Sunday, November 19, 2017


Deathbringer is an horizontally-scrolling hack and slasher that reminds me of a bunch of different Atari ST games like Barbarian II, Golden Axe and, dare I say it, Shadow Of The Beast. You are Karn, a warrior who must kill an evil wizard using a sword possessed by a blood-hungry spirit called Abaddon. Our world is viewed side-on and can be travelled in either direction through a variety of landscapes but the gameplay remains pretty much the same which means wielding your huge sword whenever you see anything nasty. Killing is the name of the game and this keeps Abaddon happily stuffed with souls - represented in the status bar by the sword's blood. The more baddies you kill, the happier our resident demon, so try not to starve him otherwise he might just get his feeding fix elsewhere!

There are many monsters that want to stop you from completing your noble quest: baby dragons, trolls, skeletons, bats, giants, and even birds who drop stinky eggs. A boss screen follows every level but these are rather easy and usually involve chopping off a snake's head or avoiding giant fists! Karn can run and jump with three basic attack moves: fire + left/right performs a jab which is handy against skeletons but useless for most other enemies. Pushing up performs an overhead swing which is great for flying enemies and pulling down will produce an underhanded swing that works well for the little goblins and other peculiar nasties like rocks. Yep, rocks.


Deathbringer has fantastic graphics - truly fantastic - and regular visitors will remember I featured the game within our Pixel Art section because of its intro/boss stages and their outstanding artwork. The in-game multilayer parallax scrolling is legendary and proves the power of the Atari ST in the hands of a decent programmer.

The audio is on par with the stunning visuals and features a great title tune along with lots of funny in-game sampled sound effects and I love the horrific screaming in the intro!! However, I can't help but be a disappointed Empire didn't make use of the Atari STe. Even so, we have sampled effects and smooth parallax scrolling so eat that Psygnosis!


Deathbringer appears to have it all but I've not yet mentioned how this Conan wannabe actually plays. Surely running and hacking away at slimeball enemies is guaranteed fun? Well, it should be but this is where disappointment rears its ugly head thanks to the awkward lethargic control mechanics. Yep, the last thing you want during a frantic battle is unresponsive controls but this is exactly what you're given. For example, pressing fire/up performs an overhead swing but this action will play out a split second after moving the joystick. There are lots of stoopid niggles, like when Karn and a baddie are standing close together and are therefore unable to hit each other!


Deathbringer's strong points are its beautiful graphics, great sound effects and an incredible array of interesting monsters. Well, I don't think I have ever seen a goblin on a sleigh before! Sadly, I'm left wondering if anyone at Empire actually bothered to play the game before releasing it. It can get quite repetitive after a while but then again I could say that about many arcade games? Ultimately, it's the laggy controls that ruin what might have been...


 - There is a hard drive installable game available to download courtesy of 8BitChip.
 - Special FX (#53a and #53b) features the floppy disk version which you can nab off Stonish.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


I strangely felt the need to compensate for my gaming horror (which saw me embarrassingly struggling with Platform Capers) so Dave Munsie has rushed to my rescue with his adaption of the 8-Bit classic, Berzerk. However, I admit I had my fingers crossed when first loading, hoping it didn't suck compared to the great 2600/5200 games...

We are the wobbly stickman intruder running around randomly generated screens killing silly robots. These guys are a mixed bunch, some dumb enough to fry themselves on the electrified walls whilst others are amazingly accurate shooters. Try to kill them all and collect your bonus reward otherwise, you're called a chicken!! Otto is as fearless as ever and only too eager to rear his smiley mug and chase you across the screen.

Some (the young!) may scoff at the graphics and I appreciate that they aren't spruced up to ST standards but that would have ruined the authenticity completely. Also, I love the speech synthesis which is spot-on perfect and makes me grin like the Cheshire Cat. "Chicken, fight like a robot" -this is brilliant!!

Berzerk is fantastic and this is one of the best 8-Bit conversions I have played. 10/10.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Platform Capers

Platform Capers was released in 1992 by Kay Downes for Budgie UK and has obvious 8-Bit roots which is something I'm usually instantly attracted too. Aesthetically, I feel it's a cross between Clod Hopper, Jumping Jack and Donkey Kong with adorable authentic graphics and sound effects. These transport me back into the early 80s when I was a kid sitting in my cold room in front of an old portable tv waiting of my Speccy to finish loading from tape.

The objective is simple, collect the keys on each of the levels before exiting through the doorway. However, there is a myriad of frustratingly cunning enemies we need to avoid, otherwise, a life is lost and we go tumbling down the screen like a fat plumber. I believe there are 7 levels but I dare anyone to complete it without cheating: I can reach level 4 but rarely will I be able to complete level 3, if I'm honest. On bad days, I struggle to beat level 2 and usually end up throwing the joystick down in temper! Superbly programmed but the design is far too difficult (for me).

I love and hate Platform Capers in equal measure.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


I got bored and converted a pic which I found on the net to 16-colours using Imagecopy 4. I figured it would make the perfect desktop background so booted up Deskpic, which you can find on ST Format cover disk #60.

