Saturday, January 25, 2020

Bombaman -registered!


WooHoo!! It looks like my freakish addiction to all things Atari ST/e has paid off once again. Well, I'd call that love and appreciation of all things ST but others call it mithering... Anyhow, today I am proud to announce the availability of the registered version of Bombaman!! Kindly donated but Kevin Callahan, a man who has put up with my mithering messages for 18 months - and never once did he break down and ask me to leave him alone!! :)

Another "lost" title has been rescued and that is always a very special moment. AtariMania has this safely archived and available to download right now. For those wanting to know a little more about about this funky multiplayer game - then clickety-click. My greetings to Kevin and I hope all you guys love playing this cool game? Enjoy!!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Xenon


Finally, there is light at the end of my Super Pack tunnel and the penultimate game is a beast of a shoot 'em up. Released in 1988 by Melbourne House, the mighty XENON was my first experience of what the Bitmap Brothers were capable of. A team who (for me) was the Atari ST equivalent of Ultimate Play The Game, high praise indeed from this fan. Few titles, but each pushed our machine and oozed a level of class beyond words.

I can still remember loading up Xenon for the first time. Once the graphics appeared, I was so impressed - when compared to my 8-Bit experiences. However, my jaw didn't drop to the floor like a weighty anvil until that music kicked in just as the visuals raced down my TV screen. What a simple yet brilliant intro to its opening level.

 
The first level is iconic. It looks great. Sounds great. Plays great. Then you meet the boss...

However, I always wondered why the pilot zooms over the entire level - because I've only gotta travel back up through the baddie-infested lands? Gee-whiz, thanks! Well, I should shut up and stop being silly because it's fantastic to watch and the digitized recording of Erich Matthews saying "Sector One" is pure gold. Iconic even!!

We start in our little tank which is fast and manoeuvrable, but it's not long until you realise that you can't hit anything up high. Waggle that joystick (or hit spacebar) to transform into a jet aircraft!! This is ace but, unlike the tank, cannot hit those critters crawling the floor... So, once again, get waggling to morph back into the tank. This method of flipping between the two vehicles is genius and can be done anytime during normal play one level 1/3.

 
The second level proves just how cruel and sadistic those Bitmap Brothers truly are!!

Initially, Xenon's gameplay is neither fast nor furious - yet I still panic when something weird is chasing after me and my little tank! The first level isn't really that difficult and you get to see a small selection of the whacky baddies that the game was hiding up its sleeves. Heck, we even have ladybirds! Of course, there are more traditional defences that need blowing up, like the aeroplanes and ground-based missile silos. So flipping between your two attack vessels now begins to prove fruitful for both points and those super-sexy bonuses.

A status panel along the right side of your screen shows a range of different stats including your score, altitude and fuels but there are also power-up letters which might be available after blasting something to smithereens. And Xenon has a great selection too. (Except for the balls that follow behind you - I hate those). Sure, they can be stacked but I've never really understood the point compared to having two fixed onto the body... Anyhow, the power-ups offer a wide variety of features to refuel, increased shot length and more. But here are the cool ones I like:

  • W = This is probably my second favourite power-up. Instant extra firepower!
  • A = Stay protected and stronger in your ship.
  • S = Side shots is a pretty cool upgrade, especially on the harder levels.
  • H = Homing missiles help to make things so much easier.
  • B = Balls, which can be stacked up to three. Great...
  • L = This is so fantastic and possibly my fave - and picking up "G" reverts back.
  • Z = Surely every game needs a smart-bomb?

Of course, there's always an end-of-level guardian and Xenon is no different. In fact, the Sentinels also appear half-way through each level. That's right, eight times you're against it and they can only be killed by carefully aligning your weapon against their weakest point. It's now that you die only to reload with a trainer enabled...

However, if you manage to win, then you're allowed to play the remainder before another battle at the end. Beating him for that second time zaps you off to the next level to fight against a massive array of different foes. And it's tough so I doubt you'll last very long - and that's the main issue I have against Xenon. It's just too hard after level one. How many ST players have seen the later levels without resorting to a cheat? I thought so...

