Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Final Frontier?



Attic finds

Another curious disk lurking within the darkest regions of my collection was this floppy full of extra levels for Car-Vup. You may remember the game from what feels like many, many, many moons ago? What, you don't remember? Sheesh, there's a search option to the right where you can read more about it. Anyhow, Atarimania tells me that this disk was released by The One Magazine and, as my photograph shows, we have six brand new levels to play.

Car-Vup is a belting game and something of an automotive spin on Painter and Bristles (I loved that game). Anyhow, Core where very generous in stuffing this cover disk with loads of manic levels with silly creatures and pointless driving. Not the best advert for any game is it, but I genuinely enjoyed playing so it's a pleasure to find this disk.

Yeah, I love finding oddities like this from the depths of the Atari ST's almost-forgotten history. Good times!



I can imagine this cover disk giveaway was a great way to advertise your game?


We have a job to do so ignore the helpless spaceman!


This is a brilliant level and possibly the best of the bunch?


Things are getting tricky now, especially that guy pulling a face at me lol.


Another successful and valuable mission was completed!


Oh no, my game ended the usual way - limping home to mummy!

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Torvak the Warrior



Rastan the barbarian?

Sometimes it's tough finding time to write about ST games (boohoo, right). Don't get me wrong, I love it and can waffle on like a madman but, time isn't free, especially at the speed I type. So I figured I would create another section of my website called "Just Play" for shorter articles that won't take several weeks to write. Check it out on the right over there... ⤵

So, Torvak? Why do I love this flawed action game so much? Well, I know it isn't perfect but, it is something I boot up regularly simply because I find it so enjoyable. It's a scrolling platformer where I'm transformed into Hercules with giant weapons (ooer) and is something I've kept returning to over the decades - whenever I'm brassed off and feel the need to hit something hard. Now, whilst the wife breathes herself a massive sigh of relief, I will admit that it's not perfect.

The basic concept is incredibly familiar but it whiffs of a rushed port with a small screen, sluggish controls, and suspect collision detection. Additionally, attempting to kill something that demands multiple hits and you soon realise that this is definitely no Golden Axe. Having said that, it looks great, sounds great, and plays well. So, no matter how old I get, I'm always happy to boot it up, especially with a trainer enabled to compensate for the above (and my skills).

Torvak The Warrior was released by Core Design and programmed by Andy Green who developed a couple of stinkers but redeemed himself with Masters of the Universe, a game I think is unexpectingly excellent. The rastan visuals are by non-other than Lee Pullen of Chuck Rock fame and Matt Furniss produced the gorgeous chiptune bleeps that are nothing less than exceptional.

Okay, I bet you're dying to play this beastmaster wannabe? I hope so because it's a lot better than most people say! Just remember to hold down the fire button to use spells and make sure you collect the Broadsword located near the beginning. Like I said, it's far from perfect but I'd love to know if there are other fans of this platformer out there.

Downloads are available for your hard drive and floppy disk. Righto, I'm ending with some nifty screenshots...



I love the first stage because it's not too difficult and probably the level I play the most!


The second stage is a lot harder and you'll find yourself being attacked from both sides.


The third stage is actually a lot better than my gaming skills might suggest!


Lots of jumps in the fourth stage and it's very hard with many hidden dangers.


The fifth level always felt a bit Castlevania'ish to me. It's good but too samey...


And this is the screen I see the most, so use your noodle and activate the cheats!

Friday, July 28, 2023

Dementia




Crazy pixels

I booted up Corporation the other day. This is an FPS/RPG developed by Dementia in 1990 for Core and one of the most disappointing Atari ST games I've played. The concept was superb, it sounded like it could be a next-gen Dungeon Master. However, it was badly executed with terrible controls that failed miserably. Who beta-tested this?

Anyhow, you're probably wondering why I'm bothering to type this? Well, I will say one thing about Dementia... Erm, what was it now? Sigh... I've forgotten... Ah, I've remembered... (sorry, it must be my memory)......... That's right Corporation boots up with this fantastic Dementia logo and I think this is a tremendous example of 16-bit artwork.

