Friday, November 27, 2020

Iceblox Plus

Yet Another New Game?

Okay, I might be a couple of years late but here is Iceblox Plus, a brand new Pengo remake by Karl Hornell for Côté Gamers. It's based on the recent Commodore 64 conversion - which is actually based on the old mobile phone original. Phew, that's quite a history and it's actually strange to think it was something I could have played on my old Nokia!

Anyhow, the game introduces us to Pete the Penguin and explains the gameplay basics which are crushing blocks and the methods used to eliminate our enemies. As in Pengo, there are 16 icy screens with blocks to shove or smash; some you wanna break whereas others can be used to slide into the baddies for an instant kill (flames and burning wheels). A few blocks will contain hidden coins and it's these that we should break open to complete each level.

Sounds cute and cuddly doesn't it? Well, let's check out the first screenshot of our chubby fella...

Wee-SMASH!! Well, this image fails to display my joy at sliding a block for a kill. Points awarded too!

Gaming like it's 1982

Iceblox breaks you in gently with just the one flame lurking about the first level but things soon heat up with the next level having two flames chasing after you. By the fourth level, three flames are chasing which is pretty frantic. However, I personally found the difficulty drastically increasing from level 6 which is all thanks to those dreaded burning wheels! These do a magnificent job of tracking down poor old Pete for a terrible death by fire. He prefers it cold!

It's interesting how the levels become progressively harder; thanks to their unassuming design and those firey enemies who appear in a variety of combinations (up to) four at once. Both have great chasing techniques that feel somewhat like H-Mec II but killing them results in many bonus points. Plus a much-need short breather, before they respawn!

You won't last long without a few practice games, trust me. This next screenshot was a killer...

Run Pete, RUN!!! (He's got no chance because I was controlling him <insert evil laugh>)

Fancy some tips?

Oh heck, I only managed to reach level 12 which isn't too bad at all - for me! I hope this helps you guys:

1) Don't just run around like an idiot - think before you make your move! 

2) Use the blocks to extinguish those dreaded enemies for a burst freedom albeit only for a second or so. Hey, don't knock it, every second counts.

3) Each nasty provides a high degree of cunning chase, rather than blindly heading to your location. However, the wheels can be infuriating so take them out as quickly as possible.

4) Use the maze design by hiding behind static blocks for cover (see below).

5) Don't panic. I know, it's easier said than done, but panicking only gets Pete killed quicker!

Pete is a penguin and NOT a chicken. Ahem, you can't hide forever...

Graphics & Sounds

Okay, this is no Gods or Magic Boy but I doubt any version of Pengo would drop your jaw to the floor? Well, Iceblox is actually strikingly 8-Bit with a bold design using colourful and beautifully animated sprites - I love how Pete wibbles as he walks! Plus he actually turns into a skeleton when dying, which is kinda sad but also funny. It looks old yet sorta new?

The audio is just as cute as the visuals with jingles and chip music by M.D. Smit. Everything has a simplicity I adore - it's not trying to produce the greatest ST music but it's humorously apt for the task at hand. Love it!!

So, it looks and sounds like the 8-Bit era should have done all along? Yup, and it's screenshot time too...

Oh no, things are hotting up (sorry) with both a flame and a burning wheel chasing you!

The CryptO'pinion?

I don't think I've played a version of Pengo since the 80s and that was probably on my ZX Spectrum. Iceblox Plus is a great twist on the original theme and, rather than a straight conversion, it comes with bells and whistles that I like. My only real gripe is the limited play area using a grid layout of 12x10 which I thought was a little claustrophobic.

I really enjoy how Iceblox Plus transported me back in time and those of us old enough to remember the original (or the 8-bit conversions) will appreciate the balance of both authentic and updated styles. Although I panic like a big girl's blouse from level six onwards, I'm completely smitten by the exhilarating oldskool gameplay. Iceblox is a great game!

AtariMania has the download and I hear there's a boxed version by Cote Gamers (that I'd love!!)

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Techno Cop

I Am The Law!

Have you ever booted up something that instantly felt cheap and tacky yet you spent hours playing and never once considered hitting the reset button? Think Club Drive for the Atari Jaguar... Well, here is a game by Gremlin Graphics that tries to blend together two genres: car racing and a quiet walk through rough neighbourhoods.

If you hadn't already guessed, we're one of the heroes in blue but, no ordinary policeman. No, we're a Techno Cop who is under orders to take down various members of the DOA - Death On Arrival. This is a huge gang of thugs who enjoy driving fast cars, live in abandoned buildings and look like extras from a Death Wish movie!

