Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mac Pan


After yesterday's awesome (mind-blowing!) technical flight sim I needed something a little less taxing on my old brain cells so I'm taking an easier route and playing a Pac-Man clone. Many come with tons of bells and whistles but here is one of a more traditional variety so let's get pill-popping and ghost munching!

Mac Pan was released in 1987 by Richard Beith and only works in the crisp ST High resolution. There are a few integrated features which I really did like: hold down the fire button and you can temporally increase the yellow guy's speed, the game's speed can be tinkered to your own preference and it also has support for simultaneous 2-players. The graphics are cutely vintage but the waka waka waka sound effects aren't going to blow you away... It's not the best PacMan game I've played but I still enjoyed it and being able to choose the game's speed is a superb idea. It's easy to imagine German office workers in the 80/90s playing Mac Pan during their lunch break.

Monochrome users should jump up and down with excitement because this is an excellent clone of the old classic.

LINKS

 - Apparently, the game has a cheat mode but I've never found it. Can you?
 - Downloads are available using Old Games Finder and here is a video recording I made :-)

Friday, January 29, 2016

ProFlight


This morning I dug out an old friend, ProFlight by Nick Brown of HiSoft, and jumped inside my Panavia Tornado to take it for a spin - Maverick style. It runs fine on any Atari ST but will certainly benefit from faster computers: my Mega STE delivers astounding framerates so I do wonder how a Falcon or TT might perform... ProFlight works in colour but, unlike a lot of games, it's also fully compatible with ST High which I preferred to the blockier option.

Now, I do remember labouring over ProFlight back in the day and today I wondered how my older (and wiser?) brain would cope with this monster flight simulator. The main emphasis is on simulated realism so you're out of luck if you thought this was an arcade-style combat shooter. However, that doesn't mean it's all work and no play because, once you've got over the hefty learning curve, there is an enjoyable and rewarding experience to be had.

Man, this is such a professional product and one that comes as a massive box with such a weighty manual - it's like something from real flight school training! Yes, this is an incredible flight sim for techie gurus to drool over and certainly one of the most rewarding sims I have ever played. HiSoft are trusting you with their precious plane which can be flown using either a floppy disk or your hard drive. Please be careful and don't crash it!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Diamond Edge


Isn't Diamond Edge a brilliant program? One of its features is called Test Disk which scans for various types of potential problems. Only the other day this saved my bacon because Drive C (a 32MB partition) suddenly reported itself at 22MB. Why I do not know, but Diamond Edge came to the rescue and fixed several serious issues. Nothing was lost and the drive is working 100% again... (phew!!!).

I have also found it particularly useful to optimise (defrag) the partitions in order to better stream audio for (storage) demanding games (Cannon Fodder / Xenon II) or other programs like ST Video Player. I try and defrag the drives on a monthly basis. Don't even get me started with Undelete, another superb part of the Diamond Edge suit!

Diamond Edge is one of the most fundamental utilities for all Atari computers. It's as essential today as it was back in the day - every machine equipped with a mass-storage device should have it installed.

Anodyne has Diamond Edge all ready to download with a manual too!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bolo


Tons of Atari ST games run in high resolution and one of the best is Bolo, a Breakout clone. It takes the familiar concept and improves upon it tremendously with lots of extra features, like the ability to move the bat almost anywhere you like. There are also gravitational effects which are cunningly effective and also different brick types and the ability to change the physics of the ball's speed and direction. Yep, Bolo is an awesome brick-blaster!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tech Support



SysInfo is an incredibly useful utility that can display a whole raft of useful details. It has recently helped me diagnose an issue I had with the audio hardware of my Mega STE not being detected. This is a fantastic must-have utility which is able to tell you just about everything you will ever need to know about your own computer. Everything from your TOS/GEM config through to more technical aspects like the Cookie Jar, VBL, traps & other mind-boggling jargon!

Download SysInfo from "Atari ST Essential software (The List)" which is a brilliant website.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Maggie


Maggie 25th Anniversary issue was released this weekend!

