Ocean Software were a funny old bunch. One minute they’d be putting out absolute tosh with the name of a big-name movie on the box, the next they’d be putting out some truly excellent original titles.
Elf for Atari ST falls firmly into the latter category, as the Will Ferrell movie of the same name was several years off at the time of its original release. Instead, what we have here is a great example of the “arcade adventure” genre that doesn’t really exist any more — a type of game that blends fast action with the kind of interactions typically associated with pure adventures. And just a touch of casual racism for good measure. Different times and all that.
The origins of the open-structure 2D platform game tend to be traced back to console games such as Castlevania and Metroid these days, but it was always a popular way to put a game together back on 8-bit computers, too.
Games such as today’s title, Mastertronic’s Universal Hero, tended to be known as “arcade adventures” back in the ’80s, thanks to their blend of traditionally arcade-style mechanics with the conventions of adventure games, such as exploration, puzzle-solving and object manipulation. While they didn’t always get that blend quite right, it certainly made for some interesting and challenging games!
Mission Elevator for Atari ST is a game I rather fondly remember; it was, I’m pretty sure, one of the first games I played on that system.
Somewhat criticised on its original release for its superficial resemblance to Taito’s Elevator Action, Mission Elevator is actually a rather interesting arcade adventure that casts you in the role of Agent Trevor (yes, really) as he attempts to dispose of a bomb that is hidden somewhere in a rather tall hotel with an incredibly inconvenient network of elevators.
The game distinguishes itself from Taito’s classic with its strong degree of interactivity and variety of amusing little touches — and still plays pretty well today. Don’t go in expecting an easy mission, though; those enemy agents mean business!
The ’90s were an era of “attitude”, not just in video games, but in popular culture at large — and especially in children’s TV.
One largely forgotten attempt at an edgy mascot was Gilbert, the snot-encrusted alien who first appeared as part of the Saturday morning show Get Fresh, and subsequently found success in his own right.
Naturally, he also had his own video game that allowed you to take control of the dribbling snot monster himself as he attempted to track down the parts of his spaceship that his jealous countrymen had hidden from him. Clearly, the only solution is to play lots of arcade games!
There are some games in which it feels absolutely impossible to get anywhere meaningful… but where you still feel you’re having a good time regardless.
One such example is Airball for the Atari ST, a strange isometric adventure in which you play an unfortunate young individual who crossed paths with an evil wizard with a penchant for turning people into rubber balls.
Can you escape from the wizard’s mansion? It has over 150 rooms, you know…
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve done it! Well, we’ve done it once, anyway.
Yes, indeed, with this week’s Atari A to Z video, we finally make it all the way to Z, with Cathryn (formerly William, as seen on the title screen) Mataga’s Zeppelin, an interesting multi-directional adventure shoot ’em up in which the challenge is not just from shooting bad guys and avoiding environmental hazards, but also from navigation and item manipulation.
This is a great example of the sort of quality software publisher Synapse became well-known for, although that quality tended to come at a price — Zeppelin was a whopping $34.95 when it came out in 1983, or nearly $90 in today’s money, taking inflation into account! And if Mataga’s name is familiar, you may have come across another Synapse-published title called Shamus that I’m sure will feature on this series at some point in the near future! But that’s a story for another day…