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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Enduro Racer


The Atari ST received a great conversion of Enduro Racer which was programmed by Ian Morrison who also made the amazing Road Blasters. There are five races to compete in against a whole load of other bikers on tracks that are littered with many hazards. The controls are superb and I found cornering really tight and exciting. Watch out for the timer which is happy to tick down until it's game over. So learn and practice the tracks! This is the only way you'll ever beat it and maybe you'll show-off those skills by doing a handlebar handstand? It's crazy but it's cool.

Visually, things are a little sparse but that helps to produce a better framerate and boy is this fast!! The music which is nothing short of fantastic and typically Dave Whittaker - in other words, brilliant. Overall, Enduro Racer might be showing its age a little when compared to other ST racers but I still think it's worth booting up. Cars are best but this proves that even bikes can look cool when leaping over the jumps and thrashing around tight turns.

This is what excellent racing looks like and I guarantee that you will love every second of it.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bellum Internecinum


Bellum Internecinum was released in 1989 by M Goss-Custard and is a Galaga-wannabe. Shoot first and ask questions later because these ET's are incredibly trigger happy and take no prisoners. Aliens attack in predictable formations - just itching to be killed - but beware because these move rapidly as the levels progress. They also swoop down to clutter the screen for some frantic action. There is the freedom to move in all directions - which is superb. However, your ship can only take so much damage before parts begin to fall off so watch out.

Bellum Internecinum is a rock-solid shoot 'em up and I've loved every second of it. A fantastic game!!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Chubby Gristle


This is a tale of a fat, obnoxious parking attendant who loves to eat food. The pillar of the community, Chubby Gristle, is always hungry and will roam each room looking for grub to nosh on in Grandslam Entertainment's 1988 platformer. It first feels a lot like the games I used to play on my ZX Spectrum, with each screen designed in a similar fashion. 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 blasted me back into the 1980s and feels much like the Monty Mole games. The sprites move smoothly and animated using a style I 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 varied selection and I oddly, found no way to activate just the effects?

Chubby Gristle is an enigma. This could so easily have been a hit with ancient gamers (like me) however, the gameplay mechanics fail because of its difficulty. It won't be long until you've thrown your joystick in anger - trust me. The infinite lives cheat enabled me to venture deeper and see what amazing charms are ahead. A potentially great, old skool-styled platformer spoiled by an insane difficulty level that loves to see you suffer!

LINKS

 - Download from Klaz' Hideaway who has the floppy and a hard drive installable game (with lives cheat)
 - Cheating is never good but Chubby needs extra lives like no other game on the planet. To enable infinite lives, type "buuurrp" on the title screen. You will hear a burp that confirms success. (untested by me)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Microprose Golf



A good walk spoiled?

Microprose Golf is a bit of a show-off if truth be told. It's like the rich and successful younger brother of that 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 game with a vast array of mind-boggling features that takes it into the realm of a serious sim. But, don't panic, that doesn't make it boring!! Oh no, not at all...

Several interesting game types are on offer with each affected by an array of realistic variables that will alter performance. Things that the real golfers have to think about: the type of ground, your stance, weather conditions, and so on. I'm sure experienced golfers will be drooling over the intricate settings long before they even consider teeing off? Heck, even as a novice, I was mightily impressed and blown away in equal measure.


Take a look at the course to get a brilliant perspective of what lies ahead.


Whack that ball!!

All control is made using the mouse, of course. The game's GUI is very well designed and intuitive which drastically reduces any learning curve so setting up a shot isn't a chore when perfecting control and direction.

In fact, any 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. They follow the ball along its airborne path and I sat in utter amazement as I watched my first shot in action. It's a gob-smacking moment!! There is also a selection of other cool cameras angles and, interestingly, all benefit smoother framerates on faster computers.


Take the shot and let's see how good you really are. Whoosh... SPLOSH!!! :D


Aesthetics

Graphically, this is one golf game that stands head and shoulders above anything else I have seen on any 16-Bit computer. The artwork is great throughout and is also very nicely detailed with bold colours and design we've come to admire from Microprose. However, it's the 3D aspect that blows the competition away. Jaw-dropping.

