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Sunday, June 13, 2021

High Energy


It's time for another bundle of ST joy!

High Energy is something I lack lately especially as I've reached the big 5-0. Well, it's also the name of an Infogrames compilation, released in 1990 when I was still a teenager. Included is Fire And Forget, Hostages, North & South, Teenage Queen and TinTin On The Moon. Quite a rich and varied collection with potential.

I've never heard of this compilation before if I'm honest, so perhaps it was only released in France? Let me know in the comments below. Okay, I gotta say that I'm eager to get cracking with this promising release...




Fire & Forget

Here we have a racer by Titus which feels technically similar to other, old generation, ST racers especially their own Crazy Cars. However, this time our car has received a weapons upgrade to blast everything into smithereens. Hmm, this makes me think of another oldie that I really enjoyed, RoadBlasters by US Gold.

Anyhow, why is the future never portrayed in a positive light for many 16-bit games? Well, once again, the world is in turmoil (ironic, eh?) as the big cities have been destroyed with millions of people slaughtered. Thankfully, some survived and luckily, you are one of them! Our mission is to operate a powerful weapon called Thunder Master, which happens to be a supped-up shiny red sports car that gets about 5 miles per gallon!

The mission takes us to various places around the globe with a simple objective - drive and shoot. The roads are crammed with zillions of bad guys in vehicles like tanks and planes with many obstacles to shoot. Two players are supported with the second taking charge of an aircraft instead of a car. Each player has unlimited lives and ammo but fuel consumption is drastic and doesn't last long without collecting the supplies lying in the road.

Talking about fuel, isn't it odd that this depletes at a staggering rate, regardless of speed? Anyhow, completing each track is pretty easy and an enjoyable romp destroying your foe by merely holding down the fire button. There are three levels of difficulty but the format remains pretty much constant as it gets harder.

Tips!

Sometimes I try to help you guy out with a few of my expert tips because I'm probably the best gamer you'll ever know. Yes, it's true. Absolute gaming legend. Anyhow, the only tip I can give you is to play Roadblasters instead. A similar game that is miles better than Fire & Forget. Okay, it's not perfect and feels really old compared to Crazy Cars 3, Vroom, Lotus 2, and others but it's great fun and that's what matters the most.

Aesthetics

The graphics and sounds are fine with decent artwork used in the menus. However, the game's framerate is shocking. Objects will appear and then, within an instant, are gone due to the incredibly low framerate that bursts eyeballs after 10 minutes of gameplay. Yes, I think we might have another Outrun on our hands?

Audio is actually not bad using crude samples but I appreciated the effort. However, the pessimist within cannot help but wonder how many cycles were wasted that could have gone into making the game visually better.

The CryptO'pinion?

Fire & Forget offers racing, guns, and missions dotted around the globe (although that's nothing more than a change in aesthetics for the most part). The actual driving feels totally unrealistic, even for an arcade-style racer and the roads are overly cluttered with baddies and nasty objects so expect many infuriating explosions!

Sadly, Titus has made the ST perform like a 2mhz computer with a framerate that destroys any chance of long-term enjoyment. There are many other, far better, racers available for the Atari ST. You have been warned!

Not the best of starts was it? Let's take a look at some screenshots from my first play...


Titus takes us to all the troubled hotspots throughout the world. Phew, looks like Blighty is fine!

Ignore the colours and that ludicrously bad framerate because the car is awesome!

My first attempted at a one-handed two-player game (to get some screenshots) was a disaster!

My very first game was terrible but I made it onto the high-score table!!



Hostages

Now we're talking. Hostages is something I cannot describe without using the word - "classic". When I say that, I really do mean it because this is as good now as it was back in the day. This game is all about strategy and covert operation as terrorists have taken over an Embassy and are holding lots of frightened hostages prisoner. Yes, a familiar tale and one that has been translated into a computer game quite brilliantly I think.

The rescue mission is Operation Jupiter and we have been commanded to enter the building, kill the terrorist scum and guide all the hostages to safety onto the top floor. You can forget taking the Arnie approach as that will only get you and your men killed. So, think more like Who Dares Wins and you get the idea.

