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

Xenon


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 darkforce-bbs.dyndns.org 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

Wizball


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!


- GRAPHICS -

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...


- SOUNDS -

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.



- THE CRYPTO'PINION -

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!