It's been far too many years since the previous issues and it is now available to download or view off and online. I shall now be off to brew a coffee and then to sit back to spend some time reading this disk mag. It's been far too long! My congrats to everyone involved - thank you all!! (and my thanks for the heads-up to Kevin @Atari STaffroom)

LINKS

 - Maggie for Atari computers.
 - An offline HTML version to download.
 - Their website to read right now!
 - The Maggie Team on Demozoo.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Video Games 1


Andrei Ellman, Wacko Software, created a game which mixes three classics together: Pong, Space Invaders and Pac-Man. However, with a cunning twist, all three are simultaneously playable using the one joystick. You heard correctly and the controls are pretty insane: Pong is controlled by holding down the fire button and then moving up/down. Pac-Man is initially very confusing so I advise you read the docs but Space Invaders has the most simplistic controls - left/right moves your ship and pushing up or down will fire your weapon. Weird, right?

The controls sure appear tricky but, with a little practice, will oddly work pretty well. However, there's only so much my tiny brain could manage and I found myself concentrating more on Space Invaders whilst occasionally playing Pac-Man. Scarcely did I bother with Pong - not until I had died in one of the other two games.

If things are visually too messy then you could invert the colours by pressing the "I" key which looks ugly but is better on the eyes. Also, the numerical keypad can brighten or darken colours certain colours from each game - pressing "9" a few times will brighten Space Invaders whereas "5" will darken PacMan.

I think Andrei was one crazy, mixed-up kid and probably had a good laugh when developing this. Don't take it too seriously and practice with the controls because Video Games 1 is ridiculously entertaining and you'll love it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Universal Item Selector


The excellent Universal Item Selector by Application & Design Software, released here in the UK by ST Club, is one of my favourite utilities. The Atari ST has always been blessed with a small, but great, selection of replacement file selectors but UIS is the best of all. Only this weekend did I trudge through a folder containing over 100 tracker mods, deciding which ones to keep or delete, and UIS made the job 100x easier because of its integrated tools.

Click here to download this great program with its PDF manual available via Atari Document Archive.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

United States Navy SEALs


Here is a game with few friends: Navy Seals is deceiving and, first impressions, are of an arcade-style platformer. However, this hidden Ocean gem is anything but a typical run and gun 'em all. It's far more ruthless and requires stealth, tactics and advanced route planning. Extreme personal perseverance is the order of the day!!

Taking down scumbag terrorists is all part of the job when you're a member of the fearless US Navy SEALS. Our missing requires us to sneak into the lion's den, kill everyone and plant explosives to destroy their stockpile of missiles. Visually, Navy Seals is a babe with gorgeous great retro graphics. I just love the beautiful character animation as you run, leap, climb and sneak about. Sound effects do their job very well and the music is a cool chiptune to bop along too. Aesthetically, all is nice but let's get to the nitty-gritty of why it's feared so?

  
Each level has a cruel design that will require multiple attempts otherwise, well...

Personally, I don't think it should be feared in the slightest but it will require a committed player willing to spend many hours mastering the levels. Each map is a layout of cunning platforms within a maze of trigger-happy bad guys. It's all about covert tactics, so play slowly and carefully to learn where the enemy is located. Many practice games will be required to plan the best route from start to end, this is vital and the only way to successfully complete your mission.

There are two drawbacks with Navy Seals. The first is the time limit which I think is too harsh (at least for me) but I also don't understand why Ocean didn't include a way to unlock each level. This doesn't make any sense!!

Overall, this is such a difficult game but I also find myself enjoying it too. Each level requires the player to learn all aspects thoroughly, so don't expect a cakewalk! Navy Seals won't appeal to the casual gamer and requires lots of practice (i.e. death!) to figure out an efficient route before the timer expires. Rewarding but incredibly brutal.

