Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Faster Than Light: The Atari ST


Jamie Lendino of ExtremeTech has released a new book dedicated to the worlds best 16-bit computer. I've only just got the digital edition tonight but I've enjoyed flicking through some pages and to say I'm impressed would be a huge understatement. This is seriously good Stuff. Heck, even my little website gets a mention which is mind-blowing.

Faster Than Light is crammed full and covers many different topics: from the history and range of different computers along with the various uses we got from this incredible beast. The book is available on (your local) Amazon store right now for less than a tank of fuel!! I'm buying the paperback edition and I hope you ST nutters do the same.

 
 

“Power Without the Price.” Every Atari fan remembers that slogan from the 1980s as the rallying cry for 16-bit computing in the form of the Atari ST. This groundbreaking computer brought previously unimagined power to the home user for the first time—and transformed an industry or two along the way.

Author Jamie Lendino offers a fresh, vital look at the history of the Atari ST, guiding you from its inauspicious genesis at the centre of a company known for its gaming consoles to its category-defining triumphs in music, desktop publishing, and video gaming. And he doesn’t stop there: He then leaps to the present to pull back the veil on the thriving software and mod communities that aren’t just keeping it alive today but taking it to places its creators never could have imagined.

Whether you’re a longtime devotee who wants to relive the magic of the machine that unleashed the wonders of Dungeon Master, Time Bandit, and Starglider, an intrepid DIYer on the hunt for new ideas and resources to take your homebrew system to the next level, or a newcomer hungry to learn the ins and outs of one of the most important computers ever created, this book will get you there just as the ST did its long-ago digital pioneers: Faster Than Light.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Bugziacs


A brand new remake of Don Priestley's Maziacs is being released by Bello Games with coding by George Nakos (aka GGN) and graphics by Niels Kleine (aka Tinker) and Kevin Dempsey (aka SH3). At the moment, this is an unfinished port but I loved the ZX Spectrum original so much that I couldn't wait to get my grubby mitts on this...

I expected differences but, right from the start, this feels authentic and with an excellent remake of the old DK'Tronics loading screen. Surprisingly, there is a good reason Bugziacs feels so much like the original - "This version actually runs the original Spectrum code translated to 68000 using a custom tool and then some routines replaced with ST specific code". Wow. Extremely interesting and I hope many more Spectrum conversions are in the pipeline!!

 
Ohh, this entire menu system is just like the original. Even the font... and silly sprites!!

Okay, once the game begins, things feel familiar but the look (and movement) are a lot better than my favourite Z80 computer could ever manage. The goal remains the same: explore a maze looking for hidden treasure and escape. It sounds easy - but it's not - especially as you cannot carry both a weapon and the treasure at the same time.

Like the original, each maze is randomly generated which means a different game every time. But the one thing that remains constant is those angry Maziacs who roan the corridors looking for a scrap with our plucky hero. Thankfully, some kind soul has left lots of swords scattered throughout. However, these can oddly only survive one battle, so this is where the map feature comes in handy. Along with your memory for those you previously walked past...

You're not superman, so keep on eye on your precious energy levels which are displayed using a long vertical bar. This ticks down as you explore but fear not because whoever left the swords has also left energy drinks. Time to use the map and your memory once again... Now, what I've always found ultra cool are the prisoners who are very helpful with directions for both the treasure and (later) your exit. Yes, it's weird that they know so much yet fail to ask for any assistance to be set free! But it's best to stop overthinking that and to simply follow their directions.

 
The prisoners are so helpful and it would be a massive shame not to ask them for their help...

I've really enjoyed playing Bugziacs which I find well-balanced and incredibly playable. Sure, it's got some quirks/bugs, and those randomly generated maps can sometimes be so unfair: as more than once, I began with a Maziac stood beside me! But let's not forget this is unfinished so I'm extremely eager to see the final product.

Overall, I'm sure Bugziacs will appeal more to fans of the original? However, it's always exciting to see a new Atari ST game in development so, old and new gamers alike should try their luck at treasure hunting. In fact, it's worth it just to witness the humorous scraps between our hero and a Maziac. Even unfinished, this is blummin' awesome!!

Both AtariMania and Demozoo has the download you need to start killing the Maziacs. Oops, sorry Bugziacs...

