Friday, September 29, 2017

Biomechanoid Locomotion

I spent some time last night listening to many incredible tunes from the SNDH Archive. Biomechanoid Locomotion, by Shinobi (aka Marcus Andre Rousseau) was probably my fave of the night so click the green arrow to hear it :-)

Turn up the volume and use these Atari ST programs to play everything from this amazing archive. 🎧

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pole Position



The arcade comes to the Atari STe

Pole Position is an all-time classic arcade racer from a time when the world was an exciting place without social media and pop music was something you could enjoy without it grating like fingernails on a blackboard. The Atari ST has a raft of great driving games but sadly, never received an official port of this olde racer. Until now...

Today that changes because Jonathan Thomas has released a brand new version that has been reverse-engineered from the arcade machine and even uses real-time sprite scaling, DMA sounds and more. The requirements are 1MB Ram, a joystick and an appreciation of this great racer. Booting it up is surreal and somehow feels like you've got an arcade machine in your home. But this time we don't need to spend all of our 10 pence coins!



Oooh, I'm feeling like a kid in the Blackpool arcades!!



Yes, put your money away!

It's impressive to see Pole Position running on my Atari STe. What an authentic conversion of the amazing arcade original and it even features the same (ripped) visuals and sonix I fondly remember. Now, if you're looking at the screenshots and wondering why the display is narrow, then blame Namco. It's all down to the arcade machine's vertical monitor which the Atari STe obviously doesn't have, so it attempts to replica that ratio.

Gameplay is tough, very tough. Initially, I was all over the road, slipping and sliding into other cars and skidding off into the roadside objects. In fact, it felt like I was purposely trying to hit everything I was that accurate! Stick with it and put aside half an hour to begin driving - even at an amateur level. Yes, those corners are a killer!



The actual framerate is twice as good as you can see here in my capture.



The gory details

The latest release candidate has major improvements and delivers near arcade-busting gameplay:
1) 60fps framerate to bring the speed and difficulty in line with the arcade.
2) You can thank the Blitter Chip for whizzing the graphics so fast & furiously!
3) Sprite scaling utilisied for ultra-smooth results.
4) Even good 'ol Mount Fuji is displayed in all its glory!
5) The sky gradient is back along with numerous glitches fixed.
6) Sound effects are taken from the arcade game using the DMA coprocessor.
7) Code compiled with GCC 7.1 for a significant performance increase.
8) Many new optimisations, mainly around text rendering for authenticity.



If only those tyres would look like they're rotating (one day eh Jon?) :-)



The CryptO'pinion?

It's impressive to think that this wasn't ever developed for the Atari ST yet, somehow has been reverse-engineered from the arcade machine. Everything looks, sounds and feels like we remember with only a couple of missing features: the animated tyres is nothing more than a bit of a colour wobble (I hope it gets fixed)

Possibly the toughest racer and most certainly one that keeps dragging you back for more, kicking and screaming. It's so addictive and a cracking arcade port that's making good use of the Atari STe hardware: I love its framerate, audio and authentic feel. Pole Position is nothing less than a spectacular arcade conversion!

What are you waiting for? Come on and play this outstanding arcade racer!! (Download from AtariMania).


- SCREENSHOTS -



Friday, September 22, 2017

Space Monsters



Don't panic!

Space Monsters was developed by Darren Ithell for Goodman PDL and I'm sure you've already guessed it's a conversion of the arcade classic, Space Panic. I'm often a little dubious of 16-bit conversions for old arcade or 8-bit classics. Quite often they don't work or it feels like something is missing. So I had high hopes...

This looks good with each screen has the expected platforms and ladders with lots of horrid nasties roaming. It's instant death if you bump into one so Spaceman has discovered the best way to kill these critters is to dig trap. Once they've foolishly got themselves stuck (for a few seconds) he has the opportunity to whack 'em with his spade which for a splattery death. Spaceman is a truly gruesome fella but, whatever works, right?

Let's check out the nasties . . .




Oh, the nasties in this game are so... well... nasty!! The Boss is tough but Don is a killer!!


No matter how much I try, I panic!!

Yup, there are only three types of monsters but that doesn't mean their numbers are limited. The first is a "Creature" and is pretty gullible and easy to avoid or kill. However, the other two aren't so dumb and even possess a freakishly cunning AI. "Boss" is hard and "Don", well, he's the real boss. Try not to anger any monsters!!

Also, it takes a greater falling distance to kill the stronger nasties but you are rewarded with lots of extra points. However, if you fail to smash in their faces in with a spade, then they angrily climb out looking for blood!! Finally, watch out for that time limit. Don't dawdle and get these beasts killed before your oxygen runs out.


Right, we've got him just where we want him. Quick, club the sucker!!


Input & Output?

