Friday, August 28, 2020

Crazy Cars III


Oh no, another Crazy Cars game? Yep, and I must admit that I was a bit worried because the first was rather crude and the second had infuriating mechanics that angered me so I was sceptical but this. Hang on, it's 1992 (I wish) and Titus appeared to have redeemed themselves with something that actually looks rather good?

The background story is funny but proves you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. When somebody offers you a Lamborgini Diablo, at a rock bottom price, take it and then drive it away as fast as you can!! Which is exactly what we're doing for Crazy Cars 3. Sure, we spent most of our life savings but, in return, we have a sexy sports car and enough cash left over to begin competing in America's Bullrun - the Saturday Night Races.

It might sound lame but this event is huge and takes place throughout the lower 48 States against many rival drivers. There are four divisions and, of course, we begin right at the bottom of the fourth with a measly $6000 left in the pot. Thankfully, that's more than enough to get us racing through Miami, Denver and Memphis. Each win increases your purse, thus opens up the possibility of competing in the more expensive races in other locations.


The map shows each race and who you'll be competing against. Fancy a wager?

Before you rush off and waste that precious cash, it makes sense to practice. So look at the map and take a stab at anything you like. Each location is different with a varying degree of difficulty thanks to narrow, twisty lanes, obstacles and other cars. Not to mention the cops who are looking to boost their Christmas party fund.

Once you feel you've practised enough, slap yourself and practice some more. You won't regret that. Eventually, you will be ready and can head over to the Tournament with confidence. Pick yourself a character, I'm always the Mr T lookalike! It's now a good idea to start cheap with something you can afford, I advise Memphis. All "yellow" coloured places are initially open to you with details of fees, prizes and details of those dreaded cops.

Official prize money is only awarded for coming 1st, 2nd or 3rd but it's possible to boost that via your fellow rival drivers. These guys are always up for a flutter which might be a good opportunity to earn extra money? So long as you don't get too big for your boots and have bothered to practice on more than just a few tracks...


This dream machine won't run very well without repairs and expensive tune-ups.

I'll say it now, I love Crazy Cars III which is thankfully nothing like the first two games in terms of its quality. What a rush slamming it down the road, zooming by the other cars, with the thrill of finally passing a dreaded rival. Controls are excellent with the joystick used to steer this red beast. Push up or hit fire to accelerate and pulling back breaks. You can choose between manual or auto gearboxes which means I always choose the latter!

This racer is fast and furious (sorry) and feels like Titus sneakily took the best bits from a number of others, like Lotus II for example. But that's okay, there are lots of examples of ripoffs being better than the originals. Play dirty if you need to but always keep an eye out for the cops. Those guys never give up and will try to chase you all the way through to the end. So whaddya gonna do? Flee or be a good citizen... FLEE, of course!!!

Collect the bounty for winning a race and then grab what's owed to you by losing rivals. Now, it's time to think and decide just how you're gonna spend that cash. Car repairs, or enhancements like a better gearbox, turbo boost, tyres, etc. Perhaps another harder race which is now unlocked because you're the Million Dollar Man? This routine is continued until you earn enough dosh to enter into the Divisional Race for a possibility of promotion.

One of the best looking arcade racers I've ever seen with lots of lush colours.

And now onto the aesthetics which never matter but are still nice to have...

Well, the graphics are ace. Simple as that. This is one of the most glamorous 16-bit racers with a decent framerate and good sprite scaling for everything that whizzes by. The weather effects are a nice addition but only if you've remembered to change tyres. However, it's the palettes which I adore the most using beautiful colours!

Audio is good with a neat tune and decent sound effects. Most effects are YM chippy and could have been better but there are some neat extra touches, like when going under a bridge. The best is the whirring sirens of the cop cars which are excellent. But this also highlights the Diablo's mundane engine sounds. Catch 22. Ah well...


Three screens you never want to see: the cops, losing, and the ultimate heartbreak!

Every game has a flaw or two and I thought my Diablo suffered lethargic cornering compared to the other cars. Also, I wasn't a fan of the narrow tracks with too many stupid locals getting in my way! My driving skills suffered, as did my wallet paying for all the extra repairs! Possibly too many cars on the roads? Or is it just me?

Crazy Cars III is fandabbydosey. It's the best in the series (hardly a revelation) and hasn't lost any of its excitement so is a thrill. I love the freedom to enhance, gamble, race in different locations, and that rush of being chased by the cops - who are relentless. Is this better than Lotus II? Possibly!! And that is an enticing thought so, set aside a couple of hours over the weekend for you and the kids. You won't regret playing this need for speedster!!

Download the floppy disc via Stonish

Monday, August 24, 2020

ymphibian

I recently read that Effect had released a brand new demo by Tom Kito and stuffed with 12 tunes by Proto. I love chiptunes, and the Atari ST already has some incredible musicdisks in its library, so I had high hopes. Thankfully, ymphibian is foot-tappingly superb and I enjoyed it so much that I made this recording to share.

