Saturday, October 29, 2016

Enduro Racer


Enduro Racer is obviously based upon the coin-op and is a no-frills arcade biker by Activision from all the way back in 1987. Interestingly, it was programmed by Ian Morrison who developed one of my favourite driving/shooters, Road Blasters. You compete in five races against other bikers on tracks that contain lots of silly hazards which should have been removed by the race organisers. Cornering, I found rather tight along with the ever-decreasing time limit so don't dawdle because each race is against an aggressive clock that dictates you should learn each course!

The first is quite easy but soon picks up the pace as you hit the heat of the desert to become quite the challenge. Controls are first a little odd, pushing up accelerates but it's the fire button that applies the breaks because pulling back will instead perform a wheelie which is needed for the ramps and help prevent speed loss. However, if you forget then your biker protests by doing a handlebar handstand - it's crazy but very cool.

The music is fab-uuuu-lous!! In fact, it's playing right now. Dave Whittaker certainly knows his bleeps from his blips. The graphics are a little sparse but this is an early game so I can imagine leaving out unnecessary details frees lots of CPU cycles for a faster framerate? Thankfully, this works because the race is always fast and smooth.

Enduro Racer might be a little long in the tooth and showing a little middle-aged spread but I think it's worth an hour of your day. I prefer cars but this is a great biker and crammed full of cool jumps at every tight turn. Great game.

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have a download for those with an UltraSatan / hard drive.
 - Those stuck with floppy disks will need to download via Old Games Finder.
 - The menu system gives away the cheat... So start a new game and type in the word "cheat".
          -> press key T for an extra 10 seconds (press it again!)
          -> press key S to zip along.
          -> press key F to advance to the checkpoint.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bellum Internecinum


I've never heard of Bellum and only found it by accident when trolling Stonish earlier today. It's a Galaga-wannabe with aliens that battle in fairly predictable formations - just itching to be killed! However, these guys move pretty rapidly as the levels progress and they also enjoy swooping down to clutter the screen for some frantic action so shoot first and ask questions later - these ET's are incredibly trigger happy. We have the freedom to move in all directions but be careful because your ship can only take so much damage before bits and pieces begin to drop off. Thankfully, bonuses are frequently available for repairs, speed and increased firepower. Oh yeah :-)

It's always nice to stumble upon something you missed back in the day. It might have simple graphics, few sounds and no music BUT it's the gameplay which matters and this is rock solid. Bellum Internecinum is fantastic fun!!

LINKS

 - Here is a small video recording I made for y'all to drool over!
 - It also appeared on various cover disk which you can find over on Stonish!
 - ST Format also found this beauty and featured it on cover disk #6.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Chubby Gristle


This is the tale of a fat, obnoxious parking attendant who loves to eat food. Pillar of the community, Chubby Gristle, is always hungry and will roam each room looking for grub to nosh on in Grandslam Entertainment's old skool platformer. It first feels a lot like Monty Mole with each screen designed in a similar fashion and, if you're old like me, the instant appeal will be a huge trip down memory lane!

However, that's where the fun ends and the frustration kicks in because Chubby Gristle is incredibly tough. Each screen has ledges, moving platforms, ropes, and the expected angry sprites zipping back n' forth which are often awkward to avoid (without losing a precious life). Unlike good ol' Monty, Chubby moves a little too quickly for a fat man on a grub hunt, so it's too easy to bump into something sharp or accidentally walk off a platform edge to yet another splattery death. I feel many extra lives are needed to balance the game's high difficulty.

Visually, it's perfectly 8-bit and I mean that in a good way because it happily blasts you back into the 1980s. Sprites move so smoothly and are animated with a style I simply adore - Peter Harrap would be proud. However, I am disappointed with the audio which plays the same tune over (and over). It's great but we really needed a selection. Oddly, music can be silenced but I found no way to activate sound effects which surely isn't too much to ask?

Chubby Gristle is an enigma. This could so easily have been a hit with ancient gamers (like me) however, the gameplay mechanics fail and you will throw down your joystick in anger because of the difficulty level. The infinite lives cheat enabled me to travel deeper and see its amazing charm and character but we need entertainment and challenges without the suffering! Such a shame because it's potentially an awesome platformer.

