Saturday, January 25, 2020

Bombaman -registered!

The full registered version!!

It looks like my freakish addiction to the Atari ST/e has paid off? I am proud to announce the availability of the registered version of Bombaman (click on that link to find out more!). Of course, it was kindly donated by Kevin Callahan, a man who has put up with my mithering for 18 months. Never once did he break down and ask me to leave him alone!! [download]

My greetings to Kevin and I hope everyone enjoys playing this fantastic Bomberman? Enjoy!!

Thursday, January 23, 2020


Kelly X

Finally, there is light at the end of my Super Pack tunnel - 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 that (for me) was the Atari ST equivalent of Ultimate Play The Game, high praise indeed from this old fan. Few titles, but each one pushed our machine to its limits whilst also oozing a level of class beyond others.

I can still remember loading up Xenon for the first time on Christmas morning. 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. Timeless

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!!

Righto, do you fancy some screenshots from the first level? Of course, you do so here you are...

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

Very few times I beat this sucker. It's a lot harder than anyone admits!

Plane And Tank!

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 the 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.

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

If you managed to beat the boss then you're whisked off to the second stage where it's much harder...

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

Having said that, I think the boss is slightly easier than on level one.

Frantic. Mayhem. Death!

A status panel (along the right side of your screen) shows a range of different stats including your score, altitude and fuel. But there are also power-up letters that might be available after blasting something to smithereens - and Xenon has a great selection. Well, except for the balls that follow behind your ship - I hate those. Always have! Anyhow, each power-up offers 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 halfway through each level. That's right, four levels so eight times you're having to battle these guys. They can only be killed by carefully aligning firepower at 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 of the level before another boss battle at the end. Beating him (for that second time) will whisk you off to the next level to fight against another massive array of new foes. And it's always tougher 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.

Enough reading as it's time for more screenshots and, you guessed it, here are a couple from the third level...

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

The toughest boss in the game. This one is a killer and I have never beaten it (without a cheat!)


Visually, and for the most part, this game is a total babe. Level one has a stunning metallic charm which I absolutely love. Heck, even now it looks outstanding to today's spoilt brats on their PS4s! Every stage looks great but I admit to not being a fan of the fourth level - I think it looks rather out of place and kinda like an Amstrad game. I know, weird, right?

Sprites are stunning, even those peculiar pink-brain things on level 4! Scrolling is always smooth and perfectly paced 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. Yes, this game is nothing less than a visual feast!

Okay, I've hinted at the gore but here are some screenshots from the odd-looking fourth level...

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

I wonder how many got that Stargate reference? Does anybody read my website?


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 one channel to work.

However, having said that it's the music that is just... Mmm, 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!!

The CryptO'pinion?

Hands down, this is one of the best 16-Bit shooters there is. The range of powerups is great and I love how we can flip between tank and plane. Sure, the bosses are annoying and later levels have too much action for even Superman to contend with. But, there is no denying this is an exciting shooter and a timeless classic I've loved for over 30 years.

Xenon is just downright awesome and very addictive. Play it and try to hate it. I dare you!!

Download available for floppies or hard drive.

Begin your drooling! Yes, I really do own this ace Atari ST game!! Oh yeah :-)

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!!

NeST, AtariNet, Modems... Whaaaat???

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 :-)

Wanna know more? Wanna experience this fine throwback to a magical time in computing? Of course, you do so ignore the internet and travel back in time and boot up SyncTerm or any other preferred Terminal emulator and then visit this address using the telnet command: telnet 1040

I hope you all enjoy this amazing BBS. My thanks to Ron for this great gift :-)

Don't you dare fall for Ron's trickery? I expected beer and a 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 are a green... thing!

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 and 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, once again.

Check out these screenshots with its initially-confusing dashboard...

My first attempt didn't go well. A weird power-up was collected...

...but then a *red* wiggly worm appears and kills me!

Here we go...

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 in 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. Well, 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 preferred character from the start and even compete in coop - which is pretty cool, I must say. But I'm playing solo (no friends!)

On that sad note, let's take another gander at some more cool ST screenshots...

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

Who cares? Erm, just shoot 'em!!

Need help?

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!
Power-ups are key to the game so take your time! Why not view a couple more screenshots...

The power-ups disable gravity and also do lots more...

...but then a load of eyeballs turn up to kill you. Great!

Practice makes...

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 from 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 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 as you can imagine!!
I believe some older game disks 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...
Don't run away and hide like a baby, this game is superb. To prove it, here are some more screenshots...

His world might be as colourful as ST High Res...

...but at least the aliens are rather jazzy and very 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 different 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 little touches like that!!

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

A lot of dedication went into making this game visually very impressive. Wanna see more proof...

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


The 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 below). Also, the sound effects work well but it's that strange background "tune" that adds a spark of brilliance to the overall atmosphere. Yep, a lot of effort went into making this game.

Don't believe me? Been too many years, has it? Well, click on this below and take a listen...

What do you reckon? Funky tune, right? Let me know in the comments below.

The CryptO'pinion?

Wizball is a lot harder than the 8-Bit original and ultra-fast reactions are needed. Personally, I feel it's the firing of our weapon which should be quicker and more like a Jeff Minter game? Okay, maybe that was a bad example but it's too lethargic. 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 (maybe) 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!