Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Zone Warrior


Pesky aliens are once again giving us Earthlings lots of grief. We fought them off but they managed to pinch a time machine and are now using this to alter history and wreak havoc by taking crucial hostages from each period in an attempt to halt their influence. From the invention of the wheel in prehistoric times to England's King Arthur uniting Britain and where would any of us be today without the technical wizardry of Japan... So it's our job to travel these "zones" to rescue them all and kill each bad dude that gets in our way. It's time to lock and load!

Zone Warrior is a horizontally scrolling platformer that reminds me of Psygnosis' Baal in looks and with more than a hint of Turrican style action. Each zone is a labyrinth of large rooms interconnected by a series of doorways, to even more rooms, and there is a total of five time zones which need to be saved from the dreaded aliens:
  • Prehistoric - I really enjoyed this zone because it introduces you nicely into the gameplay style plus there are lots of power-ups and strong map designs compared to most other levels. I also thought the graphics were the best here with great use of the palette.
  • Egyptian - This is is little disappointing for me because it's basically more of the same design but with a different graphics. However, I found it to be a lot harder and rather frustrating instead of anything close to an enjoyable challenge...
  • Medieval - Saving the medieval Britons from their alien fate is a brilliant level and deffinitely on par with the Prehistoric Zone. I must admit, the music here is so gorgeous!
  • Japanese - I would rate this as the best level of all because it is really challenging, with some great mechanics. Unlike the finicky Egyptian Zone, I found it tough but without the frustration. And the chipmusic is out of this world!!
  • Holocaust - Sadly I didn't care for this zone... Very frustrating and ultimately annoying!
Travelling through most zones is a neat experience with constant action to keep your trigger finger happy. During this onslaught, look for hostages to free and a key for a final battle before you can progress onto the next zone. Each of these periods has its own specific nasties to contend with and some cannot be killed so need to be avoided, like the Venus flytraps and sharp spikes. However, most have legs or teeth so have your trusty Turrican-inspired weapon at the ready. This is a rapid firing gun which performs very well and can even be upgraded with a much wider spread. Also, the spacebar is used to cycle through any extra weapons you may have picked up like bombs and mines.

The trouble with Zone Warrior is that it's too easy to lose your bearings. The levels are absolutely massive and wandering from room to room is quite overwhelming due to the lack of any distinctive visuals, so each location soon begins to look and feel the same. Thankfully, our little zone warrior can collect pieces of a map to help prevent him getting lost but I personally thought this was poorly implemented and quite limiting, which is a shame.

The visuals aren't the best I've seen from my lovely Atari ST but the scrolling is good and responsive to our hero's movements which is essential to a running shoot 'em up. The backdrops are nice but could have made better use of the palette for things like destructible blocks. Most sprites are well drawn and detailed, especially the stripey dinos from the Prehistoric Zone. Overall, the Medieval and Japanese zones look the best, I thought.

Audio is a blast throughout with good sound effects but it is the music which steals the show thanks to an array of incredible chiptunes, by Barry Leitch.

Being a Zone Warrior is a cool job and we travel to some interesting places which are mostly great levels stuffed with frantic action. However, I fear the levels are far too large and I soon began to feel lost in the slog of it all. Although I did enjoy running and gunning down the all the baddies - until I got lost or bored. A good game but no Turrican!

LINKS

 - Stonish has the game on a floppy disk image of Fuzion #80.
 - I recorded a little video of the first level and Stefan Lindberg's video for all chiptunes lovers!
 - Click the GEM green arrow below to hear my favourite tune...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Criminals In Disguise #22


I love anything with swirling dots, sine scrollers and overscan so this intro by Criminals In Disguise is right up my street. The fx are very nice with beautiful hum-tastic chipmusic that I can leave playing all day! The video recording is fine but (you know what I'm going to say) it's best experienced using a real Atari computer for a perfect framerate and better sound. Especially on the Atari STe, so connect it up to your speakers and crank up the volume!!

However, its contents aren't exactly what you'd call exciting - rubbish is one way to put it! The disk redeems itself with Jetpac, which is an awesome conversion recently featured here. Anyhow, I do love sine scrollers and this one is nice so I'm now on the lookout for other Menu CDs (not demos) with a better example... Any recommendations?

