Monday, March 27, 2017

r0x



Asteroids?

Set within deep space, you are Commander Perez who humorously finds himself alone in uncharted space during a meteor storm. R0x was designed and released in 2009 by NoExtra / RGCD and is an Atari STe game that requires quick reactions to pilot your spacecraft through a continuously hectic (and colourful) asteroid field.
Before you load it up - make sure you read the storyline within the 'Readme' file included in the download. What a brilliant read and it had me laughing at loud. It's truely superb!!



Hang on, this isn't Asteroids!

Okay, this isn't the arcade shooter that I first imagined. Instead, it's an avoid 'em that requires skill and careful timing to skim past hundreds of rocks that are about to zoom down your screen. It may sound simple but the rocks are flying furiously at great speeds and range from iddy-biddy stones to huge planet killers. There is a distance counter in the top/right of the screen and this indicates how long you need to survive before the level ends.

The longer you last, the faster the rocks move - many zooming diagonally - and all intent on squashing you into pieces. Your ship is equipped with a limited number of smart bombs to zap the local area when things get too hair-raising. This also offers a brief moment to rest from the rocky onslaught but it's not long before they're back!





This is different. I like different!

A range of bonuses are available for daring pilots to collect - bonus letters that spell out "EXTRA" for another life but watch out for the fakes, especially the blue one which inverts your controls! You shall also see Treasure Rocks, these look different to the rest and offer up points should you bump into them. There are even teeny cosmonauts floating helplessly in space just itching to be rescued - which is a lot harder than you will ever imagine!

Skilled pilots can scrape their ship alongside any rock for a massive hike in bonus points but the risk of being obliterated makes this a dangerous job. Interestingly, co-op is supported for those lucky enough to have friends or, like me, a gullible 7-year opponent who is eager to be my next victim!! This game mode also involves dodging more of those space rocks but with the added incentive to rescue 20 astronauts for the win.
For such a humble game the graphics are fantastic with beautiful colours and smooth movements by C-Rem, Heavy Stylus, and Templeton. Audio is the bee's knees with utterly fantastic chiptunes to drool over by Crazy_Q, TomChi, and DMA-SC. I will fight anybody that dares to disagree with me!!




The CryptO'pinion?

Shoot 'em up fans might initially be disappointed that R0X isn't ... well ... a shoot 'em up! Sure, it's a straightforward game at heart that is easy to pick up and play but very tough to master. Each level becomes progressively very challenging and I guarantee it's nowhere near as easy as you first imagined. The addition of mechanics like rock-scraping only adds to the appeal and longevity. R0x is unexpectedly different and tremendously addictive!

The latest version is available from RGCD along with everything else you need to know. Also, a secret menu is unlocked when your high score betters 800,000. Easy, right? Send in your screenshots!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Peter Putnik

Here is an interview that I am extremely excited to publish because Peter Putnik is a name paramount with Atari ST gaming mainly because of his hard disk adaptations. This means no more running games from an unreliable floppy disk!

I have been using his warez for a long time and ST gaming wouldn't be nearly as much fun without his efforts. The adaptations offer us the ability to install games onto our "hard drives" instead of the sluggish and failing floppies.

The experience is therefore far superior and usually comes with a trainer to help bad players (like me). Each game often comes with support for faster Atari computers which is incredible when booting up something like Frontier on my Mega STe. What's even more interesting is his 'Gamex' a method of snapshotting your progress instantaneously - kinda like an old Multiface!

I was particularly surprised to hear about his past with regards to not only the Atari ST but also ZX Spectrum. Two great computers also form my own computing history. I hope you all enjoy this interview of the man responsible for hundreds of adaptations along with several outstanding Atari STe enhanced upgrades. I don't think there is anybody so active on the Atari ST scene. My sincere gratitude to Peter for taking the time out for a good chat.


- The PP Interview -

What is your Atari hiSTory?

My history started in 1987 when I decided to upgrade from a ZX Spectrum to something much stronger and the Atari ST was my first thought. However, the Amiga had just arrived in the shops so I was in dilemma, but not for long, the Atari ST had far better quality of software and the prices were almost equal. Also, the Atari seemed a better platform for some serious activity. I soon upgraded the RAM to 1MB and also added another floppy driver and made an EPROM programmer (a must for anyone dealing with hardware mods).

