Monday, February 17, 2020


Sardonic is a brand new (well, for the Atari ST) vertically-scrolling shoot 'em up that was recently released by José Mário. Yep, it's already out on other (lesser) systems so it's fantastic to see it also getting a Fuji conversion!! Now, I love getting my grubby mitts on anything new for the Atari ST so let's see what all the fuss is about...

This game is basically an old skool-styled shooter and the idea is to blast as many aliens as possible, use power-ups, kill the end-of-level boss and repeat. These aliens are constantly invading the screen in waves using various attack patterns - and from three sides of the screen. Our spaceship can only fire upwards but is freely able to move in all directions - rather than being limited to just left/right, ala Space Invaders. And it works brilliantly too!

Each type of alien is unique and the power-ups will help to recover lost lives and much more!

Sardonic is an arcade-style shoot 'em up so I love it already. Check out that funky mothership!

Interestingly, our Atari ST conversion has a few enhancements = extra power-ups, different enemies and new attacking styles. This is pretty cool and even more so when you remember than this is Jose's first Atari release!! Hold onto your hat because he's also implemented support for both ST models making use of the Blitter and also the STe's hardware scrolling = ultra-smooth 50fps action!

Boy, is this a tough game. At first, I didn't very last long and it took a few more attempts before I even came close to reaching the first boss! The action feels familiar but it isn't some cheap clone of Space Invaders, Phoenix or even Galaga but instead feels more like a game of dodgeball - in space! You can only fire a couple of shots at once and the enemy will come at you using some seriously wacky patterns so be prepared to battle hard.

Thankfully, blasting five of these blighters into smithereens will result in a random bonus for speed, armour, bombs and so on. This will help newcomers and thus I eventually got into the flow and reached the fourth guardian - which you can see in my video recording. Hint: if I was you, I'd save all those bombs for these bosses!

They're attacking from all directions and then their boss shows up for some gun love!

I hate the Stealth ships. They're so tough to destroy and then Mummy Stealth turns up!

Visually, there's not a whole lot to see beyond a boring black background populated with a few stars! This is quite disappointing but the enemy sprites make up for that with nice colours and brisk movement. I'm talking 50fps which is gloriously smooth - I just wish the background had a little "more" to it other than a few dots for stars.

Sadly, the audio failed to impress me after the title screen's funky chiptune. The in-game sound effects are rather insufficient, to say the least. Our YM chip has only three uses: firing, pickup and explosions. That is it. So I personally think more could have been done to dazzle? Especially on the Atari STe using DMA samples.

Can you believe I made it to level four? Until fatigue beat me and then the boss ...sigh!

So cruel... LOL

Sardonic is a good shooter alright. I love how those aliens attack in so many different formations and the power-ups appear frequently. Okay, it's quite repetitive, but this is a fun arcade blaster and is very addictive. It's impressive to think that one guy was behind it all and he supported Atari STe graphical hardware too. Incredible.

Overall, a slick and very playable shoot 'em up which I have really enjoyed. Download Sardonic right now!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Atari Super Pack

Snippets from each game and even some cool Zynaps skills on show. Watch this. Be jealous!!

Well, I finally got around to finishing what took me a lot longer than I originally thought. Yep, I completed the task of reliving Christmas 1988 by playing Atari's Super Pack and it all started with this article (click & read) :p

To be honest, I probably played the games a lot more this time around. Back in the 80s, I would have spent the most time on Buggy Boy, Beyond The Ice Palace or Xenon? I doubt I would have had the patience for Marble Madness nor the desire to spend hours on Quadralien. BTW, each game is searchable if you look to your right --->

The Atari Super Pack ( 1988 UK )

