Friday, December 30, 2016

Outrun New Year Demo


I'm going to end 2016 with a brand new release by a good friend of mine - Bionic Nerd - aka Peter Jørgensen. Outrun New Year Music Demo has just been released and I've recorded a few seconds of each track as a little teaser for you all. Clickety click to grab this cool musicdisk "intro" right now and enjoy it. :-) Here is a little background by Peter:

"Hi all, I made this little new year music demo because I always loved the music from outrun and I always felt that we Atari ST guys were cheated on. Firstly, there was a track missing. Secondly, it kept shifting between the two other tune every time one would die. Lastly, I do not think that David Whittaker did his best. The music files are YMT format running at 300hz and the reason the program file is so big. In the new year I will make a new sound format, still as fast, but be taking less space but you will need a 2mb Atari to run this. Thanks to everyone for listening and I hope you like this? Thanks, Peter."

2016 has been a fantastic year for the Atari ST/e platform. We've seen bucket loads of demos and games come out or begin development so let's hope 2017 brings many more goodies for us all to tinker with. Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Droid


Droid is a platform-shooter released for the Atari ST in 1991 by the distinctively titled M.P. Lord. You are a robot mech who is apparently lost within a catacomb of well-armed caverns and the aim is simple: escape! It might look familiar but forget you saw that Psygnosis game as you explore and kill all the metallic baddies along your journey. This was one of the most popular public domain games on the ST and even gave us a sequel released in 1994. However, neither game uses the enhanced hardware lurking within the Atari STe which was disappointing.

Today, that changes because Jamie Hamshere is working on an upgraded game which will utilise the enhanced hardware to feature smooth 50fps hardware scrolling, Blitted sprites, and DMA sample sounds. The results are truly outstanding. You can download the early-beta release and have a play yourself. Please remember that this is unfinished and he still has much more hard work left to do. However, it's a tremendous improvement over the original which was already an incredible game. I wish Jamie well with his piece of STe magic ... watch this space, folks!!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

SantaFly


It's got to that time again where I search for something Christmassy and SantaFly by the awesome Reservoir Gods was the best choice this year. Regular readers will remember I have previously featured its sister game but don't get the two titles confused, even if they are basically the same idea! Yes, SantaFly is every bit as frustratingly addictive but with a peculiar and silly Christmassy theme. It's great fun and I advise you clickety click and download it.

Thank you to everyone who frequently stopped by throughout the year to read the articles about our favourite (and best) 16-bit computer. I hope every Atari ST nutter has a fantastic time and I wish you all a Merry Christmas †
Luke 2:11
The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

ZX Spectrum


Artemis, by Ralf Hemsing is a Z80 / ZX Spectrum emulator. There are numerous configuration options for the technically minded but sticking with the defaults seem to work well. Her performance is more than acceptable but there sadly appears to be no support for colour. Which isn't too big a deal, who had a colour TV in their bedroom back in 1983 anyhow? ;o)  One game is included and it's a good one, Jetpac! Strangely, this isn't a snapshot but instead something I've not heard of before, a ".PRO" file. Can anyone please help me locate other games in this format?

Artemis comes with no docs, lacks colour and doesn't seem to like any computer faster than an Atari ST/e. But it's always great to discover "new" software and, whilst it might not come close to beating the Speccy emulator, it did run Jetpac far better than I imagined and it certainly offers great #geek appeal for my fellow ST nutters! Enjoy.

LINKS

 - Floppyshop has the download on disk "UTL-3025" which also features Speccy!
 - I recorded a video of Artemis running Jetpac and me playing the first level ;)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Unheart


Unheart is one such title I've been meaning to feature for far too long. It's actually quite new and was only released in 2014 at Silly Venture by Masters of Electric City. Based on the original PC game, Heartlight which happily mixes Sokoban with a dollop of Boulder Dash to produce a riveting and refreshing brain teasing challenge.

You are a dwarf who enjoys digging his way through caves looking for love hearts. Watch out for falling rocks that might block your path or a head-crushing blow. You might even come upon a bomb as you crawl through the soft soil but, be careful, because these will detonate when impacting something hard, like a wall or rock. Heck, there are even balloons that will float upwards potentially pushing whatever gets in their way...

Hitting the ESC key causes our dwarf to humorously explode so we can restart the level. Also featured is a level-skip function which allows us to bypass mind-destroying levels with the option of coming back to them later (yeah right). The graphics are simple yet superbly detailed with a gorgeous palette. The status bar displayed in overscan, which is always going to be a great thing for the obvious reasons. Now, the music is totally breathtaking and suits the game perfectly. But why aren't there more?

Boulder Dash fans should look elsewhere because this is a Sokoban game and a brilliant take on the idea too. The difficulty generally remains a constant throughout - high - with cunning map designs causing the most intense problems to overcome. Thankfully, with unlimited retries and the ability to skip troublesome levels, this is a game you will keep on coming back to. Unheart is a challenging and distinctively brilliant puzzler. One of the beST.

LINKS

 - A download is available from Demozoo which also links into Silly Venture and more!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Anduril


Anduril is a high-resolution PD game by Markus Dheus from all the way back in 1986 and features a winged hero stuck inside a 2D world of object collecting. Like the ZX Spectrum game, Kokotoni Wilf, this is also a flick-screen platformer with many cunning rooms for us to explore on our item-collecting journey. Unfortunately, unlike Kokotoni Wilf, our hero cannot walk nor even touch the landscape scenery as it results in an instant loss of a life... Thankfully, he can fly like a flappy bird using simple controls: use the SHIFT key to fly with H + J turning you left or right.

