Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sleeping Gods Lie




Sticks and stones

Empire Software released this adventure game in 1989 and it's quite unlike anything I initially expected. I'd seen screenshots and was half-expecting something like Drakkhen with a typical dungeon-crawler storyline. Well, it is similar in some regards and with monsters and apt weapons including stones. I know, I know, stones? Yep, just read on!

We begin on Tessera, a world once rich and prosperous but now suffering famine, disease, and a crime wave that only Robocop could fix. Their god, N'Gnir, strangely seems to be in slumber so it's your mission to find him, wake him up, and put an end to all the madness. It won't be easy because you must battle your way through the numerous different lands and each has eight kingdoms. This game is huge so pack butties because it's unlikely you will be home for tea.

Our adventure starts from the comfort of our castle. From the outside, it's impressive but is rather sparsely decorated within. This is situated in a strange, chaotic world with most of its populace being completely barmy. All early encounters aren't welcoming but instead, a brawl without any provocation. They love to throw pebbles without any reason lol.

Okay, let's take a look at my grand castle and the second screenshot is from a peek inside...



From the outside, your home looks awesome.


But on the inside it's a bit bare, so obviously furnished by a guy!


However, the lands outside are populated by weirdos who seem to hate me?!



A game with character

Thankfully, some people are normal rather than fanatic psychopaths so, take time to talk for information. As the box says, this isn't just an adventure game, it's full to the brim with action and puzzles all set within a curious new world. In fact, there are many puzzles to be completed - such as feeding a giant mouse with mouldy cheese. These aren't brain-blasting puzzles, the information you acquire will soon fall into place for these rather odd-level guardians.

The gameplay uses a smooth first-person engine with simple controls. Use the mouse to guide the pointer: push that upwards and you walk. Push it downwards and you backtrack. As you can imagine, moving it to either side of the screen turns you around. You can use the joystick but I wasn't too keen on that. Also, if walking is too slow and you wanna run about then hit the F3 key. This isn't really "run" but speeds up time a little - not only for you but the entire game.

Exploring is a cinch thus making it very easy to get around and find helpful items, weapons, people, and enjoy a good fight. From the start, you will realise people aren't nice so practice and master your skills at throwing stones! Well, until you find something better like a sling or crossbow! I advise taking time to investigate your surroundings properly because there are many objects that you may think aren't important. Collect pebbles and why not check out those trees for fruit?

Sleeping Gods Lie attempts (very well too, I might add) to be an open-world adventure game. It kinda is with each area having full freedom to roam within each segment. Limited exits make it possible to leave and begin exploring the next area. However, it's worth looking everywhere to find helpful items or better weapons.

As you gain better weapons, you will note that each skirmish is easier but this is compensated for tougher enemies as you wander forth. The biggest tips are: rest regularly, explore thoroughly, and save your game like a paranoid madman!

Okay, it's time for some screenshots from this bizarre, yet enthralling, adventure game...



This ain't a peaceful land and most love to start fights by throwing pebbles at you!!

That pixelated mess is the first guardian. The graphics are better when you get closer!


The second guardian is freakishly cute (and hungry)



Aesthetics

Visually, I have mixed feelings. The 3D engine is quite superb and allows full exploration of each landscape. However, sprites are a different matter - unless you get close to something, they are nothing more than a wobbly mess of a few pixels. Walk up and get closer for great scaling - this is something I really admired about this old engine.
Sadly, getting close to a guardian isn't a good idea because they are mean creatures and can slay you with extreme accuracy! So, stay back and use a range weapon - unless you're mad like me and want a better screenshot. I tired my best lol... Scroll on to see an image...
Each landscape features full freedom to roam but is sparsely populated and thus feels quite barren. I'd have liked more to "look at". Having said that, this is a great first-person engine and is very smooth and easy to explore.

The audio isn't as good as it should be simply because there's hardly anything to hear in-game. I'm sure something could have been done, even if it were footsteps! Anything would have been nice - even a delicate background chiptune. Talking of that, the title screen introduction has a fantastic tune which is nothing less than gorgeous!