The controls are superb which is a relief as I've played a few similar games which would require pixel-perfect alignment with the ladder before you're allowed to climb it. That's always a pain which I'm happy to say doesn't exist here. Digging holes and caving in the heads of aliens is easy and so much fun. My only quibble is not being able to fall down a hole otherwise, the authenticity for both style and gameplay has been perfectly captured.

Visuall, well, it's Space Panic so is everything you expect it to be with a clean-cut design and cutesy sprites. It won't win any awards but who cares? The audio is far better with nice sampled sound effects throughout and that ROAR a monster makes when it climbs out a hole will scare you to death!! I just miss a background tune...


'Creature' is a cute but gullible goon and temporally falling into a hole will make him angry!!


The CryptO'pinion?

Overall, Space Monsters is fantastic and perfectly captures that oldskool vibe in both look and style. The gameplay itself gradually increases for that expected stressful experience and trying to tactically dig the right holes whilst worrying what could creep up on you is truly a PANIC. Yep, this is the best conversion I've played.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sabre Team




I always wanted to be Lewis Collins!

Sabre Team was released in 1992 by Krisalis and is a turn-based war zone of hardcore strategy. We're in control of an elite SAS squad who enter the lion's den to kill bad guys, rescue hostages, and save the day. This ain't no fake arcade action affair but instead, tries to be realistic thus requires stealth and tactical thought so a wrong move could end with team members being killed. And dead means dead, there are no second chances in this world.

Okay, the first job is to select a 4-man team from eight of the best warriors. Equip these guys with the right weapons for each mission whilst taking into consideration type, rate of fire, ammo, weight, and noise. There are lots of cool hardware to chose from like machine guns, assault rifles, a sniper rifle, stun grenades, and gas canisters.

Tips?
Choose your weaponry wisely and specifically for the mission at hand. Remember, some weapons might need a reload after each shot. You're not superman, it's often advisable to wear a bulletproof jacket. I hear there are a limited number of medkits and these will certainly help to recover from injuries.





Think covertly

Yes, there is a lot to consider, so you should put aside any ideas you may have had of arcade-style action. This demands careful, calculative and strategical thinking so your assault should be executed with a stealthy approach that protects your men from danger. For example, don't stand near an open window! The terrain isn't just something nice to look at, use it for cover as the enemy won't know you're there if they cannot see (or hear) you.

The battlefield is viewed isometrically using detailed environments and our soldiers are controlled through the use of action points. This means your men are allowed a specific number of moves before the computer gets a turn. The user interface is excellent and has helpful animations to identify their purpose (just hover the mouse over).

These are used to turn, walk, shoot and do other fun stuff like searching dead bodies. The compass not only controls the soldier's direction but displays the number of action points required for each particular task. Along with alerts for what a soldier might see (red) or hear (blue). And this is exactly how you should play - as if you were there!


                            



Rome wasn't built in a day

Sabre Team provides an incredible insight into the strategy and tactics involved. Running in, guns blazing will only get you and your teammates killed. I think it's perfectly suited to the turn-based genre which works so well. However, waiting 3/4 minutes for the computer to decide what it wants to do is brutal and I hated it.

So here's another tip - press and hold the mouse button to speed up this process. Odd, but it works. However, I feel this quicker method should have been the default instead as I'd have preferred to hold the mouse button when I wanted to watch the computer more closely. Perhaps it's just me but it took me a while to get used to this...





Graphics & Sounds

We begin with a title screen depicting a sinister SAS soldier emerging out of the darkness ready to assassinate terrorists. It's almost like a post-apocalyptic/Who Dares Wins and is so impressive! I think Phil Hackney did a superb job with the in-game graphics with each mission environment uses fine attention to detail.

However, there is some rather dodgy artwork, which I'm sure you have noticed? Thankfully, the game is finely detailed with wonderful precision and I adore how the environments take on a realistic scene without feeling cheap or tacky. Standing at the wrong angle near an open window and you're vulnerable to being picked off.

The sound effects are excellent with samples used to complement the tension of tactical warfare. Their quality is great and I'm excited to see they didn't wimp out by using samples for weaponry, cries, and other effects.





The CryptO'pinion?

Ignoring my quibbles, never have I enjoyed such a game that employs a tremendous demand of tactics, stealth and strategy thinking. It's fantastic and instantly appealing yet also deep with quite a learning curve to master, so don't expect a cakewalk! I'm sure your initial attempts will end with many incredibly laughable casualties as you uncover the joy of what this realistic game has to offer. It's cruel and takes no prisoners but is so addictive.

Sabre Team isn't something to play when you have a few moments to spare. Time, patients and skilful wit are required. So, when you have the time, stick with it because this is an innovative experience with massive attention to detail. Who would have thought that covertly eliminating terrorists would be so satisfying?

What we have here is very rewarding and nothing short of a classic. And I loved every second of it.


