Sunday, June 30, 2019

Blob Race



Worms. Gambling. Death!!

It's not often a parent introduces their young child to gambling! But, I figured racing blobs was going to be worth the risk of the cops knocking on my door. Yep, you heard correctly, today we are going to be betting on green blobs which is something similar to the horse racing machines at the seaside amusement arcades (and this one won't cost you a penny!)

Developed by Kev Davis back in 1991, Blob was never released for some insane reason.
Well, not until 1994 after he saw an unreleased beta on a Menu Disk... Yikes!

You know me, folks, I love Atari ST games but our PD/Homebrew scene is something else. There is so much out there just waiting to be re/played. It's often the place to find hidden gems bursting with innovative ideas from people that loved to experiment. Well, I think Blob Race is just that and I've gotta say Kev has a fantastic sense of humour!

What am I waffling on about? Let's take a look at a screenshot before you should read on...


Ricky D. would be proud of that boulder... until it squashed a blob to death!


Wacky Races

All games are a gamble and we begin with £100 in the kitty. Racing a blob is just like the games from the arcades: pick yourself a likely winner from a selection of six candidates. Each has a name and its own individual characteristics for speed, reactions (how well they can maintain that speed) and the number of tricks they're able to perform.

Oh yes, a blob can possess a bunch of tricks used against competitors such as throwing bombs, riding a bike, and sprouting helicopter wings. If all this wasn't enough, you might see one teleport or explode. Love it!!

The betting system is simple but not like you might expect: come first and you get your winnings at the specified odds. Coming in second allows half of that, whilst third place gets you your money back. Finish worse than that and you receive a big-fat-nothing. This system actually works really well and helps keep everyone playing for longer.

It's time for another glorious screenshot of technically amazing graphics. Well, no, but at least it's a funny one...



One gets crushed by a ton weight and another develops helicopter hair.


High Roller Racing!

That's about all there is to this belting game: pick a blob and watch it squelch across the screen. It's great fun but what makes it extra awesome is its simplicity and superb humour: I loved the falling ton weights, bombs, and lots of other worm-like incidents. Also, the news headlines are funny: avoid cliches like the plague. My only criticism would be the length of each race which is too short otherwise Blob is ace and gets a thumbs-up from both of us here. You'll love it!!

Come on, grab the download and give this stupid game a run for its money. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Nightbreed - The Interactive Movie




Back when they knew how to make great horror movies

I remember watching Nightbreed back in the day and absolutely loved it. Okay, it was a little cheesy but I'm a fan of most horror genres and Clive Barker never disappoints. It had such a different twist to its style and atmosphere and I loved the idea of Midian with its freaks - being the good guys. Something I didn't expect at the time.

Being the weirdo that I am, I would have loved to see Midian for myself one dark night - of course, armed with nothing more than a flashlight!! Alas, it was never meant to be... well... until now that is!! Thanks to Ocean, and their amazing dedication to movie tie-ins, I finally have their Nightbreed which tries to follow the original plot as best it can. This time it's what's called an interactive adventure, umm, with some arcade action thrown in for good measure.

Right then, let's stop the natter and check out some of the screenshots from this scary game...


Don't listen to the bad man...


Hey, check out that 90s hairdo (and Aaron's nipples! lol)


The gameplay area is pretty large and feels a lot bigger thanks to the laborious car journey!



Armed with a torch, we head into the dark woods!

As you can imagine, we play as Aaron Boone and begin our adventure in the doctor's office listening to his lies. Yup, he's trying to trick us into a confession for something we haven't done - our world is collapsing in on itself. After this introduction plays through, we're presented with a map of the area which has many roads. Here you can travel to three possible destinations: the redneck police station, an ever-attractive asylum, and the mysterious Midian Town.

To drive, we use the overhead map of the area using the mouse and click each intersection of any road. However, watch out for hidden roadblocks that present a decision: do you smash through like a rebel or turn around to find an alternative route? Keep your eyes on the fuel gauge, I wouldn't like to get stuck on these roads at nighttime...

