Sunday, February 28, 2016

Road Blasters


Road Blasters, a conversion by US Gold from back in 1989 that attempts to recreate the speed and thrills of the arcade original. Imagine a Bullrun Rally event played through 50 overcrowded highways where you must win each race in order to progress onto the next. Yes, I'm sure you already know that this is going to be fun!!

What makes this game different is the combination of racer and shooter which means your gleaming red sports car has a mounted machine gun! The easiest targets are the yellow cars which are an easy 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 which is hair-raising! Watch out for 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... It takes lots of practice to collect those goodies!

At your disposal is a limitless supply of replacement cars but they are all greedy in fuel consumption, 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 it is replenished at the end of each race depending on your performance.

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

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

LINKS

 - My own video recording is pretty cool and almost a long-play for me!
 - 8BitChip have a hard drive installable version and Old Games Finder has the floppies.

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, its 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 that your average kettle!

10 PRINT "ATARI ST forever"
20 GOTO 10
RUN L

I've not previously used a ZX81 so I was shocked to find lots of games which are still surprisingly good. 3D Monster Maze by Malcolm Evans is one such title and highly regarded as one of the best reason so many people still love this old paperweight. Truly ahead of its time and perhaps the first survival horror game played from a first-person perspective? (check out Retro Resolution for a fantastic review!)

A stock Atari ST should be able to run most of the games perfectly, from either floppy or hard drive. If you feel ZX81 is running in overdrive then hit the UNDO key and lower the speed limiter - I needed to do this for Pac-Man which was otherwise insanely fast! Load up this fantastic emulator for your Atari ST and party like it's 1981 :^)

Games I Liked

 - Galaxians - looks naff but plays superb and is one tough cookie (screenshot)
 - Mazogs - I loved Maniacs on the Spectrum and here's its Daddy! (screenshot)
 - 3D Labyrinth - kinda like 3D Monster Maze but different ;-) (screenshot)
 - Castle Of Carmain - now I really REALLY love this tactical bomber (screenshot)

Download

 - ZX81 Emulator v2.1 (with games) is available for download from off my Dropbox.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

escape from alcatraz

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!! It's as close to mint condition as I could hope but I've spent very little time admiring the box instead of playing the game!

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 and firing your weapon isn't always the answer, use the darkness to your advantage by nipping into the background scenery, avoiding any unwelcome attention. However, this won't always be the answer and you'll need gunplay, but remember to silently throw a knife instead of using your BAM BAM noisy weapons! Once you are deeper inside Alcatraz, it will change into 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 helps to detail the locations of enemies, rooms, and exit.

Initially, the controls feel a little fluffy but stick with it and you will soon overcome its quirks. For those of you with friends, two players can enjoy Alcatraz simultaneously which should help overcome the low number of given lives, which I personally think is a little too restricting for such a demanding mission. Perseverance and stealth are definitely the name of the game and only now I am starting to make progress because I've stopped acting like Rambo and more like a secret agent. I'm loving Alcatraz and going back in for more - I hope you have enjoyed this preview?

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 that contains lots of Atari ST goodies just waiting to be downloaded. It's the leftover remains from 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!!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Zany Golf


Zany Golf is one of those game which I spent much of my college years playing. It is such an incredibly addictive and entertaining crazy game - especially with friends. Forget the scruffy, badly maintained crazy golf courses in your local park because Zany Golf is a sprightly alternative from the creative mind of Will Harvey (The Immortal).

Play through several whacky courses to get that darn ball into the little hole. Yes, that's my technical explanation for the game! Controls are actioned using the mouse and feel somewhat similar to any snooker or pool game you may have played: click & hold on the golf ball so a directional line appears to you help guide the speed and direction of the shot. Interestingly, a level of interaction will often be required and this might include controlling the wind fans, manually guiding the moving ball, playing pinball, or making a burger bounce! I kid you not :-)

It's quirky, it's very silly and it's also a little lame... Yes, Zany Golf is freaking excellent and highly recommended!!

LINKS

 - A screenshot of my current progress... Hmmm!!
 - 8BitChip have a download for hard drives and Old Games Finder have the floppies.
 - Update: Wasabim has made another great video!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

MOD Players

   

BackTrack - I wasn't too sure about this at first but I cannot deny the quality here and the selectable frequencies is brilliant. The quality of sound is 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 the CD players from the 90s. Just copy the MOD files into the same folder as the program and load it up. Obviously not a GEM program but it works really well. Very effective and with a simple interface that works very well. (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 also pretty demanding... (v2.0 - released 1999 - by Sector One)

The MusicPlayer - Ignoring its quirky GEM interface, which is a little 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 refusing the use GEM by replacing it with a beautiful front end. What a gorgeous player this is with extremely high-quality sounds and even supports 50KHz which a normal STe can easily handle. Also, 8-channel MODS are supported with features like microwire presets and more - don't forget to press the HELP key for all of the options. Literally superb!! (v2.0 - released 2001 - by TSCC 2001)

Paula - A great program that makes you wish you'd have bought a Mega STe but there is always the option to reduce the frequency. This is yet another example of the sound quality an Atari STe can produce. Sadly, it appears Paula is shareware - does anyone have this registered from back in the day? (v2.6 - released 1999 - by Pascal Fellerich)


   

JAM - A true jack of all trades which works either in GEM or with its own frontend GUI. It features plugin architecture for multiple file formats (not just MOD) which is absolutely fascinating. JAM always sounds excellent!
(v1.0 - released 2000 - by Cream)

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Xenon II - STE - Megablast!


