Sunday, September 29, 2019

Chopper X

Chopper X is a vertically-scrolling shoot 'em up released in 1989 by Paradox that places us in the seat of an Assault Helicopter which is armed with Viper Air To Ground missiles to battle against hoards of bad guys. The blurb says this pushes the ST with its stunning graphics - What absolute twaddle. Don't believe it for a second!

Anyhow, I should first admit that I'm not exactly the biggest fan of the whole vertical shooter genre. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the games that I have enjoyed over the decades: Flying Shark, SWIV, Wings Of Death, Xenon, Xenon II and Lethal Xcess. Most are searchable here and yes, I'm a freak with six fingers...

From the start, I knew this was going to be a corker. Yup, right up there with the best of 'em. Ahem!

Upon starting, the first thing that hits you is how crude it looks. Then you pick up the joystick and realise that the controls are equally as bad because they feel clunky without any swift action manoeuvring your chopper about the screen. Hmm, that just sounds wrong... Anyhow, it simply doesn't feel right to me.

Shooting down enemies should always be fun but I'm not so sure Chopper X has the most accurate collision detection system. Perhaps it's the scrolling which throws me? But there are times when killing them (and them killing me) seemed somewhat unnaturally fake. Our main weapon doesn't feel good enough, it's like I wanted more from it... Thankfully, there are powerful Cluster Bombs that help out during those sticky situations.

The ship does nothing other than help mask the enemy fire!! At last (right pic) we reach the end of a level.

Each stage is quite short and static in design which is fine because many shooters follow a similar design. However, that means I could soon learn when something was about to appear and these guys are pretty dumb too: they will blindly shoot in a direction which is approximate to your location on the screen. So, if you're quite high up, then their bullets are fired diagonally upwards rather than directly towards your current location. Weird...

It's probably a lot easier to keep your chopper quite low on the screen to avoid the enemy's pathetic attack patterns from above. However, and annoyingly, death not only results in a loss of life but also forces you back to replay the entire level from the beginning rather than the place were you croaked it. Quite infuriating.

As you can see, the enemy cannot directly fire at your location but only in the general direction.

Graphically, this is pretty poor by ST standards with bland sprites, dreary backdrops and horrendously jerky scrolling. It's perhaps one of the worst I've seen and I include those developed with Shoot'Em-Up Construction Kit! lol

Audio... Well, this is the game's one saving grace with an incredibly funky tune that I really enjoy. However, it doesn't last very long before looping back to the start and, because this plays constantly, it isn't long before it grates on your nerves!! Sound effects are pretty lame, especially when you die or kill something. Interestingly, midi is supported which is something I'd love to experience one day - I'm after a cheap Roland MT32. Anybody??

The 2nd level adds a splash of brown but still looks dreadful. However, I'd lost the will to live by the 3rd...

Well, it looks like my fantastic run of Super Pack games has come to an end with Chopper X. Yes, I've never been a big fan of vertically-scrolling shoot 'em ups but this is average, to say the least. It's far too easy, dull as dishwater, and I got little enjoyment. There are better shoot 'em ups on the ST so stay clear of this choppy chopper!!

Perhaps you're insane and wish to play this? The floppies can be sourced using Old Games Finder and you can lose precious hard drive space by installing this version by 8BitChip. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Buggy Boy

Silly & Screwy Racing

After the joy of Arkanoid 2, we continue our trip through Atari's Super Pack with Beyond the Ice Palace and Black Lamp. However, both are already featured here on AtariCrypt [click the links] so let's move onwards for a favourite of mine, Buggy Boy. Those with a keen memory will remember that I've already covered this?

Well, yes and no... Yes, it's featured but no, it was just a silly post showing Buggy Boy running at dizzy speeds on my 16Mhz Mega STe!! Still, it's worth viewing... Honest.

Buggy Boy is an arcade classic and one that doesn't take itself seriously whatsoever. Forget the crucial stuff like road surface, tyres, suspension, handling, pitstops or even the paint job. Nope, just choose which of the five tracks you fancy and then jump into your buggy and race through checkpoints - all against the clock.

Who doesn't love two-wheel stunts? If Michael Knight can do it, so can I.

