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Saturday, April 24, 2021

Droid Special Edition



Missing: One Droid

Droid was originally developed by MP Lord (he of Hoog fame!!) and was a smash hit that saw a sequel three years later. Sadly, neither of these games supported the enhanced hardware of the Atari STe which meant chip fx, flick-scrolling and a fair bit of slowdown when things got hectic. Not only that, but the joystick controls were finicky and I would often fall off ledges when struggling to jump (pulling down and then leaping - arghhh!)

I remember (back in 2016) being excited to hear that Jamie Hamshere was working on an improved version that would take advantage of the Atari STe. I could only imagine what it would be like to play a scrollable Droid and Jamie even planned to tweak those controls to remove the irritation that threatened each and every jump.

Well, that project was completed late last year yet somehow, I completely missed it. What planet have I been living on? Anyhow, I figured I should boot it up to see how this cult ST shooter played on the Atari STe...


Get out quick, this area is pretty hellish with droids and wall-mounted guns!


An armless Robocop!

Oh yes, we most certainly are. Just imagine yourself as a mechanoid armed to the teeth and able to leap huge heights. Somehow, this beast is trapped inside a massive underground cavern and wants to escape to get home for tea. However, the path through isn't as easy as walking in a straight line and into the light ahead.

The caves are a labyrinth of dangerous rooms and many are guarded or patrolled by other mechanoids all too willing to blast you into smithereens. This is a hideous maze designed with numerous dead ends that require keys to unlock many doorways. It's an underground hell and is nigh on impossible to escape without making yourself a map to help plot your journey. No, wait we don't need a pen and paper because Jamie has added an auto-mapping tool. This helps navigate, find objects and prevent the frustration of getting lost. An exceptional new feature.

That's not all that's changed, the old (large) status display has gone and replaced by the tiniest bar. This still shows the same information for lives, weapons, energy and so on but we now have far more gaming real estate. Are you loving this upgrade already, or what? The various weaponry you're able to carry is also shown - pressing the ALT key will cycle through what you have available. Don't waste your supplies on the wrong monsters!


Oh no, a different type of droid and this one is throwing bombs!


Mummy, I'm scared!

Droid might be a metallic brute but that doesn't mean he's invincible. Watch out for other droids wandering back and forth protecting their area of the cave. They're a few butties short of a picnic but will still shoot on sight. As you progress, you'll see other areas are protected by a variety of strange objects: some shooting out bombs and others like wall-mounted lasers. But there are other things to avoid, like fire or falling into the bottomless pit...

Using the map is an absolute must otherwise you'll only get lost and probably give up. Keep on looking for those keys and carefully plot a route. Mini-bosses appear throughout the entire journey and the first is like an angry prawn! The armoured truck is excellent and an unexpected boss to find in a cavern. I wonder if it's Jet Man?

This game has always been a tough nut for tough nutters and I think this still applies today with this upgrade. Those later rooms are merciless with a cruel design that feels OTT many times with lasers, bombs and mechs all ganging up on you at once. Death results in a life lost which unfairly send you back to the starting checkpoint. Only a skilled and determined gamer willing to spend time and much effort is going to succeed. So good luck!


What the heck is that, some kind of sea creature? I hope you saved your better weaponry?


Fancy a few juicy tips?

1) Don't kill everything you see and therefore run out of precious ammo.
2) Collect power-ups for energy and ammo only when you need to!
3) Closely stalking droids is fun plus it's safer and uses no ammo.
4) Learn to use the mapping tool. It's a little odd at first and reminded me of Heartland.
5) Some weapons are best left until you need them for a specific purpose.
6) Learn the controls and enjoy a few practice games before taking on the challenge.
7) Walk away and give up. You're not good enough!! (I'm kidding, I'm kidding!!)


Be patient and unlock the doorway barrier only after the droid walks away.


Did you know?

Jame worked with Jonathan Thomas on the recent Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge for the Atari STe. This is an upgrade of the classic racer that brings it in line with the Amiga version in every respect, except the tracker music. Now, I know what those guys will think, but I prefer chip over a MOD any day. I personally don't see YM chipmusic by Ben Daglish as a bad thing. Quite the opposite and it's one of the many things that makes the ST so cool.

To play, all you need is a 1MB Atari ST so check it out, folks because the collaboration between these two has proved far beyond fruitful and the expertise Jamie has for the DMA hardware is jaw-dropping. Lotus has been transformed from a great racer into an awesome racer which wasn't easy. I'm sure you will all love playing it.

    * The original web feature proving why 2021 might not suck after a year of paranoia.
    * The public release of #LotusSTE was April 10th so get it downloaded right now mister!!


Another killer area with droids, bombs, guns and fire. RUN!!


Aesthetics

Things might appear similar but a keen ST gamer will notice the play area has increased by a huge amount. The colours are improved and the Blitter is moving the sprites so that ugly slowdown has gone. The only thing missing is Droid's minigun from the original. Finally, this shooter now smoothly scrolls in all directions compared to the dreadful horizontal flick-screen method. Jamie, you've (respectfully) blown the original game into pieces!!

The audio has also seen big changes with the addition of in-game music and sampled sound effects thanks to his skills in getting the utmost out of the audio hardware. Check out the funky theme music using his own program: Turbochip to knock out 7-channels using the DMA and YM2149 together for phenomenal results.


The new map tool. Finally, I won't get lost anymore. He says...


The CryptO'pinion?

Miles did a great job and produced a platformer that was different, challenging and stuffed full of action. It's quite incredible considering it wasn't commercial so all credit to his talent, commitment and love for the Atari ST. However, the lack of dedicated hardware had a negative effect, plus I found the controls very irritating and I would also get myself lost - a lot. I guess Jamie felt the same way and went ahead to rectify these niggles?

Jamie's project to enhance an already great game has come together well and is a perfect blend of improved aesthetics with better gameplay. Finally, I'm not accidentally falling off ledges by failing to make those tricky jumps. As remakes go, it's fascinating to think just how much hard work he invested into improving this olde classic. Yes, it's still the same game but one that has been rolled in glitter so sparkles like it's brand new and I love it.


- DOWNLOADS -

AtariMania has the floppy disk download.

Jamie bravely recorded a complete playthrough!

Fancy going Godlike with infinity energy and ammo?
Then enter this code on the title: FEELCOSMICALLTHETIME

4 comments:

  1. It's good to see that there are still people ready to provide us with reshaped games 👍 Plenty of games would deserve the same treatment.

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    1. He must have worked so hard on this. And it shows!

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  2. Great review Steve. Really nice research. I will jump on the bandwagon soon as well and support this guy, he seems like an amazing programmer. I also wasn't aware yet the original programmers did 'Hoog', which looks like a beautiful platformer as well. Cheers, Maarten/STG

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    1. Yeah, Miles did Hoog which is something else that's mind-blowing. Those visuals are something else and it's not even commercial. Cheers for popping by matey!

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