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



Quick, get inside your laser cannon!

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 slapped myself and then began to mellow! After a few games and found myself enjoying this quirky space shooter and the nifty new mechanics which I thought were excellent. Also, 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 game!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Atari ST menu disks



Astonishing!

Menu Disks... Hmm, I love them for the opportunity they gave to us poor folk that couldn't afford to buy many games but I hate them for prematurely killing the Atari ST gaming scene. Whether they did or didn't is an argument that's been going on for years so it's up to you what to think. The one thing you cannot deny is how great they are with their superb visuals, music and text. Like it or not, they are an essential part of Atari ST history.

Some disks are incredible and often by a kid in his bedroom who puts commercial companies to shame with jaw-dropping effects. I have many favourites myself, like Dream Weavers, and I adore: Automation, Fusion, Elite, Replicants, FOF, Cynix, D-Bug, 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 (now Atari Legend) 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



Luna road-tripping

Oh no, the moon is under attack from a legion of nasty 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. It even follows handy checkpoints to stop you from getting lost so dust off your spacesuit in anticipation of the Atari ST version of this amazing 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. Moving the joystick left/right changes that acceleration and pushing up allows you to leap over the potholes. However, be careful because that requires precise timing because the wheels aren't too great at going over potholes. So the slightest missed jump causes the buggy to violently explode like something from a cartoon!!

It sounds silly, and it is, but isn't that what makes a lot of older games intriguing? Let's crack on...



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


Simple mechanics yet still tough!

There are two difficulty modes, beginners and champions. As you can imagine, if you're new to Moon Patrol and wanna break yourself in gently, then choose beginners. This gradually introduces the game's twisted mechanics and alien monsters at a steady rate. Use this mode to learn joystick controls and the general feel of the game. It's cool.

However, the latter difficulty is much better and certainly offers a far more interesting alternative with many extra features, obstacles and enemies, etc. Here, the landscape is terribly hostile and made worse by even more invading aliens who frequently appear from all corners of your screen. It's manic but wait, don't run away there are weapons!!

Yep, banging on that fire button will simultaneously shoot two weapons: one at the top, is a machine gun firing upwards plus there is a front-mounted rocket launcher for the approaching enemies. So keep one eye on the road ahead and another on those pesky aliens. It's a lot harder than you might think so keep on firing and hope for the best!

Okay, it's screenshot time but why not use a different monitor? Check this out...



Hang on, there are mountains in the background with snow. Hmm, very odd... ;-)


Aesthetics

Graphics appear dated because they are. And that's exactly what you would expect from an 80s game. The decor is authentic with silky smooth scrolling supporting a three-layer parallax effect plus the buggy's animation is superb as it rumbles over the bumpy terrain. Don't forget, Moon Patrol also works in ST High (640x400) and looks gorgeous.

A funky chiptune bops away in the background which is oddly, very much excellent. It's foot-tappingly excellent in fact and I love it. This is accompanied by vintage bleeps for the sound effects to suit this classic game perfectly.

I love it when a game transports me back in time rather than trying to improve (ruin) it...



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


The CryptO'pinion?

Moon Patrol is an excellent conversion that offers a groovy step back in time to 1982. This is instantaneous fun and I love how its troublesome landscape combines the pothole hopping whilst frantically trying to shoot down the aliens. It's tough but very addictive so keep your eyes on the road otherwise - KABOOM! Instant moon junk!!

A faithful conversion of an arcade classic with rock-solid playability. Trust me, this is #retrogaming gold!!


Old Games Finder has access to all the floppy disks
8BitChip has a version for hard drive installation!
Strategy Wiki lists the many versions of Moon Patrol
Here is their walkthrough which I thought was pretty funny.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Atari 1040 STf



When eBay proved fruitful

I've bought an Atari ST off eBay which also included an SM125 monitor. However, both are in terrible condition! Very dirty with many battle scars and also what looks like scorch marks near 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 and that included the monitor as well :-)

Once home, I began the cleaning - which took a long time!! This poor old computer must have suffered fire damage at some point in its life judging by the scorch marks inside. It also appears to have suffered other damage at some time as I saw several repair company stickers inside. Funnily, I needed to hoover around the floppy drive area because of a soot-like sludge that looked like tar. Plus also a thick bunch of spider webs covering all the cables. Quite the toxic state!

Well, after all the hard work, I'm so happy to have this marvellous ST up and running! Plus the SM125 is a fantastic monitor that still looks great. To think of its previous condition with the keyboard grime, burn marks, and all that weird thick sludge is gross. For once, eBay has produced a bargain and I'm glad to have rescued this beautiful old computer.

SysInfo reports it to be a 1040 STF with TOS 1.00 and 1MB RAM ...and all for 99 pence. Woop Woop!


Filthy but even worse inside thanks to a thick sludge and many cobwebs!!

I wish I would have taken a better photograph but the old ST scrubbed up beautifully :-)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Prehistoric Tale



The Lost Boys!!

If there were ever giants that graced the Atari ST demoscene, it's these fellas. In 1990, they ventured into the commercial gaming industry with A Prehistoric Tale, published by the mighty Thalion. So how does it play and can a demo group make a good game? We all now remember TCB's Enchanted Land. Talent doesn't always equal great gameplay :/

Those who remember Chuckie Egg or Panic will feel at home with this game. We have been teleported back in time when dinosaurs roamed with a constant threat of being eaten alive. But this is the time for sexy cavewomen who all happen to look like Raquel Welch. We are tasked to collect dino eggs so all mammals don't become extinct.

Take these to the teleport for safekeeping but, there is a time limit and you can only carry only three eggs at once (unless you use an egg basket). To make matters worse, the teleporter changes location after each use, lots of spiders and other prehistoric critters constantly appear, and you should watch out for the swarms of Pterodactyls!