Abandoned logs help our cute buggy to leap high into the air!

Fun, Fun, Fun!!

Everything you see is completely unrealistic thanks to roads cluttered with obstacles and whacky physics. The first track is an offroad loop whereas the others are segmented by their checkpoints as you progress. This racer was always meant to be fun so provides silly leaps and two-wheel driving, Knight Rider style :-)

Points can be earned by collecting flags in the order shown at the top of your screen. Once completed, they begin to flash - so now is a good idea to collect more before that stops... Also, slalom-style gates are scattered throughout for tons of points and some even offer time bonuses. Heck, you might even see a soccer ball... Go on, kick it!!

Hit that soccer ball like Pele and see what happens to eagle-eyed drivers.

Why not climb those sloping walls to avoid obstacles like annoying rocks.

Forget sim, this is pure arcade joy!

Some tracks have banked curves and can be used like you're racing at Bristol Motor Speedway which was an unexpected surprise that certainly adds to the overall excitement. However, not all is good, look out for rocks, bushes or barriers which slow you down or take you for a tumble. Driving head-on into a wall will cause you to explode and water has never been good for any vehicle. Each bad event forces the loss of precious time!

The joystick controls are brilliant albeit limited by the ST. Of course, an analogue wheel was always going to be missed, but the weirdest aspect is pushing upwards to accelerate rather than using the button. That's because tapping this switches between your two gears... it's odd but you'll get used to it after a race or two.

There was plenty of room but I still chose to leap over that rock. Why not!

Watch out, tunnel ahead! Enter without hitting slap-bang in the wall if you can?


Graphically, Buggy Boy hasn't aged too badly and certainly brought back all my old arcade memories. The sprites are nice, the colours are gorgeously vivid, and the overall appearance is cartoon-like. Okay, the framerate isn't exactly Vroom but it looks cute and performs smooth enough not to hurt my eyes, ala Cisco Heat and OutRun!!

Audio is darn cool and captures the arcade experience with its beautiful chiptunes - all produced by the talented Jason C. Brooke. Sound effects are almost as good with jazzy jingles and funny "boings" as we leap.

Bumping into some obstacles slows you down...

...whereas others cause the buggy to realistically tumble. Ahem.

The CryptO'pinion?

It's difficult to find something negative to say about this racer. But, if I was to be picky, then the framerate could be a tad smoother and I miss the audio touches like skids or driving through tunnels. But I really am being picky!!

Overall, this is an outstanding conversion of the arcade original. It looks, sounds and plays absolutely great plus the ability to instantly select your prefered course is a huge bonus. It's authentic and brilliantly entertaining so will always keep on dragging you back for more. Buggy Boy is an Atari ST gem and I love it. Simple as that really.

The floppies can be sourced using Old Games Finder but, if you have the necessary hardware, I would advice you to download the cool hack by D-Bug. This not only comes with a fantastic intro but also supports faster Atari computers, like my own Mega STe. This, is a superb feature I love!!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Arkanoid - Revenge of Doh

It's time to kickstart my Super Pack adventure with Imagine's Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh. Now, I'm sure everyone has played this at some point in their life because it's such a popular classic and easy to pick up and play.

Our ST conversion was developed by a familiar name from the 1980s, Peter Johnson. This wizball not only did all the coding but everything you see and hear too which is quite staggering when you think about it. From the moment this loads up, I'm in love with its authentic intro! Okay, it's short but it works and features that zappy music!

The first level breaks you in nicely and it wasn't long before I found an M power-up!!

Using the mouse... Yes, the mouse!! Control the Vaus Craft to deflect the energy bolt back and forth destroying every (destructible) block - Breakout style. You can guide the bolt depending on how contact is made: inner areas produce a taller vertical direction whereas outer parts deliver a wide-angled shot. I must say, the mouse controls are excellent, but don't think that means easy because your hand-eye coordination will definitely be tested!!

Each level follows a trippy design to compensate for the ridged format and later screens are incredibly tricky. Watch out for the aliens who enjoy hovering around to get in the bolts way and ricochet the bolt off at an unexpected angle - which is really infuriating!! So use the Vaus to nudge them into an early grave when they get too close...