I later returned to try and get a better screenshot but it's a vicious beast - this is the best I got!


Then it wasn't long before the stone-throw started again lol.


A wise old man restores my faith in humanity.



The CryptO'pinion?

Sleeping Gods Lie has some interesting ideas but it's not perfect. The character integration should have been more inclusive with more depth. This aspect is nothing more than a way to pass on information rather than any kind of interaction. Also, the weird pebble-throwing battles are initially amusing but soon wear thin. Thankfully, progression comes thick and fast therefore very rewarding because the game gets better once you've found better weaponry.

There's no denying that this is an enthralling adventure and I loved exploring the lands wondering what I may find. If you have lots of time to set aside, this is definitely something to dig your heels into over a weekend. A fast-paced adventure that's perfect for explorers who are looking for something different in a weird, new world.

I enjoyed this game a lot so don't forget your pebble stock and prepare yourself for lots of mindless squabbles!

Download HDD and FLOPPY.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

YOPAZ IceStar



A brand new GEM game!

Yopaz is a new Sokoban-themed puzzler by Cedric Bourse that stars a happy chap who loves to collect stars. It's a GEM program but slick, very smooth and even features ambient sounds on 4MB Atari STe computers.

Taking place within the vacuum of space, all movement follows the laws of physics: once Yopaz begins travelling, he is committed to that direction until hitting an object. So think and take your time because you will need to use the ice blocks to manoeuvre and collect all the stars. There are other oddities, like blocks that aren't ice but will instead teleport you to a different place entirely. It always pays to study the screen before taking action. Think before you move.

Also, there is an advanced mode for those with a sadistic desire to punish their brains even more on levels that are incideously cunning. This is a brain-killing choice (I'm too scared!!). You have been warned!!

Cedric Bourse, aka Orion_ (not Orion), has a website where you can download a playable demo and he is only asking for $4 to purchase the full game. An incredibly cheap asking price for such a brilliant puzzler! A puzzler which is fun - love it.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Bootsie



A boot sector program that's useful

Bootsie, a utility by Stefan Krey that writes a boot sector on a floppy to perform nifty system init functions. These are useful for Atari's with a hard drive or those fortunate to own a MSTE, TT or Falcon. By default, my Mega STe boots up in an 8MHz "compatibility mode" which is great for gaming but pretty lame for everything else. After all, the entire boot process from start to end will be a lot slower than it could be if it was running at 16MHz.

Enter Bootsie that can set the processor speed to steroid mode and it will also do lots more cool stuff, such as CPU caching, activate the Blitter chip, 60Hz display, and much more. What a fantastic utility that helps make a computer as zippy as is possible. Download it right now from Atari ST Essential Software List.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Ballerburg



Artillery gaming!

Whilst enjoying my cuppa joe this morning (in my cool Atari ST mug) I stumbled upon a tweet about Ballerburg, an old turn-based artillery game by Eckhard Kruse. This is an ST classic and offers addictive and strategical gameplay to blast our enemy to smithereens and all using basic maths to calculate speed and direction.

However, Ballerburg requires the ability to read German and a monochrome hi-res monitor. But let's be honest, as ST users, we are familiar with translating on the fly plus there are programs that fudge the ST's high-resolution mode. As I type, my Atari STe is running Ballerburg and I'm (trying) to teach our 6-year-old daughter the basics... Sadly, that ain't going well and I know she will be an easy victim, so I'm going to destroy her. Muwhahaha!!

 * A download is available via Eckhard Kruse's website and also Ballerburg has a wiki page!
 * I use MonoPack to enable ST High Res on my colour monitor.
 * So, you didn't believe me about my Atari ST mug, uh?

Friday, November 06, 2015

The Immortal



A thinking man's Diablo!

