Saturday, February 18, 2023

Voodoo Nightmare

It's a jungle out there!

Palace Software released Voodoo Nightmare in 1990 and is an isometric action/puzzler not too dissimilar to the older Ultimate games I used to play as a kid on my ZX Spectrum. We are Boots Barker, a guy with a silly name and little good fortune, who went on an African holiday with his wife and best friend. Hang on, both his wife and best friend? Yep, I'm also getting a bad vibe and wondering what naughty things she has been getting up to behind his back!

Anyhow, they all went up for a ride in a hot-air balloon. Suddenly, but not surprisingly, he gets pushed over the side and falls into the deep jungle wilderness! Thankfully, he survived that horrendous fall but was left unconscious in the mud. He awoke to find that a medicine man had crammed a mask on his face and, try as he might, the thing wouldn't come off.

Our task is to find eight pins that we can stick into a voodoo doll of that African witch doctor to get the mask removed. These are earned by materialistically satisfying the five temple gods who each have a pin to provide. The rest are collected by completing jungle tasks - helping an injured native, feeding a monkey and finding a lion cub's mother.

These images I have taken from the game's manual, and brilliantly depict the outlandish narrative...

What an insane expression!!

This artwork is outstanding. Love it.

Dazed, assaulted and mocked. A great start to anyone's day!!

Now's my chance to be Sabreman?

We begin in the jungle, a beautiful place with lush green trees, an assortment of plant life and many dangerous animals. The wilderness is designed like a kinda like a turf maze, so getting around takes a little practice because you can easily make a wrong turn and feel lost. Wild animals are roaming but they only come out during the daytime - which is odd but also rather handy as you will later discover. The jungle is also home to native residents, shops, and (wait for it) casinos!

Okay, I gotta admit something, my first impressions weren't favourable and I didn't care for Voodoo Nightmare at all. After playing a game or two, I left it for several weeks because I didn't appreciate the concept of blindly wandering around a restrictive maze. I think a lot of this was also down to the control system and positioning my joystick at an awkward angle - something I never did in Knight Lore or Fairlight! Yep, this game didn't gel with me whatsoever. 

Thankfully, I returned once I accidentally stumbled upon some screenshots that I had previously taken. These piqued my interest and I gave it a second chance - I even surprised myself by reading the manual. Yep, I did that. So, I decided to give it another go, just in case I happened to prejudge it too harshly and incorrectly. Sheesh turns out I had!

In light of that revelation, I think I better roll on with a selection of funky screenshots...

Come on, this is the most gorgeous jungle with stunning colours. Love it!!

Watch out for holes in the bridges. Sloppy workmanship, I say...

Yikes, look at that angry fella!! What's his problem?

Out of Africa

So, the basis of the story is to simply collect 8 pins from each temple and some jungle tasks. Then we can end our masked torment by beating the living daylights out of that witch doctor! Sounds easy enough but it's a lot harder than you may think: each temple is home to a greedy god who must be showered in gems before giving up his pin.

The first is the Spider Temple, a maze of many rooms containing gems that we need. It's daunting with some inaccessible areas and locked doors. So this is where the puzzle elements come in - either killing a nasty beast, moving objects, or using teleporters. You are alerted for nearby gems in the status menu to make sure you don't miss anything. Once we have collected enough, the spider god can be visited who will cough up the first of our pins.

Not only that but she rewards us with the power to break webs so we can get out and discover more, like the jungle tasks. The first, that I found, was a lion cub who needed to be returned to its mother. This is just a case of heading back through the jungle to find Mom. But that's easier said than done thanks to the jungle being a maze of angry animals.

Yes, the jungle itself is a formidable force of nature and home to many animals and also natives who use poisonous blowpipes for varied effects - one of which is temporary blindness. The animals only roam during the day and can drain your energy unless you're quick to stamp on them - and they sometimes drop a plate of food. Very handy!

It's not complex whatsoever but it is a massive game. Wanna see more screenshots of stunning 16-bit artistry...

Unlike most cities, it's safer to go out at night when the nasties are sleeping.

Here I've returned the baby lion to its mother. She looks so... happy!

Hang on, what have we here? Shall I say hello to this peculiar gang of natives?

Shopping and nightlife

The jungle isn't like we saw as kids watching Tarzan. No way, this jungle has shops stuffed with helpful items like weapons and maps. These places are only open during the daytime and are manned by Romero. He's a nice chap and has several of his Supply Huts dotted around different parts of the jungle. Shop around to find specific items.

Wanna know what you just purchased? Hit the spacebar to reveal the inventory and use the joystick to choose an item. I would first advise purchasing a weapon which makes it much easier to kill those nasty animals roaming the jungle. However, this does mean you can no longer jump which makes no sense but it's easy alternating between items.

During the night, casinos open their doors to anyone wishing to try their luck. That's right, we can gamble away our warez by taking a chance in the jungle casino - Vegas style! It's called a Treasure Tree and is open only at night but it may prove fruitful for the lucky willing to risk a gamble? Or you might just get yourself in big trouble... How is your luck?

Yep, it always pays to explore everywhere because you never know what you may stumble upon...

