Sunday, June 24, 2018

Shadowlands


Shadowlands is an RPG released in 1992 by Domark that was developed by Barry Costas who created another personal favourite game of mine Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters. I've wanted this game for years, and I finally have it proudly displayed on my shelf, but will it live up to my expectations after all these years?

The story is based on an ancient legend of a warrior prince who was slaughtered on the battlefield. Somehow, our dead dude has magically been awoken to find himself alive and kicking with the nifty ability to mind-control. So he went out and selected four loyal subjects to venture back into the Shadowlands and wreak his vengeance!

  
Earlier messages may begin rather obvious but reading these can be rewarding later on...

  
Don't be so quick to begin your adventure and take time to look around the starting level.

As with any RPG, everything is played out in real-time with lots of puzzles to solve and beasts to kill. We begin with the option to use the default characters or manually generate their attributes, which I suggest you do. The first level begins outside in a woodland graveyard with some useful pickings before taking the plunge down into the depths.

Our adventure really begins once you're inside the creepy dungeons but the first thing that hits you is the lighting which is absolutely incredible using a technique called Photoscape. This adds a gradual gradient to the level of light around any character carrying a lit torch for a disturbing 16-Bit experience. Audio isn't too shabby featuring lots of sampled sound effects throughout, however, I do wish that fantastic title music was present during play.

  
Sometimes this game is far too subtle but at least it tries to help you!

  
You can't read in the dark! Has anyone got some spare cash they can lend me?

The user-interface is outstanding and one of the best I have ever used. Each character can either lead or be controlled independently using their avatars along the bottom of your screen. Sometimes it's best to go it alone when scouting ahead in search of items but idle warriors should still be vigilant for critters that like to nibble! The inventory screen can be accessed at any time with a single right-click and is a cinch to use and with extra functions like swapping items or grouping the adventurers into structured squads rather than a clumsy mob.

Playing Shadowlands is an incredible experience and I couldn't wait to leave the graveyard and venture onwards to see what nasties lurked in the depths. Each level has a superb design which is interesting but without losing your bearings. It's a good idea to read everything you come upon because not every puzzle is obvious and could be a trap that conjures something nasty! Look out for switches, wall slots, or even odd rickety floor panel. Other puzzles are a fun play on words such as "weight and see" (a good way to get rid of any useless items).

  
Remember, don't be too frivolous with torches. Hang on, something hideous is coming!!

  
Warrior is now a bag of bones! Perhaps he should have read the notice first?

Your loyal subjects will need replenishment so don't forget to eat, drink and rest whenever possible but be wise and use your stock sparingly. Flasks can always be topped up from fountains but there's nothing stopping you from having a sip or two while there. Torches are most helpful as it's so dingy plundering through the grim levels but, once again, use these sparingly and extinguish any idle ones in your inventory to make them last!

Weapons vary, but can also be just about anything you're able to carry and there are some impressive items just waiting to clobber your foe. Look around right at the very start for something very helpful. However, it's always good practice not to feel like you need to fight everyone all of the time - sometimes it's best to simply walk away...

  
Okay, I've got the key!! So let's head through that teleporter, unlock the gate and run like hell!!!

  
The Magician finds three suspicious holes but jumps into the wrong one and turns into a bag of bones!

Shadowlands has a few niggles and I failed to get the save game function to work no matter what I tried. Also, guiding our loyal subjects can sometimes be awkward as they struggle to walk around the graveyard or through an open doorway. Yes, they're a sandwich short of a picnic and often need a gentle push to help them out.

I've featured a variety of RPGs over the years and I thought nothing could live up to the likes of Dungeon Master and Legends Of Valour yet here we are addicted to another. Okay, there are a couple of quirks but Shadowlands offers a fascinating and compelling experience and is ultimately one of the most rewarding games I have ever played.

Play this wonderful RPG off your hard drive with its cool ability to save your progress as snapshots [thx PP]

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Anarchy


Running this lamers website means that I play tons of Atari ST games which is hard work but somebody's gotta do it... Quite often I will revisit games that I remembered being good at and, today, I thought it would be a great idea to play Anarchy by Psygnosis [Wayne Smithson/WJS]. This is basically a Defender ripoff but one which is tremendously fast and exciting at a jaw-dropping 50/60fps and too think WJS didn't even use the Blitter Chip!!