LINKS

 - Hard drive installable versions are available from both D-Bug and 8bitchip.
 - Floppy disk games can be found using Old Games Finder.
 - Cheating time:
             > Type in WOZZIE into the high score table to activate the cheat mode.
             > Begin a new game. Press W for weapons or RETURN to advance onto the next level.
 - Some tips:
             > Dawdle when learning the maps - slow and steady wins the race.
             > Play draft games and make notes of the most efficient route. Exhilarating is the word!!!
             > Practice! Practice! Practice! Practice! :-)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

WANTED


Wanted was released by Infogrames in 1988 and is basically a Gunsmoke rip-off which (to me) also feels inspired by Ikari Warriors. Ignoring the start, which features awful music, we begin the game as a budding John Wayne wannabe, strolling through dusty wildest town inhabited by lots of outlaws. Yep, this is turning into every guy's dream!

Unlike Ikari Warriors, the screen will automatically scroll downwards and the action comes thick and fast. Whack on the fire button and shoot your way through Dodge City but watch out for the enemy and their bullets! These may very well be the slowest bullets on the planet but they are also extremely precise and I somehow always managed to walk into them... Power-ups are available after shooting barrels where you'll find weapons, shield, etc.

Wanted is a good vertically scrolling shoot 'em up and fans of Gunsmoke will love it. But, be warned, this is darn difficult (and there are better games on the Atari ST) but there is something curiously likeable about this. I enjoyed it a lot, so download the hard disk version from 8BitChip with floppies available via Old Games Finder. Yeehaw!!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cannon Fodder [Atari STe update]


[ Metallica streamed from my own Atari STe computer ]

Peter Putnik has upgraded Cannon Fodder to support playback of 25KHz streamed music - during gameplay. It uses the DMA audio hardware of the Atari STe and (because it's a coprocessor) uses zero CPU time thus not impacting on performance. Of course, you need an Ultrasatan/hard drive to store the music file and also have the option to convert anything from your own library. An amazing audio upgrade for what is sadly a shameful lazy Amiga port...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tomtar


Tomtar is a freeware shoot 'em up released in 1993 for the Atari STe by UTEN (NewCore, XiA, Toxic Twins & Unit 17). A "tomtar" is basically a gnome and they breed like bacteria so will eventually take over the world unless something is done! We asked the Grim Reaper for help but there are too many for him to handle so we needed divine intervention - in the form of a machine gun!! Yep, we all know where this is going so let's lock and load to help the mythical Reaper destroy all the Tomtars in what I can only describe as the craziest 5 minutes of your life.

In the right corner of the screen is an Orch - kill him to advance to the next level. Use the mouse to shoot but beware because this isn't going to be easy because these little critters can walk, run, bounce and fly their way across the screen. Controls work well with the mouse but I would have preferred the right-button to perform another function like throwing a grenade, this would have been superb... Gameplay becomes frantic and more chaotic the further you progress but I must admit that it's a shame the spooky backdrop doesn't change.

A stupid game that offers nothing more than a mad few minutes blasting Tomtars and that, I loved. So if you fancy killing these little blighters yourself then grab it from Demozoo (who also have a cutdown STFM version). My high scores are: 78,250 (emulation) and 94,740 (using my Atari STe). What are yours? Can you beat me??

Sunday, January 10, 2016

SNDH Players

   

    

I love listening to SNDH chiptunes on my Atari STe but it recently occurred to me that many didn't realise which player to use. So, here are four fantastic Atari ST/e GEM programs to play your favourite toons...

JAM - Quite possibly the most well-known of all the players and deservedly so because it's brilliant with a modular design to handle a wide variety of file formats. It always sounds great but looks rather a plain jane. Thankfully, there is also a version which doesn't use GEM and is far nicer! (download)

SND Player - It might look ugly in the 4-colour medium resolution but I really like this program and it sounds just dandy. I found this to be a reliable player and it looks very nice in Low/High resolutions. (download)

GEMPlay - is a "Lite" version of YesCREW's Falcon player. Some features are removed because the ST/e has no DSP Processor but it plays SNDH tunes just dandy. Again, I recommend Low/High resolution! (download)

KrapSNDH - Such simplicity. It's perfect to be set up as an Application for the .snd file format within GEM so you can double-click any sound file for instant play. No fancy interface but it's a great player! (download)

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Flip-O-Demo


I'm starting off my weekend with the gorgeous Flip-O-Demo by Oxygene / Diamond Design because it's just been updated this week to support hard drive installation. It was originally released in 1993 and contains some of the best artwork and visual fx you could imagine and all whilst playing beautiful audio by one of my favourite musicians.