The graphics are reminiscent of the 8-bit days with a lovely 16-bit quality. It's almost like we're playing a demo by The Lost Boys because of the palette used - and I love it. The audio excels, all thanks to Jochen Hippel and I'm sure you'll be tapping your foot along to his gorgeous chiptune beats. To say the audio is fantastic would be an understatement.

A Prehistoric Tale is straightforward but hiding underneath a humble exterior is a worrisome experience that keeps you on your toes. Even the most gifted player will struggle at first, practice and you will love it. Superb game.

Downloads are available on a floppy disk and 8BitChip has a hard drive version.


Is that a teleporter or has he simply eaten all his Ready Brek!


The pixel art animation when dropping off a ledge is hilarious!!

The Lost Boys archived collection on Demozoo

Monday, June 13, 2016

Storm 94



Alien Breed?

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 suffering a constant onslaught from the ravenous alien baddies. These are (of course!) 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 way too short and if you notice the screen turning red, you're near death!! For me, this game didn't need a timer whatsoever and ...umm... spoils itself somewhat. I hope somebody like PP gets a hold of this game and adapts/removes this timer then I might be able to see more of it lol. Sorry, not sorry.

I liked Storm '94 because of the action mixed with strategic elements. It's quite amazing to think this was programmed in STOS but that timer spoils it somewhat. Anyhow, a furiously fun game which I have thoroughly enjoyed!!

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 a good clean and it powered on perfectly. Sys Info 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. Yes, I'm a happy bunny :)

Also, 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!!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

NES



Hang on, isn't this an Atari website?

Nesulator is a collection of programs by Ed Cleveland that emulate five famous Nintendo/NES games: Donkey Kong Jr, Castlevania, Dig Dug, Mario and The Legend Of Zelda. Each program is the same emulator but dedicated to that particular game. This package was released at STNICCC 2000 but sadly never completed - a massive shame. However, as is, they show the outstanding potential that this project offered - with Dig Dug performing the best I thought.

Thankfully, we can still get to play with these betas and have some fun - remembering that they are unfinished!! You will need an upgraded Atari ST or something like the Falcon because each game demands lots of horsepower to run at an acceptable speed. A fantastic piece of software (on all but 8MHz STs) but I sure wish Ed would have finished his work...

I now wish I could go back in time to tell myself NOT to sell my TT or Falcon. Yep, sad isn't it?


- Screenshots and a download from Demozoo -







Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Midi Maze



FPS - long before Doom!

Midi Maze hit the shelves in 1987 thanks to the talents of Xanth FX and was an early taste of multiplayer first-person gaming. It takes place inside a labyrinth of weird smilies who roam looking for blood. So ignore their happy faces because they're anything but nice - and need killing!! You could say, the last sphere "standing" wins? Okay, maybe not...

The controls are rather straightforward and very easy to master. 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. Think about that, it is quite staggering for an '80s deathmatch. This was 1987, folks!!

The graphics are good but the walls are "paper-thin" and also without any texture or ambient lighting but do remember just how old this game is. Frame rates are fast and exceptionally smooth and I was impressed to see the baddies have a shadow, thus adding to the 3D perspective. Sound effects aren't going to win any awards but they do their job.

There is nothing I enjoy more than a good first-person shooter and Midi Maze certainly packs a punch albeit killing cute smiley faces! Single-player is welcome and works 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 and is easily a true Atari ST gaming legend!!

* 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 my video recording which is pretty poor. A real ST/e performs silky smooth.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Asteroidia




Breaking rocks

Dave Munsie is literally a legend within the Atari ST world. It's as simple as that. This guy released several outstanding games like Berzerk, Frantick, and Kid GP. Hey, a couple of his games were even enhanced for the much-loved Atari STe.

Asteroidia, as you've probably guessed by now, is a Munsie-take on the old Asteroids arcade genre. This 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 this rock blaster. Well, it's a Munsie game so that's a given, right?

Okay, forget about a static/no-scrolling ST screen and those old vector graphics. Dave is transporting us to a part of space where moving pixels rule thanks to the hardware of the Atari STe. Pixels that are powered by the Blitter chip so scroll along at blistering speeds. Not only that but you can expect DMA audio too. Your monitor won't know what hits it!

To be honest, it's hard to imagine Asteroids looking impressive but, I'll post a screenshot anyhow...


The planet is powered by the Blitter and whizzes by!



Boring old asteroids, right?

As you would expect, the gameplay is predicably asteroids with us controlling a ship to try and chase down those lumps of rocks. It's initially quite hard and surely takes some getting used to because everything moves so fast. Thankfully, the controls are a cinch to master so it won't be long before you realise how fantastic this alternative conversion 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 Blitter and Atari STe was by the bulk of the commercial gaming companies. Once again, Mr Munsie puts them to shame. Audio hasn't been forgotten and we get DMA support which plays a short sampled tune. However, it's quite repetitive so I switched to chiptune/sound effects!

Here is the options screen with options to use the Blitter and flip between PAL/NTSC...



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



The CryptO'pinion?

Sure, this is Asteroids but, the twist is how it performs with impressive Blitted graphics zooming about the screen. It's like watching a demo and it proves how much potential the Atari STe had yet wasn't utilised. The joystick controls are superb so your gameplay is rock-smashingly addictive. This is one of the most entertaining versions of this original.

Blitted graphics or not, this is bucketloads of fun and a superb Asteroids conversion. Highly recommended!!


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


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



Well, I tried...

You know me, I love the Atari STe so am 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 because Crime Wave was only 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 Dillon and these are the latest pieces of information...

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 :(

Even More ATARI ST Articles

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