Friday, December 31, 2021

A Box Of Surprises!


Santa has been!

Possibly the best thing about running with this crazy idea of an Atari ST website is the amazing friends I've made along the way. One of the first is a fella from Norway who has supported me over the years and it's his latest donation that blew me away: a large box of Atari ST games that the original owner was going to throw away!

Now, it's been a terrible few months here and I'm ashamed to admit that this generous gift came over a year ago. Yep, I'm absolutely gutted it's taken me this long to get around to sharing this box of goodies with you all. However, I do remember him subtly warning me that their quality was... ahem... a little rough.

Sadly, most jewel cases are badly broken with sharp edges. I doubt even an eBay seller could get away with exaggerating their condition lol. I don't care because I love anything for the Atari ST (there's a shocker) and the inlays are preserved plus all floppies work. So this collection will be kept safe for as long as I'm breathing.

Finally, there is a game that isn't in a broken jewel case - Mean 18 by Accolade. This is in great condition so definitely the star of the show and something I'll cherish. Before scrolling down, click on these 4 pictures...





Skidz

How does a little community service sound in your game? Well, in Skidz we're picking up litter whilst riding a skateboard or bike. Avoid all the usual silly dangers along the way whilst also collecting top-ups for energy and time... Ugh, I hate time limits in most games. Anyhow, the levels are fantastic with various opportunities to leap ramps and more. The scrolling is nice and smooth plus the graphics are constantly superb for each stage.

Skidz reminded me of Back To The Future II somewhat and isn't really the kind of game I normally play if I'm honest. However, I enjoyed it quite a lot plus I appreciate the effort that went into its creation - it ain't no lame conversion. So, a good start to the box and also possibly something I'll return to someday? Maybe. We'll see...

Wanna take this for a ride then click here for the floppy disks.


Check out those shorts, this is one seriously cool Marty McFly!

Fancy a race? Hit that fire button and get ready for those tight corners.


Liberator

Here's one that should be familiar to all who follow the prattle I post here on AtariCrypt. I won't repeat myself all over again so take a look at the review to see what I thought of it a couple of years ago. How time flies!

Go on, I know that you're curious so click the link above and download it.


Come on, tell me you're not tempted to play after seeing this title screen?

Okay, I bet you're wondering what on earth is going on!


Rock'n Roll

This isn't something I've ever played and didn't know what to expect. It feels like a weird cross between an overhead Marble Madness and Gauntlet. Except we are a ball that's stuck in a maze for some odd reason and I assume we need to escape. Who cares? I'm annoyed already by this game, but I guess I should plod on...

The intro is ace and not unlike a couple of demos we all know and love. The game itself takes a little time to grasp because of the feel of movement using awkward controls. Oddly, I never found the mouse a good option. Getting around the maze is easy after a while and I found keys whilst swerving my way into hazards and secret rooms.

The graphics are actually very good with smooth scrolling albeit at the expense of a smaller play area. Barry Leitch wrote the music and it's excellent, although it grates after a while because you feel like it needed to alternate.

This isn't something I would ever have bought back. The concept will possibly appeal to Marble Madness fans but I found it a galling experience. I simply don't have the patience for stuff like this. I think I hated it.

Don't let my negative nelly attitude put you off, grab the floppy disks and take it for a spin (ugh).


A ripped idea but this is actually the best thing about this game. No, really.

Loads of keys!! How can I reach those? Meh, I don't really care...


Skyfighter

The Atari ST has a great number of decent vertically scrolling shooters so I'm a bit perplexed that I have never played Skyfighter before. The gameplay and style reminded me of Plutos or Xevious but it's all a bit drab with slow scrolling and too few enemies to shoot down. Well, that's hardly a good start, is it?

Control is best using the mouse as it's far easier to move around the screen and shoot with either the cannon or bombs. Dropping bombs on fuel pods will top-up your ship's reserve but that can be a tricky task in itself. This concept of refuelling worked well in River Raid but less so here because you must stop concentrating on the bad guys to make a careful detonation. Very fiddly so expect to get shot down in later levels.

After completing the level, you shall be quizzed. Yep, the computer will ask you a basic question about the stage that's just been played. It's a nice idea but rather pointless although very rewarding. To think your commander will send you out to war understocked with weaponry if you get the question wrong. Quite funny...

