Tag Archives: Synapse Software

Shamus

Shamus is one of those games that probably every Atari 8-bit enthusiast has played at one point or another; like many other games from publisher Synapse Software, it’s an all-time classic.

Developed by Cathryn Mataga (credited as William Mataga in the game), Shamus is a top-down action adventure that draws some inspiration from the classic shoot ’em up Berzerk and combines it with a more coherent world that you need to explore in order to proceed to the next level. Offering massive mazes and tons of replay value, Shamus is still a great time today.

Check it out in the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!

Rainbow Walker

Today we pay another visit to a beloved publisher of the Atari 8-bit days: Synapse Software — and one of the company’s most well-regarded games.

Rainbow Walker isn’t an especially original premise — it’s a Q*Bert-style game in which you have to hop on all the squares to change them to the correct colour — but the remarkable thing here is the incredibly slick presentation, featuring a gorgeous 3D effect, smooth movement and some fancy special effects. It’s not hard to see why the game is regarded as one of the finest in the Atari 8-bit’s library.

Enjoy the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more.

Blue Max

Before we had “3D” we had the illusion of 3D, typically created through the use of an isometric or oblique perspective.

Various types of game experimented with this “diagonal” format to varying degrees of success, but Blue Max for Atari 8-bit is widely regarded as one of the best, successfully transplanting the shoot ’em up formula into a whole new dimension. Kind of.

Regardless of your feelings on the “realism” of the presentation, Blue Max remains a solid, challenging game — and believed by many to be one of the best games the dear old Atari had to offer. So let’s play!

Electrician

Video games don’t always have to be about blasting aliens and/or terrorists.

The idea of games that are based around fairly mundane activities and professions is something that is associated with the creativity of today’s indie scene, but developers were experimenting with this idea back in the early ’80s too.

And so it was that we got David Bunch’s Electrician from Synapse Software — a surprisingly enjoyable game about rewiring a bunch of houses.

Necromancer

I love weird games. Scratch that; I don’t really like using the term “weird”, because what people inevitably mean when they say “weird” in the context of a creative work is “highly creative, unusual and original”. I love highly creative, unusual and original games.

Synapse Software’s Necromancer certainly qualifies as all of those things. It’s pretty much a manifestation of the sort of things old-school heavy metal groups sing about; the sort of thing that sounds like a fever dream, but which you can’t help but get drawn into within moments of starting to play.

With its unconventional control scheme, extremely disparate mechanics between its various stages and its formidable level of difficulty, Necromancer is a classic from the Atari 8-bit’s library with good reason!

Zeppelin

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…

Quasimodo

Dem bells, dem bells, dem… blue bells… wait, I think I’m confusing at least two unrelated things there, aren’t I?

Ahem. Anyway. This is Quasimodo by Synapse Software, brought West by U.S. Gold’s early imprint Synsoft. It’s an unusual platform-action game that involves flinging rocks at Bad People climbing ladders, swinging from bell-ropes, swearing at bats and collecting crystals.

And despite its hunchbacked hero, it most certainly is not a clone of the arcade game Hunchback. Give poor old Quasi the respect he deserves!

Pharaoh’s Curse

Pharaoh’s Curse is legitimately one of my favourite games on the Atari 8-bit, and one I frequently revisit to unironically enjoy every so often.

Developed by Steve Coleman, who we last saw at the helm of Mastertronic’s NinjaPharaoh’s Curse is an early example of an open-world 2D action adventure, allowing players to explore 16 screens arranged in a 4×4 grid in an attempt to recover all the awkwardly positioned treasures before escaping.

16 rooms doesn’t sound like much, does it? Well, you clearly haven’t counted on the intervention of the mummy. And the pharaoh. And all the traps. And that stupid bastard absolute penis of a flying thing that always shows up at the worst possible moment. Not that I’m bitter at all, no no no.