Thursday, June 29, 2017

Flying Shark


Following on from Deathbringer, the next game to feature in our Atari ST Pixel Art collection is Firebird's wonderful Flying Shark. What an amazing example of 16-bit artistry, just look at that sinister glare as it zooms over the landscape. This loading screen is superb and has always been one of my favourite pictures, easily beating what the other computer conversions displayed back then. Heck, I could easily stare at this gorgeous image all day long!!

I remember getting this on ST/Am*ga Format cover disk #7 much to the envy of my Amiga mates. Obviously, it was a pretty faithful representation of the coin-op with great graphics, beautiful music and excellent gameplay. The play area didn't slide left/right, like in the arcades, but it didn't need to because of the wider resolution ratio. I personally think Firebird released a cracker and this is one of my favourite vertically scrolling shoot 'em ups for the Atari ST.

LINKS

 - Klaz's Hideaway has a hard drive and floppy version to download w/ trainer!
 - 8BitChip has adapted this for hard drive installation.
 - Stonish has Flying Shark on Zuul #37 floppy disk.
 - ST Am*ga Format cover disk #7 can be downloaded from the ST Format website.
 - I downloaded the demo and recorded a video to recreate my first play. Yes, I'm mad but it was fun...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Zone Warrior


Pesky aliens are once again giving us Earthlings lots of grief. We fought them off but they managed to pinch a time machine and are now using this to alter history and wreak havoc by taking crucial hostages from each period in an attempt to halt their influence. From the invention of the wheel in prehistoric times to England's King Arthur uniting Britain and where would any of us be today without the technical wizardry of Japan... So it's our job to travel these "zones" to rescue them all and kill each bad dude that gets in our way. It's time to lock and load!

Zone Warrior is a horizontally scrolling platformer that reminds me of Psygnosis' Baal in looks and with more than a hint of Turrican style action. Each zone is a labyrinth of large rooms interconnected by a series of doorways, to even more rooms, and there is a total of five time zones which need to be saved from the dreaded aliens:
  • Prehistoric - I really enjoyed this zone because it introduces you nicely into the gameplay style plus there are lots of power-ups and strong map designs compared to most other levels. I also thought the graphics were the best here with great use of the palette.
  • Egyptian - This is is little disappointing for me because it's basically more of the same design but with a different graphics. However, I found it to be a lot harder and rather frustrating instead of anything close to an enjoyable challenge...
  • Medieval - Saving the medieval Britons from their alien fate is a brilliant level and deffinitely on par with the Prehistoric Zone. I must admit, the music here is so gorgeous!
  • Japanese - I would rate this as the best level of all because it is really challenging, with some great mechanics. Unlike the finicky Egyptian Zone, I found it tough but without the frustration. And the chipmusic is out of this world!!
  • Holocaust - Sadly I didn't care for this zone... Very frustrating and ultimately annoying!
Travelling through most zones is a neat experience with constant action to keep your trigger finger happy. During this onslaught, look for hostages to free and a key for a final battle before you can progress onto the next zone. Each of these periods has its own specific nasties to contend with and some cannot be killed so need to be avoided, like the Venus flytraps and sharp spikes. However, most have legs or teeth so have your trusty Turrican-inspired weapon at the ready. This is a rapid firing gun which performs very well and can even be upgraded with a much wider spread. Also, the spacebar is used to cycle through any extra weapons you may have picked up like bombs and mines.

The trouble with Zone Warrior is that it's too easy to lose your bearings. The levels are absolutely massive and wandering from room to room is quite overwhelming due to the lack of any distinctive visuals, so each location soon begins to look and feel the same. Thankfully, our little zone warrior can collect pieces of a map to help prevent him getting lost but I personally thought this was poorly implemented and quite limiting, which is a shame.

The visuals aren't the best I've seen from my lovely Atari ST but the scrolling is good and responsive to our hero's movements which is essential to a running shoot 'em up. The backdrops are nice but could have made better use of the palette for things like destructible blocks. Most sprites are well drawn and detailed, especially the stripey dinos from the Prehistoric Zone. Overall, the Medieval and Japanese zones look the best, I thought.

Audio is a blast throughout with good sound effects but it is the music which steals the show thanks to an array of incredible chiptunes, by Barry Leitch.

Being a Zone Warrior is a cool job and we travel to some interesting places which are mostly great levels stuffed with frantic action. However, I fear the levels are far too large and I soon began to feel lost in the slog of it all. Although I did enjoy running and gunning down the all the baddies - until I got lost or bored. A good game but no Turrican!

