Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Golden Dawn Mod Disk #14


The Golden Dawn released lots of Mod Disks and this one is extra incredible because it's a humorous hack of Cannon Fodder showing ST soldiers graffiti the Amiga HQ before it escalates into a mini-war. What a superb idea and one which nicely represents tensions between ST and Amiga users back in the day (did it ever end?). This mod disk is obviously stuffed with tunes, supporting various addon hardware gizmos and the DMA audio coprocessor of the Atari STe for stereo playback. My thanks to STompy for telling me about this fantastic intro!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bombuzal



It's time for some more amazing 16-Bit #PixelArt with ImageWorks' 1988 hit Bombuzal. I remember seeing this in the magazines of the day and couldn't believe the cartoon-like quality of the main character within his colourful isometric world. He is an odd potato-shaped dude who performs a funny expression as the bombs are exploding - it's almost like he doesn't trust himself!! There are some big names associated with this game but is it any good?

    

    

This is actually a pretty simple puzzler which requires us to blow-up each levels collection of big red bombs. The screen contains a number of squares we can use to help calculate our best route through but watch out for a number of traps along the way. Like crumbling tiles which can be walked on only once before they disappear forever, so don't get yourself stranded. Other tiles might be too slippy to walk on whilst some can transport you to another location. Slotted tiles allow us to move selected bombs to a different location, usually to avoid being caught up in an explosive chain reaction. I like Bombuzal, it's a fun game to tax the old brain cells and it's got fantastic pixel art too!

LINKS

 - Floppy disks can be downloaded using Old Games Finder.
 - Hard disk installable versions are available thanks to 8BitChip and Klaz.
 - I've recorded a video which shows my brain struggling but at least I made a Hi-Score!! Can you beat me?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rebellion


A nasty virus has infected the automated machines on Mars so the robots have captured our scientists and are holding them captive. We have no anti-virus program at hand so it's our job to destroy any robots that get in the way and help lead the boffins to safety. Jump inside your spaceship and get ready to save the day once again!

Rebellion is a top-down shoot 'em up similar'ish to any Gauntlet-like game you may have played. Each screen has a number of trapped hostages which are often located in different areas. Some are behind a forcefield which can be partially deactivated by disabling a section of its wall. You won't have long before a repair droid appears so don't dawdle! Others can be in locked rooms which require a key card a robot may reveal when killed. Every level has a minimum number of hostages to rescue within a set time. Miss this and the spaceship will leave without you!

Enemy robots have a range of different abilities: some are slow whereas others are much faster and another can even lay down explosive mines. Some have no projectile weapon but others are only too eager to turn you into a blood splatter! Also, watch out for gun turrets, trapdoors, and large tanks. Interestingly, when you do lose a life, the robots are paused for a few seconds thus giving you some extra time to whack 'em full of lead. Our machine gun can be upgraded with more power and a faster action - just try not to kill any humans in the crossfire! There are a variety of other power-ups to enhance shields, invincibility, a radar scrambler and even a supply extra lives.

      
Things don't sound too great... Sabotage... Mutiny... Rebellion? I wanna go home!!

I don't normally enjoy games that have me worrying about the safety of computer-controlled characters whilst being hunted by the foe. I panic too much and everyone usually ends up dead! However, Rebellion works very well even though the hostages are lame at following so will often get stuck behind a wall... I'm never too happy about time limits and this one seems to have a mind of its own and may prove troublesome on later levels?

This is an enjoyable shooter and it's anxiously-good fun guiding scientists back to safety. Each level has an intricate and interesting design with gameplay that is progressive and an addictive experience. I love this game.

LINKS

 - A hard drive installable version can be downloaded from the D-Bug website.
 - Floppy disk based games can all be grabbed via Old Games Finder.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

9 Lives


It's time once again for some Atari ST box art and today we have 9 Lives. Like most Arc games, this has a simple design but is pretty comical with a laughing cat that reminds me of Tom And Jerry. I also liked the glowing scores from three popular magazines so I knew this was a great purchase... Sadly, they were wrong because 9 Lives is incredibly difficult to play, bordering on impossible! At first, I thought this might be because of the controls which take a little time to master but I actually think they are perfect. I find it easy jumping up through the platforms and those long leaps are guided by a meter to control the strength. The animations throughout are absolutely brilliant and I love how Bob struts his stuff walking across my screen or when he clings onto a ledge before pulling himself up. In fact, the graphics are always superb with every screen highly detailed with beautiful landscapes and characters. Audio isn't left behind, the most gorgeous YM Chipmusic plays and it's a belter too! Yep, 9 Lives certainly looks a sounds superb.

