Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Goodbye...



I thought it might be nice to wave bye-bye to 2019 with a selection of previously featured games that you guys may have missed. So before welcoming in the new year, here's a bloated list of games which I personally think are true Christmas Crackers - and for a variety of different reasons. So should be played by all ST Nutters!! :-)

We begin by taking gaming seriously. Yep, let's tax the old brain cells with four amazing downloads:
  • Yopaz is a familiar thinker running in GEM. But don't let that put you off because it plays really well and even supports the STe for some seriously cool ambient sounds.
  • Next is Unheart which has a C64 visual feel and some think it's a Boulderdash clone when they see screenshots - which it isn't. Instead, it's a mind-bogglingly brilliant puzzler!
  • Thirdly, it should be instantly obvious what BeGEMed is all about? Never have I played something so captivating with beautiful aesthetics. One seriously addictive puzzler!
  • Finally, the brilliant and originally titled Sokoban. This unassuming game is cunningly difficult and easily expandable. It will always get a thumbs up from me. Love it!
 
 


For a moment, let's remain within the boundaries of thinking rather than arcade fun or mindless violence...
  • Alpha Waves. Wow, this is something so captivating and it blew me away when I first saw it. Imagine yourself trapped inside a box and the only way to escape is by bouncing your spacecraft on springy platforms. It's weird yet works so perfectly. A milestone in 3D game that will offer hours of fun. Download this right now!!
  • Okay, let's switch now to burning rubber and head straight onto the asphalt! The Atari ST is certainly blessed with lots of ace racers and driving games but few seem to remember Power Up? Okay, it's hardly original but it's so much fun, especially on the STe because it can make use of the DMA and Blitter. Faster Atari computers are supported for smoother framerates. Not perfect but I still love this game!
 
 


Platformers next and those who know me will be aware of my addiction to this genre and the Atari ST has many: Stario, Rainbow Islands, Gods, Ghosts & Goblins... But here are a few others which I wanted to share:
  • Prehistorik was written in STOS and is so much fun. It's a lightweight platformer but one with incredible mechanics and is GREAT fun. It should be played by all. Oh yeah!
  • Magic Boy is next and I said BOY not POCKETS!! This is another Christmas Cracker which plays as good as it looks and with STe support. No lame Amiga port here.
  • Next is a fella with a Big Nose who walks along boring landscapes - which should have been far better. But, you know what, this plays brilliantly and is so addictive.
  • Finally, we end with a Thug but he's a nice thug and another hidden GEM in the ST world.
 
 


Okay, it's time to end this little compilation but there are plenty more within our archives - so use the *search* function. Also, don't forget to download AtariCrypt Magazine. Yes, it's free... well... donationware... and obviously written by yours truly with visual flair by a talented Darren Doyle. Go on, grab yourself a copy.

Finally, thank you for checking out my website for another year. It's great reading the comments and your messages of support are always appreciated. Once again, I cannot leave without paying homage to our dear Patreons for their extra support: so this article continues over on Patreon as a special thank you to these amazing guys!

All the very beST for 2020 and ... STay Atari !!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas


Catnap is a wonderful animation by Gary Johnson of Atari USA, that also makes the perfect Christmassy post! Apparently, the cat & dog are the pets of Ralph F. Mariano, publisher of online diskmag ST Report. Personally, I've never read an issue but it lived long into the 90s. Yep, this is something I must research over the holidays...

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank our dear Patreons for their support over the year: Mind-Blowing support from our ST community!! Also, there are lots of cool friends in my little ST world who help in so many different: Tom, Dale, PeterJ, Marko, PP, Paul, Karim, Michael, Maarten, Seb, and my sincere apologies if I have forgotten anyone! Finally, my greetings to everyone who regularly visits this little ol' website to get their fix of Atari STuff :-)

Merry Christmas to all ST Nutters and I wish y'all the very beST †


Silent Night Atari ST chiptune by Chris French

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Thundercats


Thundercats was released back in 1988 by Elite and is obviously based on the old kid's TV show. Now, I don't remember the programme myself but YouTube does, which meant I finally got to see what all the fuss was about. An interesting show for the time and I can see many similarities, especially with the characters.