Deciding where to go is completely up to you but take a look at this map first, before you start burning unnecessary fuel. And then think to yourself what would Aaron Boone do? Everything may look very similar but each action you make (generally) has a different outcome: I made my way to the hospital in my first game, but (ahem) that didn't go very well.

Not well at all, actually! Check out the screenshot I got to see on my first game...


What a nightmare it is to be shackled and caged like a beast!


Arghh!! Caught and locked away in a padded cell for the rest of my days!


Just listen to his howling!! Wow :o



I've been eaten, again!

Of course, being the eager adventure, I restarted and headed straight to Midian. Here I was given three options: I chose to enter Midian itself which is something I was really looking forward to. However, I think this was a bad choice because I was instantly torn to pieces by a Berserker without any possible chance to defend myself. What an ending!!

I never gave up and tried again with my foolish venture into Midian but, this time, I was set upon by something else that was extremely vicious. However, this is where I finally got to see Nightbreed's action scenes as I ran away like a scared chicken. This part has you banging on the mouse button to separate two sprites at the top of your screen - one to represent you and the chasing monster. I escaped but trigger-happy cops were waiting and I found myself in the morgue!

As you can see, my fortune in this game is pretty terrible. Let's see some screenshots...


I made a poor decision and the doctor was waiting for me...


He brought the cops. Who shot me into pieces!


Midian is full of freaks... but I gotta admire the artwork and a dodgy game of chase!!



Horrorscope!

Visually, Nightbreed doesn't fail to impress and features many screens with gorgeous artwork. I love the eerie tones that make use of great palette choices to honour the movie's atmosphere nicely. However, the animations are pretty lame and I dare you not to laugh when being chased However, it's this part where I thought Aaron looked like David Boreanaz [remember the vamp Angel] as his image wobbles back 'n' forth. Or is it just me?

The audio is also excellent. Okay, I'd have liked more background sounds but, what we have, is sampled and pretty darn awesome. Easily my favourite sound effect is when we're captured and held captive in the asylum: this is probably one of the scariest samples I've ever heard in any game. It's incredible. Listen to it!!

Remember when I said I found myself in the morgue? Well, that doesn't necessarily mean game over...


Oh no, I'm not doing too well... Well, I did end up in the morgue so that's never good!


Well, I never expected that... this is turning into an old Hammer House of Horror movie!!



The CryptO'pinion?

I've enjoyed Nightbreed with its weird storyline and freaky aesthetics that I'm sure Clive Barker would appreciate. The game is big and offers quite a challenge but I was left a little disappointed - considering this is an interactive adventure - as I imagined a lot more actual "interaction". Also, I felt blindly forced into following a predetermined and limited plot - one wrong move and you're dead. Which isn't brilliant for what is supposed to be a free-roaming adventure scenario.

Don't get me wrong, this is no Dragon's Lair and I'm sure fans will get something from this interactive movie tie-in. I loved the ability to venture into Midian for myself but I simply feel more could have been done to exploit the setting and storyline with its wide variety of Midian monsters. I enjoyed it as it's not a bad game just not a great one.

Here are a few screenshots to tempt you into downloading Nightbreed for floppy or hard drive!



Saturday, June 22, 2019

Boogey Man



Bogey or crow?

Scouring through the ST archives, I found something silly called Boogey Man, by Anthony Hamilton. The screenshots reminded me of an old 8-Bit game but, if I'm honest, it really isn't anything close to what I expected.

This is a tough one to describe... but... we are Burt, a guy who loves to collect snot. Yup, you heard me - snot. And there is plenty of that popping up all over your screen in both small and large doses. There are nine levels in all which might sound too easy? It's not because the controls are super-sensitive which makes the entire experience very chaotic as you agonisingly attempt to carefully navigate, avoiding the nasties. Yes, it's as mad as it sounds but, great fun.

There are bad guys which come in two flavours, a Blob and a Spike. Touching either kills you instantly so beware. Watch the timer, which is just another way to lose a life - and you can see that happen to me near the end of my recording. A boogeyometer is shown bottom/right of the screen to display how much snot remains to be collected. Once accomplished, an exit door appears on the right and we can leg it to the next level for more snotty fun.

Right, it's time for a screenshot so let's begin with an informative one...