  1. Arkanoid II - Pure old skool gaming and it is brilliant.
  2. Beyond The Ice Palace - Blondes really do have more fun!
  3. Black Lamp - Faster turning would have made this perfect.
  4. Buggy Boy - Come on, who doesn't LOVE this arcade racer?
  5. Chopper X - Turn down the volume... and it's still rubbish!
  6. Eddie Edwards Super Ski - It's fun wearing milk-bottle lenses!
  7. Ikari Warriors - A classic arcade conversion.
  8. Marble Madness - Not my cuppa tea and a buggy lame port.
  9. Quadralien - A great game to dig your heels into this!!
  10. Ranarama - Gauntlet, for those who enjoy using their brain?
  11. Return To Genesis - Swoosh, I'm dead! Whoosh, I'm dead!
  12. Road Wars - There's always one...
  13. Seconds Out - Then again, make that two!
  14. Starquake - What a belting ZX Spectrum conversion.
  15. Summer Olympiad - Good fun but needed a few more events.
  16. Test Drive - Yeah, it's time for a road trip in my new Corvette.
  17. Thrust - Come on, this is a beauty. Love it!!
  18. Thundercats - A bit wooden and far too difficult. Whhhhhhy??
  19. Wizball - A corker, if you master its massive learning curve!
  20. Xenon - It's all about level one for me. A great game.
  21. Zynaps - Thanks to Hewson we ended on a massive high!

So which game won my heart?

Wow, that is a tough one alright. But, IF I'm in the mood for something of a platformer then it's no contest: Beyond The Ice Palace wins hands down. A shooter? Zynaps! Also, Buggy Boy is a great old skool arcade racer. However, the Super Pack is diverse in content and quality so I feel the need to push for a decision!!

Okay, cue "Whole Lotta Love" because my Top Of The ST Pops desert island floppy disks would probably be...

Well, this has been enormous fun over the last few months and it certainly proves that Atari went that extra mile in the 80s. What a giveaway it was - 21 incredible games AND an Organiser too (Woo, fun times). Anyhow, my Super Pack mission is now over with so let's see what else is lurking within the Atari ST archives throughout 2020...

And, if you can't be bothered using the search engine, then click here to see all the games!

Friday, February 07, 2020


Zynaps is a Nemesis-esque shoot 'em up that spookily reminds me of another Hewson title, Slayer... We pilot the Scorpion Mk1 Fighter through the heavens in search of a secret alien base. Along the way, are hoards of these alien scumbag in ships, a variety of ground-based defences and even motherships. Original, right?

Our Scorpion spaceship is pretty snazzy and comes with different levels of propulsion along with various weapon upgrades. However, we do start off quite limited with sluggish movements and firing - so shoot that first wave of bad guys to collect their loot for speed-up. Then look to improve lasers or even bombs and missiles.

The first level is cool but it's not long before a guardian appears - now it feels like an old skool demo!

Activating these power-ups is a little strange. When a group of baddies snuffs it, they leave behind a pod. Collecting that changes the power-up being displayed in the status bar. So when something appears that you like the look of - hold down the fire button during the next pick-up to be granted permission to use it. To be fair, this is a bit weird and rather naff - especially during the heat of battle. Surely this could have been designed much better?

The enemy attack in predictable formations which kinda reminded me of Wizball oddly enough. At first, firing accuracy is difficult so hitting the bad guys is harder than it should be. This learning curve I found to be massive and it took a number of attempts before I started to destroy an entire wave to begin collecting the pods! Sigh...

Gone is the deadly landscape only to be replaced by oddly-coloured asteroids and another weird boss!

Most levels take you through beautiful environments whereas others might take you into an asteroid field. No matter where you are, watch out because the slightest collision loses a life which is easily done too. This is made worse by ultra-cramped areas thanks to the bulk of that scenery (and the status bar). Fly like Buck Rogers... or die.

Eventually, you will reach an end of level boss and most are really tough so it's doubtful you will see many victories on your first go! The first boss hops around the screen like a sprite from an old skool styled demo. Rarely did I see the end of the second level (without using a trainer) but, YMMV. Just don't give up, you wimp!!

Things get freaking on level 3 but it's a good kind of freaky. Except for the boss(es). Very lame.


Zynaps is a gorgeous shoot 'em up, it really is. Sure, I know games like Xenon 2, Magic Boy, Gods, Deathbringer, and others blow it out the water but this old 1988 shooter holds its own thanks to Pete Lyon!! The title screen is wonderful - pure art - and many of the levels feature a Menacing array of beautiful environments. Also, the sprites move fast and smooth with nigh on perfect scrolling to boot. This is another quality Hewson product.

Things get a little Menacing for the fourth level which looks stunning - if deadly. I never beat this...


Zynaps theme tune is outstanding thanks to the talent of one of my favourite musicians, Dave Rogers: a man who is responsible for many of my ZX Spectrum memories not to mention ST beauties like Ranarama and Cybernoid. Okay, the sound effects might pale in comparison but they're still excellent and offer an arcade-like style: I love that sharp "zing-zing" when you shoot, the crunchy death effect, and how you are mocked when it's game over.