The Atari ST game represents the cartoon as a sideways-scrolling platformer shooter played over a number of (torturous) levels. We are Lion-O, a Thundercat with flame-red hair and a huge sword who battles against strange animal foes. These baddies are from something called Mumm-Ra who have not only stolen the Thundera jewel but have also kidnapped the other Thundercats. I think this translates as - we need to save the day!

 
The first level breaks you into the mayhem nicely. Look for power-ups and try not to panic (like me!)

 
Being attacked by so many birds isn't great fun... And I didn't like that slowwwwww laser gun!

The terrain is simple with lots of monsters, killer water, disappearing platforms, and rocks/etc to leap over - but watch out for the bigger baddies who will follow. Random power-ups will appear at regular intervals and will need to be hit before you can collect them (I liked the mushrooms). An extra life is appreciated but I wasn't thrilled about the laser gun which is limited because it doesn't fire far. Thus annoying when something is just out of reach!

Gameplay is regularly broken up by bonus rounds and trying to rescue Tygra proved impossible: one-touch and you have failed in the mission!! Also, the levels are broken up into themes and you're asked which you'd like to play: they are Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Basically, little changes but we do get different visuals and baddies to kill.

 
That creepy fella is tough, so repeatedly hit him where it hurts! And don't forget the mushroom power-ups...

 
Hang on, what's this? Well, it turns out to be a pretty lame spaceship and it uses that silly laser too...

Joystick controls are rather easy to learn and also very responsive: left/right walks our flame-haired hero and he can also jump and crouch with ease. I liked these controls which work well and the best part is our huge sword - which puts Conan's to shame!! However, it is oddly used more like a club which is weird, but it works...

Sadly, no matter how responsive the controls are - there are far too many baddies to cope with. This is because they appear from both sides of the screen - so you're soon overrun as the hoards gang up on you. To make matters worse, your weapon can only kill what is directly in front of it so you're constantly jumping, crouching, turning around... Add that to everything else and it won't be long until you've died - or launched your joystick in frustration!!


- GRAPHICS & SOUNDS -

Visually, things are rather good I thought. Colours are bold and represent the cartoony-feeling very well plus I also loved sprites which are superbly detailed. However, what shocks me most is how smooth the scrolling is and with a second parallax layer too. It's always nice to see when developers don't wimp out with flick/push-scrolling.

The in-game sound effects are okay, even if everything sounds all too familiar. However, it's the music I adore. This game ROCKS and the theme tune is pure Rob Hubbard awesomeness! It's brilliant and I love every second!


I love the macabre artwork here. It's a bit crude yet very cool... and his toes are funny!

 
I always fail to rescue poor old Tygra! But a spooky dude offers us different paths through the game...

 Click on the green arrow and enjoy this outstanding Rob Hubbard chiptune. Mmm, I love it!!


- THE CRYPTO'PINION -

Thundercats is a good game even if ridiculously difficult. My red-haired hero was walking, jumping and crouching like crazed hip-hopster on speed yet I still couldn't kill every attacking monster without dying loads of times!! Even when using a trainer, it's still too hard but at least I got to see the later levels. Hmm, not very good?

I've moaned a lot about this game and yes, it's crammed full of annoying mechanics. However, it's still a game to boot up because it looks good, sounds great, and who doesn't enjoy clobbering animals with a huge sword? Personally, I'm more of a He-Man fan but I still enjoyed this platformer and I think you will too. Well, with a trainer!!

AtariMania has the Super Pack floppy disks and 8BitChip has a hard drive installable version!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Summer Olympiad


Who'd have thunk it, yet another sports game here on the Crypt - a website by the least sporty guy on the planet! (Hang on, I enjoy watching NASCAR... Well, from the comfort of my sofa!). Okay, here we have TyneSoft's 1988 hit Summer Olympiad which features five Olympic events to compete in - either solo or against friends.