Sounds 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 crowd chatter?


This is superb how I can get a feel for how my shot might go with a little practice...


The CryptO'pinion?

Microprose has done what they always did and released an Atari ST game that blows your socks off. At every level, it's beautiful and comes with a perfect blend of strategy and arcade to lose yourself in. Whether you're a casual fan or an addicted golfing expert, I am positive you will love playing what is truly a superb game.

You can grab the floppies but this game is best run from a hard drive/Ultrasatan. Wasabim has recorded a fantastic video and AtariMania has neat scans of the manual.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Terry's Big Adventure



It's-a-me, Terry!

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 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 a mean guy and he certainly doesn't like squashing any living creature so instead, has brought his own weapon of choice. Now, 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 works well.

Power-ups are frequently available and you can exchange the yo-yo for pebble throwing by hitting the spacebar. Terry is such a badass, right? Many kills will reward a random letter in a tiny parachute, collect 'em and 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 Atari ST cannot scroll, right? Well, that's what the talentless programmers say...


But is it a good carbon copy?

The graphics are NES in style, I thought. The first thing you notice are those tiny sprites but this suits the console-feel perfectly and everything is colourful and detailed. Scrolling is silky smooth and it's obvious the programmer took pride in his work and achieved beautiful results - from a computer without any hardware scrolling.

Audio is a little disappointing with the option of chipmusic or sound effects. The tunes are cute and my preferred choice in comparison to the dullness of the sparse sound effects. Don't get me wrong, the effects are okay but few and far between so much of your gameplay will be in silence. Stick with the music!

Any Mario game needs decent and responsive controls and Terry has both for a precise feel which is great. It's perfectly "console" which I know sounds odd but it's true! However, little Terry must still abide by the laws of physics during his big adventure and this applies to walking and whatever he hits with his Yo-Yo. This beastly weapon has a kick which can knock Terry back a step or two - so watch out for that when near water. Splosh!!


Terry's world is filled with colour and little cute things. But even little cute things can hurt!


The CryptO'pinion?

Terry's Big Adventure is such a great platformer that 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 enjoyed playing yo-yos with my spiky-haired friend and this is a great platformer.

Download for floppy or hard disk.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Metroid"


Samuel (aka Zamuel_a of Pac-Mania and Giana Sisters fame) is working on a third game for the Atari STe and this time it's based on "Metroid". Bear in mind, this is a work-in-progress but we can walk, jump, fire, explore the levels and all in a 16-colour-limit-busting display! The Blitter will handle the sprites with hardware scrolling used to ... well ... scroll. And at 50fps!! As you can see, this looks fantastic but Samuel is also looking for help: music, sound effects, sprites, and level design. If you can help, please contact him directly via the Atari-Forum website.

It looks like Zamuel_a could have another winner on his hands!! Watch this space...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Circus back²STage


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

With such an unusual style, Circus back²STage is a fascinating Atari STe demo. It features a bucket load of crazy, colourful effects in overscan with the most wonderful chipmusic. Some people hate clowns but this is literally one of the best demos I have seen. Hard drive installable with downloads available via Demozoo.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Test Drive



I fancy a road trip. You coming?

Accolade's Test Drive was released in 1987 and is one of the games I got free with my first Atari ST computer so I have fond memories playing this during my early 16-Bit days. It begins with an intro animation of a dude sitting in his Porsche 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 a road trip.

Okay, let's check out your choice of smooth riders...

I've never really been much of a Porsche fan... More of a girl's sports car, right?


Okay, it's not a Ferrari 308 but that doesn't stop me thinking I'm Magnum P.I.

I can't say I'm a fan of this and the handling never really excites, more terrifies!

(Insert James Bond theme now). Okay, it might not be that fast but we love British muscle!!


I'm more of a muscle car fan myself but the Chevrolet Corvette is a beauty in every respect.


An oldie classic?

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 behind the wheel, you will notice that each car has a realistically represented dashboard with manual gearbox controls that briefly display with each shift.

