Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas


It's that time again when I find something Christmassy from within the Atari ST archives. However, this time I didn't want a game so opted for a demo. I think I've found a belter: Xmas '88 which was released by Kenrick Productions. I hope you like this? I find it endearing with cute animations and a few appropriate chiptunes to get you in the festive mood.

Merry Christmas everyone and I wish you all the very beST †

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Death Chase - The Remix




This is a STOS game. Wait, come back!!

That's right, Death Chase was programmed in STOS. That is something which can produce some neat results but... more often than not... tends to leave me feeling cold. Usually, that's down to the jerky scrolling or oversized sprites! Anyhow, here is something that I thought might have been a remake of Mervyn Estcourt's ZX Spectrum racer. Alas, it isn't.

Actually, I'm glad!!! This is a vicious top-down shooter developed in 1996 by Daniel Fielding for the Atari STe and seems to take much inspiration from a variety of action/shooters. Heck, it even supports both solo and an incredibly cooperative two-player mode. Yep, this is starting to sound awesome already, whether you're playing solo or not.

Our character is a guy roaming Rogue-like rooms. We are, initially, armed with a pistol and our job is to explore the rooms - all are inhabited by killer cyborgs armed to the teeth!! Death Chase is loud, exciting and bursting with big explosions and many baddies. It's intense!! Come on, we have guns and lots of bad guys to kill. Oh yeah, bring it on :)

Wanna see a screenshot from my (one-player) game? No? Well, here you go anyway...



Each room holds so many possibilities for a whole new level of violence. It never gets dull!!!



Guns and loud violence?

We may start with a pistol but our armoury is huge with a possible 18 weapons - including shotguns, rocket launchers, and lasers. I bet Star Wars fans will enjoy using the lightsaber. Items like ammo and health are found in most rooms, so inspect lockers or look on tabletops. However, beware of potential traps like mines or even TNT crates.

The deaths are hilarious when you zap, slice or blow up the enemy and there will usually be a bucket load of blood splattering through the room! Each death will be different depending on the weapon used or how he's killed. It's superb. Death leads me onto the excellent continue option - this means you can try again after dying - without restarting from the beginning. However, you lose the bigger weapons and start with the pistol. :/

This might be a bold statement when the Atari ST has games like Rick Dangerous, Lemmings, and Gods but, I think Death Chase has the best dead scenes in any game. Ignoring the enemy deaths, seeing your body blasted across numerous rooms into a bloody heap is nothing short of sickening and hilarious all at the same time. It's fantastic!!

This is a loud and alluring action game stuffed with an insane amount of violence and I love it! Screenshot time...



Death Chase is insanely good fun and bucket loads of it too. Either solo or with a friend.



Two types of killer cyborgs

This may sound like the weakest part of the game because there are only two main enemies. I know I know... two sounds puny, doesn't it? Well, on one level it is but this isn't commercial and, if I'm honest, it isn't a problem whatsoever.

Security Guards - these are common and wear a blue uniform but have no intention to serve and protect. Their armour is weak but they can use a range of devastating weapons and will often attack as a pack.

Eliminators - these are the toughest and stand out like sore thumbs in yellow body armour. They can carry a range of advanced hardware, like a mini-gun or a rocket launcher. Also, they don't care who gets in their way - even unlucky Security Guards can be torn to shreds during a pursuit. Interestingly, these guys aren't restricted to the room and love chasing through the screens. So beware because running away like a chicken has little benefit.

Yeah, it is kinda strange that a game like this has only two baddies but it works well. Okay, screenshot time...



Only one guy stood between me and that ammo. So I fried him alive. Mwahaha!!



Controls, Gfx, Audio

Similar to Rogue, movements are performed within a grid layout in all 4-directions. However, I would not recommend using the joystick because it's far too sensitive. Even the documentation advises the keyboard instead, which works much better. It's dead easy: the A and D keys are used to turn anti/clockwise. W walks us forward with the Spacebar used to choose from an array of weapons (read the docs). Finally, banging on the Right Shift key is the best of all - this produces an enormous amount of gratifying blood-soaked violence (I love that double-barrel shotgun). Fascinatingly violent!!

The graphics remind me of how today's developers seem to think "retrogaming" looked in the day. Okay, it ain't no Enchanted Land but I'm impressed by the perfectly blocky pixel art which is a style perfectly apt to the theme. Everything you see is gorgeously drawn with fine attention. The details are superb and work very well. I love the visuals!!

