Sunday, February 28, 2016

Road Blasters


Road Blasters, a conversion by US Gold from back in 1989 that attempts to recreate the speed and thrills of the arcade original. Imagine a Bullrun Rally event played through 50 overcrowded highways where you must win each race in order to progress on to the next. Yes, I'm sure you already know that this is going to be fun!!

What makes this game different is the combination of racer and shooter which means your gleaming red sports car has a mounted machine gun! The easiest targets are the yellow cars which are an easy kill but the motorbikes are a pest because of their tiny size. Occasionally several jeeps will swarm around you like something from a Mad Max movie which is hair-raising! Watch out for hazards like oil spills, roadside turrets, bullet-proof purple cars and those darn proximity mines. Fortunately, you do seem to have friends, a futuristic aircraft frequently flies by with power-ups: speed boost, extra weapons, shields, etc... It takes lots of practice to collect those goodies!

 
Hmm, all seems quite normal here... Hang on, BUBBLE CITY?? I must drive through here lol

At your disposal is a limitless supply of replacement cars but they are all greedy in fuel consumption, so if you run dry then its game over. Luckily, fuel pods are available and can be collected by simply drive through them for an instant top-up. Your car is also equipped with a reserve fuel tank which should only be relied upon as a last resort, but it is replenished at the end of each race depending on your performance.

Controls are sharp and responsive steering that retains the arcade experience as much as possible using a joystick. Sound effects are pretty much average and I'm sure more could have been done but they certainly work well enough. The graphics are an absolute joy with its arcade styles and a nice frame rate for such a mean-spirited event.

 
What an awesome racer but even this ends the same way all my games end - a violent death!

I really loved this old arcade speedster, it might not be perfect but at least it's nothing like that dreadful Outrun! I've spent several nights playing Road Blasters and it's certainly got the "just one more go" quality. A much-underrated game that deserves far more attention. It's fast, fun and your car has a gun - what more could you ever want?

Okay, there is a fantastic hdd version to download, along with all the floppies if you so desire the authenticity.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ZX81


Back in the 90s, Christoph Zwerschke wrote a Sinclair ZX81 emulator for the Atari ST. From what I've so far seen, it's mute and the graphics are made up from monochrome blocks rather than colourful pixels. This might seem rather lame but there is a certain charm to the itsy-bitsy computer with less processing power than your kettle!

10 PRINT "ATARICRYPT ROCKS YOUR ST WORLD"
20 GOTO 10
RUN L

I've never previously owned a ZX81 so was shocked to find lots of games which are still surprisingly playable. 3D Monster Maze by Malcolm Evans is one such title and highly regarded as one of the best reason why so many adore this quirky old paperweight. Truly, this game is way ahead of its time and perhaps even the first survival horror game using a first-person perspective? (check out Retro Resolution for a fantastic review!).

Okay, the stock Atari ST should be able to run most of the games perfectly fine and from either a floppy or (better still) hard drive. However, if you feel that the ZX81 is running in overdrive, then hit the UNDO key and adjust the speed limiter. I needed to do this for Pac-Man which was otherwise insanely fast!

Boot up this fantastic ZX81 emulator and flip your Atari ST into a Sinclair. Party like it's 1981 and have fun!! :^)


Sinclair ZX81 games I really, really, really like!


Mazogs is something else but I was also impressed by the simplicity of Galaxians.

 
Castle Of Carmain is just downright awesome as is the mighty 3D Labyrinth.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Alcatraz


Can you smell that 1992 air inside? Well, I did and it was Mmm fresh!! :D

Today I have received a factory sealed treat off eBay, Alcatraz by Infogrames. I thought about leaving it as is but, within milliseconds, I had ripped it open!! Mint condition and I'm loving the contents of this hidden gem.

Hostages fans will love this but this time, the head honcho of a nasty drug cartel has taken shelter in Alcatraz prison and he also happens to be surrounded by many loyal henchmen. Yep, you've probably already guessed that it's your job to sneak in, kill the bad guys, destroy everything illegal and escape in the nick of time.

 
The first stage displays the coop action all at once and reveals our strength in stealth!

This isn't a gung-ho game, Alcatraz is played using stealth and careful covert tactics. The starting level first appears in the style of an arcade beat 'em up but is actually the complete opposite. Tread lightly because firing your loud weapon isn't always the answer! Use the darkness to your advantage by nipping into the background scenery, avoiding any unwelcome attention. It's great to see the enemy oblivious to you hiding in the shadows!

This won't always be the answer of course, so you may need to resort to a little gunplay now and then. However, it's worth considering your weapon: why not silently throw a knife instead of using your BAM BAM noisy gun?

Initially, the controls feel a bit fluffy but stick with it to overcome these quirks. For those of you with friends, two players can enjoy the missions simultaneously which is absolutely superb. Also, Infogrames was a bit tight with the number of lives so coop should help overcome this obvious oversight for such demanding missions.

 
Okay, now we're talking. This Doom part of the game was blummin' excellent. Use the map!!