 
Don't adjust your monitor... Yep, level three sure does look familiar albeit in pink. Ugh!

Visually, and for the most part, this game is a babe. Level one has a stunning metallic charm which I absolutely love. Heck, it even looks outstanding to today's spoilt brats! Each stage looks great but I admit to not being a fan of the fourth level - I think it looks rather odd. Kinda like an Amstrad game... I know, weird right?

Sprites are stunning, even those peculiar pink brain things on level 4! Scrolling is nice and smooth, perfect for the gameplay. Overall, Xenon epitomises that mind-blowing late 80s era when we upgraded from older machines like the Sinclair ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64 to the glorious 16-Bit world of the Atari ST. Yes, it's a babe!


Dave Whittaker has produced everything booming out of your ST mono speaker and what you hear is every bit as mind-blowing as those gorgeous visuals. Sound effects are a blast, even if they do mute a channel to play!

However, having said that, it's the music which is just ... timeless. Level one has possibly one of the best and most brilliant chiptunes ever? So turn up the volume because the YM2149 is about to rock your house!!

 
Level four is insane and there are enough enemies to strike down an Asgard mothership!!

Hands down, this is one of the best 16-Bit shooters. Sure, the bosses are annoying and later levels are insane with way over-the-top difficulty but I absolutely love this game and it's something I'm very proud to own.

Hang on, shouldn't I be whining and moaning about that difficulty? Yet, I'm not. Why? Easy, this is blummin' fantastic and I've been hooked for 30+ years!! In spite of itself, Xenon is just awesome and very addictive. I love it!!

Download either the floppy disk or a spanky hard drive version and get battling the Xenites!


Begin drooling because I really do own this ace Atari ST game!! Oh yeah!!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!!


Well, my 2020 seems to have kicked off nicely because I've just taken delivery of four awesome Atari CDs and it's all thanks to winning the monthly prize draw over at Darkforce BBS. Now, I never win at anything so this was the biggest Mega ST shock ever!! All I need now is a CD ROM drive. Yup, eBay here I come...

For those who still don't know, Darkforce BBS is a bulletin board service run by a fine Atarian called Ron Hall, aka DarkLord. A great BBS for all the usual stuff like news, messaging, chat, downloads, games, etc/etc. You can access it freely using any terminal program supporting the Telnet protocol, and I prefer using SyncTerm myself.

The CDs are mainly for the Atari Falcon, a grand machine that I'll probably never be able to afford - unless I win the lottery... However, there is tons of other stuff and I'm eager to see what's on the Moving Pixels disk - lots of ST/STe stuff on that!! Greetings Ron - as you can probably tell, I'm excited to explore these archives :-)


telnet darkforce-bbs.dyndns.org 520



Don't you dare fall for Ron's trickery? I expected beer and a free room for the night... But NOTHING!!


Check out the main menu!! Time has stood still and is also STuffed full of Atari goodness!


Ahh, I feel all nostalgic now. It's like I'm back in the 90s dabbling in NeST...


Heck, you can even play games. It's like having an Xbox in your terminal!


The downloads area is huge and also complimented with a CD Rom section too!


I love the range of jokes and other random quotes that can be installed to pop-up!!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Wizball


We're finally approaching the end of my Super Pack adventure and Wizball is one of those magical games which I only have to hear for all my Christmas morning memories to come flooding back. There's just something wonderful and eerie about the audio, be it the cool theme tune or that trippy in-game background "music".

Well, perhaps I played Wizball quite a lot that morning? But you wouldn't guess that if you saw me playing it today lol!! However, this still has a special place in my rapidly-thumping ST heart with our conversion handled by the great Peter Johnson, of Arkanoid fame. And I feel confident in saying that he did a brilliant job.

 
My first attempt didn't go well. A weird power-up was used but then a *red* wiggly worm appears!

