Sunday, February 28, 2016

Road Blasters


It's time to race so bring a weapon...

Road Blasters, an arcade conversion by US Gold that attempts to recreate the speed and thrills of the original. Imagine a Bullrun Rally event played through 50 overcrowded highways where you must win each in order to progress on to the next. Yep, nothing new but I'm sure you already know that this is still going to be fun?

What makes this game different from most racers is a combination of driving and shooting. This means your gleaming red sports car has a mounted machine gun. The easiest targets are the yellow cars which are a quick kill, but the motorbikes are a pest because of their tiny size. Occasionally several jeeps will swarm around you like something from a Mad Max movie for a hair-raising moment so react quickly and viciously!!

Bubble City sounds like a cool place - I must drive there!

Watch out for other hazards like oil spills, roadside turrets, bullet-proof purple cars and those darn proximity mines. Fortunately, you do seem to have friends, a futuristic aircraft frequently flies by with power-ups: speed boost, extra weapons, shields, etc... However, it takes lots of practice to precisely collect these goodies!

At your disposal is a limitless supply of replacement cars but they are all fuel-greedy, so if you run dry then its game over. Luckily, fuel pods are available and can be collected by simply drive through them for an instant top-up. Your car is also equipped with a reserve fuel tank which should only be relied upon as a last resort, but the good news is that it's replenished at the end of each race. Well, depending on your performance of course.


Now is the time to drive like Knight Ride to collect those goodies from above!

Controls are sharp and responsive steering that retains the arcade experience as much as is possible - using a joystick. Sound effects are average, and I'm sure more could have been done, but they certainly work good enough. The graphics are an absolute joy with an arcade-style using a nice frame rate for this mean-spirited event.

I have loved this old arcade speedster, it might not be perfect but at least it's nothing like that dreadful Outrun... and we're armed! I've spent several nights on this and it's certainly got the "just one more go". A much-underrated game that deserves far more attention because it's fast, fun and your car has a gun - what more could you want?

There is a fantastic hdd version to download and the floppies if you desire authenticity!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

ZX81


Back in the 90s, Christoph Zwerschke wrote a Sinclair ZX81 emulator for the Atari ST. From what I've so far seen, it's mute and the graphics are made up from monochrome blocks rather than colourful pixels. This might seem rather lame but there is a certain charm to the itsy-bitsy computer with less processing power than a kettle!

10 PRINT "ATARICRYPT ROCKS YOUR ST WORLD"
20 GOTO 10
RUN L

I've never previously owned a ZX81 so was shocked to find lots of games which are surprisingly very playable. 3D Monster Maze by Malcolm Evans is such an example and highly regarded as one of the best reasons why many adore this quirky old paperweight. Truly, this game is way ahead of its time and perhaps even the first survival horror game using a first-person perspective? (check out Retro Resolution for a fantastic review!).

Okay, the stock Atari ST should be able to run most of the games perfectly fine and from either a floppy or (better still) a hard drive device. However, if you feel that the ZX81 is running in overdrive, then hit the UNDO key and adjust the speed limiter. I needed to do this for Pac-Man which was otherwise insanely too fast!

Boot up this fantastic ZX81 emulator and flip your Atari ST into a Sinclair. Party like it's 1981 and have fun!! :^)


Other Sinclair ZX81 games I really, really like!



Mazogs is something else but I was also equally impressed by the simplicity of Galaxians.


Castle Of Carmain is just downright awesome fun, as is the mighty 3D Labyrinth.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Alcatraz

Can you smell that? Yes, that smell is 1992. Mmm still so fresh!! :D

Today I have received a factory sealed treat off eBay, Alcatraz by Infogrames. I thought about leaving it as is but, within milliseconds, I had ripped it open!! Mint condition and I'm loving the contents of this hidden gem.

Hostages fans will love this but this time, the head honcho of a nasty drug cartel has taken shelter in Alcatraz prison and he also happens to be surrounded by many loyal henchmen. Yep, you've probably already guessed that it's your job to sneak in, kill the bad guys, destroy everything illegal and escape in the nick of time.

