Monday, March 27, 2017

r0x


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 which 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 is superb!!
Okay, this isn't the arcade shooter which I first imagined. Instead, it's an avoid 'em that requires skill and careful timing as hundreds of rocks zoom down your screen. It may sound simple but the rocks are flying fast and furiously, ranging from iddy biddy stones to planet killers. There is a distance counter in the top/right of the screen and this indicates how long you need to survive. The longer you last, the faster the rocks move with many zooming diagonally all intent on squashing you into oblivion! Your ship is equipped with a limited number of smart bombs to zap the local area when things get too hair-raising, which also offers a brief moments rest from the rocky onslaught.

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. Skilled pilots can scrape their ship alongside any rock for a massive hike in bonus points but it's a dangerous job running the risk of getting smashed into pieces. Interestingly, co-op is supported for those lucky enough to have friends or, like me, a gullible 7-year opponent so eager to be my next victim!! This involves dodging more rocks but with the sole intention to rescue 20 astronauts for the win.
For such a humble game the graphics are truly 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 dare anybody to disagree with me!!
Shoot 'em up fans might initially get a disappointing shock but this game should not be ignored - by anyone. Sure, it's a straightforward game at heart, easy to pick-up and play but 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 the rock-scraping only adds to the appeal and longevity. Overall, I highly recommend R0x because it's tremendously addictive!

LINKS

 - The latest version is available from RGCD along with everything else you need to know.
 - 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 which I am extremely excited to publish because Peter Putnik is a name paramount in Atari ST retro gaming. I have been using his warez for a long time and retro 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 unreliable floppies. This experience is far superior, usually with a trainer to help bad players (like me), Gamex snapshot saving, and support for other Atari computers!

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 retro computing history. You know folks, Peter is a great guy and always willing to help out us ST nutters. I've mithered him many of times with game requests and he's always tried to help - but perhaps I should now apologise for Days Of Thunder? (lol). I hope you all enjoy this interview of the man responsible for hundreds of adaptations and lately several outstanding STe enhanced game upgrades. My sincere thanks to Peter for taking the time to chat. I don't think there is anybody else so active on the Atari ST scene today - thank you for the fantaSTic works!

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


Sideways is an unreleased game by the same fella who brought us Nitro, Jamie Woodhouse. Imagine what would happen if somebody mashed together Uridium with Return To Genesis and you get the idea. It's a face-paced shooter featuring graphics that zoom along at 50fps for insanely smooth visuals, whether you have a Blitter or not.

Although incomplete, it's impossible not to be impressed by this ridiculously exciting game. The controls feel natural and responsive when manoeuvring with precise turning and acceleration. A variety of baddies constantly appear to torment the player and you should also note the landscape layout to avoid smashing into the scenery. An energy meter is decreasing constantly but will be replenished by simply shooting the energy crystals littered throughout.

   

Power-ups are available to purchase between levels for increased firepower, shields, and also adding weaponry to both the side and rear of your craft. You can even buy the ability to transform into a tank, a cool Xenon rip off I thought. However, don't waste cash on extra lives because the function of life loss was never implemented.

I am shocked and saddened that this was never released but it's certainly impossible not to be impressed by this feat of incredible programming. Any shoot 'em up needs great mechanics for a thrilling gameplay 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 love a fast and furious shooter then this tremendous shoot 'em up is perfect for you!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Demoscene poster


The most amazing demoscene poster has just been updated again. If you have somehow 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.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Wasabim


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

LINKS

 - Clickety click right now and take a gander at the Wasabim website.
 - Take a peep at our ''Internet' group for lots more Atari ST sites you should visit.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Hints, Cheats and Big Tips!


I sometimes struggle to find cheats for my favourite Atari ST either on the web or hidden deep inside my mountain of magazines. So I figured I would take photos and upload them to my Pinterest account for anyone that's interested. At the moment, two cheat booklets are uploaded but I have dozens of magazines waiting!! ST Format, ST User, etc.
Interestingly, there are websites which can transform these pictures into a PDF or a text file. This is always another option to consider... Take a look at this screenshot of a PDF document I have created.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dodgy Box Art

Today I thought that I'd go through my collection of Atari ST games and pick out the ones which are just wrong. Thankfully, I only found two, an odd movie spoof with the other giving me goosebumps - for all the wrong reasons. 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! I'm relieved to see that the game itself is far better with multiplayer support and sample sounds but the one-directional shooting helps make it incredibly tough. However, anything by Steve Bak is always worth playing right? The graphics are smooth and look great, and the chipmusic is downright beautiful - a timeless quality. If you like Leatherneck then you will love Fernandez Must Die.
  • Galdregons Domain gets the award for dodgy rip-off with its blatant Conan The Destroyer cover. Evil has been unleashed, yet again, and we've been chosen to battle against its minions and recover five precious gems to save us all from peril. Aesthetically gorgeous and very enjoyable, this dungeon crawler is pretty darn excellent - once you've got over the steep learning curve. Highly recommended, a much-underrated adventure!
Right then, if you're also feeling creeped out by these two "works of art" then click here now to remedy that :-)

LINKS

 - Leatherneck can be run from hard drive or floppy thanks to Klaz's Hideaway.
 - Galdregon's Domain can be installed to your hard drive thanks to 8BitChip.
 - Old Games Finder has access to all the floppy disks for both games.
 - I hope you enjoyed my (own) box art captures? There are more within our Atari ST box art group.

