Sunday, September 29, 2019

Chopper X

I love SWIV...

Chopper X is a vertically-scrolling shoot 'em up released in 1989 by Paradox that places us in the seat of an Assault Helicopter which is armed with Viper Air To Ground missiles to battle against hoards of bad guys. The blurb says this pushes the ST with its stunning graphics - What absolute twaddle. Don't believe that for a single second!

Anyhow, I should first admit that I'm not exactly the biggest fan of the whole vertical shooter genre. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the games that I have enjoyed over the decades: Flying Shark, SWIV, Wings Of Death, Xenon, Xenon II and Lethal Xcess. Most are searchable here and yes, I'm a freak with six fingers lol. (do you get that? Sigh...)

From the start, I knew this was going to be a corker. Yup, right up there with the best of 'em. Ahem!

Never go off looks, right?

Upon starting, the first thing that hits you is how crude it looks. Then you pick up the joystick and realise that the controls are equally as bad because they feel clunky without any swift action manoeuvring your chopper about the screen. Hmm, that just sounds wrong... Anyhow, it simply doesn't feel right to me.

Shooting down enemies should always be fun but I'm not so sure Chopper X has the most accurate collision detection system. Perhaps it's the scrolling which throws me off? But there are times when killing them (and them killing me) seemed somewhat unnaturally fake. Our main weapon doesn't feel good enough, it's like I wanted more from it... Thankfully, there are powerful Cluster Bombs that help out during those sticky situations.

The ship does nothing other than help mask the enemy fire!! At last (right pic) we reach the end.

Stick with it!

Each stage is quite short and static in design which is fine because many shooters follow a similar design. However, that means I could soon learn when something was about to appear and these guys are pretty dumb too: they will blindly shoot in a direction which is approximate to your location on the screen. So, if you're quite high up, then their bullets are fired diagonally upwards rather than directly towards your current location. Weird...

It's probably a lot easier to keep your chopper quite low on the screen to avoid the enemy's pathetic attack patterns from above. However, and annoyingly, death not only results in a loss of life but also forces you back to replay the entire level from the beginning rather than the place where you croaked it. Quite infuriating.

As you can see, the enemy cannot directly fire at your location but only in the general direction.


Graphically, this is pretty poor by ST standards with bland sprites, dreary backdrops and horrendously jerky scrolling. It's perhaps one of the worst I've seen and I include those developed with Shoot'Em-Up Construction Kit!

Audio... Well, this is the game's one saving grace with an incredibly funky tune that I really enjoy. However, it doesn't last very long before looping back to the start and, because this plays constantly, it isn't long before it grates on your nerves!! Sound effects are pretty lame, especially when you die or kill something. Lame? Yes, very lame.

Midi is supported and is something I would love to experience - I'm after a Roland MT32. Can ya help??

The 2nd level adds a splash of brown but still looks dreadful, I'd lost the will to live by the 3rd.

The CryptO'pinion?

Well, it looks like my fantastic run of Super Pack games has finally come to an end with Chopper X. Yes, I've never been the biggest fan of vertically-scrolling shoot 'em ups but the ST has some corkers in its library - like Xenon 2 or Flying Shark. However, this game is average, to say the least. It's far too easy, dull as dishwater, and I got little enjoyment.

Oddly, this game has its fans and I've no idea why? Are you a fan? Tell me why in the comments below. For me, there are better shoot 'em ups on the ST so stay clear of this choppy chopper. Play SWIV instead I say!!

The floppies can be sourced using Old Games Finder and you can lose precious hard drive space by installing this cool version by 8BitChip. Enjoy the torment!!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Buggy Boy

Silly & Screwy Racing

After the joy of Arkanoid 2, we continue our trip through Atari's Super Pack with Beyond the Ice Palace and Black Lamp. However, both are already featured on AtariCrypt [click the links] so let's move onwards for a favourite of mine, Buggy Boy. What a wonderful arcade conversion and those with a keen memory will remember that I've already covered it?

Well, yes and no... Yes, it's featured but no, it was just a silly post showing Buggy Boy running at dizzy speeds on my 16Mhz Mega STe!! Still, it's worth viewing... Honest! The speed of this computer is exciting stuff :D

Buggy Boy is an arcade classic. Simple as that. It's fun yet doesn't take itself seriously whatsoever. So you can forget the crucial stuff like road surfaces, tyres, suspension, handling, pitstops, or even the paint job. Nope, just choose which of the five tracks you fancy and then jump into your buggy and race through checkpoints - all against the clock.