     

What -I feel- is wrong are the gameplay mechanics that present a number of awkward flaws which irk me. The enemy sprites are far too big so the screens are overly cluttered and Bob cannot help but walk into something nasty. Sure, I can knock them out with my amazing woolly yo-yo but that doesn't last nearly as long as it should before they're up and awake again zapping my lifeforce. Level design is incredibly unfair and requires a psychic gamer who knows about every off-screen trap - those darn spikes!! Also, for a cat, Bob cannot fall far without dying, however, this does produce a hilarious animation effect not too dissimilar to Wile E. Coyote from the Road Runner cartoons.

     

Personally, I think 9 Lives had the potential to be a great game but I doubt it was produced (nor tested) by actual gamers so I can imagine most will play this once or twice before giving up. Which is a shame? To think I bought this... but it's still a piece of ST history so I will cherish this game. Just make sure you enable the trainer option!!

LINKS

 - Go on I dare you to play!! Floppies downloadable via Old Games Finder with a hard drive version by 8BitChip.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mystic Realm


An evil vagrant has kidnapped the Princess (or Prince if you prefer to switch characters) and now she requires our valiant rescue. Whatever character, we are once again crawling through monster-infested dungeons fighting zombies, ghosts, bats, and more. It may look like it was made in 1985 but Mystic Realm was released much later in the ST's life by developer John Lince for STart Magazine in 1990. Impressively he programmed it in GFA Basic!

Mystic Realm is an arcade adventure which feels like an old skool mash of Gauntlet with various RPG elements. Obviously, I chose to play as the prince even though I think he looks like a gingerbread man!! There are 14 huge levels to plunder with the main objective finding the keys to the exit through the levels, ultimately rescuing our beloved. Each level is made from a number of separate rooms and navigating through is aided by directional arrows displayed at the top of the screen. These show us the sides of the screen that will lead through the dungeon. All 14 levels are mapped and included on the disk (enlarged screenshots here). Each map is superbly designed and very challenging as you progress, but never to a point where you feel bewildered or bored. You will have to contend with a range of baddies and puzzles which nicely integrate into the gameplay. For example, a wooden gate may block your path but it isn't a strong obstacle against a couple of knives but later sections will require more thought than simply throwing a sharp object. There are other locked doors but use your collected keys wisely because not all need opening...

Various weapons can be collected throughout our journey and each translate into a specific number of knives for our adventurer. No other weapons are actually used but collecting a high ticket item like an axe will reward your inventory generously. The firing method will instantly feel familiar to Berzerk fans - hold down the joystick button and tap the direction you wish to throw a knife. It's apt and works superbly well. However, beware not to waste your ammo because you never know how long it will be before you can top-up your arsenal.

Health points are displayed top/left of the screen and detail our vitality from 0 (you're dead) to 999 being the maximum. It's hungry work being a heroic gingerbread man so chomp on whatever you find to keep yourself alive. If you are already near the max then it might be worth leaving food behind until later? Sadly, health isn't regenerated at the beginning of a brand new level and you will transform into a skeleton if you foolishly starve to death!!

Don't be fooled by the humble graphics, I find Mystic Realm quite fascinating and it reminds me of the games I played as a kid. The little sprites are nicely drawn with comical retro details, I love the wobble of a zombie walk and the ghosts look fantastic. Even the meagre sound effects transport me back to the 80s as I hear the knife skim through the air on its way to hit a fiend. Yes, I'm not ashamed to admit that I adore its authentic 8-Bit atmosphere.

Mystic Realm proves jazzy graphics and sonic boom effects are not required to make a game great and that is exactly what we have here. I've really enjoyed the arduous task of rescuing yet another damsel in distress!

- T H E   M A P S -

    

    

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ghouls 'n Ghosts


Over the last few months, I've been doing the same thing as most ST gamers - following Atari-Forum about a new arcade conversion of Capcom's classic platformer, Ghouls N Ghosts. It started as a fascinating idea by Sascha Springer to port the game onto an Atari STe. We all drooled over the concept and wondered if it was possible...

Lately, he has posted many videos that show the gorgeous sprites, lush arcade landscapes and smooth scrolling but Sascha has this week released the first download for us all. This is one of those jaw-dropping moments and proves just what the Atari STe is capable of producing. An incredible release and one which won't fail to impress!

The first download is available right now via Atari-Forum [beta requirements are a 4MB Atari STe w/ hdd]

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Floppy Image Runner


Image Runner was developed by Peter Putnik for Atari ST/e computers with a hard drive and 2/4MB Ram. It allows the use of virtual floppy images (.ST / .MSA) to be run without the bother of actually creating a real disk. Think of it as having a virtual Gotek drive but without destroying your ST's case (I bet that gets me some comments!)

This is so easy to use: copy the disk images onto your hard drive and then configure GEM to use the Image Runner as an installed application for either file type. Double click to load a disk image into Ram, just as if you had a floppy in the drive. I must say Image Runner works rather well for hard drive users and it certainly allowed me to start enjoying Menu disks again. However, it is software so my success rate has been varied - many worked and many sadly failed in some manner. In the demonstration video, I get nothing but a black screen for the last game so YMMV.