A brilliant Atari ST demo and certainly one of my favourites which you can grab via Demozoo right now.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Goldrunner

 

I've always thought that Goldrunner's biggest problem was its dreaded speech which I find lame and very off-putting. Today, Peter Putnik has updated Goldrunner for hard drive installation with the added option to disable this speech - all you gotta do is press the F3 key and it's gone! Clickety click to download this great update.

Monday, January 04, 2016

PacMania


Pac-Mania was released in 1989 by Grandslam and is based on the original arcade classic which was pretty cool and generally well received at the time. This new version saw our little pill-popper change from an overhead 2D perspective to cool 3D isometric and because the play area was so large it now scrolled. Pacman himself saw an upgrade too by having the ability to jump - even though he has no legs! Sadly, the Atari ST version suffered a smaller screen because of a weighty status panel. Gee, I wonder how an Atari STe might handle this game...

  
Don't get yourself all in a twist - hop over these pesky ghosts whenever they get too smart!

Well, entering into the 16-Bit arena is Samuel (aka Zamuel_A) with a new upgrade specifically designed to make full use of the Atari STe and its enhanced hardware. Gameplay now takes place using overscan and flows along at 50fps thanks to the hardware scrolling. The Blitter co-processor handles the sprites and the DMA Audio hardware plays all the sampled sound effects with our sweet YM2149 banging out chiptunes - which are far better than Tracker MODs!! Well, I am totally gobsmacked and I'm sure Samuel has utilised every part of the computer?

  
Run! Run! Run!!! He's getting closer! Hurry up, there's no time to yawn!!

PacMania has been transformed for the 21st century so it's impossible not to be blown away by Samuel's hard work. A fascinating revamp of the arcade favourite and now far more enjoyable than ever. Absolutely superb!!

The latest version is available directly from Atari-Forum! and here's another video I've recorded.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

YMT Play


What better way to mark the end of a great Christmas holiday than to listen to some cool chiptunes using YMT Play by the talented demoscener, Peter Jørgensen (aka Bionic Nerd) who is a good mate of mine. His program features YM music data streaming, like the typical ST-sound playback using a sound range from 50hz -> 300hz with little CPU usage. The quality is outstanding and I'm sure you will find YMT Play to be an interesting and an exciting concept.

LINKS

 - Download YMT-Play from Demozoo and there are YMT videos on YouTube.
 - Update: YMT will be the driving force behind the DMA tunes in the new Enduro Racer!

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Annihilator


The Atari ST is blessed with a gigantic, and assorted public domain library, which also includes a fantastic gaming section. Here is one such example, a brilliant shoot 'em up called Annihilator by Robert HC Leong that was released back in 1991 through the esteemed Budgie UK label (a company I really do miss)

Annihilator features lots of baddies swarming above your spaceship called Insectoids and you need to move left and right to dodge their attacks whilst slamming on your fire button like a crazy fool. There are bosses to battle with and you will be grateful for those infrequent power-ups that replenish your ship's shield or increase its firepower. Does this sound a little familiar? Yes, of course, it does but what it lacks in originality it is compensated by an obviously talented programmer. Annihilator performs more like a quality commercial game with its smooth-as-silk visuals.

Annihilator is professionally produced and plays beautifully. Definitely a Crash Smash from me!!

LINKS

 - Check out the GamerBlitz website which was an interesting find, to say the least ;-)
 - 8BitChip have a hard drive installable game and floppies are available via Old Games Finder.
 - Update: We have since interviewed the man himself, Robert HC Leong!
 - Fancy skipping levels? Pause the game (SPACE) and then hold SHIFT and hit keys F1-F10 for the required level.