Burt seems to love snot for some peculiar reason but look out for the nasties who wanna stop you.


Aesthetics

The visuals are basic and very 8-Bit, which is something I often admire because it works very well from a more simplistic time. Well, it works here too. Interestingly, this game runs in Medium resolution which explains the fine details and lack of colour. I liked the sprites, especially Blob, but there's nothing here pushing the old ST of course and that's fine.

However, the audio will certainly entertain - the kids. Ohhhh, and the big kids too - like me. I absolutely loved it but I should say nothing more to spoil your surprise other than Anthony made excellent use of MasterSound!!!

Struggling to understand just why I played this game? Better check out this screenshot then...



Gameplay relies on fudgy controls to make it feel quite chaotic. Can you beat level nine?


The CryptO'pinion?

Whatever you're thinking when you see the screenshots - stop. Since when did cinematic visuals ever matter? The idea and gameplay are simple but humorous and incredibly entertaining. Yes, the controls initially feel too snappy, but you will get used to that and anything different would just make the game far too easy. So it's perfect as is.

Boogey Man is a ridiculous game and one I'm sure your kids will love for all the obvious reasons. I know that I loved every second of it and I've just heard there's a Boogey Man II listed on AtariMania... dare I try the sequel? LOL

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Faster Than Light: The Atari ST




Kick back and enjoy another Atari ST book

Jamie Lendino of ExtremeTech has released a book dedicated to the world's best 16-bit computer. I've only just got the digital edition tonight but I've enjoyed flicking through some pages and to say I'm impressed would be a huge understatement. This is seriously good stuff. Heck, even my little website gets a mention which is mind-blowing.

Faster Than Light is crammed full and covers many different topics: from the history and range of different computers plus the various uses we got from this incredible beast. The book is available on (your local) Amazon store right now for less than a tank of fuel!! I'm buying the paperback edition and I hope you ST nutters do the same.

Hey, shall we see some nabbed screenshots and text? Why not! Here you go then...


   
   


“Power Without the Price.” Every Atari fan remembers that slogan from the 1980s as the rallying cry for 16-bit computing in the form of the Atari ST. This groundbreaking computer brought previously unimagined power to the home user for the first time—and transformed an industry or two along the way.

Author Jamie Lendino offers a fresh, vital look at the history of the Atari ST, guiding you from its inauspicious genesis at the centre of a company known for its gaming consoles to its category-defining triumphs in music, desktop publishing, and video gaming. And he doesn’t stop there: He then leaps to the present to pull back the veil on the thriving software and mod communities that aren’t just keeping it alive today but taking it to places its creators never could have imagined.

Whether you’re a longtime devotee who wants to relive the magic of the machine that unleashed the wonders of Dungeon Master, Time Bandit, and Starglider, an intrepid DIYer on the hunt for new ideas and resources to take your homebrew system to the next level, or a newcomer hungry to learn the ins and outs of one of the most important computers ever created, this book will get you there just as the ST did its long-ago digital pioneers: Faster Than Light.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Bugziacs




1983 has come knocking!

A brand new remake of Don Priestley's Maziacs is being released by Bello Games with coding by George Nakos (aka GGN) and graphics by Niels Kleine (aka Tinker) and Kevin Dempsey (aka SH3). At the moment, this is an unfinished port but I loved the ZX Spectrum original so much that I couldn't wait to get my grubby mitts on this olde classic.

I expected differences but, right from the start, this feels authentic and with a remake of the old DK'Tronics loading screen. Surprisingly, there is a good reason Bugziacs feels so much like the original - "This version actually runs the original Spectrum code translated to 68000 using a custom tool and then some routines replaced with ST-specific code". Wow. Extremely interesting and I hope many more Spectrum conversions are in the pipeline?

Check out the first few screenshots! Yep, I feel like I'm 12 again looking at these Speccy delights...



Ohh, the menu system is just like the original. Even the font...


...and these silly sprites too. Comical and I love it.


I wish more games had an intro detailing what to do. Brilliant idea.



Wow, it really is Maziacs!