Thankfully, the power-ups are back and we have a wealth of snappy bonuses to make full use of:
B - Who doesn't love skipping levels if given the chance?
C - The Vaus Craft gains velcro!
D - Split the bolt into eight - can you handle it though?
E - Bigger is always better, right?
I - We have a ghost Vaus to make our hits a little easier.
L - Hit that mouse button because we have weapons!!
M - Destroys blocks like they're not even there. Amazing.
N - Splits the bolt, which regenerates to keep on damaging.
P - Sounds boring but extra lives are incredibly valuable.
R - The cold of space has shrunken you!
S - Collect this if things are getting too hectic.
T - You gain a twin to help you in your quest!

Graphically, you won't see any mind-blowing artwork but it's so reminiscent of the arcade original using vivid colours. The aliens might be incredibly annoying at times but at least these sprites look great. Arkanoid is as bold and colourful as you would expect and shows just how far we came from the original 1970s Breakout!!

Sound effects aren't going to drive you wild with excitement but who expected anything beyond dink...dink...dink...? Thankfully, the tunes are superb even if we're only talking mere seconds, but I love their authentic quality.

Personally, I think this is one of the hardest levels in the entire game. Just try and get that last block...

Usually, I would now mention all the things about a game that narks me. There are none...

Okay, I think it's easy to say that Arkanoid took the Breakout genre to a whole new level. This sequel is so addictive and infuriating yet always keeps you coming back for more. It's everything I would hope for in an arcade conversion and is certainly one of the best. Overall, I rate Arkanoid II Revenge Of Doh as categorically outstanding!!
Downloads are available for either floppy or using a spanky hard drive device. And, for those of us that are far too impatient, why not skip a level by hitting the S key during gameplay? All ya gotta do is hit the CAPS Lock key when the title screen is displayed and enter MAGENTA. Sweet!

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Atari 520 STFM Super Pack

I've had an idea...

And this is something that I've been thinking about for a while but somehow never managed to get around to doing. Let me begin by saying that my first Atari computer was (shock) the 520 STFM model and this beautiful machine came bundled with a ton of games called the Super Pack. I remember that Christmas well and this new computer was quite remarkable with jaw-dropping speed, sounds, colours and immense next-gen gameplay!!

Until that day, I'd only ever owned a ZX Spectrum so booting up Xenon for the first time was, well, mind-blowing. Pure witchcraft!! Don't get me wrong, I loved my old Speccy but this was another level completely. So, I figured it would be a fantastic(?) idea to replay each of the bundled games and relive Christmas Day all over again.

The games...

Arkanoid II Revenge of Doh, Beyond the Ice Palace, Black Lamp, Buggy Boy, Chopper X, Eddie Edwards Super Ski, Ikari Warriors, Marble Madness, Quadralien, Rana Rama, Return to Genesis, Road Wars, Seconds Out, Starquake, Summer Olympiad, Test Drive, Thrust, Thundercats, Wizball, Xenon, and Zynaps. Phew, 21 games!!!

As you can see, seven games are already searchable right here on AtariCrypt - so click their links to see what I thought. Thankfully, there are many remaining and a few which I've not played since that first Christmas so I'm very excited to see how well they've aged over the last three decades. Yes, I'm talking to you Seconds Out!!

You excited? I know I am...

I'll begin my Super Pack journey alphabetically which means starting with Imagine's colourful breakout, Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh. The last time I enjoyed a decent brick buster was Bolo a few years back [what a classic] so I hope this lives up to all my expectations. Let the joyride through the Super Pack begin - watch this space :)


Every Atari Super Pack game has now been featured, so use the search function at the top/right of this page. Those wondering what games won my heart, click here for my final thoughts on this great Atari ST giveaway :)

Greetings to Róbert Tercsi and Marko Latvanen for
their help hunting down images and information

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Super Stario Land

Blocks? Jumping? Critters? Meh!

I was recently talking to a good friend who loves the NES game, Super Mario Brothers. However, this is something I've not played because I had the ZX Spectrum before moving up to the glorious Atari ST. He swore at me saying it was the best platformer ever made and I didn't know what I was missing. Thankfully, he has now been sectioned but his silly opinion got me thinking about Super Stario Land which is (cough...cough) a similar title.