Actually, being a Techno Cop must be cool because they get to drive a VMAX Turbo Interceptor sports car and use a Magnum to kill anyone they don't like the look of. That's about as technical as it gets and I love that simplicity so, ignoring first impressions, I soon started to enjoy what is nothing less than crude and violent.

Sounds like my kinda game then!! Shall we take a gander at the racing part first of all...

It's hardly Crazy Cars 3 or Vroom, but this is a fun section of an insane game!

All In A Day's Work

For each stage (scene of a crime), we begin behind the wheel of a fancy sports car on the way to a troubled hotspot. The roads are cluttered with DOA agents but our VMAX is fitted with a cannon to blast those suckers into smithereens. The dashboard shows speed, revs and even a damage meter that worsens with each roadside skirmish. Also displayed is the distance to a crime hotspot - so put the pedal to the metal!

Upon arriving, we get out for a stretch of the legs as the game flips into a scrolling shoot 'em up quite similar to Thunder Jaws or Rolling Thunder. These rundown apartment blocks are full of trash, graffiti, thugs, hookers and even rats that nibble your toes. The thugs are relentless; carrying chains, whips, baseball bats, knives and more. It's now that you should use the magnum and blast 'em into a gloopy mess of blood and gore. More, later...

Mission objectives detail how you uphold the law; be it a hostage situation, a mugging in progress, a boss to eliminate, etc. It would be impossible to follow out these orders without using your wrist gadget that shows lives, score, and jumping energy - plus you can even swap the magnum for a net, used to capture rather than kill. Importantly, it also features a radar to help locate each boss. Beware, this isn't a direct route so you may need to use the elevators to avoid a dead-end. Completing a mission grants points and promotion through the twelve ranks:

1 Grunt... 2 Rookie... 3 Flat Foot... 4 Patrol Man... 5 Cop... 6 Officer...
7 Sergeant... 8 Enforcer... 9 Commander... 10 Top Cop... 11 Chief... 12 Technocop

Okay, now that you have an idea of this whacky game, let's take a look at the next screenshot...

Hey, have I got the time? Erm, no I don't so let's just move on searching for bad guys!

Gimme That Joystick!

The VMAX handles like a wooden wedge and is very unrealistic. Okay, this is an arcade racer and nothing serious but, even so, it's lagging way behind something like Crazy Cars 3, Test Drive, Lotus 2 or Buggy Boy. And by a mile. Sadly, it's all too easy to crank up the damage by smashing into the roadside objects when preoccupied with shooting enemy cars. Plus, I didn't care for the initially sluggish rate of fire. Road Blasters, this stage is not!!

I learnt that it's good practice to simply rush to the next crime hotspot, ignoring the DOA cars the best you can. This is not only quicker but saves lots of potential damage so your game should last longer too. Plus, quick racers are awarded upgrades such as a turbo boost and (much needed) faster firing.

The crime stages are best where we can walk, crouch, leap and run through (yet another) condemned building with ease. The leaping is ace, allows you to explore quicker, and is best when surrounded by henchmen. The radar is a huge help and I doubt it would be possible to complete any mission without using it. And learning the map.

Gun love is why we're here and Techno Cop is superb. In fact, there are times I forget I'm a policeman and behave more like an escaped psychopath because it's easy to ignore the plan and go about killing everyone. Yep, everyone! Even the odd innocent kid stupidly runs by or when playing outside. The death of all victims is bloody and violent as they scream and explode into a pile of gloop. Gloop with eyes stuck on top. Brilliantly brutal and I love it.

You won't believe how cool that is. Argh, go on then, here is a screenshot to prove it...

Come on, how cool is that? Play the game and enjoy the effect for yourself lol

Aesthetics 80s-Style!

The driving scenes are quite bland with little scenery and average framerates. Though I did like the mountains and the palette choices/changes. Weirdly, the DOA cars are cumbersome beasts and the road changes far too quickly to be driven well. The fuzzy sampled sound effects are great... Okay, it's not Turbo Cup but I enjoyed them.

The scrolling-crime parts are excellent!! Each building is packed with incredible attention to detail: litter, traps, graffiti, broken plaster, damaged floors, dead bodies, loot and traps. It's basically the perfect environment for the Michael Winner movies!! Enemy sprites are nicely animated and detailed, even down to their spikey punk hair. Okay, the scrolling could have been better but at least the developers didn't wimp out with push/flick.

