Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Ripped Off #87


'Unnamed Intro' is quite a remarkable screen created by The Fingerbobs and used by Ripped Off for their 87th disk. This is one of those intros I have always loved because it's one of the most bewitching things I have ever seen. An astounding animated journey for dozens of little men, each one running around their whacky world is simply fascinating. It's different and I love that, so this makes for a mesmerising and entertaining treat.

Go on, pick any one guy and follow him throughout his silly journey. Brilliant STuff, I am sure you will agree!! :-)

Credits and download on Demozoo for Ripped Off #87 and Unnamed Intro.

Ripped Off Demo CD #087

Alex Herbert - Music
Caped Crusader - Code
Oberje - Code
Pixar - Graphics (Font)
Ronnie T. - Graphics
Stick - Graphics, Text, Other (Compilation, Packing)

Fingerbobs Intro

Griff - Code (Tracker-replay)
Oberje - Text
Pixar - Graphics, Text
Ray Norrish - Music
The Caped Crusader - Code, Text

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge


Looks like 2021 might not suck after all?

Today is a great day because I've just been given the honour of playtesting a preview of Jonathon Thomas' enhanced Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge for the Atari STe. He's been working on this project for a while, on and off, to improve the original racer in a number of different ways using the often idle enhancements of the Atari STe.

After "mulling it over", he's returned to this project with fresh ideas and assistance from our (fantastic) community over on Atari-Forum. In fact, he came back stronger and managed to develop a playable release after only a few weeks!! Oh, and for those wondering yes, he is the same racing fella behind Pole Position.


The practice track. I need this more than you realise...
We begin in Italy and Mmm look at that sky!

In fact, Italy is looking a little better these days all thanks to the Atari STe palette.


Put the pedal to the metal!

Yes, everyone loved and still loves Lotus Esprit because it's a frantic racer with fast graphics, cool music, great driving mechanics, and even allowed for another player to join in. Okay, those collisions lose too much precious speed and I hate the person who decided to leave dangerous rocks on the road but, this is a thrilling racer alright. Who doesn't enjoy zooming passed cars or sliding around each of the curvy and hilly corners?

However, there are a few limitations in the ST game that aren't immediately obvious during the frantic racing. Well, these have obviously bugged Jonathan enough for him to take on the challenge to fix them...

"It wasn't until recently that I realised how much of a massive difference there is between the Amiga and ST versions - the magazines of the time didn't seem to make much (if anything) of this difference in their reviews of the time. I've been meaning to take a closer look at the Lotus code on the ST for a number of years now, but it was upon realising the degree of difference between the two versions (along with a relatively quiet period at work) that I decided something needed to be done!"

Mexico now has a skyline quite apt to the feel of this country.
Okay, let's try and not crash into any objects when trying to grab a screenshot!
Oh, bummer!! Playing and capturing screenshots is a tough job.


Judder be gone!

It's funny, but I hadn't really paid much attention to these issues myself and it wasn't until I went back to the original that I could tell what was going through his mind. For me, the nicest improvements are to the sky and how the cars move across the track. However, the game feels fresh and is far better than I ever imagined...

1) The tracks are quite barren and devoid of much detail so the Blitter will now render the road and pit lanes with extra details to lane markings and widened rumble strips.

2) The sky was one solid colour which was okay but that has now been replaced by a 16-step gradient that makes full use of the enhanced STE palette.

3) Cars and scenery move smoothly without the old judder of side to side in 16-pixel blocks.

4) The already zippy framerate has been improved with more tweaks on the way!

5) Thankfully, the Ben Daglish chiptunes are staying but the effects are going to be replaced with samples pumped through the DMA hardware. (with a possibility of DMA sounds and YM music together!)

Also, minor improvements are being considered to the rev counter, fuel indicator and player two will soon have the new sky gradient. There is also the possibility of new and extra trackside scenery being added. Heck, he's even mentioned that there might be a few new tracks on the way too - oh yes!!


