I have a soft spot for Microdeal’s Goldrunner. It was one of the first games I played on the Atari ST, and while it’s monstrously difficult and quite annoying at times, there’s something about it that kept me coming back for more.
It was likely a combination of things: the impressive performance, the excellent Rob Hubbard music, the sampled speech repeatedly bidding you “Welcome” even when you’d been playing for hours… it all combined to make one of the best Atari ST games out there, and a game I still enjoy a fair bit today.
Toaplan shoot ’em ups are pretty beloved by collectors of classic arcade and console titles — but they got a few ports to home computers, too.
Flying Shark for Atari ST is one such example. And while in some ways it demonstrates the ST’s weaknesses when compared to more dedicated gaming hardware, it’s actually a pretty competent version of the original game and certainly one that I enjoyed playing quite a bit back in the day.
First, there was Menace. Now, Psygnosis presents… a DMA Design game. BLOOD MONEY!
Thus ran the intro to Blood Money, spiritual successor to DMA Design’s excellent 16-bit shooter Menace, and a game that draws heavy inspiration from a variety of its contemporaries. It’s a good game with a few glaring issues that hold it back from true greatness — but it’s worth a play or two, particularly if you can bring a friend along for the ride!
Although X-Out is considered to be one of the best shoot ’em ups on the Atari ST, I didn’t rate it all that much from a modern perspective; I think console-style shoot ’em ups have spoiled me!
Its sequel Z-Out is another matter, however; despite being a pretty shameless clone of R-Type, this is a much more enjoyable horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up when played today — it even has R-Type’s iconic monstrous difficulty!
The games that people consider to be “the best of all time” vary considerably according to what platforms they’ve spent the most time with — and nowhere is that more apparent than in the shoot ’em up genre.
X-Out (pronounced “cross out”) is supposedly one of the best ever shoot ’em ups for 8- and 16-bit home computers — and for sure, it has its impressive elements. But can it stand up to the heavy hitters of the console sector? You already know the answer to that, but let’s give it a go anyway.
Can you smell the Gun.Smoke? Infogrames certainly can in this vertically scrolling blastathon for Atari ST.
Wanted is actually a very competent shoot ’em up that does some interesting things that are a bit different from other, similar games on the ST. Perhaps most notably, it’s cowboy-themed, which was a rather unusual sight at the time — and still is today, to a certain extent.
Screaming Wings for Atari 8-bit was an excellent clone of Capcom’s arcade classic 1942, complete with loop-the-loops, a Lockheed Lightning under the player’s control and some satisfying gameplay.
Screaming Wings for Atari ST, meanwhile, is probably one of the worst shoot ’em ups on the system, since it abandoned almost everything that made the 8-bit version good and instead produced a steaming pile of pap whose only real redeeming feature is its use of digitised sound effects.
We made it to Z once again, folks, and it’s time for an all-time classic shoot ’em up for the Atari 8-bit: it’s Zybex, from Zeppelin Games.
Zeppelin began their life as a company specialising in budget-priced titles on cassette; the first time I came across them was when they released today’s game Zybex and motorcycle racer Speed Ace for £2.99 each. Speed Ace was fairly decent, from what I recall — though at the time of writing it’s not one we’ve revisited as yet — but Zybex was something truly special.
Featuring frantic shoot ’em up action for one or two players, Zybex truly brought the arcade-style scrolling shoot ’em up home in style — and it still holds up pretty well today.
Better get used to that sound! It’s Fantastic Voyage, an extremely timely 1982 release from Sirius Software that adapts the 1966 movie (or possibly Isaac Asimov’s novelisation) about injecting tiny submarines into scientists to blast health problems from within.
It’s actually a very enjoyable shooter — albeit one that isn’t going to blow your mind with its visuals, being barely distinct from its Atari 2600 counterpart. It plays well, though… and you’ll be hearing that beep-beep-beep in your sleep!
Ah, Activision. What a wonderfully creative variety of games you put out in the 8-bit era. What a hollow shell of yourself you are today.
Ahem, sorry, got a bit nostalgic there for a moment. Anyway, here’s Pastfinder, one of my favourite shoot ’em ups on Atari 8-bit, and one of the most peculiarly interesting ones to boot. You take on control of a little jumping bug of a spacecraft as you attempt to track down alien antiquities.
Better be careful, though; the whole planet is irradiated, so time is of the essence if you want to keep all your hair and/or internal organs intact to enjoy your loot.