Wednesday, October 28, 2015


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!! Absolutely gaming heaven.

We are offered an opportunity to play as one of four groovy characters: a Warrior, Elf, Wizard, and Valkyrie. Each has its 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. Come on, you know how to play this great game!

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 are 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 unlocks access to restricted areas and you shall also note the booty which is conveniently left for you, and collect it 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. This brings me nicely to 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!!!


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 like my 16MHz Mega STe (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!!

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

The CryptO'pinion?

Okay fellow ST nutters there are two conclusions to draw here. If you're using an upgraded ST or have something fancy like a Mega STe, TT, etc/etc then you're gonna love this beautiful game. However, there is some slowdown (on the stock ST) and it will get sluggish if the screen is crowded. Can you handle that? I hope so because this game is a Christmas Cracker.

Whether you play solo or mp, this is an awesome shooter as Gauntlet is one of the best arcade games ever made, and the Atari ST has 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 transforms the game completely - it's now 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.

Hmm, yeah I think we better fix this problem and clear out the various labs before it drives the Professor, potty. Okay, there are four levels to choose from with a fifth only playable after completing the first four. As if!

Wanna see a couple of near-GEM green screenshots? Of course, you do...

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 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. I love cunning puzzles like that.

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. Argh, they are evil and relentless!!

Actually, this is a good mechanic and helps keep the game interesting without any empty or boring screens. Also, weapons can be upgraded by 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.

Let's pause the reading and view more screenshots. Looks like I'm in the loony bin...

The CryptO'pinion?

Mad Professor Mariarti is challenging and addictive with bucketloads 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. But you will need lots of spare time to get the most from it.

Overall, not something I would usually go for but this is a good game and I enjoyed Professor Mariarti a bunch.

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chuckie Egg II

My fave Speccy game!

After playing the Atari ST version of Jet Set Willy, I remembered that we had another 8-Bit platformer by Lothlorien called Chuckie Egg 2. This made me incredibly happy because I love the ZX Spectrum original and I even spent hundreds (thousands?!) of hours exploring and mapping its immense and whacky world that was fascinating.

Let's cut to the chase - the Atari ST conversion is awful. Okay, I guess it looks and sounds better but the gameplay is completely different because it doesn't feel anything like the original whatsoever. In fact, the controls are diabolical so guiding Harry around any room is nigh on impossible. His movements are way too fast and they altered the basic mechanics of jumping too. You know, I expected some differences but this is a joke beyond anything I imagined.

This is a car wreck of a game!! A terrible port of what was originally brilliant. Terrible is the word!! 😡

It's not recommended but, if you're feeling stupid and wanna play this game, then the floppies can be found using Old Games FinderA hard drive installable game can be found over at 8BitChip.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jet Set Willy

Willy is back!

Who still plays the Willy platformers on their retro computer? Indeed, they are the most respected series of 8-bit platformers ever to grace a CRT screen. Sadly, the Atari ST missed that party as people expected more from their 16-bit computer by the late-80s. A fact that saddens me somewhat if I'm brutally honest as we missed out on a classic.

Yep, Software Projects never released the game because they felt people's expectations had changed since 1984? I see their point, I really do. However, it's a massive shame because the game is timeless. I will always love this platformer.

Actually, the Atari ST game was completed but simply not released. Until now! The screenshots you can see are of the Atari ST game, a perfect replica of the original. Yep, it fully mimics the same gameplay style without unnecessary bloatware "improvements". This means it plays, looks, sounds and "feels" just as you remember playing in 1984.

Matthew Smith had nothing to do with this release as it was coded for the Atari ST by Carl Whitwell and Paul Taylor. Best of all, this was during their university years. Wow, take 5 mins to think about that fact for a moment... Can you imagine programming this game possibly as their coursework? Perhaps it was just a side project to keep them busy.

Wait, are you disappointed how the Atari ST game looks? Perhaps you expected better 16-bit aesthetics with more detail & colour?? Stop, slap yourself right now!! Did you forget about our version of Chuckie Egg II...

Okay, I should help Master Willy clean up his messy mansion. Maria is quite angry so wish me luck...

* Download JetSet Willy from my own Dropbox file server.
AtariMania has an interesting piece of text to read on its website.
* Here is a pretty darn cool map of the entire Willy Mansion. Ahh, the memories!!
* What? Do you want Manic Miner as well? Then click that link ASAP!!!

I thought this room would be tough but it's easier than it looks.

One of the coolest screens this (for me). I don't know why but I love it.

I remember reaching this screen on my Speccy as a kid - waiting for the hoax!

I tried the code... but it didn't appear to work. I wonder if the hidden gem is still here?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Chaos Engine

Is it time for another ripoff?

Not too dissimilar to Gauntlet, is The Chaos Engine which the Bitmap Bros released in 1993. It's 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. Oh yeah!!

Okay, it's now that I can imagine the look on your faces. Why attempt to take on Gauntlet? I know but read on...

"Sometime during the last century, an experimenter with time, space and early computers created a bizarre machine. The inventor's name was Baron Fortesque The machine was... THE CHAOS ENGINE!

Although primitive the machine became incredibly powerful and went crazy, turning ordinary humans and household pets into razor-toothed, armour-plated killing machines.

It's character time and you can be one of six mercenaries with each having their own skillset. Chose wisely...


Who ya gonna be?

Each character has its 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, helping 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...

Argh, 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...

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!!

The audio is pretty darn cool. The chip music is something that stays in your head all day and the sound effects do their job well. 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 utilising the STe so why use the DMA for samples?

So, it looks and sounds great especially when played on the Atari STe. Agree or disagree? Let me know...

I struggled with the third level 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 cannot say whether it's better than Gauntlet because it is similar but, also different. It's marmite and I personally think people are going to find themselves split over which is best?

My only gripe is the difficulty on later levels which I fear is over the top for me and my skills. This means I must reach high on the cheat shelf, which isn't really good when you think about it. However, there is a passcode system which is a fantastic feature. Overall, this is a remarkable and addictive shooter stuffed full of action. I love it!!

8BitChip and D-Bug have created hard drive installable games which are superb!!
Chaos Engine floppy disks: Adrenalin #37A  #37B disks.

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 has a 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 loads of info.
I love this game so much that I went "out" and bought the Apple Mac version.

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, a clown. Well, 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. Of course, it does! So, let's get going and rescue our dolly bird princess Griselda. Fail and death awaits you... great storyline, uh?

Okay, enough reading because it's time to see the first screenshot...

The thing I adore about Black Lamp's visuals is the detail - from backgrounds to sprites!

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, that 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 possibly most annoying characteristic? Not only are their numbers countless but their assaults are relentless as they never cease!! Wherever you go, they appear like magic - that is 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.

Basically, this ain't no boring yawnfest and will entertain throughout. Let's checkout another screenshot...

Beautiful locations and lots of monsters to kill. Just look at that ogre!

A beautiful looker?

Throughout your adventure, the graphics are constantly awesome and feel 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 on a 16-bit platform.

The 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 audio is superb!!

And with that revelation out the way, let's see the final screenshot before the gripping concussion...

Black Lamp was one of the first games I saw after leaving the Spectrum. Can you imagine my joy!

The CryptO'pinion?

Black Lamp is a brilliant game but it's not perfect. But 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 to kill oncoming monsters. Well, this action cannot immediately happen because his walking animation must finish first.

Having said that, Black Lamp 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 isn't it? I think everyone should play this platformer 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.
Available on both floppy and hard drive.

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