Iceland and everything looks rather chilly.

Ahem, there was ice on the road. Honest.

Check out those widened rumble strips!


The CryptO'pinion?

Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge was originally programmed by Shaun Southern and Andrew Morris and is an excellent racer. However, Jon has improved it to the level Lotus should have been all along for the Atari STe and I cannot express just how exciting it's been to see this project develop, especially over recent weeks.

The new colours, speed and smoothness all help give this racer a new coat of paint so bring on the extra framerate and sampled DMA sound effects! Yes, it's shocking just how fresh it feels running on the Atari STe so I'm really looking forward to what comes next. My greetings to Jon. Watch this space for the next release...

For more information check out Jon's YouTube channel and his thread over on Atari-Forum.


Vroooooom!! Let's head off into that Spanish sunset...

Wow, look at that lovely sky. And those dodgy billboards.

Tap the breaks, hit the accelerate and corner like you're a Ridge Racer!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Jim Power in Mutant Planet



Your name is Power, Jim Power!

Jim Power In Mutant Planet was released by Loriciel in 1992 where we play as a member of the Special Warfare Unit. These are in charge of the President's personal security and (of course) his daughter was kidnapped by evil beings who infest a Mutant Planet. So it is our mission to kill everything, rescue the girl, and save the day!!

I must admit, I don't recall seeing this advertised or reviewed back in the day. Did it ever make it across the channel to UK shores? I find it quite flabbergasting that such a platformer is unheard of (well, to me). I think the 1992 version of myself would have slobbered an Olympic swimming pool's worth of drool over this? Still, let's crack on...

Check out that skeleton artwork. This game is a looker alright and never fails to impress me!!


I think I love Mr Power!

We begin in a rather funky environment that reminded me a little of Enchanted Land and Flimbo's Quest. It's a strange world of whacky colours, creepy vegetation and lots of enemies out looking for blood. At first, I thought this was going to be an easy platformer, but it soon picks up the pace to become quite a challenge.

There are a total of five levels with two being shooters and even a few peculiar boss screens:

The platformer parts are easily the best with a cruel design that feature many pitfalls and near-countless enemies like mutated animals, birds, zombies, spiders and even spitting plants. Each level is absolutely huge with mini-bosses halfway through (dead easy to defeat) and then a mega-boss at the end.

The shoot 'em up levels are far weaker by comparison and they basically involve nothing more than trying to stay alive as you dodge or shoot anything that appears in your line of sight. The scrolling is fast, and the enemies are faster but I feel they often took far too many shots to be killed, which meant it felt unbalanced. However, I did enjoy the flappy bird-style part towards the end of level 4 which was a surprise!


Press and hold that fire button to unleash your fury and zap everything on-screen!


Gimme a gun and a spare hour

The controls always feel spritely and suit the game style perfectly. I love the way you can easily hop from platforms without ever feeling the uncertainty of plummetting to your death thanks to stodgy mechanics or a sluggish display. Dying allows you to restart from the nearest checkpoint which is a great idea that grants a few seconds of invincibility - this comes in handy for running past a difficult scene. Trust me, you will love this feature!

Thankfully, we're equipped with a gun that can be upgraded along the way by collecting the power-ups. We also have the limited option of using a smart bomb by pressing down the fire button but these are best left for the bosses or perhaps those trickier scenes? This smart bomb has a fantastic feature - the ability to carry it. Yes, you can carry this nuclear weapon and release it at the right moment you choose. A devastating skill.

Along with the power-ups, there are bonuses to collect which help provide a little help and can be earned by shooting a weird floating object or hidden in the backgrounds. The clock gives extra time, a shield should be obvious and 1Up's are always a great find. Never leave a key behind unless you enjoy the fun of backtracking...


The first level is varied and full of traps - and an animal which makes me think Strider!