The audio is equal to the stunning visuals in all respects thanks to incredible Mad Max chiptunes. These tunes play alongside the sound effects which are crystal-clear DMA samples for almost every action. You will recognise many, they were recorded using Microdeal's Stereo Master from movies like The Evil Dead. A lot of effort went into this killer game!!

Keyboard. Keyboard. Keyboard. Keyboard. Keyboard. Okay, got that? Good. Screenshot time...



Death Chase is almost like a nightmarish and blood-soaked version of Rogue. Love it!!



This is why we play Atari!!

Every so often, a game comes along that not only takes you by surprise but completely blows you away. Death Chase first appeared quite simple, gimmicky, and perhaps even stupidly senseless. But moments into your first game, you are HOOKED. Use the keyboard and enjoy the frantic action which is constantly exhilarating and bursting with bloody mayhem.

I cannot stress how much of a rush it is to experience such a psychotic shooter. that looks, sounds and plays this well. The "continue" feature is excellent and supporting two players spices things up beyond perfect and guarantees hours of fun. It's barbaric and Death Chase is one of the best games I have ever played. Well done Daniel Fielding.

Yes, I said that. Not only a brilliant Atari STe game but is one of the best games I have ever played. Ever.


Stop everything - download now!!




These sample screenshots show what the two-player games look like.



Gratifying violence for two players is legendary!



Oh no, I've been blasted. That means...



...I'm thrown out of the screens and through the next before splattering against the wall!! LOL

Monday, December 04, 2017

Creepy




Atic Atac?

Atlantis Software released Creepy in 1991, it may sound like yet another predictable good vs evil affair but just wait until you play it! Some might say it's inspired, but it's nothing more than a shameless Atic Atac rip-off.

Creepy is a little fella but very brave and his old brother appeared in a famous 1983 game. Well, he is about to enter a castle owned by The Lord Of Darkness. Why, I hear you cry? Is he mad? No, it's to find four pieces of the Necromancy Scroll that will defeat this nasty man and restore peace to a land ravaged by all kinds of evil monsters.

What, you don't believe Atic Atac appeared on the Atari ST. Hmm, you better take a look at this then...



I killed a warrior so pinched her dragon and road him like John Wayne!



Dark rooms and lots of monsters!

The Lord's castle is huge with rooms spawning a whacky bunch of evil monsters. Some are easy to kill but others are a lot harder, like the She-Warriors who ride on dragons. She might be tough but, when you defeat her, Puff is left behind so hop on for a ride. Watch out for other nasties like the odd-looking Frankenstein and a ginormous spider!

We are equipped with arrows but these are slow so it's best to upgrade to something better in the shop. Yes, this castle has a shop with stuff like health and fireballs - I really liked the fireball weapon and restoring health is always a wise purchase. Locked doors can be opened with the correct key and tiny yellow keys will unlock treasure chests that adorn many rooms. Gamblers will love these as you never know what's inside - something useful or something sinister?

Monsters won't aimlessly wander and sure love to play chase - at the expense of your energy level (displayed as a crunchy apple rather than a roast turkey). Also, a life loss no longer leaves behind a Cross where we breathed our last breath. Oh, and I still haven't made up my mind about which has the best effect when falling between floors...

Ignoreing the graphics, Creepy is not a carbon-copy clone of Ultimate's game. It plays quicker with other subtle differences within a castle that is dingier than the colourful Spectrum game. It took me a while to feel comfortable with the speed but it wasn't long until I was zipping through the rooms like a crazy medieval dude.



Whether you came from the ZX Spectrum or not, you'll love this ripoff game :)



The CryptO'pinion?

Okay, those old enough to have gasped in awe at Ultimate's 1983 classic will probably turn up their nose at this blatant imitation. However, please don't. Yes, it's a blatant ripoff but it's still a fantastic game in its own right. I am incredibly impressed by the fast and furious oldskool gameplay which takes that original and adds its extra zest.

Creepy is nothing less than a nostalgic 48K impersonator with addictive gameplay. I enjoyed plundering the castle's rooms, bashing in monsters!! A genuinely excellent 8-bit game with 16-bit aesthetics. Highly recommended.

DOWNLOADS

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Deathbringer




It's Hercules!

Deathbringer is a horizontally scrolling hack and slasher that reminds me of a bunch of different Atari ST games like Barbarian II, Golden Axe and, dare I say it, Shadow Of The Beast. You are Karn, a warrior who must kill an evil wizard using a sword possessed by a blood-hungry spirit called Abaddon. Our world is viewed side-on and can be travelled in either direction through a variety of landscapes but the gameplay remains much the same which means wielding your huge sword whenever you see anything nasty. I'm liking the sound of this slasher already!!