I already had some experience with ASM programming with the Z80 so I soon started on the Atari ST. 68000 ASM is really nice to work with, especially with a good assembler like Devpac. I wrote utilities for my own needs with help from Atari Profibuch book and created a floppy copier combined with a RAMdisk. Most learnings was via books and magazines, unlike today with easy software availability. Pirates were pretty much active in these days, even during 1988's PCW Show in London. :-) In Eastern Europe, they were the only source for computer software, I must say. I also wrote some articles for Yugoslav computer magazines during these early years.





What setup are you using these days?

Currently, I have one Mega ST, one STe and a Mega STe. The truth is, I don't use them much because they are very old and fragile and I've needed to repair them a few times, except the Mega STe which is indeed best built. The extra speed is welcome, even for games, although Mega STe was never intended for gaming. I bought this some 9 years ago, and I've since replaced the hard drive. Now used mostly with UltraSatan - much easier data exchange, less noise...

I mostly use the Atari computers to test and to play but my main tool for adaptations is using Steem Debugger and, without this, development would be much slower and harder. This emulator, equipped with a complete overview of emulated computer status, may see all hardware at any moment and following the program flow (even with history). Steem is a very good emulator, and luckily, a couple years ago they released sources so I was able to do some modifications for my needs. On the real hardware, there are limited possibilities of tracing, especially with some software working in very low RAM. Older computers have too low a resolution with a small screen area but there are some things I can not do with my PC: GAL and EPROM programming - where I still use Atari and old programs.


History of your famous game adaptations?

Adapting games started during my Spectrum years actually. However, there was not much to adapt but POKE was popular to exploit the code which decreases a player's life count and the like. I also made a snapshot saving program which was in fact very-very simple and only needed to save the RAM and CPU registers to then restore from where we wanted to play. I did it with faster routines, so loading only took some 2 minutes instead 5. :-) Next step was when I added a floppy interface to the Spectrum and then I wanted to transfer all good games onto floppies. So, basically same thing as the Atari ST with game adapting, except that this was way easier because Spectrum software was singleparted in 99% cases and that means no further loading was required after starting the game. I transferred hundreds of games onto floppies very quickly - one disk could store over 20 games, using compression. Next step was adding hard disk like with Atari ST and I designed my own IDE adapter...

In case of Atari ST games, it was more time consuming, some 60% do not directly access the hardware but instead TOS functions for floppy access. This means it was sometimes simple but other problems might arise, like TOS version incompatibilities, RAM usage, etc. Again, it was easiest with singleparted games, so my first hard disk adaptations were with such games that didn't have any disk access after loading - like Stunt Car Racer and Sentinel. Afterwards, I made adaptations using a RAMdisk for faster loading before the later adaptations, like Formula 1 GP.




Incredible results achieved but why did you begin this?

I started all this because I wanted to get rid of unreliable and slow floppies. The real leap was probably the arrival of Flash cards, so we can now have small, silent, fast, cheap storage. I started to deal with them right at beginning - first one was 8MB Smart Media card in 2004. :-) I certainly did not plan, or expect, that it would reach a count of over 1000 adapted games!


What are your favourite games?

I first played Flight Simulator II which I bought together with Atari ST. Then I was playing Dungeon Master, Carrier Command, Millennium 2.2, Formula One Grand Prix and not forgetting Potsworth & Co.


What other stuff have you created?

My first serious software was MC Tracer, a debugger, for the ZX Spectrum. It could run any software, step by step, and there was a circular buffer feature to store the last 100 executed instructions. What's interesting is that I made almost the same relocating system (it must working at any RAM area) as what is used in TOS executables :-) Also worth a mention is my Spectrum modded ROM - for floppy and hard disk (all available at zx48.8bitchip.info).

For the Atari ST, I first made some floppy utilities and then a hard disk driver, which is still under development. I did some Windows utilities for accessing and transferring data with Atari ST formatted floppies and also hard disks. Soon after the Internet became accessible in our area, I started a website for my Spectrum and Atari ST projects. The site moved couple times during years, I hope that current place will stand for a long time.




Any current hardware projects?

I have many plans but things are moving slowly, especially with hardware. Mostly I would like to finish old projects, like the cartridge port IDE adapter and ACSI port CF adapter. No specific STE projects currently, but the cartridge adapter works better on STE and movies look much better. :-)


What's your favourite hardware creation?