Graphics and sounds are boring and I'm sure any 8-bit computer could have done better. To me, Sky Fighter feels rushed in every respect but I had fun for 10 minutes. However, I would rather play Flying Shark.

Don't listen to me, grab the floppy disks and take this for a test flight yourself.

It's cheap and very tacky but there's some fun to be had here.

Completing the end of the level task rewards you for the next stage!


Bombuzal

Here's another one I have already featured but this time it wasn't so much a review but rather something that I wanted to share within our Pixel Art section. Why? Because it's got amazing graphics and I wanted to celebrate that wondrous fact. Bombuzal is a beautiful looker and a great puzzler too, so check it out right here.

Don't miss out on this wonderful puzzler. Click the link above and download it right now!

Is it just me, or does he look like he's sleepwalking with his eyes open?

He looks crazy. He is! He plays with bombs after all.


Forgotten Worlds

This is one of those arcade conversions that should never have been. Don't get me wrong, I think Tim Round (of Dragon Breed and R-Type 2 fame) did a great job with this. Except for the botched controls.

Even if you had never played the arcade original, it's obvious that the home computer game doesn't feel right. Shooting straight, whilst moving up and down, is fine but what about shooting in the other directions? Well, you need to hold the fire button to get our guy to rotate that attacking move. It's too weird and very clumsy.

I'm gutted because everything about this conversion is class. I love the presentation from the arcade and both the graphics and sounds are excellent. However, I simply cannot control the darn thing for love nor money. Why didn't they compromise and create something new or compromise, aka Ikari Warriors? You know what I mean...

A beautiful game ruined by the controls. What a shame!

Grab the floppy disks or a brilliant version for hard drive installation by D-Bug.


How cool is this title screen? Love the artwork throughout.

Okay, let's just stay on the left and move up & down. Yeah, that'll work...


Impact

Going old skool... If you enjoy Breakout then Impact is gonna make you grin like a Cheshire Cat because it's brilliant. Audiogenic aren't exactly a big name on the Atari ST but John Dale and Martin Day came up trumps.

A good Breakout needs to be fast and smooth with responsive controls and lots of power-ups to keep you interested. This has got the lot and it's so aesthetically pleasing to considering it's just bricks and balls. A fantastic Break-Out and most certainly one of the best there is for any computer. I guarantee you will love it.

Waste no more time and grab the floppy disks or better still a hard drive version by D-Bug.


What a naff title screen for such an immensely brilliant game.

Smooth 50fps action throughout and it sounds wonderful too.


Battle Chess

This is one of those games I first got to see on a friend's Amiga. However, since I cannot play chess, I never bothered to 'find' the Atari ST version. Although I cannot play the game, I do enjoy watching the computer move all the pieces. The pixel art is gorgeous as are the animations but I think I like the busy bee mouse pointer the most!!

The kind of game that makes you wish you were lazy and learnt to play chess. Or is it just me?

Download the floppy disks and get battling!


Very regal loading screen. Liking it!

Unlike me, the computer seems to know what it's doing... Look at the busy bee!


Joust

Come on now, tell me you don't adore this classic game? And the Atari ST game is practically arcade perfect. Anyhow, this has already been featured and was part of a special posting comparing it to other console conversions. I should do more like that... Check it out. (pssst, you might also like Winglord, best on Atari STe)

The D-Bug lads have done it again with a superb hard disk version and the floppies are here.

Ostrich's flying, dropping eggs and jousting each other. Sounds normal to me!

It's a crazy idea and features funky cool physics and mechanics. Works a charm!


Targhan

Now we're talking! This is a belting hack 'n slasher in a time of barbarians and bloodied swords. I've always loved Targhan and it's one of those games I periodically boot up for a quick couple of plays. It's simple, it's fun and it sure doesn't take itself seriously. Walk along, see a bad guy? Kill him with your mighty sword. Oh yeah!

We can run, leap like a girl, dodge attacks, climb ladders/ropes and explore as we please in a near-open world style. It's that freedom I love plus the constant enthusiasm for gratifying violence. The controls are responsive and a cinch to learn using the joystick. Attack moves can be performed only when holding down the fire button:

The graphics are great with huge sprites and decent animation along with background aesthetics like flying birds. Sadly, the limitations of the 16-colour palette mean everything is tinted a glaring red. That's a shame because hundreds of ST games feature palette splitting routines to increase the number of on-screen colours. For example, to separate the play area from the status bar so each part of the screen has a separate palette.