Karn can run and jump using three attack moves: fire + left/right for a jab that is handy against skeletons but useless for others. Push up for an overhead swing - great for flying enemies. Pull down for an underhanded swing that works well for the goblins and other peculiar nasties like rocks. Yep, rocks.

Killing is the name of the game to keep Abaddon happily stuffed with souls - represented in the status bar by the sword's blood. The more baddies you kill, the happier our resident demon is, try not to starve him otherwise he might just get his fix elsewhere. There are many monsters that want to stop you from completing your noble quest: baby dragons, trolls, skeletons, bats, giants, and even birds who drop stinky eggs. A boss screen follows each level but they are rather easy!

I think it's time for some extraordinary screenshots. Breathe. Now, check this out...





Psygnosis eat your heart out!

Deathbringer has fantastic graphics - truly fantastic - and regular visitors will remember I featured the game within our Pixel Art section because of its intro/boss stages and other outstanding artwork. The in-game multilayer parallax scrolling is legendary and proves the power of the Atari ST in the hands of a decent programmer.

Aesthetically, this game makes the lame ST port of Shadow Of The Beast look like Pong!!

The audio is on par with the stunning visuals and a great title tune along with lots of funny in-game sampled sound effects - I love the horrific screaming in the intro!! However, I can't help but be disappointed Empire didn't make use of the Atari STe. Even so, we have sampled effects and smooth parallax scrolling. Eat that Psygnosis!

See what the Atari ST is capable of when in the hands of talent. Well, let's just check out another screenshot...





The CryptO'pinion?

Deathbringer appears to have it all but I've not yet mentioned how this Conan wannabe actually plays. Surely running and hacking at slimeball enemies is guaranteed fun? Well, it should be but this is where disappointment rears its ugly head thanks to the unresponsive controls and that's the last thing you need during the heat of battle!

For example, press fire/up for an overhead swing which actions a split-second later. Other niggles exist like when Karn and a baddie are standing too close - so are unable to hit each other!

Deathbringer's strong points are its beautiful graphics, great sound effects and an incredible array of interesting monsters. Well, I don't think I have ever seen a goblin on a sleigh before! Sadly, I'm left wondering if anyone at Empire actually bothered to play this game before releasing it. Probably not, which is oddly peculiar. With a little tweak here and there...

Ultimately, a very good game but the laggy controls ruin what might have been a tremendous experience.




Stonish has the floppies (Special FX (#53a / #53b)
But I would install it on a hard drive if you can!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Berzerk




Let's go way back...

I strangely felt the need to compensate for my recent gaming horror (watch me embarrassingly struggling with Platform Capers). So, Dave Munsie has rushed to the rescue with his adaption of the 8-Bit classic, Berzerk. However, I admit I had my fingers crossed when first loading - hoping it didn't suck compared to the great 2600/5200 games!!

Once again, we are the wobbly stickman intruder running through randomly generated screens killing robots. Interestingly, these robot guys are a mixed bunch - some dumb enough to fry themselves on the electrified walls, whilst others are amazingly accurate shooters. Try to kill them all and collect the bonus reward otherwise, you're called a chicken!! Otto is as fearless as ever and only too eager to rear his smiley mug and chase you across the screen.

Some (those under 40) might scoff at the boring and blocky graphics. Yes, I appreciate that they aren't spruced up to ST standards but that would have ruined the authenticity completely. Also, I love the speech synthesis which is spot-on perfect and makes me grin like the Cheshire Cat. "Chicken, fight like a robot" -this is brilliant and I love it all!!

Berzerk is fantastic. This is one of the best 8-bit conversions I have ever played. An easy 10/10 from me!!


- Download the floppies from Atarilegend -




Shoot those angry robots before they shoot you!



Then again, some will kill themselves cos they're stoopid!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Platform Capers



My ST turned into a 2600!

Platform Capers was released in 1992 by Kay Downes for Budgie UK and has obvious 8-Bit roots which is something I'm instantly attracted to. Aesthetically, I feel it's a cross between Clod Hopper, Jumping Jack and Donkey Kong with adorable authentic graphics and sound effects. These transport me back to the early 80s when I was a kid sitting in my cold room in front of an old portable tv waiting for my Speccy to finish loading from tape.

The objective is simple, collect the keys on each of the levels before exiting through the doorway. However, there is a myriad of frustratingly cunning enemies we need to avoid. Touch one and a life is lost and we go tumbling down the screen like a fat plumber. It's brilliant and classically old school gameplay. However, it's very hard...

