Tag Archives: shoot ’em up

Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts

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.

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The Last Starfighter

Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.

Any kid who watched the 1984 movie The Last Starfighter longed to hear those words for real — to put the skills they’d learned in video games to the test with real conflict against invading forces!

Unfortunately, Atari’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of the movie didn’t quite make it to market in time, instead finally seeing the light of day in 1986 as the hastily rebranded Star Raiders II. However, the original, fully playable prototype of the game in its original The Last Starfighter format has been well-preserved over the years… so it’s that we’ll be taking a look at today!

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…

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.

Encounter!

The Atari 8-Bit played host to some great games, many of which drew fairly unashamed inspiration from popular arcade games at the time.

In some cases, these “derivatives” provided an interesting twist on their inspiration’s formula — or in some cases improved upon it. Such is the case with Encounter! by the late Paul Woakes, an enormously talented (and mostly solo) British programmer who developed some of the most technically impressive games of the 8- and 16-bit era.

Encounter! wears its Battlezone inspirations on its sleeve, but it mixes things up with much faster-paced gameplay and a challenging “hyperspace” sequence between stages. Watch me fail at the latter aspect in particular below.

Caverns of Mars

Caverns of Mars was a very influential game in the development of the vertically scrolling shoot ’em up genre.

First released in 1981 through Atari’s APX (Atari Program Exchange) scheme, where professional and amateur developers alike could submit their work for consideration to be published by Atari, Caverns of Mars became so popular that it was added to the company’s “official” lineup of first-party releases.

The game was essentially a vertically scrolling take on Scramble, with the twist that you had to retrace your steps back up the cavern once you reached the bottom — easier said than done. It spawned a sequel that didn’t get officially released until Antic Software picked it up several years later, renaming it to Mars Mission II, and an APX-released spinoff called Phobos that isn’t nearly as well-known.