I imagine Anduril is beginning to sound rather easy? You couldn't be more wrong and anyone that loves a challenge will certainly get that. The first couple of screens are easy but it isn't too long before the game's true sadistic nature is exposed. Most of the map is made up of incredibly tight spaces with which to guide our hero. If that wasn't tough enough, once gravity is factored in, Anduril becomes a distressing adventure for all but the patient player.

   
The colourful ZX Spectrum version of Kokotoni Wilf vs Anduril displayed using crisp Atari ST monochrome.

The graphics are crisp and detailed but I noticed odd collision detection, which often worked in my favour so I shouldn't complain. Sadly, sounds are almost void with only a low-volume spot effect for an item pickup. However, I can live with the quirks if gameplay measures up and (after mastering its vicious learning curve) it does so, if you're willing to put in the time, Anduril is one seriously addictive game which I recommend - stick with it.

You can download Anduril from the AtariMania website and this program will help if you've no high-res monitor.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Pung


Pung is an old Atari STe game which has been released after years of lurking in software purgatory. It's obviously based upon the 1972 classic and currently stands at v0.30 which means it suffers a few bugs that might lead to those infamous bombs across your screen. Just reset and keep on playing! I'm glad this got a release as we have enjoyed playing it over the weekend - it's different with a few neat ideas and I recommend you take a look.

LINKS

 - Demozoo website has a download with all the credits and more.
 - I nabbed the MOD music file off Demozoo and made a recording. Love it!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Potsworth & Co


Here we have a cute platformer released in 1992 by Hi-Tec Software which is based on an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon (which I'd never heard off until today). Okay, so I've learned that Potsworth is a dog who happens to have a group of kiddy friends called The Midnight Patrol. Well, someone has stolen a sleep potion and conveniently placed the pieces within five silly worlds. So, now it's up to these kids to return it to the Grand Dozer, whatever that is!!

This means we get to be each of these kiddy characters from the tv show. First up is a rather stroppy looking girl who's adventure oddly places her underground in a place that reminds me of Rick Dangerous.

A wide range of baddies are aimlessly walking back and forth doing their best to make life troublesome but it appears our heroine only has to open her mouth to kill (most of) them. You'll get used to this...

There are also numerous puzzles to solve along the way but don't worry yourself too much because rocket scientists need not apply. These simple puzzles might require dropping a heavy block (or teddy bear!) onto a switch... The tasks add a spark of interest which I thought was enjoyable. Each new level sees us change into a new character and I especially enjoyed the third where we are the dog in candy land as this is bursting with cool mechanics and is overall positively interesting to explore.

The one thing which remains a constant throughout is the superb controls which are precise, responsive and never feel laggy. The visuals are also truly superb with fantastic locations, awesome sprites, and loads of colour with scrolling that is both fast and fluent. Audio is sadly the mirror opposite and appears to be nothing more than an afterthought with only a few spot effects and no background chiptune. The theme tune is even worse and should be skipped as quickly as is possible, just like in Alien World which is another humongous disaster of audio waste!

    

Potsworth and Co has great controls, huge levels and gorgeous graphics which all make for a fantastic experience. Each map is very different from the other with mechanics that help to keep the gameplay exciting and interesting. What I don't like are the limited number of lives and awkward with finicky jumps but it's the audio which disappointed me the most because it's mostly silent which is a shame on a computer with massive chiptune potential...

There might be a few frustrating quirks but I feel Potsworth & Co is one of the best platformers I've played on any computer and is also a testament to the power of the Atari ST. Get ready for an incredible venture through immensely interesting worlds and I'm sure all platformer fans will love this hidden GEM as much as I have. Superb game!

LINKS

 - Peter Putnik from 8BitChip is addicted to this game so why not try his hard disk version.
 - Those who require the floppy disk version should check out Old Games Finder.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

MonoPack


MonoPack was released by Shrimp of NewCore and allows the Atari ST (w/ colour display) to run in high-resolution mode without the need for an Atari or VGA monitor. Yes, there are already lots of programs that already offer this function but I think this is better because it saves itself onto the boot sector of a floppy disk. This means it's fast to activate and also has the option to use the Blitter coprocessor for fast rendering. What an excellent utility!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters


Probably the best titled Atari ST game!! Not only that, but this is a fantastic game and one I featured about a year ago and found it to be one of the most frantically zany shooters I have played but just look at the a-m-a-z-i-n-g box art which is both colourful and comical. Yep, this is certainly one which I'm proud to have in my collection.

Grab yourself a download on either floppy or for hard disk and kill those aliens!! Enjoy :-)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Super Space Invaders


How could anyone ever contemplate improving Space Invaders? How about supersizing it with lots of cool new ideas!! Which is exactly what Domark with the imaginatively titled Super Space Invaders, an authentic take on the original idea with an array of next-gen invaders to quench our two-dimensional alien-zapping thirst.

From the start, we're treated to a superb intro which you should watch. When the game begins, each stage is presented in groups, similar to Blasteroids offering a different path through with each wave starting slowly to gradually speed up with each kill. However, these new invaders attack as a wide variety of targets for our gun love - some will bloat after being shot, thus requiring extra effort for the kill. Don't expect the same attack formations, this time the aliens will use various styles with some breaking away - Galaxian style!