Once the game begins, things feel familiar but the look (and movement) are a lot better than my favourite Z80 computer could ever manage. The goal remains the same: explore a maze looking for hidden treasure. And then make your escape. It sounds easy - but it's not - especially as you cannot carry both a weapon and the treasure at the same time.

Like the original, each maze is randomly generated which means a different game each time you play it. But the one thing that remains constant is those angry Maziacs who roam the corridors looking for a scrap with our plucky hero. Thankfully, some kind soul has left swords scattered throughout. However, these can oddly only be used once per battle! So this is where the map feature comes in handy along with your memory for those you've already walked past.

This might sound a little weird and rather limiting but it works perfectly to keep you on your toes. The ST game plays like I remember and, unlike most 16-bit updates, it doesn't feel like it's lacking that certain 'je ne sais quoi'. This is authentic yet also an improvement, which is very unique. That in itself is impressive because I'm tired of classic games being spoilt by better graphics or unnecessary changes. I'm thinking about the terrible Chuckie Egg II as an example!

What, you don't believe how good this is? Well, you better check out some more screenshots then...



The Atari ST version looks amazing. Authentic, yet a cracking advancement too.


Of course, you could step back in time and use the original Speccy graphics?


Whatever you decide, it's always best to use the map. Don't get lost!



Don Priestley would love this!

One thing to remember when playing is that you're not Superman! Keep an eye on your energy levels (displayed using a vertical bar) because that ticks down as you explore. Fear not, whoever left the swords has also left energy drinks which are very helpful. Also, I advise chatting with the prisoners who are usually willing to aid you on your travels. Although it's odd they know so much yet never ask to be freed? Finally, use the map which will be more than helpful at crucial times!

Yes, I am really enjoying Bugziacs!! This is well-balanced and incredibly playable. Sure, it's got some quirks/bugs as those randomly generated maps can sometimes be rather unfair: more than once, I began with a Maziac standing beside me!! But let's not forget this is a work-in-progress so I'm extremely eager and excited to see the final product.

You can probably tell how thrilled I am to play a classic game like this on my Atari ST!! Hey, it's screenshot time...



Maziacs... oops!! Bugziacs has the most helpful prisoners you could ever imagine.


The swords are necessary but probably made in China - they don't last very long!


Hang on a mo, three monsters and only one sword? Oh no!!



The CryptO'pinion?

Bugziacs has taken me back to my roots in the earlier 80s. What an absolutely fantastic version this is and being able to switch between Atari ST and ZX Spectrum visuals is just too good for words. It's always great to see a "new" game InDev for our computer. I hope GGN can put this tool to use in the future and get other Speccy games converted? GGN - please develop Chuckie Egg 2 next as this is my favourite 8-Bit platformer but I have a massive list too :-)

Whether you're old enough to remember the original game or not, Bugziacs is a bundle of frantic mayhem. It's a simple idea that has been perfectly executed. What a rush it is to hunt down the treasure before panicking to quickly escape. Yes, it's tough but it's so much fun. This is a brilliant game and one I cannot help but highly recommend to everyone.

Maziacs is brilliant on the ZX Spectrum but guess what? So is Bugziacs for the Atari ST. Absolutely superb!!


Both AtariMania and Demozoo have Bugziacs to download.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

ST Collection #8



Ignore the name, this one is cool!

Here's another menu disk that I really like, ST Collection 8 by Typhoon. As you can imagine, it features loads of intros by the likes of Cynix, Fuzion plus also a few other oddities: I love the strangely funny Sonic Demo and Dune's Faith features spectacular artwork, stunning effects, and audio to die for!! MJJ's Trisogames is always great but I must admit it was Pascal Ganaye's Strip Tetris that caught my attention (naughty boy)

As you'd expect, it's just Tetris but we're also treated to a 4-bit glamour girl who removes her clothing the better you perform. Hmm, that didn't come outright, but I'm sure you know what I mean? Gameplay is pretty good and my old man reactions did pretty well in the video recording. This is a nice conversion of the boring old classic!

There's lots of cool stuff on this disk and Demozoo has the credits and download. Check these out:




Thursday, June 06, 2019

D-Day




Rule Britannia!!