My personal favourite ... hmm it could be the IDE hard disk adapter for Sinclair Spectrum because that was good exercise with GAL programming. For the Atari ST it would be the cartridge IDE adapter.


As a programmer, who inspires you?

I don't think that I was particularly inspired by a particular programmer but there are certain names I associate with high quality. Games by Costa Panayi, Andy Pennell for Devpac ASM and Geoff Crammond for his good simulations.




What about the Atari ST/e future?

My concern is that real Ataris will not last much long. More and more people will use emulators or clones like Mist. Still, adaptations can make playing a lot easier on both. I think doing STe-improved versions of games seems the right choice now. However, this can be very time consuming, I started Uridium couple years ago and simply disassembling it properly took a couple days. I then had to put it on ice because of a lack of time but, luckily, I was finally able to finish this recently.

Other problems are a lack of sources for better sound effects and corrupt or missing original disks. We need flawless images to work with for so many games, like Son Shu Shi, Jinks and others. Thankfully, we recently got Giana Sisters, the internet is a great thing and we need to work together. :-)

Links...

 - I always try and link to Peter's 8BitChip adapted games and all are listed right here!
 - There is also an 8BitChip Forum you should join and a YouTube Channel with lots of adapted game videos.
 - Have you ever seen Peter's Atari STe versions of Xenon 2, Cannon Fodder, Dungeon Master, etc, etc??

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sideways



Another unreleased gem!

Sideways was developed by Jamie Woodhouse but wasn't released. It's a cross between Uridium and Return To Genesis so a fast-paced shooter with graphics ripping along at 50fps! I'm saddened this was never released as it proves that the Atari ST can perform brilliantly when in the hands of a talented and committed programmer. Yep, no lame port!

What a shock it was booting this up for the first time. It's impossible not to be impressed by what is a ridiculously exciting shooter. The controls feel natural and responsive with precise turning and acceleration - possibly better than Uridium!! Each level is stuffed full of baddies and there are power-ups for increased firepower, shields, weapons, etc. However, not everything has been implemented so learn the landscapes and you'll be playing for hours.

Any shoot 'em up needs great mechanics to deliver a thrilling experience and Sideways has that by the bucket load. I personally feel Sideways is better than either of the above-mentioned games, albeit unfinished. If you favour a shooter to be nothing less than FAST and FURIOUS, then this was made just for you!!

This is a superb shoot 'em up. Unfinished or not, it's absolutely superb so get it downloaded right now.






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Demoscene poster


The most amazing demoscene poster has just been updated again. If you have never seen this before then you really should take a look and get it downloaded now! Clickety click to view this jaw-dropper by Gregory le Roux.

And for those who may not know who this chap is (where have you been?) then visit Demozoo...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Wasabim



FantaSTic ArtiST

It's always great to see somebody start up a new Atari ST site and today we have one by Aurélien Vaillant, aka Wasabim (I dare you to say that after a few beers). His website will feature each of his various artworks along with those awesome videos, many of which begin with the box cover coming to life - that never fails to impress. Incredible talent!

Clickety click right now to take a gander through the Wasabim website... Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dodgy Box Art

 


Strange box art!

Today I thought that I'd go through some of my Atari ST games and pick out the ones which are just... well... wrong. Thankfully, I found only two! One is an odd movie spoof whilst the other gives me goosebumps. Seriously, it does make you wonder what these two companies were thinking when they agreed to release!!

  • Leatherneck takes the biscuit for most camp cover art ever so it's a relief that the game is far better. We have ace multiplayer support and sample sounds but the one-directional shooting only helps to make it incredibly tough. The graphics are smooth and look great, and the chipmusic is downright beautiful - a timeless quality. Oh btw, if you like Leatherneck then you will love Fernandez Must Die.
  • Galdregons Domain gets the award with its Conan rip-off artwork. It's a little like Dungeon Master in a land where evil has been unleashed, yet again. We've been chosen to battle the minions and recover five precious gems to save us from peril. Aesthetically gorgeous, this dungeon crawler isn't bad and once you've got over its learning curve, there's a much-underrated adventure. Highly recommended!

 Right then, if you're feeling creeped out by these two "works of art" then click here to remedy that :-)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Beyond The Ice Palace



Brace yourself for a corker!