DOWNLOAD LINKS

8BitChip have a hard drive version with floppy disks via Old Games Finder.
Trusteft has recorded a great video from unboxing to gameplay!

Friday, September 08, 2017

PouifOuf



English translation, please?

PouifOuf is a French word I imagine, but no online translator seems to know what it means! Well, it's also the name of a unique platformer developed by Le Glod for the Atari ST using the old favourite, GFA Basic. Firstly, don't go off the visuals because it really is nothing like you might imagine and there are no magic pockets too!

This familiar-looking kid must run around, almost like a headless chicken, collecting items scattered around each screen. The style is fast and frantic which reminds me of a cross between Roger and CarVup. However, we can ONLY walk left or right, which means there is no way to jump or to use any weapon with our idle magic pockets. But don't worry, there are several platforms with "springboards" to walk on. When used, these propel us upwards to reach those higher places. It's now you realise the cunning thought needed to beat its design.

Hang on, is that the Bitmap Kid I see? The little fella is running around collecting everything!


Boing!!!

This is a great platformer but also very different from what I expected to play. It's a little crazy and there are lots of silly enemies who love to get underfoot and make our life hell. They aren't lethal but will humorously bounce you around the screen like a pinball. The emphasis here is fun which is a breath of fresh air!

Sometimes, fruit items will fall from the top of the screen but don't appear to do much more than to offer a little visual diversity for extra points. I'm not sure but I can only assume PouifOuf is an unfinished project so I would love to know more about this hidden GEM. I have contacted Le Glod but heard nothing back as yet... Anyhow, collect all items because we can only move onto the next level once everything is collected.



Aesthetics

The visuals are lovely and everything scrolls very smoothly and perfectly compliments the ultra-fast gameplay requirements. Okay, ignore the ripped graphics and enjoy the blistering speeds. Note, I cannot stress this highly enough, play using real hardware for the best 50fps experience. Wonderful performance!

Sound effects or music can be activated at any time using the F-keys but I prefer the gorgeous chiptune.


Use the springboards but watch out for the baddies who will make you tumble!


The CryptO'pinion?

What a game!! Yep, I've really enjoyed playing this game which I found a refreshing surprise. And nothing like I first imagined but this had me smiling like a Cheshire Cat thanks to the fantastic playability. I might not be able to pronounce "PouifOuf" but I know a fun game when I see it - and this is a blummin' furious platformer!!

Download this superb platformer!!

Friday, September 01, 2017

Jumping Jack'son



A game with attitude!

Jack is a fella who simply wanted to chill out and listen to a few of his favourite records but he never got the chance because the soul of Rock 'n Roll is somehow trapped and now manic classical instruments roam the land looking for blood. Of course, your blood... Yep, if ever there was ever a strange idea for a game then this is it!

Jack's world is viewed top-down and made up of square tiles which he can hop on. There are also special groups which can produce a record if you turn them all the same colour. This must correspond to an unused turntable so, for example, a red record for a red player. The song will gradually compile as each record player is activated - which means that the level is only complete once all are working. Sounds weird but it works really well.


Never would I have imagined such a silly game would be so brilliant!


Not your normal game...

Each level is like a jigsaw and isn't always continuous, so the use of a transporter may be required but be careful because you don't want to bump into a baddie! They are instruments that chase if you get close and will kill you using a humorous "Pif-Paf" cartoon-like effect which is fantastic. There are many items to collect for extra points and other features: wear a pair of cool shades... or rest to safely gather your nerves on a chequered tile...

Also, why not try dropping a couple of your old cassettes on the floor to block an instrument dead in his tracks. Well, for a few seconds but it gives a desperately needed break nobody uses those old tapes anyhow! As you progress, the maps become more technical and offer a great challenge in this insane musical world of craziness!


Can you beat my Hi-Score? Nah, I didn't think so!


Aesthetics

Infogrames have worked their magic and produced another jaw-dropper. I normally start with the graphics but not today because this game is a blast. Sound effects are superb and these go to making up the thumping tune which is great. Other sound effects for the instrument monsters is excellent and I love when some begin to violently bash out their sounds if you get too close. Sigh, just imagine if they'd have used the DMA hardware...

The graphics are constantly amazing throughout each and every level. Constant, rich in colour backgrounds with the funniest of musical sprites chasing. The scrolling is ultra-smooth and I even loved the high-score table which is almost like a funky demo screen! Hey, check it out above, can you beat my first-attempt score?


Oh no, something mean and green is attacking me!


The CryptO'pinion?

Jumping Jack'Son is superb and has lots of great, unique humour. Come on, there's nothing like an angry trumpet chasing you down the screen! It's also one of the prettiest puzzlers on the Atari ST that presents itself as a timeless classic and still feels fresh and innovative today. It's obvious a lot of love went into making this game and I cannot stress enough just how highly recommend this game comes. A personal favourite. 10/10.

Download for hard drive or floppy.