LINKS

 - Update: we now have a hard drive installable game thanks to Peter @8BitChip.
 - Stonish has the floppy disk download thanks to the Fuzion #80 disk :-)
 - I recorded a little video of the first level and Stefan Lindberg's video for all chiptunes lovers!
 - Click the GEM green arrow below to hear my favourite tune...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Criminals In Disguise #22


I love anything with swirling dots, sine scrollers and overscan so this intro by Criminals In Disguise is right up my street. The fx are very nice with a beautiful hum-tastic chipmusic that I can leave playing all day. My video recording is fine but (you know what I'm going to say) it's best experienced using a real Atari computer for perfection and better sound. Especially on the Atari STe, so connect it up to your speakers and crank up the volume!!

This disk contains Jetpac, which is an awesome conversion of the Speccy original.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sinister Developments

      

I recently found the Sinister Developments website and was surprised they still listed all their Atari ST software. These guys were one of the best shareware groups in the 90s and released five fantastic games. However, the download links failed so I sent an email and got a reply from Gordon Gibson himself. Each game is the latest version and all are now free to download from the links above - which I think is incredibly generous. All are brilliantly old skool with many supporting extra features like overscan and the enhanced hardware of the Atari STE.

To safeguard, I have a zipped together each of their games into my Dropbox as a backup. Also, I have recorded videos of Space Invaders (STe) and Galaxians (border removed). Download these incredible Atari ST games now! :-)
  • Centipede - Gordon said they wanted a mix between Centipede and Millipede which worked out incredibly well but boy was my mouse-hand killing me after half an hour!! I found a few bugs but nothing to stop the fun. This is a frantically zany and frenzied version of the classic, a superb conversion. (click on the above animation to view it large).
    To bypass the shareware message just press "ESC" key on the language screen.
  • Painter - I personally thought this was the weakest of the bunch but it's still enjoyable and very difficult with killer AI (literally). There is also funky stereo music on the Atari STe - yeah!!
  • Asteroids - This begins with a familiar intro supporting stereo playback for the Atari STe. I found it initially difficult but, after a few tips from the man himself, I began to do a little better. I still suck at it but at least I'm "better" :-) (click on the above animation to view it large).
    To bypass the shareware message just press "F10" key on the language screen.
  • Space Invaders - I think this is my favourite of the bunch. It's a beauty and feels authentic and fresh. Yet again, the Atari STe features DMA music with stereo sound effects too.
    To bypass the shareware message just type in "PEPSI MAX" on the language screen.
  • Galaxians - I've always been rubbish at this but it's such a great conversion. I think that Sinister have created one of pure gold and one that has me feeling that I'm back in the 1980s. Now, perhaps it's just me, but I can see a 3D effect on the main menu!! Can you?
    To bypass the shareware message just press "INSERT" key on the language screen.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Archer Maclean Pool


Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker is terrific and technically superb but it wasn't long before I was falling asleep at the keyboard. Sorry, but that's snooker (Zzzz). However, I then realised that I had never played Archer Maclean's Pool...

Pool is an exciting, fast-paced pub game with a far shorter playtime compared to the dullness of snoozeville snooker. American and English variations of the game are available with the added options to play through tournaments or to set up trick shots. If you've played Whirlwind then you'll instantly take to this but I doubt any newcomers will struggle with the interface, which is instinctive so very easy to grasp. Use the mouse to alter your viewing angle but don't forget to chalk the cue before setting up the shot with the right amount of power, spin and direction. There is a wide range of computer opponents from the amateur to the godlike, so it's best to practice before taking on the pros!

Graphics are... well... it's a table with balls on it, so there isn't much to drool over, but the framerates are very smooth and shows just what 8MHz can deliver. The 3D engine works ever so well with fantastic first-person like views when lining up a shot. Let's not forget the game's comical side with taunting balls, evil-eyed fans or the flies on the table!! Sound effects are nice and rather varied with clinks, plops and the oddly humorous cue-chalking moments. Overall, it's a mostly silent experience but I do find the celebrational cheering after a win to be quite annoying! lol

   

What I love about this game is the superb design which feels natural and realistic. After your first shot, you realise just how incredibly superior the hidden mathematical calculations are that make the physics appear so believable. There are near-limitless possibilities for each shot you make, which is quite incredible. I cannot ever imagine anyone having anything but good things to say about Archer Maclean's Pool. Sure, it's best in the pub with a couple of cold beers, but this virtual version definitely comes a close second. A brilliant and faultless release by Virgin!!