I think everyone has played Beyond The Ice Palace at some time in their life? I got mine free with my first Atari ST computer. Until that day, I was a Spectrum user, so I'm sure you can imagine the look on my face when first loading the ST version with its colourful graphics, smooth scrolling and jazzy sound effects. It was something else I can tell you!

Much like Ghosts & Goblins, this is a scrolling-platformer that involves three monster-infested levels. But there is something special about this platformer because Elite has everything spot-on perfect with awesome joystick controls to the vast variety of enemies within its tricky levels. It's interesting and playable so why couldn't every platformer be this good?

Right then, let's break this pointless trip down memory lane with a couple of funky screenshots...



I knew this game was gonna be great from the start but choose your weapon carefully.


Hey, I think I've found a severed head!! Hmm, what could it possibly be?


Play the game

The first level is a trip through scary woods and is pretty much the typical platformer environment with lots of peculiar baddies to encounter with a freaky end-of-level boss. Actually, each level follows the same formula with interesting places and many monsters to shoot/avoid/run away from. The second and third levels are, more or less, the same: a vertically scrolling cavern filled with hideous creatures before eventually reaching the wicked witch.

You're not alone: a good spirit can be summoned which helps clear the screen of the baddies. There are only so many times you are allowed this feature - a funny face is displayed in the status bar when one is ready to use. So choose your moments wisely when you are most vulnerable - then watch it zig-zag down your screen-killing baddies.

Ice Palace isn't complex but can sometimes be tricky due to awkward mechanics. For example, the blue demon is quite irritating as he cunningly appears just as you begin to use the elevating platforms. My advice is to leap off just at the moment he appears as it's easier to kill. Otherwise, you are stranded on the platforms and very vulnerable.

Hey, I think that we need two more screenshots of our hero with his flowing blonde locks...



Argh, you've blown it by staying on that life. Now the battle is much harder!


Oh no, here is the end-of-level green worm guardian!


A 16-bit jaw dropper

I've always felt the graphics were extraordinary for the period as they perfectly demonstrated our superiority over the 8-bit computers. The 80s were an era of no-lame-Amiga-ports so this game has been programmed well. The scrolling is smooth but the backgrounds are basic. However, each level looks great with gorgeous sprites. Heck, even dying is a beautiful moment and I'll never tire of the flicky death effect as my soul ascends into heaven. That is an amazing effect.

Sound effects are ravishing with a sharp arcade-like quality throughout. The music is by David Whittaker and plays alongside the sound effects using a technique we saw in Xenon. After all, there are only 3 YM channels. The music is awesome.

So it plays brilliantly whilst also looking and sounding superb too. What a game, eh? Screenshot time...



Level two ramps up the difficulty with weird wolfmen roaming the labyrinth!


Let's leap for joy, for we have collected another severed head!!


The CryptO'pinion?

I've sometimes found that Beyond The Ice Palace is a much-underrated platformer. This is odd because it holds a special place in my retro-gaming heart. Why? Well, it was one of the first games I booted up on Christmas morning in 1988. Just imagine how I felt seeing its graphics and hearing that music - they blew me away. What a time that was!

After all these years, it's still great fun and completely addictive thanks to great joystick controls, smooth scrolling and variety in gameplay. The only downside is the size of each level - I wish they were bigger.

Okay, he might wear cute green boots but I guarantee you will love this platformer. A cracking game!!


Midi tune of the awesome game music.
Maps for the ZX Spectrum game, aren't needed but nice to have.
Downloads are available for hard drive installation or floppies.



My Hi-Score. Can you beat me????? No, you cannot is the answer! ;p

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Atari ST demos



Living the dream!

Yesterday I had a demoscene night and relived the old glory days. When we would eagerly await the postman's delivery of floppy disks - from Demo Club and other Atari ST PD libraries. Fun times with beauties like Anomaly, European, Punish Your Machine, Antiques and Rising Force. Also, I re-enjoyed some cool animations like Rippler, Newton's Cradle and Walker. I then finished off listening to Popstars by the awesome YM Rockerz. Which you can see for yourself, is ace!!

Yup, this is my rock and roll lifestyle... Well, when the wife and kids are out! :^)


Subscribe to our YouTube channel for lots of Atari ST demos :)








Thursday, March 09, 2017

Thrust



It's time to relive my college days!