At first, I found the controls a little wooden, but I soon got the hang of them after a couple of races. A red dot on the steering wheel helps to pinpoint a more precise indication of your turning and direction which is as helpful as it is crude. But I must admit, it does make up for the lacking analogue controls very nicely.

Ahh, the open road of a road trip. Wait, another car? Arghh, it's suddenly gridlock!! ;^)


You're not alone!

Beware, you're not on a race track: annoying civilians are driving on these once-safe roads and they do seem to love 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. Then, you have a choice of being good or watching them disappear in your rearview mirror!

Personally, I treat these moments as a green light opportunity to push the pedal to the metal, but that's just me! Now, just remember to refuel at the gas station checkpoint before continuing on with your Bullrun Rally.


Sometimes road trips can go terribly wrong...


Old school aesthetics

Test Drive has some nice characteristics which I 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 it! Yep, I think that the graphics are nice considering the age of this famous racer and I probably like the dashboards the most - with the Corvette being my favourite.

Musically, this is nice with lots of jingles and cute tunes during the menus and screens when filling up with fuel. The sound effects of the car aren't the best; it's all buzzy compared to other oldies like Turbo Cup.


It's time to fill up before hitting that open road.


The CryptO'pinion?

Overall, an enjoyable drive without the crazy rush of a speedster. More like a charming Sunday drive! But I still have a soft spot for this cliffside road tripper because it's a cracking game. Test Drive went on to be quite the historical driving series throughout the 90s and it's great to think that it began on the Atari ST!! Great game.


DOWNLOADS + LINKS

8BitChip have a hard drive installable version which I highly recommend!
Old Games Finder has 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 (umm) more than a hint of an Italian plumber. Anyhow, the ST version played well but suffered flip-screen scrolling that soon became tiresome on the old eyes. Ultimately, it was a lame port and spoiled what should have been an excellent game.

Don't give me the old excuse that the ST cannot scroll. Here are a few examples: Viking Child, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Enchanted Land, Stario, Alien World, Zone Warrior, Onslaught and many, more!! Yes, it bugs me when I see people's daft comments claiming that the ST cannot scroll.
Blame the programmer - not the computer! /rant

Well, it looks like I wasn't the only person to hate this poor release because Samuel (aka Zamuel_a of Pac-Mania fame) decided to convert it to the Atari STe. The hardware scrolling is used so the screen now scrolls and it's smooth too - 50fps smooth! To say that this update is jaw-dropping is an understatement and it most certainly beats that pathetic commercial release. So, the game itself is the same but now it scrolls which is perfect.

Samuel has put the Atari STe to great use which proves the power of this machine. Finally, we can play Giana Sisters as it was meant to be enjoyed so waste no more time and download this wonderful new version!


It looks basic but it also looks console-cool too. I like it, very NES... to me.

Happily walking along and then something falls on your head! Let's collect the gems.

I really hate that horrendous big bug so let's jump over the sucker and run!

Friday, October 07, 2016

Anarcho Ride


Anarcho Ride is a new "racer" for the Atari STe by the ever-zealous Thomas Ilg. Well, it's not really a racer at all. Sure, it looks the part but it's more of a smash 'n grab - think Carmageddon were head-on collisions gets you all the points need to go further in the game to see extra levels. I actually found it difficult to play at first because it's natural to try and avoid the other cars. Don't. When you're behind the wheel, the aim is to smash into every car you can and shoot the ones you might miss using a missile. The game is pure mechanical violence and it's totally insane!!

Graphics are good with my STe outputting a decent framerate. I liked the quirky styles of each level, even though I think it's odd to see my car "hovering". But perhaps that's just me still clinging onto the hope for a racing game? DMA sound effects are ace and accompanied by awesome chipmusic. This is how all games should sound!!

If you're looking for a racing game then look elsewhere. This isn't a racer whatsoever. This is a smash 'em up and we just happen to be in a car! Smashing stuff up is always great fun and Anarcho Ride proves that perfectly.

Download Anarcho Ride (+ expansions)

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!