The audio is pretty cool with a fuzzy sampled tune bleating away on the title screen. But things get far better in-game thanks to the sound effects which are superb. Lots of Barbarian inspired grunts, screams, chinks, footsteps and more. Some are rather strange though - killing a bat produces a peculiar explosion sound.

I personally feel this is one of the better hack & slashers for the Atari ST. It's just downright good fun!!

Download the floppies to hack and slash your way to victory!


When you begin, the screen is clear of enemies so practice with the controls.

Okay, this fella is the first badass you meet. Are you ready?


European Soccer Challenge

Ignoring the fact that I almost lacerated myself on a sharp corner of the box, I booted it up expecting good things. The Atari ST seems to excel with these games, just look at Sensi Soccer, Kick-Off, Goal and Speedball.

The game is viewed overhead but the pitch always has a way to feel cramped and cluttered with too many players fumbling for the ball. The action is sedate and feels like they're trying to run through a field of thick glue. I thought the game was much faster? Its speed reminded me of the ZX Spectrum game, Match Of The Day!

I know, I know, I'm not a soccer fan so what do I know? Well, I partially enjoyed playing Team a while back because it had a large playing area and was fast. But this is one of the worst things I've ever played albeit with great sound effects. They think it's all over. Well, for European Soccer Challenge, it most definitely is. Don't bother.

If you fancy a kickabout then grab the floppy disks from here.


Try as I might, I wasn't able to kick the ball into their net...

Somebody kicked a ball high into the air. Hmm, exciting.


Blasteroids

This is another I have already featured here on AtariCrypt and, I must say, I had a blast with it. Pun intended! Okay, it's not quite as good as Stardust but it's incredible and a bucket load of fun. Check it out.

Our job always takes us somewhere hot and sunny.

Shoot, move, don't stay still. Kill everything!! Oh yeah, I love it!!


Out Run

This is a racer that's no stranger to most Atari ST owners out there who naively wasted their precious cash. The driving angle is too low and complemented by the worst framerate any game has ever delivered. Tidbit: scientists have proven that if you play Out Run for more than 30 seconds your eyeballs will burst. Fact.

Why anyone would boot this up I've no idea. The Atari ST has far better alternatives: Crazy Cars 3, Lotus Esprit 1 or 2, Vroom, etc... Or go slapdash in a fantasy land with Buggy Boy. Or challenge yourself in Stunt Car Racer. Heck, we even have a brand new remake of Pole Position for the Atari STe by Jonathan Thomas.

Thankfully, there is a rumour of an upgraded version in the pipeline for the Atari ST. It's a work-in-progress by Peter Jørgensen of Manic Miner fame. I have played a few betas and it's much faster, smoother and better looking than the drivel Probe/US Gold produced. An exciting project and I hope he manages to finish one day.

Download the floppy disk or this hard drive installable version from D-Bug.


Out Run looked so promising from the moment we first load it...

However, get yourself ready for headache-inducing framerates!


Mean 18

Along with Leader Board, this is one of the oldest golf games for the Atari ST and the screenshots certainly help to prove that. But wait, don't be put off by these naff DOS-like visuals because this is actually a cracker.

There are three courses with two difficulty levels: experts choose their own clubs with trickier controls so it's probably more fun as a novice. The 'action' is viewed from a third-person perspective and the balls are whacked using a 3-click method: once to begin, again to select the power and the final click to hit the thing in a straight line.

Compared to Microprose Golf, it might not have much appeal at first glance but it's a cracking golf game so ignore the frightful graphics and take it for a spin. Ugly as hell but I love this game a bunch. Plus the condition of the slimline sleeve/box, along with the contents, is superb so this is definitely the best of the entire package for me!

It won't ever be as cool as my original but you can grab the floppies from here and play it.


Another glorious shot. Hmm, will I ever break even with a PAR?

Ok, we made it onto the green so let's carefully line up the shot and calc the distance.


The CryptO'pinion?

If ever there was a mixed box of goodies then this is it. Okay. not all games will appeal to everyone and Outrun was always going to be a disappointment but at least the floppy disk still works. Perhaps I should use that as a blank? Thankfully, Targhan, Joust, Blasteroids, Battle Chess, Impact, Bombuzal and Mean 18 are all corkers.

