Tuesday, June 28, 2016

megahertz war


I had to "laugh" when I read this article by Andrew Wright from issue #24 of Atari ST Review magazine. How right he was about the times and I do wonder if he had a crystal ball? (if so, it was probably a GEM program). By the mid-90s, the PC industry had taken over to claim (and keep) the crown for the winner of the computer wars. Sure, we were still around but we knew our days were numbered and, for gaming especially, the ST was as dead as a Dodo.

All due to Atari's poor management and their lack of enthusiasm throughout the previous years by restricting the old ST to the same 8MHz they gave it in 1985. So, our beloved Atari TOS computer began fading away into the darkness and, by the late 90s, every ST was probably hidden away inside thousands of attics... I jest, but the millennium days where sure gloomy. Cheer up because it also happened to those Commie computers too!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

ST Review Invaders


I've just found an ST Review cover disk (#11) and on it is the imaginatively titled ST Review Invaders, a magazine exclusive by Dave Munsie. Sadly, my first impressions weren't great because some traditional elements are altered far too much for my liking. Such as how the cannon moves over a rocky landscape so I wasn't feeling the love.

However, I began to mellow after a few games and found myself enjoying this quirky space shooter. There are some nifty new mechanics here which I thought were excellent and I enjoyed the faster gameplay, which is superb. I love how the pesky aliens no longer shoot in predictable straight lines and their attack patterns are quite brilliant. Level two sees them bopping along in a humorous fashion with a Mexican wave following later on!!

Overall, the authenticity has been altered far too much for my liking so it's not Space Invaders anymore. However, it's still a great game in its own right and certainly has that 'just one more go' factor. I really enjoyed playing this!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Atari ST menu disks


Menu Disks... Love them for the opportunity to play more games or hate them for prematurely killing the Atari ST gaming scene. That's up to you. But one thing you cannot deny is how great they are with funky menus featuring great visuals, music and scrollers. These disks are an essential part of Atari ST history.

Some are incredible with jaw-dropping intros doing things a programmer employed by a commercial gaming company could only dream of. I have many favourites myself, like Dream Weavers, but I also adored: Automation, Fusion, Elite, FOF, Cynix, FOFT, Zulu, Mad Vision, POV, Bad Brew Crew and more. Ahh, the list is almost endless!

Sadly, not many of us kept these floppies - or they have stopped working over recent years. These menus are getting harder to find and some have disappeared from existence, which is terrible. Thankfully, a website has taken up the challenge to preserve this part of Atari ST's history. It's called Stonish and is run by Bruno Mathieu.

I asked Bruno why Stonish and what he hopes to achieve:

"Stonish.net tries to collect all menu disks made on Atari ST. They are mainly games menus, but it will feature tools, demos and mod menus in the next months. The site provides more than 1600 disks at the moment (more to come). All disks have been tested and some of them have been repaired.

The goal is, of course, to provide a safe database for all disks, but not only. Some crews didn't spread very well their disks. A lot of compilations have been lost since the 80's. So we need to fill the gap: any help is welcome ;) This is the first of the website, which will probably evolve in the next months.
"

Many disks have now been rescued but there is still lots missing so please, if you find anything lurking in your attic then consider helping. Stonish is a great website, doing great work, I wish them much success!

STay Atari.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Moon Patrol


The moon is under attack from a legion of aliens and it's our job to stop them! We've managed to find ourselves a cute Space 1999 buggy which appears to mostly drive itself and even follows handy checkpoints to stop you getting lost. Dust off your spacesuit in anticipation of the Atari ST version of an arcade classic...

With your foot always on the gas, you can only control the level of acceleration as you travel the terrain trying to avoid potholes and any obstacles which are in your way. Pushing up on the joystick allows you to leap over these but be careful because it will require precise timing. Unfortunately, the wheels aren't too great at going over potholes so the slightest gap causes my buggy to violently explode like something from an old cartoon!!


Don't let the graphics put you, youngsters, off playing what is nothing less than a beast!!

There are two difficulty modes, beginners and champions. The latter is great fun and certainly more interesting to play with many extra features, obstacles and enemies. Aliens will frequently appear but can be defeated by hitting the fire button which simultaneously releases two weapons! On the top, is a machine gun and the other is a front-mounted rocket launcher. Keep one eye on the road ahead and another on those aliens above, if there was ever an unforgiving game this is it. The slightest mistimed jump over a pothole and KABOOM - moon junk!