Operation Jupiter is split into stages; the first is getting a small team of snipers in place, who will then eliminate any terrorists they see standing near a window. However, before they can get into position, they need to carefully make their way to specific key areas in the street. This means avoiding the enemy searchlights which is absolutely brilliant. I love nipping into the shadows to avoid being seen - and shot at! Be slow and methodical.

Once they're all in position, we can take a sweep of the embassy just to see if any terrorists are dumb enough to stand near a window. Scan the sides of the building and patiently wait to see who might be walking by. It's worth going slow and possibly making a second sweep of each side of the building. Voyeuristic and tense!

Now we can send in the second squad who burst through the windows like something from a Hollywood movie. Once inside, these guys will search each part of the building like a Doom marine using a crude but effective 3D perspective. The hostages are easily recognisable as they're the ones who have probably peed their pants. Guide them to safety one by one without being seen. It's a lot harder than it sounds so you should learn to use the map.

Don't expect a heroes welcome unless all successfully completed their mission.

Tips!

Use the practice mode before jumping straight in. The first level is harder than you might think, so slow down and watch the motion of those spotlights which are predictable. This is a game that takes patience so, whatever level you're at, don't rush or panic. Finally, learn to master the awkward controls when scouring the rooms for hostages and nasty terrorists. The map helps a bunch and shows you the direction you're facing.

Aesthetics

Graphically, this is fantastic and shows just how advanced the (then) new 16-bit computers were compared to their 8-bit counterparts. Each scene is dark and moody, yet compelling with a natural feel to the situation at hand. The artistry is stunning and seeing something as simple as a shadow behind a window is perfectly done.

Animations are quite funny compared to later games but I love what they did. A faint image of a soldier sneaking into the darkness or leaping over a wall is excellent. Equally impressive are the cutscenes which I really enjoyed between each stage. Cracking 80s-style TV and I loved it all so very much I gotta say.

The audio is mind-blowing from the intro that helps create the dramatic buildup using deep thumps as our team of kick-ass soldier emerge. It doesn't end there as lots of samples are used throughout each of the stages for maximum effect. Guess what? Just like the visuals, I've nothing to moan about. Excellent stuff!!

The CryptO'pinion?

Playing Hostages is quite unique and something way ahead of its time in my humble opinion. The format of how the action takes place and the methods of different mini-games to complete the mission is excellent. It certainly paved the way for future tactical-based games in many respects. I think I'll have another game now, without getting Mike killed this time! (why is it always Mike that dies?). Anyhow, I think Hostages is fantastic!!


We begin by getting the snipers in place which means dodging searchlights and hiding in the shadows.

Check the map to verify your positions are correct. I still say 'Mike' sounds rather odd...

Okay, let's take out some of the more stupid terrorists dumb enough to stand near a window!

The next three men abseil and burst through the windows to enter the Embassy.

Now the fun really begins but remember, don't shoot the hostages. Unless they're annoying!



North & South

This is an alternative reenactment of the barbarous American civil. There are lots of the silliest challenges to win a comical take on the Civil War. Like Hostages, this is quite unlike anything I'd previously seen at the time and is stuffed with gorgeous art and sound. Plus it features lots of humorous touches that I find hilarious.

Firstly, one or two players are supported which is great and probably better than battling against the computer. Whichever side you choose, you're playing as the Captain in charge of cavalry, infantry and artillery. It's now you should decide whether you want Indians, Mexicans, reinforcements and weather problems plaguing your troops. I say yes, the more stuff we have, the better. They each add their own brand of humour and effect.

A map of eastern America is displayed that shows the location of each country's troops and the current situation. Choose whether you wanna invade the south or protect your independence from the north before planning the strategy of your war through a series of questionable conflicts. Perhaps you might also prefer to rob a train and cash in to help fight against the enemy in greater numbers before jumping straight into the hell of war?

Using the map, we can move and advance our troops from State to State, waiting for the right time to do battle somewhere in this huge country. Depending on that location, wars are fought on a different style of the battlefield using small units of cavalry, soldiers and artillery. These battles are fantastic with head-on collisions I could enjoy all day long. They're simple and silly so hardly realistic (best without the computer's assistance?)

