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.
An all-time classic of old-school Atari gaming, Imagic’s Atlantis is a simple but fun shoot ’em up in which death is inevitable — there’s a cheery thought for you!
Originally coming to prominence on Atari 2600, Atlantis was subsequently ported to a variety of other platforms, including Atari 8-bit. Gameplay-wise, the Atari 8-bit version isn’t all that different from the Atari 2600 original — it just looks a bit nicer.
Microdeal offered the Atari ST some solid support in its early days, with the software they published covering a wide variety of genres — and not just games.
Probably one of the most “traditional” games they published was Jupiter Probe, one of many games by the prolific Steve Bak, and a solid shoot ’em up in its own right — even if its concept and setting is based on… somewhat shaky scientific foundation, to say the least. Music by the legendary Rob Hubbard, though!
Today’s Atari 8-bit game is not one I’d heard of before, and with good reason: it never sold any copies!
Despite this, it somehow managed to find its way out into the wild — as a lot of unreleased, prototype or otherwise difficult-to-find software tended to do back in the day — and, many years later, the original author even made a video talking about the making of the game on YouTube.
Sadly, said author — one Jeffrey McArthur — is no longer with us, as he passed away in 2017. But we can honour his memory by enjoying his work today! So let’s take a look at Icky Squishy. Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
Activision may be a company that a lot of gamers like to steer well clear of these days thanks to issues like predatory DLC and microtransactions, but back in the days of the 8-bit micros, they were one of the finest companies out there.
They credited their programmers and designers, they put out games that pushed the boundaries of underpowered hardware such as the Atari 2600… and they just made great games, full stop.
One fantastic example is MegaMania, a thoroughly weird but extremely enjoyable fixed shooter that will get you bobbing and weaving between waves of hamburgers, engagement rings, bow ties and steam irons. No symbolism there, no sir.
Wicked is a great game that I used to really like when I was younger… even if it did freak me out a bit.
An occult-themed strategic shooter with horror elements, Wicked is a seriously unusual and highly original game that I’ve never seen anything quite like ever since. Truly, it was an untamed and highly experimental time in the games business!
Anyway, let’s revisit it after all these years… has it still got that ol’ black magic?