Sunday, November 27, 2016

!cube

I've been browsing through some of the amazing works to come out of Silly Venture and found a superb chiptune by !cube (aka Toni Lönnberg). Hyper Ocean Ride came second in the competition and is also making use of the Atari STe's DMA hardware for those cool drums. I love this tune so had to share it - press the GREEN arrow below!

LINKS

 - Mr cube has a great website and is also on Demozoo and SoundCloud.
 - I've recorded a video of his "Meet !cube" musicdisk which you can download here.
 - Bullet Sequence is another of my fave tracks (from Silly Venture 2014).


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Crash Time Plumber


This is a conversion of the Gamopat original released only days ago at Silly Venture. Our Atari game was developed by Sebastien Lucas of Cerebral Vortex and it works on any Atari computer with a Blitter Chip. This means the Mega ST, any Atari STe, and the Falcon beast so if your older STFM has an empty socket then you know what to do.

When I first loaded this, I wasn't sure what to expect but I was greeted with an authentic 8Bit-styled platformer with fantastic gameplay. It's based on Donkey Kong with a hefty dollop of Popeye and takes place in 1983 before the video gaming industry crash. Now, a certain Italian plumber has teamed up with an angry looking Donkey Kong and kidnapped ten of our gaming heroes: Pac-Man, Pitfall Harry, Q-Bert, Frogger, and many others are preparing themselves for a hideous death at the hands of these terrible criminals. Rescue them all to foil Mario's plan for his invasion and save the gaming industry!

We're on the donkey kong construction site collecting love hearts that are given freely by a damsel in distress who floats by in her hot air balloon. When enough are collected, we begin our steroid-jumping rescue to the top of the screen and save our captured hero. This won't be easy because not only is Mario is rolling barrels downhill but King Kong is hanging about throwing his killer bananas! Some levels have weather conditions affecting movement and don't forget about the harsh 120 seconds time limit.

The graphics are fantastic for a gorgeous 80s retro theme. The sprites are so cute and the Blitter produces beautifully smooth 50fps scrollable screen. Heck, the Atari STe even adds enhanced colour fading too.

Falcon owners get to witness a huge Zeppelin flying by, which I cannot help but wonder why this is missing on the ST/e? Audio is superb with lovely sound effects and a great chiptune that is also totally suited to the ye olde style. Everything is perfect!

Don't be fooled by this humble platformer because right from the start you're tricked into thinking it's far too easy - it is anything but! The combination of fantastic controls and extremely tough mechanics will catch you out many times and I'm sick of being smacked in the face by a killer banana! Crash Time Plumber is so addictive and drags you back, kicking and screaming, for more so if you only play one game today then may I suggest you play Crash Time Plumber!! A remarkable platformer and a perfect 10/10.

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have a download which features the option for extra lives!! :D
 - I simply had to record a quick video of my extreme gaming frustration - but I loved every minute of it!
 - All but the oldest Atari STs come with a Blitter Chip. However, I believe the midlife Atari STs (1987+) have an empty socket so grab £20+ and head over the EXXOS webSTore and buy yourself one!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Online ST Picture Viewer

Often I need to quickly view an Atari ST piccy on my Mac and there are plenty of options but here is a fascinating web-tool by Cyprian which allows you to instantly view those old images within a web browser. It supports the classic formats like Degas, Neochrome, Spectrum 512, and even works with drag and drop. What an outstanding viewer.

LINKS

 - Get viewing those old 320x200 images right now using Online ST Picture Viewer!
 - The 'AtariCrypt' image courtesy of STatariART  [ and I love it ]
 - This modern web-tool reminded my of a classic program called PicSwitch ;-)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Blasteroids


Once again, the galaxy is overrun by those damn rocks and is in need of somebody to smash 'em into smithereens. The rocks come in all shapes and sizes and, along with the standard variety, there are popcorn rocks which bloat before eventually freezing. Red rocks will leave behind crystals to conveniently recharge your shield, which is very nice! Watch out for aliens who frequently rear their ugly heads. You should kill 'em as quick as you can to reveal a range of nifty power-ups, such as a double shot or the impressive Ripstar. Once all sectors are cleared you will battle the dreaded Mukor, a festering evil entity who fires miniature spaceships using his tentacles - so shoot each of those suckers quickly and then you can watch him scarper like the fatty bloated coward he is!