Aesthetics

Loriciel mocks the supposed hardware limitations with ease for a colour-galore platformer. Each level looks superb with stunning landscapes and super-duper sprites - some reminded me of a Strider-style. Throughout, the scrolling is fast and pretty smooth so it puts to shame Psygnosis and their excuses. The bosses are ginormous beasts taking up the entire screen, and sometimes more, so it's impressive how well everything moves.

Sadly, I'm a bit miffed that the might Loriciel didn't bother to use the Atari STe enhancements :/

The audio will not dishearten thanks to the amazing talents of Chris Hülsbeck who provides a thumping title tune and stunning in-game chiptunes. We have an option to hear sound effects instead, but I really wouldn't bother with that afterthought as I personally thought they weren't nearly as ace compared to the boppin' chipmusic!


The second level's colours might look odd in a screenshot but it's much better when playing!


The CryptO'pinion?

Jim Power is excellent but it's not perfect. Whilst the first level is fantastic, later levels suffer some infuriating mechanics which make them impossible without a trainer for extra lives. The shoot 'em up stages are a bit rubbish and felt nothing more than a stocking filler. Finally, there is no support for the enhanced hardware lurking unused inside the Atari STe which is a shame because this would have been a great opportunity to shine.

As a platformer, it's quite unoriginal yet fantastic and a bundle of fun. Personally, it blows me away how much effort Loriciel devoted to making this as good as possible - this ain't no lame port. Ultimately, ask yourself if you need a platformer that is fast, fun and very addictive? Guess what, you have it all right here. And a shooter too ;)

Download for Hard drive or Floppy.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

BBC #48

I thought it was about time I featured another Menu Disk and this time we have the 48th release by Bad Brew Crew. The menu itself is quite good with their logo, scroller and some rather nice digi-music to enjoy before deciding which game to play. There are two options Skull & Crossbones and California Games for the Extreme fans!

Demozoo and Stonish have more from the Bad Brew Crew incl. downloads!

Onto the games, and I think I remembered liking Skull & Crossbones because I have always enjoyed hack 'n slashers and this one features pirates! Surely a win? Anyhow, I doubt I would have ever booted up California games back in the day because joystick-waggle and/or athletics isn't exactly something that interests me.

So, I guess this menu disk is a perfect choice to experience something new and familiar? Let's play...


- Skull & Crossbones -


Hoist The Jolly Roger!

I need a parrot on my shoulder and speak every sentence with an "ARRR!" for we are about to hit the high seas for an exciting swashbuckling adventure with nasty pirates, treasure and fair maidens in need of rescuing ARRR!! ARRR matey, a wizard has stolen our booty ARRR and we need to get it back ARRR!! This shouldn't be hard as pirates are usually crippled with a wooden leg and missing an eye ARRR so let's kill all the scurvy scum ARRR!!

Okay, I think we should now drop the ARRR... Skull & Crossbones is based on the arcade game that had us frantically fighting pirates with nothing more than our trusty sword. We are One Eye and have suffered a humiliating theft of our booty by a nasty wizard. Wizards and pirates? What an odd combination, but let's crack on...


Maybe it's just me but I thought Hulk Hogan had seen better days!


Time to be Errol Flynn!

Skull & Crossbones is basically a 2D platformer for one or two players. Yup, two people can take part at once which is potentially superb. The adventure begins on our ship which has been boarded by a couple of pirate goons that need slicing and dicing. Only after, are we able to jump aboard the wizard's ship but that crafty magician blasted us back onto our ship - just in time to watch your booty stash disappear before your very eyes.

Each level is basically the same with different graphics but it's fun repeatedly killing a barrage of sea-faring enemies: pirates, soldiers, ninjas, and even a few silly monsters. Getting around each level is quite cumbersome for what's basically a 2D fighter and feels trickier than it should at times. You are able to move in all four directions with attacking and blocking moves. Just bang on the fire-button whilst moving in a particular direction:

Attacking

Pressing the fire button and moving left/right plunges your sword in their chest.
Pressing the fire button and moving up + left/right pokes them up their noses!