I believe there are 7 levels but I dare anyone to complete this game without resorting to a cheat!! At best, I have reach level 4. However, I more often than not, will struggle to complete level 3, if I'm honest. On bad days, I can struggle to beat level 2 and usually end up throwing the joystick down in temper!

Superbly programmed but the design is far too difficult. I love & hate Platform Capers in equal measure.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Deskpic



I was bored and converted a picture I found on the internet to 16 colours using Imagecopy 4. I figured it would make a great wallpaper background so I booted up Deskpic - which is on ST Format cover disk #60. Awesome sauce!

That's my rock and roll lifestyle, baby. Yep. Anyhow, that's enough for today. STay Atari.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Lost World



Yet another unreleased game!

The Lost World was developed in 1989 by John Leather who, sadly, didn't manage to find a publisher. The game itself is complete, except for the audio and he "only" managed to create half of the planned 100 levels. What a slacker, eh? I've always loved platformers of this ilk and it's obvious that John was inspired by various 8-Bit games with superb level names and a character that even walks quite similar to Master Willy, which I liked.

Since then, Grazey added an unreleased Mad Max chiptune that plays in the background. This ended the deafening silence and suits the gameplay too. So, I just had to tick this off my bucket list and take it for a spin...



Just look at the intricate layout and design. You ain't gonna complete this on your first go!!


Let's begin!

The Lost World is very challenging and I admit to struggling at first. The first screen is tough and it took me more than a few attempts before I beat it. Thankfully, this game is generous with many bonuses littered throughout along with stickmen for extra lives. Pressing the spacebar displays a dialogue of potential spells and potions for effects like invulnerability. Also, I love how each screen has a different name, like Pie Processing Plant!!

The controls are superb with simple movements that feel natural for a 2D platformer. You'll appreciate that because the level design is very cunning with lots of hazards, be it a sharp object, sinking ledges or tricky jumps. Evil critters roam the screens and they aren't limited to simply moving back 'n forth. Did I mention this was a tough platformer? Well, level two is actually a little easier but the third cranked up that difficulty once again. Sadly, I didn't beat 'The Locksmith' so I fear it's doubtful I'll be disappointed John didn't fulfil the plan to create more screens!

Perhaps I should try the level editor? Yep, if dozens of levels aren't enough for you, then why not try creating some for yourself using the in-game editor? That's quite exciting and the potential is huge!



Whatever you do, don't forget the keys... What's the little man doing there?


Willy's mansion never looked this good!

The graphics are a true 16-Bit spin on an 8-Bit genre and look lovely. Every screen is stuffed to the brim with incredible decor using intricate attention to detail. I love the colour schemes and the sprites move smoothly.

Audio never made it into the original and made your Atari ST as loud as a ZX81. Thankfully, Grazey (Psycho Hacking Force) changed that so we now get to enjoy a fantastic Mad Max chiptune. It's brilliant, of course, but I admit to missing sound effects for the jumping and collisions. I know, I'm being picky but I do miss those effects.



That purple flying monster is a pain in the £@$!! and killed me more than once!


The CryptO'pinion?

For a homebrew game, this is huge and I don't simply mean the number of levels. The creativity that went into its development is exquisite and there is always something new that catches you out and drags you back for more. However, it is really hard so be warned!! But please, don't be a wimp, learn the mechanics and beat its cruel learning curve.

When you do, you are rewarded with a tremendously addictive platformer. Step back in time and enjoy this great game!


D-Bug has both of the downloads and
AtariMania has level editor help!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Ultimate Arena



Wax on, wax off...

The Ultimate Arena was released in 1995 by STeam and must rank as one of the last commercial releases. It's a beat'em up and the first thing to do is choose our character: Sandy or Terry. Now we can proceed to the first match against a series of dodgy villains, each of whom has their own skillset and special abilities. Some might say it is Atari Mortal Kombat and, why not because we fight in various arenas against several lunatics whilst watched by a bloodthirsty crowd.

Each arena offers a different environment and I chuckled to myself when I noticed the electrified fence - just one touch and you're crispy burnt toast!! Each warrior has their own trippy personality with a varying degree of speed, talent and special abilities. Watch out for a T800 which I thought was really well done and there is also an Indiana Jones wannabe who is an incredibly tough opponent. Interestingly, your energy bar isn't fully replenished at the start of the following round, thus increasing longevity for determined gamers to figure out all the moves. This is a fun beat'em up!

Now let's check out a couple of screenshots of a Terminator and some silly fighting...



Whether you're Samantha Fox or a Terminator - this game is kick ass!! Love it!!


