Saturday, September 21, 2019

Buggy Boy


After the joy of Arkanoid 2, we continue our trip through Super Pack land with Beyond the Ice Palace and Black Lamp. However, both are already featured right here on AtariCrypt [click their links] so let's move onwards to another ST favourite of mine, Buggy Boy!! Now, those with a keen memory for all the junk I post on this website will remember that I've already covered this racer. Well, yes and no... Yes, it's featured but no, it was just a silly post because I was enjoying the dizzy speeds of my 16Mhz Mega STe!! Still, it's worth viewing!! Well, maybe...

Buggy Boy is an arcade classic and something that doesn't take itself seriously whatsoever. Forget the crucial stuff like road surface, tyres, suspension, handling, pitstops or even the paint job. Nope, just choose which of the five tracks you fancy and then jump into your buggy and race through checkpoints - all against the clock.

 
Who doesn't love two-wheel stunts or abandoned logs that help us leap high into the air!

Everything you see is completely unrealistic thanks to roads cluttered with obstacles and whacky physics. The first track is an offroad loop whereas the others are segmented by their checkpoints as you progress. This racer was always meant to be fun so provides silly leaps and two-wheel driving, Knight Rider style :-)

Points can be earned by collecting flags in the order shown at the top of your screen. Once completed, they begin to flash - so now is a good idea to collect more before that stops... Also, slalom-style gates are scattered throughout for tons of points and some even offer time bonuses. Heck, you might even see a soccer ball... Go on, kick it!!

 
Hit that soccer ball like Pele and climb sloping walls to avoid obstacles like these annoying rocks.

Some tracks have banked curves and can be used like you're racing at Bristol Motor Speedway which was an unexpected surprise that certainly adds to the overall excitement. However, not all is good so look out for rocks, bushes or barriers which slow you down or take you for a tumble. Driving head-on into a wall will cause you to explode and water has never been good for any vehicle - each bad event forces you to lose precious time!

The joystick controls are brilliant albeit limited by the ST. Of course, an analogue wheel was always going to be missed, but the weirdest aspect is pushing upwards to accelerate rather than using the button. That's because tapping this switches between your two gears... it's odd but you'll get used to it after a race or two.

 
There was plenty of room but I still chose to leap over that rock. Watch out, tunnel ahead!

Graphically, Buggy Boy hasn't aged too badly and certainly brought back all my old arcade memories. The sprites are nice, the colours are gorgeously vivid, and the overall appearance is so cartoon-like. Okay, the framerate isn't exactly Vroom but it looks cute and performs smooth enough not to hurt my eyes, ala Cisco Heat and OutRun!!

Audio is darn cool and captures the arcade experience with its beautiful chiptunes - all produced by the talented Jason C. Brooke. Sound effects are almost as good with jazzy jingles and funny "boings" as we leap.

 
Bumping into some obstacles slows you down whereas others cause the buggy to realistically tumble. Ahem.

It's difficult to find something negative to say about this racer. But, if I was to be picky, then the framerate could be a tad smoother and I miss the audio touches like skids or driving through tunnels. But I really am being picky!!

Overall, this is an outstanding conversion of the arcade original. It looks, sounds and plays absolutely great plus the ability to instantly select your prefered course is a huge bonus. It's authentic and brilliantly entertaining so will always keep on dragging you back for more. Buggy Boy is an Atari ST gem and I love it. Simple as that really.

The floppies can be sourced using Old Games Finder but, if you have the necessary hardware, I would advice you to download the cool hack by D-Bug. This not only comes with a fantastic intro but also supports faster Atari computers, like my own Mega STe. This, is a superb download!!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Arkanoid - Revenge of Doh


It's time to kickstart my Super Pack adventure with Imagine's Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh. Now, I'm sure everyone has played this at some point in their life because it's such a popular classic and easy to pick up and play.

Our ST conversion was developed by a familiar name from the 1980s, Peter Johnson. This wizball not only did all the coding but everything you see and hear too which is quite staggering when you think about it. From the moment this loads up, I'm in love with its authentic intro! Okay, it's short but it works and features that zappy music!

 
The first level breaks you in nicely and it wasn't long before I found an M power-up!!