Blocking

Pressing the fire button and pushing up performs an upwards block.
Pressing the fire button and pushing down performs a downwards block.

Also

Pressing and holding down the fire button turns Red Eye around.
I even managed to stab backwards once or twice in my blind panic!
Apparently there are a couple of special moves which I never managed to suss out.


A few hopeful, unresponsive jabs and poof!! Yep, a pirate goes up in smoke.


Argh, I'm dead. Again!

Now that you're clued up in the art of battle, you should practice because this is a tough game to master. Each enemy often attacks in turn, which prevents the screen from getting cluttered or confusing. Killed enemies drop a little treasure to reclaim. However, the bigger guys are really hard to defeat like the executioner and an annoying pirate hiding inside a barrel. I found both of these irritatingly difficult and managed to lose many lives!

Keep your eyes on the health meter; the more hits you sustain the more blood pumps out from your bleeding wounds (which is actually pretty cool). What's not cool is the game's terrible difficulty thanks to its cumbersome and sluggish controls. Attacking is quite basic but gets rather repetitive after a while plus I didn't care for the defence moves which offer little benefit. However, I guess there's only so much a one-buttoned joystick can do?

The concept is enjoyable and follows the arcade rather well. Killing pirates is fun but I felt that the difficulty was too high from the second stage. Those soldiers are tough nuts and seem to attack with great speed which feels unfair. Enabling a trainer helped, and I managed to reach the third stage which was a painstaking journey.


Eventually, I'm back up on deck and there's a girl who needs rescuing. Yep, I'm in!


Graphics and Sounds

To look at, Skull And Crossbones is cartoony with lots of colourful locations and detailed sprites. Sadly, it bombs when actually playing thanks to jerky scrolling and dreadful animation. The scrolling often works against the player from the start - jumping onboard the wizard's ship leaves you open to attack by pirates still offscreen!

Sound effects are basic but the music is quite literally brilliant with excellent chiptunes by Matt Furniss.


We're now plundering a castle and this big fella is nigh on impossible to kill. I'm losing interest...


The CryptO'pinion?

Skull & Crossbones looks the part and could have been a great release with a little more effort. Sadly, the stodgy controls ruin what might have been; not only is it incredibly sluggish but One Eye is often awkward to manoeuvre. I had some fun but the difficulty, later on, is way off and ruined any chance of progress.

The best thing about Skull & Crossbones is the two-player option, which is a brilliant addition and certainly helped compensate for its shortcomings. Unfortunately, I'm getting a distinct whiff of a lame port which is incredibly disappointing. Golden Axe, Guardian Angel and Double Dragon III are all far better choices.




- California Games -


BMX bike? Nah, I'll stick with my Chopper!

I remember the advert with the girl's legs for this sporty Epyx released back in 1989. Sadly, I never played the game as I'm not really a fan of such things, so I must admit I'm quite sceptical about booting it up today.

Athletic events aren't something that I particularly like and I remembered braking my Quickshot II joystick playing Daley Tompson's Decathalon back in the mid-80s. How pointless! But, upon booting up California Games, I was presented with an array of alternative games which was a pleasant surprise for this couch potato!


Practice! Otherwise, you'll fall flat on your face only to be hit by the rolling skateboard!


Run, Jump and Throw Something... Yawn?

No, none of that boring stuff here, California Games has taken a different approach with a handful of unexpected events. All are completely different from each other, which is something I liked the sound off. I mean, frisbee throwing? I never saw that one coming but I gotta admit I like the style of these Californians!

One - eight players can take part in six extreme events like surfing, skateboarding and BMX biking. Executing each event properly earns you the most points and it's all about the highest scores in this tournament.

Half Pipe Skateboarding

Here we push up when the skater is going up the ramp and push down when, well, I think you get it? Moving left/right or pressing the fire button just at the right time will perform stunts like a hand plant or kick turn. It's all rather childish and probably one of the least stimulating games imaginable yet, I quite liked it!