LINKS

 - Download from Klaz' Hideaway who has the floppy and a hard drive installable game (with lives cheat)
 - I recorded a video where I did quite well... But gave up on that last screen - far too annoying!
 - Cheating is never good but Chubby needs extra lives like no other game on the planet. To enable infinite lives type in "buuurrp" on the title screen and you will hear a burp that confirms success. (untested by me)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Microprose Golf


Microprose Golf is a bit of a show-off if truth be told because it's like the rich and successful younger brother of poor old Leaderboard, who has been left behind green with envy. Now, I'm hardly a golfing connoisseur, but the developers have done a blinding job and created an involving title with a vast array of mind-boggling features to take it into the realm of a serious sim. But don't panic, that doesn't make it a boring game. Oh no, not at all...

Several interesting game types are on offer with each affected by an array of realistic variables that will alter your performance - the type of ground, your stance, weather conditions, and much more. I'm sure experienced golfers will be drooling over the intricate settings long before they even consider teeing off and, even as a novice, I was mightily impressed and blown away in equal measure. Controlled with the mouse, menus are well designed and intuitive so setting up your shot isn't a chore. When you do get around to smacking the little white ball, it feels precise and quite similar to the previously mentioned game, drastically reducing the already tiny learning curve.

However, that similarity abruptly ends once you've struck the ball because Microprose has taken 16-bit golfing to a whole new level by introducing their camera angled viewpoints that follow the ball along its airborne path. I sat here in utter amazement as I watched the first-person perspective of my shot in action, it's a gob-smacker! There is also a selection of other cool cameras angles and, interestingly, all benefit smoother framerates on faster computers. Graphically, this is one golf game which stands head and shoulders above anything else I've seen and is a total jaw-dropper. Sound effects are also excellent but I do feel a little more ambient effects would have been nice during the times you're setting up a shot, perhaps a chirp from the birds, a little breeze or background chatter from the crowd?

Microprose has done what they always did so well on the Atari ST and released a game that blows your socks off at every level. It's technically beautiful and comes with a perfect blend of strategy and arcade fun to loose yourself in. Whether you're a casual fan or an addicted expert, I am positive you will love playing. Totally and utterly superb.

LINKS

 - A video recording by Wasabim shows the game running on a stock 8MHz Atari ST.
 - 8BitChip have a hard drive installable version which also supports faster Atari computers!
 - For those that love floppy disks, Old Games Finder can help ya out.
 - AtariMania features Microprose Gold within their ST database website (with manual scans too!)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Missing:... One Droid


I don't normally buy many games (since getting the Ultrasatan) but now and then an absolute corker pops up that I simply cannot refuse. Missing One Droid was delivered today and, although it's hardly up there with Super Sprint, Time Bandit or Dungeon Master, it has a fond place in my 16-bit heart. AtariCrypt readers will immediately recognise the relationship to this article and I can now imagine many shrugging their shoulders in disbelief? Well, I'm gleaming with joy and I cannot believe I own such a cool 1986 game, probably the oldest in my Atari ST collection. Oh yeah!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Terry's Big Adventure


Terry and his Big Adventure was released in 1989 by Shades and it plays with more than a pinch of Mario (I cannot help but wonder how moneybags Nintendo let them get away with this, but I'm glad they did). His adventure takes us through twelve playful lands and, just like his Italian cousin, he is also stuck within a 2D world of silliness so get your joystick ready because this means lots of platforms, gaps to jump, magic mushrooms and iddy biddy critters.

Terry isn't daft but doesn't like squashing any living creature so instead, he has brought a weapon. If you're expecting something like a shotgun or a sword then you might be disappointed because it's actually a yo-yo. Okay, this is unlikely to impress the girls but it's quite whacky and works well.

Joystick controls are precise and feel perfectly console. However, little Terry abides by the laws of physics so whatever you hits with his Yo-Yo will knock him back a step or two. So watch out for this if you're near water...