Venturing deeper inside Alcatraz and game style changes to a first-person shooter very similar in presentation to a Dungeon Master clone - but with a machine gun!! There is a handy map function which I really liked because it really helped to detail the locations of enemies, rooms, and exit. I really loved this part. But then I died...

Alcatraz is nothing like I expected but I'm really enjoying it. To progress, I advice less Rambo style attack for a careful secret agent, otherwise you won't last very long! Perseverance and stealth are definitely key tactics and it's only after a number of games that I'm finally starting to make some headway into this adventure.

I'm really enjoying Alcatraz so I'm going back in!! I hope you have enjoyed this preview of my latest purchase?

LINKS

 - Here is my humble video recording (taken from emulation).
 - Alcatraz can now be installed onto hard drive thanks to the mighty D-Bug.
 - For those wanting a floppy disk image, check out Old Games Finder!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Traveller-Box


I recently stumbled upon a nifty resource that contains lots of Atari ST goodies just waiting to be downloaded. It's the leftover remains from what used to be a popular BBS in Germany called Traveller-Box, by Alexander Bochmann. His old hard drives have been recovered and their BBS contents uploaded for the Atari community to enjoy again!!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Zany Golf


Zany Golf is one of those game which I spent much of my college years playing. It is such an incredibly addictive and entertaining crazy game, especially with friends. So forget the badly maintained crazy golf courses at your local park because Zany Golf is a jazzy alternative from the creative mind of Will Harvey (The Immortal).

Play through several whacky courses to get that darn ball into the little hole and yes, that's my technical explanation! Controls are actioned using the mouse and feel somewhat similar to any snooker or pool game you may have played: click & hold on the golf ball so a directional line appears to you help guide the speed and direction of the shot. Interestingly, a level of interaction will often be required and this might include controlling the wind fans, manually guiding the moving ball, playing pinball, or making a burger bounce! I kid you not :-)

It's quirky, it's very silly and it's also a little lame... Zany Golf is freaking excellent and highly recommended!!

LINKS

 - A screenshot of my current progress... Hmmm!!
 - 8BitChip have a download for hard drives and Old Games Finder have the floppies.
 - Update: Wasabim has made another great video!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

MOD Players



Atari STe MOD/Tracker Players


   

BackTrack - I wasn't too sure about this at first but I cannot deny the quality here and the selectable frequencies is brilliant. The quality of sound is great, especially at 50KHz but you might need a Mega STe for that!! (v4.04 - released 1993 - by Wizzcat)

CD Player STE - This is like the CD players from the 90s. Just copy the MOD files into the same folder as the program and load it up. Obviously not a GEM program but it works really well. Very effective and with a simple interface that works very well. (released 1990 - by Light)


   

DBE Player - Another GEM program to punch out your favourite MODS. The quality is excellent and has a decent playlist feature but it's also pretty demanding... (v2.0 - released 1999 - by Sector One)

The MusicPlayer - Ignoring its quirky GEM interface, which is a little odd, I thought this program produced good sound quality and even supports 50KHz / 8 channels! (v1.0 - released 1994 - by Christian Dahl)


   

Sirius Player - This is another refusing the use GEM by replacing it with a beautiful front end. What a gorgeous player this is with extremely high-quality sounds and even supports 50KHz which a normal STe can easily handle. Also, 8-channel MODS are supported with features like microwire presets and more - don't forget to press the HELP key for all of the options. The playback quality is literally superb!! (v2.0 - released 2001 - by TSCC 2001)

Paula - A great program that makes you wish you'd have bought a Mega STe but there is always the option to reduce the frequency. This is yet another example of the sound quality an Atari STe can produce. Sadly, it appears Paula is shareware - does anyone have this registered from back in the day? (v2.6 - released 1999 - by Pascal Fellerich)


   

JAM - A true jack of all trades which works either in GEM or with its own frontend GUI. It features plugin architecture for multiple file formats (not just MOD) which is absolutely fascinating. JAM always sounds excellent!
(v1.0 - released 2000 - by Cream)

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Xenon II - STE - Megablast!


Xenon 2 is pretty much Marmite - some love it and some hate it. Well, I love it because it's one of my favourite shooters with superb power-ups and freaky baddies. It's also a technical masterpiece with outstanding graphics/sounds that prove just what the Atari ST is capable of when programmed by developers with talent and commitment in equal measure. We need no custom chips or lame Amiga ports (aka the 1990s!!)

Okay, rant over. Here is a brand new Xenon II upgrade for 1MB+ Atari STe computers. This new version features 25KHz streamed music, during gameplay, which is all thanks to the DMA Audio hardware. This means there is no CPU hit whatsoever and everything is as good as it ever was BUT with your choice of recorded music.