Wizworld was once a lovely and colourful place until the evil Zark turned everything grey and rather drab. We play as Wiz and are... well... a ball thingy who must attempt to add a splash of Technicolor back into his bleak world. We do that by collecting power-ups to aid us shooting Zark's space monsters who will then drop bubbles of red, green or blue. Using these primary colours, we can recolour this drab world to its former glory. In theory!

This is a horizontally scrolling "shoot 'em up" which supports both single and multiplayer - believe it or not. Solo gamers get to be Wiz, with the additional help of Cat thanks to using power-ups. Those with friends can choose their prefered character from the start and even compete and in coop - which is pretty cool, I must say.

 
Okay, let's restart and try again... Just what are those weird alien things? Quick, shoot 'em!!

Initially, Wiz gets around by bouncing across a rather drab-looking landscape. The fire button shoots a weapon and tapping left/right controls direction and speed. This is difficult at first but the controls are light and responsive. However, you won't get very far without shooting those aliens that look like something from a chemistry lab. Once dead, they turn green so are safe to collect and begin to offer a range of different power-ups:
  • The first comes in two parts helping to give far better control and then preventing gravity from taking its affect. Therefore we stop bouncing! Yes, I like this power-up a lot!!
  • The next gives a much-needed boost to our weaponry and in both directions.
  • Feeling alone? Collect three and you'll be rewarded with a new Cat to help you out.
  • Superpowers are awarded for four power-ups!
  • Five green blobs enable vertical shooting...
  • Smart bomb... I don't think I get so far into the game to need this!
  • Finally, seven green blobs gives you a shield. Umm yeah!

 
The power-ups disable gravity and more. And then a load of eyeballs turn up to kill you... Great!

It's these power-ups that you really need to use, so waggle the joystick when something takes your fancy. For me, I gotta stop him bouncing first and foremost. It's then that I make the decision to either make use of the friendly Cat or go for shields/better firepower. The choice is yours but I feel nobody will ignore the option to defy gravity...

There are also the other aliens which can drop various colours, either for special treats or to recolour your world. They come in a wide and funky variety but are usually very tough to kill... Thankfully, this world is pretty big and there are escape tunnels to traverse into different areas. However, I feel these aliens are often far too hard to kill so rarely did I reach the bonus stages or use the Wiz Lab for permanent power-ups. Which I'm gutted about!!

I believe some copies are bugged and prevent completion. Sadly, ahem, I was never able to test that theory but I'm interested to know if this is true. For now, I'll blame my creaky old joystick...

 
His world might be like ST High Res but at least the aliens are rather jazzy and colourful!


- GRAPHICS -

Wizball is a corker and a great looker for the 80s. I absolutely adored it from the first moment I saw the title screen which begins to reveal its colours using several funky methods. Sprites are well-drawn and little Wiz is cute and funny - especially when he opens up in the Wiz Lab. Yeah, it's silly but I really like things like that!!

A game like this needs to scroll and wimping out saying that the ST cannot scroll would have been totally unacceptable (a bad workman 'n all that). Thankfully, Peter Johnson never wimped out and everything moves fast and smooth, which is a relief because the action needed to feel agile and spritely. Which it does.


Trivia question: what beautiful megademo has Wiz appeared in? Too easy, right...


- SOUNDS -

Audio is both great and weird. Don't get me wrong, the theme tune is incredible, something I've loved throughout the decades and never gets old (have a listen). Also, the sound effects work well but it's that strange background "tune" that adds a spark of brilliance to the atmosphere. A lot of effort went into making this game.



- THE CRYPTO'PINION -

For me, Wizball is a bit of an enigma. Don't get me wrong, I've really enjoyed it and also feel that Peter Johnson did a fantastic conversion. However, it is a lot harder than the 8-Bit original and ultra-fast reactions are always needed. Thus, it requires (too) much time to master, which I never really did - either back in the day or now!!

Personally, I feel it's the firing of our weapon which should be quicker and more like a Jeff Minter game? Okay, perhaps not Llamatron but, as is, it's often far too lethargic so annoying when missing the enemies. Also, in one-player mode, controlling Cat is awkward and not what you need when aliens are invading the screen.

