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 now 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.
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).


  1. Have you been able to get this to work on a real STE? What i get is a strange looking horizontal banded version that looks like a poor BBC Micro tape release form 1980.
    I'm running on a PAL STE at both 50 and 60hrz (tries both) with 4 MB of memory. I'm using an Imagerunner from PP so maybe it's the problem.

    1. Sorry for the late reply here, been away :) Anyhow, it's a good idea to run any game from Low Res, regardless. I have my own STe to auto-boot up in low res. Except when I'm running in High ;o)

  2. Yes, It's working great on my real 1040 STE! Thanx!

  3. Update: Good old Peter has just released a hard drive installable version:

    1. Well, that went down quick.