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have the hard drive installable game (works on the faster Mega STe, TT, Falcon).
 - Stonish has the floppy disk on Gravatics #93 which also includes the incredible Kid GP!!
 - AtariMania has Pool listed in their library with scans of the manual.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Phobia



ImageWorks released Phobia back in 1989 with a gorgeous retro-themed cover. The artwork is stunning with lots of colour, action and a cruel glare from evil eyes which reflects the game itself perfectly! Phobia has all the hallmarks of a potentially outstanding shooter but it's impossible to get very far without a trainer because of its choppy framerate. Probably a poor port and it pales in comparison to shooters like R-Type, Alien World, or Menace.

Well, I bought Phobia for only 99 pence and it was sealed too. The box and contents are in superb condition but I wonder why nobody ever bought it? <yes, sarcasm!>. Maybe I'll be brave and record a video? Maybe...

LINKS

 - ST Format #1 reviews Phobia but wasn't too impressed with the difficulty - lol wimps!!
 - D-Bug has a download with a trainer and hard drive support.
 - Stonish has the floppy disks and I liked Timelords #29 Menu CD (1MB).
 - Here is a fantastic video recording by Stefan Lindberg.
 - My tweet after playing Phobia for a few minutes... ARGGHHHHHH!!!

     
I should have known this was going to be hard with such a hideous screen. The next pic is my ship being blown up!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Deathbringer



    

The Atari ST has so many great games that feature superb pixel art and I figured I should start a new section specifically for these drawings. So let's kick things off with Colin Swinbourne's artistic skills for Empire Software's Deathbringer which has a hideous loading screen, just look at his teeth and the hatred in that evil glare from those sinister eyes!! The intro which follows is freaky but with great sound effects and a comical ending that you will love. I hope you all agree that Colin's skills are a fantastic way to kick off this new section. Review to follow soon :)

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have the hard drive installable game.
 - Stonish has the floppy disk version of Midland Boys #47. (Menu supports DMA h/w if detected)
 - Gears Of Games has an incredible YouTube video you should watch/subscribe!
 - AtariMania lists the other games Colin Swinbourne has been involved in. Yeah, Joe Blade!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Automation #496


Press 1 for...
Nope, there's none of that with Automation #496 because this intro is based on Rick Dangerous. Well, there's no interaction and little to do other than walk and climb ladders but it's still a cool alternative compared to what we would have expected back then. Control Ricky D. with the joystick and entering a doorway selects a game to play!!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Roger


Roger's on a frantic run to collect lots of jewels for his rather demanding girlfriend, Georgette, in this is a fast-paced 25 level platformer released in 2004 by Tobe of MJJ. However, this "platformer" has too many jewels scattered about everywhere, without any ladders and very few ledges to use. So how will poor Roger complete his task?

Bubbles, of course! So all he needs to do is jump on one and, when it bursts, the force thrusts him upwards. If there's another bubble, then the cycle continues and he can use this speed and momentum to reach all the required jewels. Roger only has so much energy, so it's advisable to avoid the sharp spikes which will burst on contact and also drain valuable energy. Thankfully power-pills can be collected to compensate but they are often few and far between...

Use the joystick to walk left or right with the fire button helping Roger leap with joy onto his first bubble. Once you begin bubble-jumping, it's simply a matter of altering your direction towards the next whilst passing the nearby jewels to collect as you're zooming through the air. Previously burst bubbles will reappear after a second or so and this cunningly allows you to revisit all the places that you may have missed or perhaps faltered on a hop.

The graphics are a mixed bag; Roger's sprite is absolutely superb with side-splitting animation and I could watch those lanky legs walk for hours!! Sadly, the in-game decor is quite boring with drab backgrounds that only change every 5 levels and I'm sure better could have been designed with an itsy-bitsy more flare.

However, the framerates are frighteningly fast with scrolling that will leave you gasping, all thanks to the Blitter coprocessor. To be honest, this game would never have worked with anything other than a fast and smooth screen scroll, and it's quite breathtaking!

Sound effects are clear and crisp, perfectly suited to the style and I like the explosion sound for the spikes. Magnificent chipmusic plays throughout. Well, I say magnificent but that's because I cannot think of a better word! It is absolutely amazing and certainly proves that chiptunes will last forever - I can listen to this all day long!!