Having said all that, I really enjoyed Wizball. I genuinely wish there were more hours in my day to play it and beat this infuriating shooter. I'm going to be returning to it again, simply because I need to know how everything looks in colour!! So don't be quick to judge because it's surprisingly entertaining and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

Don't be a sissy - download this for either floppy or hard disk and help Wiz restore his world!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Goodbye...



I thought it might be nice to wave bye-bye to 2019 with a selection of previously featured games that you guys may have missed. So before welcoming in the new year, here's a bloated list of games which I personally think are true Christmas Crackers - and for a variety of different reasons. So should be played by all ST Nutters!! :-)

We begin by taking gaming seriously. Yep, let's tax the old brain cells with four amazing downloads:
  • Yopaz is a familiar thinker running in GEM. But don't let that put you off because it plays really well and even supports the STe for some seriously cool ambient sounds.
  • Next is Unheart which has a C64 visual feel and some think it's a Boulderdash clone when they see screenshots - which it isn't. Instead, it's a mind-bogglingly brilliant puzzler!
  • Thirdly, it should be instantly obvious what BeGEMed is all about? Never have I played something so captivating with beautiful aesthetics. One seriously addictive puzzler!
  • Finally, the brilliant and originally titled Sokoban. This unassuming game is cunningly difficult and easily expandable. It will always get a thumbs up from me. Love it!
 
 


For a moment, let's remain within the boundaries of thinking rather than arcade fun or mindless violence...
  • Alpha Waves. Wow, this is something so captivating and it blew me away when I first saw it. Imagine yourself trapped inside a box and the only way to escape is by bouncing your spacecraft on springy platforms. It's weird yet works so perfectly. A milestone in 3D game that will offer hours of fun. Download this right now!!
  • Okay, let's switch now to burning rubber and head straight onto the asphalt! The Atari ST is certainly blessed with lots of ace racers and driving games but few seem to remember Power Up? Okay, it's hardly original but it's so much fun, especially on the STe because it can make use of the DMA and Blitter. Faster Atari computers are supported for smoother framerates. Not perfect but I still love this game!
 
 


Platformers next and those who know me will be aware of my addiction to this genre and the Atari ST has many: Stario, Rainbow Islands, Gods, Ghosts & Goblins... But here are a few others which I wanted to share:
  • Prehistorik was written in STOS and is so much fun. It's a lightweight platformer but one with incredible mechanics and is GREAT fun. It should be played by all. Oh yeah!
  • Magic Boy is next and I said BOY not POCKETS!! This is another Christmas Cracker which plays as good as it looks and with STe support. No lame Amiga port here.
  • Next is a fella with a Big Nose who walks along boring landscapes - which should have been far better. But, you know what, this plays brilliantly and is so addictive.
  • Finally, we end with a Thug but he's a nice thug and another hidden GEM in the ST world.
 
 


Okay, it's time to end this little compilation but there are plenty more within our archives - so use the *search* function. Also, don't forget to download AtariCrypt Magazine. Yes, it's free... well... donationware... and obviously written by yours truly with visual flair by a talented Darren Doyle. Go on, grab yourself a copy.

Finally, thank you for checking out my website for another year. It's great reading the comments and your messages of support are always appreciated. Once again, I cannot leave without paying homage to our dear Patreons for their extra support: so this article continues over on Patreon as a special thank you to these amazing guys!

All the very beST for 2020 and ... STay Atari !!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas


Catnap is a wonderful animation by Gary Johnson of Atari USA, that also makes the perfect Christmassy post! Apparently, the cat & dog are the pets of Ralph F. Mariano, publisher of online diskmag ST Report. Personally, I've never read an issue but it lived long into the 90s. Yep, this is something I must research over the holidays...