Blasteroids is split into levels and each level is split into several smaller sectors which must be completed before reaching a gruesome End Of Level boss, the monstrous Mukor! Your ship is equipped with upgradeable weapons, a powerful shield, the ability to transform itself and once all the rocks are pounded into dust a transporter appears to whisk you off to the next sector - to do it all over again.

Controls are excellent and very responsive. Rotate your ship using left or right, push up to thrust, and keep slamming on that fire button to shoot anything rocky-looking! Gravity and momentum play their parts to affect your performance but don't worry because your shield will help to compensate your piloting skills. Pulling back on the joystick will transform your ship between three different models: the Speeder is very quick and agile, Fighter features the best weaponry, and Warrior is your beefy and burly beast. Your friends can jump in on the action - at any time - with an impressive co-operative two-player support, just like in the arcades. This is a superb feature.

Graphics are pretty cool for what used to be a visually stark experience and I love the nicely animated rocks rolling through space. Enemy ships look gorgeous and all sprites a large, details and move smoothly. Oddly, the backgrounds are only 4-colours but you might never notice due to their beautiful design and an artistic flair I really admire. Sadly, the audio disappoints with lame sound effects instead of samples, which would have been ideal and easily handled by any ST computer. Music is also a touchy subject and soon becomes extremely repetitive! Thankfully, it can be switched off but that only highlights the sound inadequate effects... catch-22.

Thi is a good arcade conversion with a few silly niggles spoiling an otherwise great rock-smashing experience. Asteroid purists probably won't like it but keep your mind open because it's tons of fun, I just wish the audio was better. However, I fear Stardust is still my favourite but Blasteroids and Asteroidia tied for a respectable second place.

LINKS

 - Once again 8BitChip delivers a hard drive installable version!
 - Those which require the floppy disk versions should visit Old Games Finder.
 - View the other "Asteroid" games here on AtariCrypt.
 - I am proud to own this sweet rock-basher! :-)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Alcatraz

Regular visitors to the best Atari ST gaming website (aka AtariCrypt) will know that I bought Alcatraz earlier this year. Such an underrated game which, takes a little while to master, but offers superb stealth and action gameplay with a first-person scene that still makes me drool. My copy was sealed and Alcatraz is one of my prized possessions!

LINKS

 - I messed about with the two-player support in my video recording (even without any friends ...BooHoo)
 - Those unlucky enough not to own this beauty should download the D-Bug's awesome hack!
 - Old Games Finder has all the floppy disk versions you could shake a stick at!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Atari wallpapers


Having zero artistic flair means I need to cheat whenever I fancy changing the website logo. Thankfully, I've found a couple of free websites that offer fancy text-generating tools and I figured it would be nice to share today's experimentations. Take a look at Picture To People & FlamingText and design your own graphics.

I've included a few various logos which can be downloaded from my Dropbox account. These actually double as great wallpapers and are best when centred, not stretched or tiled. I hope this bundle will give you some ideas to create something cool? Let me know, go create #STatariART ....reply here if you dare! :-)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Legends Of Valour

Legends Of Valour is one of the last Atari ST games I purchased and I remember it received relatively favourable reviews. However, I was smitten with the game's depth and longevity not to mention the first-person visuals and superb packaging!