  
The intro is legendary. I absolutely loved it and it's definitely something you don't skip!!

An easily-targeted mothership frequently passes by and, if destroyed, drops a handy power-up in true Arkanoid fashion. These power-ups make the entire experience something very special - I love the laser which slices through the alien hoard like a hot knife through butter but, I must admit, to taking a liking to that rapid-fire power-up.

If Space Invaders ever had a flaw then it's gotta be repetition, but Super Space Invaders attempts to break that by introducing bonus rounds - flying saucers will invading the rural countryside abducting cattle, of all things. Finally, groovy end of level bosses are on guard and in urgent need of a good hiding - I am especially impressed by the boss after level three which I thought was beautifully animated.

Throughout, the graphics are generally excellent with nicely detailed invaders and I especially liked the huge insects and End Of Level bosses - brilliant examples of cool pixel art. Audio is great, from that incredible intro video to the game itself. However, I was a little disappointed not to hear the famous cannon sound effect... Musically, very interesting and I was immediately reminded me of Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters.

  
Woo!! Those alien pests balloon when they're hit. Protect your moo cows at all costs!!

I think purists will probably turn up their nose in disgust at this abomination. However, it is a great game in its own right and the use of power-ups transports what might have been a predictable clone into a freakishly fun game. Far more addictive than I first imagined and I love the game so much I bought myself a copy!

Boot up this game from hard disk or floppy if you dare protect humanity from the alien scumbags?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

a real wallpaper!

Look at what came in the post today from Chris Swinson (aka Exxos). Designed by Darren Doyle for the release of AtariCrypt Magazine and today it's in print and on my bedroom wall like I'm 15 again! There are some ace ST folk in our community - thank you so much Chris. I'm wondering how long the wife will allow this to remain up...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Collaboration One


 
 

The Atari ST/e demoscene has entertained us with some incredible productions over the decades and, predictably, these are often by the same incredibly talented people which made our jaws drop back in the 80s or 90s. Collaboration One is different, this is a new slideshow of pixel art created by a brand new demogroup, STatariART.

In fact, they only got together a few weeks ago with the notion to create a series of disks which will also be accompanied by chipmusic and a must-read lamer's scroller. That's right, it's been 30+ years since the Atari ST was launched and yet it still manages to inspire people and bring them together so enjoy the STart of something great.

LINKS

 - Clickety click to download STatariART's first release, Collaboration One!
 - STatariART are on Demozoo which lists their members and lots more.
 - Press the green button below for the awesome Collaboration One theme tune, by JOSE.ANT

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

AtariCrypt Magazine!



Today, I am extremely proud to announce the availability of AtariCrypt Magazine. That's right folks, a brand new magazine STuffed to the brim full of 16-bit gaming goodness. It has been designed by none other than Darren Doyle and I'm sure you will appreciate his awesome, creative talent which promotes our reviews, interviews, etc.

So the joy of Christmas has come early for the Atari ST gamer! Best of all, this magazine is a free download to simply say a Mega ST thank you for supporting my humble website over recent years. I hope you all enjoy flicking through the world's newest Atari ST magazine and here's to more retro gaming in 2017 and beyond - Merry Christmas!

LINKS

 - Although the magazine is completely free there is the voluntary option to buy it via PayPal so just click & ask me :-)
 - Clickety Click and download AtariCrypt Magazine. Feel free to comment here and leave your feedback!
 - What? This isn't enough and you still want more?
          > How about a massive A1-sized poster for your bedroom!!
          > Power Without The Price.
          > View Darren Doyle's Atari ST magazines.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Zool


Zool was released in 1993 by one of the most acclaimed gaming companies, Gremlin Graphics and it's even one of the few titles to support the enhanced hardware lurking inside the Atari STe. It first appears like a Sonic clone and does indeed have many similarities but, Sonic it ain't. This disappointed some back in the day (like me) but I figured enough time had passed and I really should give this zippy insect another second chance...

Our little protagonist is a rather odd critter. A badly-disguised ninja ant (well, I think it is!) who is from the "Nth Dimension" and he can run, climb, leap and even perform a silly airborne pirouette. He's on a mission to travel six worlds and prove himself worthy of earning the black belt accolade he so richly desires. Each world is split into three segments of progressive difficulty and, of course, are littered with traps and countless baddies to constantly contend with. The first is "Sweet World" and could be a child's best-ever dream: an entire planet made of candy but is also stocked full of killer sweets, like wobbly jelly and a cute rapid-firing dolly mixture! The second is musically themed and features killer instruments like bongo drums and even some nice ones that play helpful musical notes. However, this is about as far as I've managed to get so I'm extremely grateful for a handy cheat mode which allows me to play on the later levels (and I must admit to being laughably impressed by the Meccano styles in tool world)

Collecting the items is the name of the game and, in Sweet World, that means candy. Look at the bottom/left of your screen which displays how many are still required with an arrow pointing you in the right direction. Thankfully, there are restart points from which to continue your adventure but it will never be easy when each level has such a cruel layout of traps and a huge number of baddies. Controls are absolutely superb - intuitive and very responsive with the option to use inertia, which I personally leave disabled. Keep banging on that fire button for a rapid firepower onslaught and if you tap it again (during a jump) then a pirouette manoeuvre is actioned which rapidly kills anything dumb enough to get in your way. Power-ups are also frequently available to help ease your hectic adventure like Two Zool - your very own doppelganger. Like all ninjas, Zool has an energy shield which can be replenished during play but it can survive only three hits before you're as dead as a dodo.

