Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mac Pan



Mac Pac, err, Pac-Man? What?

After yesterday's awesome (but mind-blowing!) technical flight sim I needed something a little less taxing on my old brain cells. So, I'm taking an easier route today and playing a Pac-Man clone called Mac Pan. Weird name and there are already lots of PacMan games but this one is more vanilla, so let's get pill-popping and ghost munching!

Mac Pan was released in 1987 by Richard Beith and works in ST High resolution. There are a few integrated features that I really liked: hold down the fire button and you can temporally increase the yellow guy's speed. Hang on, he's not yellow anymore! Anyhow, the game's speed can be tinkered with in the preference. The graphics and sounds are pretty good plus there is support for simultaneous 2-players.

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 80s playing Mac Pan during their lunch break. Monochrome users should jump up & down with excitement because this is an excellent clone of the classic.

Downloads are available using Old Games Finder.

Friday, January 29, 2016

ProFlight



Flight for the pros?

This morning I played ProFlight by Nick Brown of HiSoft - I 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 delivered an astounding framerate boost. As you can see from the animation, it's compatible with both display modes (mono shown).

Now, I do remember labouring over ProFlight back in the day so 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. However, that curve is indeed hefty!

Man, this is such a professional product and one that comes in a large box with a thick and weighty manual - it's like something you would expect from a real flight school! 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. Please be careful and don't crash it O_o

However, I fear this game might be too big and too complex for the casual game to bother with? The sheer amount of hours that are needed to fully devote yourself to the game are huge thanks to its immensely complex design. However, players without kids and tons of spare time will be rewarded with a fantastic flight sim experience. Tell me if I'm wrong.

HiSoft is trusting you with their precious plane that can be enjoyed using either a floppy disk or hard drive.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Diamond Edge



I loved Hi-Soft!!

Isn't Diamond Edge a brilliant program? One of its features is 'Test Disk' which scans for various types of potential problems and, only the other day, this saved my bacon because Drive C (a 32MB partition) suddenly reported itself as 22MB. Why I do not know, but Diamond Edge came to the rescue and fixed several serious errors!!

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 equipped with a hard drive. Anodyne has Diamond Edge freely available to download along with the manual too. Which is simply excellent.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bolo



Brick Blast in STyle!

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 everyone loves. Because it's brilliant!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

SysInfo




Needing tech support?

SysInfo is an incredibly useful utility that can display a whole raft of details about your Atari ST. It has recently helped me diagnose a problem with my Mega STe's audio but it can diagnose everything from TOS/GEM details to the more technical aspects like the Cookie Jar, VBL, traps & other mind-boggling jargon. Really helpful and perfect for geeks!

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

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Maggie



Can you believe this... No, wait for it... 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/online. I'm going to download myself a copy and spend some serious time reliving my ST days by reading this ace diskmag. Yes, it's been far too long and I'm incredibly excited!! My congrats to everyone involved - thank you!!

Download Maggie #25 for your Atari computer (I personally prefer this). Or download an HTML version to browse anytime. Also, you can find everything over on their website and the Maggie Team are featured on Demozoo.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Video Games 1




A game for Spock!

Andrei Ellman of Wacko Software created a game made from three classic genres: Pong, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man. This release is different because all three games are playable at the same time. Yep, you heard correctly!

Pong is controlled by holding the fire button and moving up/down.
Pac Man is initially quite confusing so read the docs within the download!
Space Invaders is easy, left/right moves and pushing up/down fires the gun.

The controls are odd and things get very weird when trying to play everything at once! However, there's only so much my tiny brain could cope with and I found that I could play two games at once. But not three, I had no chance!! Visually, it works well but, if you're struggling to see things properly, then you can alter each game's appearance using the numeric pad. Also, there's an option to invert colours which makes everything look ugly but it's much better on the eyes.

I think Andrei was one crazy, mixed-up kid who had a good laugh when coding this. Don't take it too seriously and practice with the controls because Video Games 1 is ridiculously entertaining. You will love this maddening nightmare!!


Monday, January 18, 2016

Universal Item Selector



Let's patch a bland part of GEM...

The excellent Universal Item Selector by Application & Design Software, released here in the UK by ST Club. 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, I trudge through a folder containing over 100 tracker mods, deciding which ones to keep or delete. It was mad so I installed UIS which 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



Grab your big-boy pants for this game!

Here is a game with very few friends: Navy Seals is deceiving and, first impressions, are of an arcade-style platformer. However, this Ocean gem is anything but a typical run and gun 'em all. It's far more ruthless and requires stealth, strategy, and tactics. Extreme personal perseverance is the order of the day because this game requires a committed player willing to spend many hours mastering the levels. No spare time? Then don't bother!

Taking down scumbag terrorists is all part of the job when you're a member of the US Navy SEALS. The mission requires us to sneak into the lion's den, kill everyone, and plant explosives to destroy their stockpile of missiles.