Jungle stores are plentiful with supplies but it pays to shop around.

Inside is Romero... dunno how they thought that name was original!

Casinos are only open at night and it's great if you have loot burning a hole in your pocket?

Jane's big tips

    • It may help you a bunch if the joystick is held at an angle. But get familiar first before you jump into the gameplay. It may be awkward but it's not impossible! Ugh, trust me...
    • Starting in the spider temple is an overbearing experience. Take your time and make use of the teleporters whilst also making a mental note of those that appear to lead to a dead end.
    • Watch the status bar for a flashing red gem alert.
    • Getting sick of those rabid animals constantly sapping your energy? So you didn't bother to master the controls? Nor have you shopped for better weaponry? Well, you can pause the game - when the sun comes up. Now, unpause when the moon is out. What, a cheat? Yep, try it!
    • The jungle quests are confusing only because the jungle is a challenging labyrinth. Why not memorise it? Plus there are maps to purchase (only if you have an abundance of funds!)
    • Jungle tasks? The lion cub is so easy, head back north and grab a weapon.
    • Stuck in the spider temple? Try pushing some central objects.
    • Blades are great but also mean that you don't need to jump on the animals anymore.
    • Did you know some of the jungle's brush can be slashed?
    • Holes in bridges - use your inventory to put your boots back on.

The spider temple is actually very easy once you realise the rooms follow a structured layout.

Look out for a flashing red gem in the status bar. Very helpful for hidden objects.

Finally, I made it and reaped my rewards. Onwards to the next temple?

Tarzan aesthetics!

I cannot deny that I absolutely love the visuals, all thanks to the talents of Lyndon Brooke and Lorne Campbell (Operation Harrier and Barbarian II). This design is something that Ultimate could only dream of back in their colour-clash days on the ZX Spectrum. Thankfully, they didn't make the mistake of going overboard to produce something garish. No, each temple looks incredible with fine attention to detail and the jungle is lush in stunning technicolour. I love it all!!

As for the audio, well, the master himself Dave Whittaker created both the effects and background music. The effects are nice but it's the music that I enjoyed the most. Okay, it's not his finest work but it certainly functions as a subtle background melody. It's timid so doesn't overpower the sound effects and this shy approach works perfectly.

Check out these screenshots from the Snake Temple. Stunning visuals with a menacing design...

The snake temple is one of cruel design and silly puzzles. How will you escape this trap?

Watch that status bar and collect all gems like the one here, it's easy to miss.

A brilliant design. Hopping across the void is superb - just be careful!!

The CryptO'pinion?

I may not have liked Voodoo Nightmare at first but I'm so glad I returned to try it. This is now growing to be one of my favourite ST games and feels somewhat like a "modern" Sabre Wulf with its jungle setting and crazy critters.

My only quibbles are because of my first impressions - the constant onslaught of angry animals and the time it took to feel comfortable with the controls. As it happens, the jungle would be boring without the animals crazily running around and they're easy to kill thanks to available weapons. Plus the fantastically fast & fluent joystick controls are a joy.

That's right, you start the game cautiously walking through the animal-infested jungle but soon you are running through like a Tasmanian Devil. Ironically, compared to my initial experience, I would say that the joystick controls are one of the game's main strengths. And that's saying something for such an addictive feature-rich adventure like this.

Voodoo Nightmare will entertain you for hours if you can spare the time? Incredible game and highly recommended!!

> The floppies can be found on Atari Legend and you can also run it directly off your hard drive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Fire & Brimstone -mapped

Fancy a holiday in Nilfheim?

Are you ready for more ST game maps? I hope so... and this time it's a Nordic platformer that is so tough I genuinely cannot imagine anyone playing it without cheating. That's right, it's the dreaded Fire And Brimstone by Vectordean/Firebird which you may remember was featured on AtariCrypt many moons ago? Wow, how time flies...

Anyhow, it's been fun trolling through the entire game but, there's no way I'd have beaten the first level without infinite lives. Absolutely no way! Regardless, I love this platformer. But what were they thinking with such unfair difficulty, like the stupid bosses or those ledges that set alight without any warning? Ugh, those killed me too many times to count!

Perhaps we were tougher back then? I've obviously gone soft but not enough to wimp away from weeks of mapping. Scroll down and check out the thumbnail of my "hard work". The hi-res images can be downloaded by clicking here. 👈🏻

* I wanna send a shout-out to Chris Sorrell for his striking pixel art. Mind-boggling quality!!
* There are lots of downloads but I preferred playing D-Bug's excellent crack.
* ST Format featured a basic walkthrough of the earlier levels in issues 11-13.
* Greetings to Maarten from Atari Legend for his incredible fuji support.
* What? You missed our review... sheesh why do I bother? :p Go on, click this link!
* Hey, there are more Game Maps on my website, just look to the right for that link...

This has been another fantastic Atari ST platformer that I have thoroughly enjoyed mapping. Interestingly, I did find a couple of "bugs" along the way. Level 5 is impossible without carrying a blue potion. However, you had to know about that before leaving level 4 as there isn't one to collect. Very odd, so I'm glad that I kept my older game saves to return to!