Audio is made using crunchy samples which are nice and add to the violent atmosphere although I don't understand why our Techno Cop makes a silly "meow" when he jumps! Anyhow, the best sound effect from the entire game is the screaming explosions when killing a criminal - your gun can turn a human into a horrendous pile of slop! It's brilliant and makes Techno Cop one of the most hilarious killers you could imagine. Fan-freaking-tastic!!

It's fun, fun, fun and looks/sounds the part. So, one more screenshot of me getting promoted...

Promotion leads to better gameplay with many more baddies all too willing to challenge me!

The CryptO'pinion?

You can't go wrong with fast cars and big guns. This game has what it takes but there are a few more niggles that bugged me: the driving stage feels like a clunky afterthought but the power-ups are a neat touch. The missions are pretty much the same, thus quite repetitive and later tasks certainly require extra time.

However, Techno Cop still scores very highly because of its arcade styles, and killing scumbags is quite simply brilliant. Okay, it could have been better in parts but blasting baddies into a pile of mush is bliss. I loved it.

Download for floppy or hard drive.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Sine Scrollers?


I've always had a thing for sinus scrollers! I mean, just look at it. Gorgeous!! This screen is called The Two-Screens-Together Demo by Black Byte/Bytechangers and weighs in at only 3.5Kb - less than JetPac!! But why so tiny? Well, it was programmed for the first-ever STNICCC in their "VIC Times Revisited" competition. I guess, the rules were obvious with a Ram limit based on the Commodore machine. Impressive results, to say the least.

Sadly, there's no music but I guess there wasn't enough space left over, which is completely understandable. However, I'd still love to see this screen updated with music and freed from the shackles of that old competition because it's too good to remain as is. I'm sure something beautiful could be done with this piece of code?

I'm always on the lookout for screens with similar scrollers but only found a limited number over the years. Sadly, I fail to remember which disks I saw back then, so it's been a painful process hunting them down. Of course, similar effects are used in many demos for waves, circle scrollers, distorting images, etc... but I'm specifically referring to a sine wave used for a horizontal text scroller - like the one displayed above in all its wavey sexiness.

There must be a ton of cracktros and demo screens that I've forgotten about!! So, if you know of any using this sine scrolling technique, then please let me know in the comments below. Until then, here is a selection of text scrollers using the sinus effects which are all utterly amazing and definitely worth downloading...

Possibly the best-known ST sine scroller I'd say? Okay, there's no sound but the visual effect is great and incredibly well coded. I wish more would have been done but there's no denying how cool this is.

Circle Dots by MJJ Prod

This is such a smooth screen and with gorgeous music by Dma-Sc. The scroller is sine-tastic and works well with the stark palette style which really appeals to me. Oh, and there are some dots too which ain't too bad!

Sinfull Sinuses by Chronicle

What a great demo this is with a bunch of cool visual fx and great music. The sinus parts are very good throughout but this is all about the sinus text so I loved their big blue sine scroller, which is just lovely.

Another fine sine example and taken from one of the best megademos there is - Just Buggin'

Disk #0052 by BITS

A slap-bang, in-your-face, no-frills sinus scroller and it's pretty darn excellent too!!

Flexiscroll by The Resistance

An awesome screen from the Decade Demo but it spends (most) of its time doing everything other than what I wanted to see! However, as a demo, it's pretty cool with some lovely fx and wonderful chipmusic.

Genesys by Aenigmatica

Yes, it's quite mild but the sine scrolling is there and I like it. This is a pretty great demo too.

Menu #3 by Electronic

I don't remember this group from back in the day but here's an intro with a nice sine-scroller. Sadly, there appear to be many of their disks that still need to be found and preserved. Can you help?

An intro for a cool MOD disk that includes (possibly) the best player available for the Atari STe? Well, I was blown away by it! Anyhow, this intro has a dodgy image, cool music, and a neat sinewave to enjoy.

Arsch Screen by FOXX

This was released as part of Phaleon's GigaDemo and boy what a screen from an outstanding megademo. Nothing short of mind-blowing. Yes, both the sine scroller and the megademo. What a point in time this was!!

Alvin Puzzles Cracktro by Elite & STAX

This cracktro was used many times because it's fast, classy, and superb. I only wish the sine scroller has a splash (ahem) more colour! One of my favourite intros for the ST. Erm, cracktro I meant to say.

Mr Heli Cracktro by The Replicants

The Replicants released what seemed like a zillion hacks and I've found a fantastic sine-scroller disk!!

The Anomaly Megademo is an absolute cracker and this screen is simply divine. Outstanding. [link]

Phototro by Hemoroids

This is a superb demo with a great plasma screen but the sine scroller is also pretty darn cool.