Thursday, June 13, 2019

ST Collection #8


Here's another menu disk which I really liked, ST Collection 8 by Typhoon. As you can imagine, it features loads of intros by the likes of Cynix, Fuzion plus also a few other oddities: I really liked the strangely funny Sonic Demo and Dune's Faith features spectacular artwork, stunning effects, and audio to die for!! MJJ's Trisogames is always great but I must admit it was Pascal Ganaye's Strip Tetris which caught my attention (naughty boy!)

As you'd expect, this is just Tetris but we're also treated to a 4-bit glamour girl who removes her clothing the better you perform. Hmm, that didn't come out right, but I'm sure you know what I mean? Gameplay is pretty good and my old man reactions did pretty well in the video recording. This is a nice conversion of the old favourite.

Yep, there's lots of cool stuff on this disk and Demozoo has the download for those wanting boobs (and more!)

 
 

Thursday, June 06, 2019

D-Day

June 6th 1944. A moment in time which I'm sure we are all unable to fully comprehend and will never forget.
This video and review is just my way of saying thank you to all who have served both then and now.


Okay ST nutters, I bought myself a mint copy of D-Day by US Gold a couple of years ago. This game comes with four disks, so is a pain to someone (like me) who's been spoiled by the luxury of his Ultrasatan. However, I couldn't find a hard disk version anywhere so I did what any sane person would do - I asked Peter Putnik.

Later, during the World Cup and a couple of beers later, I finally had myself the hard disk adaptation of this wonky old war game. Launching it from my satan is a dream compared to the floppies and I'm really grateful for Peter's commitment to the ST scene. Anyhow, what did I think of this US Gold's take on this historic moment in time?

  
Overlord offers a crude yet incredible insight into the situation on the day. Quite frightening!

D-Day is represented from a map of Normandy during the period and shows just where the enemy is located and the missions which can be planned and executed. This is like a campaign mode for the entire Overlord Operation and has each event featured by time as they unfolded. However, it's quite confusing to newcomers and even the manual recommends you start by playing the individual missions first. Which is just what I did.

The idea of these mini-games is pretty cool and they are broken up into four categories: Tank, Bomb (flying the most sluggish planes ever!), Paratrooper, and infantry soldiers. This is actually brilliant because it allows you to skip directly to your favourite parts and, no matter which you prefer, there are several missions to choose from. So, read on...



- TANK -


The big boys are here and we're looking for a fight...

Sheesh, I go for a wander and the enemy sneaks up on my buddies!

Tank is a WWII take on the Battlezone format and also looks rather like another ST title, possibly because they share the same programmer, Pascal Jarry? There are lots of different missions and the first instructs us to destroy ever bunker on the beach, which is a lot harder than it sounds! There are a load of other missions to pick from but it is quite buggy and I suffered a few crashes. At one point I even managed to get myself stuck in a tree...

It's sluggish and lacks any kind of engine noise (which is just weird) but I have to admit that I had myself a little fun driving my little tank. Make sure you hit the function keys for the different modes of operation and also a cool outside perspective. Overall, it's worth playing a couple of missions but also feels like a rushed add-on if I'm honest.

My rating for Tank would be fairly average if it wasn't so buggy (and difficult!) so I will give it a 4/10.


- BOMB -


Wow, I really don't know how to describe this part of the game...

Bomb is an eye-opener alright. How on earth this got by the US Gold quality and control debt I do not know. I think they didn't have one? lol. Again, there are lots of different missions and I chose to fly at night to bomb a bridge. Well, that was theory anyhow but I literally had no chance of hitting that thing. Not in a million years.

There are some basic instruments and controls to help you with your noble adventure but you're left feeling blind which makes completing any mission nigh on impossible. Also, to say its 3D is sluggish is a major understatement - I reckon an old Oric 1 could do better. Definitely, the weakest game and I can't say I'll be playing it again.

I'm struggling not to be too cruel here but I cannot help myself and I must rate Bomb a 1/10.


- PARATROOPER -


Weeee one man gets tangled and falls to his death but the others land safely!

Paratrooper is quite silly in execution but really good fun. It has us parachuting either solo or with other troops through a series of missions. Wind can obviously play a factor (no jokes please) but guiding your men down is always great fun. Sure, it's ludicrously bad but very enjoyable and my daughter loved it which is always a bonus.

