time). The fact that a whole world was created for the player to simply walk around and the mix between adventure and some kind of flight simulation too. Also, it's humour. As a French young man though, I didn't always notice or understand the fun there was in Benson's words!


I was visiting each and every location hoping to find something significant at any corner. I found (and still find) it amazing that a whole universe was there on a disk. Well, pick anything you want from this ;) But a simple link to the site will suit me as well - without credit - feel free to make it the way you like ;) Thanks again, I hope you spend many pleasant hours in the Gamma system soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Black Lamp


Let's cut to the chase: you’re a clown. Yes, you are plucky Jack The Jester who happens to also be in love with the Princess, Griselda. Sadly, she will never look at you with the same love-struck passion (probably because of that silly costume you are wearing!). Fortunately, for you, the kingdom of Allegorid was attacked by dragons and they stole the magical lamps which protect everyone in the kingdom from evil. This also includes the most acclaimed lamp, a cherished and powerful Black Lamp. So monsters lurk everywhere and the task is a simple one: get the lamps, save the day and be rewarded with your dolly bird princess Griselda. Fail and death awaits you... great, uh?

Black Lamp is your typical flip screen platformer with ledges to hop on, ladders to climb, items to collect, monsters to kill and hundreds of rooms to visit as you undertake the honourable lamp quest. Interestingly, once our plucky jester ventures outside, it changes into a scrolling platformer as we walk the castle walls, woodlands, and streets. Various bonuses are offered for points and also special abilities like increased firepower and invincibility.

  

  

The monsters here all reign supreme and this is perhaps the game’s greatest most and annoying characteristic because their numbers are countless and their assault is relentless. Wherever you go, they appear like magic! It's a little odd as they don't require any opening because they walk through the wall so this means there is literally no safe place that can offer a quiet moment of refuge. This soon becomes a little tiresome which is a shame.

Throughout your adventure, the graphics are constantly awesome and their detail feels like a cartoon chronicle of England's medieval age. I have always thought that the monsters were the most alluring - they are so charming! My favourites are the Imps and Trolls which are bewitching to watch and I don’t think there is another retro game with such gorgeous and nicely animated baddies. However, it's this animation which is also a curse as it affects Jolly Jack - imagine you are walking right and need to turn left to kill oncoming monsters. Well, this action cannot immediately happen because of the walking animation, which first needs to finish, thus he cannot react quickly enough.

  

  

Sure, this game has its faults but I'm still putting it up there with many other ST legends. Why? Well, that's easy, because I love what is nothing short of a fun-filled hectic adventure which looks and sounds amazing. Sure, the aesthetics don't matter but it's good to have them especially whilst we suffer the onslaught of enemies!

Overall, Black Lamp is incredibly hard and probably too hard, but it's also addictive and very rewarding. I think everyone should play it and experience the kingdom of Allegorid that offers a unique challenge and one I hope you will accept. Black Lamp is one of my favourite Atari ST games so grab either the floppy or install to hard drive.