Tuesday, June 28, 2016

megahertz war


I had to "laugh" when I read an article in Atari ST Review magazine #24, by Andrew Wright. How right he was about the times, I do wonder if he had a crystal ball? (if so, it was probably a GEM program)

By the mid-1990s, the PC industry had taken over to claim the crown for the winner of the computer wars. Sure, our days were numbered which was partly due to poor management with Atari's lack of enthusiasm over previous years to give us more megahertz at regular intervals... 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 games

Menu CDs where the cool kids on the block with their flashy visuals, funky music, and questionable contents. So many people today still point a finger of blame at them for the ST's premature demise from the commercial gaming scene, back in the mid-1990s.

However, Menu CDs also played a role in our history by helping most people play games they wouldn't ever have bought and that actually had a knock-on effect by keeping the scene alive. Whatever you think, it's too late now, but nobody can deny they contained some of the most creative examples of what the ST could knock out!

If you don't know, a Menu CD is a floppy disk which generally contained a number of hacked commercial games. After booting up, a menu would appear flaunting the hackers creative talents with flashy visuals, ripped music and a fascinating scroller to read through. Most people remember the infamous Automation but there were so many others: Dream Weavers, Fusion, Elite, FOF, FOFT, Zulu, Mad Vision, Bad Brew Crew and the list goes on (and on!)

Thankfully, there is a website called Stonish which is dedicated to the preservation of those rare Menu CD's. I featured it here on AtariCrypt last year and I'm pleased to see just how much it has grown since that time. Please remember, this isn't about piracy but instead cataloguing and preserving a part of our history.

Sadly, many disks are still missing and the hope is somebody will look within their dusty attic and find them... Until then, they are presumed lost forever which is really disappointing as time machines haven't been invented yet. So please support the Stonish project and dig out your old floppies, you never know what you might find!

LINKS

 - Visit the STONISH website ( clickety click )
 - I've started a YouTube playlist for Menu CDs!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Moon Patrol


Apparently, the moon is under attack from a legion of aliens and it's our job to stop them in my Space 1999 buggy. Once you have jumped inside your buggy, the landscape begins to scroll by and you shall note that it is sectioned off into alphabetical segments, which make for handy checkpoints. So let's dust off our 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!!

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.

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!!

LINKS

 - Old Games Finder for all the floppy disks and 8BitChip has created a version for hard drive installation!
 - Strategy Wiki lists the many versions of Moon Patrol (go on, guess which is the beST) :-)
 - 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. We're inside a maze of smilies who hover about looking for our blood so ignore their happy faces because they're anything but nice. Shoot them before they shoot you and the last sphere "standing" wins!

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 perspective. Sound effects aren't going to win any awards but they do their job well enough.

The controls are rather straightforward and easy to learn using either joystick or mouse - 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 using 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!!

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 gaming 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!

Believe it or not but this isn't an unfinished game but (probably) the main menu to a demo which was never completed. Demozoo tells me it's by Channel 38 and is displayed in overscan with little Mario running fine on either the STFM or STe... Note: forgive my poor recording, a real Atari ST/e delivers a silky smooth framerate.


Sunday, June 05, 2016

Asteroidia


Dave Munsie sure released some incredible games and a couple were even enhanced for Atari STe, like Asteroidia. Okay, it's hardly likely to win any prizes for originality but this is a unique take on the old format with Blitted graphics flying across your monitor! However, it's not all great news as the audio is quite disappointing because it's a looped sample, which soon aggravates. Thankfully, it can be turned off but the sound effects aren't too great...

Overall, this is bog-standard Asteroids but with impressive Blitted graphics to admire as they zoom across your screen. The gameplay is addictive and rock-smashingly awesome. Probably one of the most entertaining versions of Asteroids I've ever played? Bucket loads of fun and highly recommended, especially for Asteroid nutters!

LINKS

 - Download Asteroidia from the awesome AtariMania website but 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 my Atari STe and I'm always on the hunt for games, demos and programs that make use of the enhanced hardware. Today, I was flicking through ST Format #58 and noticed a review of a homebrew 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 the name is the same as a commercial US Gold game and no PD library stocked it because Crime Wave was only available directly from the author. Yep, I've searched online but sadly found no downloads or other information but I've written a letter so let's hope he still in that house and has a copy to share!

Feb 2017 update: Sadly, I never received a reply to my letter.
July 2017 update: Dillon has replied and thinks the disks are in storage!! :-)
Oct 2017 update: It's not looking good but he hopes the disks are in his attic.