So I went ahead and booted it up. After all these years, I only lasted a few measly minutes before restarting my Atari ST. Maybe you will enjoy it? The hard drive download is best but you can also grab the floppies.


Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Amazing Spider-Man




Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man!

For all those who love to read the rubbish I post here, you might remember this article: "5 Random Atari ST Games". I really enjoyed doing that and was mightily impressed with Spiderman because I loved the saboteur element as I sneakily explored each location. That concept transformed what I expected to be a tacky platformer into something quite different. So, you've guessed it, I figured it was time that I tried this "platformer" again and hopefully dig a little deeper into it.

The Amazing Spider-Man was released in 1990 by Empire Software and programmed by John Wood of Oxford Digital Enterprises - the same guy responsible for one of the quirkiest adventures, Sleeping Gods Lie. This game used an alternative style which felt open-world but isn't really - just bring a bad of pebbles as it's definitely worth playing!

Getting back on topic, this is an intriguing platformer taking place within a hostile Hollywood world and each stage is split into separate movie sets. This makes for a great place to chase the dreaded Mysterio who has kidnapped Spidey's girlfriend, Mary Jane. That means only one thing, it's time to mask up and save the day. And get the girl, of course.

Before the game starts, we are treated to a fantastic comic strip representation of the realistic storyline...


 
 
This is a great intro and the series of images only goes to prove two things:
One, gingers are some of the sexiest women alive. Two, not so much for the men!



Let's Marvel

Unlike most platformers, this one feels very different from the go. Visually, it's more like an older 8-bit platformer using smaller sprites and that's something I like because too many ST games went big and thus felt clunky (ala 9 Lives). However, controlling Spidey surprised me because the ST's joystick was never meant to do much beyond its basic single firing and 4-directions. So I was curious how Spidey was going to scale walls and ceilings like I had imagined.

Well, I love the joystick controls as they are unique and incredibly well-thought-out. Of course, he can walk left/right but, when coming into contact with a wall, move the joystick as if you were following the shape of that. Same for the ceilings, but hanging upside down is weird - as pushing upwards will crouch and pulling down allows him to stand. I think I've made the controls sound rather awkward but they're not. Tough to explain but actually fun to play.

Of course, we wouldn't be Spiderman if we weren't able to shoot sticky webs out from our wrists. It's dead easy to do but also an integral part of the game - just hit the fire button whilst also choosing from eight directions using the stick. There is an unlimited supply of his goo which we use to stun enemies, hit switches, and swing just like Pitfall Harry!

Many subtle Hollywood references are used throughout and here is Godzilla at the top of a Manhattan skyscraper...



These are two of my favourite screens because of their excellent mechanics.
Note the slippy wall parts leading to the dinosaur! Can you also see the exit up there?



Playing in DC World

The Amazing Spider Man isn't really that complex of a platformer, to be honest. Each room is a part of the larger puzzle using basic puzzle elements to work out your route through to Mysterio who is hiding in the executive offices of Rockwell Film Studios. This is a labyrinth with many pathways blocked either by an obstacle or something else so it won't be easy. To get by every so-called puzzle, we must source the switch and hit it with our webs (or walk over it). However, some areas are quite tough and may require a series of switches to hit in order but, that's about as complex as it gets.

Mysterio isn't daft and the environment is riddled with different traps that force Spidey to use his cunning and special abilities. For example, laser beams, fire, greased walls, and electrified water will mean crawling along other surfaces to safely pass. However, the madman also has many henchmen like robots, mummies, and rats so our arachnid powers are needed to fire webs. That isn't deadly, stunning for only a short period, but it's enough to execute any tactical plans!

A giant image of SpiderMan is located on the right side of the screen to represent energy levels. As they deplete, his flesh will strip away from his bones - Atic Atac style! Getting worried about that? Then look out for Clapperboard rooms.

It's time for a screenshot and here is the opening room where we can safely experiment with the controls...


The screen information is a bit pointless - at the top is your score with a bar that indicates progress through the current stage. That heart beats faster the more you are hurt but, tbh, none of this matters much. Just keep your eyes on the massive Spider-Man figure which depicts our energy levels. The more it turns into a skeleton the closer you are to death!