Those with keen eyes would have noticed that there were loose floppies? Captain Blood and Pro Tennis Tour. The first is an astronomical game I should properly feature someday soon. Whereas the other is tennis, a repugnant excuse for a sport. Plus it's the only floppy disk that doesn't work so I'll get Fast Copy on that asap!

Thanks to Loggins for this wonderful gift. Each dangerously broken box will eventually be replaced and carefully preserved within the AtariCrypt archives. Yes, even European Soccer Challenge. Greetings to everyone that helps support AtariCrypt (see the scroller at the top of this page) and also to you for being here right now :-)

Stay Atari and all the beST for 2022.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Old Towers



Another brand new game!!

On Christmas Eve, totally out of the blue, came a brand new game for the Atari ST by Andy Noble. It's a conversion of a RetroSouls' Sega Megadrive game which takes place inside a massive tower filled with nasties, puzzles and many yellow dots that need collecting. Personally, I was instantly reminded of Nebulus and Yopaz IceStar.

Old Towers is actually a simple concept and one that works incredibly well. We are in control of a cute little guy(s) who runs around a vertical tower collecting yellow pills like our friend from that maze. He can run in all four directions but, once he begins to move, his momentum continues in that direction until coming into contact with a wall or object. Once all the yellow items are collected he can head towards the exit tile and onto the next level.


Look at him move! So fast he leaves a blur of light that Superman would be proud of.

Starting level 6 introduces a new concept of solo/multi-control for the player!


Zip-Zap Crazy Fast!

As you play the first few levels, you will get a feeling for how the game thinks and the challenges it presents. The earlier levels break you into the style of control, how to solve puzzles and the thought processes you need to employ to beat it. The difficulty soon increases but I'm pleasantly surprised there is no timer as that would only pressurise the player into making mistakes. This lack of a timer is excellent and enhances the experience enormously.

It's a hazardous tower! Monsters roam, spikes are always going to hurt, and some rocks will spit out a dart in the style of Rick Dangerous. Thankfully, these aren't crowding the levels and only help to make the game challenging rather than impossible. However, I cannot speak for the later levels - blame my lacking skills for that!

Thankfully, there are helpful parts of the tower we can use to assist us: some blocks only appear after passing through their placeholder. Arrowed areas allow you to pass through, but only in the direction that they are pointing. Angled panels will throw you around the tower without any control. Useful but how will you stop?

Take a look at my video recording to see how well this game plays. Tell me it isn't fun zooming through the levels at a speed that puts Sonic to shame? Also, my video shows how I finally sussed out level 10 (slow brain!) but then I made a stupid blunder and died right before completing it... Enjoy!! 


Notice the square placeholder on the right? Zip over that to turn it into a rock. Very handy!

Level 8 is when my old brain began to stress! How can I reach the yellow square to exit?


Input & Output

Directional controls are sharp and responsive for quick action when zapping around the screen like a crazy fool. Hitting the fire button flips over to the other character - if he's knocking around. It's great having a helper inside the tower. Also, if the joystick doesn't work for you then there is an option to redefine your own keys.

Hitting ESC not only gives the option to quit but can restart a level after you realise you have gotten yourself stuck in a corner! Hold down the fire-button activates the option to scroll the screen without you moving. This helps view what's ahead without accidentally bumping into something deadly.

Graphically, this is hot. It looks great with a cracking design and funky colour palette. The animations are nice with smooth scrolling that keeps up with the pace of the gameplay. In fact, Old Towers gave me an odd C64 feel, which I really liked, but with a ton more colour. I don't get that either but it's how I feel. I love the visuals!!

Sonix are neat with nice effects and YM tunes blurping away by Oleg Nitkitin. During the game, we have a rendition of the Popcorn tune which I've always found quite irritating but it grows on you I must admit. The title screen music is brilliant and plays whilst rotating through a number of the intro screens. This is beautiful chip music.

An arrow hits my head on the 9th level. It's a killer so don't rush!! Just listen to those sound effects...

It may have taken me a couple of attempts but here is proof I finally made it to level 10 :)


The CryptO'pinion?

What an amazing treat it is to play something new, especially as it was completely unexpected. Okay, I'm not the biggest fan of puzzle games, my skills in the video certainly prove this, but what the video doesn't show is just how much enjoyment I got from this game. Old Towers is polished and thoroughly entertaining whilst challenging the player to use their mind and reactions equally. I think I'll be playing this a lot over the holidays...