Rock and roll, baby. STay Atari.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Lost World

The Lost World was developed back in 1989 by John Leather who sadly never managed to find a publisher. The game itself is complete but the audio was missing and he "only" managed to design half of the planned 100 levels. Since then, a tune has been added which suits the gameplay perfectly and, if dozens of playable levels aren't good enough for you, then why not try creating the remaining yourself using the in-game editor?

I have always loved platformers of this ilk and it's obvious the John was inspired by the Willy games from the Sinclair ZX Spectrum because every screen has a wicked title and even the main character walks similar mechanical fashion to Master Willy. This is an incredibly challenging platformer with a steep learning curve so, as with Mouse Trap, hit the F key (pause) and carefully study every inch of the screen to plan yourself a favourable route.

Just look at each screen's intricate design. You ain't gonna complete this on your first go!!

The first screen is tough and it took me more than a dozen attempts, but it's easier on the following level (although I failed miserably for my video recording). Then, the difficulty is cranked up for an amazing third level, the superbly titled: Pie Processing Plant. However, I've yet to beat The Locksmith so I doubt I'll ever get the opportunity to be disappointed that John didn't fulfil his desire to create all 100 screens!! Perhaps I should try that level editor?

The Lost World is very challenging, even for a hardcore platformer fan like myself. You need to get used to the evil critters which come in an insane variety and are not limited to moving back 'n forth or up 'n down. Watch out for sinking floors, sharp objects and lots of tricky jumps but it's also quite generous with many bonuses littered throughout each level along with stickmen for extra lives. Pressing the spacebar displays a dialogue of potential spells and potions for effects like invulnerability. Yes, there is far more to this lost world then first meets the eye.

Whatever you do, don't forget the keys... Watch out for sinking floor panels...

The graphics are beautiful, a 16-Bit take on the early 80s and stuffed to the brim with an incredible decor and an intricate attention to fine detail. Sadly, the original had no sounds but this was rectified a few years ago by Grazey, Psycho Hacking Force, so we now get to enjoy a fantastic Mad Max tune. This chiptune is a beauty and suits the gameplay perfectly but I still miss having sound effects, even if only for jumping or collisions.

For a homebrew platformer, this is huge and I don't simply mean the number of levels. The creativity which has gone into its making is quite exquisite and there's always something interesting that catches you out. Don't be a wimp, learn the mechanics and beat the learning curve because this is a tremendously addictive platformer!!

D-Bug has both downloads (silent original & one with music). Also, AtariMania has level editor help!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Ultimate Arena

The Ultimate Arena was released in 1995 by STeam and must rank as one of the last commercial Atari STe games. Choose to play as Sandy or Terry before proceeding to the first match that has us battling against a series of dodgy villans, each of whom has their own skill set and special abilities. Some might say it is Atari Mortal Kombat and why not because we must now fight in various arenas against several lunatics whilst watched by a bloodthirsty crowd.

Each arena offers a different environment and I chuckled to myself when I first noticed the electrified fence - just one touch and you're crispy burnt toast!! Each warrior has their own trippy personality with a varying degree of speed, talent and special abilities. Watch out for a T800 which I thought was really well done and there is also an Indiana Jones wannabe who is an incredibly tough opponent. Interestingly, your energy bar isn't fully replenished at the start of the following round, thus increases longevity for determined gamers to figure out all the moves.

Whether you're a model babe or a Terminator, this game is kick ass!!

No beat 'em up would be worth its salt without fast and responsive controls to kick seven bells outta your opponent. The Ultimate Arena has what it takes and I found it quite easy to learn the various kicks, punches and jumps along with their special moves. Two player mode is great and even allows us to play as any of the other characters (all except the final guy). A turbo mode is optional but I found that rather pointless so I cannot say I was impressed too much... Blood can also be turned on/off but I figured it best to have that on and enjoy some of that 16-Bit realism!

Like Domark's Pit Fighter, each character is digitised and they try their best to look macho whilst kicking seven bells outta you. It's quite remarkable the amount of detail squeezed into each pixel with smooth animations and the backgrounds are always interesting too: like the Terminator watching you on a large screen and the crowd with their silly movements. However, I'm not so sure about the colour palette which I found too brownish. Okay, I was tempted to let this slide but then I remembered other Atari ST games which make great use of colour, ala Black Lamp!

Kick people to death, electrocute them or just pounce from a great height. All good fun!

As I've said before, I'm no beat 'em up expert but I am genuinely shocked how much fun I've had playing this. I half expected it to suck but it's shockingly good fun and has probably replaced Double Dragon 3 as my favourite? It's obvious a lot of hard work and love went into the production and during the twilight years which is incredibly impressive. I also love how it doesn't take itself too seriously and the fact I can try my luck against a Terminator. Beating the hell out of digitised people is a great way to spend a couple of hours of anyone's time!! Play this.

Floppy disks can be found using Old Games Finder. (but stay clear of the early beta demo because it's rubbish!)