Watch out for reinforcements from Europe via the sea and it's always worthwhile not venturing too far west into Indian territory. However, the presentation of this retaliation is brilliantly executed with a random outcome. The Mexican's won't get involved too much, other than attacking Texas and you'll probably lose men in the process. Storms wander the landscape and make it impossible to do much until it's passed. Each adds a little extra fun.

The war is only won when the victors have successfully beaten their brethren down into the bloody mud...

Tips

Play arcade and enable all the extras for more fun: Red Indians, weather and so on. The computer is way too tough so I often play against myself. The battles are more fun and the entire game lasts a lot longer too. For a strategy game, my advice might appear quite contradictory, but, stop thinking and have fun with the 1860s.

Aesthetics

North & South has some of the most glamorous cartoon visuals. Throughout, there is a high level of humorous artistry which I find stunning thanks to how each scene is presented using bright colours and lovely animations. The overhead battles are my favourite, what's better than running down troops on horseback?

Audio is magnificent with a quirky intro tune that is unforgettable. It paves the way perfectly because it's nothing like I imagined for something that's based on the troubles of a young America. Sound effects are a big deal and massively entertaining with great quality and humour. So, the French actually have a sense of humour? Nice!

The CryptO'pinion?

I wouldn't describe North And South as a serious strategy war game. There are elements but it's quite a simple affair with battles, fort invasions, etc that are more arcade than tactical. In fact, I could bang on all day about the battles, humour, funny sounds, etc but this isn't what makes North & South a great game. Of course, they are valid points, but I feel North & South is actually quite a simple concept that has been perfectly executed.

This is an extremely enjoyable and completely unrealistic reenactment of the American Civil War and something you can play time and time again. It will appeal to all equally so boot up North & South right now. Enjoy!


What a cool menu screen this is. Click around the screen to see what's what.

The map that oversees the war. Watch out for Red Indians, ships, dozy Mexicans, etc...

Let the battle commence with artillery, mounted soldiers and grunts all battling it out.

My first game went rather well, I thought. And then displayed this beautifully animated image.
Hmm, perhaps they're right? Watch out for him on the right-hand side of the screen...



Teenage Queen

For some odd reason, Teenage Queen gave me a Cuddly Demo vibe and I've no idea why! Anyhow, yes we get to play strip poker against a young girl, which sounds dodgy to me. Oddly, I'm unsure whether I've played any cards game on my Atari ST, let alone strip poker against a sexy young girl in some rather risky positions!

Let me be honest, I've no idea how to play poker so, the games I endured were hit and miss. However, I did land lucky a few times and made a little progress but that was purely by accident. Generally, she beat me each and every time so I wasn't able to get many screenshots, which was probably a good thing thinking about it...

Ignoring the adult aspect, this is a decent game and not too difficult, even for me! The user interface worked like a charm utilizing both mouse buttons to bet, raise, flip cards and so on. A good cards game albeit pervy.

Tips

She has more chance of losing her nerve if you bet high. Why does this sound wrong? Play something else.

Aesthetics

I guess the graphics had to be good to attract the right kind of player? The artwork is stunning even though it was initially peculiar to see the girl drawn rather than digitised. Thanks to the talent of Jocelyn Valais, it actually works brilliantly and the curious amongst you can view more screenshots over on Demozoo.

The audio is made from French samples, obviously, for everything you hear including the girl's voice and her playful laughter. However, this sexy giggle is a little too much after a while and feels creepy and wrong.

The CryptO'pinion?

I doubt Teenage Queen is something I'll return to but that's possibly more to do with my lack of interest in cards and gambling? The artwork is stunning and the user interface works a treat so I'm sure the poker aspect will appeal to all interested? Don't get me wrong, it's a good cards game but not really my cup of tea.


Right from the start, it looks great but the audio might creep you out!

She looks familiar...

I bluffed my way into winning as I had no idea what I was doing!