I have always found something quite appealing about exploring a monster-infested dungeon and this is one of the best and most unique there is. Designed by Will Harvey and programmed by Brett G. Durrett, The Immortal offers a challenging experience of solving puzzles and surviving long enough to see what's around the corner.

We are a wizard who has been asked to help another wizard that's in a spot of bother. He is called Mordamir and somehow thinks your name is Dunric, which it isn't. Will you still help him? Of course, you will, even though we later find out this means exploring creepy dungeons infested with hideous nasties intent on your demise.

Are you still feeling brave? Stop. Don't lie. Be absolutely sure before accepting the challenge of this brutal adventure. Okay, you're still here. Then it's time for clean underwear as we venture forth into the realms of myth, sorcery, and brutal violence. Let's check out a few screenshots of the sinister troubles that lay ahead...



Do you think it's safe walking around down here? Well, you shouldn't!!


Learn how best to battle to defeat your foe. And why not chat with the locals?


That's some drop there. Best watch your step or come back later?


Welcome to a dark place with monsters and lots of traps!

The Immortal is a scrolling isometric adventure set within a creepy labyrinth of unforgiving pitfalls and ghastly horrors. I cannot stress that enough, right from the start too. These harsh characteristics will torment even the most experienced adventurer so you will witness the bloodiest of deaths at a most frequent rate. Never have I played a game like this with so many hidden traps so grab a pen and paper to make notes.

Lurking within the labyrinth are trolls, goblins and lots of scary creatures that want you dead. Some have exquisite names like The Shades which you encounter early and are a life form that hides in the darkness, only casting a faint shadow under a firelight. Are you scared yet? You should be, this game is callous and ruthless.

As you can now imagine, The Immortal isn't a game you can rush and complete quickly. Its design dictates a need for a determined player with patience. One who will fall victim to many gruesome deaths in order to learn the ropes. Don't underestimate it and grab that pen and paper to make notes, you'll need them. Trust me.



Hey, I hear there's a prince over in Persia that would love one of those carpets!!


You will die and die and die!

Each room is unique and has its own battles, treasures, and pitfalls - so think first, be vigilant and always on your guard. The good news is that you can often avoid a confrontation by being stealthy, but brave warriors can always use their weapons or conjure magic spells to beat their foes. Expect your endurance to be tested to the full by each level's cruel traps which are often hidden. Argghh, there are so many bloodthirsty traps!

Careful exploration is the key to success. Take your time but also make sure to examine everything. Who knows, that item may help later on and a slain victim is a great place to find what you need. Hey, what's better than plundering a dead corpse? Finally, don't forget to rest, if you see a straw bed then take the time to catch up on your sleep and enjoy forty winks. This restores health and might even produce an enlightening dream...

Sadly, there is no instant save function. Instead, at the end of each level, successful wizards are awarded a certificate ie level password. Yes, this might appear disappointing but the levels aren't overly massive plus it forces you to tread carefully and be a better adventurer. Cheaters skipping levels will soon realise the error of their ways.



Even the monsters appear to hate each other. Let's watch them fight!


Effects

All visuals are by Michael Marcantel and Ian Gooding and are absolutely excellent. They've helped to create a dungeon of horrors using a dark and creepy design that works well. Each room looks the part plus all monsters are ghoulishly drawn with good animation. I wonder how much inspiration was later taken from this old game?

Spot effects are used for lots of actions and various pieces of chip music by Doug Fulton feature throughout the levels. Some dislike the tunes for a game like this whereas others enjoy them. You can run with sound effects only but I fear you will be missing out on much atmosphere if you do. Personally, I'd leave the music on.



I never expected a boat ride - whitewater madness style!!


The CryptO'pinion?

The Immortal is groundbreaking due to its gripping storyline, eerie atmosphere and captivating deeds. Mix that in with a style employing adventure, action and RPG and it's apparent why I love it so. An extremely excellent game offering hours of agonising pleasure as you uncover its secrets. The Immortal is cruel, yet highly addictive!!