Anyhow, it might have taken several agonising weeks and lots of tears (lol) but I hope you like this collection of ST maps? Yes/No? Let me know in the comments below... but whatever you think, do one thing - STay Atari.

No, don't bother clicking this picture - just download the hi-res image from the above link!

And after all my hard work the end screen isn't exactly worth waiting for! Can you beat my score??

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Deluxe Nostram

Into the Wonderful

This takes me back and I remember playing the original Nostram thanks to a magazine cover disk. It was a good platformer but some screens were too fiddly as I recall so I didn't get very far. Well, it was a freebie so I shouldn't complain too much! Deluxe Nostram is the sequel and kinda the same game albeit more polished and with better controls.

Released in 1993 by Powerfist, it was programmed in STOS by Daniel Walton with graphics by Ian Wilkinson. The game map is ginormous with an incredible amount of rooms to pillage and that potential, as an adventurer, is something I value. The documentation has a line that I thought was brilliant: "THE GREATEST ADVENTURE YOU WILL EVER EXPERIENCE". Well, that's surely a bold statement and one that only made me excited for great things. (Yeah, I'm easily pleased)

Wait, this sounds too good to be true? Who knows, maybe, but let's crack on and check out two screenshots...

Oi, you with the helmet head, this is the starting screen where your adventure begins.

Ah, a doorway and it looks wide open too. Don't be fooled, a key is still oddly required...

Don't fall asleep

Today's muscular hero is an adventurer in a castle tower of considerable rooms and bizarre monsters. Our objective is to collect five crystals scattered throughout the castle in order to escape and regain the Wings Of Flight. During the journey, there are obstacles, trinkets to collect and locked doors granting access to mysteriously hidden places.

Any platformer demands effortless, instinctive controls that are responsive and precise. Deluxe Nostram nails this especially as the jump mechanic was improved for the latest release so our warrior is very agile. However, numerous screens are void of monsters or dangerous obstacles which means little reason to exercise these controls. Which is very odd!

So that makes this a rather strange game as I expected content similar to any generic platformer. Nope, Deluxe Nostram presents more of an exploration adventure with a few basic puzzles along the way. But it's mostly just us wandering about looking for keys and crystals if I'm brutally honest. Weird right? Are you still interested?

Nevertheless, it's this explorational element that appeals to me as it's possible to visit most of the screens without resorting to a cheat - because there's little to endanger you. It's silly, but I admit to enjoying going through the entire game rather than worrying about defeating impossibly tough screens. Although, I doubt many reading this will feel the same way?

What, you're still here? That's good! Okay, let's take a look at more purple and orange screenshots...

A weird purple monster walking against the purple background. Hmm...

One of the more bizarre enemies you will come across. I'd say kill it before thinking of moving on...


Graphically, this is <cough> very familiar thanks to a look and design all too godlike, albeit less sophisticated. I do appreciate the overall display because it's clean and concise so works well. However, there isn't enough variation so everything begins to look quite samey and a little boring after a while. I was also weary of seeing the same colour scheme!

The audio is less than favourable because there is no music and the effects are limited to hitting monsters or collecting stuff. Basically, it's silent and that's a massive shame as a chiptune would have been most welcome.

Fancy a gander at even more gaudy purple and orange screenshots? No? Well, I'm in charge, so tough luck...

One of the most stupid screens as it's impossible to pass the two blades without losing energy!

See that crystal over there? You need that but how will you get it? Make a map!

The CryptO'pinion?

Deluxe Nostram isn't the best platformer I've played but, it's far from the worst. The castle is huge and well-designed but sadly, there are too many rooms with little to do. Ie, no moving platforms, slides, acid pools or even roaming monsters! As a platformer, it fails to engage the player and I fear that fact might dishearten a lot of potential players.

To be honest, that factor was actually a nice change, as it enabled me to travel through the castle and that's probably why I enjoyed mapping it? Deluxe Nostram is for those who enjoy exploration so I doubt it will appeal to any generic platformer fan. This is a weird one, I will definitely be interested to know what you guys think in the comments below.

The floppy can be downloaded but PP has adapted a better version that you can grab by clicking here.

The Maps!

Here are the thumbnails for each of the four levels. As you can see, they are all complete but I wasn't able to exit and finish the game as the door (top/left of map 3) loops back (in error) to map 4. And that is the same as the door on the second floor, so I can only assume it's a bug seeing both doors lead to the same place. Yes, I am gutted by this!!

On map 1, the door on the first level takes you to the dungeon level (which is map 2).
On map 1, the door on the fifth level takes you to map 3 (bottom/left door there).
On map 1, the door on the third level is used as an entrance only.
On map 3, the door on the first level takes you to the entrance door mentioned above.
On map 3, the door on the second level takes you to map 4.
On map 3, the door on the fourth level also takes you to map 4 (perhaps a bug?)

[Map 1] This is where we begin our adventure...

[Map 2] The Dungeon, a tiny level that (erm) looks nothing like a dungeon!

[Map 3] Possibly the best level of them all, albeit still with few monsters to contend with!

[Map 4] Presents another place to explore. See what I did there? You would if you had played it... ;)