Sometimes you feel nostalgia for something not because it was “good”, but because you associate it with happy times.
One such example of this from among the library of Atari ST games I’ve played over the years is Eidersoft’s public domain title Haunted House, a pretty terrible platform game that is essentially a take on the Jet Set Willy formula. Explore, collect things, try not to die.
Atrocious collision detection, the worst run cycle you’ll ever see and the fact it might not even be possible to actually finish the damn thing doesn’t stop me thinking quite fondly of it, however, because I will forever associate it with pleasant memories of childhood. Ahh, simpler times…
We all have games that we enjoy a bunch, but are absolutely no good at whatsoever. For me, one of those games is Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts… in pretty much any incarnation.
The Atari ST version was a pretty great port that offered a convincingly “console-style” experience on home computers that were never quite able to match up to dedicated gaming hardware. I may have never seen beyond about halfway through the first level (including in today’s video) but I’ll still always have fond memories of it.
Join me as I wax lyrical on the game’s excellent use of the ST’s meagre sound chip, the novelty value of platform games with undulating landscapes and, once again, my brother’s girlfriend’s father.
Attempts to realistically simulate things it would be near-impossible for the average person to experience have been around for a long time… even when the technology wasn’t quite up to the job.
Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, one of the most prolific creators of simulations — with a particular (though not exclusive) focus on military jet fighter simulators — was MicroProse, erstwhile home of Sid “Civilization” Meier. As time went on, these games got more and more satisfyingly complex and true to life… but the genre had to start somewhere!
F-15 Strike Eagle was first released in 1984 for various 8-bit computers and ported to a variety of other platforms (including the Atari ST) over the course of the next three years. It’s a fairly “arcadey” take on the jet fighter sim, but it remains enjoyable to this day… even if its core tech looks severely dated even compared to MicroProse’s own titles from just a year or two later!
Today’s Atari ST game is a good example of the sort of technically impressive titles that came from the development company Hewson.
Probably best known for their impressive platformer Nebulus (known on some platforms in some regions as Tower Toppler), Hewson was a company that became renowned for its visually striking games, making use of a variety of techniques to provide the illusion of pushing the hardware “beyond its limits”.
Eliminator sees the company turning its hand to the quasi-3D effect of late ’80s racing games… and then layering a brutally challenging bit of shoot ’em up action atop it. I also have fond memories of it for admittedly strange and anecdotal reasons that are little to do with the game itself…
Today’s Atari ST title is a good example of the general standard of arcade conversions during the 16-bit home computer era.
Technos Japan’s Double Dragon II is a classic of the beat ’em up genre with good reason, and the Atari ST port wasn’t awful — compare it to footage of the arcade original and you’ll see that graphically, at least, it’s surprisingly close.
Like many arcade conversions of the era, though, it was missing a few features… like the background music from the original game. There are many possible reasons this might have been the case — most likely it was either the fact that the ST’s sound chip was never really up to the job of doing sound effects and music simultaneously, or that many of these Western-developed home computer ports of the era were put together from scratch rather than being able to make use of the arcade machine’s original code and audio-visual assets.
Either way, it’s far from an amazing game from the Atari ST, but it’s a good time if you’re looking for some brawler action, or just to experience what an arcade conversion of the era was like.
Deep in the seventh galaxy of the Nebulus system, a lone warrior has been selected from thousands to perform an unenviable task: to save the beautiful Princess Chardonnay from the clutches of the evil Disgusmatrons.
Thus begins the rather overblown story to Mastertronic’s Chase, an Atari ST title shamelessly attempting to ride the coat-tails of the popular Star Wars arcade game with its transparent vector graphics and arcade-style thrills.
As with most titles from the era, the story was completely and utterly irrelevant… but that didn’t mean that the game experience itself was lacking. On the contrary, despite the game’s simplicity and its rather bare-bones presentation, Chase is an oddly addictive little affair I still enjoy booting up for the occasional blast-and-dodge session even today!
I never played this game back in the day, but it was one of those titles you saw all over the place in the early days of the ST.
Throughout the ST’s lifespan, it played host to a variety of different bundle packages, many of which were extremely generous in terms of the number of games and applications they included. Beyond the Ice Palace was a regular inclusion in such bundles, and as such became reasonably well-known.
Loosely inspired by action platformers such as Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, Beyond the Ice Palace sees your green-booted, gender-ambiguous hero(ine?) battling their way through hordes of enemies and admiring how the ST’s lack of sound channels meant that a single sound effect could mess up an entire musical composition.
First released in 1985, Atari’s ST range of 16-bit computers were the official follow-ups to the 8-Bit range.
Over their eight years on the market, they saw a variety of weird and wonderful games, as developers were provided with greater graphical fidelity and faster processing speeds… even if the ST’s Yamaha YM2149 PSG sound chip was technically inferior to the POKEY chip of the 8-bit range!
Let’s kick off our exploration of the ST’s extensive and varied library with Atomino, a 1990 release developed by Blue Byte and published by Psygnosis. This is a science-themed puzzle game in which you build molecules from atoms in increasingly complicated circumstances!
3D engines are everywhere these days — you can probably name at least two off the top of your head — but in the late 1980s, they were a new and exciting phenomenon.
One of the first companies to figure out a means of making a reusable 3D engine that could be applied to multiple games without too much difficulty was Incentive Software from Reading in the UK, who developed a system they dubbed “Freescape”.
The first game released that made use of Freescape was named Driller, and unfortunately at the time of writing I’m yet to play it. This was subsequently followed up in 1988 by Dark Side, which I did play, however, and have some rather fond memories of.
Continue reading Dark Side
Buggy Boy was one of the first games I played on the Atari ST — and it’s one that still holds up very well today.
The game was originally released in arcades in 1985 by Tatsumi, and is known is some territories as Speed Buggy. Home ports were released over the course of the following few years by prolific developer-publisher Elite, with the 16-bit home computer versions hitting ST and Amiga in 1988.
It’s a single-player checkpoints-and-timer racing game with an emphasis on relatively low-speed, technical driving, which immediately makes it stand out against the many high-speed racers based on the Pole Position mould from the era.
Continue reading Buggy Boy