There's a range of crackers here and that E1M1 tune is shockingly great and something this old Doomguy enjoyed!! Also, I really appreciated the autoplay feature, which is something every musicdisk should have. So, as their website says, "sit back, grab a beer and enjoy the banging beats coming from your Atari ST’s YM2149".

You can download this excellent musicdisk from the Effect website. Enjoy...

Monday, August 17, 2020

Gameboy


Handheld console fans rejoice, for the "Gameboy" has arrived on the Atari ST thanks to a piece of cool PD by Ingo Linkweiler. Well, umm, no it hasn't but instead, we have a program that features three games: Tetris, Pacman and Snake. It runs in GEM - any resolution - and can be installed as an ACC, which I preferred.

Open the ACC and hit any key to begin. The cursor keys can be used to control all three games: in Tetris, Left/Right moves the falling blocks, Up turns them around while Down drops 'em to the floor. Pacman uses these keys to make haste around his maze of weird 'ghosts' and Snake is quite the discrepancy but I oddly enjoyed it.

The Atari ST has hundreds of nifty ACCs and many of which are games. That's kinda cool when you think about it and I love finding little nuggets of ST history like this. Gameboy is a great ACC and I think Ingo created something fun, especially with Tetris. Sadly, Pacman's controls are quite tanky and Snake is certainly a (ahem) challenge! But, what did you expect in 20Kb? Exactly. So this is definitely worth checking out and I loved it.

Click here if you're dying to make GEM cool again.


Gameboy Emulator


Wait, don't go!! The fun doesn't need to stop if you're willing to reboot the ST to exit that little green desktop? If so, then The Untouchables have something rather neat for you. It's called the "Gameboy Emulator" and kinda looks the part with a version of Space Invaders and Tetris that also includes a sampled background tune.

Okay, their Space Invaders is harsh and hardly complete but it's smooth and very enjoyable for the one game. Yes, I said one game (hit ESC afterwards). Tetris is excellent and very impressive. It reminds me of what I saw on a friends Gameboy back in the day. Yup, definitely a nice albeit fake emulator which I liked a lot.

Clickety-Click to see more and download the Nuntundu Uboy.


Nesulator


Hang on? Were you just about to leave this amazing Atari ST website? Shame on you... Okay, for those brave enough to stay, you may be interested in an emulator by Ed Cleveland? To be honest, it needs a lot more processing power than the stock 8MHz ST can deliver and is beta too. However, it's fun to check out, and my beefy Mega STe did me proud. Even though I was left wondering what it must be like to own a glorious Atari TT... sigh!

Take a look at NESulator and remember, we've also got an entire "Emulation" section to browse :)

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Party Seven!


I was looking back through the AtariCrypt archives and came across Alien World, a sensational shoot 'em up oddly unknown to many. It was developed by Gary Antcliffe for Hi-Tec Software in 1992 and is a bit like Blood Money. He's also the man behind Blazing Thunder, Bomb Fusion, Future Bike Simulator, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, T-Bird and Yogi's Great Escape. So, I began to wonder what these other games might be like...



- Alien World -

Firstly, there's no need to rewrite any more of my junk! Just take a walk down AtariCrypt's memory lane and then download what is nothing less than an exciting, if brutal shoot 'em up with super-sonic visuals to boot. Yep, it's tough and takes no prisoners but a skilful and persistent player will be rewarded with a fantastic game.

Grab the floppy disk download from Stonish and the HDD from 8BitChip.




- Blazing Thunder -

Remember in Ikari Warriors when you could kill soldiers from within the relative safety of your little tank? Have you ever wondered what it might be like to permanently be inside a near-invincible tank throughout the entire game? Well, wonder no more because this arcade-inspired (aka blatant rip-off) offers exactly that.

Stop! Don't touch the keyboard because there is an incredibly cheesy intro which is hard not to love. The graphics, and sound effects, are both excellent with our hero looking like a Rambo wannabee with the mad 80s permed hair! Following this is the title screen which is worth leaving displayed just to enjoy the thumping music.

As we begin this vertically-scrolling military shooter, everything is pretty much what you'd expect with soldiers blindly offering themselves as free cannon fodder whilst others lurk in trenches, trees or operate guns. What it obviously lacks in originality is more than made up in the fun department right from the start:

Level one takes place in a jungle, of course before advancing onwards to wetter places for the next stage. These two levels are possibly the best reasons to boot up the game.
We head into the desert for the third stage which is where I found my tank starting to show its cumbersome colours. Having to navigate back 'n forth through the terrain was a pain, especially when ginormous tanks are blocking the way! The boss is impossible to beat without a cheat!
Watch out for the firey landscapes of level 4 with tougher enemies and awkward landscapes. Things are now impossible and I cannot imagine anyone playing this without a cheat!
Level 5 is a breath of fresh air, feeling somewhat like the first two levels and I got serious vibes of Fernandez Must Die. Just watch out for the trains and grenade launchers! The boss is impossibly difficult and even if you do defeat it, the robot guardian appears to kick your butt.
Completing the game rewards you with a lame well-done message. Sigh...