TinTin On The Moon

Who remembers those old Herge cartoons as a kid? Tbh, I never liked them but let's keep an open mind and jump straight in. Firstly, you must watch the intro! It's brilliant and I think they did a fantastic job to get both this and the game onto a floppy. The game begins with us having left Earth into the darkness of space avoiding asteroids. Weirdly, there are coloured balls that need to be collected before we can proceed to the next stage.

Once we have enough, the game flips into a platformer with TinTin's gang in need of rescuing, I think. Actually, I didn't know what was going on but eventually, I saw various friends tied up in need of rescuing. There are also bombs that need defusing, fires to put out and some baddies to try and avoid (or extinguish).

To rescue your fellow cartoon friends, walk over them. They'll jump up and suddenly jet off somewhere... to do something... The bombs can be defused using the same method but what about those fires blazing away? Use an extinguisher but watch your back for bad guys roaming the place who are very quick on the draw.

The controls are fine but using a fire-extinguisher reveals how clumsy this game can be. Putting out a fire can be awkward, especially when near a ladder or simply standing too close to the flames. Bad guys are best eliminated by falling on them I found otherwise they tended to shoot me before I had a chance to act.

That's about as far as I dared venture with this confusing part of the game, sorry. It's quite boring really.

Tips

If you like the look of the 3D space shooter then play Galactic Conqueror instead. So cynical, right?

Aesthetics

Visually, I really liked the look and style which never fails to disappoint using great backgrounds and nice sprites. Animations are superb too and who doesn't love seeing little Snowy run, sit and bark at the baddies? However, Tintins's animations are fluffy: he walks with a shuffle and looks like he's about to fall over. Weird!

Audio is once again a high standard with lots of samples for everything. They are excellent but I must admit that the rocket scenes were tiresome with that whaaaaaay-like sound effect. I didn't like that at all lol.

The CryptO'pinion?

Oddly, I feel this is the least impressive game in the entire compilation which is quite shocking when you consider that disaster by Titus. Perhaps I'm being harsh? But it all felt rather wishy-washy with little guidance so not always obvious what to do. I only managed to playtest for a short while because I was bored to be brutally honest.


We begin in space and there are coloured balls to collect...

Hey, I see Snowy the dog! But why does TinTin look like he's going to fall over all the time?

There are fires, captured friends and baddies lurking about the place. Where's my shotgun?

Yikes, I'm actually seeing stars. Quite a cool effect actually!


The CryptO'pinion?

As it turned out, this is quite an unusual bundle of ST joy rich in quality and alternative genres. Hostages and North & South are outstanding strategy games that will eat away your free hours - in a good way I mean! No slog, all enjoyment. However, High Energy isn't perfect with TinTin possibly only appealing to his fans? Fire & Forget is best forgotten and Teenage Queen features great artwork but the audio will make your skin crawl.

I enjoyed High Energy but unsurprisingly, there are only two games worth playing. Thankfully, they are corkers that are still excellent today. Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below. Each game can be downloaded from websites like Atari Legend, AtariMania, with some adapted for hard drive by D-Bug and PP.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

CRACKERS II: The Data Storm


What, another book? Count me in!!

Here we go again! Macro Breddin has the next Atari ST book on Indiegogo itching to be backed by the community. Sadly, I've not had the time to properly read through the first Crackers book and already the second is on its way! Like the three 'Borders' books before it, the Crackers book, The Gold Rush, is of the same high standard. In fact, I prefer this style, design and have thoroughly enjoyed what I've read so far. Check out my ST shelf!

Okay, the second volume takes us forward into the glorious 1990s...

"The Data Storm will look at the transformation of the illegal scene in the 90s. Between the U.S., Europe and Hong Kong, crackers strove for global deals through huge data lines. Bigger and better umbrella organizations emerged. From then on, cracking and hacking games developed into an international business – even with sophisticated hardware copying tools. The narrative of CRACKERS II reveals the story of some outstanding crackers and hackers on C64, SNES, Megadrive (Genesis), Amiga and especially on the Atari ST.

Relive the best computer times and experience the exceptional methods of famous code breakers, disk dealers, software pirates and lawmakers in the 1990s."