Zynaps is one of those games which appears to have it all but many give up after a few goes because of a cruel learning curve. Perhaps gamers were tougher people back then? Possibly, but this is a killer with relentless action so you're always on the edge of your seat wondering what's coming next. The method of using power-ups might be flawed but these are essential to enhance your Scorpion with better firepower and manoeuvrability.

Hewson rarely disappoints and Zynaps is yet another corker from their incredible library. Sure, I've had a moan about a few things but nothing is perfect and I can forgive a lot if I-can-have-just-one-more-go. Very addictive!! What an extraordinary shoot 'em up and it's a great feeling to end my Super Pack series on a massive high.

Grab the floppies if you dare but I recommend these excellent HD versions by Klaz and PP.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Bombaman -registered!

WooHoo!! It looks like my freakish addiction to all things Atari ST/e has paid off once again. Well, I'd call that love and appreciation of all things ST but others call it mithering... Anyhow, today I am proud to announce the availability of the registered version of Bombaman!! Kindly donated but Kevin Callahan, a man who has put up with my mithering messages for 18 months - and never once did he break down and ask me to leave him alone!! :)

Another "lost" title has been rescued and that is always a very special moment. AtariMania has this safely archived and available to download right now. For those wanting to know a little more about about this funky multiplayer game - then clickety-click. My greetings to Kevin and I hope all you guys love playing this cool game? Enjoy!!

Thursday, January 23, 2020


Finally, there is light at the end of my Super Pack tunnel and the penultimate game is a beast of a shoot 'em up. Released in 1988 by Melbourne House, the mighty XENON was my first experience of what the Bitmap Brothers were capable of. A team who (for me) was the Atari ST equivalent of Ultimate Play The Game, high praise indeed from this fan. Few titles, but each pushed our machine and oozed a level of class beyond words.

I can still remember loading up Xenon for the first time. Once the graphics appeared, I was so impressed - when compared to my 8-Bit experiences. However, my jaw didn't drop to the floor like a weighty anvil until that music kicked in just as the visuals raced down my TV screen. What a simple yet brilliant intro to its opening level.

The first level is iconic. It looks great. Sounds great. Plays great. Then you meet the boss...

However, I always wondered why the pilot zooms over the entire level - because I've only gotta travel back up through the baddie-infested lands? Gee-whiz, thanks! Well, I should shut up and stop being silly because it's fantastic to watch and the digitized recording of Erich Matthews saying "Sector One" is pure gold. Iconic even!!

We start in our little tank which is fast and manoeuvrable, but it's not long until you realise that you can't hit anything up high. Waggle that joystick (or hit spacebar) to transform into a jet aircraft!! This is ace but, unlike the tank, cannot hit those critters crawling the floor... So, once again, get waggling to morph back into the tank. This method of flipping between the two vehicles is genius and can be done anytime during normal play one level 1/3.

The second level proves just how cruel and sadistic those Bitmap Brothers truly are!!

Initially, Xenon's gameplay is neither fast nor furious - yet I still panic when something weird is chasing after me and my little tank! The first level isn't really that difficult and you get to see a small selection of the whacky baddies that the game was hiding up its sleeves. Heck, we even have ladybirds! Of course, there are more traditional defences that need blowing up, like the aeroplanes and ground-based missile silos. So flipping between your two attack vessels now begins to prove fruitful for both points and those super-sexy bonuses.

A status panel along the right side of your screen shows a range of different stats including your score, altitude and fuels but there are also power-up letters which might be available after blasting something to smithereens. And Xenon has a great selection too. (Except for the balls that follow behind you - I hate those). Sure, they can be stacked but I've never really understood the point compared to having two fixed onto the body... Anyhow, the power-ups offer a wide variety of features to refuel, increased shot length and more. But here are the cool ones I like:

  • W = This is probably my second favourite power-up. Instant extra firepower!
  • A = Stay protected and stronger in your ship.
  • S = Side shots is a pretty cool upgrade, especially on the harder levels.
  • H = Homing missiles help to make things so much easier.
  • B = Balls, which can be stacked up to three. Great...
  • L = This is so fantastic and possibly my fave - and picking up "G" reverts back.
  • Z = Surely every game needs a smart-bomb?