Firstly, you're probably thinking the same as me? Five events! Yep, 1988 must have been a poor summer or maybe the TyneSoft guys got bored? Who knows! Anyhow, up to six players can compete against each other through a selection of athletic events and they are Skeet Shooting, Diving, Triple Jump, Hurdles and Fencing.

Well, before any of that malarkey we should first find a busty girl to light that Olympic flame... (click the image)

 
Well, that's how my mind works... But I must say, I love the billboard screen showing each event!!



- THE EVENTS -
Skeet Shooting can be controlled using either the joystick or the mouse - but please chose the mouse! The left button launches a clay pigeon(s) and your right button fires one desperate blast into that direction. Quick reactions and accurate movements are required otherwise you begin shooting at the empty sky. And I did that more times than I care to admit. It's quite difficult... ahem!

Wow, my aim is terrible!! Still, it's really good fun trying to shoot the discs.

Diving is really silly yet brilliant. Never have I seen someone fall in slo-mo and from such a massive height! Moving left/right rotates the diver as he falls, whereas up/down tucks him up. A well-timed splosh produces the best scrores, somehow... But I really enjoyed this event. It's great fun!

After falling 50 miles you think the crowd would be more enthusiastic!

Triple Jump is a joystick destroyer so get waggling to make our little athelete run like the clappers. However, that fun soon ends because I think TyneSoft deliberately did everything they could to sabotage any enjoyment thanks to the stupid controls: fire-button alters the controls to change your runner's angle by pushing up/down. It's pretty weird and ruined the event for me.
Waggle Waggle Waggle... Joystick breaks... Thanks TyneSoft!!

Hurdles was a pleasant surprise because I expected more 2D but instead we're viewing the event using a third-person perspective. Joystick waggling is still the order of the day with the fire-button used to perform a flawless leap over the hurdles. Well, if you practise because it's quite hard to judge. Personally, I think having a simple shadow at the runner's feet would have help a load - and save him from lots of leg bruises... Finally, don't forget to lean forward when crossing the finishing line!

I'd be great at this if the objective was to kick down each and every hurdle!!

Fencing sounded like it was going to be good but controlling my dude felt somewhat disconnected from what I saw on the screen. So it appers pure luck if I made a hit but then I fell asleep!! Yeah, this is a bit rubbish if I'm honest and I didn't care for it. So definitely the weakest of all five events.

Boring... It's time to whip out a shotgun and blast your opponent!!



- GRAPHICS & SOUNDS -

The visuals are by Paul Drummond and I must say that I really liked what I saw. The sprites are good with acceptable (wooden) animations but scrolling is smooth, and the 3D Hurdles is pretty impressive so get waggling that joystick. Yep, it's all good but oddly, I quite liked the event's loading screens the most - especially Skeet Shooting!

Chipmusic is by Wally Beben and totally superb, especially between each event. Sadly, I only wish I could say the same for the sound effects which fail to show us what the YM2149 is capable of. I'm sure there must have been enough spare clock cycles for a few rough samples? That would have been so much better...


This image is my favourite. Brilliantly drawn and I think he looks like Chuck Norris!

 
Two more loading screens: Fencing is awesome but that Tripple Jump guy looks somewhat deranged!!



- THE CRYPTO'PINION -

There might be only five but each event has something for everyone. However, it's a mixed bag with Skeet Shooting being the best, closely followed by Diving and Hurdles. Sadly, the Tripple Jump is awkward and Fencing is plain boring. I think if you are going to feature so few games then they all needed to be super-duper perfect?

Overall, this is a cracking family game which we have enjoyed - even if my daughter completely fails to grasp the concept of waggling a joystick! (Kids!). Anyhow, Summer Olympiad is definitely at its best when competing against family/friends otherwise it's all over with too soon. Good, but could have been better with more content.