But let's not forget the belting cartoon-like visuals for a chance to view a couple of screenshots...

Who doesn't love two-wheel stunts? If Michael Knight can do it, so can I.

Abandoned logs help our cute buggy to leap high into the air!

Fun, Fun, Fun!!

Remember what I said, forget realism. Everything you experience will be completely unrealistic thanks to roads cluttered with obstacles and whacky physics. The first track is an offroad loop whereas the others are segmented by checkpoints as you progress. This racer was always meant to be fun so provides silly leaps and two-wheel driving, Knight Rider style!

Points can be earned by collecting flags in the order shown at the top of your screen. Once completed, they begin to flash - so now is a good idea to collect more before that stops. Also, slalom-style gates are scattered throughout for tons of points and some even offer time bonuses. Heck, you might even see a soccer ball... Go on, kick it... (and again, again!!)

Football, in a driving game? Yep, check out the screenshots that follow...

Hit that soccer ball like Pele and see what happens to eagle-eyed drivers.

Why not climb those sloping walls to avoid obstacles like annoying rocks.

Forget sim, this is pure arcade joy!

Some tracks have banked curves like a Scalextric track! Thankfully, these can be used like you're racing at Bristol Motor Speedway. It's superb and an unexpected surprise, that certainly adds to the overall excitement. However, not all is good, look out for rocks, bushes, or barriers that slow you down or take you for a tumble. Driving head-on into a wall will cause you to explode and water has never been good for any vehicle. Each bad event forces the loss of precious time!

The joystick controls are brilliant albeit limited by the hardware itself. Of course, an analog wheel was always going to be missed, but the weirdest aspect is pushing upwards to accelerate rather than using the button. That's because tapping this switches between your two gears... Low & High. It's odd but you'll get used to it after a race or two.

Arcade fun on your Atari ST? Whatever next? I'll tell you, some more screenshots...

There was plenty of room but I still chose to leap over that rock. Why not!

Watch out, tunnel ahead! Enter without hitting slap-bang in the wall if you can?


Graphically, Buggy Boy hasn't aged badly whatsoever and definitely brought back all my old arcade memories. The sprites are nice, their colours are gorgeously vivid, and the overall appearance is cartoon-like. Okay, the framerate isn't exactly Vroom but it looks cute and performs smooth enough not to hurt my eyes, ala Cisco Heat and OutRun!!

The audio is darn cool and captures the arcade experience with its beautiful chiptunes - all produced by the talented Jason C. Brooke. Sound effects are superb - so zesty and memorable - with jazzy jingles and funny "boings" as we leap.

So, it looks and sounds great? Do you know what that means? Yep, some more screenshots to gawk at...

Bumping into some obstacles slows you down...

...whereas others cause the buggy to realistically tumble. Ahem.

The CryptO'pinion?

It's difficult to find something negative to say about this racer. But, if I were to be picky, then the framerate could be a tad smoother and I miss the extra audio touches like skids or driving through tunnels. But I really am being picky!!

Overall, this is an outstanding conversion of the arcade original. It looks, sounds, and plays absolutely great plus the ability to instantly select your preferred course is a huge bonus. It's authentic and brilliantly entertaining, so it will always keep on dragging you back for more. Buggy Boy is an Atari ST gem and I love it. So will you. Trust me, play it now.

The floppies can be sourced using Old Games Finder but, if you have the necessary hardware, I would advice you to download the cool hack by D-Bug. This not only comes with a fantastic intro but also supports faster Atari computers, like my own Mega STe. Absolutely superb!!!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Arkanoid - Revenge of Doh


It's time to kickstart my Super Pack adventure with Imagine's Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh. Now, I'm sure everyone has played this at some point in their life because it's such a popular classic and easy to pick up and play.

Our ST conversion was developed by a familiar name from the 1980s, Peter Johnson. This wizball not only did all the coding but everything you see and hear too which is quite staggering when you think about it. From the moment this loads up, I'm in love with its authentic intro! Okay, it's short but it works and features that zappy music!

Check out these screenshots. Crisp, colourful and arcade faithful...

The first level breaks you in nicely and it wasn't long before I found an M power-up!!