I remember playing this a few years ago but struggled to progress very far. So, I decided to give it another bash over the weekend but shockingly, my skills had not improved!! So I rebooted my ST after only a few games to enable the trainer option which I hoped would compensate for my poor reactions. In fact, I had the bold intention to record a "longplay" but those darn flying fish put a frustrating end to that idea, which was so disappointing...

Stario left the house without a shotgun!! What a fool. Now he's gotta squish the nasties from up high...

What? No weapons?

For those living on another planet the last couple of decades, Super Stario Land is basically a shameless Mario ripoff which doesn't even try to hide that fact at all. Released 1995 by Top Byte Software, this must rank as one of the last commercial games ever released for our beloved Atari ST. It was programmed by Adrian Keylock who did an ace job considering no enhanced hardware was used. Yup, it's as smooth as silk on any Atari ST computer.

Stario can walk, run (hold the fire button) and jump over his blocky 2D landscape. Many of these blocks can be nudged for extra points and sometimes a weird bonus - I love the one that makes you grow twice the size/strength and I will never refuse that much-needed 1UP bonus. The levels are populated by lots of cute critters that can be killed by stomping on their heads, although some require a double jump whilst others are immune...

Your environment is very much a "Mario" clone using the expected bric-a-brac with tube-like structures, water, moving platforms and much more. Everything should feel this "familiar", but what interested me was the levels themselves which follow a particular design using randomly generated stages for larger levels. Sadly, this design will often backfire for a weird Deja Vu feeling as you hopped over the same bit of landscape more than once...

Watch out for falling rocks!! Every critter is so cute and detailed, even the flying fish - GRR!!!

But how does it look, sound and play?

The graphics are designed by none other than Richard Davey, of the legendary LGD and kind Patreon to AtariCrypt. He's certainly taken the time to get that console look just right - everything from the blocks, the landscapes, and those incredibly detailed sprites. The baddies are really cute, it's almost a shame to squash 'em. Almost.

Audio can be flipped between the default sound effects and chipmusic by simply pressing F9 key. The effects are quite good but there's not enough going on so you're left feeling empty and wanting far more pizazz from your old ST. Thankfully, nothing compares to the gorgeous Big Alec tunes which are beautiful. So that's an easy choice!!

Joystick controls are superb and incredibly responsive without any lag. However, having said that, you should get in a few practice games to master the enormous level of inertia. I wish I had a pound for every time I slid off the edge of a moving platform to my doom! After a few plays, things will soon become second nature. Brilliant controls!!

Enter 'australia' into the high score table and you get a rather unexpected bonus game!!

The CryptO'pinion?

No game is perfect and Super Stario Land has a few niggles which disappoint but, for me, those flying fish are the worst because they appear to follow unpredictable patterns so are really annoying. Getting by them is impossible to judge correctly so, it feels like pure luck IF you manage to make it through. Which is a bit rubbish!

Having said that, this is a blast and certainly ranks as one of the best on the ST. However, I'm unsure just HOW to recommend it because IF you're a fan of the NES game then you'll probably hate what is a shameless ripoff. Others may not approve of its old 8Bit style compared to 16-bitters like Rolling Ronny, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, etc, etc...

However, Stario is authentically Mario in many aspects which is great for a computer without the enhanced hardware. It feels 8-Bit, scrolls great, sounds great, and the controls are simply divine. Yep, I'm happy and also feel it might have changed my mind about that idiotic Italian plumber... maybe! Overall, I cannot recommend Super Stario enough because it's blummin' great and infuriatingly addictive so download what is nothing short of fun, fun, fun!!

Super Stario The Mario Wannabe
can be ran from floppy or your hard drive.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Fuji Boink ASCII

Always read the documentation!

I really enjoy digging through the ST's deep archives to see what forgotten goodies I can find and here is one of the best I've ever seen. It's called Fuji Boink ASCII and deceivingly appears to be nothing but a humble text file. Sadly, I've no idea who to credit for this piece of GFA Basic wizardry, but what I do know is that it's absolutely brilliant and definitely not what I expected to "read" after double-clicking the icon... I love finding stuff like this!!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Color Clash

To compensate for the lacking sounds, I decided to add a background tune - by The Phantom.

