Sunday, January 08, 2023

Badlands Pete

On a steel horse, I ride. I'm wanted, dead or alive...

Sorry, I just had to get that in. Okay, let's crack on... ARC released Badlands Pete in 1990 and is an action-adventure set in the American wild west. I love anything like this, so couldn't play without the attire - I'm wearing a stetson, chaps, spurs, etc. This helps me to write even though the wife laughs at me. But I know that I look like Clint Eastwood. Honest.

Badlands Pete is a platformer that incorporates a pseudo-3D method of walking in/out of each scene. It's a bit like what we saw in Fred and they're calling it Strip-A-Mation, which is quite a cool name. Using this movement alters what's visible. So changing position might mean seeing additional objects along with the ability to navigate differently.

This is a really neat idea that adds depth to the mechanics of each scene and allows freedom to explore everywhere in separate ways. Well, that's if it works properly, otherwise, it could be cumbersome and messy therefore totally ruining the game. Sometimes it's best to keep a platformer simple so we can concentrate on just playing the game!

Anyhow, let's take a look at some screenshots from the 16-bit American frontier...

This is where we begin, riding into town on a Union Pacific train. Nice!

There's a shifty-looking cowboy to our right. Try to chat with him and see how he reacts!

Get out of Dodge!

Arriving in town by train, the task is to rescue the Governor's daughters who have been kidnapped by ruthless thugs from the Badlands. He enlists the help of Pete Coyote, aka Badlands Pete, to get them back. Yep, that's you - the quickest draw in the west. However, my first game didn't go very well and I soon realised the town is full of irate cowboys, crazy Indians, sleepy Mexicans and other townsfolk who first appear to be innocently going about their business (don't be fooled!!)

First things first, the controls are easy: walking left/right is obvious and you can also move in/out of any scene by pushing up/down. However, I would practice in the comfort of the train station area before daring to explore the town itself. Your guns are drawn/holstered by hitting the spacebar with the fire button to shoot.

The user interface shows Pete's energy levels, our score and ammunition. Energy is obvious and when Pete is shot, his bleeding heart needs replenishing with food & drink. The belt of bullets is for ammo - running out leaves you defenceless in this insane frontier so top it up whenever possible - dead bodies are a great source to find goodies!

The score is shown as a dollar bounty which goes up when collecting items or killing someone that's already decided to shoot at you (beware: a negative bounty equates - to others - your worth to them). Finally, the ladies you see at the bottom of your screen are the governor's daughters who require rescuing for a lucrative reward. If you live long enough!

Let's take a look at some more screenshots from my "victorious" gameplay...

I entered a room and was ambushed, for no reason, so I killed him. What's wrong with these people?

Arrrgh even a preacher pulls out his weapon (again, for no reason) and then starts shooting!!


As you begin, a Wanted Poster depicts the task at hand with the reward. Walking around is kinda cool if I'm honest thanks to the stunning artwork using an arid colour palette. Leaving the station depo for the town reminds me of Rio Bravo and other westerns. Almost all characters have a dollar value but it pays to be coy rather than trigger-happy because those who draw first aren't well respected plus serial killers only end up as wanted themselves... think about that.

After only a short time you soon realise everybody is out to get you. It's rare to walk close to someone who doesn't pull out a weapon in aggression. Most people are nuts, even the preacher wanted me dead! After a while, this constant pointless onslaught is irritating as it halts any chance of progress because you're constantly fighting off everyone.

You can help yourself to various things that replenish your health and ammo: look out for items like a hot pie cooling on a windowsill or a box of ammo, etc. It's worth remembering where these items are usually located because it won't be long until you're backtracking in extreme desperation. And this is constant throughout your gameplay. Yes, constant.

In all honesty, I didn't understand why most characters needed to have such hostile actions. It's not like there are unlimited supplies lying about town to compensate! Anyhow, I think we need to see a couple more screenshots...

Great, now the Indians are shooting arrows at me. Why? I didn't do anything to provoke him!

Oh joy, I walked into the sheriff's office. What happened? Of course, another shooting match!


I'm a big fan of westerns and I love the old John Wayne movies the most. Badlands Pete is a cartoon representation of that era and it works remarkably well. In fact, I adore the artwork with its dusty frontier for each scene as it reminds me of being in Wichita, Tombstone or West Texas. And that makes this old Atari cowboy very happy indeed!

Sadly, Arc somehow decided against utilising the Atari STe as they did with Chronicles Of Omega. Why I do not know because this game feels very sluggish. Slow to move and also slow to scroll. I think a little help from the Blitter would have been a marvellous improvement. Having said that, there is no reason at all that it's this bad on the STFM!

The idea behind Strip-A-Mation of walking in/out of each scene is superb. This, not only unveils objects that you might have missed but also suggests alternative ways to explore. This game design is by Steven Cain (Black Lamp) and Badlands Pete appears to have evolved somewhat from that. I admire what they where trying to do.

Musically, things aren't bad at all with a title screen tune that sounds great considering ARC foolishly made no use of the Atari STe. Gotta say though, I liked it a bunch! Sadly, the in-game effects are quite lame by comparison. I'd have loved samples from Westerns like Rio Bravo or A Fistfull Of Dollars. Heck, any stock samples would have worked.

Feeling like a bit of a rushed port, isn't it? And by Atari too! Hmm, here are a couple more screenshots...

Hey, this town has a mine. Let's use Strip-A-Mation to walk in to see what's lurking below...

The steps lead off and down. I wonder what's here? I'll save you time - another pointless gunfight!

Hints & Tips

I did wonder whether it was worthwhile even writing this section. I imagine nobody has scrolled this far so I could probably write whatever nonsense I like? Hmm, Atari Legend sucks. Commodore wimps love to whine like big crybabies. ARC hated the ST. Commodore is the best. I love Amigas. Amiga forever!! I have never owned an Atari ST!! I'm pregnant!!

That was fun but I think that I better write some tips, which is extremely difficult for this game...

* Have many practice games and learn the controls, especially with regards to quickdraw.
Don't get too close to somebody you intend to have a gunfight with. Very weird!!
Be patient, let the bad guys draw first. I know, I know...
Never draw your weapon in front of a lady. Ooer!
Look for items and also top-ups for health and ammo.
Don't go looking for trouble, run away if you can. If you can...
* Arc obviously had no beta testers so we desperately need a trainer!

I entered the town's jail. Looks quiet, right? No!! After I took this screenshot, they began firing!

This is a screen that you will see a lot!!

The CryptO'pinion?

I'm not exactly sure where to begin... Okay, I love the idea behind Badlands Pete but it's far too difficult so I failed to make much progress. No matter where you go, someone pulls out a weapon and begins firing. It's weird and this relentless attack soon becomes irritating, especially as you find yourself repeatably looking to replenish health and ammo.

The idea behind Strip-A-Mation is great but it would be more suited in an adventure rather than here because it's too fiddly to be functional at speed. Along with Carlos and Chuckie Egg 2, this is possibly one of the worst games I've featured here on AtariCrypt. Ignoring the theme, and excellent visuals, I've nothing much more to say about Badlands Pete.

Sigh, for those still wanting to be a lame version of John Wayne, download Automation #409. Good luck!

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