Remember to do warm-up stretches before downloading this game for floppy or hard drive.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Frogs [v1.2 update]


I've been given an opportunity to playtest the latest alpha v1.2 update of Frogs by Thomas Ilg. I previously featured this cool game what feels like a lifetime ago, but Thomas didn't stop there and has made some improvements: faster code, additional Atari STe features and some interesting ideas - along with some I didn't like!

Anyhow, I've had a play and reported back my thoughts. It was long before I was given an updated version...

 
It's crazy with four froggies hopping around the screen and the C64 graphics are just superb (click 'em)

One of the new enhancements is scrolling. Yup, the playfield (umm, pond) now scrolls on the Atari STe and, in my recording, you can see how this works. It's a treat and I (mostly) loved it. However, I thought that the single-player mode needed to scroll more because it felt somehow restricted and limited (to me). So a new "Single Frog Scrolling" option has been implemented for one-player and this also includes the C64 mode. Absolutely incredible.

Of course, purists will be relieved to hear that the scrolling will be an option selectable from within the game's menu. Yup, it won't be forced on anyone which I personally think will please folk from all corners? Well, I hope so!

Steve the frog always wins because he's the greatest!! :o)

The graphic modes are going to shine alongside the recent (and staggering) framerate improvements when running on the Atari STe - we're talking 2VBL / 25fps. I'm also happy to announce other minor improvements that are in the pipeline, like the decals which I thought desperately needed changing - I'll keep Thomas busy!!

Frogs is a brilliant game and my sneak peek into the stuff #InDev is proving to be extremely fascinating. For me, the option to scroll the screen is a fantastic idea and it is implemented really well. But I'm more happy to see Thomas is not restricting the Atari STe by the limitations of either the older Atari ST or the original C64 game. Yup, he is pushing the Atari STe constantly so I'm really excited to see what's coming next. Watch this space folks...

* Update: Frogs v1.2 Beta is now available to download *

If you've been living on another planet and missed out on this amphibious wonder then I suggest you head over to AtariMania and download it right now. Sorry, but you will have to wait a little longer to play v1.2 :-)

Also, consider buying Frogs boxed w/ its own multiplayer adapter!!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Seconds Out


Do you remember a game called Frank Bruno's Boxing on the ZX Spectrum? Well, it looks like the folk over at Tynesoft did when they released Seconds Out in 1988. As in the Speccy game, we're in a boxing ring fighting ugly dudes and the action is viewed ringside from behind our noble challenger. Yup, it's original alright!

We are Marco, a challenger who must complete against five increasingly difficult champions from around the world. His first bout breaks us in gently against Joe Weed who lives up to his name and is pretty easy to knock out. The second is much harder, closely shadowing you and can easily block your punches. The third is rather odd and that's saying something for this peculiar boxing game: it's a lame fella who wears glasses and can headbutt. (I believe there are two more champions: an American and a Russian. Just don't ask me if I can reach that far!!)

 
First up is Joe Weed, an easy opponent! But Jonesy is harder, although he seems shocked to lose!

Controls are initially odd but the one-button ST does well after a few practices. Moving left/right is easy, but slow, and we can guard ourselves using up/down with a little sway thrown in for good measure - if absolutely pointless. With the fire-button pressed we can punch with either arm as we float around that ring looking to sting. Well...

Energy levels are displayed along the top of the screen: decreasing with each hit taken and increasing when dealing out damage/resting. Also, a throbbing boxer's "KO" glove will indicate when your opponent is weak enough for a knock-out. That is the time to hit up/fire to perform the special ability, a swift right hook!!

Each round lasts for 1:30 seconds but oddly feels longer against the tougher guys who cannot easily be knocked out. Between rounds, we are slumped in the corner with our coach who helps to recover lost energy - something I didn't realise until after I made my recording. That'll teach me for not reading the manual... Doh!!

 
Don't be a fool like me!! Waggle that joystick and put that old man to some good use ;o)

Graphically, this ain't anywhere near what the ST is capable of but it does feature lots of comical aspects - like Mike "Hammerhead" Hagman!! Also, the see-through wireframe idea works well but spoiled by his head which doesn't make sense... Animations are less than average and the crowd make few movements and look bored.

