Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gauntlet



Let's hack and slash!!

Gauntlet is an arcade masterpiece with a basic design that is simple, yet genius. It's a combination of a dungeon crawler with an extreme kill-em-all mentality which results in an unstoppable solo or multiplayer experience. Yep, 1-4 people can enjoy hacking and slashing their way through tons of hellish underground levels!!

We are offered an opportunity to play as one of four groovy characters: a Warrior, Elf, Wizard, Valkyrie and each have their own characteristics for strength and battling the nasties. I personally go straight for the Warrior because he's bound to be the Samson of the group, and thankfully there is no Delilah. Each character needs to be fed, so don't be doing anything daft like shooting food which will have a serious effect on your health.


A timeless arcade classic. Simple as that really.


Four heroes against millions of monsters?

The monsters are some of the most varied I have seen which adds so much to the dungeon feel. We have ghosts, demons, grunts, lobbers (I hate those!) and more. They all have their own evil attributes and almost all born from something called a Generator - so destroy these first to cease the onslaught of hatred against you.

The object is always simple - kill the monsters and escape. We're trapped in a 100-level creepy dungeon and everything lurking here wants to eat you. So it's up to you (and any potential co-op players) to kill everything and find the exit in order to escape the hellish catacombs. Keys are littered everywhere which unlock access to restricted areas and you shall also note the booty which is conveniently left for you, collect them for extra points.

Finally, Death is here. Yep, literally Death himself and he is almost impossible to kill so try to avoid him if possible. Which brings me nicely onto the magical potions you can discover scattered about most levels. By collecting these your chance of survival is greatly improved and will certainly help during an encounter with Death. Hint: do not assume he is a single individual making a single appearance so be wise with your potions.


Whether demons or ghosts are attacking - this game is always freakishly GREAT fun!!!


Aesthetics?

Graphically, this conversion looks the business with authentically crafted levels that look excellent. The monster sprites are just as good and this must count as one of the best-looking arcade conversions for the Atari ST. However, there's a price to pay for all that glam and it comes at the cost of framerate. This will drop when there are dozens of monsters on-screen at once. Of course, faster computers and emulators have no such issues...

I love the audio, from the moment we hear the Da-Da-Da-Daaa begin playing. I'm hooked. This is superb and good quality too which is enhanced further with in-game sampled effects. Oh, I absolutely love Gauntlet!!


Arghh, they're attacking from all corners of the dungeon!! Heeeeeelp!!


The CryptO'pinion?

Whether you're solo or mp, this is an awesome shoot 'em up. Gauntlet is one of the best arcade games ever made and the Atari ST has yet another winning conversion under its belt. It's pure retro gaming gold and I love it.

Stop whatever you're doing and download this wonderful game from Klaz' Hideaway (both hard drive & floppy versions). Klaz has implemented support for faster Atari computers and my own Mega STe (16MHz) delivered a far better framerate which was mind-bogglingly ACE!!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mad Professor Mariarti



Another nutty professor!

Professor Mariarti is a 5-level platformer in whacky laboratories that range from a biological lab to futuristic space rocket development. However, as a result of some dodgy experiment going mental, everything has come to life and taken over. To make matters worse, they aren't in the best mood and have also grown body parts, like eyes and legs. I think we better fix this problem and clear out the various labs before it drives the Professor, potty!

There are four levels to choose from with a fifth only playable after completing the first four. Let's play...




A platformer with brains

I've been playing the Computer Lab level and there are many strange creatures populating the rooms, lots of hazards to avoid, and many puzzles to solve. Don't worry, these puzzles aren't exactly mind-blowing and are often be as simple as flicking a switch. However, there are some puzzles that will require a little more thought - take a look at the massive pressure chamber which is lethal without first wearing a divers helmet. Yikes...

The baddies are a most interesting bunch and quite humorous. Sadly, the slightest contact will zap energy and potentially kill you. It seems nothing you do will permanently kill them - use your trusty collection of greasy spanners and kaboom they've gone but, seconds later, they are back for more. Relentless!!