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank our dear Patreons for their support over the year: Mind-Blowing support from our ST community!! Also, there are lots of cool friends in my little ST world who help in so many different: Tom, Dale, PeterJ, Marko, PP, Paul, Karim, Michael, Maarten, Seb, and my sincere apologies if I have forgotten anyone! Finally, my greetings to everyone who regularly visits this little ol' website to get their fix of Atari STuff :-)

Merry Christmas to all ST Nutters and I wish y'all the very beST †


Silent Night Atari ST chiptune by Chris French

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Thundercats


Thundercats was released back in 1988 by Elite and is obviously based on the old kid's TV show. Now, I don't remember the programme myself but YouTube does, which meant I finally got to see what all the fuss was about. An interesting show for the time and I can see many similarities, especially with the characters.

The Atari ST game represents the cartoon as a sideways-scrolling platformer shooter played over a number of (torturous) levels. We are Lion-O, a Thundercat with flame-red hair and a huge sword who battles against strange animal foes. These baddies are from something called Mumm-Ra who have not only stolen the Thundera jewel but have also kidnapped the other Thundercats. I think this translates as - we need to save the day!

 
The first level breaks you into the mayhem nicely. Look for power-ups and try not to panic (like me!)

 
Being attacked by so many birds isn't great fun... And I didn't like that slowwwwww laser gun!

The terrain is simple with lots of monsters, killer water, disappearing platforms, and rocks/etc to leap over - but watch out for the bigger baddies who will follow. Random power-ups will appear at regular intervals and will need to be hit before you can collect them (I liked the mushrooms). An extra life is appreciated but I wasn't thrilled about the laser gun which is limited because it doesn't fire far. Thus annoying when something is just out of reach!

Gameplay is regularly broken up by bonus rounds and trying to rescue Tygra proved impossible: one-touch and you have failed in the mission!! Also, the levels are broken up into themes and you're asked which you'd like to play: they are Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Basically, little changes but we do get different visuals and baddies to kill.

 
That creepy fella is tough, so repeatedly hit him where it hurts! And don't forget the mushroom power-ups...

 
Hang on, what's this? Well, it turns out to be a pretty lame spaceship and it uses that silly laser too...

Joystick controls are rather easy to learn and also very responsive: left/right walks our flame-haired hero and he can also jump and crouch with ease. I liked these controls which work well and the best part is our huge sword - which puts Conan's to shame!! However, it is oddly used more like a club which is weird, but it works...

Sadly, no matter how responsive the controls are - there are far too many baddies to cope with. This is because they appear from both sides of the screen - so you're soon overrun as the hoards gang up on you. To make matters worse, your weapon can only kill what is directly in front of it so you're constantly jumping, crouching, turning around... Add that to everything else and it won't be long until you've died - or launched your joystick in frustration!!


- GRAPHICS & SOUNDS -

Visually, things are rather good I thought. Colours are bold and represent the cartoony-feeling very well plus I also loved sprites which are superbly detailed. However, what shocks me most is how smooth the scrolling is and with a second parallax layer too. It's always nice to see when developers don't wimp out with flick/push-scrolling.

The in-game sound effects are okay, even if everything sounds all too familiar. However, it's the music I adore. This game ROCKS and the theme tune is pure Rob Hubbard awesomeness! It's brilliant and I love every second!


I love the macabre artwork here. It's a bit crude yet very cool... and his toes are funny!

 
I always fail to rescue poor old Tygra! But a spooky dude offers us different paths through the game...

 Click on the green arrow and enjoy this outstanding Rob Hubbard chiptune. Mmm, I love it!!


- THE CRYPTO'PINION -

Thundercats is a good game even if ridiculously difficult. My red-haired hero was walking, jumping and crouching like crazed hip-hopster on speed yet I still couldn't kill every attacking monster without dying loads of times!! Even when using a trainer, it's still too hard but at least I got to see the later levels. Hmm, not very good?

I've moaned a lot about this game and yes, it's crammed full of annoying mechanics. However, it's still a game to boot up because it looks good, sounds great, and who doesn't enjoy clobbering animals with a huge sword? Personally, I'm more of a He-Man fan but I still enjoyed this platformer and I think you will too. Well, with a trainer!!

AtariMania has the Super Pack floppy disks and 8BitChip has a hard drive installable version!