Our adventure begins in the city of Mitteldorf in search of our missing cousin, Sven who previously set out to find his fortune. However, it's been far too long since anybody heard from him and thus our adventure begins. Firstly, you should design your character's appearance, clothing, and armament. You can be either human, dwarf or elf with each profile offering a different game style and objectives. Select hair, eyes, nose and so on to create your demi-god or (like me) perhaps your character will end up looking like something from freak show?

Once you're dandy, enter into the city and heed the advice from the friendly local that pops-up for a chat. I would first advise you take the time to explore and familiarise yourself with your surroundings because this is such a massive place and you will need necessary amenities, like safe lodgings, income, beer to sup, and grub to nosh. Mitteldorf is a fortress city, populated with some very interesting characters, secretive guilds, curious places, and even a labyrinth of dungeons hidden deep underground. Of course, these are just itching to be explored, but be careful because you might not like what you find down there. Your cousin wrote a letter which nicely explains his story, why not take a read? Perhaps it features hidden hints that should help you along your journey. Heck, you never know!

All exploration is action through a first-person engine not too dissimilar to a shooter like Wolfenstein with fully texture-mapped graphics, a testament to what a 16-bit computer can knock out. This can be configured in three display sizes, small, medium and large. Any ST will be fine but the largest setting will require a 16MHz CPU or better. Initially, the interface is a little scary due to the huge number of icons but soon becomes useful, intuitive and easy to use. Wandering the city is feasible using the GUI's icons but it can become a little laborious due to the immense size of the play area so a right-click will activate mouse control to unlock its full potential, and is also tremendously good fun.

Legends Of Valour isn't something you simply play - you live it. Life here is completely open-world, a "sandbox" adventure, where you are free to roam and do almost anything you want. This has always been a fascinating concept for me and, although this is an early example of the genre, it works extremely well.

Exploring Mitteldorf is exciting. It's bursting with funny characters, monsters, temples, stores, taverns, employment, and so much more. I love its Olde English medieval setting which is perfectly portrayed and experienced in real-time, so day and night pass by with their own consequence. All the usual requirements we have in life also exist here like eating, sleeping, health and our personal safety when in a dodgy remote location, especially late at night. I find refuge in a few ales at The Hanged Man tavern is often the best option, but perhaps that's me? Just don't get too tipsy and end up in lockup!

This game is humungous and not something to play one boring afternoon. Learning the city of Mitteldorf alone can be overwhelming, so make notes and a basic key to complement the official map. So much can be learned by communicating with your fellow citizens so get chatting to them over a beer or perhaps those strange folk that appear to aimlessly wander the streets. However, be prepared to defend yourself when set upon by anyone from the King's faithful knights in shining armour to a little old lady, who throws a barrage of humorous insults before giving you a good slap. So, slap her back. Good times!

I love wandering Mitteldorf, but nothing is perfect and I feel Legends Of Valour lacks in a couple of areas. The battles could have been thought out a bit better and it's disappointing to discover most buildings are empty of furniture. Also, audio is limited to spot effects which is a shame considering the number of disks in the box, I think some ambient samples or more varied chippy fx could have tremendously improved the atmosphere, especially at night.

Legends Of Valour is something very special and offers a vibrant and exciting place to live. So many cool characters, taverns to frequent, secret guilds to master, monster-infested dungeons to plunder, and then jobs or missions are always on offer. This game has it all and, as you begin to make progress and delve in deeper, you soon realise just how much more potential it features. Heck, I had forgotten all about searching for cousin Sven! Allow yourself to get lost in this immensely rewarding adventure because it is most certainly one of my favourite Atari ST games, ever.

