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 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



Oi Fatso!!

This is a story of a fat, obnoxious parking attendant who loves to eat food - a pillar of the community! Chubby Gristle is always hungry and will roam each room looking for grub to nosh on for Grandslam Entertainment's 1988 platformer. This is a platformer and initially feels like many games I played on my ZX Spectrum. Never a bad thing.

Each screen is designed in a similar fashion to Monty Mole however, Chubby Gristle is incredibly tough and perhaps too difficult for the average gamer? As with all platformers, 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).

Visually, it's perfectly 8-bit with 16-bit enhancements. And I mean that in a good way because it happily blasted me back into the 1980s. The sprites move smoothly and are 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 replace that with the sound effects?

Chubby Gristle could have been a hit but the basic mechanics fail due to a difficulty that is off the scale. There's so much going on and it's all too easy for the fat man to bump into something or fall flat on his face. I feel many extra lives are needed to balance things out. There are some great screens but you won't get to see them without cheating...

This is a game that loves to see you suffer. Whoever playtested this should be shot!!

* Klaz' Hideaway who has the floppy and a hard drive installable game (with lives cheat).
* I've recorded a video of my dispare, dare you view it?
* 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




Another 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 take it into the realm of a serious sim. But, don't panic, that doesn't make it boring!! Oh no, not at all so read on.

Golf fans will shriek with happiness as several game types are on offer - each affected by an array of realistic variables that can alter every aspect. Yes, just like the variables that 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.

One of the things I loved was seeing each hole before playing it. Just like in this screenshot...



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 followed 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 camera angles and, interestingly, all benefit smoother framerates on faster computers - like my 16MHz Mega STe.

Don't run away jealous with envy! Stop and read some more. Here is a screenshot to make you happy...



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



Aesthetics

Graphically, this is one game that easily 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 designs we've come to admire from Microprose. However, it's the 3D aspect that absolutely 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? It would have been nice to hear a chirp from the birds, a little breeze, or background crowd chatter?

There's always something isn't there? Never mind, it's now time for another cool screenshot...



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!

Sounds familiar... Anyhow, Terry's Big Adventure was released in 1989 by Gary Walton for Shades. It plays with more than a pinch of Mario (I cannot help but wonder how moneybags Nintendo let them get away with it, but I'm glad they did). His adventure takes us through twelve lands and, 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's different... and kinda works very well too.

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.

Tip, 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!

Fancy a screenshot? No? Hmm, about an animation instead? Better check this out then...



The Atari ST cannot scroll, right? Well, that's what the talentless programmers say...



Visuals, Sounds, Controls.

Personally, I thought that the graphics are NES in style. The first thing to notice? The tiny sprites, but these suit the console experience perfectly and everything you see is colourful and detailed. Scrolling is silky smooth and it's obvious Gary took pride in his work and achieved beautiful results - using a computer without any hardware scrolling.

The audio is a little disappointing with the option of chip music 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 responsive controls and Terry has it for a precise feel that is great. It's perfectly "console" which I know sounds odd but it's true! This also works hand in hand with the laws of physics which means how and when to use the Yo-Yo. This beastly weapon has a knockback that affects Terry - 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 a great platformer and one 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. The only kicker (for me) is never knowing about this wonderful platformer back in the day.

Yup, I thoroughly enjoyed playing yo-yos with my new spiky-haired friend. What a fantastic platformer!!

Download for floppy or hard disk.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Metroid"



Talent + Atari STe = another new game

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, and explore the levels using a 16-colour-limit-busting display! The Blitter will handle the sprites with hardware scrolling being utilised too for a silky-smooth display. Heck, even the analogue ports will be used (now, where's my Jag Pad?)

As you can see, it looks fantastic but Samuel is also asking for help: with music, sound effects, sprites, and level design. If you can help, please contact him directly via the Atari-Forum website. I wish him luck.

It looks like Samuel has another winner on his hands and I for one cannot wait to see how this develops over time. It's looking great so far!! Check out a couple more screenshots below and... 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 chip music. Some people hate clowns but get over it - this is literally one of the best demos I have ever seen. Okay, it's hard drive installable and downloads are available via Demozoo.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Test Drive




I fancy a road trip!

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 of playing this game 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 into the sunset. So cool.

There are five sports 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.

It's time for some screenshots so let's check out the choice of smooth riders on offer...


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 from thinking I'm Magnum P.I.


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


(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. I love that and it includes the 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 pinpoint a more precise indication of your turning and direction. It's really helpful albeit crude. However, I must admit, it does make up for the lack of analogue controls nicely. Considering that, it feels pretty natural.

Like cars? Like rocks? Then you are gonna love this next screenshot...


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



You're not alone!

Beware, you aren't actually on a race track, it's a highway. So annoying civilians are driving on these once-safe roads who 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 help 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! Don't forget to refuel at the gas station checkpoint before continuing with your Bullrun Rally. Petrol doesn't last forever!

Honestly, I'm a good driver. Especially after a few beers as shown in this next screenshot...



Sometimes your road trip can go terribly wrong!



Old school aesthetics

Test Drive has some nice characteristics - that are hilarious - like the 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. I like the dashboards the most with the Corvette being my favourite. However, all cars feature equally superb graphics.