Don't forget to wear your sunglasses - this is one of the gaudiest games I have ever played and almost feels like they have utilised each and every colour. But, it works, and it works ever so beautifully with some of the most creative landscapes and sprites. In fact, the sprites are downright gorgeous and I love that purple dolly mixture. Atari STe users will be thrilled to witness more colours and everything scrolling along at an alarming 50fps. However, backgrounds are boring compared to similar titles and there is a little slowdown during some busier scenes. Audio is bang on superb and they've done a great job with both the sound effects and optional chiptunes. It would have been nice to hear DMA effects, especially noticeable in world two with the oddly silent musical instruments.

Zool is sadly far from perfect with some frustrating mechanics that ultimately spoil what could have been a cracking game. For example, don't expect to whizz through, like our spiky hedgehog friend, because each world appears designed to contradict our Ninja's spritely abilities and it won't be long before you slam into something nasty, which is weird really...

There are too many deadly objects which are often offscreen and too easy to bump into but, ultimately, the constantly respawning baddies frustrated me the most. Whilst these definitely make for a busy adventurer they soon become a tiresome overkill. However, having said all this, I'm shocked to admit that I'm actually enjoying this imperfect platformer. It is certainly stuffed full of action but if you're hoping Zool is our Sonic, you will be disappointed.

Overall, a good platformer which is actually better than I remember. It should entertain you for several hours but I cannot recommend it unless you have an Atari STe. Now, for some peculiar reason, I feel an urge for Chupa Chups!!

LINKS

 - 8BitChip always has the best download for those with the storage hardware.
 - For those stuck using floppy disks then Old Games Finder will ease your pain!
 - AtariMania not only feature Zool within their ST database website but also have the manual and code wheel!
 - To cheat simply type in PANDA on the main menu and you will see a flicker. During a game press:
          -> Spacebar 1 - will make you invincible.
          -> Spacebar 2 - to skip forward onto the next stage.
          -> Spacebar 3 - to skip forward onto the next world.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Wolfenstein 3D


I had an hour to spare before the boss was due home and I fancied a quick game of Wolfenstein 3D. Sadly, it didn't go as well as I'd hoped but, I must admit, it made for a funny video recording which made me laugh! ;^)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

!cube

I've been browsing through some of the amazing works to come out of Silly Venture and found a superb chiptune by !cube (aka Toni Lönnberg). Hyper Ocean Ride came second in the competition and is also making use of the Atari STe's DMA hardware for those cool drums. I love this tune so had to share it - press the GREEN arrow below!

LINKS

 - Mr cube has a great website and is also on Demozoo and SoundCloud.
 - I've recorded a video of his "Meet !cube" musicdisk which you can download here.
 - Bullet Sequence is another of my fave tracks (from Silly Venture 2014).


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Crash Time Plumber


This is a conversion of the Gamopat original released only days ago at Silly Venture. Our Atari game was developed by Sebastien Lucas of Cerebral Vortex and it works on any Atari computer with a Blitter Chip. This means the Mega ST, any Atari STe, and the Falcon beast so if your older STFM has an empty socket then you know what to do.

When I first loaded this, I wasn't sure what to expect as I was greeted with an authentic 8Bit-styled platformer with fantastic gameplay. It's based on Donkey Kong with a hefty dollop of Popeye and takes place in 1983 before the video gaming industry crash. Now, a certain Italian plumber has teamed up with an angry looking monkey and kidnapped ten of our favourite gaming heroes: Pac-Man, Pitfall Harry, Q-Bert, Frogger, and many others. Each is preparing themselves for a hideous death at the hands of these terrible criminals from the east so rescue them all to foil Mario's plan and stop this invasion to save the gaming industry. Yes, everything is on the line here!

  
The intro is short but sweet to tell the story. Also, I've been to Alamogordo twice!! /tidbit

We're on the donkey kong construction site collecting love hearts which are given freely by a damsel in distress who floats by in her hot air balloon. When enough are collected, we begin our steroid-jumping rescue to the top of the screen and save our particular captured hero. Now, this won't be easy because not only is Mario is rolling barrels downhill but King Kong is hanging about throwing his killer bananas with annoying accuracy! Also, some levels have weather conditions affecting your movement but don't forget about the harsh 120 seconds time limit.

The graphics are fantastic for a gorgeous 80s retro theme. The sprites are so cute and the Blitter produces beautifully smooth 50fps scrollable screen. Heck, the Atari STe even adds enhanced colour fading too. Falcon owners get to witness a huge Zeppelin flying by, which I cannot help but wonder why this is missing on the ST/e? Audio is superb with lovely sound effects and a great chiptune that is also totally suited to the ye olde style. Everything is perfect.

  
Watch out for angry monkeys throwing their killer bananas otherwise you're just a name on the wall...

Don't be fooled by the humble appearance because from the start you're tricked into thinking it's far too easy! The combination of fantastic controls and extremely tough mechanics will catch you out many times - I'm sick of being smacked in the face by a killer banana! Crash Time Plumber is so addictive and drags you back, kicking and screaming, for more! If you only play one game today then I suggest you play Crash Time Plumber!!

