Saturday, December 26, 2020

Hero Quest

A board game? Meh, no thanks...

HeroQuest is one of those ST games I've seen mentioned many times yet, somehow I've never bothered with it. That's probably because it's a board game and I'm not exactly a fan of those (except Monopoly!). The ST adaptation is modelled on that turn-based board game and retains a similar look using an isometric perspective. So, having never experienced Hero Quest, I attacked it with a fresh pair of eyes not knowing what wonders to expect.

Our adventure takes place in Morcar's castle. He's an evil wizard with an army of monsters: Orcs, Zombies, Mummys, Goblins, etc. Thankfully, four valiant warriors have signed up for 13 torturous quests in order to defeat him. That means plunging the castle's depths to battle all kinds of monsters, avoiding hidden traps, and grabbing loot or anything else which might heed the journey. Let's be honest, whatever the story, I'm in. Now, where did I put my sword?

Okay, before we begin, I think we need to see a couple of screenshots. What glorious isometric graphics...

An Elf enters the room much to the delight of the Wizard who punches the air with joy.

This is when being a midget helps, sneak up on your prey and club him to death!

Choose your warrior!

We begin by picking a preferred warrior(s) from four different races - Barbarian, Dwarf, Elf and Wizard. Before rushing off on the first quest, you should consider who you want to be and why because they each have their own different types of strengths, weaknesses and abilities. Even dice rolls, but more on that later.

The Barbarian is built for strength and is a trooper during the bloodiest of melee battles. Stumpy the dwarf is quite strong and also the crafty one of the bunch who uses handy skills to compensate his shortcomings. Elves and Wizards are physically weaker but the clever lads of the group. They use their brains to cast an array of magical spells without running the risk of having to get up close and personal.

Whether you're solo or not, there is an option to choose another character instead of heading out as the Lone Ranger. It's optional but, there are obvious benefits of having friends accompany you on the journey into the castle's terrors. It's here that you can also name your plucky hero and spend cash in the shop to buy weapons, armour, etc. Finally, there is the possibility to nurse a tired adventurer back to full health, but at what cost?

I suggest playing with two characters: the Barbarian is rock solid and the Elf is an all-rounder who offers the chance to experiment with magic. Umm, okay the Dwarf is a good option especially with traps or if something is blocking the way. The Wizard? Well, superb with spells but a bit too squishy for my liking!

Let's take a gander at a couple more screenshots with some rather spine-chilling monsters...

Excellent!! His back is turned and he's unaware I'm here so let's kill him. Wait, I see a chair...?

Oh no, the door slams shut behind you on this quest and the room appears not too friendly!!

Go on a crusade!

Next, decide which of the 13 quests to attempt - they're all different and listed in order of (more or less) their difficulty. Actually, there are 14 quests as the first is basically a trainer that offers a fantastic chance to learn the fundamentals of exploration and combat: the objective is simply to escape, and the quickest adventurer is rewarded with loot which can be used in the shop for the next mission. Use this quest to master the mechanics of HeroQuest.

Whatever quest you decide on, the gameplay is incredibly similar to the original board game. Each player takes a turn by throwing dice to determine the number of action points - used to walk, perform searches and fight the ghouls. Actually, in the case of the Atari ST game, we spin coins but it's the same difference. However, there are limitations to this method; searching for treasure (or hidden doors) can only be performed once during a player's turn. Lastly, the monsters are then moves by the evil Morcar for his turn - which is automattically controlled by your lovely Atari ST.

Well, it's that time again where I break up the boring text with some screenshots. Enjoy these...

Ha ha, you can see me but you can't reach me! Hmm, perhaps it's time for a little magic?

The map is an extremely useful tool and even identifies the monsters. Ugh! A Chaos Warrior?

Come on, a board game... Really?

Yes, and all quests take place on a different level of the same castle - but they all feature many rooms and corridors laid out in a grid formation. Exploration is performed using the direction arrows (or clicking on the desired tile) and the map is an incredibly helpful tool that displays the parts of the castle you have visited along with monsters and objects. It's also great when something doesn't feel quite right, perhaps there's a secret room? Don't forget to search for loot but remember that this castle is riddled with traps and scary monsters so watch your back and tread carefully.

Expect the usual creatures prowling; Orcs, Skeletons, Zombies, Mummys, Fimirs, and many more. All are controlled by the evil wizard hiding inside your 68000 and their actions are executed after the heroes have completed theirs. The computer isn't always offensive and this can present an alternative strategy option. Also, if walking away from a battle is an option then take it because it's not always necessary to fight each and every monster! Think about that.

Seriously, this is one cool board game and something I need to check out. But first, some more screenshots...

We're all playing a game and the first one to blink gets zapped by a fireball!!

I knew it was too good to be true. Sometimes this game is very cruel O_o

Gimme icons!