However, as I get older, I've begun to realise that some games are simply too fast for this old man's reactions to cope with and Anarchy was a nightmare!! Yep, I was all over the place wondering just what was going on. In the end, I gave up and enjoyed blasting everything and hoping for the best. Which meant that I didn't last too long...

So, what is your "Anarchy"??

Friday, June 22, 2018

Tetris


Another long lost game is now preserved within the archives of AtariMania. Yes, it's yet another Tetris clone but it's always great news when any Atari ST software is rescued from oblivion. It was originally developed back in 1991 by Tassos Seizis, with graphics by his brother John Seizis, but it was never actually released to the public - until now!! Okay, I'm not a big Tetris fan but I did enjoy playing this so give it a whirl and see what you think. Enjoy :-)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Escape 2042


Escape 2042 for the Atari STe has just been released by Cedric Bourse and can be downloaded for only a few pounds. This purchase gets you both the floppy and hard disk games and all your computer need is 1MB of Ram (2MB for the hdd version). Also, a boxed release is planned later in the year for all those interested. Yes, please!

The story goes like this: In the year 2042, a socialist government is in power, but nobody had foreseen progressive dictatorship that settled in. The elites of the government hid behind a sham democracy, disconnected from the life the people were leading and acted solely in their own interests.

The regime considered the dissidents as conspiracy theorists, treated them like terrorists and locked them away in highly-secured prisons, to prevent them from telling the people the truth about the manipulating medias accomplice of the government power.

You are Shun, a computer engineer and member of the Truth Defenders coalition.

After a clandestine operation to inform the people, you are locked away in the highly-secured prison Bulor 24. But your knowledge of security systems will enable you to escape.

Your turn now to escape as fast as you can from this place!

Today, I have rushed home from work to foolishly recorded my first attempt of a daring escape. Okay, ignore the fact I'm in easy mode and enjoy my video which features extreme gaming talent like you've never seen before...

First impressions: this is an incredibly polished product and as frustrating as it is incredibly addictive. Loving it!!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Rolling Ronny


Rolling Ronny is a scrolling platformer set in the quiet town of Fieldington, a place which recently suffered the theft of their crown jewels. Fortunately, this gang of bumbling thieves were disturbed so hid each jewel inside glittering boxes and scattered them throughout the town before fleeing. Why? I don't know but Scotland Yard then decided it was a good idea to enlist Ronny as their secret agent to recover the stolen jewels in return for a generous reward.

Ronny uses skates to get around this oddball town but he can climb ladders and leap across onto most platforms. He will need every ounce of agility to avoid/kill the nasties that lurk here and boy are there a number of silly creatures so defend yourself by hitting the fire button to fling your supply of killer salamis!! Ronny also has four spare pockets that he can use to store cool gadgets which are essentially power-ups. These offer a variety of functions like a Super Jump or the Magnet which attracts any out of reach items. Oh, and I really love the Power Sneeze!

  
Ronny needs to watch out for various nasties and also holes in the road. Even the birds don't like him!

Coins can be collected to use in the town's shop but be wise and leave enough for your bus fare which takes you onto the next level... (why doesn't he just skate there?). Along the way, you might be stopped and asked to run an errand for extra credit, surely an easy way to earn yourself extra credit? Beware, there is a time limit but you're still able to explore without being rushed and you can always top it up in the local shop if you're willing to spend?

The status panel displays various information: love hearts indicate health, a clock is counting down, the number of remaining jewels, gadgets ready to be used and more. The controls are responsive and allow Ronny to easily leap from ledge to ledge but, as usual, reaching for the function keys to activate a gadget is a bit of a pain.

  
This jump across the water looks tricky but then a little droplet begins chasing! Or is it a ghost?