LINKS

 - Games like this are best installed to hard drive and 8BitChip has delivered the goods - with cool scans!
 - Those stuck with a humble floppy drive should check out Old Games Finder.
 - After a little surfing, I found a cool scan of the city map which you can see above or click here for a large view.
 - With a little more searching, I found a PDF clue book which looks promising.
 - I had myself some fun back in October...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

STatariART

The Atari ST world never ceases to amaze me and today I bring you news of a new demo group calling themselves "STatariART". The name might sound familiar to folk who lurk inside FaceBook because it's by Stuart Johns, the owner of the Facebook group I previously mentioned. He wanted to expand upon that and looked for a way to promote the graphical flare of all artiSTs. Thus the idea of a new demogroup was born and he enlisted some fantastic people, Peter Jørgensen (YMT Player), Pandafox and Luis Ortiz are all on board. Not bad for an ex-Ameoba dude?

STatariART has a page on Demozoo and here are examples of their outstanding artwork to gawk at :

  

Friday, November 04, 2016

Hatari v2.0.0

ALERT : a new version of the Hatari emulator has just been released!! :-)
Major highlights are :
  ->  Hatari can use SDL2, this will take advantage of HW acceleration and enhance performance OSX.
  ->  Hatari now uses one single CPU core for all machines (ST, STE, TT, Falcon).
  ->  Video emulation now supports the 4 STF wakeup states for MMU/GLUE and a much more accurate state machine for border removal.
  ->  CPU emulation was improved a lot by using WinUAE's CPU and fixing some low level behaviour : IACK sequence, exception/interrupt stacking, 2 cycle accesses, bus accesses timing depending on memory region, instruction pairing, ...
  ->  Falcon DMA sound was fixed.
  ->  New support for MegaST and MegaSTE machine types.
  ->  Improvements to Gemdos HD emulation.
  ->  SDL UI reworked with more options.
  ->  Resizable window when using SDL2 (using HW acceleration)

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

After The War


After The War was released back in 1989 by Dinamic Software and is (partly) a fantastic beat 'em up similar in style to Double Dragon 3. You are Jonathan Rogers, aka Jungle Rogers, and must assassinate Professor McJerin who is today's nutcase. Worryingly set in the near future during a post-apocalyptic Manhattan where you must kill all the bad dudes and escape to somewhere far nicer than this hellhole! Sounds easy, right? Let's see...

This game is split into two parts: the first is a scrolling beat 'em up and the second a shoot 'em up platformer. Upon playing part one, the first thing that struck me was the graphics which look amazing with huge sprites, great use of colour, and good scrolling. I adore the backgrounds and found the artwork and design to be apt for the grungy scenario. Sound effects are very cool and made up of low-quality grunts and thumps with silly cries when somebody is killed. It is worth mentioning the awesome title theme which I think is superb and I do wonder if the enhanced hardware within the STe was used? However, this only highlights the lacking in-game background tune... Controls are very easy to master and offer: a punch, a flying-kick, jumping, and a get-me-outta-here rollback. Strangely, the keyboard is needed to activate another type of kick and a nut-crushing low punch, especially useful for the rapid dogs! Sadly, I found flipping between the two sets of controls an awkward killjoy. (image above)

Part two is only playable once the first is complete and our musclebound hero now equipped with a giant weapon as he heads off into the underground. Gamestyle is now a platform shooter where we need to blast everything, even those pesky rats! The controls are a little weird, we must manually guide the directional aiming which is overly complicated. It's quite good fun but I found myself stressing over the control system too much rather than winning!

After The War is two games in one, which may sound great but it's not. The beat 'em stage is a little sluggish but it's incredibly good fun and also looks and sounds impressive. I really enjoyed playing this which is more than can be said for the scrolling platformer. Why did they bother? Play for the beat 'em up and a good time is guaranteed!!

LINKS

 - Update September 2017: 8BitChip have a brand new hard drive installable download!
 - Old Games Finder has all the floppy disk versions you could ever desire!
 - What a fantastic loading screen - this is killer 16-Bit pixel art!!
 - Who fancies a couple of cheats?
          -> Fancy the code to part two : 101069 (tested and works)
          -> Infinite energy in part one, press keys : ALT, 1, B (untested)
          -> Infinite energy in part two, press keys : ALT, 1, M (untested)