Graphics appear dated, so exactly what you would expect from the early 80s. Scrolling is silky smooth supporting a three-layer parallax effect, which is pretty amazing for such an early ST game. I love the details, like the buggy's animation travelling over the bumpy terrain. Also, Moon Patrol works in ST High (640x400) and look gorgeous. A funky chiptune bops away in the background, accompanied by vintage bleeping sound effects.


Hang on, there are mountains in the background and with snow too... ;-)

Graphics appear dated, so exactly what you would expect from the early 80s. Scrolling is silky smooth supporting a three-layer parallax effect, which is pretty amazing for such an early ST game. I love the details, like the buggy's animation travelling over the bumpy terrain. Also, Moon Patrol works in ST High (640x400) and look gorgeous. A funky chiptune bops away in the background, accompanied by vintage bleeping sound effects.

Okay, we know that the Atari ST is technically capable of producing far better. Moon Patrol is excellent and offers us a groovy step back in time, so ignore what you see and remember that this was originally released back in 1982 and it's an authentic conversion of that arcade classic with rock-solid playability. This is as retro as it gets and I love it!!


The checkpoint idea is great for a number of reasons plus it's fun breaking a record.


- THE DOWNLOAD LINKS -

It's time for the links and Old Games Finder has access to all the floppy disks whilst 8BitChip has created a version for hard drive installation! Which is awesome. Also, Strategy Wiki lists the many versions of Moon Patrol (go on, guess which is the beST) and finally here is their walkthrough which I thought was pretty funny.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Atari 1040 STf

I've bought an Atari ST off eBay which also included an SM125 monitor. However, both looked in terrible condition! Very dirty with many battle scars and also what looks like scorch marks about the power unit area. Anyhow, I took the chance and ended up winning the bid for a shocking 99 pence. Yep, less than one pound :-)

Once home, I began the cleaning - which took a long time!! The poor ST did suffer from overheating or perhaps worse because the burn markings are worse inside. It also appears to have suffered damage at some time in its history judging by a few repair stickers from different companies within its case. Funnily, I needed to hoover the floppy drive area because of a soot-like grime and a thick spider's webs covering the cables. Quite a toxic state!

SysInfo tells me that this is a 1040 STF with TOS 1.00 and 1MB RAM ...and all for 99 pence. Woop Woop!

  
Filthy but it works, even with sludge and spider's webs cover much of the insides. UGH!!

  
After a little work, the old STf is all nice and clean. So let's hook it up and play Midi Maze!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

a prehistoric tale


The Lost Boys are one of the biggest names to ever grace the Atari ST demoscene and in 1990 they ventured forth into the commercial gaming industry with A Prehistoric Tale that was released by the mighty Thalion. You've been teleported back in time to a place where dinosaurs roam and a constant threat of being eaten alive but this is the time of sexy cavewomen which all happen to look like Raquel Welch!

It's your task to collect dino eggs and ultimately rescue all mammals from becoming extinct in the future. It’s a long story, so just grab all the eggs and bring them back to the teleport for safe keeping. Unfortunately, there is a time limit and you can only carry only three eggs at once (unless you find an egg basket) plus the levels rapidly increase in difficulty which helps introduce an intense element of panic as you frantically search the screens. To make matters worse, the teleporter changes location after each use, lots of spiders and other various prehistoric critters constantly appear, and you should watch out for the swarms of Pterodactyls!

The graphics are cute and reminiscent of the 8-bit days and do their job perfectly. However, it's the audio which excels, thanks to Jochen Hippel and I'm sure you'll be tapping your foot along to the gorgeous chiptune beats. A Prehistoric Tale is actually very simple but hiding underneath that humble exterior is a rather enjoyable (if frustrating) game. Even the most gifted player will struggle at first but, once you do, it's incredible fun with a great old skool style!

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have a hard drive installable download :-)
 - Thalion Shrine has an excellent feature and a fascinating site!
 - Bleep Blop alternative chiptune goodness by Craig Morris.
 - What! A hidden message on the floppy disk?
 - The Lost Boys are fully cataloged on the mighty Demozoo.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Storm 94


Storm 94 is a shoot 'em up developed in STOS by Marcus Platt / Fugitive Freelancers in 1994 for the Atari STe. It's based on the familiar alien theme with a style reminiscent of Alien Blast and Alien Thing and was originally released by LAPD. Like other similarly inspired games, we are exploring a spaceship whilst suffer a constant onslaught from the ravenous alien baddies. These are relentless, so shoot first and never bother asking silly questions! Ammo, health and security keys are littered throughout the levels but if you find yourself needing extra then these can all be purchased from the computer terminals. Our job is to find key cards to operate the airlock and allow us to escape.