Download this fantastic game from 8BitChip who have adapted it for hard disk installation and an option for extra lives! Most older STs have an empty Blitter Chip socket to head over to the EXXOS webSTore to buy one.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Online ST Picture Viewer

Often I need to quickly view an Atari ST piccy on my Mac and there are plenty of options but here is a fascinating web-tool by Cyprian which allows you to instantly view those old images within a web browser. It supports the classic formats like Degas, Neochrome, Spectrum 512, and even works with drag and drop. What an outstanding viewer.

LINKS

 - Get viewing those old 320x200 images right now using Online ST Picture Viewer!
 - The 'AtariCrypt' image courtesy of STatariART  [ and I love it ]
 - This modern web-tool reminded my of a classic program called PicSwitch ;-)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Blasteroids


Once again, the galaxy is overrun by those damn rocks and is in need of somebody to smash 'em into smithereens. The rocks come in all shapes and sizes and, along with the standard variety, there are popcorn rocks which bloat before eventually freezing. Red rocks will leave behind crystals to conveniently recharge your shield, which is very nice! Watch out for aliens who frequently rear their ugly heads. You should kill 'em as quick as you can to reveal a range of nifty power-ups, such as a double shot or the impressive Ripstar. Once all sectors are cleared you will battle the dreaded Mukor, a festering evil entity who fires miniature spaceships using his tentacles - so shoot each of those suckers quickly and then you can watch him scarper like the fatty bloated coward he is!

Blasteroids is split into levels and each level is split into several smaller sectors which must be completed before reaching a gruesome End Of Level boss, the monstrous Mukor! Your ship is equipped with upgradeable weapons, a powerful shield, the ability to transform itself and once all the rocks are pounded into dust a transporter appears to whisk you off to the next sector - to do it all over again.

Controls are excellent and very responsive. Rotate your ship using left or right, push up to thrust, and keep slamming on that fire button to shoot anything rocky-looking! Gravity and momentum play their parts to affect your performance but don't worry because your shield will help to compensate your piloting skills. Pulling back on the joystick will transform your ship between three different models: the Speeder is very quick and agile, Fighter features the best weaponry, and Warrior is your beefy and burly beast. Your friends can jump in on the action - at any time - with an impressive co-operative two-player support, just like in the arcades. This is a superb feature.

Graphics are pretty cool for what used to be a visually stark experience and I love the nicely animated rocks rolling through space. Enemy ships look gorgeous and all sprites a large, details and move smoothly. Oddly, the backgrounds are only 4-colours but you might never notice due to their beautiful design and an artistic flair I really admire. Sadly, the audio disappoints with lame sound effects instead of samples, which would have been ideal and easily handled by any ST computer. Music is also a touchy subject and soon becomes extremely repetitive! Thankfully, it can be switched off but that only highlights the sound inadequate effects... catch-22.

Thi is a good arcade conversion with a few silly niggles spoiling an otherwise great rock-smashing experience. Asteroid purists probably won't like it but keep your mind open because it's tons of fun, I just wish the audio was better. However, I fear Stardust is still my favourite but Blasteroids and Asteroidia tied for a respectable second place.

LINKS

 - Once again 8BitChip delivers a hard drive installable version!
 - Those which require the floppy disk versions should visit Old Games Finder.
 - View the other "Asteroid" games here on AtariCrypt.
 - I am proud to own this sweet rock-basher! :-)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Alcatraz


Regular visitors to the best Atari ST gaming website (aka AtariCrypt) will know that I bought Alcatraz earlier this year. Such an underrated game which, takes a little while to master, but offers superb stealth and action gameplay with a first-person scene that still makes me drool. My copy was sealed and Alcatraz is one of my prized possessions!

LINKS

 - I messed about with the two-player support in my video recording (even without any friends ...BooHoo)
 - Those unlucky enough not to own this beauty should download the D-Bug's awesome hack!
 - Old Games Finder has all the floppy disk versions you could shake a stick at!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Atari wallpapers


Having zero artistic flair means I need to cheat whenever I fancy changing the website logo. Thankfully, I've found a couple of free websites that offer fancy text-generating tools and I figured it would be nice to share today's experimentations. Take a look at Picture To People & FlamingText and design your own graphics.

I've included a few various logos which can be downloaded from my Dropbox account. These actually double as great wallpapers and are best when centred, not stretched or tiled. I hope this bundle will give you some ideas to create something cool? Let me know, go create #STatariART ....reply here if you dare! :-)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Legends Of Valour


Legends Of Valour is one of the last Atari ST games I purchased and it received relatively favourable reviews. However, I was smitten by its depth and longevity not to mention the first-person aspect and superb packaging!

Our adventure begins in the city of Mitteldorf in search of our missing cousin, Sven who previously set out to find his fortune. However, it's been far too long since anybody heard from him and thus our adventure begins. Firstly, you should design your character's appearance, clothing, and armament. You can be either human, dwarf or elf with each profile offering a different game style and objectives. Select hair, eyes, nose and so on to create your demi-god or (like me) perhaps your character will end up looking like something from a freak show?

  
Yes, the first screen really does say "DOS" but it's not long until you begin your adventure.