Throughout, the visuals are constantly fantastic with a superb cartoon quality, comical sprites and smooth scrolling. It's obvious that colour is a big deal because of the richly decorated backgrounds, even the title screen is a stunning Spectrum 512 image. Audio is nice with a sweet title screen tune (that I can't get out my head) and neat in-game sound effects are accompanied by an obsessive tune that always manages to get my foot tapping.

As platformers go, Rolling Ronny doesn't exactly break the mould and our skating clown is a rather odd character if I'm being honest (well, just look at that hideous barnet and his big red nose). There are also a few niggles which I didn't care for, with the most irritating being when I failed to collect enough cash for my bus fare. I hate that!! However, there is something quirky and extremely entertaining which I've always loved about this sweet platformer.

Grab yourself either the floppy or hard disk version from Klaz and have yourself some roller skating fun!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Flight Of The Intruder


Check out my latest purchase: Flight Of The Intruder. The huge box has a minimalistic yet sleek artwork style so it's going straight into our Box Art section. I have always admired this game but somehow I oddly never got the play it back in the day... Well, finally, I can do just that and I'm really looking forward to taking this for a spin. However, first I must read through the weighty manual, so why not take a few moments to admire its beauty while you wait?

Flight Of The Intruder can be downloaded for floppy or the highly-recommended hard disk version.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

H.A.T.E Hostile All Terrain Encounter


Vortex Software released some amazing games for the ZX Spectrum and they were one of my favourite companies back in the day. H.A.T.E was their final effort and is a scrolling shoot 'em up quite similar in style to Zaxxon.

Our all-terrain encounter takes us through numerous isometric levels using a variety of crafts, from planes to tanks and even a hovercraft. As the landscape scrolls by, we need to destroy the nuclear generators where it hurts which reveals their plasma cells. Collecting these not only determines how many lives we are given on the next level but they also act as a shield to protect us from harm during the current game, which I personally think is genius!

The enemy appears in various guises, from ground-based machinery that spew out deadly mines to missiles, tanks and aircraft. Use evasive manoeuvres, especially when piloting a plane, as the enemy will often attack in waves. At the end of the level, a mothership whisks us off whereas the original continued on as far as I remember?

  

Controls are a little confusing but I soon got the hang of it after a couple of attempts. Every craft can move left or right with the fire button used for your main weapon. But there are differences to learn depending on the craft being used. For example, land-based tanks can move forwards and backwards whereas planes cannot. Instead, they increase or decrease their altitude. Also, pushing up whilst firing will activate a secondary weapon such as lasers or bombs.

  

Graphics remind me of Highway Encounter but aren't nearly as polished. In fact, they're often boring with murky colours and lethargic scrolling. However, I gotta say that I love the shadows, especially when carrying the plasma cells. The title music is an absolute gem and most certainly one of the best chiptunes ever, thanks to Ben Daglish! Timid music plays during gameplay which provides a nice background to complements the zip zap effects.

  

This is a good conversion of Costa's brilliant 8-Bit classic but it's not perfect and a couple of issues frustrated me. I began the second level and my beefy tank exploded when I accidentally touched a nearby building - always hated that!! Also, it can feel like forever and a day when waiting to restart after losing a life. Ugh, utter agony!

Overal, this Hostile All Terrain Encounter might look as sexy as a bruised banana but it plays great and is extremely addictive. I've spent several hours playing H.A.T.E and I have L.O.V.E.D every second of it. A fantastic shooter.

Fancy a little extra hate in your life? You'll find much hatred on either floppy disk or your hard drive.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Quartz


I've spent much of my recent time trolling through loads of disks using the nifty Floppy Image Runner and eventually came across this beauty. Quartz was released in 1988 by Firebird and is a tripped-out 8-way shooter that has us playing inside a cloud of sub-atomic particles. Each stage is a variety of short mini-stages quite similar to Asteroids but there are also incredible horizontal and vertical shooters along with some impressive 3D effects.

  
Gorgeous 8-way parallax scrolling and then lots of huge 3D rocky objects. Yowzers!!