No keyboard, please

Using the mouse... Yes, the mouse!! Control the Vaus Craft to deflect the energy bolt back and forth destroying every (destructible) block - Breakout style. You can guide the bolt depending on how contact is made: inner areas produce a taller vertical direction whereas outer parts deliver a wide-angled shot. I must say, the mouse controls are excellent, but don't think that means easy because your hand-eye coordination will definitely be tested!!

Each level follows a trippy design to compensate for the ridged format and later screens are incredibly tricky. Watch out for the aliens who enjoy hovering around to get in the bolt's way and ricochet off at an unexpected angle - which is really infuriating!! So use the Vaus to nudge them into an early grave when they get too close...

Thankfully, the power-ups are back and we have a wealth of snappy bonuses to make full use of:
B - Who doesn't love skipping levels if given the chance?
C - The Vaus Craft gains velcro!
D - Split the bolt into eight - can you handle it though?
E - Bigger is always better, right?
I - We have a ghost Vaus to make our hits a little easier.
L - Hit that mouse button because we have weapons!!
M - Destroys blocks like they're not even there. Amazing.
N - Splits the bolt, which regenerates to keep on damaging.
P - Sounds boring but extra lives are incredibly valuable.
R - The cold of space has shrunken you!
S - Collect this if things are getting too hectic.
T - You gain a twin to help you in your quest!


Graphically, you won't see any mind-blowing artwork but it's reminiscent of the arcade original using vivid colours. The aliens might be incredibly annoying at times but at least these sprites look great. Arkanoid is as bold and colourful as you would expect and shows just how far we came from the original 1970s Breakout!!

Sound effects aren't going to drive you wild with excitement but who expected anything beyond dink...dink...dink...? Thankfully, the tunes are superb even if we're only talking for mere seconds, but I love their authentic quality.

Overall, for an older game based on boring Breakout, this looks and sounds superb. Love it all.

Personally, I think this is one of the hardest levels in the entire game. Just try and get that last block...

The CryptO'pinion?

Usually, I would now mention all the things about a game that narks me. There are none...

Okay, I think it's easy to say that Arkanoid took the Breakout genre to a whole new level. This sequel is so addictive and infuriating yet always keeps you coming back for more. It's everything I would hope for in an arcade conversion and is certainly one of the best. Overall, I rate Arkanoid II Revenge Of Doh as categorically outstanding!!

Downloads are available for either floppy or using a spanky hard drive device. And, for those of us that are far too impatient, why not skip a level by hitting the S key during gameplay? All ya gotta do is hit the CAPS Lock key when the title screen is displayed and enter MAGENTA. Sweet!

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Atari 520 STFM Super Pack

I've had an idea

It's something that I've been thinking about for a while... Let me begin by saying my first Atari computer was the 520 STFM (shock) which came bundled with tons of games in the "Super Pack". I remember that Christmas well as my new computer was remarkable with its jaw-dropping speed, GEM desktop, many colours, and next-gen gameplay!!

Until that day, I'd only ever owned a ZX Spectrum so, booting up Xenon for the first time was a mind-blowing experience. Pure witchcraft!! Don't get me wrong, I loved my old Speccy but this was on another level!! So I figured it would be a fantastic idea to replay each of the bundled games and relive Christmas Day all over again.

The games

Arkanoid II Revenge of Doh, Beyond the Ice Palace, Black Lamp, Buggy Boy, Chopper X, Eddie Edwards Super Ski, Ikari Warriors, Marble Madness, Quadralien, Rana Rama, Return to Genesis, Road Wars, Seconds Out, Starquake, Summer Olympiad, Test Drive, Thrust, Thundercats, Wizball, Xenon, and Zynaps. Hey, there was even on Organiser ;)

Phew, 21 games!!! Most of these I haven't played since that first Christmas in 1988. So I'm very excited to see how well they have aged over the last three decades. Yes, I'm talking to you, Mr Eddie Edwards and your Super Ski skills!!

Are you excited? I know I am!

I'll begin my Super Pack journey alphabetically, starting with Imagine's breakout, Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh. The last time I enjoyed a decent brick buster was Bolo a few years ago [a classic] so I hope this lives up to all my expectations.

Let our joyride through the Super Pack begin --> watch this space :)

Credits: My greetings to RĂ³bert Tercsi and Marko Latvanen for their help.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Super Stario Land

Hang on, is this Mario on the ST?