Using the mouse... Yes, the mouse!! Control the Vaus Craft to deflect the energy bolt back and forth destroying every (destructible) block - Breakout style. You can guide the bolt depending on how contact is made: inner areas produce a taller vertical direction whereas outer parts deliver a wide-angled shot. I must say, the mouse controls are excellent, but don't think that means easy because your hand-eye coordination will definitely be tested!!

Each level follows a trippy design to compensate for the ridged format and later screens are incredibly tricky. Watch out for the aliens who enjoy hovering around to get in the bolts way and ricochet the bolt off at an unexpected angle - which is really infuriating!! So use the Vaus to nudge them into an early grave when they get too close...

Thankfully, the power-ups are back and we have a wealth of snappy bonuses to make full use of:
B - Who doesn't love skipping levels if given the chance?
C - The Vaus Craft gains velcro!
D - Split the bolt into eight - can you handle it though?
E - Bigger is always better, right?
I - We have a ghost Vaus to make our hits a little easier.
L - Hit that mouse button because we have weapons!!
M - Destroys blocks like they're not even there. Amazing.
N - Splits the bolt, which regenerates to keep on damaging.
P - Sounds boring but extra lives are incredibly valuable.
R - The cold of space has shrunken you!
S - Collect this if things are getting too hectic.
T - You gain a twin to help you in your quest!

Graphically, you won't see any mind-blowing artwork but it's so reminiscent of the arcade original using vivid colours. The aliens might be incredibly annoying at times but at least these sprites look great. Arkanoid is as bold and colourful as you would expect and shows just how far we came from the original 1970s Breakout!!

Sound effects aren't going to drive you wild with excitement but who expected anything beyond dink...dink...dink...? Thankfully, the tunes are superb even if we're only talking mere seconds, but I love their authentic quality.

 
Personally, I think this is one of the hardest levels in the entire game. Just try and get that last block...

Usually, I would now mention all the things about a game that narks me. There are none...

Okay, I think it's easy to say that Arkanoid took the Breakout genre to a whole new level. This sequel is so addictive and infuriating yet always keeps you coming back for more. It's everything I would hope for in an arcade conversion and is certainly one of the best. Overall, I rate Arkanoid II Revenge Of Doh as categorically outstanding!!
Downloads are available for either floppy or using a spanky hard drive device. And, for those of us that are far too impatient, why not skip a level by hitting the S key during gameplay? All ya gotta do is hit the CAPS Lock key when the title screen is displayed and enter MAGENTA. Sweet!

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Atari 520 STFM Super Pack


I've had an idea...

And this is something that I've been thinking about for a while but somehow never managed to get around to doing. Let me begin by saying that my first Atari computer was (shock) the 520 STFM model and this beautiful machine came bundled with a ton of games called the Super Pack. I remember that Christmas well and this new computer was quite remarkable with jaw-dropping speed, sounds, colours and immense next-gen gameplay!!

Until that day, I'd only ever owned a ZX Spectrum so booting up Xenon for the first time was, well, mind-blowing. Pure witchcraft!! Don't get me wrong, I loved my old Speccy but this was another level completely. So, I figured it would be a fantastic(?) idea to replay each of the bundled games and relive Christmas Day all over again.

The games...

Arkanoid II Revenge of Doh, Beyond the Ice Palace, Black Lamp, Buggy Boy, Chopper X, Eddie Edwards Super Ski, Ikari Warriors, Marble Madness, Quadralien, Rana Rama, Return to Genesis, Roadwars, Seconds Out, Starquake, Summer Olympiad, Test Drive, Thrust, Thundercats, Wizball, Xenon, and Zynaps. Phew, 21 games!!!

As you can see, seven games are already searchable right here on AtariCrypt - so click their links to see what I thought. Thankfully, there are many remaining and a few which I've not played since that first Christmas so I'm very excited to see how well they've aged over the last three decades. Yes, I'm talking to you Seconds Out!!

You excited? I know I am...