My only quibble is the time limit which is too short and if you notice the screen turning red, you're near death!! Overall, I liked Storm 94 because of the strategical elements mixed with furiously fun gameplay. Great game.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

ATARI STM (...continued)


I thought it was about time that I followed up on my previous article concerning my new Atari STM. Well, I have opened it up for good clean and it powered on perfectly. SysInfo reports: 1mb Ram / TOS 1.2 / GEM 0.13 / AES 1.20 and I have successfully connected up my external floppy disk drive and played many games - I'm a happy bunny!!

This is such a cool looking computer and one with a super-compatible gaming specification. I now need to buy myself a pair of midi cables for Midi Maze against my 6-year old daughter. Yes, I sense so many easy victories ahead!!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Sophélie


Today I spent about 30 minutes trying to play this game and I could feel my life-force being slowly drained. Apparently, Sophelie is a vanquished goddess left to roam the lands looking for her original appearance. Why I hear you cry? Well, some kind soul has turned her into an albatross and now she is left to fly under beautifully colourful skies to battle some of the most insanely stupid enemies you could ever imagine.

Sophelie was released by New Deal Productions in 1990 and is probably the daftest shoot 'em up I have ever played. It features (almost) impressive parallax scrolling and lots of colours but oddly very little audio. Start the game, kill a hoard of baddies, collect a weapons power-up from a naked angel (that's the best bit) and then do it all over again but with different sprites. In fact, it's these which are a curious oddity, I cannot remember the last time I had to shoot huge eyeballs, angry trees and rotating globes. Perhaps the programmer was on some hardcore drugs at the time!

Aesthetically, the visuals aren't too bad but the complete lack of decent sounds is an odd affair. The gameplay is so drab and dreary I almost fell asleep twice because it's so repetitive - just what were they thinking? Hmm, yes, I think it was the drugs again. Overall, an underwhelming shooter which is impossible to recommend over all the other great Atari ST games out there. However, it does have in-game boobies and a very cheeky title screen too, so...

LINKS

 - 8BitChip has adapted the game to install onto your hard drive.
 - Old Games Finder has the floppy disk downloads.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

NES


Nesulator is a collection of programs which will emulate five famous Nintendo / NES games. It's programmed and released by Ed Cleveland at STNICCC 2000 but he sadly never managed to complete this potentially outstanding project. Thankfully, we can still get to play with the betas and have ourselves some fun! The games are:

     > Donkey Kong Jr........(screenshot)
     > Castlevania...........(screenshot in colour)
     > Dig Dug...............(screenshot in colour)
     > Mario.................(screenshot GIF)
     > The Legend of Zelda...(screenshot)

Quite the impressive lineup with Dig Dug performing the best of the lot, I thought. Although each game requires an Atari STe or Falcon computer, they will ideally need something a little more beefy. My own 16MHz Mega STe just about ran Mario, as you can see above. I would guess a minimum of a 32MHz computer would be the ideal base spec but I would love to hear from people who have a 68060 upgrade inside their Atari Falcon!!

LINKS

 - A download is available on Demozoo and packed in Maggie #29.
 - Ed Cleveland has an impressive resume of Atari goodies - like the fabulous Donkey Island!!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Midi Maze


Midi Maze hit the shelves in 1987 thanks to Xanth FX and was an early taste of multiplayer first-person gaming. It takes place inside a maze of smilies who roam looking for our blood so ignore their happy faces because they're anything but nice. Shoot them before they shoot you - the last sphere "standing" wins!

The controls are rather straightforward and very easy to learn. You can use either the joystick or mouse - but I personally think the joystick works the best. Those without midi cables can play in Solo mode which allows up to 15 computer-controlled bots with three levels of AI. Those with midi cables and other Atari STs can invite friends over with the potential to link 2-16 computers, which is quite staggering for an 80s deathmatch!!

The walls might be paper-thin and without any texture or ambient lighting, but do remember just how old this game is. Frame-rates are fast with exceptionally smooth movement and I was impressed to see the baddies have a shadow thus adding some perspective. Sound effects aren't going to win any awards but they do their job.