Anybody else only interested in the Atari ST side? Nah, I should keep an open mind hehe! Righto folks, if you loved any of the first books then I'm sure you're as excited to support this latest volume just as much as myself.

Don't dawdle as there is little time remaining, so back it now over on Indiegogo /|\

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

My ST shelves!


A peep into the inner world of the Crypt!

A long long time ago I had an ST shelf and I was very happy. But then along came a woman who wanted to redecorate and the idea of an old games shelf didn't quite fit in with her plans. Not having a backbone, I obliged and I endured a shelf-less life with all my lovely ST games boxed away, probably never to been seen again.

Thankfully, those dark years have finally come to an end as I've been granted an opportunity to display my prize positions once again. I admit that my little corner of the bedroom is hardly a man cave, but it will suffice. Well, for now! She doesn't know that I've got some posters and I'm talking Vixen, Game Over and Barbarian ;-)

I love my new shelves but I've been ordered to keep 'em dust-free and that will be tough because I'm a bloke and that means I don't do housework!! Ha. Anyhow, I better try because I'm going to push for a couple more shelves soon - so wish me luck as I've got more ST GEMs that need to be displayed for all to admire. Well, me really!

Isn't it funny when something as simple as a shelf can actually make you happy? Hmm.



Of course, it's so much more practical to boot ST games this way. But that's not as much fun, right?


Okay, let's have some feedback?

What does your ST world look like? Let me know in the comments below as I would love to hear about it. Sadly, I cannot accept photos in the comments (blame google!) and nobody uses email, right? So why not pop over to our (lame) Facebook page and send me some photos? (I really should remember to update that more)

Okay, let's take a closer look at some of my favourite Atari ST games and a few gorgeous new books...



Three classic books and some lovely games. Especially, the Elvira box. Work-of-art that one!


The same shelf, different angel - I'm getting creative. Here you can see two fantastic new products.


My little box of working floppies - that I use over and over to playtest my Crypt games :-)


Oi, stop drooling over your keyboard. Yes, this is a fine selection alright. Boy, I love the ST!!!


Okay, I wimped out and put up Resolution 101 instead but it's one of my favourite Atari ST games!



- UPDATE -


And today I get a new bookshelf donated to the Crypt from my beautiful wife. More ST games!!


Yep, I'm now surrounded by my collection of Atari ST games and they all work too, which is nice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Winglord


Survival of the Fittest

I don't mind admitting it, but Joust is one of those games that I am absolutely terrible at. In fact, I could end this right now because I'm that bad. It really is quite humiliating! However, I also have much affection for flappy jousting, no matter the quality of my skills. Joust is something uniquely entertaining and something that thrills as much as it infuriates (me). So, it was a pleasure to discover that the Atari ST/e has a jousting competitor.

Winglord was originally a shareware game by Victor Bruhn who kindly released it as freeware a few years ago. Now, first things first, Winglord can run on either the Atari ST or its sexy sister, the STe. However, Victor intended it for the Atari STe as he utilised the Blitter and DMA audio. Older STFM's can still play but, won't get to hear the samples and might even suffer visual anomalies due to the lack of a Blitter that handles the smooth 50Hz display.


I struggle to fly whilst the computer cleans up. Yup, another drubbing by my faithful Atari ST...


README.TXT

Nobody ever reads the manual. Well, that's mainly a guy thing but, in this case, it's worthwhile taking a look. Not only are there lots of handy tips but also a great storyline that is fun to read. Come on, there are nasty wizards, medieval castles and winged unicorns which is all great stuff!! For those that still won't read it, here's my take:

Guardian Castle is above the villages in the valley below. They're under attack by the wizards of the Northlands whos minions have found a way into the tunnels under the mountain atop which it sits.

They have gained control of most of the caverns and passages that run through the ground underneath the castle, as well as a very large portion of the castle itself. Sinister beings now roam through these areas and have crushed all resistance offered by the sentries and the castle's contingent of soldiers. Evil creatures, some mounted by riders, continue to advance into the halls of the castle and through the caverns in a seemingly unstoppable march! (It's not sounding too good, is it?)