Overall, unlike the Bomb game, this is something you need to play. Well, at least a couple of times...

Simply for its old skool entertainment, that I personally got from this, I'm giving it a 6/10.


- INFANTRY -

 
We're on the beach in one mission and then raising everything to the ground on another!

Infantry is the final game type and easily my favourite. I've always liked overhead strategy games and this is styled in a similar fashion to some action games I've played, such as Cannon Fodder and Rebellion. However, don't be fooled, it might look similar but is more a slower-paced tactical wannabe where stealth is the key to your survival.

There are a bunch of missions which involve us guiding stickmen through the fields avoiding enemy bunkers, tanks, and so on. It plays as crudely as it looks with enemy AI that's more like a robotic turret. Each enemy unit has its place on the map and, once you're spotted, they constantly bombard that area forever. They never stop!! So it's your job to sneakily find an alternative route and pick 'em off with your machine gun, grenades or mortar.

The controls are quite shocking and unresponsive. Trying to get your soldiers to stand exactly where you need him is half the battle. Also, it's annoying when they take the long route around an obstacle, which often means that they are then in the line of fire - and die! Graphics are quite umm Cannon Fodder'ish but very crude. Now, I might be a really bad pixel artist but I honestly think I could have done better? Sound effects are made from crunchy samples and certainly, add to the atmosphere but that constant noise might give you a headache after a while!

However, I should stop my snowflake whining because, in spite of all its faults, this is incredibly great fun. It reminded me of Stonkers but Infantry is really all about finding a safe route through the map to pick off the enemy one-by-one. Very simple and not much more to it, but I genuinely enjoyed myself. Yes, I know, I'm mad.

It's lame and ridiculously unrealistic but I've strangely had many hours of fun so I'm giving it 8/10.


- OVERALL -


Looks pretty good, right? Well, this was recorded using the Mega STe... so I'll say no more.

If there was ever a mixed bag of goodies then this is it. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud to have this in my collection but D-Day feels like it was programmed by amateurs, which is odd when reading the credits [AtariMania]. Technically, this fails to make any decent use of the Atari ST hardware - and is riddled with sluggish and buggy code.

So... It's crude, it's buggy and it's a little silly but I gotta admit that this is still a neat war game. Plus the Operation Overlord parts have so much depth which will offer any eager gamer with a unique historical insight into the day itself. I thoroughly recommend playing D-Day especially on what is such an important day in history.

Floppy downloads are available using Old Games Finder and 8BitChip has the awesome hdd downloads.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Pop!


One thing I love is trolling the ST's massive archive of menu disks and Golden Dawn #44 features quite a few unexpected crackers. The first here is Pop! by Manuel Castrillo of Bit Culture, a shareware game released in 1993. The instructions are quite difficult but we're on Skuiskie Island and armed with a gas gun to kill lots of nasties!

Pop! is a platformer and feels kinda like a weird mix of Pang and Monster Business. Actually, it's rather odd if I'm honest and certainly not what I expected to play this morning. Right from the start, you're thrown in at the deep end which means instant death. Why game developers think something like this is a good thing, I do not know.

 
Kudos to these three likely lads who put most commercial companies to shame by making use of the STe!

Stick with it and, after many pointless deaths, you will get the hang of that terrible start. Use your gun to gas these critters to Hell - they take a few hits and offer some cute expressions but they need to die before the time limit expires. The controls feel nice but are a little too slow, especially when frantically trying to turn around in the heat of the moment. Interestingly, there is support for two players which adds a whole new level to the excitement. Ohh!

So what about the graphics and sounds? Well, I couldn't ever be too judgmental about the aesthetics of any shareware game and Hoog had already set that bar incredibly high. However, Pop! does have nice, if basic, graphics and there are some neat touches - like your death. Colours are a little silly and I think better use of the palette should have been made, especially when monsters blend into the scenery and your gun's gas bubbles are invisible against the background sky. Music is DMA and in stereo but sadly very little audio is heard during gameplay...

 
A map of Skuiskie Island is shown before you're instantly eaten alive by something rather cute.

Overall, this is a shockingly silly game but quite addictive too. With a little more thought, I'm sure Pop! could have been far better but it's spoiled by the controls and a terribly harsh time limit. Having said that, I obviously thought it was good enough to feature, so either I'm going soft or I had myself some fun on this rainy Sunday morning?