Graphics

I was quite surprised to discover Deathbringer artists Colin Swinbourne and Kevin Ayre are responsible for the visuals. That game wasn't great but it was a visual feast with large sprites, colourful landscapes and parallax scrolling. In fact, it was quite the showcase product even though I wondered how much better it might have been on the Atari STe. Ah well...

Anyhow, this game is basically the complete opposite with static screens, a reduced gameplay window, intricate designs, and a style reminiscent of older 8-bit platformers in many respects. However, it's the sprite animations that make this game very special as Peter Parker's movements are nothing less than exceptional for all his actions.

Hey, do you want a zippy-zappy laserbeam screenshot with a room of near-impossible-to-beat danger? You got it...


I love how integrated each room is and these two follow on perfectly.
Find a way to bypass the mummy but the next screen is very tough. Do you see all the switches?



Audio

Sadly, the audio fairs less than the gorgeous visuals I thought. The title screen music is fine but there is little else with only a few spot effects used in-game for actions like firing our webs. Impressively, they didn't wimp out and used quality samples that worked well and I loved hearing the distant Mysterio laughing. It's pointless but I enjoy additions like that!

Sadly, it's not all good because whoever made the effects obviously has a sinister streak deep within their soul. Try walking over something dangerous or touching a baddy and you will hear an eardrum-bursting noise - extremely irritating!

Okay, here's the final run of screenshots from the dreaded sewer screens! Ugh, use that clapperboard...



What were they thinking? This is the most frustrating room in the entire game!!


These rooms not only offer access to later stages but are also handy for replenishing energy.



The CryptO'pinion?

This game is all about being sneaky and I love that aspect. Getting around is interesting and enjoyable but the real challenge comes from your own careful exploration as a saboteur. Laying in hiding, waiting, knowing when to stun enemies to avoid contact in order to make a safe pass. It's invigorating and makes this a game I wholeheartedly recommend.

However, there are some rooms that are terrible in design and frustrated me no end: the sewer regions! This is actually a tiny part of the entire game but it took me ages to beat and I didn't enjoy a single second of it. In fact, it's not overly challenging, it's badly designed with too many environmental hazards, enemies and stupid switches.

So, the game ain't perfect but what is? Well, there's much to like and I feel positive about the perfect controls, interesting environments, and stunning animations. However, it's being a sneaky saboteur who silently and tactically explores each location. That is something I find exciting especially as I can't think of another Atari ST game quite like this.

Scroll down a little more to view the completed map (click the image).
There are many more maps for ST games right here! 
Atarilegend and D-Bug have the downloads: floppy and hard drive.



This is the opening level fully mapped. It might look small but this was challenging to finish!!
[ Clicking on it shall download the glorious high-resolution version ]

Thursday, July 20, 2023

The best of Dave Munsie VOLUME 1 :)



A lucky find!

I'm always on the scrounge for Atari ST goodies, especially floppies - who knows what gold is still out there waiting to be rediscovered? I see many tempting auctions of Atari ST disks but most are silly prices! Or the disks have degraded due to poor storage - I went through a box recently and only two floppies still worked. That wasn't a good week!

Well, sometimes you get lucky and, this week, I feel I've hit the jackpot. Within a slim envelope were 7 disks and one was by PD Library, Goodmans. I loved that company and remember buying tons from them over the years. However, there was a disk in their collection that I had previously never heard of - "Dave Munsie Game Collection Volume 1". Thankfully, the disk still worked 100% so I quickly made an image of it, because I noticed a carbon copy didn't appear to exist.

On it are a staggering nine Munsie games: Bugs, Kid GP, Evader, Kaboom!, Frogger!, ST Invaders, Dark Pearl, Kid Kong, and Bobble! Now that's some hefty gameplay just waiting for you to boot up. So let's check 'em out...