Xenon 2 is pretty much Marmite to most, they either they love it or hate it. Well, I love it because it's one of my favourite shooters with superb power-ups and freaky baddies. Also, it's technically a coding masterpiece with outstanding graphics and sounds that prove just what the Atari ST is capable of when programmed by developers who have talent and commitment in equal measure. We need no custom chips or lame Amiga ports!!

Okay, rant over. Here is a Xenon II upgrade for 1MB Atari STe computers and all that's required is a decent hard drive or an Ultrasatan. This new version features 25KHz stream music, during gameplay, all thanks to the DMA Audio hardware. This means no CPU time is used and any piece of music can be played - so long as it's converted to 8-Bit @ 25033Hz using a program like Audacity. I have a range of ZZ Top songs already stored on my Ultrasatan :)

This great shooter just got even better and I hope Peter converts more games to use the DMA audio co-processor lurking inside the Atari STe because the possibilities are almost endless. Perhaps I should send him a wishlist...

LINKS

 - Xenon II w/ improved music can be downloaded now from 8BitChip.
 - Use Audacity to convert your tunes into an STe friendly format.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Atari Mega STe


I recently asked Peter Putnik over at 8BitChip if there was a simple program that allowed the Mega STe computer to flip between 8 and 16MHz but without having XControl preloaded. He said yes and a couple days later I was using it!! What a great Atari community we have. The download link is available via the AtariAge forums.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Well 'Ard


Fancy being a thug? Here's your chance to play as a fiercely looking tough nut who strangely carries no weapons. Instead, he reaps his violence using his cute red booties - by jumping up and down on their heads until they are dead! Sounds completely unoriginal but who cares? It was released back in 1994 by Cybernation Software and is an arcade-style platformer written in GFA Basic. Gameplay and scrolling are fast with most enemies being very large sprites - I love the snowman. Controls are accurate and responsive with lots of tight jumps on interesting levels.

Well 'Ard is a cracking game and to think it was developed in GFA Basic is incredible. I doubt it would win an award for originality but it is most certainly one of the most enjoyable platformers released in 1994. An unassuming platformer which will surprise you with addictive gameplay and will certainly have you coming back for more.

LINKS

 - I have recorded a video of Well 'Ard which perfectly flaunts my gaming skills!
 - 8BitChip have a hard drive installable version and Old Games Finder have the floppies.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Atari ST chiptunes

The wife has gone out shopping and gracefully left me to do the housework, but there is no way I can do these boring chores in silence. So let's power on the ST and select a few toons from the SNDH Archive / SNDH Record :-)

Here is a 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 and it has one characteristic I have never cared for: the obscure and stretched medium resolution. Since my colour monitor decided to blow up, I have been happily zipping along in monochrome. Hence the recent run of high-resolution features which have all been written using 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 sorted so I can get back to gaming in glorious technicolour but I have definitely fallen in love with this black and white display. It's so crisp and beautiful - who needs a modern computer? :^)

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 and it was developed using their C programming tool. I initially expected a crude game with poor graphics and pathetic gameplay... How wrong I was.

Megaroids not only looks gorgeous (well, for Asteroids!) but it plays with an authentic feel. Gone are the vector graphics in favour of nicely drawn bitmaps which move along the screen like butter falling from a hot knife. Colour systems haven't been forgotten as they have interlaced medium resolution - 640x400 with 4 colours and it looks gorgeous. Megaroids is a brilliant Asteroids clone and it's superb blasting chunks of rock to smithereens!

Monday, February 01, 2016

N.o.B.I. - Racing


N.o.B.I Racing is by Joytrick (1994) and is a 'snake' clone were we guide 'Alfred' through a series of mazes. Always hungry and always on the move, he needs your assistance whilst he munches everything! However, everytime he eats, he grows a little longer and this can become quite embarrassing if he bites into himself. So your task is to safely help Alfred through the various mazes without him bumping into his own tale.

Simple stuff but the gameplay will become faster as you progress through trickier levels and all this during an ever-decreasing time limit and two types of bonus levels played at frequent intervals, features two-player gaming, DMA audio, and it even supports multiple resolutions. NoBI Racing is very addictive and a bucket load of fun.

LINKS

 - Download NOBI Racing from Old Games Finder.
 - Here is a little YouTube video recording I made. Enjoy ;o)
 - My thanks to James Mackenzie for pointing me in the direction of this game!