Friday, August 11, 2023

L'Abbaye Des Morts

The Abbey Of The Dead

You all know of my love for the Atari ST/e computers but, now and then, I stray to other machines. Don't panic, I'm not talking about the Ameoba but a powerful 32-bit computer Atari should have had more success with - and released sooner. Anyhow, I meant the Falcon which already has its own section here on my website. Go on, be unique and check that out!

The Abbey of the Dead, or more precisely, L'Abbaye Des Morts was originally by Locomalito and converted to the Falcon by Jo Even Skarstein (Joska). Earlier this year, Cote Gamers released the boxed version which, of course, I had to have :)

As you all know, I do not own a Falcon so am stuck in the virtual wastelands of emulation thanks to the (fabulous) program Hatari. Sadly, this great emulator doesn't appear to support 60Hz so the game suffers slowdown and more. Have you seen the cost of a Falcon? Yeah, I can live with this performance hit until my pending lottery win comes through!

Righto, I think we need to see a couple of sexy Atari Falcon screenshots? Who's with me? Come on...

We begin with the Crusaders chasing us through the forest.

A couple of dangerous leaps in the windy woods and we make it to safety within the church!

So what's this game about?

Well, it's quite a historic tale from the 13th century and somewhat disappointing thanks to humans being typically stupid. The Cathars, who preached Christian beliefs, were expelled from the Languedoc region of France by the Catholic Church. Sigh, I guess these people missed the point of what Jesus was teaching? Well, they treated the Cathars as heretics and banished them! If you're interested in more information:

Thankfully, one plucky monk managed to escape and, as he scarpered through the woods, he stumbled upon old church ruins. His name is Jean Raymond but he wasn't the luckiest guy because what he didn't reckon on was the evil lurking underneath the ruins. What are the chances of that? Anyhow, to exorcise this evil, he needs to find 12 crucifixes that have been scattered about but, it won't be easy, thanks to an infestation of monsters waiting for him!!

Okay, in this game, it's always a good idea to read signs and look for helpful items. Just like in these screenshots...

Activate that checkpoint Cross and read the script which hints at a hidden passage...

The only pointless script is here but look, behold our first Cross to collect!!


The Abbey Of The Dead is a 2D platformer with many rooms to explore as we go hunting for the Crosses. Each screen is separate, offering its own little piece of the adventure with different monsters, objects, and tricky jumps to test our dexterity. We begin with only three lives but this can be topped up by collecting the hearts found on many screens.

Along with the 12 Crosses, there are other items that could prove very helpful. Firstly, there are scrolls that often provide cryptic clues - the first hints at a secret passage that needs discovery to begin our adventure. There are also checkpoints about the church, which are automatically used after losing a life. These are essential as you can imagine.

The joystick controls are dead simple - left/right to walk and fire to jump just like Manic Miner. What I really liked was the ability to alter my direction during a leap. Also, pulling downwards activates a crouch which will be very handy on some of the trickier screens!! The keyboard can also be used (which I preferred) and a Jagpad if you have one spare?
I'd advise playing several games - just to explore as many rooms as you can. With each attempt, you should find yourself going deeper into the church (which isn't a big) so make notes of Cross location and anything else that might be helpful - hearts, teleporters and easier routes. I would also look out for something that might appear out of place, this is how I stumbled upon a secret passage in my video recording!
Let's take a gander at some more screenshots whilst those Crusaders keep banging on that wooden door...

Here you might say we're Out On A Limb. I loved how the leaves blew with the change of music.

This is a fantastic room but I was running out of lives in order to find a cool screenshot!


I have already experienced the joys of what the Falcon can knock out thanks to Racer 2. Although some might look at this platformer and assume it's technically a humble, static-screen game - they are wrong. It looks gorgeous and I think Joska/Mun has done a brilliant job using a style that looks uniquely different to what I initially expected.

It begins with a nice intro describing the historical tale with text scrolling over the title screen image. What I loved was how it doesn't overlap the logo - a simple effect with excellent results. The game has a console feel thanks to smooth sprites, palettes, and design. The level of detail is superb and I appreciated how each room has an individual feel.

I won't spoil the surprise of the Game Over screen. It's dark. But it's superb!!

If you're hoping the audio is just as impressive then you're in for a treat. The music is quite distinctive with a selection of fantastic chiptunes by Skuggemannen. I must admit, I didn't expect to hear "ST tunes" but they work well (and I'm relieved not to hear tracker music). Interestingly, playback isn't blindly continuous and can change depending on your location. This first happens in "Prayer Of Hope" and I think it's a killer effect adding depth and tension.

Things aren't so impressive for the sound effects which are barely audible thanks to the problems of emulation. For example, I can hardly hear the Crusaders banging on the door and the church bell sounds miles away. Okay, this is hardly the end of the world but still disappointing. I envy Falcon owners more and more with each breath!

Yes, it looks and sounds the business so let's celebrate this 32-bit coolness with even more screenshots...

Otto from Berzerk is here, erm I think. He chases so use the platforms wisely to dodge him.

I might have struggled to reach this fantastic room without the aid of a nifty teleporter.

The CryptO'pinion?

Please note, this review is based purely on what I experienced with Hatari. So, with that in mind, I must admit that I've had a fistful of fun albeit with some annoying slowdown and disappointing sound effects. Thankfully, it's still very playable and nothing can ruin my enjoyment of this excellent platformer which is challenging and very entertaining.

With each play, I get a little farther whilst noting everything of interest. It's this exploration and gradual progression that took me back to my ZX Spectrum days roaming the factory of Chuckie Egg 2 and the mansion of JSW.

L'Abbaye Des Morts is an excellent platformer and I'm chuffed to bits I got my order in with Cote Gamers. Yes, I'm stuck using an emulator but, even with the problem that presents, I still enjoyed myself. I love its old-school charm along with the fact that it keeps on dragging me back for more. I only wish there was a cutdown version available for the Atari ST/e.

I must admit, there's a part of me tempted to > map < this platformer but it's gonna be a tough one if I do...

Tough? Yeah, Hatari makes some scenes harder than they actually are. And with my gaming skills...!!

Credits and other stuff

It's obvious that a lot of love, sweat and tears(!) went into this Falcon platformer which is thanks to these guys:
Jo Even Skarstein (coding & graphics)
Geir Vælidalo (additional code & graphics)
Mun (additional graphics)
Nevat (additional graphics & maps)
Skuggemannen (music)
Joska's website with Atari game download:
Cote Gamers published the boxed release:
Video recording by tIn^demos using real hardware:

Hmph, I've no Falcon but I do own the game! Weird, I know, but take a gander at this boxed beauty...

The cover artwork is superb and it feels like you're trying to view the monk through the glare.

Squidgy bits to stop the disk rattling about have been kept. I don't know why either!

I know I'll never get to boot this up unless someone donates their Falcon O_o

I love the manual which is mostly an interesting "making off" in English and French.

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