Our job is to shoot the colourful hadrons, transforming them into quarks - which we blast into tiny neutrinos. Collecting these eventually offers a selection of power-ups ranging from ship repairs to a variety of awesome weapons. The end of level boss is perfect for the physicists lurking within and needs to be shot several times until it spins into oblivion. Lives are limited but you're offered the chance to continue on - if you're willing to give up a weapon - which is actually a strange idea but one that forces you to play better rather than simply whining for extra lives!

  
The game throws everything at you so it's not long before you're trading something to survive!

I'm gobsmacked just how brilliant this is with its frantic action, rich graphics and chirpy audio not to mention that beautiful parallax scrolling. My 8-year old daughter gave this a playtest and she found the controls daunting but soon got the hang of it. She said it's crazy but lots of fun and I think that sums up Quartz very nicely. Awesome!!

If you fancy taking the groovy spaceship for a spin then grab the floppy or hard disk game right away.

Monday, May 28, 2018

DBA Magazine #06


Synergy's famous DBA Magazine intro helped created one of those moments in time when everything changed. I've probably watched this several hundred of times through the years and it never gets dull with its beautiful visuals and groundbreaking SIDtastic audio. Watch the video but it's beST experienced using the real hardware!!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Switchblade



Switchblade was released in 1989 by Gremlin Graphics and programmed by Simon Phipps. Yes, he of Atari ST classic Rick Dangerous. Okay, we are Hiro, a dude in a bandana who must explore the UnderCity to locate sixteen broken fragments of the Fireblade to reap revenge on today's evil entity, Havoc. This beast has been on a savage rampage, after being dormant for 10,000 years, so it's time for us to save the day - once again!

We begin on the surface before taking the leap (fall) down into the orientally inspired UnderCity. This labyrinth is made up of lots of individual rooms and exploring each is brilliant but tread with caution because you never know what baddies might materialise from out of thin air. Your path through is "free-roaming" which I love so much.

  
The first nasty is quite dumb but it isn't long before we're up close with something bigger!

  
Somebody always leaves boxes conveniently lying about. Hang on, what is THAT down there?!

Look out for dodgy blocks that might crack with a single kick: these can unveil health and weapon power-ups or may even lead you on into hidden rooms of goodies. Boss characters appear regularly, the first is easy to kill whereas later ones can be quite frustrating and beaten only with patience and lots of well-timed jumping. The only negative is the immense size of the map which isn't visually diverse - so I often needed to backtrack after getting lost.

Controls are superb with all the usual movements like running, jumping and climbing ladders but there are also three kinds of attack. Tapping firing allows you to punch like a weak Arnold Schwarzenegger but you shall also notice a white combat meter along the bottom right of the screen. This helps perform two kicks: holding the fire button for a mere second (so the meter isn't at full strength) will perform a high kick Jean Claude Van Damme would be proud of. Finally, holding it down indefinitely performs a powerful Chuck Norris sweeping kick. Superb mechanics!

  
Some metallic rocker is chasing me! They can't see me but they can still shadow my movements...

  
Some of the nasties are a pain like gargoyles and the metallic jellyfish thingies!

Visually, I doubt Hiro will blow your socks off but it's clean and well-designed. Underneath the unassuming exterior is a rather cute system with nice level details, cool-looking characters and, as you explore, the game will self-map itself in a similar fashion to Ranarama, or even Rogue I guess. Switchblade has killer audio with brilliant chiptune bleeps from Ben Daglish or the choice of sampled sound effects and I love both equally!

Overall, Switchblade is awesome. It has a great adventure element plus the lack of a linear structure is excellent, thus keeping you enthralled throughout. This is one of the few games I've completed and I'll definitely come back to it again (and again). As with Rick Dangerous, this is most certainly one of the best platformers for the Atari ST.

  
The level guardians are either daft or just plain awkward to hit - I wish they would keep still!!

Fancy picking up the gauntlet to help Hiro find the scattered fragments? It will involve deep exploration, fighting lots of silly monsters and several freaky boss dudes? Of course, you'd be mad not to!! So grab yourself the floppy or hard disk installable games right away. Tip: you might find these maps useful to fully enjoy this beautiful retro game.