Actually, this is a good mechanic and certainly keeps the game interesting without any empty or boring screens. Also, weapons can be upgraded at using the terminals but that costs money so don't forget to collect any coins scattered throughout. Expect nothing less than a challenge that requires much time and effort to get the best from it.



The CryptO'pinion?

Mad Professor Mariarti is challenging and addictive with bucket loads of personality. Some of the puzzles are a little too vague and obscure but you'll soon get how this platformer works. Recommend only if you enjoy a platformer that requires a little more effort from the old grey matter. A good game and I enjoyed Prof Mariarti a bunch.


8BitChip has the download (floppy & HDD)
Stickhead has a fantastic video to watch!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chuckie Egg II


After playing the Atari ST version of Jet Set Willy, I then remembered that we also had another 8-Bit platformer by Lothlorien, Chuckie Egg 2. This made me incredibly happy because I love the old Speccy platformers and I oddly I never remember playing the Atari ST conversion back in the day...

Now, before I begin, I must say that Chuckie Egg 2 is perhaps my favourite ZX Spectrum game ever made. I'm not sure what it is, although I know it's not that buzzy sound effect when Harry moves! I personally think it's the open-world aspect as exploration is key to winning me over and there is a massive map. I just love it!!

However, here ends my positivity because the Atari ST game is absolutely terrible. Sure, it looks and sounds better but it's the gameplay that matters over how something looks and sounds. Sadly, this is completely void of any because Lothlorien appears to have done everything they possibly could to ruin this old 8-Bit beauty.

The controls suck. Guiding Harry around any screen is nigh on impossible because he moves far too quickly and now looks like he's eaten too many chicken burgers. So, it's hard enough accurately guiding this fat man around the screen but the jumping mechanic has been completely ruined. It's just wrong and it simply does not work.

I wanted to record a video but I couldn't get by the first few screens - which is terrible because I have explored every inch of this game on the Speccy. So what went wrong? This is an embarrassment to see it running on my Atari ST and I wonder how on earth it ever got by Lothlorien's quality control dept is anyone's guess. (Yes, I jest)

Possibly the worst Atari ST game ever? So play it on a ZX Spectrum and stay clear of this!! 😡

LINKS

 - If you're feeling stupid then a floppy disk can be found using Old Games Finder.
 - A hard drive installable game can be found (no) thanks to 8BitChip.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jet Set Willy


Yes, this is the Atari ST game and not the ZX Spectrum version using an emulator!

Who hasn't played with Mr Willy in one form or another over the decades - surely the most respected series of 8-bit platformers ever to grace our CRT screens? Well, here is the Atari ST's attempt at Jet Set Willy which is a perfect replica of the original that mimics the gameplay without unnecessary bloatware "improvements". It's completely authentic and guarantees the same level of entertainment you experienced back in 1984.

Although finished, JSW was never released. I guess Software Projects felt that people's expectations had changed since 1984? I see their point but it's still a massive shame because I feel they had produced something timeless and always appreciated. What, you don't believe me? Take a look at the animation above - what a gem!!

It's time I helped a tired Master Willy clean up a messy mansion. Something tells me it's going to be an odd night but why he doesn't sack Maria and get in bed is beyond me? At least it makes for an excellent platformer!

LINKS

 - Download Jet Set Willy from my own Dropbox file server.
 - AtariMania has a download and an interesting piece of text to read on their website.
 - Here is a pretty darn cool map of the entire Willy Mansion. Ahh, the memories!!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Chaos Engine



Is it time for a ripoff?

Not too dissimilar to Gauntlet, in 1993 the Bitmaps unleashed Chaos Engine which is a top-down arcade shooter where you get to choose from a selection of cool characters before running around sexy-looking levels with only one purpose - killing baddies. Okay, there is a [minor] puzzle element but this game is all about reaping death!

It's now that I can imagine the look on your faces... Why attempt to take on Gauntlet? Read on...

  
You can be one of six mercenaries and each has their own skillset so chose wisely.
  


Characters and Friends?

Each character has their own unique skills so I advise that you should play each one to find out which you prefer. Personally, I tend to prefer the Mercenary or Thug! Each of the environments is extremely interesting, both their wicked mechanics and beautiful visuals, all help to create a wonderful Victorian England theme, etc/etc.