I would like to thank Andy for going to the effort of converting this game over to the often-forgotten Atari 520ST. Check out his website which includes a download link. Eat, drink, be merry and enjoy this fantastic puzzler.

I managed to reach the 8th stage on my first play. In fact, I would have done much better but for all the eating and drinking I needed to do. Ahem, honest... burrrrrp!! Merry Christmas everyone :)

Friday, December 03, 2021

Galdregon's Domain (part one)


Hello ST world, it's been a while!

Let me begin by thanking my ST buddies from all over the world who sent messages the last few months - and cheers to those who bought me a beer!! It's been rough but I'm glad to begin my journey back into the glorious lands of Atari ST. Actually, my computer is looking quite sad and in need of a good clean, the poor thing.

Okay, dragging me back - kicking and screaming for luscious ST pleasure - is something that I bought years ago. For months it's been on my ST shelf... looking at me... and whispering subliminal messages like, "Psst, check me out!", "Hey you, come over here and play", "Stevie, I'm here", "Boot me up, baby". Erm, anyhow...

Galdregon's Domain is the temptress and first appears something of a Dungeon Master, which is never a bad thing. It's the product of Pandora and coded by Steve Briggs, who I've not heard of so perhaps this was his one and only ST venture? The graphics are stunning. Gorgeous and scenic with beautifully-drawn monsters and characters by Robin Chapman, Martin Severn and Martin Godbeer. Mike Brown provided the samples for the sound effects - used for creeky doors to frightening screams emitting distant places. A lot of love went into this game.

Weirdly, the box art is rather - suspect - but I've covered this before and it's always worth a laugh at Pandora's take on Conan. Inside the box, are three disks, (why would I wanna use those when the Automation boys have a belting one-disk version!), a rather flimsy manual, and a few sheets of A4 paper.

Hang on, did I say A4 paper? Yep, to my fascination, the original owner has fully mapped the opening stages along with the forest areas. I absolutely love finding snippets of ST history like this!!! I wonder who he was? Did he stay up each night carefully crawling and drawing the dungeon with each and every step? Did he complete the game? Are you sitting there right now and thinking to yourself, "Hey, I did that". Please, get in touch!

Okay, I bet that you're all dying to see these maps...





So what's the plan?

I love getting enthralled in a new world where I can enjoy the exploration. There's nothing better than discovering places, solving quests and fighting hideous monsters with a giant sword. Heck, I might even make a few friends in the local tavern? Who knows, this little-known game by Pandora might actually be something special?

Yep, I'm going to take a stab at conquering Galdregon's Doman as and when I get the spare time. At first glance, it's got what I'm longing for; a good mix of RPG, adventure and action. This should quench my cravings for a decent return to the Atari ST? Yes, I know I could have simply booted up Dungeon Master, Shadowlands, The Temple of Apshai Trilogy, The Curse of Rabenstein, etc/etc but I craved something new (well, new to me).

Okay, let's take a gander through a few screenshots taken from my first play...

Okay, here's the starting screen and the King is asking for our help.
His loyal subjects appear for a chinwag. I wonder what pearls of wisdom they possess?
The user interface is good to use for interaction and easy movements.
The only thing that's a little weird is the use of a scroller for chat and messages...


Anyhow, I went for a wander and came upon this little filly! I think she's hungry?

I've no time to eat so onwards I go and meet up with a guard. He seems nice!

I'm lost but it isn't long until two dolly birds help me out. I think they're twins!!

At last, the exit!! But the doorway is locked... how can I open it? Hmm...

Outside, I'm free to wander the lands. The weather is lovely and the king has a grand castle.


Oh great, the first place I find and it's haunted!! But wait, this ghost needs our help for a quest.


First impressions?

Galdregon's Domain looks very promising. Its world is incredibly diverse and ginormous plus the freedom to openly explore is both daunting and compelling. I've been attacked by soldiers, bitten by wolves, sent on a fruitless mission by a ghost, and chased out of a temple by a gang of cultists. Of course, I didn't last long, but it was only my first attempt. Perhaps I should look to clothe myself in armour and yield better weapons?

Exciting times are afoot and I'm going to enjoy slaying monsters and pillaging their rotting corpses. I'm wondering what other monsters and dark secrets are waiting to be discovered? Have you played it? What did you think? I'll be interested to hear your thoughts. Watch this space for the second part of this review coming "soon".

Merry Christmas everyone and all the best for 2022. STay Atari.