This isn't a gung-ho game, Alcatraz is played using stealth and careful covert tactics. The starting level first appears in the style of an arcade beat 'em up but is actually the complete opposite. Tread lightly because firing your loud weapon isn't always the answer! Use the darkness to your advantage by nipping into the background scenery, avoiding any unwelcome attention. It's great to see the enemy oblivious to you hiding in the shadows!


The first stage displays the coop action and reveals that strength comes from stealth.


Take cover in the shadows and wait for the best moment to step out and take 'em by surprise!

This won't always be the answer of course, so you may need to resort to a little gunplay now and then. However, it's worth considering your weapon: why not silently throw a knife instead of using your BAM BAM noisy gun?

Initially, the controls feel a bit fluffy but stick with it to overcome these quirks. For those of you with friends, two players can enjoy the missions simultaneously which is absolutely superb. Also, Infogrames was a bit tight with the number of lives so coop should help overcome this obvious oversight for such demanding missions.

Venturing deeper inside Alcatraz and game style changes to a first-person shooter very similar in presentation to a Dungeon Master clone - but with a machine gun!! There is a handy map function which I really liked because it really helped to detail the locations of enemies, rooms, and exit. I really loved this part. But then I died...


Okay, now we're talking. This Doom part of the game was blummin' excellent!!


Use the map to help guide you through and watch out for bad dudes lurking in rooms.

Alcatraz is nothing like I expected but I'm really enjoying it. To progress, I advice less Rambo and more a careful secret agent. Otherwise, you won't last very long at all. Perseverance and stealth are definitely key tactics and it's only after a number of games that I'm finally starting to make some headway into this adventure.

I hope you have enjoyed this preview of my latest purchase? I'm loving Alcatraz so much!

LINKS

 - Here is my humble video recording (taken from emulation).
 - Alcatraz can now be installed onto hard drive thanks to the mighty D-Bug.
 - For those wanting a floppy disk image, check out Old Games Finder!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Traveller-Box


I recently stumbled upon a nifty resource for lots of Atari ST goodies just waiting to be downloaded. It's the leftover remains of what used to be a popular BBS in Germany called Traveller-Box, by Alexander Bochmann. His old hard drives have been recovered and their BBS contents uploaded for the Atari community to enjoy again!!

Look, stop reading this and go and check it out for yourself... Enjoy!!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Zany Golf


Zany Golf was developed by Will Harvey of The Immortal and is one of those game I spent much of my college years playing - instead of studying! What a simple yet addictive game which is obviously based on crazy golf. It's great solo and better with friends but best of all, you don't need to visit the local park anymore.

Play through several whacky courses to get that ball into the hole and yes, that's my technical explanation! Controls are actioned using the mouse and feel somewhat similar to any snooker or pool game: click/hold on the golf ball for a directional line to appear. Use this to guide speed/direction of your shot. Interestingly, a level of interaction can be required which might include controlling fans, playing pinball, making a burger jump, and more.

It's quirky, it's silly and it's little lame... but... Zany Golf is freakingly fantastic and comes highly recommended!!

Download the floppy disk or this cool version for a hard drive.


What? A pinball table!! Zany Golf turns into Insane Golf.


So, you didn't believe me? Now I am hungry!!


Aww, a cute little house for an easy hole-in-one shot. No problem!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

MOD Players




Atari STe MOD / Tracker Players




BackTrack - I wasn't too sure about this at first but I cannot deny its playback quality and the selectable frequencies is a brilliant idea that will be useful on every model of Atari. The audio playback sounds great, especially at 50KHz - but you might need a Mega STe for that!! (v4.04 - released 1993 - by Wizzcat)

CD Player STE - This is like a CD player from the 90s. Just copy the MOD files into the same folder as the program and boot it up. Obviously not a GEM program but something that works really well and very effective and with a fantastic interface. Cracking program - leave it running while you work! (released 1990 - by Light)




