Eliminator

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…

Juice!

It was pretty common in the Atari 8-Bit era for games to offer a bit of a new twist on established formulae. You had to make your games stand out, after all!

In Juice!, a game developed by Arti Haroutunian and published by Tronix, you take on the role of “Edison, the kinetic android” who is essentially a mechanised electrician. It’s up to you to connect all the wires on the board to get things up and running again while avoiding the unwanted attention of various electrical-themed enemies.

If you watch the video, it probably won’t take you long to notice that the game bears an uncanny resemblance to Q*Bert in some ways — but there’s enough different here to keep things interesting, and this remains a great, highly playable game for Atari 8-bit computers.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

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.

Into the Eagle’s Nest

Let’s shoot some Nazis!

Pandora’s Into the Eagle’s Nest, first released in 1987, is an early example of the “stealth” subgenre of action adventure, with elements of survival horror, such as resource management. Interestingly, its Atari 8-bit port followed a year after its initial release — which included 16-bit platforms such as the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga — when Atari decided it would make an excellent game for their last-ditch effort at pushing the 8-bit range, the hybrid computer-console XE Games System or XEGS.

It’s an interesting game with some cool twists on the usual top-down action-adventure formula… and hordes of Nazis just waiting for you to mow them down. Just make sure you aim properly.

Chase

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!

Henri

Today’s Atari 8-Bit game shows us that even back in the 1980s, programmers weren’t above churning out something just to make a quick buck.

Enter Henri by one Adam Billyard, a developer who would later go on to produce great things for The English Software Company — specifically the technically stunning (but exceedingly irritating) racer Elektra Glide, and the well-animated one-on-one fighting game Chop Suey.

At the time he put out Henri, however, he was just trying to scrape together enough money for his air fare to get home. The result was a competent, if relatively unremarkable Mr. Do! clone. I hope you like the sound of Bach…

Beyond the Ice Palace

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.

Gorf

When is a Space Invaders rip-off not a Space Invaders rip-off? When it also rips off Galaxian and Gyruss!

No, that’s unfair to poor old Gorf, an arcade game by Bally Midway that was ported to Atari 8-Bit by Roklan Software. Gorf is an entertaining and enjoyable game in its own right that most certainly has its own identity — albeit perhaps not what was originally intended.

This began life as an adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, of all things, but was presumably adapted into what it eventually became after someone at Bally Midway figured that a game involving a 20-minute sequence slowly panning around a spaceship with nothing happening probably wouldn’t be that much fun. The end product was rather good… and bastard hard.

Atomino

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!

Final Legacy

One of my favourite things about early computer games is the sheer creativity a lot of developers showed within the technological limitations of the time.

Today we look at 1984’s Final Legacy, a rather ambitious action-strategy naval combat game in which you command a formidable warship in an attempt to destroy the totally-not-Russian missile bases pointed threateningly at your cities. Rather than a dry, abstract affair, Final Legacy brings us a cool bit of very visual interactive speculative fiction about how warfare might work in the year 2051.

Initially unfolding from an overview map, you’ll use an electric beam to destroy enemy missile silos, lasers to shoot down incoming missiles and torpedos to destroy enemy ships. It’s a ton of fun.

Atari games, software, hardware… and memories