ZX Spectrum colour clash?

No, Colour Clash is a puzzler released in 1992 by AnimalSoft and stars Antonius the chameleon who has been captured by a mad scientist. Yup, there is usually some crazy fool trying to rule our world and this one has decided to force a chameleon to complete a maze. The task? To find dead flies - and eat them. Great, uh?

The first room is easy and will nicely demonstrate the basic mechanics whilst giving a good feel of how to control Antonius. It's here we learn that he can jump and can only eat the flies from a horizontal direction. Also, there always nasties to avoid which can cause our critter to explode into pieces with just a single touch. Ouch!

(top) I found easy but (lower) is something that had me stumped for a *long* time... sigh!

My brain hurts!

It's not until the later levels that you realise we can gain a few extra abilities to help us out. These are enabled by collecting coloured cards - which not only changes our appearance but also activates a new ability:

Red allows us to reach high places by inflating ourselves like a balloon!
Green is pretty cool because we can now use our tail as a weapon.
Blue gives us a long and sticky tongue which is great for moving objects.
Yellow turns us back to our default colour and we can also jump.

Trying to figure out how each room can be completed is very taxing on the old brain cells. This is the kind of game that will catch you out so many times with regards to planning a route and how best to use your special abilities. After all, any card can only be collected (and used) once. This means that whenever you return back to default, you cannot switch to another colour unless there is a card to collect. Thankfully, there is no time limit!!

Colour Clash has a password feature - so blow on a trumpet whilst dancing naked in the streets!! Yes, this is a fabulous addition and something that I wish more games had because it makes your progression far more achievable. No longer will you need to restart from scratch each and every time. Top marks from me!

(top) is easy and so obvious but (lower) is the dreaded level 11 which has me stumped!!

Input & Output

The joystick controls are dead simple to move Antonius and the fire button performs a leap (or a special ability). Pushing upwards will pause the game where you can also access the menu bar at the top of your screen which provides three choices: DEF means default and will turn Antonius back to his default colour of yellow. NOT will do nothing and return you to the game. KIL explodes our loveable chameleon if ever you need to restart.

Aesthetically, we have a basic appearance with little audio. Now, that may appear a little naff to some, but no game needs spanky visuals to be playable, especially a puzzler. However, having said that, and in true AnimalSoft tradition, the sprites and gorgeous - so cute and beautifully drawn. However, I do wish there was a background tune...

(top) is so frustratingly obvious, but (lower) is tricky and requires serious thought.

The CryptO'pinion?

I've really enjoyed this brain-blaster and that's not something I say often about many puzzlers! As I write, I still cannot beat level 11 which has me completely stumped. It's driving me nuts but it oddly doesn't lose any of its appeal during these difficult moments. It's true, each day I've found myself staring at my monitor - baffled but happy.

Overall, I thoroughly recommended Color Clash, even if they spelt colour incorrectly :^)

I would like to shout out a huge thank you to one of our kind Patreons who suggested that I should play something by AnimalSoft. Richard Davey, you were absolutely right about both AnimalSoft and this cunning puzzler. Thank you my friend, your LGD expertise was spot-on!!

Level Codes - can you help??

Level 1 - Starring
Level 2 - Antonius
Level 3 - Coloring
Level 4 - Rainbows
Level 5 - Bestowed
Level 6 - With The
Level 7 - Enormous
Level 8 - Quest Of
Level 9 - Escaping
Level 10 - From The
Level 11 - EvilOnes
Level 12 - ????????

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ironman Challenge III

A couple of years ago, I asked Mike (of The New Retro Show) to play some Atari ST games. An alternative selection that I knew would push this bloke to his limits - it was especially fun watching him endure Fire And Brimstone!!

Two years is long enough, so I challenged him for a third "Ironman" video which he agreed to! So I picked games from the PD/Shareware scene, four platformers and three conversions of arcade classics: Clod Hopper, Crapman, Frogger, Hector vs The Mutant Vampire Tomatoes From Hell, Hoog, Space Monsters and Winglord.