The download contains separate programs depending on your version of TOS - I used "IMGRF162.PRG" for my 4MB Atari STe with Ultrasatan. Give Image Runner a playtest whilst saving up the pennies for the hardware options...

Friday, October 13, 2017

Enduro Racer


Many already know that Peter Jørgensen is developing an Atari STe upgrade to one of our favourite racers and I'm very excited about it!! The current betas feature faster gameplay compared to the original conversion with extra on-screen colours and the horizon's landscape/clouds are driven using the Blitter Chip. Title music will be replaced with 5-channel (DMA) YMT based on the arcade scores. The in-game music is also to be replaced with 3-channel YMT because the DMA audio hardware will be used for the sound effects, again taken from the arcade.

The betas which I have been playing with are a fascinating insight into how the final product will be. Even at this early stage, it's much better than the original ST conversion (which I love). So, yes, I am very excited about this project!!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

STrange roboTS


Strange Robots was released in 2013 for Silly Venture by BlaBLa and Mandarin. It's one of those demos I've had on my Ultrasatan since the very beginning and is a personal favourite of mine. I love the presentation styles that also display an incredible range of colours with a funky 505 tune enjoyed throughout. What's not to love?

Demozoo has the download which will require an Atari STe with a jaw-dropping 4MB Ram. If you like this, then I suggest you take a look at Circus back²STage, JAPAN beauties and troubles and STreet Art - all excellent demos!!

    

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Horror Zombies From The Crypt


I've always been fascinated with Astral's haunted house platformer which I feel has a charming and great comical character. No haunting would be the same without lots of frightful creatures and this game has everything from witches, zombies, werewolves, vampires, ghosts and even the odd weird statue that sticks out its tongue at you!

Each level has a particular task described during a mini-intro but the objective is to hunt down and collect all the skulls and lay their souls to rest. However, this is one tricky play through a maze of creepy screens which often contain puzzles. This is no arcade-style platformer, more of a Fire And Brimstone so keep your composure wear your patience head, Worzel.

The first level introduces us nicely to the game's personality with some not-so-obvious puzzle solving along with a variety of classic baddies, like zombies, headless ghosts and a Morticia Addams lookalike. Puzzles are quite easy and shouldn't tax the grey matter too much: move a table to reach an item, find keys to unlock doors, and wear cute booties to creep past something scary. Things hot up on the next level with tougher monsters and trickier level designs. I must admit to taking a liking to the wolfmen but I hate the old hunchback witch who can drop rocks with great accuracy! Always look for hidden rooms or secret objects that may need a different type of key. Every level has a password so there is never a need to restart from the beginning each time which is an excellent idea and one I wish more games would have supported (I'm talking to you Navy Seals!)

The visual style is perfectly apt for the 1950's cinematic theme with smooth scrolling, incredible artwork and freaky characters who are also superbly animated. Just wait until you die and see yourself shudder before violently suffering a Scanners-like headache, no matter the actual cause of death! I must say that I am impressed with the palette used, each level is its own mini-movie and looks absolutely tremendous. The horror is typically cheesy so if you think this is going to be scary, then you're in for a different kind of shock.

Audio is nothing short of incredible with a chippy rendition of Montagues and Capulets which couldn't have been a more perfect choice. I'm sure I'll be humming this all day long! All sound effects are high-quality samples with the wolf howls being my favourite. However, I'm disappointed there is nothing for my head-exploding deaths?

This is one of those games that eats away the hours but also requires practice and plenty of patience because the gameplay mechanics are cruel. In fact, it's often infuriating on later levels, just try Family Chapel if you don't believe me... Horror Zombies From The [Atari]Crypt is the perfect title for such a cheesy platformer. I wish it was a little easier but killing wolfmen, zombies and running scared from piercing vampire glares is right up my street. Gory fun!

LINKS

 - A hard drive installable version is by D-Bug with floppy disks available via Old Games Finder.
 - Level passwords: Wolfman, Hammer, Lugosi, Nosferatu and Garlic.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

River Raid


Today I fancied a quick blast of one of my favourite ZX Spectrum games - RIVER RAID!!

Okay, I know it's kinda lame compared to the Atari 2600 original but I have many happy memories playing this with my schoolmates. So I figured I should put some of that Mega STe power to good use and (because there was sadly never an official ST conversion) boot up the Speccy emulator for some colour-clash action. YEAH!!

Obviously, I cannot record directly off my Mega STe so I duplicated this setup in Hatari and made a video. A stock 16Mhz Mega STe with TOS 2.06 runs the game very well - almost at the same speed as a real Spectrum. Perhaps my recording might fool people into thinking it's a real Spectrum? Well, until they see the GEM desktop ;)