Once you're dandy, enter into the city and heed the advice from the friendly local that pops-up for a chat. I would first advise you take the time to explore and familiarise yourself with your surroundings because this is such a massive place and you will need necessary amenities, like safe lodgings, income, beer to sup, and grub to nosh. Mitteldorf is a fortress city, populated with some very interesting characters, secretive guilds, curious places, and even a labyrinth of dungeons hidden deep underground. Of course, these are just itching to be explored, but be careful because you might not like what you find down there. Your cousin wrote a letter which nicely explains his story, why not take a read? Perhaps it features hidden hints that should help you along your journey. Heck, you never know!

All exploration is through a first-person engine not too dissimilar to a shooter like Wolfenstein with fully texture-mapped graphics - a testament to what our 16-bit computer can knock out. This can be configured in three display sizes, small, medium and large. Any ST will be fine but the largest setting requires a 16MHz CPU minimum. Initially, the interface is a little scary due to the huge number of icons but soon becomes intuitive and easy to use. Wandering the city is feasible using the GUI's icons but it can become a little laborious due to the immense size of the play area so a right-click will activate mouse control to unlock its full potential, and is also tremendously good fun.

  
It isn't long before name calling and abusive remarks start a fistfight. Which is never dull!!

Legends Of Valour isn't something you simply play - you live it. Life here is completely open-world, a "sandbox" adventure, where you are free to roam and do almost anything you want. This has always been a fascinating concept for me and, although this is an early example of the genre, it works extremely well.

Exploring Mitteldorf is exciting and bursting with fun characters, monsters, temples, stores, taverns, employment and more. I love the Olde English medieval setting which is portrayed and experienced in real-time, so day and night pass by with their own consequence. All the usual requirements we have in life also exist here: eating, sleeping, health and our personal safety when in dodgy locations - especially late at night. I find refuge in a few ales at The Hanged Man tavern is often the best option, but perhaps that's me? Just don't get too tipsy and end up in lockup!

  
Mitteldorf has lots of interesting places to trade, eat dodgy food and read messages...

This game is humungous and not something to play one boring afternoon. Learning the city of Mitteldorf alone can be overwhelming, so make notes and a basic key to complement the official map. So much can be learned by communicating with your fellow citizens so get chatting to them over a beer or perhaps those strange folk that appear to aimlessly wander the streets. However, be prepared to defend yourself when set on by anyone from the King's faithful knights in shining armour. Even a little old lady can throw a barrage of humorous insults before giving you a good slap. There's only one thing left to do - slap her back!! (tell me you're not tempted?) :)

I love wandering Mitteldorf, but nothing is perfect and I feel Legends Of Valour lacks in a couple of areas. The battles could have been thought out a bit better and it's disappointing to discover most buildings are empty of furniture. Also, audio is limited to spot effects which is a shame considering the number of disks in the box, I think some ambient samples or more varied chippy fx could have tremendously improved the atmosphere, especially at night.

  
Arghh!! I've been caught yet again and thrown down before the King's mercy.

Legends Of Valour is something very special and offers a vibrant and exciting place to live. So many cool characters, taverns to frequent, secret guilds to master, monster-infested dungeons to plunder, and then jobs or missions are always on offer. This game has it all and, as you begin to make progress and delve in deeper, you soon realise just how much more potential it features. Heck, I had forgotten all about searching for cousin Sven! Allow yourself to get lost in this immensely rewarding adventure because it is most certainly one of my favourite Atari ST games, ever.

Games like this are best installed to hard drive and 8BitChip has delivered the goods (and with cool scanned images!). However, those stuck using the humble floppy drive should check out Old Games Finder. After a little surfing, I found a cool scan of the city map and a clue book so had myself some fun back in October... Great times!!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

STatariART

The Atari ST world never ceases to amaze me and today I bring you news of a new demo group calling themselves "STatariART". The name might sound familiar to folk who lurk within FaceBook because it's by Stuart Johns who wanted to a way to promote the graphical flair of all artiSTs. Thus the idea of a new demogroup was born and he enlisted some fantastic people, Peter Jørgensen (YMT Player), Pandafox and Luis Ortiz are all on board.

STatariART has a page on Demozoo and here are examples of their outstanding artwork to gawk at :

  

Friday, November 04, 2016

Hatari v2.0.0

ALERT : a new version of the Hatari emulator has just been released!! :-)
Major highlights are :
  ->  Hatari can use SDL2, this will take advantage of HW acceleration and enhance performance OSX.
  ->  Hatari now uses one single CPU core for all machines (ST, STE, TT, Falcon).
  ->  Video emulation now supports the 4 STF wakeup states for MMU/GLUE and a much more accurate state machine for border removal.
  ->  CPU emulation was improved a lot by using WinUAE's CPU and fixing some low level behaviour : IACK sequence, exception/interrupt stacking, 2 cycle accesses, bus accesses timing depending on memory region, instruction pairing, ...
  ->  Falcon DMA sound was fixed.
  ->  New support for MegaST and MegaSTE machine types.
  ->  Improvements to Gemdos HD emulation.
  ->  SDL UI reworked with more options.
  ->  Resizable window when using SDL2 (using HW acceleration)

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

After The War


After The War was released back in 1989 by Dinamic Software and is (partly) a fantastic beat 'em up similar in style to Double Dragon 3. You are Jonathan Rogers, aka Jungle Rogers, and must assassinate Professor McJerin who is today's nutcase. Worryingly set in the near future during a post-apocalyptic Manhattan where you must kill all the bad dudes and escape to somewhere far nicer than this hellhole! Sounds easy, right? Let's see...

