Monday, August 31, 2015

Alien World

STs cannot scroll

Alien World is a shoot 'em up written by Gary Antcliffe (Blazing Thunder/Yogi's Great Escape) and was released in 1992 by Hi-Tec Premier Software. Ignoring the dreadful title tune, the game itself is a cross between the likes of Menace and R-Type, with a dollop of Venus Flytrap thrown in for good measure. Which is always gonna be ace!

The action is relentless and immediately hits you with a ton of pitfalls like red-hot streams of molten lava that shoot up from pools of glowing red death. It isn't long before you feel a little Blood Money creeping in as the scrolling alternates between horizontal & vertical. However, I liked the parts that don't automatically scroll - allowing you to move at your own leisure. Gravity always plays a part to affect your movement, think Flappy Bird or SantaFly!

Graphically, Alien World is truly outstanding with ultra-smooth scrolling - best experienced using a real Atari ST. Everything is exquisite - rich colours, detailed sprites and fluent movement. Sadly, audio is a different story with no in-game tune and weak sound effects. A few decent chiptunes would have been perfect for a game like this.

Gameplay is what matters the most and I'm impressed with this tough shooter. Sure, it has a learning curve that is nothing short of immense but Blood Money fans are going to love it. Then again, like so many 16-bit games of the era, it's really really tough and demands a cheat. However, a challenging game that drags you back for that "just one more go".

Yup, Alien World is freakishly fun and should entertain for hours. Very hard but I loved it. Play it!!

Download the Floppy or HDD version now.

Right from the off you'll need to get used to gravity which is instantly annoying.

The aliens are badass and relentless. This makes Blood Money look so easy!!

The second level is superb with lots of power-ups and different baddies.

I love the Menace-like futuristic feel and it proves the ST can scroll - when in the hands of talent.

What you thought this was only horizontally scrolling? It's now things get insanely harder!!!

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Stepping back in time...

Today, I thought that I would descend deeper into the realms of retro gaming with an oldie that I've not played since I was 14 years old, Starquake by BubbleBus / Mandarin Software. Like most people, I did not own an expensive Atari ST in 1985 and was instead using a ZX Spectrum. Yup, I've not played Starquake since the mid-80s!

You're a BLOB (BioLogically Operated Being) who has crash-landed on a planet and it's your job to save it before it implodes! Each screen is basically a platformer in design and filled with cutesy (yet annoying) baddies that can zap away your energy or kill you outright. To me, it always felt like Atic Atac but, visually, reeks of Underwurld.

The intro is short but not without good humour which I love!

Run, Shoot, RUN!!

Starquake is such a big game and one which will instantly appeal whilst you get yourself completely lost wandering from screen to screen. There are tasks to complete, like collecting objects and computer codes, which is a lot harder than it sounds. Oddly, you cannot collect items when using a hover pad... so be prepared to think!

Thankfully we have a weapon but the nasties are relentless with a swarm-like attack that never ends. Curiously, we cannot jump but have the ability to build temporary platforms that help reach those higher places. It's kinda cool and makes climbing fun and different - also dotted about the map are hover-pads which you can make use of.

Starquake is a quirky little shooter/puzzler that never lets up and yes, it reminds me of Underwurld by Ultimate Play The Game with similar schematics, styles and mechanics. However, the puzzler and exploration elements are as tough as they are interesting and this is the part of it that makes you think - all whilst frantically shooting everything in sight.

I've always liked Starquake and that Atari ST version doesn't disappoint one little bit.

As soon as you begin, cute critters appear from nowhere - constantly!

Colour clash and bleeps?

Visually, fans of the 8-bit original will adore the updated Atari ST version which looks the same but tarted up with gorgeous 16-bit colours and lots more detail. Wow, I wish the old Speccy game looked this good back in the mid-80s. I mean, come on, check out those sprites - this must be one of the cutest games ever made!

The audio is superb with fantastic music by none other than Jason C. Brooke. I could listen to this all day long! All in-game effects are pretty neat but I'm going to shock myself here and say that the ZX Spectrum game is actually better. How can this be? It's true as I miss those zappy, buzzy Spectrum sounds that this ST conversion lacks.

Finally, an upgraded 8-Bit game that isn't bloated and ruined!!

The CryptO'pinion?

I found the Atari ST version to be harder than the Speccy original. That alone took some time to get used to and felt completely unnecessary if I'm being honest as it zapped some of the fun, especially for a casual gamer. However, Starquake isn't something for the casual gamer as it demands time and commitment to get the most from it.

Yes, it's tough. Yes, it's crazy. And yes, it's probably a little too difficult so you may need to cheat for infinite lives! You'll need a pen and paper to map it and make notes. However, it's definitely a brilliant conversion of the 8-bit classic and also an excellent game in its own right and offers a massive, long-term challenge. Highly recommend!!