     

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Beyond The Ice Palace


I think just everyone has played Beyond The Ice Palace at some time in their life and I got mine free with my first Atari ST. Much like Ghosts & Goblins, it's a scrolling platformer that involves travelling three rather large monster-infested levels to rid the world of evil. That can only mean exploring cool 16-Bit lands to kill lots of monsters - which includes battling those weird demons that seem to pop-up at the most inconvenient moments!

The first level is a trip through the scary woods and is pretty much your typical horizontally scrolling platformer with lots of peculiar baddies and an end of level boss to kill. The second and third levels are, more or less, the same vertically scrolling caverns before eventually reaching a lame witch, who is far too easy to kill. Thankfully, you're not alone and a good spirit can be summoned to help clear the screen of baddies when you're feeling most vulnerable. However, he's pretty useless and can miss monsters as he zig-zags down the screen.

Ice Palace isn't complex but it can be tricky due to some awkward mechanics. The blue demon, who cunningly appears just as you begin to use the elevating platforms, is very frustrating. My advice is to leap off just at the moment they begin moving and let him chase you! Also, a large slice of the screen is for the status panel thus taking up valuable play area which can often mean accidentally bumping into baddies when climbing ladders. To compensate all this, nine lives are allotted and you should cherish every one of them...

   

I've always felt the graphics were quite extraordinary and captured the atmosphere very well. Sure, I imagine most today would gasp their last breath reading that line, but there is a certain charm to this old platformer which I really love. Smooth scrolling, nice backgrounds with colourful and detailed sprites that I can't help but love. The death effect as your soul floats upwards is quite amazing. Sound effects are beautiful with a sharp arcade-like quality but it is the music which shines bright, thanks to legend David Whittaker. It's utterly gorgeous and one of my favourites!

Beyond The Ice Palace is a much-underrated platformer which holds a special place in my retro gamer's heart. Sure, it's no Ghouls 'N Ghosts but it's enjoyable and easy to pick up and play and something I keep on returning to. Give the blonde guy in the green boots a chance because I guarantee you will love playing this cracking platformer!

LINKS

 - A Midi tune of the awesome music and here is a piccy of my Hi-Score. Can you beat this?
 - 8BitChip has adapted this game to run on hard drives and Old Games Finder has the floppies.
 - Here are the maps are for the ZX Spectrum game which aren't needed but nice to view!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Atari ST demos

Yesterday I had myself a demoscene night and relived the glory days when we would eagerly await the postman's delivery of floppy disks from Demo Club and other Atari 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. Plus these incredible movies never fail to impress and then I finished off listening to Popstars by the awesome YM Rockerz. This is my rock and roll lifestyle - when the wife and kids are out! :^)

I have recorded many demos for both the Atari ST + Atari STe which are available to view on my YouTube channel. Check out the Demo Encyclopedia and everything can be downloaded from the Demozoo website. Stay Atari. . .



   

   
   


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Thrust


Thumping chiptune of the day is awarded to Thurst! Earlier, I enjoyed a belting game of this golden oldie but I now 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 so it's a good job then that it's one of my favourites! Such a memorable Rob Hubbard masterpiece.

Now, I don't remember too many rave magazine reviews. Probably because it didn't appear that much better than the 8-Bit games? That is actually a good thing, its style is perfect and I'm sure any cosmetic changes would have been a huge mistake, remember Chuckie Egg 2... Anyhow, this a tough game but stick with it because the rewards are huge with massive gameplay longevity. I love Thrust and highly recommended it - a cracking retro game!

LINKS

 - 8BitChip has a version of Thrust that you can install to hard drive.
 - Those that need the floppy disk can check out Old Games Finder.
 - SNDH Record is the place to visit if you fancy driving yourself crazy with this gorgeous chiptune?
 - Masochists can even download it to play later, courtesy of the SNDH Archive. All good fun :-)

Monday, March 06, 2017

Wreckers


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 detected 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 does have its own style of defence capabilities in the form of a giant hoover which can suck up the aliens in space - long before they can get onboard. 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 problem before the 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 manor, 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.

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!

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

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 keeping 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!

LINKS

 - 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


Remember the embarrassment of Uridium and those cruel C64 gamers laughing their socks off at our "superior" computer? Rightly so because our terrible version was so poor with sluggish controls and lifeless scrolling.

Well, there is finally light at the end of the gaming tunnel. All you need is an Atari STe with a hard drive or Ultrasatan because Peter Putnik has re/programmed Uridium with sweet controls, faster movements and even the option for streamed music thanks to the DMA coprocessor. An incredible achievement so clickety-click and download it!!