Roger is quite a unique experience and feels like an airborne Boulder Dash, to me. It's easy to pick up and play but learning the location of jewels might take some practice and can be a little disorientating at first. However, I guarantee you won't be able to put down your joystick because hopping from bubble to bubble looking for treasure is frantic and downright silly. Legendary gameplay that is extremely addictive and provides an awesome adrenalin rush!!

LINKS

 - Roger can be found lurking on Demozoo and Pouet for floppy disk and hard drive installation.
 - 8BitChip also has a hard drive installable version ready to go.
 - TobĂ© excellent archive is fully detailed on Demozoo, although he did stray a little ;-)

     

Saturday, June 17, 2017

BLAT


I enjoy the occasional brain teaser and Blat is an excellent twist on the Columns genre which was released into the public domain by The Infamous Cabbage, aka Chris Vance, for the Atari STe. Yep, sorry STF dudes but this game is only playable on an STe because of the excellent samples, thanks to the DMA hardware. Interestingly, this brain-blaster was released on June 17th, 1992 and is 25 years old today. So let us all sing, "Happy Birthday, BLAT"

Falling columns of coloured blocks will need reordering during their descent and, if we can successfully match them up, then it's KABOOM!! This explosion earns us lots of points and helps clear the board space for the oncoming blocks, so the more we match the greater the points. Diagonal rows are the most rewarding and you will receive a smart bomb when matching five or more. It's advisable to keep these until the later (faster) levels!

There are 15 levels in all but it won't be long until you're grateful for keeping a stockpile of smart bombs because this isn't an easy game and it soon picks up the pace for an extremely harsh difficulty. Thankfully, there are other items to help, like the clocks which can slow the pace right down - two is good but three is much better. There are also sticks of dynamite, lightning bolts and even indestructible blocks. Many of these can be paired so try positioning a light fuse next to the dynamite for a massive explosion that conveniently destroys many other blocks.

What a great alternative to Tetris and one I thoroughly enjoyed. This is a polished product with some gorgeous sound effects so I'm surprised it's PD and not shareware. I didn't get anywhere near level 15 and doubt I ever will - only the savvy need apply for this gruelling puzzler. Highly recommended, especially for those who like a REAL challenge!!

LINKS

 - Stonish have Serenade #1 floppy disk (it features Teserea, another which you may like).
 - AtariMania has Blat listed in their database with the readme conveniently available.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Amiga!!


Sorry guys, I'm leaving the Atari ST scene because I now prefer a slower computer and have therefore decided to switch. Don't be sad, it was bound to happen soon or later. Okay, don't sweat it too much because this is the infamous Amiga Emulator by Philip Nelson which is nothing more than a bit of fun so you can relax again!

This Amiga "emulator" can be found all over the internet but I recommend Quartet #30 via Stonish. The disk also includes a couple of nice music demos which work on all STs with the option of stereo playback on the Atari STe and that's just too cool not to experience! (Quartet Compilation by The Bootlegger | Twitch's Digisound by Nsonic)

Right, let's get back to GEM and our faster clock cycle...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ripped Off #87


Unamed Intro is a remarkable screen created by The Fingerbobs which was used on Ripped Off #87 and is one of the most bewitching intro screens I have ever seen. The attention to detail is jaw dropping and I can watch the little men for hours - it's mesmerising. Go on, pick one guy and follow him throughout his journey!! Brilliant.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Whipper Snapper's Race


Merge a little "Horace Goes Skiing" with the cool visuals from Cannon Fodder and we have Whipper Snapper's Race. It's a skier released by New Design in 1996 and programmed by Petr Sumbera in Omikron Basic, of all things!!

Max is a dude who must ski through several vertically scrolling environments in a race against the clock to reach the finishing line. Navigate left or right to pass each obstacle but don't bump into any or you will fall flat on your bum and begin seeing stars! Pushing up will reduce your speed whilst pulling down will increase it and pressing fire will allow a near pointless leap into the air. So the controls are very easy and you have the option of using joystick or keyboard, I prefer the latter. It's a relief to see passwords are supported to directly access each mission, an excellent method to instantly replay those difficult levels without having to start over from the beginning. This is truly superb!

Max enjoys racing on either Atari ST computer and is certainly more at home on the STe where he's very vocal during gameplay! We also have 25Khz stereo tracker tunes and all this is thanks to the DMA hardware. Graphics are military grade with super smooth scrolling and lots of neat little touches borrowed from the Sensible Software's archives. Gorgeous attention to detail throughout and I felt like dumping the skis for a machine gun rampage!

