Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gauntlet


This is an arcade masterpiece with a design that is simple, yet genius! A combination of dungeon crawler mixed in with a kill-em-all mentality for an unstoppable multiplayer experience which 1-4 gamers can enjoy hacking and slashing their way through its underground of hell. And going to hell is always best with friends!

Gauntlet offers you the opportunity to be 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've ever seen, we have ghosts, demons, grunts, lobbers (I hate those!) and much more. They all have their own evil attributes and almost all born from a generator - so destroy those first to cease the onslaught of hatred against you. Finally, Death is here and he's almost impossible to kill so try to avoid him wherever possible. Which brings me to the magical potions you can discover also scattered about each level. By collecting these your chance of survival is greatly improved and will certainly help during an encounter with Mr Death. Hint: do not assume he is a single individual making a single appearance! Be wise and use only when needed.

Stop whatever you're doing and download this via Klaz' Hideaway (both hard drive and floppy versions) and it also supports faster Atari computers for even better framerates!! Gauntlet for the Atari ST is pure gaming gold. 10/10

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mad Professor Mariarti

This is a rather cool retro-themed platformer which first appears a typical run and jump game, but there is actually an integrated puzzle element to Mariarti's world that cannot be ignored.

Professor Mariarti features five whacky laboratories ranging 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, these creatures 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! There are four levels to choose from with a fifth only selectable 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.

Mad Professor Mariarti is a challenging game and so addictive with bucket loads of humorous personality. I highly recommend it, especially if you prefer a platformer that requires a little more thought from the old grey matter.

LINKS

 - 8BitChip has a download for both floppy and hard drive users.
 - Check out this awesome video by The Joy of Sticks!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Frenetic


Frenetic is a vertical scrolling shooter released in 1991 by Core Design with gorgeous graphics that are very rich in colour and style. The gameplay is quite good but nothing that we havn't see before. However, I am very impressed by the well-balanced mechanics so I don't instantly go looking for an infinite lives cheat because I could do rather well. If I had to be picky then I would mention the poor sound effects and it's annoying to loose power-ups after a life lost...

Frenetic is quite a nice shooter with cool graphics but it's sadly so obvious that it's a rushed conversion. Which is a massive shame because the potential is there and we all know that the Atari ST is certainly able to produce far better. So, with a little commitment, this could easily have been much better and I'm actually really angry with Core for another poor Amiga port!! An average shoot 'em up but worth taking a look at if you have an hour spare. Maybe.

LINKS

 - As always, 8bitchip have a version configured to be stored and ran from off hard drive!
 - For those needing the floppy disk image, check out Old Games Finder!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chuckie Egg II


After playing the Atari ST version of Jet Set Willy, I remembered that we also had another 8-Bit platformer - Chuckie Egg 2. This is one of my favourite ZX Spectrum games - EVER. Like JSW, I love the ability to freely roam and the rooms are quirky always interesting. I was extremely excited to play the ST version.

Yep, ours should have had all the usual improvements to make Spectrum owners green with envy. I was hoping for a bigger game map, more colourful graphics and better sounds but alas we got nothing more than a coding shambles. This game is an embarrassment because they've completely ruined the look and feel. The new controls now make the game totally unplayable so they have successfully destroyed what was previously a beautiful platformer.

Play it on the ZX Spectrum and stay clear of this ST game!! 😡

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 thanks to 8BitChip.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jet Set Willy


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 that 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, it wasn't ever released and that's a shame because I feel Software Projects did a grand job to capture the original ZX Spectrum gameplay so perfectly. Yes, the animation is recorded from the Atari ST and not the ZX Spectrum. 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.

  

This game has its faults but it's up there with the legends because of the hectic adventure on offer which is addictive, rewarding and complemented by beautiful visuals and gorgeous music. Black Lamp is one of my favourite Atari ST games. So, the kingdom of Allegorid offers you an excellent challenge one which I hope you will accept!

You can grab the floppy disks or install to your hard drive which I think is best.