Foot Bag

This is one of the most peculiar sporting games I would never have imagined to be real. Imagine a soccer player keeping the ball in the air - but with a little bag. And that's about it. What a lame event but the ST does a grand job of trying to make it fun. It's all rather silly and quite difficult timing your movements just at the right moment. Oddly entertaining and I enjoyed it, but try not to his the seagulls (lol brilliant!!)

Surfing

Now we're talking. This is about the only sport I associate with California and it doesn't disappoint. The learning curve is possibly the highest of all the games but, don't give up because riding these waves is exhilarating. Who would have thought that balancing on a board in shark-infested waters would be enjoyable? Plus we don't need to worry about trying to slip into a wetsuit on a beach of perfect bodies.

Roller Skating

I expected this game to suck, but it didn't. As an event, it's pretty weak and possibly the easiest but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Pushing up/down gains speed and then you need to avoid or hop over hazards like pavement cracks! Yeah... Okay, this is nothing special but I possibly played it the most?

BMX Racing

Now we're talking, blokes with bikes in the dirt! A game with easy controls to master and a course that's fun and great to play. Sometimes it gets a little too tight, which is unfair, so that's when my man ends up eating the dirt. The physics are pretty terrible but I kept on coming back for more and I'm sure you will too!

Flying Disk

Somehow this kiddy game is now a serious event? Anyhow, along with Surfing, this is a tough one to master thanks to the controls - it took ages to stop dropping the frisbee on my feet!! Not to mention the art of successfully throwing it far enough. Hmm, feels like Frisbee version of Leaderboard to me!


This event sets a great example for the kids as she kicks and screams like a baby. Brilliant!!


Joystick Waggling Fun?

Thankfully, you won't break your joystick with this game as each event requires a specific control with precise timings to perform certain actions or stunts. However, you should ignore any temptation to jump straight in to win a trophy. It won't happen. Practice first and learn what to do with each event, it's harder than you realise.

However, because each event is so different, so are the controls. There is little consistency as each has their own techniques to master. I admit to being a bit of a geek(!) so I made notes to remind me what to do and when. This worked, but I admit the irregularity makes for a massive learning curve greater than I imagined.


Now we're talking! Great controls and dodgy physics make this so much fun.


Graphics and Sounds

Graphically, it's okay with summer backdrops and interesting locations but I got the impression it was limited by its 8-Bit roots. Summer Olympiad is much nicer but the BMX and Frisbee stages are good with decent scrolling. I enjoyed the attention to detail that makes each background entertaining - seagulls flying dangerous close, people boating, sharks and creepy critters lurking underneath the skateboarding pipe. Lovely little touches!

The in-game sound effects are often a weird mix of chip and samples which works fine albeit without blowing you away. Music is by the late, great Ben Daglish and is something that proves chiptunes will live forever.


It's okay fella, nobody looks good in shorts but what's with those ape arms?


The CryptO'pinion?

The concept of "extreme" sports for the Atari ST has proved itself to be a cracking idea and is something I feel Epyx executed well. The sheer variety of mixed events is a splendid change from the usual sorts. Getting grabs with each game's controls is the biggest challenge but, stick with it and make yourself some basic notes!

California Games will appeal to everyone, whether you enjoy sports games or not. Trust me, I'm a couch potato so I know. Ultimately, it will shine brightest when the family are gathered around your Atari ST compared to plodding through solo. What an excellent game and also a nice surprise to boot up something different.



- The CryptO'pinion? -


BBC #48 is a decent menu disk which I've thoroughly enjoyed from the moment I heard the music. Although there are only two games on the disk, each is huge and offers a fantastic opportunity for multiplayer gaming.

Of course, Skull & Crossbones was pretty much a dreadful Amiga port but it's actually a million times better with a friend. California Games is superb even though a part of me still cannot believe it's based on real events! Anyhow, I think Epyx produced an excellent game which I highly recommended, especially with the friends & family.

And now y' all gotta scroll all the way back up to the top for the download links... :^)