Skiing in Cannon Fodder... never been so much fun... (sorry!). Okay, Whipper Snapper's Race is superb and I've really enjoyed playing this humble yet intriguing game. Thanks to the great controls, it's easy to pick up and play plus each "mission" is challenging with a cunningly tricky design and the password system that ensures longevity. This is a shockingly addictive game - just try not to crash when laughing at the silly sound effects!!

LINKS

 - I've made a floppy disk image for all you dudes stuck in 3.5" hell :^)
 - Download the hard drive installable game from Demozoo and get racing!
 - I recorded a video a couple of years ago (Atari STe emulation)
 - Petr's website is still up and running after all these years and still offers a download and much information!!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Virtual Escape


After about 6 years, Equinox eventually released Virtual Escape in 1999 and its one of my favourite demos, ever. The tunes are utterly sexy and there are also some of the most incredible visuals that will blow your socks off!! Those swirling dots are gobsmackingly beautiful and I love the 3D which is so fast. It's hard to believe this is all on a stock 512kb Atari ST running at 8MHz. An incredible production which oozes class and is definitely one of the beST 16-Bit demos, ever. Please don't emulate - experience this on your real Atari ST and turn up the volume!

LINKS

 - You can download Virtual Escape right now off Demozoo.
 - Democyclopedia mentions each effect, along with the awesome Skyline which you can see above.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Jetpac


Jet Man is one lucky guy who gets to work as a space pilot for Acme Interstellar Transport Company who are sending him to fifty remote planets to assemble and playtest their latest creations. However, his luck soon ran out when he discovered that each planet is being bombarded by a variety of hostiles ranging from fiery comets to fluffy aliens. I'm sure everyone already knows that Jetpac was originally released in 1983 for the ZX Spectrum by uber gaming legends, Ultimate Play The Game. It is one one of the most iconic 8Bit games from that era and our conversion was developed by Pete J. Whitby in 1992 for Budgie UK. Heck, he also made all the graphics and sound effects too.

If ever there was a repetitive design, it's Jetpac but that is matched by the brilliant and superbly addictive playability. Controls feel tight, yet seem a tad quicker than on the Speccy, so this took a few games to feel comfortable. Jet Man's movements are exactly as you expect but he can no longer wrap around the screen, which is disappointing. But he compensates one ability for another and can now use shield power-ups, which is surprisingly welcome. The range of nasties is wide and very inventive with differing attack patterns that help to keep gameplay varied and interesting. Many are new, some require several shots to be killed and others are invulnerable. Also, watch out for deadly platforms which can zap Jet Man into an early grave! There is even an ending to view, something which the original game never had. Then again, I fear that I probably will never get to witness this!

Graphics are pretty much the same as in the Speccy classic but now include extra colours. Sprites are amateurishly drawn but move fast and smooth. However, I'm not too keen on the background picture, which I feel isn't necessary. Sound effects are pretty lame and it's shocking to hear the ST out-performed by the Spectrum's inferior bleeper.

Jetpac is Jetpac and it will always be superb fun. Okay, this was never going to beat the original but I feel Pete has successfully captured the authentic feel and even implement some great new ideas. What's not to love about frantically zapping a relentless alien hoard when you're trying to collect fuel pods? An excellent conversion.

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have an excellent hard drive installable game.
 - Stonish has a great Menu CD on floppy disk by Criminals In Disguise #22.
 - Here is my YouTube video recording where I flip flop between the music and sound effects... O_o
 - Play the original ZX Spectrum game on your Atari ST using emulation:
             > Artemis is a great b/w emulator which only works on 8MHz Atari ST/e computers.
             > Speccy is another emulator w/ support for colours and faster Atari computers too.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

HUNTER


Finally, I am the proud owner of HUNTER!! I have only just bought it and I couldn't wait to add it into our Box Art group. Everyone knows that this is one of my favourite Atari ST games and is also in my all-formats Top 10.

If you haven't played Hunter then slap yourself silly - right now!! Do you feel better?
Okay, now click here for enlightenment.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Oids


Oids is an adventure set in outer space where we need to rescue metallic men from captivity. However, it was capped to run at surprising 10/12fps (PAL/NTSC) which is shockingly low because the Atari ST can do far better. So Peter Putnik has developed an upgrade which runs up to an eye-popping 25/30fps to deliver lovely scrolling with smoother gameplay and more responsive controls. This certainly adds a whole new dimension to the iconic game.