Thankfully, teleporting into the skies above the castle are WingLords who are ready to do battle with the invaders. Mounted upon winged unicorns whose beauty is matched only by their quickness and power, they descend into the depths of Guardian Castle and intercept a group of creatures. Two more riders enter the room and an airborne jousting battle begins between the adversaries.

Their powerful Fire Lances easily destroy the enemy riders, while providing their wielders with a shield against the enemy. The enemy is defeated and the Winglord's unicorn steeds use their natural teleportation ability and leave the battlefield to have their lances re-charged.

Now the WingLords wait for another onslaught, ready to do battle with the fire-spitting Yellow Jackets. The Dark Riders are also armed with fire-spitting lances. The Wing Masters, deadly flyers who are immune to missile weapons, and must be jousted against. This war is far from won!



The Apprentice knights are a little slow but a lot harder than you might think.


Winged unicorns?

Winglord will instantly feel familiar to seasoned jousters. One or two players can compete, at the same time, controlled by either the computer or another humanoid that you may have lying about your house. Each level is of a similar design with platforms that prove to be of strategic use. As with the original, the screens feature a wrap-around design when reaching the edge. However, the eggs are gone and there are ceiling vents.

Yes, there are some alternative changes plus some are quite peculiar ones I must say. Gone are the lanky ostriches for unicorns. And unicorns don't lay eggs but these majestic beasts love to strut their stuff - just watch them walk. So cool. Battling against enemy knights follows the same format but they now feature some unexpected traits and there are even buzzy bees too. Best of all, some medieval knights are expert jousters with exceptional skills.



This isn't good, I'm about to be pounced on or stung to death at any moment!


Know your enemy

Any level can feature four different enemies each with its own strengths, control, style and armament:
The Apprentice - these guys are armed with only a lance. You might be fooled into thinking he's going to be an easy opponent. Don't kid yourself, he's crafty and has some nice flying skills. Also, he's immune to your missile attacks. Hang on, a moment... did I just say missile?!!

Yellow Jackets - this is a buzzy bee with suicidal tendancies, which means they're quite tough to safely defeat. These can, and will sworm, so watch out. Okay, they're a little dumb but, as a nest, they are a fanominal force. Perhaps a missile in its face is a good idea to teach them who's boss?

Dark Riders - this guy carries both a lance and a pack of missiles. He's fast, he's brutal and he's a damn tough lancer. Basically, he's gonna kick your ass!! Excellent fighters.

Wing Masters - now Winglord shows its true colours as this guy enters the arena. These are jousting geniuses and tough cookies with ferocious combat skills. You have been warned. Beware!



I tried my best to get a screenshot of a missile hitting a bee! Quite impossible lol.


Controls

Joystick controls feel much like they did in ST Joust, which was a massive relief because I was dreading any disastrous changes. Both flight and control are perfect, even if you are as skilless as me. However, there is an option to chose your preferred 'flap power' that will alter the effect of the vertical force which is applied with each press of the button. Choosing high will gain greater altitude whereas low offers better control.

Pushing downwards will fire a missile. Yep, a missile. It's one of the most unexpected treats I could have imagined. At first, it feels a little weird but comes in handy against those dopy Yellow Jackets and who doesn't love blasting rockets? Note, these work against the Dark Riders and the bees - and can only be used during flight.

Missiles are a fantastic twist over the original format. However, purists may be disgusted by such an conflicting addition? Not me. I personally feel the use of missiles is optional, not a necessity.



Mummy, I wanna go home now!


Big Tips!

1) Don't panic.
2) Playtest with the different flap rates to see what suits you the best.
3) Disable the second player, he can be distracting I found.
4) Disable the second player anyhow as he's far too skilled!!
5) Judge your entrance for a well-timed drop onto your unsuspecting opponent.
6) Don't bang down on the joystick too quickly, unless you enjoy hearing the sounds.
7) Those platforms can make for good defence.
8) Bonus rounds are a great way to earn extra points.
9) Why you listening to me? I suck at jousting!
10) For those with skills like mine, hit the Up/Down arrows on the main menu!!



So, there's a swarm of nasties coming and my unicorn decides to strut his stuff and look cool. Sheesh!