Power-ups are frequently available and you can exchange the yo-yo for pebble throwing by simply hitting the spacebar. Terry is such a badass, right? Many kills will reward a random letter in a tiny parachute, collect it quickly to eventually make the word "terry" to earn a temporary shield. This comes in handy allowing you to plough through the enemy hoard. Also, it's worth collecting the mushrooms for juicy points with an extra life awarded every 20,000 points. There are bonus levels stocked to the brim with even more mushrooms - just don't get yourself addicted!

The graphics are typically NES and the first thing you notice are those tiny sprites but this suits the console-feel and their level of detail is excellent. Scrolling is silky smooth and it's obvious the programmer took the time and talent to get beautiful results from a computer without hardware scrolling.

Audio is a little disappointing with the option of chipmusic or sound effects. The musics are great and my prefered choice in comparison to the dullness of the sound effects. Don't get me wrong, they're (umm) okay but much of the gameplay will be in silence, which is a massive oversight.

Terry's Big Adventure is such a great platformer which will appeal to those who enjoy Giana Sisters or the Stario games. It might very well be a total ripoff but Terry has enough personality of his own to make this feel interesting and entertaining. I always enjoy playing yo-yos with my little spiky-haired friend. This is a brilliant platformer.

LINKS

 - Here is a video which I recorded over two years ago. Yowzers how time flies!
 - If you have the hardware, then download the hard drive installable version by 8BitChip.
 - But if you require a floppy disk image then Old Games Finder is for you.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Metroid"


Samuel (aka Zamuel_a of Pac-Mania and Giana Sisters fame) is currently working on his third title for our beloved Atari STe. It is based upon the Metroid idea and uses the enhanced hardware for amazing 50fps performance and he's been working on it, on and off, for a number of years and even released a demo all the way back in 2013.

Bear in mind that this isn't complete and many functions are yet to be implemented but we can walk, jump, fire our weapon and explore the levels. The 16-colour limit is broken and the Blitter will be used to handle the sprites with the hardware scrolling used to ... well ... scroll the screen in 1VBL. As you can see in the pictures, and my humble animation capture, this is a promising project but Samuel is looking at the community for help.

Can you help? He's looking for people who might offer their skills to produce music, sound effects, sprites, and hopefully assist in the level design. So if you can help, please contact him directly via the Atari-Forum website. Okay guys, it's time to get downloading this and have a play, but remember, this is a Work-In-Progress!

The current beta can be downloaded from Atari-Forum. (remember folks - feedback | help) :-)

     

     

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Circus back²STage


Circus back²STage demo for the Atari STe, by BlaBLa, Cocoon & Sector One.

With such unusual style, Circus back²STage is a truly fascinating demo for the Atari STe. It features a bucket load of crazy colourful effects in overscan with the most wonderful chipmusic. Some find it far too clown-freaky but it's literally one of the best demos I have ever seen. Harddrive installable with downloads available via Demozoo.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Test Drive


Accolade's Test Drive was released in 1987 and is one of the many games I got free with my first Atari ST computer so I've many fond memories playing this racer during my early 16-Bit days. It begins with an intro animation of a dude sitting in his Porche before winding down the window to display a cheesy grin and then speeding off into the sunset. There are five cars to choose from and each is viewed on the main menu with lots of technical details (that I've never read). Their artwork is gorgeous and I personally think the Corvette is the best of the bunch for our road trip.

    

Test Drive is a race against the clock with points awarded for faster times along a seemingly endless mountainside highway. Driven from an in-car perspective, you will note that each car has a realistically represented dashboard with manual gearbox controls that briefly display with each shift. I found the controls a little wooden at first, but I soon got the hang of them after a couple of races. A red dot on the wheel helps to pinpoint a more precise indication of your direction and is as helpful as it is crude but it nicely makes up for the lacking analogue controls.

    

Beware, you're not on a race track and annoying civilians are also driving on these once safe roads but they do seem to have a love for head-on collisions! There are also cops so it's a good job that your car is fitted with a radar to signal when they are nearby. You then have a choice of being good or watching them disappear in your rearview mirror and I personally treat these moments as a green light opportunity to push the pedal to the metal, but that's just me! Now refuel at the gas station checkpoint before continuing on with your Bullrun Rally.


