At any point in gaming history, it seems that there’s always one particular territory doomed to be singled out for making “weird” games.
What “weird” actually translates to in most circumstances is “interesting, unconventional, subversive and highly creative”; regrettably, while “weird” is undoubtedly a more concise description, it also carries with it somewhat pejorative connotations.
While today Japan tends to be singled out as the “weird” locale of choice, back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it was France putting out the most creative, unusual and fascinating games on the market, and Infogrames was a leading developer and publisher during this period.
Here’s The Light Corridor, Infogrames’ delightfully abstract 3D take on the traditional “bat and ball” game — an oddly hypnotic experience that, while simple to play, is extremely addictive…
It is the ’90s, and there is time for Klax.
To be fair, there is time for Klax whenever you care to make time for Klax. It is currently 2018, for example, and there is still time for Klax, so I always thought this particular marketing slogan was rather odd. But it was certainly memorable if nothing else, and few would argue that the dude depicted playing Klax on the cover of Tengen and Domark’s Atari ST release of this match-3 puzzler is not a quintessential example of a distinctly ’90s-looking gamer.
Anyway. Klax is one of the earliest puzzle games I recall having a good time with — I actually played it before I played Tetris for the first time, I believe — and it still holds up well today. Though I’m absolutely not as good at it as I used to be. And the Atari Lynx version is better. But this ST version is still worth a look!
Back in the ’90s, there was a bit of a rivalry between people who played games on home computers and those who played games on consoles.
What am I talking about, “back in the ’90s”, this is still a thing! Well, the difference is that back then, the home computer players were secretly envious of the console players, since during that period, consoles were the more powerful, specialised games machines.
As such, we saw a fair few computer games that attempted to emulate the success of “mascot games” on consoles. One such example that saw some success — and a couple of sequels — was James Pond, a rather British underwater agent with a penchant for environmental do-gooding…
Today’s Atari ST game is one of my favourites from my childhood… and a cool example of a developer thinking creatively.
Interphase, developed by The Assembly Line and published by Image Works and Mirrorsoft, is a game about infiltrating a building. The twist is, you don’t control the one doing the infiltrating; instead, you are hooked into the building’s electrical systems, manipulating them from an abstract 3D representation of “cyberspace”, while your off-screen companion is doing the difficult bit of actually getting through the building.
It’s a really cool game, and one that had a decently long lifespan too, thanks to its original commercial release being followed up by the complete game being given away as a freebie on an ST magazine’s cover-mounted floppy disk — ST Format, if I remember correctly. It remains solidly playable today, and well worth a look.
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.
Welcome to AtariXL, and thanks for stopping by.
Atari computers have been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories involve using the Atari 400 and Atari 800XL for both playing games and performing tasks like typing out stories or making banners. And as I think back through my formative years, Atari computers of various descriptions — 400, 800XL, 130XE, 520ST, 520STE (with RAM upgrade) — were always there by my side right up until the IBM compatible PC truly asserted its complete dominance over the home computer market.
I’m keen to preserve both those memories as well as a record of some of the things I enjoyed so much growing up. To that end, I managed to convince my parents to brave the perils of their loft and retrieve whatever they could so I could shamelessly indulge my nostalgia… that and immediately expand my already extensive collection of video games and consoles with some true relics of the early days of personal computing.
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