The user interface is excellent and helps you to explore and interact (comparatively) with your surroundings. The current player has his image displayed top/left along with their attributes for action points, health, mental ability and cash. The icons near the bottom of the screen might look a little confusing but they're easy to learn:

1) The shield with an arrow allows you to end your turn.

2) The shield with a sword begins a fight against a chosen monster.

3) Bunch of keys - use these to unlock doors if you want!

4) The door with a question mark performs a search for what might be lurking nearby, like traps and hidden doorways. Works well with the map when things appear a little 'off'.

5) The opened bag is used to perform a search for treasure (kept by that particular player).

6) Satchel - this is the inventory and features the extra equipment a character can use.

7) Map - I'm sure this one is pretty obvious but is something you should use!

8) Directional arrows - use these to explore the castle (or click the tiles instead).

This is a fantastic quest and is quite the nervy rush getting Sir Ragnar back home safely.

Oh cr+p!! This is Ulag, the Orc Warlord and yes, he did kill me...

Clash Of The Titans

Nobody enters Morcar's castle without expecting a fight with something unholy and it's a bonus leaving any room unhurt, albeit in blood-splattered clothing! He has many gruesome creatures walking the corridors so it's not long until something comes looking for you - all are controlled by Morcar. Ie, your lovely Atari ST.

A skirmish in HeroQuest isn't exactly what I expected of an 'RPG'. Firstly, a battle can only happen against a foe who is on an adjacent tile and that fight is presented on a separate screen. However, there isn't anything to do as the computer rolls special dice for attacking/defending characters - skulls (for attack) and shields (for defence). So, if the monster has more skulls than you have shields, then that difference is deducted from your health. Likewise, if you are attacking and happen to have more skulls than the monster has shields then, you win.

This system might work for the board game but isn't what I initially expected. Especially as each player has a different amount of dice: Wizard = 1, Dwarf and Elf = 2 and Barbarian = 3. What is quite peculiar is when neither side rolls successfully so they both stand idle doing nothing more than staring at each other! Actually, that is quite annoying as I feel it's a missed opportunity which could leave you somewhat vulnerable before the next turn.

Zombies never fail to impress and they're also in Hero Quest if you scroll down a little...

An unsuspecting Zombie victim but I've not got enough action points left...

No problem because his attack was fairly weak so I came back stronger and killed him!

Clash Of The Mages!

Elves and Wizards have a different style to their combat thanks to range attacks as magical spells. All magic can be used against any enemy currently within the same location, so that means you don't need to be close in order to attack an opponent. The ability to teamwork should now start to prove its worth to all players?

Magic comes in a huge variety to attack or hinder the enemy in some way. You can even help or hinder one of your party if you so desire. Each type of spell is grouped into four categories: air, wind, fire, and earth providing a separate style of magical ability. There is no in-game help so it's best to experiment to see what you prefer.

Along with spells to replenish health and harden defences/strength, there are also many nifty alternatives:

1) Tempest blows a torrent of wind around your foe thus confusing them so they lose a turn. Perhaps this is something you might wish to use on a fellow team 'mate'? :-)

2) The Genie spell is actually quite incredible and can pack a humongous punch.

3) Ball Of Flame and Fire Of Wrath are two spells that provide powerful attack options. Both could potentially turn an Orc into a pile of dust very easily.

4) But what if you happen to wander into a room that's full of monsters? A good spell might be Courage which will help give you that much-needed adrenalin boost!

5) Pass Through Rock is incredible and an unmistakenly selfish, albeit cunning ability!

That's more like it!! Unfortunately, I'm in a room with a Chaos Warrior...

Sometimes magical spells fall short of the mark so run to the nearest Barbarian for help!

Help, I'm confused!

You shouldn't be. To succeed in HeroQuest you should take it slow and be that careful explorer who wants to survive and reap all the rewards. Remember to search each room thoroughly for anything that may help. Especially the hidden loot which is spent on upgrading weapons and other stuff for the later quests.

The quests are all very different but the ultimate goal is to follow the instructions and complete what's required before safely escaping. Personally, I prefer to be the Barbarian as I'm more of a melee kinda guy but I do sometimes require the assistance of another teammate to increase my chances of survival (they're collateral damage!)

Hero Quest isn't a difficult game to master and is a lot of fun, especially with family.

Spend your plundered booty on something useful for the next quest.

Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into! Try, try again...


Most definitely! I love the isometric style as each room looks superb using a strong palette which is nothing you would expect a wizard's lair to look like. But, it works. The characters look amazing with incredible detail and I think the Mummys are the best - but I also love the Skeletons with their scythe! Sadly, animations are fine but should have been better, especially for walking. Oh, and the battles are nothing more than a sword slap in the face!

Bangin' Beats?