Showing off some cool moves there? Or is he just defying gravity? You decide.


Don’t forget to breathe, very important!

No beat 'em up would be worth its salt without fast and responsive controls to kick seven bells outta your opponent. The Ultimate Arena has what it takes and I found it easy to learn the various moves along with their special abilities. The two-player mode is great and allows us to play as the other characters (all except the final guy). A turbo mode is optional but I found that pointless so I cannot say I was impressed too much. Blood can also be turned on/off (what... why?)

Like Domark's Pit Fighter, each character is digitised and they try their best to look macho whilst kicking seven bells outta you. It's quite remarkable the amount of detail squeezed into each pixel with smooth animations and the backgrounds are always interesting: like the Terminator watching you on a screen and the crowd with their silly movements. However, I'm not so sure about the colour palette which is too brownish. Okay, I was tempted to let that slide but then I remembered other Atari ST games make better use of colour, ala Black Lamp. Yeah, umm, it is rather too brown!

Let's kick, punch and electrify through a couple more screenshots...



Kick people to death while they're already being electrocuted. It's all allowed!!


Or just pounce from a great height until they are splattered. All good fun!


The CryptO'pinion?

As I've said in the past, I'm no expert when it comes to beat 'em up games. However, I am genuinely shocked at how much fun I've had with this Mortal Kombat wannabe. I half expected it to suck, especially being released long after the gaming side of the ST had died. Surprisingly, even though the STe has no hardware to move the sprites, it's shockingly entertaining so has possibly replaced Double Dragon 3 as my favourite from this genre?

Also, I love how it doesn't take itself too seriously and the fact I can try my luck against a Terminator is kinda cool. It's obvious that a lot of hard work and love went into its production - and all during the twilight years which is extra impressive. Beating the hell out of digitised guys is a great way to spend a couple of hours!! Play this.

The floppies can be found via Old Games Finder. (but stay away of the early beta version as it's rubbish!)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Golden Dawn Mod Disk #14




MCIBTYC!!

The Golden Dawn released many PD and Mod Disks for the Atari ST during their time (Demozoo link). However, this particular disk is something quite different and features a humorous hack of Cannon Fodder. Click play to watch little ST soldiers graffiti the Amiga HQ which obviously escalates into war. Of course, this will end in bloodshed :-)

A superb idea and one that represents the tensions between ST and Amiga users back in the day. Well, mainly Amiga users because we ST guys were too busy enjoying our machine rather than looking over our shoulders! After the intro, this disk is stuffed with cool tunes and supports various playback options, including the stereo playback on the Atari STe.

Thanks to STompy for this piece of gold and get it downloaded right now. Fantastic stuff!!
Credits
Incubi - Text, Other (Compilation)
Lucid Dream - Code
Stoo Cambridge - Graphics
The F.U. Man - Code

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bombuzal




Dazzling dots!

ImageWorks' 1988 hit Bombuzal is one of those games that I remember seeing in the magazines of the day. Those pixels - I couldn't believe the cartoon-like quality of the main character within a uniquely colourful isometric world. We play the part of an odd potato-shaped dude who performs a funny expression as the bombs are exploding - it's almost like he doesn't trust himself!! Interestingly, there are some big names associated with this game but is it any good to play?

Well, this is quite a simple puzzler at heart. It requires us to detonate clusters of red bombs. Each level contains squares used to help calculate our best route. However, there are traps to look out for - crumbling tiles that can be walked on only once before they disappear forever. Others might be too slippery to walk on, some transport us, and slotted tiles can move bombs to different locations (usually to avoid being caught in an explosive chain reaction).

I like Bombuzal, it's a fun game that looks hot as it taxes the old brain cells. It's bomb-blastingly excellent!! 


Floppies can be found via Old Games Finder
HDD by 8BitChip & Klaz



Wow, this must be one of the brightest and happiest games on the Atari ST.



This is interesting and being able to flip POVs is neat. But I prefer it in 3D myself...



I love its pixel art. Isometric styles always look cool but this one also uses the palette perfectly.



Oh no, watch out for crumble tiles and (so many) other hazards. This 3D world is dangerous!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rebellion




Where have you been all my life?

It's a weird feeling when I come across a game that I've never heard of before. I mean, there are plenty I've heard of yet never played (which is strange enough!) but this game looks incredible. Yet, here I am baffled by my ignorance!

Let's read the storyline...

A nasty virus has infected the automated machines on Mars so the robots have captured our scientists and are holding them captive. We have no anti-virus program so it's our job to destroy any robots that get in our way and help lead the boffins to safety. Jump inside your spaceship and get ready to save the day, again!