Test Drive has some nice characteristics which I personally think are hilarious - like the badly drawn grey fella driving his truck. How about the handless steering wheel or the slo-mo effect as your windscreen breaks up after a crash - it's almost worth slamming into an oncoming vehicle just to see this! The graphics are pretty nice considering their age and the dashboards are superb with the Corvette being my favourite. Overall, an enjoyable drive without the rush of a thrilling speedster, more like a charming Sunday drive but I still have a soft spot for this cliffside racer...

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have a hard drive installable version which I highly recommend!
 - Old Games Finder has the floppy disk images.
 - Update: There is an excellent newly uploaded video by Wasabim.
 - There have been many Test Drive games and I still loved no.5 on the Playstation...

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Giana Sisters


The Great Giana Sisters was released in 1987 by Rainbow Arts and is a platformer with more than a hint of a famous game starring that silly Italian plumber. The ST version played well but sadly suffered flip-screen scrolling which soon became tiresome and ultimately spoiled what should have been an excellent platformer. A lazy port and I know the STFM could have done far better, evident with great games like Viking Child, Ghosts 'N Goblins, and so many others.

Samuel, aka Zamuel_a of Pac-Mania fame, decided to take on the challenge and program a homebrew conversion and one which would take advantage of the Atari STe. It's more or less the same game but with major technical improvements, like the graphics that now slide along your monitor at a silky smooth framerate. Hardware scrolling is used for maximum effect to displays at 50fps with the Blitter coprocessor handling the sprites and to say the results are absolutely beautiful would be an extreme understatement!

If his hard work wasn't enough, we continue to be spoiled thanks to Peter Putnik over at 8BitChip who has waved a magic wand to lower the RAM requirements so even 1Mb STe's can now play. He has also created two HAGA versions that can be installed to hard drive and feature streamed music using the DMA coprocessor!

The only thing I'm left wondering is why it took me so long to feature Giana Sisters here at AtariCrypt because, yet again, he has created an improved game for the Atari STe which totally and utterly trounces over the original commercial release. Samuel has the commitment, immense talent and I hope he doesn't stop and continues on to develop many more enhanced conversions. Waste no more time and play the enhanced version right now!

LINKS

 - Samuel's awesome handiwork is downloadable from off Atari-Forum.
 - Peter Putnik has taken this project further and released three versions based on Samuel's work.
 - What? You still don't believe how great this game is - then watch this [HD] video :-)

Friday, October 07, 2016

Anarcho Ride


Anarcho Ride is a crazy Carmageddon game of head-on collisions and extreme violence. Oh, and with a little racing thrown in for good measure... It's just been updated with new expansion packs (BREXIT!!), bug fixes, an horizon, and DMA samples. It sure is wonderful to see the Atari ST/e scene alive and this is the best version yet!!

LINKS

 - A download of the new update is available from Thomas Ilg's website. Grab it now!
 - A video was recently released showing off Anarcho Ride v1.04

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Robert HC Leong

All the way back in early January, I featured a mini-review of Annihilator. This is a familiar retro shooter from Robert HC Leong, a much-respected name from the Atari ST homebrew scene. He has actually developed four games which were all released under the Budgie UK label and each title was a hit. All I have thoroughly enjoyed playing (links below).

To say I was surprised to find out Robert read my article -and- also follows AtariCrypt is an understatement! We often chat and it wasn't long before I threw a few questions his way...
I hope you guys enjoy this little interview and my thanks to Robert for being a great sport.


Hello Robert, please tell us a bit about the guy behind Annihilator.

I am originally from Malaysia. I moved to Ireland in 1980 to further my studies. I bought an Atari 520STFM in 1988 while in Ireland, after graduating. At that time, I had already owned a BBC Micro model A for a few years and was looking for a new home computer to upgrade to. I was impressed by the plethora of colours that the ST could produce, and the increase in speed and memory. I tried to program the ST in Fast BASIC initially, but that was way too slow, so it was a natural progression for me to move on to 68000 assembly language using HiSoft Devpac, especially since I was already familiar with 6502 assembly language from my time with the BBC Micro.


Tell us about the days when you made your 4 awesome games.