Why you decide if I'm going crazy, why not grab yourself Golden Dawn's disk via Demozoo.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Manic Miner (again!)


If you guys hadn't noticed I've slowed down somewhat this year but I figured I should try and get back into the swing of things so booted up probably the best game release of last year - Manic Miner. You know, this is something that I still find hard to believe is within our ST library, and it's all thanks to nothing more than a cruel windup lol

Manic Miner is the classic platformer and something which I grew up playing on my ZX Spectrum back in 1983 and then throughout the decades that followed. Never have I bored of this beauty because it's so simple yet incredibly addictive. Well, except for those killer levels which I still cannot complete after nearly 40 years: The Warehouse, Skylab Landing Bay and Solar Power Plant. That's pretty sad, right? But it's completely true...sigh.

Anyhow, enough waffling because here is a video showing snippets from each of the twenty levels. Now, those with eager eyes (and ears) will notice that this is STILL unfinished (come on, Peter pull yer finger out mate!!!) but I'm sure you will still enjoy what is nothing short of an outstanding Atari ST remake of the Matthew Smith original.

The download is linked above but I'll update Y'all with news of future improvements as and when things happen.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Time Slices


I sometimes receive requests for game reviews or demos which somebody's not seen since back in the day. Today, I was asked by STS to make a video of Time Slices by Defence Force for his awesome demoscene blog.

This is a monochrome demo for the Atari STe which was released at STNICCC 2015. However, emulation and my old Mac play a good part in destroying the quality so I apologise for that. Thankfully, after a few minor adjustments, the sound improved and the darn thing stopped flickering long enough to give you guys a good idea how cool it is, especially for something Commodore themed!! ;-) However, nothing beats real hardware so dig out your SM124 asap. You know, I really enjoy requests so thanks to STS and don't forget to check out his amazing blog.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sam Nasty


It's always a pleasure to see something new in development for our beloved Atari ST but Sam Nasty is a little different. This cute puzzle-based platformer was developed back in the early 90s using STOS by Jerome Mahieux. Oddly, he never released it, but recently found the disks and here we are today in 2019 with a beta to play!

Upon loading, we're greeted by a nice title screen featuring help and other options to disable the sound effects/music. The game itself is a static-screen platformer and, with each level, we find ourselves trapped inside a prison so must find a way to escape. Now, this might sound familiar but it's also got some rather unique features too.

  
The first prison is a great start and I thought it played a lot like Panic. Which is cool.

Breaking out starts off easy but it's not long before Sam is inside prisons that put Alcatraz to shame. There are a variety of cunning pitfalls to avoid, so look out for things like laser beams that will zap you into an early grave! Also, there are patrolling coppers and some are even armed... Well, it's a good job our thug has the ability to punch!

Sadly, I've only had an hour to playtest Sam Nasty, but that was long enough to know what a fun puzzler this is. Escaping is different for each level so look out for anything that might help, like a switch for example. Today, my gaming skills excelled and I reached the demo's fourth prison - for the first time. A joyous occasion that sadly didn't last all that long, as you will see in my video recording, but it was fun finally reaching these dizzy heights...

  
The second is superb and introduces some new mechanics which I won't spoil for you...

The graphics are nothing like I expected and are crisp with tiny decals and superb attention to detail that gave this old retro gamer a wonderful 8-bit vibe. Each prison looks great with a clear and concise layout which didn't confuse my old brain as it attempted to figure out Sam's escape. However, it's the sprites which grabbed my attention the most: the laughing police, Sam sticking out his tongue, but the best are those punched faces with their broken teeth!! Fantastic pixel art and something that will make the most miserable retro gamer smile with joy.

Music is chip and great but Sam Nasty has the ability to disable it. So I did. Now, just listen to those sound effects and tell me you're not reminded of countless ZX Spectrum platformers!! Or is it just me? Anyhow, I like the music but I absolutely love those amazing sound effects. Yes, this is a happy day for me. Pure retro gaming gold!!

  
The third takes the difficulty to a whole new level so it's now I realise that I need infinite lives!!