Okay, ST nutters, a couple of years ago I managed to buy myself a mint copy of D-Day by US Gold. This is a war game and comes on four disks, so is a pain to someone (like me) who's been spoiled by the luxury of an Ultrasatan. However, I couldn't find a hard disk version anywhere so I did what any sane person would do - I asked Peter Putnik.

Later, during the World Cup (and after a couple of beers), I finally had myself the hard disk adaptation of this wonky old war game. Launching it from my satan is a dream compared to the floppies and I'm really grateful for Peter's commitment to the ST scene. Anyhow, what did I think of US Gold's take on this historic moment in time?
Before we begin, June 6th 1944 is a moment in time that we are unable to comprehend but will never forget. This video recording and game review is just my humble way to say thank you to those who have served.
Righto, I think we need to see a screenshot so let's kick it off with the topography of this historic area...



Overlord offers a crude yet incredible insight into the situation on the day. Quite frightening!



Operation Neptune

D-Day is represented by a map of Normandy during the period and shows just where the enemy is located and the missions which can be planned and executed. This is like a campaign mode for the entire Overlord Operation and has each event featured by time as they unfolded. However, it's quite confusing to newcomers and even the manual recommends you start by playing the individual missions first. I love their honesty so I did exactly that and began each part in turn.

The idea of these mini-games is actually pretty cool. They are broken up into four categories: Tank, Bomb (flying the most sluggish planes ever!), Paratrooper, and Infantry soldiers. Splitting them up is brilliant and allows you to skip directly to your favourite parts. Also, no matter the game, there are always several missions to choose from.

Wanna hear more? Of course, you do. So let's take a look at each of the mini-games right now...



There is a wealth of information and statistical detail to check out in the main game.



Mission #1 - Tank

Okay, the first game is Tank which is a WWII twist on the Battlezone format and looks like another ST title, possibly because they share the same programmer, Pascal Jarry! There are lots of different missions and the first instructs us to destroy every bunker on the beach, which is a lot harder than it sounds! There are a load of other missions but the game is quite buggy and I suffered a few crashes. At one point I even managed to get myself stuck in a tree. Yikes!

Performance is sluggish and also lacks any kind of engine noise (which is just weird) but I have to admit that I had a bunch of fun driving the little tank. Make sure you hit the function keys for the different modes of operation and also a cool outside perspective. Overall, it's worth playing a couple of missions but sadly, feels like a rushed add-on if I'm honest.

My rating for Tank would be above average as it could have been far better. So, I rate this 5/10.



The big boys are here and we're taking no prisoners!


We're out roaming the countryside - looking for a fight.



Mission #2 - Bomb

This next game is an eye-opener alright. How on earth this got by the US Gold Quality & Control debt I do not know. I think they didn't have one? lol. Again, there are lots of different missions and I chose to fly at night to bomb a bridge. Well, that was theory anyhow but I literally had not even the slightest chance of hitting it. Not in a million years!

There are some basic instruments and controls to help you with your noble adventure but you're left feeling blind which makes completing any mission nigh on impossible. Also, to say its 3D engine is sluggish is a major understatement - I reckon an old Oric 1 could do better. Definitely, the weakest game of the lot so I can't say I'll be playing it again.

I'm struggling not to be too cruel here but I cannot help myself and I must rate Bomb 2/10.



Wow, I really don't know how to describe this part of the game... So poor.



Mission #3 - Paratrooper

This game is silly in execution but actually damn good fun. We are parachuting either solo or with other troops through a series of missions. Wind can obviously play a factor (no jokes please) but guiding your men downwards to the ground is peculiarly enjoyable. Sure, it's ludicrously bad but I still loved it. My daughter thought it was superb - bonus!

Overall, unlike the Bomb game, this is something you need to play. Well, at least a couple of times!

I don't really know why I enjoyed this game so much? Perhaps for its silly mechanics? Well, I give it 6/10.



Weeee one man gets tangled and falls to his death but the others land safely!



Mission #4 - Infantry

This is the final game type and easily my favourite. I've always liked overhead strategy games and this is styled in a similar fashion to some action games I've played, such as Cannon Fodder and Rebellion. However, don't be fooled, it might look similar but is more a slower-paced tactical wannabe where stealth is the key to your survival.