DBE Player - Another GEM program to punch out your favourite MODS. The quality is excellent and has a decent playlist feature but it's pretty demanding of the basic model STe (v2.0 - released 1999 - by Sector One)

The MusicPlayer - Ignoring its quirky GEM interface (which is odd) I thought this program produced good sound quality and even supports 50KHz / 8 channels! (v1.0 - released 1994 - by Christian Dahl)




Sirius Player - This is another that refuses to use GEM and replaces that with its own beautiful UI and what a gorgeous player it is!! The sound quality is Grade A with support for 50KHz thus proving a normal 8MHz STe can handle outside of GEM. Also, 8-channel MODS can be played using features like presets /etc/etc. Don't forget to press the HELP key for all of the options. This is my favourite program of the lot because its playback quality is literally mind-boggling!! (v2.0 - released 2001 - by TSCC 2001)

Paula - A great program that makes you wish you'd have bought a Mega STe for that extra grunt! This is yet another example of the sound quality an Atari STe can produce - and in GEM too. My thanks to Pavel Puchala for alerting me to the freeware release! (v2.6 - released 1999 - by Pascal Fellerich)



JAM - A true jack of all trades which works either in GEM or using its own frontend GUI. It features a neat plugin architecture so lots of different file types are support - not just MODs but various chiptunes. This is absolutely fascinating and JAM always produces excellent sounds! (v1.0 - released 2000 - by Cream)


Overall...


This page proves nothing. Well, except that the Atari STe can easily handle these lovely Amiga MODs with quality playback no matter what program you decide to download. They're all great, it just depends on your own needs: if you need a GEM player then any of the above is a good choice to install onto your hard drive/ultrasatan.

Yes, they are all great in their own way but I really loved how CD Player can be stacked up and left to play while you're doing something else! Also, JAM is incredible and it can handle a wide variety of different formats too. Ultimately, I think Sirius is best (for me) with its astounding 50Khz playback, so I tend to prefer this.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Xenon II - STE - Megablast!


Xenon 2 is pretty much Marmite - some love it and some appear to hate it. Well, I love it. It's one of my favourite shooters with fantastic power-ups and freaky baddies. Plus, it's a technical masterpiece with outstanding aesthetics that proves the power of the Atari ST - when in the hands of developers with talent and commitment in equal measure. We need no custom chips nor those horrendously lame Amiga ports from the 90s!!

Okay, rant over. Here is a brand new Xenon II upgrade for 1MB+ Atari STe computers with an UltraSatan or decent hard drive. This new version streams 25KHz music, during gameplay, thanks to the DMA Audio hardware. There is no CPU hit whatsoever so everything is as good as it ever was BUT with your choice of music :-)

Just convert any song into: 8-Bit @ 25033Hz using a free program like Audacity. I've a massive selection of rock/metal songs stored and ZZ Top is currently during my games!!

Xenon II just got even better and I hope Peter converts many more games to make use of the DMA co-processor. The possibilities are endless... Hmm, perhaps I should send him a wishlist? LOL he'll block me!!

Monday, February 08, 2016

Atari Mega STe


I recently asked Peter Putnik, from over on 8BitChip, if there was a program that allowed the Mega STe to flip between 8 and 16MHz - but without having XControl preloaded. He said yes, and a couple days later he had created it!! What a great Atari community we have - my sincere gratitude to Peter. Thank you mate!!

The download link is available via the AtariAge forums.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Well 'Ard


Fancy being a thug? Then today is your lucky day because in Well 'Ard we are a rather fiercely-looking dude that loves to jump up and down on the baddies until they're splattered off the screen. Released in 1994 by Cybernation Software and is an arcade-style platformer written in GFA Basic with fast gameplay and large sprites - I love the snowman. Controls are accurate and responsive with lots of tight jumps on interesting levels. Strangely, we carry no weapons but instead, reap violence using our cute red booties - yep, it's weird but who cares?

Well 'Ard is a cracking game and to think it was developed in GFA Basic is quite incredible. Earlier levels are quite easy but it certainly becomes quite challenging later on - some of those jumps are insanely tricky! This is definitely one of the most enjoyable platformers I've played with addictive gameplay that has you coming back for more.

