Monday, February 24, 2020

Van Eijk Collection

I love finding Atari ST/e demos which I've not seen in years (or had forgotten about) and here is one which I enjoyed many moons ago... but somehow forgotten about!! It's called Van Eijk Collection and was developed by Van Eijk back in 1994 - a time when most of us had powered off the ST to play the mighty Doom. Sigh...

Anyhow, this is a collection of screens featuring dots, colour cycling, and a familiar tune you will simply adore. I think much of the demo was developed in GFA Basic but I'm only going off the scroller text - so I might be wrong? Presentation is a little sluggish and a few screens are dated, but there is also many which I did enjoy - that morphing is superb. All text is in Polish so don't expect to read anything - unless you're Polish of course!

This and many other Atari ST videos are on my YouTube Channel.
Credits & download links can be found on Demozoo or AtariMania. Crank up the volume! 🎧

Monday, February 17, 2020


Another brand new game!

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 16-bit 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 I might add!

Righto, let's quick the reading for some screenshot viewing...

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

Sardonic is an arcade-style shooter. 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!

Wimps need not apply. Hey, come back!!! Here are some more screenshots...

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

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

16-Bit Aesthetics?

Well, no. There's not a whole lot to see beyond a black background populated with a few stars which is quite disappointing. The enemy sprites make up for that with nice colours and brisk movement and I'm talking 50fps which is gloriously smooth. Love it, I just wish the background had a little "more" to it other than a few 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.

Yeah, umm, so it's hardly going to be another Xenon II in terms of aesthetics but that won't stop these screenshots...

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

So cruel... LOL

The CryptO'pinion?

Sardonic is a good shooter alright. I love how those aliens attack in so many different formations and the frequency of power-ups is excellent. 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!

Quite the slick shooter and something new that I have really really enjoyed. So go and grab Sardonic right now!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Atari Super Pack (the results)

Snippets from each game and even some Zynaps skills on show. Watch that and be jealous!!

Atari's Super Pack giveaway!

Well, I finally got around to finishing what took a lot longer than I originally thought. Yep, I completed the task of reliving Christmas 1988 by playing Atari's Super Pack - 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 and Xenon? I doubt I would have had the patience for Marble Madness nor the desire to spend hours on Quadralien. And even at 17 years old, I didn't have the reactions to cope with Return To Genesis.

Here is a list of all the games. BTW, each game is searchable if you look to the right > >

 The Atari Super Pack Games 

  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 question alright especially when you look at the massive list above. 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! Arcade? Ikari Warriors, easy! Thrust and Buggy Boy are up there as is the amazing Rana Rama.

However, the Super Pack is diverse in content and quality. Although the list changes daily, I feel the need to push myself for a decision!! Cue "Whole Lotta Love" because my Top Of The Pops desert island floppy disks would probably be...

The CryptO'pinion?

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...

I hope you guys have enjoyed this run through the Super Pack? Let me know in the comments below :)

Friday, February 07, 2020


This game was FREE with my first Atari ST

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 alien scumbag - some in ships, or a variety of ground-based defences, and even motherships. I know what you're thinking - it's original, right?

Update: you know, to this day I have never played Slayer. How odd is that!

Hewson released Zynaps in 1988 and it was developed by Howard Ball of Microwish Software who was responsible for Ikari Warriors, Victory Road, Slayer and 5th Gear. I've always felt this was a game coded by someone that knew the Atari ST hardware very well but Howard only ever made this shooter and nothing more. At least it's quality!

Hey, why aren't you watching the video above? Ah well, perhaps just a couple of screenshots instead then...

The first level is cool but it's not long before a guardian appears!

That thing bounces around the screen like an old-school demo!

Shoot! Kill! Shoot some more!!

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. It's simple - pimp your ship!

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

Sigh, that's annoying, isn't it? Well, let's cheer ourselves up and see some more screenshots...

Woo! What's happened to the landscape backgrounds on the next level?

Getting past those asteroids is tough but now it's a boss fight and he's a bit weird...

Practice makes perfect!

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 and keep playing!!

Wimps only ever see the first level so practice and you might see more! Screenshot time...

Things get freaking on level 3 but it's a good kind of freaky :-)

Well, 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 of the water but, this old shooter (from 1988) holds its own thanks to the efforts of Pete Lyon!! The title screen is wonderful - pure art - and many of the levels feature a Menacing array of beautiful environments.

But that's not all, the sprites move fast and very smoothly following those incredibly difficult flight patterns. But what about the scrolling? Programmers without talent tell us the ST cannot scroll. Well, don't worry because it's nigh-on perfect and very smooth so feels just dandy during gameplay. Yep, this is another quality Hewson product.

For me, Hewson where a company that was always consistent without resorted to lame ports...

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


Zynaps theme tune is outstanding thanks to the talent of one of my favourite musicians, Dave Rogers: a man 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 to the music but they're still excellent and offer an arcade-like style which I really admire. I love that sharp "zing-zing" when you shoot, the crunchy death effect, and how you are mocked when it's game over. Like the visuals, I think that a lot of love went into the audio which is brilliant.

Yep, the audio proves what the Atari ST can sound like. Wanna hear it...

The Crypto'pinion

Zynaps is one of those games which appears to have it all but, many give up after a few goes because of its learning curve. The action is relentless 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 the 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 so I can forgive - because of the Can-I-have-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. You need to play this game.

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