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 within your Atari STe

Pole Position is a 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 excellent driving games but sadly, never received an official port of this olde arcade favourite. Well, until now that is.

Today that changes because Jonathan Thomas has released a brand new version which he has reverse-engineered from the arcade machine itself. He's implemented many cool features and even uses real-time sprite scaling, DMA sounds and much more. The requirements are 1MB Ram, a joystick and the appreciation of what is nothing less than a brilliant racer. Booting it up is surreal, feeling like you've got an arcade machine in your home - no need to bring any 10 pence coins!

Okay, I need to break up the text for the first screenshot. And this one I love for obvious reasons...



I'm feeling like a kid in a Blackpool arcade, spending all my pocket money!!



Yes, put your money away!

It sounds silly, but I'm impressed seeing Pole Position running on my Atari STe. What an authentic conversion of the original arcade game. 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 because it's all down to the arcade's vertical monitor. Obviously, the Atari STe doesn't feature the same spec so it merely attempts to replica that ratio.

The 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 - and doing a great job of it too!! Ideally, I need a wheel but, stick with it and put aside half an hour to master the controls. Watch out - those corners are a killer!

I don't think we need another screenshot just yet? So how about an animation instead? Here ya go...



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



The gory details

The latest release candidate I've played has major improvements and delivers near arcade-busting gameplay:
1) 60fps framerate to bring the speed and difficulty in line with the feel of the arcade.
2) You can thank the Blitter Chip for whizzing the graphics so fast & furiously!
3) Sprite scaling utilisied for ultra-smooth results. Check out that road zooming up close!
4) Even good 'ol Mount Fuji is displayed in all its glory! Well, why not, eh?
5) The sky gradient is back along with numerous glitches fixed and it looks superb.
6) Sound effects are taken from the arcade game using the DMA coprocessor.
Gorgeous!
7) Code compiled with GCC 7.1 for a significant performance increase. Sounds good to me.
8) Many new optimisations, mainly around text rendering for authenticity.



If only those tyres would look like they're rotating (come on, Jon) :-)



The CryptO'pinion?

It's sad to think that this game wasn't originally released for the Atari ST. Yet, here we are today in 2017 with a game that's been reverse-engineered from the arcade itself. Everything looks, sounds and feels like we remember with only a couple of missing features: the animated tyres are nothing more than a bit of a colour wobble (I hope that gets fixed)

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

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








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 because, quite often, they don't work or it feels like something is missing. So I tightly crossed my fingers and booted it up.

Initial impressions are great, the game looks good with each screen having the expected platforms and ladders with 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 a 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 different types of nasties that you'll encounter. . .







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 still panic!!

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

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 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 - I'm never a fan of timers!

Right, let's check out an in-game screenshot...



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


Input & Output?

The controls are superb!! This is a relief as I've played a few similar games which required 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 and I love that.

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 and nor should it, but who cares? The audio is far better with nice sampled sound effects throughout - that ROAR as a monster climbs out of a hole will scare you to death!! I just miss the lacking background chiptune.

Well, you guessed it! Yes, it's time for another screenshot so keep on scrolling...



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


The CryptO'pinion?

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 about what could creep up on you is truly a PANIC. Yep, this is literally one of the best conversions I have played.

Grab the DOWNLOAD right now!

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 a fake arcade action affair but instead, tries to be realistic and 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 available. Equip these guys with the right weapons for each mission whilst taking into consideration type, rate of fire, ammo, weight, and noise. There is a lot of cool hardware to choose from like machine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, stun grenades, and gas canisters.

This is next screenshot is of you! Choose your weaponry wisely and specifically for the mission at hand. Remember, some weapons 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? But these will certainly help to recover from injuries.



This guy is ripped yet still manages to look a bit gay. Put on a shirt mate!



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 isn't that game. Sabre Team 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 them).

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. Got that!?

The next screenshot explains the general task of the mission. Read it carefully and don't be daft...



Always read the backstory and gather as much detail as you can. It will help.



No manual to read?