I was recently talking to a good friend who loves the NES game, Super Mario Brothers. However, this is something I've not played because I had the ZX Spectrum before moving up to the glorious Atari ST. He swore at me saying it was the best platformer ever made and other nonsense like - I didn't know what I was missing. Thankfully, he has now been sectioned but his silly opinion got me thinking about Super Stario Land which is (cough...cough) similar.

I remember playing this platformer a few years ago but struggled to progress very far. So, I decided to give it another bash over the weekend and shockingly, my skills had not improved!! So I rebooted my ST after only a few games to enable the trainer option which I hoped would compensate for my poor reactions. In fact, I had the bold intention to record a "longplay" but those darn flying fish put a frustrating end to that idea, which was so disappointing!

Why is it I'm always so bad with every game I love? Anyhow, let's crack on with a couple of screenshots...

Stario left the house without a weapon? What a fool...

Now he's gotta squish the nasties using his boots!

A platformer without a gun?

Released in 1995 by Top Byte Software, this ranks as one of the last commercial games released for our beloved Atari ST. For those living on another planet for the last couple of decades, Super Stario Land is basically a shameless Mario ripoff - it doesn't even try to hide that fact at all. It was programmed by Adrian Keylock who did an excellent job considering no enhanced hardware was used. Yup, it's as smooth as silk on any Atari ST computer.

Stario can walk, run (hold the fire button) and jump over his blocky 2D landscape. Many of these blocks can be nudged for extra points and sometimes a weird bonus - I love the one that makes you grow twice the size/strength and I will never refuse that much-needed 1UP bonus. The levels are populated by lots of cute critters that can be killed by stomping on their heads, although some require a double jump whilst others are immune. Very original, isn't it?

Your environment is very much a "Mario" clone using the expected bric-a-brac with tube-like structures, water, moving platforms and much more. Everything was intended to feel this "familiar", but what interested me was the levels themselves which follow a particular design using randomly generated stages for larger levels. Sadly, this design will often backfire for a weird Deja Vu feeling as you explore the same bit of landscape... more than once.

Hey, I shouldn't moan because that feature provides a unique game so let's see more screenshots...

Watch out for falling rocks!!

Every critter is so cute and detailed, even the evil flying fish!!

How does it look, sound and play?

The graphics are designed by none other than Richard Davey, of the legendary LGD and kind supporter of AtariCrypt. He's certainly taken the time to get that console look just right - everything from the blocks, the landscapes, and those incredibly detailed sprites. Plus, the baddies are really cute, it's almost a shame to squash 'em. Well, almost lol.

Audio can be flipped between the default sound effects and chip music by simply pressing F9 key. The effects are quite good but there's not enough going on so you're left feeling empty and wanting far more pizazz from your old ST. Thankfully, nothing compares to the gorgeous Big Alec tunes which are beautiful. So that's an easy choice!!

The joystick controls are excellent and incredibly responsive without any lag. However, having said that you should get in a few practice games - to master the enormous level of inertia. I wish I had a pound for every time I slid off the edge of a moving platform to my doom! After a few plays, things will soon become second nature.

It's screenshot time but these are for all those ST nutters in Australia. Don't believe me? Check 'em out...

Enter 'australia' into the high score table and you get a rather unexpected bonus game!!

This is freaky and quite impossible to play but hilarious at the same time.

The CryptO'pinion?

No game is perfect and Super Stario Land has a few niggles which disappoint. For me, those flying fish are the worst because they appear to follow unpredictable patterns so are really annoying (ie, deadly). Getting by them is impossible to judge correctly so it feels like pure luck IF you manage to make it through. Which is a bit rubbish!

Having said that, this platformer is a blast and certainly ranks as one of the best for the ST. However, I'm unsure just HOW to recommend it because if you're a fan of the NES game then you'll probably hate what is a shameless ripoff. Others may not approve of its old 8-bit style compared to traditional 16-bitters like Rolling Ronny, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, etc/etc.

Stario is authentically Mario in many aspects which is great for a 1985 computer without the necessary enhanced hardware. It feels original, scrolls great, sounds great, and the controls are simply divine. Overall, I cannot recommend Super Stario enough because it's blummin' great and infuriatingly addictive so enjoy what is nothing short of excellence!!

Super Stario The Mario Wannabe
can be run from floppy or your hard drive.

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