Rebellion is a top-down shoot-'em-up similar (ish) to any type of Gauntlet game. Each screen has a number of trapped hostages which are often located in different parts of the level. Some are behind a forcefield which can be partially deactivated by disabling a section of its wall - but you won't have long before a repair droid appears so don't dawdle. Others can be in locked rooms which require a key card which a robot may reveal when killed. Every level has a minimum number of hostages to rescue within a set time. Miss it and the spaceship will leave without you. Yikes, so ruthless!

How did I not know about this game back in the day? Nearly 30 years with this game! Wow...



Okay, so how are you going to break into that complex, rescue everyone and get out in time?



Tactics, strategy, guns!

Enemy robots have a range of different abilities: some are slow whereas others are much faster and another can even lay down explosive mines. Some have no projectile weapon but others are only too eager to turn you into a blood splatter! Also, watch out for gun turrets, trapdoors, and large tanks. Interestingly, when you do lose a life, the robots are paused for a few seconds thus giving you some extra time to whack 'em full of lead. This is most satisfying!

Rejoice the weapons are superb and our machine gun can be upgraded with greater power and faster action - just try not to kill any humans in the crossfire! Well... Anyhow, you'll be pleased to hear that there are a variety of other power-ups to enhance shields, invincibility, a radar scrambler, and even a supply of extra lives. Oh yeah, we've got it all.

Aesthetically, the graphics are pretty nice albeit hardly groundbreaking for any 16-bit computer. I'm sure many might turn up their nose at the slow pace and tiny sprites but it's actually ideal otherwise each level would feel cramped and be very difficult to navigate. Sounds are fine and you'll hear the bam-bam-bam of your weaponry the most.

Guns, tactics, strategy, and extreme military violence. I'm all in!! This game rocks...



As you can see, each level is swarming with enemies and folk to rescue. It's never easy!



The CryptO'pinion?

Now, I don't normally enjoy games that have me worrying about the safety of computer-controlled characters whilst being hunted by the foe. I panic too much so people usually end up dead... Well, always! However, Rebellion works well even though the hostages are lame at following you and can often get stuck behind a wall so remember that.

Rebellion is simple, without irritating complications and has been perfectly executed. I've enjoyed this shooter which I've found to be anxiously entertaining - each level has an intricate and interesting military theme with gameplay that is progressively entertaining. Very addictive and one of those games that keeps dragging you back for more and it's always a fantastic rush killing the baddies whilst guiding the scientists back to safety. Yep, I loved Rebellion!!!!


Floppy disks can be found via Old Games Finder
A cool hard disk version by D-Bug.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

9 Lives




Reach out for the power

Once again, it's time for some more Atari ST box art and, today we have 9 Lives. Like most Arc games, this box has a simple design but is also pretty comical with a laughing cat that reminds me of Tom And Jerry. I must admit, I laughed at the glowing reviews plastered by three popular magazines! This has to be a great purchase, right?

Sadly, they were wrong because 9 Lives is incredibly problematic - the gameplay borders on impossible! At first, I thought this might be because of the controls, which take some time to fully master. Once you have, I found them perfect: it's easy to navigate and jump through the platforms and those long leaps are guided by a meter for fine control.

So, no matter what others say, it's not the controls. Are you shocked? I am. Let's view a couple of screenshots...


What a massive and unique variety of characters this game has.


Just look at those funny faces! I'm sure these were designed by insane people!!



What's going on?

It's not the joystick controls but the game itself. These present several awkward flaws that irk me: the sprites are too big so each screen appears "zoomed in". This means the rooms feel cluttered, thus Bob cannot help but touch something nasty. Sure, I can knock them out with my woolly yo-yo but soon they're back up and ready to zap more of my lifeforce!

Also, the levels are incredibly unfair and require a psychic gamer to be previously aware of every off-screen trap. Argh, those darn spikes!! And - oddly, for a cat - Bob cannot fall very far without dying!! However, this produces a hilarious animation effect not too dissimilar to Wile E. Coyote from the Road Runner cartoons. And I loved that!

The idea is great but the design doesn't quite feel right. Sigh, I think it's time for more screenshots...


Another life was lost... Well, at least I'm going up and not DOWN!! Phew.


Oh dear, another life lost at the hands of the frustrating and over-crowded level design...



Aesthetics?

The cartoon graphics are created by Simon Butler and are superb. Sprites are drawn with amazing detail and feel more like an exhibition than a game! The animations throughout are brilliant - I love how Bob struts his stuff walking across my screen. And what about how he clings to a ledge, just before managing to pull himself up. Fantastic!!