LINKS

 - The newly upgraded Oids can be downloaded directly from 8BitChip.
 - I featured Oids here on AtariCrypt back in July 2016 and also realised how cool FTL where!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Commodore 64


I'd bet good money that this is the last thing you ever expected to see here? Well, I've had this C64 emulator on my drive for a long while and figured that it was about time did something with it. So I started my day by trawling through Old Games Finder looking for cool games which I remembered seeing in C&VG magazine in the early/mid-80s. I really wanted to play Pitfall, Manic Miner and Staff Of Karnath but sadly I had zero success.

However, others did work (to a degree) but display text instead of pixels and some even crash the emulator. Yes, I should have read the docs first - lol - yeah right. Basically, games aren't supported if they demand fancy scrolling, sprites or joystick control, etc... but what could work are applications, educational titles and so on. This includes exciting Type-Ins and text adventures which is impressive but hardly worth my hassle over the last few hours!

Okay, I'm no Commie expert but these commands might help to get you started:

   LOAD "$",10               (this loads the disk's directory into Ram)
   LIST                      (this lists that directory to screen)
   LOAD "filename.prg",10    (you've guessed it, this loads a program)
   RUN                       (go on, take a stab at what this might do!)

  Please note:
     - The "10" is the device ID for my Atari ST's hard drive.
     - If you are running the emulator from floppy disk then you should instead use "8".
     - Copy the Commodore ".PRG" programs into the same directory as the Atari file: "C64.TOS".
     - C64 emulation was tested on my 8MHz Atari STe and then Hatari (same spec) for the animation, above.

I'm not sure who to credit for this emulator but he did a great job and the docs indicate many useful intentions. This has been fun and the Commodore 64 is a pretty decent machine (shush don't tell anyone). However, I'm not sure how much longer I can stand the pain of having C64 software on my Atari ST's hard drive... it hurts already!!

LINKS

 - The best download (that I've found) is on disk LAN-0066 via Floppyshop and it has the docs!
 - Stonish features Medway Boys #68 within their immense library (without docs).
 - Old Games Finder links to zillions of C64 stuff in the .PRG format. Just don't try and run these from GEM!! :p
 - Come on, you know I was itching to try this!!! (and it worked lol)

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Onslaught


This is one of the few games I can still actually remember lifting off the shelf to admire the gorgeous box art before spending the cash. It truly is outstanding and I love the lush colour in stark contrast to those brutal warriors which is so scary but perfect illustrates the savage gameplay ahead - if you feel brave enough to open the box?

Well, I was because Hewson is a name I have always associated with quality and they never released a poor port. Programmed by Chris Hinsley, of Custodian fame, this is a horizontally scrolling hack and club 'em all with huge explosions lighting up the colourful screen of beautiful medieval artwork. The music is perfectly suited for the medieval theme and is accompanied by meaty sound samples for the grunts, a sword's metallic clang, and booming explosions. Yes, this is one loud platformer bursting with eye candy carnage and I love every violent second of it!

It requires lots of practice but Onslaught its one of my favourite Atari ST games.

LINKS

 - Stonish have lots of compact disks w/ Onslaught but I personally recommend FOF #51.
 - AtariMania features the oddly mixed reviews by both ST Format and ST Action.
 - There are more Hewson games featured right here on AtariCrypt along with lots more Atari ST box art too!!

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Monster Business


Monster Business is a fun-themed platformer released in 1991 by Eclipse and produced by incredibly talented people which you may know from the ST scene. As storylines go, this one is a Christmas cracker!! Crazed "mad meanies" have been loosed from their forest habitat and are pinching valuable items from Mr Bob's construction site. You are (wait for it) Leroy the beast buster and must help Bob by blowing up all the invaders. Yep, the situation sounds like total diarrhoea but we should still help Bob because we are the beast buster of Tin Town!

Each level follows a repetitive design of platforms and slippy slides that become more complex as you progress. Hop from ledge to ledge and chase these animals but, one touch and you're as dead as a dodo. Thankfully, you are armed with an air-pump weapon to inflate our furry friends for a slow and cruel death which is nothing short of hilarious! Only then will they slowly float away, which you can speed along by giving them a nudge. This zips them off the screen to leave behind their stolen goodies and, if you're lucky, they might drag along some live animals.