LINKS

 - Criminals In Disguise #22 can be downloaded from the awesome Stonish website!
 - You must play Jetpac, the Atari ST got a belting conversion of the ZX Spectrum classic.
 - Play the original ZX Spectrum game on your Atari ST using emulation:
             > Artemis is a great b/w emulator which only works on 8MHz Atari ST/e computers.
             > Speccy is another emulator w/ support for colours and faster Atari computers too.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sinister Developments

        

I recently found the Sinister Developments website and was surprised they still listed all their old Atari ST software. These guys were one of the best shareware groups in the early-mid 90 who developed five fantastic games that put many commercial companies to shame. However, none of the downloads worked so I was more than a little gutted and decided to send them an email. I got a reply from Gordon Gibson himself who promptly fixed the links!!
  • Centipede - Gordon said they wanted a mix between Centipede and Millipede which worked out incredibly well but boy was my mouse-hand killing me after half an hour!! I found a few bugs but nothing to stop my fun. This is a frantically zany and frenzied version of the classic, a superb conversion. (click on the above animation to view it large).
    To bypass the shareware message just press "ESC" key on the language screen.
  • Painter - I personally thought this was the weakest of the bunch but it's still enjoyable and very difficult with AI to die for (literally). There is also funky stereo music on the Atari STe.
  • Asteroids - This begins with a familiar intro supporting stereo playback on an Atari STe. I found it initially difficult but, after a few tips from the man himself, I began to do a little better. I still suck at it but at least I'm "better" :-) (click on the above animation to view it large).
    To bypass the shareware message just press "F10" key on the language screen.
  • Space Invaders - I think this is my favourite of the bunch. It's a beauty and feels authentic yet fresh and is another with DMA music. Also, the in-game sound effects are in stereo!!
    To bypass the shareware message just type in "PEPSI MAX" on the language screen.
  • Galaxians - I've always been rubbish at this but it's such a great conversion. I think that Sinister have created one of pure gold which makes me feel I'm in the 1980s again. Also, perhaps it's just my eyes, but I'm seeing a 3D effect on the main menu!! Can you?
    To bypass the shareware message just press "INSERT" key on the language screen.
Each "shareware" game is the latest release and freely available to download for Atari ST/STe computers. I think this is so generous because I've often tried to find the full/registered versions of many, only to be disappointed. These are all brilliant and I think there is something here for everyone. As a backup, I have a zipped download of all their games on my Dropbox and I've also recorded short videos of Space Invaders (STe) and Galaxians (border removed).

Oh heck, just stop reading and begin an afternoon of awesome #retrogaming Atari ST style!! :*)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Archer Maclean Pool


Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker is terrific and technically superb but it wasn't long before I was falling asleep at the keyboard. Sorry, but that's snooker (Zzzz). However, I then realised that I had never played Archer Maclean's Pool...

Pool is an exciting, fast-paced pub game with a far shorter playtime compared to the dullness of snoozeville snooker. American and English variations of the game are available with the added options to play through tournaments or to set up trick shots. If you've played Whirlwind then you'll instantly take to this but I doubt any newcomers will struggle with the interface, which is instinctive so very easy to grasp. Use the mouse to alter your viewing angle but don't forget to chalk the cue before setting up the shot with the right amount of power, spin and direction. There is a wide range of computer opponents from the amateur to the godlike, so it's best to practice before taking on the pros!

Graphics are... well... it's a table with balls on it, so there isn't much to drool over, but the framerates are very smooth and shows just what 8MHz can deliver. The 3D engine works ever so well to offer easy angled point of views when lining up your shot. Let's not forget the game's comical side with taunting balls, evil-eyed fans or the flies on the table!! Sound effects are nice and rather varied with clinks, plops and the oddly humorous cue-chalking moments. Overall, it's a mostly silent experience but I do find the celebrational cheering after a win to be quite annoying! lol

What I love about this game is the superb design which feels natural and realistic. After your first shot, you realise just how incredibly superior the hidden mathematical calculations are that make the physics appear so believable. There are near-limitless possibilities for each shot you make, which is quite incredible. I cannot ever imagine anyone having anything but good things to say about Archer Maclean's Pool. Sure, it's best in the pub with a couple of cold beers, but this virtual version definitely comes a close second. Make time to play this today, a faultless release by Virgin.

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have the hard drive installable game (works on the faster Mega STe, TT, Falcon).
 - Stonish has it on Gravatics #93 floppy disk and this also features Kid GP!!
 - AtariMania has this listed in their library with scans of the manual.

   

Friday, June 23, 2017

Phobia



ImageWorks released Phobia back in 1989 with a gorgeous oldskool styled cover. Stunning artwork with lots of colour, action and a cruel glare from evil eyes which reflects the gameplay perfectly because its one of the hardest games I have ever played. All the hallmarks of a potentially outstanding shooter are there but it's impossible without a trainer as there is too much going on at once. If ever there was a killer shoot 'em up, this is it - Arrgghhh!!!

I bought Phobia for only 99 pence and it was sealed so the box and contents are in superb condition. I wonder why nobody ever bought it? Hmmm, maybe I'll be brave and record a video and write a review? Maybe...

LINKS

 - ST Format #1 reviews Phobia but wasn't too impressed with the difficulty - lol wimps!!
 - D-Bug has a download with a trainer and hard drive support.
 - Stonish has the floppy disks and I liked Timelords #29 Menu CD (1MB).
 - Here is a fantastic video recording by Stefan Lindberg.
 - My tweet after playing Phobia for a few minutes... ARGGHHHHHH!!!

     
I should have known this was going to be hard with such a hideous screen. The next pic is my ship being blown up, again!