Audio isn't left lagging behind thanks to the most gorgeous YM Chipmusic created by Martin Walker and Simon Butler. Throughout the music is nothing less than perfect. Zero complaints about the musak from me.

No more screenshots! This time we get to see what's inside the box...



Okay, there's not much in the box but the manual doubles as a poster!



The CryptO'pinion?

Personally, I think 9 Lives had the potential to be a great platformer but I doubt it was produced by anyone that enjoyed playing games. It certainly wasn't beta tested before released lol. Sadly, I imagine most will play this once or twice before giving up - which is a shame? To think I bought this... but it's still a piece of ST history that I will cherish.

Take it for a spin and enjoy the aesthetics but, just make sure you enable the trainer option!!

Floppy disks at Old Games Finder & HDD version by 8BitChip.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mystic Realm




Cute dungeon crawling!

Mystic Realm is an action/adventure that feels like an early 80s mash of Gauntlet with limited RPG elements. It may scream "1985" but it was actually released in 1990 by John Lince for STart Magazine. Impressively, it's programmed in GFA Basic, a powerful language that has produced many games over the years so I already have high hopes.

Okay, the story is about an evil vagrant who has kidnapped a Princess (or Prince if you prefer the only other gender). Man or woman, it doesn't matter, as both will plunder monster-infested dungeons for a valiant rescue. Expect to fight zombies, ghosts, bats, etc. Obviously, I chose to be the prince even though I think he looks like a gingerbread man!!

Please, ignore its 8-bit appearance and enjoy the first screenshot. Dull decor but exquisite characters...



Wait, don't run away!! Remember that golden rule? Gameplay matters - not the graphics.



Plunge the depths!

There are 14 massive levels to explore with the basic objective of finding keys to venture through and ultimately rescue our beloved. Simple stuff! Each level is made from a number of separate rooms and navigation is aided by directional arrows displayed at the top of the screen. These show us the sides of the screen that will lead us through the dungeon.

The levels are mapped and included on the floppy disk (scroll down to view 'em here). Each is designed to be challenging but, never to a point where you feel bewildered or bored. Expect the usual and battle against a range of monsters and solve puzzles that are slowly integrated into your adventure. For example, a wooden gate may block your path but that isn't a strong obstacle against a couple of hits. However, later puzzles require more thought than simple brute force.

Fun, but requires some thought later on so use your brain. Hey, it's time for another screenshot...



Hang on, am I a gingerbread man? lol maybe! But there are still many monsters to kill. Oh yeah!!



Tread carefully, adventurer

Various weapons can be collected and each translates into a specific number of knives (visually displayed) for our adventurer to throw like a ninja. Do note that no other weapons are actually used but collecting a high-ticket item - like an axe - will reward your inventory generously. The firing method will instantly feel familiar to Berzerk fans: just hold down the joystick button and tap the direction you wish to throw a knife. It's apt and works superbly well.

Health points are displayed top/left of the screen and detail our vitality from 0 (you're dead) to 999 (the maximum). It's hungry work being a heroic gingerbread man so chomp on whatever you find to keep yourself alive. If you are already near the max then it might be worth leaving food behind until later? Sadly, health isn't regenerated at the beginning of a brand new level which is a terrible shame. You will transform into a skeleton if you foolishly starve to death!!

Tips? Easy, be a savvy adventurer! Beware not to waste ammo because you never know how long it will be before you can top-up your arsenal. Remember to eat only when hungry. Finally, there are lots of locked doors - but use your keys wisely because not all doors need opening. Use your brain, Rambo!!


Oh dear, it looks like I've run out of energy and thus instantly became a skeleton. Love it!



Aesthetics

Don't be fooled by the humble, almost childish, graphics. I find Mystic Realm quite fascinating as it reminds me of the games I played as a kid in the early 80s. Sure, there are more colours and a higher resolution but the "feeling" remains genuine - without having any unnecessary bloatware that would ruin the authenticity. Also, the sprites are all nicely drawn and with comical details: like the wobble of a zombie walk! The ghosts are excellent and are my favourite.

Audio? Well, even the meagre sound effects transport me back to the 80s. Hearing a knife skim through the air on its way to hit a fiend flat-bang in the face is brilliant!! I'm not ashamed to admit this - I adore the 8-Bit atmosphere.

Mystic Realm teleports me back to my pre-ST days and I'm loving it. Let's see another screenshot...


Prince or Princess, here are the details for power, weapons, your enemies and everything else.