  1. Bugs - Think Centipede/Millipede and you get the idea for this cracker!
  2. Kid GP - Rainbow Islands meets Bubble Bobble for kiddies. Well, I know I loved it :)
  3. Evader - this is kinda like a weird mash of Galaxians, Phoenix and Space Invaders. Great fun.
  4. Kaboom! - I remember playing this on a mate's 2600 as a kid. Infuriatingly frantic action!
  5. Frogger! - It's good, but possibly the weakest of the bunch, especially compared to Black's version.
  6. Invaders - Once again, Dave messes with the original to produce something new and exciting.
  7. Dark Pearl - I've never liked these games if I'm honest. However, this is well-programmed, I'll say that.
  8. Kid Kong - Another game I'm not too keen on but it's fun - for the Kong fans!
  9. Bobble - It's Tetris, kinda interesting for those who enjoy that. I guess?

Okay, this long-lost floppy disk is now safely stored within the archives of Atarimania so go and grab yourself a copy. It's impressive just how many great games are on this disk plus they're all by Mr Munsie (sounds creepy doesn't it). He certainly knew his stuff and this floppy disk proves just how much fun he must have had making games.

There are more Munsie games for the Atari ST that you should play with several already on AtariCrypt - Asteroidia, Frantick, and Berzerk. Righto, before rushing off to download this disk here are photos and screenshots to gawk over...



This is the disk! The photo makes the disk look nicer than it is - thanks to Instagram for that lol.


Did the world ever get to see Volume II?


I wasn't too impressed with this Centipede clone at first but it's excellent!


Plain, blocky but with tons of colour and cute sprites. It's still a ripoff but a great one at that!


Framerate could be better but this is a superb shoot 'em up of mixed genres.


Oh yeah!! This takes me back to playing the old Atari 2600 game. Simple yet fantastic fun!


2016 saw the definitive Frogger but this older version from 1993 is a great release!


Another game of Dave's that I wasn't umm totally sure about but is yet another exciting blaster!


Ugh, it's not you, it's me (that line, eh). You guys might like it but it's not a game I personally enjoy.


Donkey Kong fans are gonna love this one but is it better than Crash Time Plumber? :o


One for fans of the Tetris genre. Not for me, I'm sorry to say!

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Leviathan




Fly, dodge, shoot, die!

Leviathan is a Zaxxon-inspired (cough.. ripoff) isometric shooter released in 1987 by English Software. Interestingly, this is one of the oldest Atari ST games that I own even if it narks me. What, I hear you cry? Yep, every time I attempt to play it, I get nowhere. Either I'm crashing into the landscape or some canny alien smashes into me kamikaze style!

The box is one of those squishy DM types that never lasts very long but, I must admit, mine is in quite good condition considering. The back cover has an incredible line, "A space shoot 'em up to end all space shoot 'em ups!". That's a bold statement if ever there was one and it kinda makes you wonder if it's true? Hmm, anyhow if you wanna see some professionally-captured photographs of my boxed game, then continue to scroll past this amazing review.

Okay, so the storyline is pretty thin on the ground but it takes place over three different planetary zones in the darkness of space. Now, I'll only ever get the see the first one (of course) but they are: Moonscape, Cityscape and Greekscape. As you might have guessed, each level is stuffed with aliens that need blasting into smithereens.

Well, by now you'll wanna see a couple of screenshots from this Zaxxon wannabe? Of course, you do...



Okay, shall I try and shoot those boxy aliens? Or race off in the hope that I might flee to safety?


I must admit, the landscapes are quite desolate but still superb in both look and design.



Let's play

Yes, Leviathan blatantly rips off the Zaxxon idea without any shame but, it does feature a few differences and additional "improvements". From what (ahem) little I've seen, we pilot a plane armed to the teeth with a rapid-firing laser gun. There are also a few smart bombs that should only be used as a last resort when things get (even more) tough.

Skimming across the diagonally-scrolling landscape isn't easy. Aliens appear in waves with an uncanny knack for getting underfoot and I found this aspect very difficult, as you might have guessed. Quick reactions are required to beat the alien formations but there is often little room to manoeuvre thanks to the terrain which isn't flat or dormant. So that presents its own challenge because I am either being beaten by the alien hoard or smashing into a chimney!