Download for floppy or hard drive.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Rana Rama



We. Are. A. Frog. Really?

Most action games have you playing as something cool, like a wizard or a warrior or perhaps even a Hollywood hero with a deadly automated weapon that never runs out of ammo. Well, not so with Ranarama. You're a novice magician called Mervyn who has accidentally turned himself into a frog? That's right, you're a frog!

Wizards have invaded and brought with them a horde of monsters who killed everyone, although luckily they ignored this unassuming frog. So it's time for you to leggit and deal a hefty dose of revenge on these evil beings! Played through an overhead view, you crawl a dungeon battling the minion slaves of the powerful wizards.

Wanna see who you are up against? Check out these minions of evil...


  
Take time to check out your foe and find out who you're battling against.

  
Not only that but a chance to view the gorgeous artwork!!


An amphibian gauntlet?

My first impressions are of another action-packed Gauntlet clone and, although it looks aesthetically similar, it's quite different. Beginning in the upper area of this 8-level dungeon you must kill the baddies and defeat the wizards. Interestingly, only the places you have explored are visible and the baddies themselves are only seen when you’re in the same room. This makes entering new rooms an anxious moment and who knows what surprises lurk!

Monsters come in various scary shapes and sizes, starting with the humble Dwarf (I love those) and leading up to the mighty Gargoyles. All can be killed with increasing efforts and wizards need to be defeated in a Countdown-style sub-game that has you rearranging letters to form the word "Ranarama". It's not easy and later wizards are very tricky, but once won, he dies and leaves behind his rune goodies.

Magic plays its part in Ranarama and can be a little confusing at first but good ‘ol Mervyn has four categories at his disposal: offensive, defensive, effect and other powers. All movement and monster hits will reduce energy but fear not because you can cast a spell or collect the energy cells which are frequently available. Finally, use the floor-based glyphs to activate special features like a map, status and casting powerful spells. Quite confusing at first but don't give up!

Check out this screenshot. Looks a little like Gauntlet but it's... not...



As you can see, the rooms are displayed only when they have been explored.


Aesthetics

The graphics are superb with fine attention to detail and great use of colour plus the sprites are beautiful. Also, I love how each screen isn't instantly viewable in full - not until you've actually explored that region. This is a great idea and makes the journey far more interesting because you have no idea what's around the corner.

The in-game Sound effects are extremely good using a style that shows just what the ST's Yamaha chip is capable of. All chip music is by Dave J. Rogers, of Exolon and Zynaps fame, so absolutely superb stuff. Basically, the audio is wonderful and certainly proves that chipmusic will live on forever. Gorgeous sounds.

Ranarama was one of the first Atari ST games with speech (that I owned).
Thus I adore the fuzzy girl speaking. It's historically humourous but also very epic!!



I love the red eyes of Mr Froggy and each tiny character has fascinating attention to detail.


The CryptO'pinion?

If you're expecting a run-of-the-mill Gauntlet clone then you will be disappointed. Ranarama is different and offers a long-term mix of arcade action with hints of role-playing whilst venturing through the cunning levels. Yes, it's difficult but also very rewarding so expect lots of late nights - if you're brave enough to accept the challenge?

An utterly engrossing Atari ST game once again by legends Hewson. Absolutely fantastic, in every respect.

The best download from 8BitChip (hard drive)
Old Games Finder should suffice for floppy dudes!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

ASCII art


Unreversable demo (2013) by M.E.C for Atari ST
Credits : bob_er (code) | Dhor (music) | gwEm (code/music)

I came across this rather mesmerising demo the other night on Demozoo and I just had to record it. Unreversable is an ASCII art sensation accompanied with a funk and dunk of ace chipmusic for an outstanding experience. Perhaps most amazing is that it's only 64kb, quite incredible... I hope you enjoy it as much as I did?

Unreversable is by a group of talented 8Bit'ers called Masters Of Electric City.
 (creators of Unbeatable - a monochrome Atari ST demo!!)