I love rumbling through the jungle in my massive and beastly tank but what were they thinking about when creating such an enormous sprite. It's huge!! Thankfully, the controls are sweet with fast movement and level design which makes it easy to manoeuvre. Running down the soldiers is the first thing to do! Why not? I'm in control of 100 tons of steel so I'm bound to enjoy squashing the enemy into the tank's tread. Watch out for mines that will sap your energy (yep, your tank has energy!) and stay clear hidden bombs marked with a B... B for BOOM!!

Thankfully, there are power-ups that aid health and improve weaponry. Hitting spacebar operates your own collection of bombs - this is insane and dead funny when soldiers are caught in the explosion. They turn into black singed corpses!! In fact, the bombs are most useful against the bigger baddies and end-of-level bosses.

Graphically, this is an average looker with a poor framerate that doesn't come close to Dogs of War or War Zone. I liked the palette and the sprites are the best thing to look at. However, there is little or no animation - your tank! If you're wondering about the audio, don't. Spot effects which are well, you know...

Blazing Thunder is a good shoot 'em up but gets repetitive after the first level and is very difficult. However, fighting from the "safety" of a tank does offer an alternative spice to the genre and running over soldiers is always fun. Okay, I'm never going to delete Ikari Warriors for this but I did enjoy it. Not great but not bad either.

Grab the floppy disk download from Stonish.




- Bomb Fusion -

Like many Atari ST guys, I upgraded from an 8-bit computer which means lots of fond memories and I've always got a soft spot for anything reminiscent of that era. A good example would be the Dizzy games, Starquake, Highway Encounter, Head Over Heels and most certainly the recent and incredible Bugziacs.

Okay, here goes... in Bomb Fusion, Terrorists have sneakily planted explosives inside a nuclear station and we've come to save the day - arriving in a Sinclair C5. So it's our job to systematically defused each bomb before the radiation levels reach dangerous levels. I'm getting whiffs of Bomb Jack but there is also the additional task to collect and store any leaked fuel pods. Well, I guess that adds a little more depth to the game?

Getting around each level is easy thanks to a number of platforms used to access each remote bomb. Sometimes these are way out of reach which means using pressure pads or falling off the screen. Yep, falling off the bottom of your screen allows you to reappear at the top which is a nifty idea. Also, there is a weird ball randomly bouncing around for some reason - touching that isn't good for your health.

Graphics never make the game but, let's be honest, it's always nice to see your Atari ST looking hot!! Sadly, I can only imagine the shock on anyone's face when they first played this - did we get a direct Z80 port or something? Also, the music is irritating and possibly the worst I have ever heard from the Atari ST. Be quick and hit F10 to flip to sound effects before your ears bleed. Yes, they are still lame but a zillion times better than the music!

Once you've got over the shock of your Atari ST pretending to be a ZX Spectrum, this is quite good. Scurrying off the screen, frantically trying to defuse the next bomb is a rush. However, it doesn't really go anywhere beyond that and later levels are very difficult. Ten minutes fun but definitely the weakest game of the bunch.

Grab the floppy disk from Stonish and the HDD from 8BitChip.




- Future Bike Simulator -

Apparently, motorbikes were banned in 1995 only to be replaced by 300mph anti-gravity Future Bikes! The highways having been converted into The Strip, which is a new track designed for speed without annoying roadworks or Sunday drivers. Each section is littered with mines, bombs and other riders who can be shot and then robbed of their loot. Use this cash to upgrade your bike with missiles, shields and other goodies.

The controls are great but, sometimes, a track would felt a little too cluttered, especially in the city. Ride, blast and kill anything that gets in your way and survive as long as you possibly can. What more could you want?

Visually, I might have been impressed around 1988 but this came later so I'm shocked it's not better - although I thought the sprites scaled nice. Interestingly, there is an option to increase the framerate by hitting the F key which is fast and excellent. You can flip back using the N key but then everything oddly feels rather sluggish. Sadly, the audio is very disappointing with mediocre sound effects but at least the title screen music is superb!
I found that the 25Hz mode was best experienced using real hardware. By far!
This is a neat game but I failed to see anything resembling a simulator so I'm renaming it to Future Bike Racer. The tracks are long and crammed with many bad guys to blast into smithereens but there's nothing mind-blowing here. However, I did find enjoy the simplicity of doing nothing more than riding my bike and killing folk!

Grab the floppy disk from Stonish and the HDD from 8BitChip.