Audio has been forgotten with no music and the near-static crowd are completely silent. Freaky!

 
Watch out for this dirty Jeff Minter fighter. Even when I'm knocked out, he still tries to headbutt me!!

This game has massive drawbacks, like speed. There isn't any. These athletes are the slowest I've ever seen! Also, the gameplay itself is very short and obviously linear in structure, so I'm sure better players could complete it in under an hour... Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee? Hardly, it's like walking barefoot in slutch!!

That being said, Seconds Out is still quite enjoyable and everyone needs to witness that Glaswegian and his idiotic headbutts! Overall, an average sports game that needed to be much quicker, flashier and a lot noisier.

Those who fancy sparring with Marco can find all the Super Pack floppies for download on AtariMania.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Road Wars


For the most part, my Super Pack run has been a glowing success featuring lots of brilliant Atari ST games. Okay, there's been a couple of bumps along the way, but that's only to be expected and even Atari wasn't able to please everybody all of the time. Although I seriously doubt I'll ever load up Chopper X or Marble Madness again.

Well, up next is Road Wars by Melbourne House which looks a bit like Eliminator. Apparently, a computer controls the safety mechanisms of the highways but it isn't working properly so the roads are no longer safe. Perhaps it was running Windows, who knows? So hop into your Battlesphere droid and rid the roads of menaces!

 
Weirdly, I like that their title screen and they get straight to the point with the instructions!

Road Wars is a 3D racer but, instead of a car, we're a mounted-gun sliding down a yellow highway. We're also inside something called a Battlesphere which looks like a giant bowling ball and acts as a shield. Two-players are supported and solo gamers will be happy to see the computer automatically assume the role of an absent friend.

The highway is walled on both sides with several types of enemies and other problems. Some wall panels are blue and fire electricity across the highway. Shooting either panel will disable that or you could just roll through hiding inside the safety of the Battlesphere. When both panels are gone, you're free to zip onto the next level.

Controls are simple to move left/right and pushing UP activates the Battlesphere's shield to hide inside. Pulling DOWN removes this so you're free to kill stuff using the fire button. The controls work okay but there is a noticeable lag when things get busy. I also found it way too easy to kill my friendly opponent. Clumsy me... Oops!

We're not alone! Beware and look out for the dangerous on these futuristic yellow roads...
Red balls. Yup, red balls. These can kill you with one touch unless you're shielded - but even then, it'll completely destroy your sheid leaving you vulnerable. These can also appear in clusters which obviously gives you much more to shoot at. Also, beware of those that turn into missiles!!
Chevrons are an unusal surprise and it worth rolling over one...
Spikes are a pain in the rearend so cloak up quickly and hide inside your protective sheld!
Satellites frequently flyby and some can fire a deadly laser beam.
Barriers are quite fun and something to enjoy ramming through. Well, if cloaked!

 
We begin on Electric Avenue hunting down the evil villain, Eddy Grant. No, not really!! :p

The graphics are drab. When I say drab, I really do mean drab. The only thing I actually like is the loading screen which features the two developers - because I felt had a demoscene vibe to it. Oh, I also like the rolling moon animation which isn't too shabby. Well... However, what disappoints the most is its ludicrously sluggish framerate.

Audio is freaking annoying with the one tune that plays constantly. Aggravating!!

 
Taking screenshots is usually a mad rush during the fun of frantic gameplay. Not during Road Wars! Yawn...

Road Wars had the potential to be so much more, but its limited design lets it down because there ain't an awful lot to this shooter. I did wonder if we had another Quadralien on our hands but, no matter how long I played, I was bored by the repetitive gameplay, laggy controls, terrible framerate, and the constant music only makes matters worse!

Overall, I this has to be one of the most disappointing games I've played and I'm struggling to think of something nice to say. Well, for what it's worth, Road Wars comes on the same floppy disk as Chopper X. I rest my case.

Masochists will be happy to know that AtariMania has this Super Pack floppy to download!!