The thumping chiptune of the day is awarded to Thrust!! Let me explain... Earlier, I enjoyed a couple of games but now I must suffer the reward of having its funky music booming through my tiny little mind. Yep, I just can't get it out of my head lol. Well, it's a good job then that it's one of my favourite Rob Hubbard masterpieces.

I love Thrust but I don't recall many rave magazine reviews? Probably because it didn't appear that much of a technical improvement over the 8-bit games? Well, for me, that is a good thing because it's perfect and any cosmetic changes would have been a huge mistake. Remember Chuckie Egg 2, a shockingly "enhanced" 16-Bit disaster!

Thankfully, Thrust isn't like that. It's still that same great game with tough mechanics and hugely addictive gameplay. I love it and so will you because it's a cracking game that is as good now as it's ever been. I should know, I spent most of my college years in their 'library' playing Thrust on a BBC Micro instead of studying!

It looks funky, sounds boomtastic and plays great so is a timeless classic for the Atari ST. Love it!!

D-Bug has a version of Thrust that you can install onto a hard drive/ultrasatan.
Those that need the floppy disk can check out Old Games Finder.
SNDH Record is the place if you fancy driving yourself crazy with this gorgeous chiptune?
Masochists can download it to play later, courtesy of the SNDH Archive. All good fun :-)

Monday, March 06, 2017

Wreckers



It's time once again to save... the ship!

Wreckers is an isometric adventure onboard the interestingly named space station, Beacon 04523N, located in the loneliest part of deep space. With a crew of three, held in cryogenic stasis, automated robots look after the day-to-day care and maintenance of the station. However, the computer has decided to wake you when it detects the threat of Plasmodians, a lifeform that wants nothing more than to frantically consume the ship and everything in it.

In some respects, I'm reminded of the brilliant Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters but there is far more to this game than simply running around shooting green blobs of plasma, albeit great fun! From the very start, you discover that the alien attack is happening and, once they make physical contact with the outer hull, it's only a matter of time before they begin creating havoc with the computer's systems.

The station has its own style of defence capabilities in the form of a hoover which can suck up the aliens in space - before they can get on board. Also, the droids can be controlled to help, and another option is to suit up and head outside to play Jetman with a can of bug spray. Yep, Beacon 04523N is hardly Babylon 5 but at least all these options are available. Oh, do remember to use the Zippway Shuttles and elevators to travel the Beacon but don't dawdle because the main computer has decided one hour is enough to eradicate the threat before self-destruct is activated!!

Control is handled via keyboard and joystick but it's the latter which might disappoint some because I actually found myself holding that in a sideways-on manner, which was a little weird! Also, the user interface might take a little time to get to grips with, I found it quite unusual and sometimes a little awkward in the heat of the moment.


  
I love the title screen's gorgeous pastel palette before these three dodgy characters pop up!


 Graphically, I love the 80s feel of Wreckers and, whilst it doesn't look like it came out of 1991, it has a certain retro charm which I really like. Scrolling is adequate but I sure love the station's attention to detail, along with the colourful sprites. The title music is just awesome and the box loves to gloat about who made it, Warren Cann of Ultravox!

Wreckers will certainly keep you on your toes as it requires an urgent attitude with the ability to juggle tasks and think ahead whilst suffering a constant onslaught of baddies. Running around zapping aliens is one aspect of the game but, because there is so much going on, it's sometimes extremely hard just to keep up with the panic. Now, don't get me wrong, Wreckers is a very good game but one which requires a lot of time and commitment. Brace yourself!

* Floppy disks can be found via Old Games Finder with a hard disk version by 8BitChip.
* Hall Of Light has a superb map of the space station which sure comes in handy!!

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Uridium



C64 rules!??

Do you remember the embarrassment of Uridium? Those cruel C64 gamers would laugh their socks off at our "superior" computer? Rightly so because we have a terrible port with sluggish controls and lifeless scrolling. Well, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Atari STe because Peter Putnik has re-programmed the dodgy parts with faster controls and an option to stream music using the DMA coprocessor (hard drive or ultrasatan obviously required).

At last, a version of Uridium we can be proud of. It's totally transformed so play this shooter right now!!

Talk about a transformation - download it right now!!