Well, the sound effects are basic; a fuzzy shuffle for walking plus a few chinks & clangs during a battle. It's a shame sampled sound effects aren't used throughout seeing as the ST is mostly idle. Music can be played in-game and is absolutely awesome, I gotta say. However, there's not enough so it can become quite repetitive after a while, so I'm glad of the option to hit F10 to disable that in favour of just the sound effects.

From the very start, Hero Quest impresses with its aesthetics. Just watch this intro...

I love this intro which tells the story of how Morcar became the evil wizard.

The CryptO'pinion?

Don't be mistaken and assume that this is an RPG, it isn't. Sure, there are elements that provide a lukewarm role-playing experience but this is a board game first and foremost. Each hero has their own strengths and weaknesses but there isn't much character building beyond the equipment and collecting stuff. They are also separate from one another - there isn't an actual requirement to work as a team so you cannot progressively group-attack a particular monster because each battle is a new and separate act. Remember, it's a board game.

However, it's a brilliant board game conversion and is definitely better with everyone huddled around the Atari ST just like they did back in the day. Even solo, this is a fine adventure especially if you play with a couple of characters. I suggest a few practice games to see which you prefer the most but grouping them is certainly a recipe for success.

Considering I'm not a fan of board games, I am really enjoying HeroQuest a bunch. A wonderful game!!

The floppy discs can be downloaded from Atari Legend and it works perfectly on both types of Atari ST.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Merry Christmas

Well, it's certainly been a peculiar year, hasn't it? Sadly, it doesn't look likely to get better any time soon but I hope everyone remains in good health. I wanted to thank each and every one of you guys for visiting my humble website throughout another year and I appreciate your comments and messages. Actually, I can't believe how long I've been working on AtariCrypt, but the Atari ST is a beautiful computer and dear to my heart - so worth it :-)

I would like to thank each of our patrons, both past and present, for their immense support which is something I cannot express enough. I do hope you guys are still enjoying your Patreon gifts from earlier in the year? I'm using the mug right now!! Anyhow, that was an exciting project and something I would love to try again sometime.

STay safe everyone and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas †

Friday, December 04, 2020

Tristam Island

Another Brand New Game?

Yep, Tristam Island is a new text adventure for the Atari ST by Hugo Labrande. Oh, and also just about every other computer ever made!! It's only a few quid and that payment grants access to each and every download available, plus some hints & tips. Heck, there's even a free demo for those eager to evaluate it first.

The adventure begins having crash-landed, only to find ourselves stranded on the beach of a tropical island somewhere in the South Atlantic. Okay, my mind is picturing golden sands, blue skies, juicy coconuts, sexy female natives, and freshly running mineral water that's been magically enhanced with more than a dash of whiskey...

But enough of my silly dreaming! We actually begin hungry, tired and rather soggy. Later on, we realise that the island was once inhabited, which is unexpected, and now I can see an abandoned house up on the hill. Let's go!

I found ST High delivered the usual brilliantly crisp display and was my personal preference.

An ASCII Expedition!

General exploration is very easy using compass directions, of course, and all locations offer a detailed description without being overbearing. Clues are subtle, as are solutions, so I often found myself backtracking when I realised what I had foolishly bypassed. Those muddy steps were a killer and try fishing without a flower!! O_o

This is a text adventure like the old Infocom adventures and is using the Z-code Interpreter Program which is launched as a TTP program. Don't be scared, it can easily be installed as an application for z3 files. Actually, I'm grateful GEM wasn't used as that might have been sluggish wheras this feels fast and fresh in all three resolutions. ST Low felt a little too cramped but ST High is pure perfection, of course.

The parser is excellent without any of the irritations I had with Ooze not too long ago. It's straightforward using commands like "n" to walk north, x to examine, l to look, I for inventory and so on. This is true for items & objects: pull rope, open compartment, get a fishing rod, smell flowers, etc/etc. The inventory functions are rather restrained with having only one pair of hands so carrying multiple items, or using large objects, will require thought.

Medium resolution works very well but you might wanna change the colours first?

The CryptO'pinion?

Exploring remote islands is a pleasant surprise but there are a few irritating niggles that hampered my progress. I found some of the puzzles quite bewildering and was baffled by oddities that made no logical sense: like struggling to make a hammock and the fishing task is weird. Plus the inventory is (initially) a pain in the bum.

However, the story is interesting and I was soon questioning everything like an insufferable Sherlock Holmes wannabe. Tristam Island will appeal to oldskool adventurers and is nothing less than a charming and challenging adventure. So, if you haven't downloaded this new adventure, then I hope I've helped persuade you to give it a go? Personally, I hope and expect to lose many hours on this island over the coming Christmas holidays.

Whatever computer you use, this is a belting adventure and worth every penny - just make sure it's an Atari ST though or don't talk to me again! Downloads are available from the Tristam Island web page. Enjoy!!

Yep, changing the default colours almost makes ST Low worth using so I went a bit silly...