This game is split into two parts: the first is a scrolling beat 'em up and the second a shoot 'em up platformer. Upon playing part one, the first thing that struck me was the graphics which look amazing with huge sprites, great use of colour, and good scrolling. I adore the backgrounds and found the artwork and design to be apt for the grungy scenario. Sound effects are very cool and made up of low-quality grunts and thumps with silly cries when somebody is killed. It is worth mentioning the awesome title theme which I think is superb and I do wonder if the enhanced hardware within the STe was used? However, this only highlights the lacking in-game background tune... Controls are very easy to master and offer: a punch, a flying-kick, jumping, and a get-me-outta-here rollback. Strangely, the keyboard is needed to activate another type of kick and a nut-crushing low punch, especially useful for the rapid dogs! Sadly, I found flipping between the two sets of controls an awkward killjoy. (image above)

Part two is only playable once the first is complete and our musclebound hero now equipped with a giant weapon as he heads off into the underground. Gamestyle is now a platform shooter where we need to blast everything, even those pesky rats! The controls are a little weird, we must manually guide the directional aiming which is overly complicated. It's quite good fun but I found myself stressing over the control system too much rather than winning!

After The War is two games in one, which may sound great but it's not. The beat 'em stage is a little sluggish but it's incredibly good fun and also looks and sounds impressive. I really enjoyed playing this which is more than can be said for the scrolling platformer. Why did they bother? Play for the beat 'em up and a good time is guaranteed!!

LINKS

 - Update September 2017: 8BitChip have a brand new hard drive installable download!
 - Old Games Finder has all the floppy disk versions you could ever desire!
 - What a fantastic loading screen - this is killer 16-Bit pixel art!!
 - Who fancies a couple of cheats?
          -> Fancy the code to part two : 101069 (tested and works)
          -> Infinite energy in part one, press keys : ALT, 1, B (untested)
          -> Infinite energy in part two, press keys : ALT, 1, M (untested)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Enduro Racer


Enduro Racer is obviously based upon the coin-op and is a no-frills arcade biker by Activision from all the way back in 1987. Interestingly, it was programmed by Ian Morrison who developed one of my favourite driving/shooters, Road Blasters. You compete in five races against other bikers on tracks that contain lots of silly hazards which should have been removed by the race organisers. Cornering, I found rather tight along with the ever-decreasing time limit so don't dawdle because each race is against an aggressive clock that dictates you should learn each course!

The first is quite easy but soon picks up the pace as you hit the heat of the desert to become quite the challenge. Controls are first a little odd, pushing up accelerates but it's the fire button that applies the breaks because pulling back will instead perform a wheelie which is needed for the ramps and help prevent speed loss. However, if you forget then your biker protests by doing a handlebar handstand - it's crazy but very cool.

The music is fab-uuuu-lous!! In fact, it's playing right now. Dave Whittaker certainly knows his bleeps from his blips. The graphics are a little sparse but this is an early game so I can imagine leaving out unnecessary details frees lots of CPU cycles for a faster framerate? Thankfully, this works because the race is always fast and smooth.

Enduro Racer might be a little long in the tooth and showing a little middle-aged spread but I think it's worth an hour of your day. I prefer cars but this is a great biker and crammed full of cool jumps at every tight turn. Great game.

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have a download for those with an UltraSatan / hard drive.
 - Those stuck with floppy disks will need to download via Old Games Finder.
 - The menu system gives away the cheat... So start a new game and type in the word "cheat".
          -> press key T for an extra 10 seconds (press it again!)
          -> press key S to zip along.
          -> press key F to advance to the checkpoint.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bellum Internecinum


I've never heard of Bellum and only found it by accident when trolling Stonish earlier today. It's a Galaga-wannabe with aliens that battle in fairly predictable formations - just itching to be killed! However, these guys move pretty rapidly as the levels progress and they also enjoy swooping down to clutter the screen for some frantic action so shoot first and ask questions later - these ET's are incredibly trigger happy. We have the freedom to move in all directions but be careful because your ship can only take so much damage before bits and pieces begin to drop off. Thankfully, bonuses are frequently available for repairs, speed and increased firepower. Oh yeah :-)

It's always nice to stumble upon something you missed back in the day. It might have simple graphics, few sounds and no music BUT it's the gameplay which matters and this is rock solid. Bellum Internecinum is fantastic fun!!

LINKS

 - It also appeared on various cover disk which you can find over on Stonish!
 - ST Format also found this beauty and featured it on cover disk #6.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Chubby Gristle


This is a tale of a fat, obnoxious parking attendant who loves to eat food. Pillar of the community, Chubby Gristle, is always hungry and will roam each room looking for grub to nosh on in Grandslam Entertainment's old skool platformer. It first feels a lot like Monty Mole with each screen designed in a similar fashion and, if you're old like me, the instant appeal will be a huge trip down memory lane!

However, that's where the fun ends and the frustration kicks in because Chubby Gristle is incredibly tough. Each screen has ledges, moving platforms, ropes, and the expected angry sprites zipping back n' forth which are often awkward to avoid (without losing a precious life). Unlike good ol' Monty, Chubby moves a little too quickly for a fat man on a grub hunt, so it's too easy to bump into something sharp or accidentally walk off a platform edge to yet another splattery death. I feel many extra lives are needed to balance the game's high difficulty.