Go on, put on your big red boots and play this belting platformer via floppy or hard disk. You will love it!!


Look at those teeth. This guy is a beast so don't mess with him!!


Jump up and down until they're all dead - not violent at all. Honest.


Well 'Ard features some odd critters but don't waste time looking - squash them.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Atari ST chiptunes



The wife has gone out shopping and gracefully left me to do the housework! There is no way I can do these boring chores in silence so let's power on the ST and play a few toons from the SNDH Archive / SNDH Record

Here is just a selection of my favourite chiptunes. What are yours??

  - Nowhere by 505 ( listen / or click the GREEN arrow below! )
  - Best Part of Creation by Big Alec ( listen )
  - Sausage 3D by Xyce ( listen )
  - Little sexy square by Crazy Q ( listen )
  - Sweety by Lotek Style ( listen )

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

tippy typey


Like anything in this life, nothing is perfect. Shockingly this also applies to our Atari ST which has one characteristic I have never really cared for: its obscure, ugly, stretched medium resolution. Well, since my colour monitor decided to blow up, I have been happily zipping along in monochrome which would explain the recent run of high-resolution articles. All were written using the classic, 1st Word Plus. (Go on, you can call me a geek if you want!)

Okay, it's hardly a modern word processor bursting with features but it does the job perfectly well. Sure, I can't wait to get my new colour monitor bought as I'm missing games in glorious 16-bit technicolour. However, I have definitely fallen in love with this crisp black and white display which has met each and every requirement lately.

Who needs an expensive modern computer? Obviously not me!! :^)

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Megaroids


Asteroids is a true arcade classic and one that has been converted to just about every home computer ever made. Not to be left out, Megamax released Megaroids for the Atari ST in 1985 which was developed using their own C programming tool. If I'm honest, initially I expected a crude take on this old game with poor graphics and pathetic gameplay... Come on, it was made in 1985 the same year Atari gave birth to the ST. Well, how wrong I was...

The visuals are different. Gone are the vectors in favour of nicely drawn bitmaps which sweep across the screen like butter falling from a hot knife. Wow, this game is smooth and looks wonderful in high resolution.


I can just imagine business users in the 1980s playing Megaroids in high-res during their lunch hour!

Don't worry, colour systems have not been forgotten. An interlace technique was used to make that obscure medium resolution look (almost) as sharp as on a high-resolution monitor. So, in effect, this means the game runs at 640x400 rather than 640x200. Colours are still available using the standard 2-bit palette. Before you ask, it doesn't hurt the eyes and everything looks better. I wish more game developers would have used interlace!

Sounds are nothing more than you would expect for asteroids. They're nice and work very well. Especially when you remember this is a 1985 game for a 1985 computer. I'm really impressed by all things considered.


Interlacing medium resolution is rather cool so Megaroids works in 4-colours 640x400!

Megaroids not only looks gorgeous (well, for Asteroids!) but it plays with an authentic touch I liked. It feels like the real deal and plays extremely well to offer a bucket load of retro action. In fact, a part of me still doesn't grasp how this so good for a 1985 release. Overall, a superb clone that offers tons of fun blasting chunks of rock to smithereens.

Both AtariMania and Old Games Finder has access to the floppy disks.

Monday, February 01, 2016

N.o.B.I. - Racing


N.o.B.I Racing was released by Joytrick (1994) and is a 'snake' clone were we guide 'Alfred' through a series of mazes. Always hungry, and always on the move, Alfred needs our assistance as he munches everything in his path. However, every time he eats, he grows a little longer and this can become quite embarrassing, especially if he bites into himself. So our task is to help Alfred through the mazes without bumping into his own tale.

Two types of bonus levels appear at frequent intervals, features two-player gaming, DMA audio, and it even supports multiple resolutions. Simple stuff for dexterous players but soon becomes incredibly fast on later levels - and against the clock too!! NoBI Racing is very addictive and a bucket loads of fun!!