Download Starquake via Old Games Finder.
Here is a map of the Speccy game!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Encyclopaedia of Atari ST Demos

The Encyclopaedia of Atari ST Demos is a new website being written by ST Survivor, a fella with an impressive portfolio of graphical works under his belt and now he has decided to share that knowledge. Check it out! :-)


Monday, August 10, 2015

Lotus Turbo Challenge II

Buckle up for a great ride!

If there was one racer I adored on my old Atari ST, it was Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge. The semi-realistic physics helped to make it utterly addictive without ever crossing over into boring old simulator land. It has such amazing graphics, almost an arcade-like quality, with fun gameplay that was both exciting and challenging.

Lotus 2 offers more of the same excitement but is quite different from the original in a number of ways. Firstly, we aren't racing a set number of laps around a typical circuit as there are checkpoints to reach during a road trip across the lush American continent in our flashy car! Also, don't drool, but the entire screen is now used!

Hey, you wanna see a cool screenshot with blue skies and an open road. Hmm, this is pure road trip...

Vroom!! The roads are absolutely superb to provide a thrilling challenge!

Fast open roads...

This isn't just a racer but more a road trip. Yes, it's almost like an adventure across the States with various locations. Also, the environments can change depending on the conditions as we have the weather to endure which adds an element of pseudo-realism. Even if the other drivers fail to use their headlights at night (what? Am I being too picky lol)

I also think they captured the feeling of speed incredibly well - it's almost Vroom standards with extreme velocities. Strangely, our car appears to be running on fairy dust because there is never a need to refuel your Esprit or Elan. Which is good, who needs that kinda realism? These differences certainly help Lotus II leap away from the original and into a whole new driving experience whilst still remaining familiar with the original. Fast and Furious you might say. Love it!!

Okay, it's now time for another screenshot but this one is of a law breaker. What? You heard me...

Come on, it's nighttime and nobody is using their lights. Where's the police?

The CryptO'pinion?

Lotus II is incredible and one of the best racers on the Atari ST. For me, it perfectly combines elements of a good race with the feeling of a Bullrun and road trip combined - so we get to see the world in this speedster.

Overall, this is not only one of the best 16-bit racers ever released but is also definitely one of my personal favourites too. I simply cannot stress enough how much I recommend Lotus II. It's just as enjoyable as the magnificent original so zooms in high on my Top 10 list of Atari ST drivers. Download it right now - you won't regret it!!

Downloads for floppy or hard disk!!

Friday, August 07, 2015



Les Adventures de Carlos was released in 1994 by Microids and we are in control of a bearded fat man wearing a rather odd costume! This might sound strange but our best friend appears to be a parrot who tries to help you out a little. Anyhow, this is a platformer with each level stuffed with lots of baddies, however, we have no gun and need to use your enormous weight to squish everyone! You can even use some of that blubber when falling farther as this creates a miniature earthquake thus killing anything nearby. It's hardly original when you think about it but, whatever works, right?

Aesthetically, Carlos looks and sounds really nice with stunning colours and beautiful sprites. However, the gameplay was designed to have scrollable levels and the ST suffers from a lame port. Sadly, we must endure push-scrolling - and in all directions. What this means is that the gameplay stops while the screen is pushed along. This becomes extremely irritating, especially during a diagonal jump which may require the screen to scroll in two separate directions.

This game could have been great but it's most certainly not. The end result is something that looks good but plays terribly. In fact, I found it quite agonising because of the constant pauses as the game scrolls in different directions. The Atari ST has a wealth of decent platformers so we don't need rubbish like this garbage. Stay clear of this one!!

I do not recommend Carlos but masochists can download it for floppy and hard drive.
Level codes: Level 2 = BONGO / Level 3 = GALET / Level 4 = PATAU / Level 5 = SIRTA

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

How to emulate the Atari ST

Wanna use a virtual Atari ST?

Like many, I've spent recent years emulating an Atari ST and, since starting AtariCrypt, I have also been asked tons of questions about emulation. These questions are usually about TOS versions and the various settings within Hatari. So let's keep this simple for a general outline of what you should know. Just to get started with the awesome range of Atari ST games on your Mac (PC/Linux should be the same but I cannot confirm)

Firstly, there are two basic models of the Atari ST. The original Atari ST and the enhanced Atari STE (Blitter, more colours, DMA audio, analogue controls, hardware scrolling, a newer version of the OS)

1) If you want to play a commercial game then the chances are it'll be for the original Atari ST model.
2) If you want to delve in deeper (shareware, music, demos) then you should probably emulate the Atari STe.