Co-op is enabled whether you play solo or with friends and it works a treat. I love having a computer-controlled player alongside you and that extra firepower comes in handy. That helps, especially in the later levels, and is implemented well without ever taking over. However, it's embarrassing when he grabs the coins quicker than I...

Arghh, this is one of those games that demands practice before you can even think about beating it!


The first level is brilliant but things soon become much harder from the second...


Those bitmap aesthetics!

The graphics are literally outstanding. From start to end, such beautiful artworks, detailed sprites and gorgeous landscapes. I love each of the environments which have all been enhanced for the lovely Atari STe by using the hardware scrolling and extra colours. One of the best looking games on the Atari ST/e. Period!!

Audio is pretty darn cool. The chipmusic is something that stays in your head all day and the sound effects do their job. However, I must admit to being a little disappointed that this talented bunch failed to use the DMA audio for sampled sound effects. They're already using the STe so why use the DMA for samples?


I struggled with the third levels and even more with the frantic fourth. So tough!!


The CryptO'pinion?

I have always ranked the Bitmap Brothers as one of the best 16-Bit developers and the freakish charm of Chaos Engine certainly helps to prove this. I couldn't say whether it's better than Gauntlet because it's similar but also very different. This is marmite and I personally think people will be split over which game is better...

However, I can say that this is a remarkable and addictive shooter - stuffed full of action and I love it!!


Downloads and other STuff

 - 8BitChip and D-Bug have created hard drive installable versions which are both superb!!
 - If you need Chaos Engine on floppy disk then Stonish have Adrenalin #37A  #37B Menu CDs.
 - Fancy some level codes? Well of course you do, right?
          -> World Two = T6MV6J4LGLCZ (Thug + Mercenary)
          -> World Two = 73VBPXY1PZV1 (Brigand + Navvie)
          -> World Two = QLVKM4YKJQVS (my own code!)
          -> World Three = 4WQZTTRG61MZ (Navvie + Gentleman)
          -> World Three = 2#YNLN7SR94W (Navvie + Brigand)
          -> World Three = JSP99G416LY2 (I've no idea where I found this!)
          -> World Four = PK2R9J6G5W4K (Navvie + Gentleman)
          -> World Four = C8737KFPBCDB (Navvie + Preacher)
 - ST Format featured a fantastic guide and a walk-through solution (issues: #51 #52 #53 #54)
 - Bitmap Bros have a cool website with maps, guides and more!
 - Let's Play have a great page with many info.
 - I love this game so much I went "out" and bought the Apple Mac conversion!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Mercenary Site


Update: Paul Woakes sadly passed away on July 15th 2017. RIP †


The Mercenary Site

I love finding websites that are active and buzzing with great content - especially for games that were available for the Atari ST. The Mercenary Site is run by a great guy called 'Symoon' and it's dedicated to the entire Mercenary series. He's a bit of an obsessive addict and it shows when you browse his immense website!

Personally, I'm all about the second game - Damocles. What a cracking Atari ST game thanks to an excellent open-world environment that isn't hampered by linear restrictions. Yep, you're free to do whatever you choose and however you choose to do it. And that's something that holds dear - because I'm a sucker for messing about :)

Before you rush off to his website, we chatted and I asked him a few questions about it...

My site is horribly old but, to me, the content is more important than its look - and spare time is a rare thing these days ;) .... (we then began to talk about Hunter!) ... I also have fond memories of Hunter, except that the energy was dropping way too fast! I cheated to stop that and finished all the missions a long time ago. Really good fun using helicopters or hovercrafts!

There isn't much to say about me - I can't call myself an active Atari ST owner. But my brother bought an Atari ST and we mainly played games with it. I remain attached to it, but not as much as I am to my very first computer (the Oric!). You'll find a few occasional posts from me on some Atari forums under the nickname Symoon, but nothing worth talking about really ;)


I began the website around 1996, learning HTML to make a solution page for Mercenary III while I was doing the compulsory military service in France. I had struggled so much to get my copy of Mercenary III (I guess it hasn't been imported at all in France then) that I played it and found a way to complete it with all the solutions. There was almost no information about Mercenary III on the Internet at the time, and I had discovered the great Mark Sachs' guide to Damocles which inspired me. So it all began as "the Mercenary III solution page", designed in the same way...