Of course, there's always an end-of-level guardian and Xenon is no different. In fact, the Sentinels also appear half-way through each level. That's right, eight times you're against it and they can only be killed by carefully aligning your weapon against their weakest point. It's now that you die only to reload with a trainer enabled...

However, if you manage to win, then you're allowed to play the remainder before another battle at the end. Beating him for that second time zaps you off to the next level to fight against a massive array of different foes. And it's tough so I doubt you'll last very long - and that's the main issue I have against Xenon. It's just too hard after level one. How many ST players have seen the later levels without resorting to a cheat? I thought so...

Don't adjust your monitor... Yep, level three sure does look familiar albeit in pink. Ugh!

Visually, and for the most part, this game is a babe. Level one has a stunning metallic charm which I absolutely love. Heck, it even looks outstanding to today's spoilt brats! Each stage looks great but I admit to not being a fan of the fourth level - I think it looks rather odd. Kinda like an Amstrad game... I know, weird right?

Sprites are stunning, even those peculiar pink brain things on level 4! Scrolling is nice and smooth, perfect for the gameplay. Overall, Xenon epitomises that mind-blowing late 80s era when we upgraded from older machines like the Sinclair ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64 to the glorious 16-Bit world of the Atari ST. Yes, it's a babe!

Dave Whittaker has produced everything booming out of your ST mono speaker and what you hear is every bit as mind-blowing as those gorgeous visuals. Sound effects are a blast, even if they do mute a channel to play!

However, having said that, it's the music which is just ... timeless. Level one has possibly one of the best and most brilliant chiptunes ever? So turn up the volume because the YM2149 is about to rock your house!!

Level four is insane and there are enough enemies to strike down an Asgard mothership!!

Hands down, this is one of the best 16-Bit shooters. Sure, the bosses are annoying and later levels are insane with way over-the-top difficulty but I absolutely love this game and it's something I'm very proud to own.

Hang on, shouldn't I be whining and moaning about that difficulty? Yet, I'm not. Why? Easy, this is blummin' fantastic and I've been hooked for 30+ years!! In spite of itself, Xenon is just awesome and very addictive. I love it!!

Download either the floppy disk or a spanky hard drive version and get battling the Xenites!

Begin drooling because I really do own this ace Atari ST game!! Oh yeah!!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!!

Well, my 2020 seems to have kicked off nicely because I've just taken delivery of four awesome Atari CDs and it's all thanks to winning the monthly prize draw over at Darkforce BBS. Now, I never win at anything so this was the biggest Mega ST shock ever!! All I need now is a CD ROM drive. Yup, eBay here I come...

For those who still don't know, Darkforce BBS is a bulletin board service run by a fine Atarian called Ron Hall, aka DarkLord. A great BBS for all the usual stuff like news, messaging, chat, downloads, games, etc/etc. You can access it freely using any terminal program supporting the Telnet protocol, and I prefer using SyncTerm myself.

The CDs are mainly for the Atari Falcon, a grand machine that I'll probably never be able to afford - unless I win the lottery... However, there is tons of other stuff and I'm eager to see what's on the Moving Pixels disk - lots of ST/STe stuff on that!! Greetings Ron - as you can probably tell, I'm excited to explore these archives :-)

telnet 520

Don't you dare fall for Ron's trickery? I expected beer and a free room for the night... But NOTHING!!

Check out the main menu!! Time has stood still and is also STuffed full of Atari goodness!

Ahh, I feel all nostalgic now. It's like I'm back in the 90s dabbling in NeST...

Heck, you can even play games. It's like having an Xbox in your terminal!

The downloads area is huge and also complimented with a CD Rom section too!

I love the range of jokes and other random quotes that can be installed to pop-up!!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020


We're finally approaching the end of my Super Pack adventure and Wizball is one of those magical games which I only have to hear for all my Christmas morning memories to come flooding back. There's just something wonderful and eerie about the audio, be it the cool theme tune or that trippy in-game background "music".

Well, perhaps I played Wizball quite a lot that morning? But you wouldn't guess that if you saw me playing it today lol!! However, this still has a special place in my rapidly-thumping ST heart with our conversion handled by the great Peter Johnson, of Arkanoid fame. And I feel confident in saying that he did a brilliant job.

My first attempt didn't go well. A weird power-up was used but then a *red* wiggly worm appears!