All you need to do is convert any song to 8-Bit @ 25033Hz using a free program like Audacity. I have a massive selection of rock/metal songs stored with ZZ Top currently playing from my Ultrasatan :)

This sweet shooter just got even better and I hope Peter converts more games to use the DMA co-processor inside the Atari STe. The possibilities are almost endless... Hmm, perhaps I should send him a wishlist? lol

Monday, February 08, 2016

Atari Mega STe


I recently asked Peter Putnik over at 8BitChip if there was a simple program that allowed the Mega STe computer to flip between 8 and 16MHz but without having XControl preloaded. He said yes and a couple days later I was using it!! What a great Atari community we have. The download link is available via the AtariAge forums.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Well 'Ard


Fancy being a thug? Then today is your lucky day because in Well 'Ard we are a rather fiercely-looking dude that loves to jump up and down on the baddies until they're splattered off the screen. Released in 1994 by Cybernation Software and is an arcade-style platformer written in GFA Basic with fast gameplay and large sprites - I love the snowman. Controls are accurate and responsive with lots of tight jumps on interesting levels. Strangely, we carry no weapons but instead, reap violence using our cute red booties - yep, it's weird but who cares?

  
Jump up and down until they're all dead - not violent at all. Honest.

  
Well 'Ard features some odd critters but don't waste time looking - kill them all.

Well 'Ard is a cracking game and to think it was developed in GFA Basic is quite incredible. Earlier levels are quite easy but it certainly becomes quite challenging later on - some of those jumps are insanely tricky! This is definitely one of the most enjoyable platformers I've played with addictive gameplay that has you coming back for more.

Go on, put on your big red boots and play this belting platformer using either floppy or hard disk. You will love it!!

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Atari ST chiptunes

The wife has gone out shopping and gracefully left me to do the housework, but there is no way I can do these boring chores in silence. So let's power on the ST and select a few toons from the SNDH Archive / SNDH Record :-)

Here is a just a selection of my favourite chiptunes. What are yours??

  - Nowhere by 505 ( listen / or click the GREEN arrow below! )
  - Best Part of Creation by Big Alec ( listen )
  - Sausage 3D by Xyce ( listen )
  - Little sexy square by Crazy Q ( listen )
  - Sweety by Lotek Style ( listen )

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

tippy typey


Like anything in this life, nothing is perfect. Shockingly this also applies to our Atari ST which has one characteristic I have never really cared for: its obscure, ugly, stretched medium resolution. Well, since my colour monitor decided to blow up, I have been happily zipping along in monochrome which would explain the recent run of high-resolution articles. All were written using the classic, 1st Word Plus. (Go on, you can call me a geek if you want!)

Okay, it's hardly a modern word processor bursting with features but it does the job perfectly well. Sure, I can't wait to get my new colour monitor bought as I'm missing games in glorious 16-bit technicolour. However, I have definitely fallen in love with this crisp black and white display which has met each and every requirement lately.

Who needs an expensive modern computer? Obviously not me!! :^)

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Megaroids


Asteroids is a true arcade classic and one that has been converted to just about every home computer ever made. Not to be left out, Megamax released Megaroids for the Atari ST in 1985 which was developed using their own C programming tool. If I'm honest, initially I expected a crude take on this old game with poor graphics and pathetic gameplay... Come on, it was made in 1985 the same year Atari gave birth to the ST. Well, how wrong I was...


I can just imagine business users in the 1980s playing Megaroids in high-res during their lunch hour!

The visuals are different. Gone are the vectors in favour of nicely drawn bitmaps which sweep across the screen like butter falling from a hot knife. Wow, this game is smooth and looks wonderful in high resolution.

Don't worry, colour systems have not been forgotten. An interlace technique was used to make that obscure medium resolution look (almost) as sharp as it does on a high-resolution monitor. So, in effect, this means the game runs at 640x400 rather than 640x200. Colours are still available using the standard 2-bit palette. Before you ask, no it doesn't hurt the eyes and makes everything look better - I kinda wish more game developers would have used interlace!


Interlace can be cool and Megaroids proves there actually was a decent use for medium res after all!

Megaroids not only looks gorgeous (well, for Asteroids!) but it plays with an authentic touch I liked. It feels like the real deal and plays extremely well to offer a bucket load of retro action. In fact, a part of me still doesn't grasp how this so good for a 1985 release. Overall, a superb clone that offers tons of fun blasting chunks of rock to smithereens.

Both AtariMania and Old Games Finder have access to the downloads. Enjoy and tell me what you think!

Monday, February 01, 2016

N.o.B.I. - Racing


N.o.B.I Racing was released by Joytrick (1994) and is a 'snake' clone were we guide 'Alfred' through a series of mazes. Always hungry and always on the move, he needs our assistance as he munches everything in his path. However, every time he eats, he grows a little longer and this can become quite embarrassing, especially if he bites into himself. So our task is to help Alfred through the various mazes without him bumping into his own tale.

Simple stuff but the gameplay soon becomes fast as you progress through trickier levels and all this during an ever-decreasing time limit. Two types of bonus levels played at frequent intervals, features two-player gaming, DMA audio, and it even supports multiple resolutions. NoBI Racing is very addictive and a bucket load of fun. Great game!