Each map is a layout of platforms within a maze of trigger-happy bad guys. Use covert tactics - so play slowly and carefully to learn the enemy's location. 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 the mission. This is not easy so will not appeal to a casual gamer.

Okay, let's take a look at the first screenshot with gorgeous details and colour palette...



I love the layout of the first level. This is an absolutely fantastic retro gaming design!


Aesthetics

Visually, Navy Seals is a babe with gorgeous graphics that ooze a retro style I admire. I love the beautiful character animation as you run, leap, climb and sneak about. Each level compliments the environment and feels like something from a movie, a cheesy 80s B-movie! Heck, even the screen showing me dead is great. Yep, I said that.

Sound effects do their job very well and the music is an excellent chiptune to bop along to. Liking it a lot!!

Hey, it's time for a screenshot. How about one you will see a lot? Here you go...



Don't expect to beat this game on your first attempt. Or second. Or third. It's rather hard!


The CryptO'pinion?

This is such a difficult game but I also find myself enjoying the challenge. Each level requires the player to learn all aspects thoroughly, so don't expect a cakewalk. There are two drawbacks with Navy Seals: the time limit which I think is far too harsh but I also don't understand why Ocean didn't include a way to unlock each level with passwords?

Navy Seals won't appeal to the casual gamer as it requires strategic thought to figure out an efficient route through all levels - before the timer expires. Can you do it? I hope so because Navy Seals is such a rewarding game albeit incredibly brutal. In fact, brutal might be too namby-pamby a description for this? Gamers were tougher in the 90s...

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 also feels inspired by the likes of Commando or Ikari Warriors. Ignoring the start, and its dreadful music, we begin as a budding John Wayne wannabe, strolling through the dusty Wild West. The town is inhabited by outlaws and we have a gun. Every guy's dream!

Unlike Ikari Warriors, the screen will automatically scroll with the action coming 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... Arghh!! Thankfully, power-ups are available after shooting barrels where you'll find weapons, shields, 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 it. 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]



Ugh, another lame Amiga port...

Yep, Cannon Fodder could have (and should have) been far better for the Atari ST. Alas, it was a rushed lame-ass port. However, cry no more tears for Peter Putnik has upgraded the game to support audio playback of 25KHz digital music - yes, during gameplay. This is making use of the DMA audio hardware lurking inside the Atari STe and (because it's a coprocessor) there is no CPU usage. Thus zero impact on the game's performance whatsoever.

Of course, storage requirements are too much for a floppy! An Ultrasatan or other hard drive device will be needed to store your chosen music - this can be anything and instructions are included in the zip file on how to use convert something from your music library. It's dead easy to do using Audacity. Click on my video, above...

Well, what an incredible upgrade! This is something else having real music blasting out from your Atari STe speakers. I'm only gutted it is the lame-ass Cannon Fodder getting this amazing upgrade. Why? Because it's a pile of rubbish with flick-screen horizontal scrolling. This not only gets you killed but also kills any enjoyment you might have had...

I hope Peter uses this technology again - for other Atari ST games - the possibilities are endless!!!

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... The 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 (under emulation)
94,740 (using my own Atari STe).
What are yours? Can you beat me?? Didn't think so...

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 my weekend with the exquisite Flip-O-Demo by Oxygene/Diamond Design because it's just been updated to support hard drive installation. Originally, it was released in 1993 and contains some of the best artwork and visual fx you could imagine - all whilst playing lovely audio by one of my favourite musicians. A fabulous demo!

Flip-O-Demo is certainly one of the best examples of Atari ST creativity. Grab it from Demozoo right now.

Credits
Jess - Music
Leonard - Code
MoN - Graphics
Niko - Graphics
Oxbab - Code
Scavenger - Music
Spiral - Graphics
Wilfried - Graphics

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Goldrunner



Fuzzy speech, be gone!

I've always loved Gold Runner which is a technical masterpiece by legend, Steve Bak. He proved when in the hands of a talented programmer, the Atari ST is more than capable of producing wondrous results. Other (lame) programmers would whine and complain, but Mr Bak simply got the job done. Perfectly each and every time I might add.

Okay, honest time, I'm actually terrible at this ultra fast-paced shoot 'em up (shock!!). Plus, I was never too fond of that dreaded fuzzy speech. It was fine back in the day and is humorously entertaining but it soon wears thin and distracts me during gameplay... Perhaps I'm just old and grumpy but I've never really liked it. Sorry!

Good news - Peter Putnik has updated Goldrunner for hard drive installation and an option to disable the speech!! All you gotta do is press the F3 key so clickety-click and download this sweet update to the ST classic.

Monday, January 04, 2016

PacMania




Popping pills & chasing ghosts!

Pac-Mania was released in 1989 by Grandslam and is based on the arcade classic which was a nice conversion and generally well-received at the time. This new "3D" game saw our pill-popper change from an overhead 2D perspective to a fancy isometric viewpoint and, because the play area was so large - it scrolled. Which is an ace idea I gotta say!