Aesthetics

Visually, it's more or less, Joust and a damn good take on that original format I might add. However, being similar to Joust means it's also hardly something to gawk at in wonder and the levels appear to have less detail compared to the official ST conversion. Having said that, it looks nice and the animations are quite beautiful. I love watching my unicorn walk between the levels just for fun. He just loves to strut his stuff!!

It would be a crime to end it there without mentioning the framerate. It is smooth. Very, very smooth. In fact, it's smoother than Kojak's bald head drenched in baby oil. I believe this is thanks to the Blitter lurking inside the Atari STe. It's a great thing to see a developer that obviously enjoyed going that extra mile.

The sound effects are made up of a neat selection of samples. All are crystal clear, thanks to the DMA hardware that Victor is using. I only wish he would have recorded more for extra pizazz. Sadly, older ST's suffer minimal sounds but Winglord was developed on (and intended for) the Atari STe. So stop moaning and upgrade!



Hang on, I've lasted longer than the computer? Time to shoot and beat his score, for once!


The CryptO'pinion?

Joust is one of the best arcade conversions for the Atari ST. With that in mind, Winglord really needed to deliver and, it did. The cosmetic changes are nice and I loved the option to use missiles. Tinkering with the flap-power attribute is a superb idea and the option for a second player is just dandy, even if the computer outperforms me each and every time. The change of theme worked well as did other changes like the regular use of bonus rounds.

Winglord cannot replace Joust, that's impossible but, I don't think it was ever meant to. As it stands, it's a fine alternative and something that doesn't disappoint. This game is so much fun and I would have liked nothing better than to show you more of it in my video. But that was never gonna happen with skills like mine. Sorry!

Personally, I think this game is a fantastic "clone" of the original and the differences work great. Best of all, the Atari ST/e has another version of Joust and that's never a bad thing in my opinion. Winglord is excellent.

- Download from AtariMania -

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Droid Special Edition



Missing: One Droid

Droid was originally developed by MP Lord (he of Hoog fame!!) and was a smash hit that saw a sequel three years later. Sadly, neither of these games supported the enhanced hardware of the Atari STe which meant chip fx, flick-scrolling and a fair bit of slowdown when things got hectic. Not only that, but the joystick controls were finicky and I would often fall off ledges when struggling to jump (pulling down and then leaping - arghhh!)

I remember (back in 2016) being excited to hear that Jamie Hamshere was working on an improved version that would take advantage of the Atari STe. I could only imagine what it would be like to play a scrollable Droid and Jamie even planned to tweak those controls to remove the irritation that threatened each and every jump.

Well, that project was completed late last year yet somehow, I completely missed it. What planet have I been living on? Anyhow, I figured I should boot it up to see how this cult ST shooter played on the Atari STe...


Get out quick, this area is pretty hellish with droids and wall-mounted guns!


An armless Robocop!

Oh yes, we most certainly are. Just imagine yourself as a mechanoid armed to the teeth and able to leap huge heights. Somehow, this beast is trapped inside a massive underground cavern and wants to escape to get home for tea. However, the path through isn't as easy as walking in a straight line and into the light ahead.

The caves are a labyrinth of dangerous rooms and many are guarded or patrolled by other mechanoids all too willing to blast you into smithereens. This is a hideous maze designed with numerous dead ends that require keys to unlock many doorways. It's an underground hell and is nigh on impossible to escape without making yourself a map to help plot your journey. No, wait we don't need a pen and paper because Jamie has added an auto-mapping tool. This helps navigate, find objects and prevent the frustration of getting lost. An exceptional new feature.

That's not all that's changed, the old (large) status display has gone and replaced by the tiniest bar. This still shows the same information for lives, weapons, energy and so on but we now have far more gaming real estate. Are you loving this upgrade already, or what? The various weaponry you're able to carry is also shown - pressing the ALT key will cycle through what you have available. Don't waste your supplies on the wrong monsters!


Oh no, a different type of droid and this one is throwing bombs!


Mummy, I'm scared!