What about ST/e specs?

1) For the ST, I would recommend you choose 1 or 2mb RAM and run with TOS 1.04 (sometimes TOS 1.02)
2) For the STe, I would recommend you chose 1 or 2mb RAM but run with TOS 1.62 (rarely does this alter)

For the most part, these settings will work really well. I personally tend to stick with a basic setup of Atari STe with 2mb RAM and TOS 1.62 to play floppy disk games. And possibly 4mb for some hard disk-based games.

What do you need to download?

1) Download the emulator itself - Hatari or NoSTalgia (major update due soon)
2) Grab yourself a copy of The Operating System (TOS) and there are lots listed on ATARIWorld.
3) Many websites have lots of ST floppies to download but the best is Stonish and Old Games Finder links to many online archives. Hard disk games are available from 8BitChip and D-Bug (use Gemdos as seen in the first pic)

Screenshots of my Hatari settings!

Here are several screenshots of my Hatari preferences. There is nothing mind-blowing here, I simply hoped this might be of use to newcomers. Any questions, then feel free to comment below and ask. Enjoy using your virtual Atari ST :-)

Use the Drive A image option to load up MSA/ST disk images.

TOS 1.62 is the best and most compatible OS when emulating the Atari STe.

Basic stuff here... chose the monitor/TV and whether to show the borders.

Frame skip can be best when set to "1" and I always disable the StatusBar display.

Sound options I've never changed, so these are the defaults that can be left.

All ST/STe computers use a 68000 processor running at 8MHZ. 1/2MB Ram is best.

ST's use joystick port 1 for one-player games. And you can use a USB device too!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Alpha Waves

Boing... Boing... Boing...

Alpha Waves is a unique game released by Infogrames in 1990 and is nothing like I first imagined (back then). In fact, I still remember the first time I booted it up and then picked up my jaw from the floor. Not because I was seeing wondrous graphics or anything I might have hoped for - but simply because I was experiencing something brand new.

Yes, this is a new genre of 16-bit gaming that had us piloting a rather odd spaceship (it looks like a wedge of cheese). We are trapped within a multi-roomed cube and each of these inner rooms is littered with platforms. These function to progressively bounce us higher into the air, which is our means of transportation. I guess they forgot to include a decent engine?

Anyhow, this mechanic allows us to bounce independently, as if on a trampoline. But only when using the platforms, otherwise gravity takes over and we sink to the floor like a lead balloon. The wedge of cheese has no upward thrust, only forwards. So pilot wisely and skim from platform to platform - to ultimately reach the dizzy heights. And the exit door.

It's a cool concept that is well-executed and very easy to pick up and play so let's view a screenshot...

That's me there and you can see my shadow. Use that for guidance.

But is it any good?

Two gameplay modes are available: "Action" has a time restriction whereas "Emotion" gives you all the time in the world and is useful for newcomers or those simply wanting a more leisurely experience. Controls are best with the joystick and navigation can be improved by pushing up or down to change your world viewing angle.

Interestingly, a shadow is cast by your craft - this helps to pinpoint your position in each position perfectly. Some rooms contain obscure baddies which can annoyingly get in the way and knock you about - watch out for the "snake" creature!! Alpha Waves will never disappoint no matter which gameplay style you prefer and is great for explorers.

As you can tell, it's tough to explain but much easier to pick up play! So let's see another screenshot...

What is that weird thing? An enemy ship or someone coming over to help?


Graphically this may appear simple or even crude judging by the screenshots. But playing the game reveals how great everything moves in what I can only describe as an abstract world of 3D-filled vectors with zero distance clipping.

Faster computers will knock it out of the park but the 8MHz Atari ST performs fast and fluently. Heck, it even runs in high resolution so you can see all the polygons at 640x400 without any slowdown (but I personally preferred the whacky colours in low resolution which also looks a lot better to IMHO).

In-game sound effects are samples and very nice too but, there is little else to hear. If I'm honest, you spend most of your time listening to your ship bouncing on platformers. I love the door sound effect, very Interphase I thought.

Okay, so it looks weird but also brilliant at the same time. Great! So let's check out a screenshot...

The CryptO'pinion?

I personally rank this as one of the best Atari ST games I have ever played. Bold statement but this is an amazing experience and a perfect example of the gems lurking within our archives just waiting to be discovered. It may not appeal to everyone but Alpha Waves certainly helped invent a genre that nobody ever expected. It plays great with many unique challenges that require much skill and perseverance. A flabbergasting moment in gaming history and one I absolutely adore.

Who would ever have thought bouncing a piece of cheese through cubic rooms would be so much fun?

> Downloads are available for both floppy and super-zippy hard drives!