Pacman himself also had an upgrade by having the ability to jump - even though he has no legs! Sadly, the Atari ST version suffered a smaller screen because it lacked hardware scrolling and, as a result, featured a large status panel. Don't get me wrong, something had to give but the game still featured smooth scrolling and definitely wasn't a lame port.

Here is a screenshot of the original ST game (note, I've left in the top/bottom borders for a reason)...



As you can see, it looks great albeit with that overly large status panel taking up a lot of space.



Gee, how would an Atari STe have coped?

Well, I'm glad you asked! Entering into the 16-bit arena is Samuel (aka Zamuel_A) with an upgrade specifically designed to make maximum use of the Atari STe and its lovely enhanced hardware. Firstly, the gameplay now takes place in overscan opening up the gameplay arena in ways you cannot imagine. The entire screen flows along at a silky-smooth 50fps thanks to the hardware scrolling in all four directions (a much under-utilised feature of this computer).

But that's not all, the Blitter handles all the sprites and the DMA audio hardware plays the sampled sound effects with our sweet YM2149 banging out wonderful chiptunes - better than Tracker MODs!! Technically, this is far beyond impressive and I'm sure Samuel has utilised every part of the computer? Well, it certainly provides the wow factor!

Wanna see how it looks compared to the original? Of course, you do so scroll down a little further...



And this is how the same game appears on the Atari STe using overscan and all the other goodies!



The CryptO'pinion?

Okay, the original PacMania was a good game and a decent conversion - I don't want to appear negative about it whatsoever. Having said that, Samuel has completely blown away the original game with his upgrade! It has transformed our yellow friend for the 21st-century retro gamer. It's impossible not to be impressed by Samuel's dedication and hard work.

This is what happens when a talented chap takes a great game and rebuilds it in a way that would never have been possible back in the day. I doubt any software house outside of the mighty Thalion would have been more committed to developing for the Atari STe? Especially when you consider how the boundaries have been pushed in such incredible ways.

This is a fascinating revamp of the old favourite and far more enjoyable than ever. Absolutely superb!!

Downloads are on Atari-Forum! (another video I recorded)

Sunday, January 03, 2016

YMT Play




Let's bleep and bloop the night away!

What better way to end a great Christmas than listening to cool chiptunes using YMT Play by Peter Jørgensen (aka Bionic Nerd). This program features YM music data streaming, like the typical ST-sound playback using a sound range from 50hz -> 300hz and with very little CPU usage. The quality is outstanding and I'm sure you will find its potential interesting and an exciting concept? Go and download YMT from Demozoo.


What is YMT?
"YMT files are like the YM/AY files. Music files where you sampled data from the sound chip register (YM2149/AY8910) in a certain interval, instead of having a dedicate player.
To my knowledge, there has only been YM/AY player that could play tune/score files, that was sampled at 50HZ, but the YMT player can play files up to 300hz (there are some 50hz+ tunes/scores include in the examples)

The advantaged of AY/YM/YMT format, is that to replay these tunes/scores cost very little CPU power. So, if you need a lot power for a eg. a 3D demo, then it could be a wise choice to use it, because it leaves most of the CPU power for 3D calculations and the graphic etc.

The disadvantaged is that it uses a lot of memory, and it is nearly impossible to make a routine that can capture and use the SID sound and Samples etc. It is also why those files need to be hand made, that is the reason why YMT-Player only support pure YM2149 sound."

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Annihilator



Homebrew games suck, right?

Back in the day, I was always fascinated by what assortments of goodies I could find within the ST's public domain. I was always scouring the various PD Libraries trying to find either the next big thing or something obscure that would take me by surprise. Who remembers Goodmans, FaST Club, Democlub, LAPD, and so many other libraries?

Amazing times and the Atari ST is truly blessed with a gigantic and assorted Shareware/Public Domain library. That includes a fantastic gaming section and here is one such example, Annihilator by Robert HC Leong. This is a classy shoot 'em up that was released back in 1991 through the esteemed Budgie UK label (a company I genuinely do miss).

The oldskool gameplay feels instantly familiar with lots of baddies swarming around the screen. They're called Insectoids, not Galaxians, no matter what you think! The controls are responsive: moving left/right will dodge the attacks whilst whacking the joystick's button will fire your cannon. Killing aliens is never boring but remember to look out for power-ups that replenish your ship's shield and increase firepower. There are even end-of-level bosses, a cool idea.

Robert coded in a level skip cheat. It's easy to activate this, just pause the game using the spacebar.
Now hold down shift and press keys F1-F10 for the required level. Sweet!!

Annihilator is a tremendous blast back to the early 80s and is a brilliant ST shooter. In fact, it's almost as good as I would expect from a commercial company with exciting gameplay and smooth-as-silk visuals and fluent controls. Budgie UK has tons of great games and this is one of the best in their library. Definitely worthy of a Crash Smash rating!!

Waste no more time and get this great game download from the GamerBlitz website.

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