Wizworld was once a lovely and colourful place until the evil Zark turned everything grey and rather drab. We play as Wiz and are... well... a ball thingy who must attempt to add a splash of Technicolor back into his bleak world. We do that by collecting power-ups to aid us shooting Zark's space monsters who will then drop bubbles of red, green or blue. Using these primary colours, we can recolour this drab world to its former glory. In theory!

This is a horizontally scrolling "shoot 'em up" which supports both single and multiplayer - believe it or not. Solo gamers get to be Wiz, with the additional help of Cat thanks to using power-ups. Those with friends can choose their prefered character from the start and even compete and in coop - which is pretty cool, I must say.

Okay, let's restart and try again... Just what are those weird alien things? Quick, shoot 'em!!

Initially, Wiz gets around by bouncing across a rather drab-looking landscape. The fire button shoots a weapon and tapping left/right controls direction and speed. This is difficult at first but the controls are light and responsive. However, you won't get very far without shooting those aliens that look like something from a chemistry lab. Once dead, they turn green so are safe to collect and begin to offer a range of different power-ups:
  • The first comes in two parts helping to give far better control and then preventing gravity from taking its affect. Therefore we stop bouncing! Yes, I like this power-up a lot!!
  • The next gives a much-needed boost to our weaponry and in both directions.
  • Feeling alone? Collect three and you'll be rewarded with a new Cat to help you out.
  • Superpowers are awarded for four power-ups!
  • Five green blobs enable vertical shooting...
  • Smart bomb... I don't think I get so far into the game to need this!
  • Finally, seven green blobs gives you a shield. Umm yeah!

The power-ups disable gravity and more. And then a load of eyeballs turn up to kill you... Great!

It's these power-ups that you really need to use, so waggle the joystick when something takes your fancy. For me, I gotta stop him bouncing first and foremost. It's then that I make the decision to either make use of the friendly Cat or go for shields/better firepower. The choice is yours but I feel nobody will ignore the option to defy gravity...

There are also the other aliens which can drop various colours, either for special treats or to recolour your world. They come in a wide and funky variety but are usually very tough to kill... Thankfully, this world is pretty big and there are escape tunnels to traverse into different areas. However, I feel these aliens are often far too hard to kill so rarely did I reach the bonus stages or use the Wiz Lab for permanent power-ups. Which I'm gutted about!!

I believe some copies are bugged and prevent completion. Sadly, ahem, I was never able to test that theory but I'm interested to know if this is true. For now, I'll blame my creaky old joystick...

His world might be like ST High Res but at least the aliens are rather jazzy and colourful!


Wizball is a corker and a great looker for the 80s. I absolutely adored it from the first moment I saw the title screen which begins to reveal its colours using several funky methods. Sprites are well-drawn and little Wiz is cute and funny - especially when he opens up in the Wiz Lab. Yeah, it's silly but I really like things like that!!

A game like this needs to scroll and wimping out saying that the ST cannot scroll would have been totally unacceptable (a bad workman 'n all that). Thankfully, Peter Johnson never wimped out and everything moves fast and smooth, which is a relief because the action needed to feel agile and spritely. Which it does.

Trivia question: what beautiful megademo has Wiz appeared in? Too easy, right...


Audio is both great and weird. Don't get me wrong, the theme tune is incredible, something I've loved throughout the decades and never gets old (have a listen). Also, the sound effects work well but it's that strange background "tune" that adds a spark of brilliance to the atmosphere. A lot of effort went into making this game.


For me, Wizball is a bit of an enigma. Don't get me wrong, I've really enjoyed it and also feel that Peter Johnson did a fantastic conversion. However, it is a lot harder than the 8-Bit original and ultra-fast reactions are always needed. Thus, it requires (too) much time to master, which I never really did - either back in the day or now!!

Personally, I feel it's the firing of our weapon which should be quicker and more like a Jeff Minter game? Okay, perhaps not Llamatron but, as is, it's often far too lethargic so annoying when missing the enemies. Also, in one-player mode, controlling Cat is awkward and not what you need when aliens are invading the screen.

Having said all that, I really enjoyed Wizball. I genuinely wish there were more hours in my day to play it and beat this infuriating shooter. I'm going to be returning to it again, simply because I need to know how everything looks in colour!! So don't be quick to judge because it's surprisingly entertaining and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

Don't be a sissy - download this for either floppy or hard disk and help Wiz restore his world!