Droid might be a metallic brute but that doesn't mean he's invincible. Watch out for other droids wandering back and forth protecting their area of the cave. They're a few butties short of a picnic but will still shoot on sight. As you progress, you'll see other areas are protected by a variety of strange objects: some shooting out bombs and others like wall-mounted lasers. But there are other things to avoid, like fire or falling into the bottomless pit...

Using the map is an absolute must otherwise you'll only get lost and probably give up. Keep on looking for those keys and carefully plot a route. Mini-bosses appear throughout the entire journey and the first is like an angry prawn! The armoured truck is excellent and an unexpected boss to find in a cavern. I wonder if it's Jet Man?

This game has always been a tough nut for tough nutters and I think this still applies today with this upgrade. Those later rooms are merciless with a cruel design that feels OTT many times with lasers, bombs and mechs all ganging up on you at once. Death results in a life lost which unfairly send you back to the starting checkpoint. Only a skilled and determined gamer willing to spend time and much effort is going to succeed. So good luck!


What the heck is that, some kind of sea creature? I hope you saved your better weaponry?


Fancy a few juicy tips?

1) Don't kill everything you see and therefore run out of precious ammo.
2) Collect power-ups for energy and ammo only when you need to!
3) Closely stalking droids is fun plus it's safer and uses no ammo.
4) Learn to use the mapping tool. It's a little odd at first and reminded me of Heartland.
5) Some weapons are best left until you need them for a specific purpose.
6) Learn the controls and enjoy a few practice games before taking on the challenge.
7) Walk away and give up. You're not good enough!! (I'm kidding, I'm kidding!!)


Be patient and unlock the doorway barrier only after the droid walks away.


Did you know?

Jame worked with Jonathan Thomas on the recent Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge for the Atari STe. This is an upgrade of the classic racer that brings it in line with the Amiga version in every respect, except the tracker music. Now, I know what those guys will think, but I prefer chip over a MOD any day. I personally don't see YM chipmusic by Ben Daglish as a bad thing. Quite the opposite and it's one of the many things that makes the ST so cool.

To play, all you need is a 1MB Atari ST so check it out, folks because the collaboration between these two has proved far beyond fruitful and the expertise Jamie has for the DMA hardware is jaw-dropping. Lotus has been transformed from a great racer into an awesome racer which wasn't easy. I'm sure you will all love playing it.

    * The original web feature proving why 2021 might not suck after a year of paranoia.
    * The public release of #LotusSTE was April 10th so get it downloaded right now mister!!


Another killer area with droids, bombs, guns and fire. RUN!!


Aesthetics

Things might appear similar but a keen ST gamer will notice the play area has increased by a huge amount. The colours are improved and the Blitter is moving the sprites so that ugly slowdown has gone. The only thing missing is Droid's minigun from the original. Finally, this shooter now smoothly scrolls in all directions compared to the dreadful horizontal flick-screen method. Jamie, you've (respectfully) blown the original game into pieces!!

The audio has also seen big changes with the addition of in-game music and sampled sound effects thanks to his skills in getting the utmost out of the audio hardware. Check out the funky theme music using his own program: Turbochip to knock out 7-channels using the DMA and YM2149 together for phenomenal results.


The new map tool. Finally, I won't get lost anymore. He says...


The CryptO'pinion?

Miles did a great job and produced a platformer that was different, challenging and stuffed full of action. It's quite incredible considering it wasn't commercial so all credit to his talent, commitment and love for the Atari ST. However, the lack of dedicated hardware had a negative effect, plus I found the controls very irritating and I would also get myself lost - a lot. I guess Jamie felt the same way and went ahead to rectify these niggles?

Jamie's project to enhance an already great game has come together well and is a perfect blend of improved aesthetics with better gameplay. Finally, I'm not accidentally falling off ledges by failing to make those tricky jumps. As remakes go, it's fascinating to think just how much hard work he invested into improving this olde classic. Yes, it's still the same game but one that has been rolled in glitter so sparkles like it's brand new and I love it.


- DOWNLOADS -

AtariMania has the floppy disk download.

Jamie bravely recorded a complete playthrough!

Fancy going Godlike with infinity energy and ammo?
Then enter this code on the title: FEELCOSMICALLTHETIME