I'll begin my Super Pack journey alphabetically which means starting with Imagine's colourful breakout, Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh. The last time I enjoyed a decent brick buster was Bolo a few years back [what a classic] so I hope this lives up to all my expectations. Let the joyride through the Super Pack begin - watch this space :)

Greetings to RĂ³bert Tercsi and Marko Latvanen for their help hunting down images and information

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Super Stario Land


I was recently talking to a good friend who loves the NES game, Super Mario Brothers. However, this is something I've not played because I had the ZX Spectrum before moving up to the glorious Atari ST. He swore at me saying it was the best platformer ever made and I didn't know what I was missing. Thankfully, he has now been sectioned but his silly opinion got me thinking about Super Stario Land which is (cough...cough) a similar title.

I remember playing this a few years ago but struggled to progress very far. So, I decided to give it another bash over the weekend but shockingly, my skills had not improved!! So I rebooted my ST after only a few games to enable the trainer option which I hoped would compensate for my poor reactions. In fact, I had the bold intention to record a longplay video but those darn flying fish put a frustrating end to that idea, which was so disappointing...

 
Stario left the house without a shotgun!! What a fool. So now he's gotta squish the nasties from up high...

For those living on another planet the last couple of decades, Super Stario Land is basically a shameless Mario ripoff which doesn't even try to hide that fact at all. Released 1995 by Top Byte Software, this must rank as one of the last commercial games ever released for our beloved Atari ST. It was programmed by Adrian Keylock who did an ace job considering no enhanced hardware was used. Yup, it's as smooth as silk on any Atari ST computer.

Stario can walk, run (hold the fire button) and jump over his blocky 2D landscape. Many of these blocks can be nudged for extra points and sometimes a weird bonus - I love the one that makes you grow twice the size/strength and I will never refuse that much-needed 1UP bonus. The levels are populated by lots of cute critters that can be killed by stomping on their heads, although some require a double jump whilst others are immune...

Your environment is very much a "Mario" clone using the expected bric-a-brac with tube-like structures, water, moving platforms and much more. Everything should feel this "familiar", but what interested me was the levels themselves which follow a particular design using randomly generated stages for larger levels. Sadly, this design will often backfire for a weird Deja Vu feeling as you hopped over the same bit of landscape more than once...

 
Watch out for falling rocks!! Every critter is so cute and detailed, even the flying fish - GRR!!!

Joystick controls are superb and incredibly responsive without any lag. However, having said that, you should get in a few practice games to master the enormous level of inertia. I wish I had a pound for every time I slid off the edge of a moving platform to my doom! After a few plays, things will soon become second nature. Brilliant controls!!

The graphics are designed by none other than Richard Davey, of the legendary LGD and kind Patreon to AtariCrypt. He's certainly taken the time to get that console look just right - everything from the blocks, the landscapes, and those incredibly detailed sprites. The baddies are really cute, it's almost a shame to squash 'em. Almost.

Audio can be flipped between the default sound effects and chipmusic by simply pressing F9 key. The effects are quite good but there's not enough going on so you're left feeling empty and wanting far more pizazz from your old ST. Thankfully, nothing compares to the gorgeous Big Alec tunes which are beautiful. So that's an easy choice!!

 
Enter 'australia' into the high score table and you get a rather unexpected bonus game!!

No game is perfect and Super Stario Land has a few niggles which disappoint but, for me, those flying fish are the worst because they appear to follow unpredictable patterns so are really annoying. Getting by them is impossible to judge correctly so, it feels like pure luck IF you manage to make it through. Which is a bit rubbish!

Having said that, this is a blast and certainly ranks as one of the best on the ST. However, I'm unsure just HOW to recommend it because IF you're a fan of the NES game then you'll probably hate what is a shameless ripoff. Others may not approve of its old 8Bit style compared to 16-bitters like Rolling Ronny, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, etc, etc...

However, Stario is authentically Mario in many aspects which is great for a computer without the enhanced hardware. It feels 8-Bit, scrolls great, sounds great, and the controls are simply divine. Yep, I'm happy and also feel it might have changed my mind about that idiotic Italian plumber... maybe! Overall, I cannot recommend Super Stario enough because it's blummin' great and infuriatingly addictive so download what is nothing short of fun, fun, fun!!

Super Stario The Mario Wannabe can be played via floppy or directly from your hard drive device.