There is nothing I enjoy more than a first-person shooter and Midi Maze certainly packs its own unique punch. Single-player is welcome and works very well but Midi Maze comes into its own when linked with other Atari computers. Midi Maze is one of the best games I have featured here on AtariCrypt. A true Atari ST legend.

LINKS

 - Check out this Midi Maze fanzine (It's in German but Google Translate will help!)
 - Here is a PDF document of the original game manual
 - Atarimania has all three games listed in their Atari ST database.
 - Floppy disk images are available from Old Games Finder.

Monday, June 06, 2016

It's-a-me, Mario!


Oh no! Mario is now available for the Atari ST. Phew, thankfully, I'm lying!! This is actually a cool intro screen that was created to be a main-menu for some demo that never got completed. Good old Demozoo informs that it's by Channel 38 and features neat music and a large "play area" making good use of those borders. Oh yeah, so nice!!

My apologies for this video recording which is pretty poor. A real ST/e performs silky smooth.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Asteroidia


Dave Munsie is literally a legend within the Atari ST world. It's as simple as that really. Anyhow, he has released some amazing games and a couple were even enhanced for much-loved Atari STe. Here we have Asteroidia which, as you've probably guessed by now, is a Munsie-take on the old Asteroids arcade game.

Which means it's hardly going to win an award for originality, but don't be put off because I've a sneaky suspicion this might be worth your time downloading and playing. Well, it's a Munsie game so that's a given!! Forget about blasting old vectors because we have been transported to a part of space where pixels roam. Not only that, but this is Blitter-space which scrolls at blistering speeds across your screen in all directions.

The planet is powered by the Blitter and whizzes by!


Admittedly, there's not a whole lot to show off in a screenshot. It's fun, honest!

The gameplay is, as you would expect, predicably asteroids and trying to chase down those lumps of rocks is initially quite hard. It sure takes some getting used too because everything is so fast. Thankfully, the controls are a cinch to master so it won't be long before you realise how great this alternative conversion actually is.

Visually, this is a nice-looker but it's the speed of everything that will impress the most. To see planet Earth swooshing across your monitor certainly makes you realise just how under-utilised the Atari STe was by the commercial companies. Once again, Mr Munsie puts them to shame. Audio hasn't been forgotten and we get DMA support which plays a sampled tune. However, it's quite repetitive so I switched to chiptune/sound effects!


Gotta tip my hat to Mr Munsie... Blitter, 50Hz, Atari STe / Falcon support. Incredible!!

Overall, this is Asteroids but with impressive Blitted graphics zooming all over the place. The gameplay is addictive and rock-smashingly awesome so is probably one of the most entertaining versions of Asteroids there is? Fancy graphics or not, this is bucket loads of arcade fun so extremely recommended.

Download Asteroidia from AtariMania
Hey, can you beat my hi-score?

Saturday, June 04, 2016

A degas dabble!


Check this out, folks! Marc Johnson needs no introduction but look at what he created for me when fed with chiptunes (and a bottle of wine). Thank you mate, this is an awesome logo. Absolutely superb STuff!!

Friday, June 03, 2016

Crime Wave


You know me, I love the Atari STe so I'm always on the hunt for games, demos and programs that make use of its enhanced hardware. Well, I was flicking through ST Format #58 and noticed a review of a game called Crime Wave, by Dillon Agoma from 1994. It appears quite similar to Super Cars and makes use of hardware scrolling! However, the reviewer didn't seem too pleased with the controls so perhaps it was a work in progress?

This is a tough one to research because its name is the same as a commercial US Gold game and no PD library stocked it as Crime Wave was available directly from the author. I've searched online but sadly found no downloads or information... But I have written and posted a letter so let's hope he is still living in the same house!

Update: I've managed to contact him and these are the updates to my Dillon chase...

June 2016: This is the date I originally posted the letter!
Feb 2017: Sadly, I never received a reply to my letter. (I later found out that he had moved!)
July 2017: I managed to contact Dillon online and he thinks his disks are still in storage :-)
Oct 2017: Nothing turned up there, but he now hopes that those disks are in his attic.
April 2019: I've sent Dillion another message but sadly I've heard nothing back. I hope he's okay but I'm now starting to think this piece of ST history is now lost forever. Perhaps I should give up? I am gutted :(