I'm really impressed by the demo of Sam Nasty and never in a million years would I have imagined STOS could produce such a smooth experience. Sure, there are a few bugs which Jerome is in the process of fixing and I'd love for him to fix the sensitive controls because aligning yourself properly on a ladder is a pain in the bum. Also, there are niggles like the limited lives, glitchy music, and the title's cursor moves like it's high on drugs... [IMHO]

Overall, Sam Nasty is a cool concept but I'm gobsmacked he didn't release this back in the day. I'm sure it would have gone down a storm so please take the time to download the demo and send him your feedback. Sam Nasty was incredibly entertaining and a genuine surprise so I'm really looking forward to the next release!

Friday, February 08, 2019

Missile Command

[ my video recording shows both colour and monochrome games ]

Straight out of the golden age of Atari's retro gaming archives is Missile Command, a phenomenal shooter I played a lot but possibly more so on my old Speccy thanks to Ocean's Armageddon, a fantastic conversion.

This cold war era shoot 'em up was all about protecting the cities of Zardon from a constant ballistic missile attack: aliens from Krytol noticed how prosperous Zardon is so want to free-roll in and take everything for themselves. You are Zardon's only hope so grab hold of the mouse and use your arsenal to defend us all from annihilation!

 
Yeah, baby!! You heard that correctly, Missile Command supports colour AND monochrome.

This game has always been darn cool and the ST has received a faithful conversion that feels just as good as I hoped. There's support for one or two players which can also be configured to enable/disable other features like the enemy's multiple warheads and smart bombs. Initial attack waves start at a slow and sedate pace (can be skipped) but this war soon gets crazy when the Krytolians start using faster missiles and dreaded smart bombs. Trying to detonate these is so tricky, especially during the heat of battle when you don't wanna run out of ammo!

Unlike other home conversions, the ST game makes convenient use of its tank mouse which is just perfect for precise control. Both mouse buttons are used to fire a limited supply of ammo - the left button fires from the left base and, well, I'm sure you've guessed what the right button does? The controls are simple and genius.

 
The action soon gets hectic and it's a panic trying to hit everything. Yeah, I fail pretty quickly...

Visually, don't expect to be blown away. The graphics are typically crude for such an early arcade game - most of the screen is simply a blank canvas. However, that's the charm of early retro games when gameplay mattered most and I feel they've captured this (ahem) very well. You know, I do admire those blocky cities (which I'm supposed to save from an explosive death) but I also love the whacky colours and font. Yep, it's silly but so am I :)

Sound effects are fine but I am a little disappointed Atari didn't roll their sleeves up and go that extra mile as we've all heard (far) better from the old YM chip. Also, this isn't exactly pushing the Atari ST to its limits, so why not use samples? Hmm, it's a little bland in the audio dept and definitely needed a something with a little pizzazz.

 
You're almost done when the missiles explode far too close for comfort [my old man reactions!]

Missile Command is such a simple game and one of the best from that early era. Fans of the original should appreciate what is an authentic arcade conversion and one which certainly brought back lots of great memories for me. This is fast, frantic and bucket loads of fun so that's a thrilling win in my book. A timeless classic.

Okay, this was hardly a mind-blowing review as I'm sure everyone knows this great game so grab a floppy or the hard disk version and defend Zardon from its inevitable annihilation. I hope you last longer than I did in my video!!

Monday, February 04, 2019

TOS Legends


After checking out Hibernated 1 This Place is Death, I did a little surfing and ended up finding something called TOS Legends by Sébastien Claret. Now, I've never seen this before but thought it was pretty darn cool from the moment I first tried it. There is a download for both Mac/PC or you can play it inside your web browser... (Nah!)

Okay, here are some nifty links you should try: Ludum Dare and Sébastien's own website.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Hibernated 1 - This Place is Death


I've just taken delivery of what is possibly my last purchase for the Atari ST, Hibernated 1 by Stefan Vogt. You know, I feel like I've waited years for this to pop through my letterbox but it is here and I'm ecstatic to report a brilliant product. I'm unsure whether or not to remove the plastic seal... bah!! Of course, I've already unwrapped it!! :D

Hibernated was reviewed back in August (how time flies) and I included an animation to demonstrate the game's awesome sense of humour during the exploration - all links and a download/purchase are available here.

You know, I think I might be getting back into the swing of things here... Atari ST #ftw !!