I have always enjoyed playing shoot-em-up games, so the first game I programmed was Space Invaders in 1989. I tried to keep the game as close to its original playability as possible, to include the sprites and even its logo colours. It made the cover of the December 1989 issue of Atari ST User magazine.

I then moved on to do a simplified, 2-player version of Missile Command just for the fun of it – it wasn’t anything spectacular. After that, I challenged myself to do a playable version of Pacman. Many home computer versions of Pacman at that time had very small sprites. I decided that, for the cuteness factor alone, the sprites needed to be larger, and the way to implement this was to do a vertically-scrolling screen to increase the size of the maze. I tried again to keep to the original version and came quite close. I was not good at producing music so Gary Wheaton, a fellow programmer and musician, was kind enough to provide the music for version 2 and it sold quite well.

Annihilator was my final game for the public domain / licenceware label. It was a Galaxians clone, but this time, I drew my own sprites and provided power-ups and end-of-level guardians to spruce up the game as it was the trend in shoot-em-up games at that time. After this, I started programming a horizontal scrolling shoot-em-up but I did not progress much further because of a lack of time; I was spending many weekends and nights on-call while pursuing my medical career. This was the simple reason why I did not have a chance to release any new games for the Atari ST after that. In addition, the Budgie UK Licenceware scheme ended in December 1994.


Which of your games is your favourite and why?

I had no clear favourites but, looking back, I thoroughly enjoyed programming and play-testing Pacman ST because in my mind it was a step above the other Pacman clones at that time with a gameplay approaching that of the original arcade version, and cute to boot!


All of your games were released through Budgie UK.
Did you rake in enough cash to buy a sports car!

Budgie UK Licenceware was a public domain label started by Camy Maertens in 1987, where a group of software programmers shared joint royalties on all the games sold. It was a fun concept, gave us some camaraderie, and made us some pocket change, but certainly not enough to buy an inexpensive car, let alone a sports car!


Will you boot up Devpac and get coding again?

Unfortunately, when I left Ireland for the US, where I am now based, I sold off and gave away all my Atari ST stuff! Hence, it is unlikely that I will ever code anything new for the ST again.


Do you retro game?

From time to time, I still reminisce about the good old days of the Atari ST, when I’ll try running an ST game or two on Steem, an excellent emulator on the PC. Of course, I still check Atari ST websites like AtariCrypt and Facebook.


What do you think of the ST world today?

I am frankly amazed, but pleasantly surprised, that the Atari ST scene is still so resilient, considering that the machine was discontinued in 1993, some 23 years ago! For me, the ST had always been an integral and fun bit of my life, so I hope the community lives on! However, the ST presence appears much greater in Europe, compared to the US, though there is still an active Atari club near me in Davis, California, but it tends to cater more to the 8-bit Atari consoles than to the ST. Check out: http://newbreedsoftware.com/atariparty/2016/. (I hope they change! -AtariCrypt)


What are your future plans?

I’m now based in the San Francisco bay area where I work as a consultant in the biotechnology industry. I remain interested in IT and programming, especially since Silicon Valley is just a short drive down the road for me. Facebook, eBay, LinkedIn, Google, Apple, Cisco, and Oracle are all around me. IT executives of all ages are driving their Teslas here. When driving around in Mountain View, I give a wide berth to the autonomous vehicles that Google is testing out here. Even Atari had its corporate headquarters here on Borregas Ave, Sunnyvale, but that closed down in 1996 (http://www.atari.io/back-to-borregas-ave/). I have visited the location once or twice to reminisce, and to imagine how it would have been here during Atari’s heydey…

- - - LINKS - - -
  1. Here is my Annihilator article which also features a cool video recording of extreme gaming talent! (Hmm)
  2. Take a look at this picture of Robert's Atari ST, yes the one he used for his coding magic back in the 90s!
  3. Robert's website which has an Atari ST section to compliment the PC (boo) stuff he's working on.
  4. He is also featured on the mighty Demozoo website.
  5. AtariMania lists his four games within their awesome ST database website.
  6. 8BitChip has adapted some of Robert's games for hard drive installation. Very handy!