There are lots of levels but Monster Business soon feels repetitive and, to make matters worse, there is an imposing time limit which is far too severe. It's not all bad news because 2-players are supported, I only wish it was for co-op. Joystick controls are spritely and I like how there are two height levels to jump, depending how long you push upwards. Repeatably pressing the fire button activates your weapon and I appreciated the auto-fire function.

The graphics are lovely with humorous sprites and smooth vertical scrolling. Each character is superbly drawn and I dare anyone not to laugh when they first see that ginormous duck waddle across their screen! The attention to detail throughout is gorgeous and I love the animal expressions, the title screen made from animals, and bursting to float off into heaven...

Audio is equally as impressive as the visuals (if not more so) with a superlative range of gorgeous chiptunes. Each one is literally a jaw-droppingly stunning experience and goes beyond any expectations I had. I believe all are by Laurens Tummers, aka Lotus, and you should prepare to be blown away into chiptune heaven! The sound effects are also superb but are completely overshadowed by the stunning music. This is pure glam and certainly pleasing to both the eyes & ears!!

Blowing-up animals is shockingly entertaining and I guarantee that you will be foot tapping to the gorgeous music whilst on the hunt for prey. However, its weakness is the lack of variety so long-term playability suffers. Monster Business isn't a bad game but it's best with friends and I guarantee it will have you giggling like school children!!

LINKS

 - 8BitChip has a version which can be installed onto your hard drive.
 - Those who prefer a floppy disk version should try Syndicate #26 via Stonish.
 - SNDH Record has MP3's of the chiptunes by Lotus.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Pure Energy #42


I love this Compact Disk released by Pure Energy early in 1993. It has a gorgeous plasma running in overscan whilst playing excellent chipmusic by Crawdaddy and the text might have a simplistic feel but did you notice anything a little different? The disk contains Doodle Bug and Centipede which are both pretty nice games totally worth a play.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Sebastien Larnac

I thought it was about time we featured another interview here on AtariCrypt and who better than my mate Sebastien Larnac! He's better known as ST Survivor, a name you might have seen credited in many wonderful Atari ST demos. Also, he's created screens for other programs, such as gwEm's STj and MaxYMiser.

Compared to most of us, he became an ST nutter quite late in the day. But it wasn't long before he was testing the waters of the demoscene with his doodles and later writing for disk magazines. He appears modest but it's quite an impressive hiSTory!

So I had this bright idea to interview the dude behind those funky glasses and see what makes him tick. Some details I found quite surprising but overall this is an extremely talented young gent, even if he is French! :^) Seriously folks, take a gander at Demozoo to see his superb art. I hope you enjoy this interview...


ST Survivor - The Interview


What’s your STory?

I received my Atari STe as a Christmas gift back in 1990 and spent a couple of years copying hacked games… until one day one of my floppies was filled with something called a “demo”. What the heck was that? I instantly loved the idea behind it and got in touch with the creators (I actually phoned one of them!). I already doodled on paper, why not on a computer? So I joined NLC at a time when some people were leaving the demoscene (damn me, for being too late!). I worked on a GFA megademo (Back In France) with my friend Thyrex, who ran the French diskmag ToXic.

I had the opportunity to make more pictures for various demo crews and took the position of the main editor of UnderCover Magascene. I also founded aLiVe! with CiH/Maggie Team and that’s it. I left the Atari Scene around 2003 because I was pi**ed off with life and finally got back to my second family somewhere around 2013.


Your favourite work?

It may sound silly but definitely, my best memory and true pride remains for our GFA megademo with Thyrex/NLC. It was started in 1994 as a multi-crew project, then, of course, everyone left and the two of us remained, wondering what we would do. Oddly it did not kill our motivation! Sure it took us another four years, the final result far from perfect, yet it is a demo made with a lot of passion and friendship.

Moving onto more recent artwork, I am very proud of the work we did on POOZ along with Cooper, Exocet and DmaSc. I personally think the game looks and plays like a true commercial game!


Inspirations?

I am not inspired, graphics wise, by anyone but me and this must be the reason why I know/feel that most people don’t like my art. Well, sorry folks, art is a matter of taste :) I truly admire people like Evil/DHS who have brought us so many great demos. I don’t admire, but have a lot of respect for the friends I have worked with because -most of the time- it was a great opportunity to share ideas and artistic passion. I am still impressed by people like Niko, Mic, Prowler or Slayer, you know the kind of dark-inspired graphics ;)

For a very long time, I have been a fan of Niko with his tortured and highly detailed style. Now I see that most of his pictures were mostly copies of existing paintings, not that it takes away any of his pixel art qualities. Yet today I would rather admire people like Mic/Dune and Exocet who not only have a very specific style but can also work either with very limited palettes or with wider ones. Exocet is also very well known for painting on a lot of platforms, thumbs up! They are true artists who manage to bring art whatever the challenge they need to face.