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. Bit of a shame.

I love how the game looks, even if the cars sound like a bee trapped inside a drum. Screenshot time...



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



The CryptO'pinion?

Test Drive offers an enjoyable drive without the rush of a speedster like Vroom or Crazy Cars III. It's more like a charming Sunday drive without that thrill of speed. But don't let that put you off, this is a great driving game and one I have a soft spot for. This cliffside road tripper is the beginning of the historical 90s series. To think that it began on the Atari ST.

A grand racer with loads of great cars for the rocky American roads. Far from perfect but I love it to bits!!

8BitChip has a hard drive installable version which I recommend!
Old Games Finder has floppy disk images.
Update: There is an excellent new video by Wasabim.
There are many Test Drive games and I love No.5 on the PlayStation.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Giana Sisters




Turn your ST into a Nintendo!

The Great Giana Sisters was released in 1987 by Rainbow Arts and is a platformer with (umm) more than a hint of Italian plumbing. Anyhow, the commercial ST game 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 release.

Don't give me the old excuse that the ST cannot scroll. It can scroll: 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

It looks like I wasn't the only person to hate our poor conversion because Samuel (aka Zamuel_a of Pac-Mania fame) decided to convert it to the Atari STe. He makes use of the hardware scrolling so the entire screen scrolls rather than flipping - and it's smooth, 50fps smooth. To say that this update is jaw-dropping is an understatement and it most certainly beats the pathetic commercial game. Now, just imagine if the industry would have supported the Atari STe properly...

Anyhow, the game itself is the same but it now scrolls and that fact totally transforms the experience. Samuel has put the Atari STe to great use which proves the power of this wonderful computer. Finally, we can play Giana Sisters as it was meant to be enjoyed! Waste no more time and download this wonderful new version (improved by Peter Putnik)

Watch the video and check out these screenshots before deciding whether or not you should download...



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




Carmageddon!!!

Anarcho Ride is a new "racer" for the Atari STe by the ever-zealous Thomas Ilg of Laser Ball fame. Well, ignoring what the screenshots show, this isn't actually a racer as such. Sure, it looks the part but it's more of a smash 'n grab - think Carmageddon where head-on collisions get you the points needed to go further and play extra levels.

This is fun but, at first, I actually found it difficult because it's natural to avoid the other cars. Don't. When you're behind the wheel, the aim is to smash into every car you can - and why not shoot the ones you have missed using a missile. That sounds about right! Yes, it's silly and stupid but it's also pure mechanical violence! Totally insane gaming!!

The graphics are weirdly 80s in their style, reminds me of Crazy Cars and others from that era. Of course, the Atari STe produces a decent framerate and is very smooth. The only negative is that the car has no shadow so it appears to "hover". The audio is outstanding with DMA sound effects alongside stunning chip music by xFalcon.

Ignore the screenshots if you're looking for a new racing game. Look elsewhere, this isn't a racer. This is a crash 'em up, I guess you might say? Smashing stuff up is always excellent fun and Anarcho Ride proves that perfectly.


Download Anarcho Ride (+ expansions)



We're out for a nice quiet drive in the desert. Let's hope there's nobody on the road...


Looks like we're in the salt flats and, oh no, there's a safe driver up ahead!!


Now we're smashing through the lush landscape of what could only be England. Death on the roads!

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-looking oldskool shooter by Robert HC Leong, a much-respected name from the Atari ST homebrew scene I'm sure you'll agree.

He has developed four games - Annihilator, Missile Alert, Pac-Man ST and Space Invaders. Each one was released under the Budgie UK label and they were all hits with ST gamers. Plus I thoroughly enjoyed playing them all too!

To say I was surprised to find out Robert read my review -and- also follows AtariCrypt is an understatement! Talk about a nice surprise! Anyhow, we got chatting and it wasn't long before I threw out a few questions and here we are. :-)

I hope you enjoy this interview? My gratitude to Robert for being a great sport (and for being a fan of AtariCrypt!)



Robert HC Leong
- The Interview -


Hello Robert, please tell us about the guy behind the games

I am from Malaysia and 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 and was looking for a new computer. 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 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.

Hey, wanna see Robert's Atari ST setup? Of course, you do...


Can you imagine going back in time and being there as he programmed his games!!


What was it like developing ST 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, including 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 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 shareware 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 horizontally 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.



This is Annihilator and is stuffed with Galaxian action!


Do you have a favourite game?

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 gameplay approaching that of the original arcade version, and cute to boot!


Did you rake in the 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!

Any chance you will start 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.



It's Pac-Man and it's a cool version of the original arcade game.


Do you play games?

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 so resilient, considering that the machine was discontinued in 1993. 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, 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)



An excellent alternative spin on Missile Command. It's very, very difficult!!


So what are you doing these days?

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. Facebook, eBay, LinkedIn, Google, Apple, Cisco, and Oracle are all around me. IT executives of all ages are driving Teslas.

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…

Take a look at my website: (http://fungames.zone/#AtariSTgames)

-It was brilliant talking to Robert and I hope you've enjoyed this little interview :-)



Space Invaders can run in a modern or classic mode and (above) is the classic version.

Even More ATARI ST Articles

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