The CryptO'pinion?

Mystic Realm is one of those games that helps to prove jazzy graphics and sonic boom sound effects aren't required for a great gaming experience. And that is exactly what we have here and, even though I don't imagine many people reading this article would agree? Well, not until you take the plunge and play a couple of games for yourself.

Fans of the RPG/Dungeon Crawling genres will love Mystic Realm, I am positive of this. It's no thrills with fantastic adventure elements and I have thoroughly enjoyed the arduous task of rescuing another damsel in distress!

An enjoyable, dungeon-crawling romp with frivolous graphics. Humble yet I absolutely loved every second of it!!




- THE MAPS -


( Don't be a dummy!!! Click on each thumbnail to see the larger level maps displayed )


( Don't be a dummy!!! Click on each thumbnail to see the larger level maps displayed )


( Don't be a dummy!!! Click on each thumbnail to see the larger level maps displayed )


( Don't be a dummy!!! Click on each thumbnail to see the larger level maps displayed )

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ghouls 'n Ghosts


There's an interesting thread over on Atari-Forum about a new version of Ghouls And Ghosts under development for the Atari STe by Sascha Springer. He's teased us with images and videos of lush sprites/landscapes and smooth scrolling but has just released an early beta. This was a jaw-dropping moment and proves the potential of the Atari ST - when in the hands of talent. I cannot wait to see more and wish Sascha much success!

This download is available via Atari-Forum [requires a 4MB Atari STe w/ hdd]

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Floppy Image Runner (IMGRF2X)




Wait, don't damage the ST's case!!

Most Atari ST games are available on a floppy disk which has been converted into a disk image and downloadable off the Internet, be they legit or not. Nothing beats the sound & feel of using a real ST with its floppy disk chugging away. What an authentic way to spend an evening and there are thousands of games to choose from.

IMGRF2X is a program, developed by Peter Putnik and provides a great way to use these images - without the hassle of finding a real floppy disk. It's basically software CosmosEx/Gotek and works with most files: .ST and .MSA. Obviously, the requirements are raised beyond the stock 520ST because you need >2MB RAM. Also, a hard drive or UltraSatan is beneficial to store all your virtual floppies. Which is only obvious, right?

I don't think there are many Atari ST users these days struggling with only 512K RAM. Exactly, so read on...



But how is this possible?

It is very simple: firstly, assign either ST or MSA file types in GEM. Dead easy - just watch my video recording. Now you can double-click on any image from your collection to load Image Runner - this copies it into Ram and reboots. The ST will start up as if it has that disk physically inside its drive - powered by black magic!!

Sadly, GEM cannot assign more than one file type to any single program. To get around this limitation, just make a second copy of "IMGRF2X.PRG" and rename it to something similar. Now you can assign both types of disk images to each of these two programs for instant access to your collection of downloaded floppy images!

Or manually edit the Desktop.Inf file using a text editor like Everest or similar. Easy peasy!



The CryptO'pinion?

I must say Image Runner worked rather well and I enjoyed a good success rate on the whole. This program is a Godsend for us without a Gotek or CosmosEx and has certainly allowed me to enjoy Menu disks again! However, please remember that this is software so YMMV. Nobody can deny that this is genius so enjoy!!

I think you will all appreciate this program as the results are often positive. I love it and hope Peter continues working on this. Okay, there are two downloads on his website for IMGRF2X (which includes an easy-to-use option). Watch the video!!

Let me know in the comments below what you think and what worked. Above all, enjoy yourself :)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Enduro Racer #AtariSTe



Yet another Atari STe game #indev

Enduro Racer is one of my favourite Atari ST racers because it's fast, fun and an uncomplicated thrill. In fact, it's the classic arcade racer and our conversion is pretty good considering the age of this 1987 release!

As you can imagine, I was very excited to find out that Peter Jørgensen (Mr Manic Miner himself!) has begun the development of an enhanced update specifically for the Atari STe!! He's graciously given me the latest beta to play and it's already looking impressive with many improvements - more are planned. This version is so fast!!

1) The Blitter is utilised to push a brisk framerate!
2) Expect many more colours on-screen at once.
3) Usage of the extended palette.
4) Remaster YMT music of the original ST scores by legend David Whittaker.
5) Arcade samples played using the DMA hardware.

From what I've seen, heard, and played, this is a tremendous project. To take one of my favourite Atari ST racers, and improve upon it using the STe hardware, is going to be mind-blowing!! Good luck Peter - I cannot wait!!

Don't go just yet, check out these screenshots and... watch this space... :-)










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