Then the site grew little by little, as I added content very quickly thanks to many, many contributors. I recently read old emails and was puzzled at how many people wrote to me about it, and how interesting many of the messages were. I got in touch with many people from Novagen (first was Mo Warden), all very kind, and even met some of them. I'm so sad that Bruce Jordan, who lead the Novagen company with Paul Woakes, passed away 9 years go.


Firstly, because he really was a friendly man! Of course, on more Mercenary-driven motivations, because he was a great source of information. The MDDClone, that appeared around 2002, also was a source of real motivation. Its author hadn't been here, I might not have kept updating the site so long - and certainly not with so much detailed content.


What I loved about the games? I can't tell you really, I'd say the freedom feeling, and the first-person 3D which put YOU in the world (it wasn't that common at this time). The fact that a whole world was created for the player to simply walk around and the mix between adventure and some kind of flight simulation too. Also, it's humour. As a French young man though, I didn't always notice or understand the fun there was in Benson's words!


I was visiting each and every location hoping to find something significant at any corner. I found (and still find) it amazing that a whole universe was there on a disk. Thanks again, I hope you spend many pleasant hours in the Gamma system soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Black Lamp



Fancy a medieval adventure?

Let's cut to the chase: you’re a clown. Yes, you are plucky Jack The Jester who happens to also be in love with the Princess, Griselda. Sadly, she will never look at you with the same love-struck passion (probably because of that silly costume you are wearing!). Fortunately, for you, the kingdom of Allegorid was attacked by dragons!!

Since when was that fortunate? Well, they stole all the magical lamps which helped to protect everyone in the kingdom from evil. This also includes the most acclaimed lamp, a cherished and powerful Black Lamp so let's get going and rescue our dolly bird princess Griselda. Fail and death awaits you... great, uh?



How about a medieval nightmare!

Black Lamp is your typical flip screen platformer with ledges to hop on, ladders to climb, items to collect, monsters to kill, and hundreds of rooms to visit as you undertake the honourable lamp quest. Interestingly, once our plucky jester ventures outside, this changes into a scrolling platformer as we walk the castle walls, woodlands, and streets. Various bonuses are offered for points and also special abilities like increased firepower and invincibility.

The monsters all reign supreme and this is perhaps the game’s greatest and most annoying characteristic? Not only are their numbers countless but their assaults are countless and relentless!! Wherever you go, they appear like magic and it's a little odd because they don't need to open doors and can walk through walls. So this means there is literally no safe place that can offer a quiet moment of refuge which is brilliantly insane but can also be OTT.



A beautiful looker?

Throughout your adventure, the graphics are constantly awesome and feels like a cartoon chronicle of England's medieval age. The monsters are the most alluring you could hope for - so charming! My favourites are the Imps and Trolls which are bewitching to watch with beautiful animation. It's hard to imagine better than this.

Audio is perfect. Not only is there an incredible theme tune but all in-game sound effects are zappy and exciting. Do I need to mention the in-game music? Like, wow!! Greensleeves, the olde English folk song. Wow!!



The CryptO'pinion?

Black Lamp is a brilliant game but it's not perfect. What is? My beef is with Jolly Jack's controls that can be slow to react due to his (superbly) animated movements. Imagine that you are walking right, and need to turn left - quickly - to kill oncoming monsters. Well, this action cannot immediately happen because his walking animation needs to finish. Thus he cannot react quickly enough and this odd mechanic takes some getting used to!

Having said that, this is up there with many other ST legends. It's a classic and nothing short of a fun-filled, hectic adventure which also looks and sounds amazing. Sure, the aesthetics don't matter, but it's good to have them! I think everyone should play this and experience just what the kingdom of Allegorid offers - it's challenging, addictive and very rewarding. You won't regret booting up Black Lamp whatsoever, I guarantee it.


One of my favourite Atari ST games
and available on both floppy and hard drive.