There are a bunch of missions that involve us guiding stickmen through the fields avoiding enemy bunkers, tanks, and so on. It plays as crudely as it looks with enemy AI that's more like a robotic turret. Each enemy unit has its place on the map and, once you're spotted, they constantly bombard that area forever. They never stop!! So it's your job to sneakily find an alternative route and pick 'em off with your machine gun, grenades or mortar.

The controls are quite shocking and fairly imprecise - trying to get the soldiers to stand exactly where you need them is half the battle. Also, it's annoying when they take the long route around an obstacle, which often means that they are then in the line of fire - and die! The graphics are quite umm Cannon Fodder'ish but of a very crude standard. Now, I might be a really bad pixel artist but I honestly think I could have done better? Sound effects are made from crunchy samples and certainly, add to the atmosphere but that constant noise might give you a headache after a while.

However, I should stop my snowflake whining because, in spite of all its faults, this is incredibly great fun (it reminded me of Stonkers on the ZX Spectrum). Infantry is nothing more than finding a safe route through the map and picking off the enemy one-by-one. Very simple and not much more to it, but I genuinely enjoyed myself. Yes, I know, I'm mad!!

It's crude and ridiculously unrealistic but I've strangely had many hours of fun so I'm giving it 9/10.



We're on the beach in one mission and then raising everything to the ground on another!


The enemy won't move but they're sure out in great numbers. Can you kill everyone and escape?



The CryptO'pinion?

If there was ever a mixed bag of goodies then this is it. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud to have this in my collection but D-Day feels like it was programmed by amateurs, which is odd when reading the credits [AtariMania]. Technically, this fails to make any decent use of the Atari ST hardware - and is riddled with sluggish, buggy code - which is quite shocking.

So, it's crude, it's buggy and it's a little silly but I gotta admit that this is still a decent war game. Plus the Operation Overlord parts have so much depth and can offer the eager gamer a unique historical insight into the events. D-Day is tacky but I thoroughly recommend playing the better parts, especially on what is such an important day in history.


Grab the floppies via Old Games Finder
8BitChip has the new HDD version!



Looks pretty good, right? Well, this was recorded using my beefy Mega STe. I'll say no more...

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Pop!



Menu Disks!

One thing I love is trolling the ST's massive archive of menu disks and Golden Dawn #44 features quite a few unexpected crackers. The first is Pop! by Manuel Castrillo of Bit Culture, a 1993 shareware game. The instructions are quite difficult but we're on Skuiskie Island and armed with a gas gun to kill lots of nasties!

Pop! is a platformer which feels kinda like a weird mix of Pang and Monster Business. Actually, it's rather odd if I'm honest and certainly not what I expected to play. Right from the start, you're thrown in at the deep end which means instant death. Why game developers think something like this is a good thing, I do not know.

Stick with it and, after many pointless deaths, you will get the hang of things. Use your gun to gas these critters to Hell - they take a few hits! Enjoy their cute expressions but hurry up because they need to die before the time limit expires. The controls feel nice but are too slow, especially when trying to turn around in the frantic heat of battle. Interestingly, there is support for two players which adds a whole new level.

So what about the graphics and sounds? Well, I couldn't ever be too judgmental about the aesthetics of any shareware game but Hoog has already set that bar impossibly high. However, Pop! does have nice graphics and there are some neat touches - like your death. The colours are a little off so I think a better use of the palette should have been made, especially when monsters blend into the scenery and your gun's bubbles are invisible against the background sky. Music is DMA and in stereo but sadly very little audio is heard during gameplay...

This is a shockingly silly game but quite addictive too. With a little more thought, I'm sure Pop! could have been far better but it's spoiled by sluggish controls and a terribly harsh time limit. Having said that, I obviously thought it was good enough to feature - so either I'm going soft or I had myself some fun on this rainy morning?

Go on, grab yourself Golden Dawn's disk via Demozoo and take a look at this screenshot...

Instantly eaten alive by something oddly cute. Must try harder...

Kudos to them for putting most commercial companies to shame by making use of the STe!