Favourite demo?

I've had my STe since Christmas 1990 so I have never been either fond of nor familiar with what the early years produced. Sorry guys, but I’m not in love with rough demos from the 1980s. In the nineties, demos started showing technique AND style and I have some favourites from this era, as well as some others from more recent years.

If I had to choose only one it would be… Wait, only one you say? Tough choice but I think I would go for Froggies Over The Fence. Not because of some national pride but because it’s a huge megademo showing many different styles - “classic” demo parts, an animated story, a Tetris-like game featuring the Jess tunes (I’m a huge fan!), an awesome high colour slideshow and a very long end scroller. Of course, there are tons of other demos I also love.


Favourite demo group?

To me, a good group is formed by a bunch of friends who enjoy working together. Dead Hackers Society prove this with their many impressive demos and I am always amazed to see new effects from them, things we thought could not be done. Yet it is not my favourite demo crew, I don’t think I have one, to be honest. I like the guys of Cream though, they seem to embody the true essence of a crew: each individual does something important, none is ahead, it’s a thing that could not be done without every member. It may sound silly, but this is how I feel this group works (and their latest demo Stresstest proves this perfectly).


Any funny demoparty tales?

Yeah sure! The very first demo party I attended was Place To Be again in 1994. I had no drivers licence so my father offered to drive me (+900kms) to the place! I was thrilled, like a kid on Christmas morning, being amongst the last of the great French demosceners. Guys like Dune, Holocaust, Niko/OXG, EXA…

I spent three sleepless days running all round the hall room and then went to get some rest on the compo night… only to eventually wake up on the following morning! Yes, I had completely missed the compo! In the end, it was a mixture of joy and disappointment but undoubtedly a great memory :)


Pick your favourite Atari ST year!

Again, I would choose 1994 because it was –in my humble opinion- a turning point in the Atari ST history : famous ST crews left for PC or even fewer for the Falcon, while I was only just starting my “scene” life. The ST demoscene died in 1994 and was reborn, even stronger, a few years later. The death of a generation and the birth of another one!


Are you STill doodling?

These days it’s a bit tricky to find time and motivation to work on things and I don’t even doodle that much on paper anymore. I have never been too fond of Art Studies so that I missed the basics... I went back to pixelling in 2013 but I haven’t really been too productive and the few things I did, well, I don’t think anyone will remember them? I don’t own an Atari ST anymore (gosh, it tore my guts out to give it away!) yet even though I’m using Peecee, it’s only to run Steem and CrackArt. The only way I know is : 16 colours, STf palette, nothing more, nothing less.


Will you remaster any artworks?

I have never really thought about reworking my Atari pics on the peecee. Firstly, because I like to paint on such limited retro hardware and within the STf limitations (I don't need STe palette). Secondly, because peecee is no fun to me, I don't ever want to mix Atari with peecee. Thirdly, I don't have the needed knowledge nor the will to do so. Basically, the answer is "no Steve" :-)


The future of the Atari ST?

I am no fortune teller but, over the last 3 decades, I have claimed the demoscene to be dead more than once! Obviously, we probably cannot expect fresh blood from the younger generation and we are all growing older and have busy lives. However, there is still room for newcomers and I hope that people find some motivation to do something over the years. Big Atari events, be it Sillyventure or STNICCC (2032?) or God knows what else are needed. We are quiet but we are still here and for a long time!

Last but not least you are invited to visit my blog: democyclopedia.wordpress.com or visit me on Twitter @stsurvivor. Thank you for this interview Steve and keep up to good work!


- My favourite artwork -


Here is a selection of images I've chosen from Sebastien's back catalogue. I personally feel his style is a constant throughout whilst always having that particular charm and flamboyant flare. The "lamer" image is a classic for us that spent hours reading scrollers back in the day, it makes me smile. However, the "Loudhead" image scares the c$!p outta me! The blooded "Cradle" picture, well, that's just wrong... I think it's impossible to pick out just one favourite but I think "STj" is pure genius. Click each of these incredible pictures and everything available via Demozoo.