Sabre Team provides incredible insight into the strategy and tactics like few other games. Running in, guns blazing will only get you, and your teammates, killed. Also, this is perfectly suited to the turn-based genre as it works so well. However, waiting 3/4 minutes for the computer to decide what it wants to do is brutal and I hated it. Yep, that long!

So here's a tip for those without the manual - press and hold the mouse button to speed up the process. Odd, but it works. However, I feel this quicker method should have been the default - as I'd have preferred to hold the mouse button during the moments I wanted to watch more closely. Perhaps it's just me but it took me a while to get used to this method.

Right then, let's see another screenshot taken with my phone on my real Atari ST...



Sometimes I hate emulator screenshots and prefer using my real ST. Sometimes it's a bit naff!



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 incredibly impressive. I think Phil Hackney did a superb job with all the in-game graphics - each environment features fine attention to detail for landscapes and scenery.

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. For example, standing at a bad angle near an open window leaves you 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.

Hey, I need another screenshot from my Atari ST that shows how great I am at the game... He says...



Another shot from the ST and here I am helping a poor civilian to safety.



The CryptO'pinion?

Ignoring my minor quibbles, never have I enjoyed a game that employs such a tremendous demand of tactics, stealth and strategy thinking. It's fantastic yet also instantly appealing with great depth. There is a large 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 very, very addictive.

Sabre Team demands lots of thought, effort, patience and skilful wit to be successful. So, put aside time for nothing less than an innovative and invigorating experience. The attention to detail is massive and helps make this a very realistic yet enjoyable strategy affair. Spending your time, carefully and covertly eliminating nasty terrorists, is extremely satisfying.

What we have here is nothing short of a classic. Yes, I said that, and I loved every second of this amazing game.

8BitChip has a hard drive version with floppies at 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 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.

Curiously interested or have you already walked away? Well, here's a screenshot for those still here...


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 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 on to the next level once everything is collected. Yeah, yeah this is all basic stuff but it's darn good fun!!

Glad you stayed? Of course, you are because this game is different and so playable. Here's a screenshot...




Aesthetics

The visuals are lovely and everything scrolls very smoothly and perfectly compliment 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 smoothest possible experience. Wonderful programming for a wonderful experience.

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

It zips about like a drunk driver on a busy high street so let's check out one final screenshot...



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.

Simple gameplay that's so much fun. I cannot recommend it highly enough so grab yourself a copy now!

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. Why, I hear you scream? Well, I'm glad you asked, 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 there was ever a strange idea 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 tiles that alter colour with each hop - that will produce a record if you make 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 well.

Yeah, it may sound peculiar but it looks hotter than hell itself. Check out the first screenshot...


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


Not your normal game...

Each level is different and much like a jigsaw in design. Some aren't continuous, so the use of a transporter may be required - but be careful because you don't want to bump directly into a baddie! There are instruments that chase, if you get close, and will kill you using a humorous "Pif-Paf" cartoon-like effect (this 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 its tracks. Well, for a few seconds, but that gives the gameplay a desperately needed break - nobody uses those old tapes anyhow! As you progress, the maps become more technical and offer a greater challenge in this insane musical world of craziness!

What an insanely unique game and I did rather well and made the hi-score table...



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


Aesthetics

Infogrames have (yet again) worked their magic and produced another jaw-dropper. I normally start with the graphics but, not today! Because this game is a blast - the sound effects are superb and these go to making up the thumping tune which is great. Other sound effects for the instrument monsters are excellent and I love it when some will 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 frequently amazing throughout each and every level. Constant, rich in colour, beautiful backgrounds, and all that with the funniest musical sprites chasing you. Mad! 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?

As you can tell, I love this game and wish you would boot it up also. Don't miss out! One final screenshot...



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 maddening and very challenging yet remains one of the prettiest puzzlers on the Atari ST. I feel this is a timeless classic and something that feels fresh and innovative today. A lot of love went into making this game.

I cannot stress enough just how highly I recommend this game. It's a personal favourite. 10/10.

Download for hard drive or floppy.