Saturday, May 07, 2016


Gentlemen start your engines

Power Up + is an overhead scrolling racer by Marek Cichon of Empty Head. This isn't a game I've heard of before but we all love Super Sprint and the Super Cars games so I was expecting more of the same, to be honest.

Sadly, my first impressions weren't good because it felt like a cheap Super Cars ripoff. Well, I never go off first impressions because I'm usually wrong! So I took the time to configure the many options and playtest it properly through rigorous racing sessions. It wasn't long before I was ripping around the tracks, wearing a smile!

Lots of options so take time to configure Power Up to suit your particular computer.

What a power drive!

There are a lot of tracks with various conditions to endure like the type of road, weather and I really enjoyed the wet tracks for sliding around the bends. Okay, it's hardly Ridge Racer but it's still great fun. Weapons are supported and each car has the ability to fire the world's slowest "rocket" which somehow always manages to hit me! Also, watch out for oil spills left behind by the other drivers that will have you slipping and sliding like a crazy fool.

Controls work very well: acceleration is automatic through reverse and two forward gears. Top gear that allows you to hammer past the other vehicles so you better practise your cornering! Strangely, weapons are activated using the keyboard which may be awkward for joystick players? Successful racers will be rewarded with glory and a massive golden cup - before strangely being sucked down into the ground. I don't get it but it's ludicrously funny!!

There's even a track editor for the creative so why not make your own race course?


Overall, the graphics are pretty much homebrew but the spites are well-detailed and I cannot deny the amount of work that's gone into the scenery and more. Those STs with Blitter Chips are supported for better framerates but it's now that you should take a look at the configuration to get the best performance possible.

Sadly, the stock ST computers can struggle, especially if you start playing around with the settings. You'll only find yourself glaring in envy at anyone owning a faster computer. Yep, Power Up needs that Blitter and loves faster computers with extra clock cycles. Which is good and bad depending on your setup!

Sound effects can be either chip or DMA and I personally prefer the latter when screeching around the race tracks. The music is in stereo on the Atari STe and supports playback frequencies up to 50Khz - astonishing!!

I love the humungous variety of different tracks and they all look pretty darn cool.

The CryptO'pinion?

Overall, Power Up has more than its fair share of quirks and needs the player to tweak the settings for the best performance. Even then, you're left wondering what it would be like on a Mega STe or Falcon as it can be sluggish with the settings set excessively high. In my opinion, ST owners shouldn't bother as the Atari STe is the base model due to having a Blitter and DMA audio. However, even then, I'd suggest lowering the freqs...

For all its faults, this is a great racer and I have genuinely enjoyed playing on both my Atari STe and Mega STe (16mhz). There's a lot here to enjoy with many tracks that are a scream. Spend time and master the controls in a few practice games and it won't be long before you're tearing around like Dale Earnhardt on crack!!

Grab the download from my dropbox fully compiled and check out Marek's website too.

Gotta love the pile-ups and then one drops oil just as you think you can escape their clutches!

- Marek Cichon interview -

I decided to contact the developer, Marek Cichon. His website had been online years so I expected to hear nothing but, within minutes, I had a reply! We chatted and I asked a few questions along the way...

Why did you create Power Up and what inspired you?
 - I liked frantic racing games - Rally Speedway on Atari 800 plus track editor.

What did you get from the TOS platform during this time?
 - 6 years of fun and development overnight!

Did Power Up live up to all your expectations?
 - Unfortunately not. It is the homebrew game with a look developed mainly by two friends from the small city Chomutov. We would be successful to release the game till 1992.

Anything planned for the future?
 - We have released another game with the similar graphics for PC called Pixoria (see

What Atari computers do you own?
 - American NTSC version of Atari ST from 1985 year (my father bought in in Houston, Tx). I have developed most of my programs, including Power Up, on this computer but using on PAL TV. This meant black and white, unstable display (TV 50Hz, Atari 60Hz). Also a European Atari STE with 2 MegaBytes extended memory!

Easy question, what are Marek's favourite Atari ST games?
 - Vroom, Super Cars 2, Lotus Esprit Turbo challenge, Karateka, Test Drive, F15 Strike Eagle 2. Oh I see that racing wins!

Are you planning any Power Up updates in the future?
 - No. There were two releases Power Up and Power Up Plus with better graphics, shooting and oil slicks to finalise the game.

What retro games are you playing in todays crazy world?
 - I prefer the older Atari 800 games like The Great American Cross-Country Road Race, Rescue on Fractalus, Electra glide.

Are you listed on Demozoo?
 - No, it is Karel Rous (Empty Head), my distributor. I have never met him :-)

What makes Marek tick?
 - When people contact me from Australia, Mexico or UK. Those who play Power Up with my compliments. Thank you Steven.

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