- Scooby-Doo & Scrappy-Doo -

I'm a bit of a fanboy for platformers and this scooby snack helps to prove why I love the genre. It's bright, colourful, detailed and the controls are excellent. However, it's based on Scrappy-Doo, that annoying pup who ruined what was once a fantastic cartoon. Anyhow, Shaggy and Scooby have been kidnapped by the evil Baron Von Drak which means we are (groan) Scrappy-Doo who must attempt the rescue. We begin on a ship which is heading to a desert island with later levels taking us through caves and forests before a battle with the Baron himself.

Each stage is superbly designed and fun to explore with the chance to enter hidden secret levels for tons of bonuses. The enemies are varied and run around like crazy fools with some hopping to and from the different ledges, which was most unexpected. There are several items to collect for health or power-ups and Scrappy can throw a mean couple of punches, even if his reach isn't that great. Collecting scooby snacks will eventually reward you with an extra life and you will need that for the desert stage and onwards when things get a lot trickier.

Visually, this is an excellent treat alright!! Scrolling is smooth, sprites are cartoon perfect and the levels are utterly gorgeous with a great design using bundles of colour. Audio is probably the best of all the games mentioned here thanks to funky chiptunes. You can switch to sound effects but I wouldn't bother if I were you.

Overall, this is a tie with Alien World for the best of Gary's games. They're very different of course but I cannot decide between the two. Good old Scrappy has delivered a killer punch with something that looks, sounds and plays brilliantly. I personally think this is one of the best platformers for the Atari ST. Yep, I said that.

Grab the floppy disk from Stonish and the HDD from 8BitChip.




- T Bird -

It's time to put on your Buck Rogers big boy pants for a blaster similar to Space Harrier or Galactic Conqueror. It's easier than the Sega conversion, so nowhere near as difficult as I originally feared thanks to its casual mechanics and fantastic controls. Graphically, there is a serious lack of colour and flair so things look incredibly bland. I don't get it, it's not like they sacrificed any glam for that (ahem) extra speed... Audio fairs a little better with chip music playing in the background and there is the option to hear sound effects instead. Don't bother.

T-Bird isn't a bad shooter but the above-mentioned games are miles better so I'm sensing that this was a port with little dedicated ST love. That is a massive shame because the ST rocks with 3D games like this. Ignore what I said about Bomb Fusion because this is definitely the weakest of the bunch and I'm gutted about that.

Grab the floppy disk from Stonish and the HDD from 8BitChip.




- Yogi's Great Escape -

Jellystone Park is going to close and all the animals are to be transported to the zoo so Yogi decides to escape before it shuts down. I imagine the local council sold the land to a housing property developer... Anyhow, I had high hopes for this platformer after seeing the screenshots full of colour and gorgeous cartoon sprites.

The main objective to dash through to the end of each level avoiding any nasties along the way. There are picnic baskets and items to collect but your main objective is to escape before the timer expires. Each level follows the same basic principle and there are lots of enemies, moving platforms, rolling platforms, long jumps and others stuff to ruin his day. Most of which feel fiddly and unfair, especially those irritating rolling platforms!!

The controls are responsive but Yogi's movements feel somewhat wooden and unrealistic. Plus he's too big for the environment which makes some jumps rather awkward. In fact, it doesn't feel like he can jump - it's more like floating? Very similar to something like Ghost Battle, rather than what you would actually hope for.

Visually, I love its cartoon appeal. Lots of care must have gone into going that extra mile - smooth scrolling, tons of colours and gorgeous sprites. Okay, the animation is lacking but this is one gorgeous looker! Audio is terrible with no in-game music only meagre spot-effects! Plus I didn't care for the fuzzy title music whatsoever.

Overall, Yogi felt flawed with weird mechanics and limited content which is a shame because it looks the business and certainly had potential. There's just something that puts me off and doing little more than rushing through each level. Sadly, it looks like Yogi isn't smarter than the average bear after all, so you're better off playing Potsworth & Co, Rolling Ronny, Stario, Magic Boy, Magic Pockets, Terry's Big Adventure, etc/etc/etc...

Grab the floppy disk from Stonish and the HDD from D-Bug.




- The CryptO'pinion -

Well, that was a peculiar and mixed bunch of arcade-inspired games. It's obvious there is a couple of direct ports here, which is a shame but understandable, I guess. It's also obvious that Gary's skill in getting the best out of the Atari ST improved considerably over the years and he certainly ended on two huge highs with Alien World and Scooby-Doo & Scrappy-Doo. In fact, these two are Christmas crackers and blew me away!!

I often wonder what it must have been like for people developers back in the day working against the constraints they were under. Anyhow, I personally enjoyed doing this and found it incredibly interesting so who knows what I'll do next. Have you played any of these games? What did you think? I'm interested to hear your thoughts...