The joystick controls are fairly similar to Zaxxon - altitude can be changed by pushing up/down. Minimum speed can be increased if you hold down fire and push up/down. Strafing the ship left/right isn't possible and instead, the ship will turn itself in that given direction. I didn't like this at all because it takes time and leaves you feeling defenceless.

The status bar is feature-rich detailing score, remaining fuel, smart bombs, the next wave of incoming aliens, and (groan) a timer. Also, there are two arrows displaying the alien's location - this means we can head backwards and aren't restricted to flying forward. However, for me, that presents a fistful of new problems trying to safely fly backwards!

If you're copying someone's idea then don't attempt to be clever trying to improve it. As shown here...



Argh, massive floating eyes in space but it's too tough trying to shoot when moving sideways!!


The unnecessary fuel top-ups clutter up the game further. Well, if you survive long enough!



Aesthetics

From the amazing title screen to the smooth scrolling, Leviathan always looks fantastic. Each level uses a cosmic environment design that I really liked. Of course, I have no chance of seeing the later levels but I loved the rocky, industrial landscapes that I did manage to play. The aliens are often bright and colourful so stand out from the cold, stark backdrops.

The audio fairs well and begins with a sampled tune that isn't (hmm) too bad I guess. Then again, a 16-year-old me in 1987 would have been chuffed at its ambition and quality. Today, however, I'm not a big fan and much prefer chip tunes, especially as this is by Mr Whittaker. Thankfully, the sound effects are crisp and zesty so suits the gameplay dandy.

Let's see a couple more screenshots before reading the gripping conclusion of this pointless ripoff...



Ugh, why did the ship need to turn like that? Totally unnecessary. Hate it!


Is anyone a fan of ZZ Top? Got a Rough Boy feel about this? Fans will see it.
 


The CryptO'pinion?

Leviathan should have been an addictive shooter full of thrills and excitement but it's not. The graphics are superb and I liked the concept of simply clearing each level of its aliens. Sadly, it's the overly complicated joystick controls make the game that much more difficult. Whoever decided that the ship should physically turn instead of strafing should be shot!

I'm genuinely gutted to find an Atari ST game that I dislike almost as much as the hate I feel for Carlos or Chuckie Egg II. However, I'm always open to opinions and fear that it might just be me that sucks because Leviathan might actually be fantastic. Could this possibly be true? Hmm, let me know what you guys think in the comments below...

Before viewing the glorious box art, here are the downloads: floppy disk and hard drive.



I have the American version which is in better condition than my photography skills show.


Guess how many planetary zones I got to see... Go on, guess!


36 years later and the disk still works... I must remember that when selling on eBay!


I wonder how many filled this in? I should give it a bash and see if they're still alive lol


It's small but it's a great manual. Hang on, Commodore 64! Whaaaaat?

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Geeky memories




The biggest games club in the world

Today I was going through a few games from my collection, deciding what I should keep or (sigh) get rid of. Apparently, there's only so much space a married man is allowed for this "old junk", as she calls it. She's a cruel woman!

Anyhow, inside one of my game boxes was a flyer from Special Reserve - these guys were superb and sold many discounted Atari ST games. I've not seen this advert before so it was an exciting find for this old man. I remember joining them and getting many great deals that our one-and-only local computer shop couldn't compete with. I think I was a member until the mid-90s when our gaming era was drawing to a close. A sad time but, with many mega-cheap deals!

You know, I absolutely love finding geeky stuff like this! It makes my day and is going up on my ST Wall because it's something to treasure! Does anyone else remember this catalogue company? Let me know in the comments below.
Oddly, there were two copies of the same flyer inside my game box - I'll freely send the other to anyone who is interested in this tiny slice of ST history (sorry, UK only). I've taken a few photographs...


Can you imagine ringing their helpline for a game like Dungeon Master or another RPG?


Rubbish! All games worked on the Atari STe. Well, if you used a menu disk hehe!


Even the then-new Atari Lynx gets a little support. I miss my Lynx...


The prices are pretty darn good. I'll take North & South, please!


The mega blaster sounds cool, especially with its steel shaft. Stop it!