I would like to thank Mike for this fun challenge, which I have really enjoyed. Oh, and this video is actually an early-screening just for Atari ST gamers and it will not be made public until this Wednesday!! One more thing... Mike, I've got some cool (and cruel) ideas for a fourth challenge if you're interested? Go on, I dare ya!

Three belters: Winglord (Atari STe), Crapman and one of the latest games released for the ST, Frogger!

Hoog is one mightily impressive jaw-dropping platformer and Clod Hopper feels so authentically 8Bit.

Hector... must be one of the best titles ever and who doesn't love a fantastic conversion of Panic?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Stunt Car Racer

Astonishing racing!

Stonish are having a fantastic year with a ton of additions to their database. I downloaded a few of these crackers and ended up loving the goods of Supremacy #7: James Pond, a Steve Bak classic. Action Fighter, hey this is pretty good. The Mystic Well, one for geeks! But it was Stunt Car Racer that had me hooked so, here we are!

I remembered friends telling me about a 3D racer by Geoff Crammond which was like Evel Knievel meets (a playable version of) Hard Drivin'. However, I simply couldn't control my buggy for love nor money so failed to see what the attraction was and placed it in the same category as Powerdrome - nice but impossible to control...

Okay, let's take a peep at all the drivers. A weird bunch although High Flyer looks pretty cute...

Genius track design with incredibly cunning tricks and a motley crew to race against!

30 years later...

Well, thanks to Stonish and this floppy disk, I booted up Stunt Car Racer and attempted a couple of practice laps like it was 1989 again. To my genuine surprise, I didn't crash or fall off the track!!! So I played another game and even took part in a league challenge - which I won. Now I was gleaming with pride because this wasn't like me at all. Yup, this success went straight to my head and I started to get very excited - not easy at my age!

So I dared myself on and practised several different tracks, with a varying degree of success. Well, I'm being kind to myself here: The Stepping Stones is a killer which I think everybody should foolishly attempt, Kamikaze style!! The Draw Bridge looks easy but has a nifty trick up its sleeve... and The Big Ramp features a ginormous monster gap which can only be jumped by going over 200mph. There might only be 8 tracks but they are all beauties!

I love the way you are dropped in! Now the fun begins and against a blocky opponent.

I thought I was catching him up but I skidded off into the dirt - only to watch him zoom off...

Weeeeee!! This is fun fun fun!!

Stunt Car Racer is controlled using the joystick: pushing up accelerates whilst fire enables turbo boost for added speed. Pulling down breaks and can reverse, which comes in handy after falling off the tracks. Turning left or right isn't overly sensitive but precise and feels just right. Natural and very comfortable from the very start. Thus instantly playable and mastering the buggy's controls isn't tedious at all but rather very rewarding.

Practice mode is great for learning the ropes and mastering those difficult parts of most tracks but I found myself jumping straight into the league to compete against a computer-controlled opponent. They are well-balanced - so the computer ain't no slouch nor is it Jimmie Johnson. Also, you have the option to compete against friends and even hook-up your ST to another glorious Atari computer. Oh, or maybe an Amiga, if you so desire! ;)

You win some, you lose some... Stick with it and you'll be their hero - with a giant egg cup!

The CryptO'pinion?

Graphically, this racer lacks the flair and pizzazz of Lotus 2 or Crazy Cars 3 but this is actually a good thing because the framerate doesn't suffer from unnecessary aesthetics. Sadly, sounds aren't exactly the best I've heard from my ST: there are numerous effects but that engine noise could have been better (I found myself turning the volume down a bit). In fact, I'd love to see this game improved with STe DMA effects [subtle hint directed at Jon or PP!!]

Stunt Car Racer is fast and furious with wonky tracks which are a thrill to compete on. Whether you choose to master those tricky stunts in Practice mode or jump straight into a league battle, I guarantee hours of fun. The physics are spot-on perfect and the stunt aspect is so addictive, unlike Hard Drivin! Dear Mr Crammond, you did it again and delivered a racer which is exciting, addictive and a bucket load of fun!! Overall, 10/10. Absolutely.

I suggest you bob over to Stonish
to download this and lots more ST goodies!!