Visually, it's perfectly 8-bit and I mean that in a good way because it happily blasts you back into the 1980s. Sprites move so smoothly and are animated with a style I simply adore - Peter Harrap would be proud. However, I am disappointed with the audio which plays the same tune over (and over). It's great but we really needed a selection. Oddly, music can be silenced but I found no way to activate sound effects which surely isn't too much to ask?

Chubby Gristle is an enigma. This could so easily have been a hit with ancient gamers (like me) however, the gameplay mechanics fail and you will throw down your joystick in anger because of the difficulty level. The infinite lives cheat enabled me to travel deeper and see its amazing charm and character but we need entertainment and challenges without the suffering! Such a shame because it's potentially an awesome platformer.

LINKS

 - Download from Klaz' Hideaway who has the floppy and a hard drive installable game (with lives cheat)
 - Cheating is never good but Chubby needs extra lives like no other game on the planet. To enable infinite lives type in "buuurrp" on the title screen and you will hear a burp that confirms success. (untested by me)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Microprose Golf


Microprose Golf is a bit of a show-off if truth be told because it's like the rich and successful younger brother of poor old Leaderboard, who has been left behind green with envy. Now, I'm hardly a golfing connoisseur, but the developers have done a blinding job and created an involving title with a vast array of mind-boggling features to take it into the realm of a serious sim. But don't panic, that doesn't make it a boring game. Oh no, not at all...

Several interesting game types are on offer with each affected by an array of realistic variables that will alter your performance - the type of ground, your stance, weather conditions, and much more. I'm sure experienced golfers will be drooling over the intricate settings long before they even consider teeing off and, even as a novice, I was mightily impressed and blown away in equal measure. Controlled with the mouse, menus are well designed and intuitive so setting up your shot isn't a chore. When you do get around to smacking the little white ball, it feels precise and quite similar to the previously mentioned game, drastically reducing the already tiny learning curve.

However, that similarity abruptly ends once you've struck the ball because Microprose has taken 16-bit golfing to a whole new level by introducing their camera angled viewpoints that follow the ball along its airborne path. I sat here in utter amazement as I watched the first-person perspective of my shot in action, it's a gob-smacker! There is also a selection of other cool cameras angles and, interestingly, all benefit smoother framerates on faster computers. Graphically, this is one golf game which stands head and shoulders above anything else I've seen and is a total jaw-dropper. Sound effects are also excellent but I do feel a little more ambient effects would have been nice during the times you're setting up a shot, perhaps a chirp from the birds, a little breeze or background chatter from the crowd?

Microprose has done what they always did so well on the Atari ST and released a game that blows your socks off at every level. It's technically beautiful and comes with a perfect blend of strategy and arcade fun to loose yourself in. Whether you're a casual fan or an addicted expert, I am positive you will love playing. Totally and utterly superb.

LINKS

 - A video recording by Wasabim shows the game running on a stock 8MHz Atari ST.
 - 8BitChip have a hard drive installable version which also supports faster Atari computers!
 - For those that love floppy disks, Old Games Finder can help ya out.
 - AtariMania features Microprose Gold within their ST database website (with manual scans too!)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Terry's Big Adventure


Terry and his Big Adventure was released in 1989 by Shades and it plays with more than a pinch of Mario (I cannot help but wonder how moneybags Nintendo let them get away with this, but I'm glad they did). His adventure takes us through twelve playful lands and, just like his Italian cousin, he is also stuck within a 2D world of silliness so get your joystick ready because this means lots of platforms, gaps to jump, magic mushrooms and iddy biddy critters.

Terry isn't a mean guy and he certainly doesn't like squashing any living creature so instead, has brought his own weapon of choice. Now, if you're expecting something like a shotgun or a sword then you might be disappointed because it's actually a yo-yo. Okay, this is unlikely to impress the girls but it works well.

Joystick controls are precise and feel perfectly console. However, little Terry must still abide by the laws of physics when moving about. And this applies to whatever he hits (with the Yo-Yo) as it knocks him back a step or two. So watch out for that when near water.

Power-ups are frequently available and you can exchange the yo-yo for pebble throwing by simply hitting the spacebar. Terry is such a badass, right? Many kills will reward a random letter in a tiny parachute, collect it quickly to eventually make the word "terry" to earn a temporary shield. This comes in handy allowing you to plough through the enemy hoard. Also, it's worth collecting the mushrooms for juicy points with an extra life awarded every 20,000 points. There are bonus levels stocked to the brim with even more mushrooms - just don't get yourself addicted!

  

The graphics are typically NES and the first thing you notice are those tiny sprites but this suits the console-feel and their level of detail is excellent. Scrolling is silky smooth and it's obvious the programmer took the time and talent to get beautiful results from a computer without hardware scrolling. Audio is a little disappointing with the option of chipmusic or sound effects. The tunes are cute and my prefered choice in comparison to the dullness of the sparse sound effects. Don't get me wrong, they're okay but much of the gameplay is in silence, so stick with the music!

Terry's Big Adventure is such a great platformer which will appeal to those who enjoy Giana Sisters or the Stario games. It might very well be a total ripoff but Terry has enough personality of his own to make this feel interesting and entertaining. I always enjoy playing yo-yos with my little spiky-haired friend. This is a brilliant platformer.

LINKS

 - If you have the hardware, then download the hard drive installable version by 8BitChip.
 - But if you require a floppy disk image then Old Games Finder is for you.