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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Bobsleigh - Speccy

Digital Integration earned a reputation for technical excellence, and their game Bobsleigh (with the winter olympics and all that, this game was brought back to my memory) was no different.  Bobsleigh put you in charge of a 4-man bob team, with the game split into team management - financial and technical - training (joystick-busting) and the races themselves.  The filled vector graphics might not look much now but at the time they were great, and anyway with minimal graphical detail they gave a realistic impression of bombing it down an icy track.

Bobsleigh is a game I have very fond memories of, though it's also one that I was never much good at - and it destroyed several perfectly good joysticks into the bargain! Skip to 1:40 in the video below to get to the race itself - I know it looks pretty slow but believe me, it felt very fast back in 1987!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Pirates! - Atari ST

Since I've just reviewed the 2005 game Sid Meier's Pirates!, which is a classy update to this game, I thought I'd post something here about the classic seafaring game here.  Pirates! is one of my all-time favourite games and stole many hours of my youth.  The combination of strategy, action, trading and sailing in a dynamically changing game world continued to hold my imagination in thrall for many months.

Becoming really successful in the game, particularly in the higher difficulty levels (Apprentice, Journeyman, Adventurer and Swashbuckler) required a great deal of practice and quite a high level of finesse.  With different time periods to play in, four nationalities that constantly switched allegiances (as you could yourself), both sea and land battles requiring completely different strategies, a ranking after retirement ranging from Beggar to King's Advisor, different women to marry, missions to complete, long-lost family members to find...  Pirates! had it all, and it had me (and many others) coming back for more time after time.

Of course on top of everything there were Evil Spaniards aplenty - what swashbuckling adventure would be without them?  Managing to capture the Silver Train or Treasure Fleet always felt like a real accomplishment, capturing heavily fortified towns often required great skill and daring, and keeping your crew happy without having to divide up the plunder earlier than you wanted was always a fine balancing act.  

Anyone else who has fond memories of Pirates on the 16-bit machines (or the 8-bit computers for that matter)?  Leave a comment as testimony to the genius of Sid Meiers!

Friday, 12 February 2010

rOx Review - Atari STe

I had a good playtest of this game yesterday and found it to be an enjoyable game.  It's an "avoid-'em-up", which basically means that instead of shooting things, you have to simply avoid them.  Adding to the difficulty and challenge are several factors; some rocks can be mined (collected), there are power ups and power downs to avoid / collect, spacemen to be resuced, and letters to be collected - if you can collect each letter in the word EXTRA, you get an extra life.

The graphics are nice, with the whole style and colour palette rather reminding me of Speedball 2.  The various asteroids have a slightly 3D look to them and are nicely designed, not just uninteresting slabs of colour coming at your ship.  The scrolling starfield is simple but effective, and all the sprites move very smoothly.

I was a little disappointed that chip music was used, bearing in mind it's an STe only release, but it was okay.  There were some digitised sound effects and speech samples though.  They didn't sound like they were sampled at a particularly high rate but that wasn't really a problem.  
The gameplay started off a little pedestrian but it soon becomes quite frenetic - when the asteroids and other objects are just coming straight down the screen at you it's simple to avoid them, but once you get things flying around in all directions, survival becomes a mad dash from one place to the next.  There's a good balance of avoiding / collecting with the objects, and quite a lot of both manual dexterity and ability to think ahead is required to do it well enough to score big points.

Another feature is that you don't simply get points for avoiding asteroids - you get points for getting as close as possible without crashing.  You can scrape your wings against the big rocks for mega points, but of course a slight miscalculation will turn your ship into subatomic particles.  This adds an element of risk and extra interest to a game that could have become somewhat stale otherwise.  There is also a 2-player mode which looks good, but I haven't had a chance to try that properly yet.

Overall rOx is a good game, I wouldn't call it amazing but it's fantastic to see that even now people are producing more ST games.  Check out the Official rOx Wesbite for the download.  You'll need the STEEM Engine emulator or another ST emulator to run it if you're not fortunate enough to have the original hardware (still wish I'd never got rid of mine!  Sniff...)

Setting up your emulator to run rOx.

In order for rOx to run, you'll need to have an STe version of TOS installed - v1.62 (2.06 or higher should be fine too, but for gaming 1.62 is the obvious choice), and set it to have 2Mb or more of RAM.  You can get the TOS ROM from several sites; I used this one.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

rOx - Atari STe

I'm a bit late seeing this, but an Atari STe game was released sometime in 2009 and it looks extremely interesting.  Named rOx (rocks), it's an "avoid-em-up" where you have to avoid crashing into asteroids / meteors / whatever.  True, that might sound a bit boring - but some novel gameplay features are promised and I can't wait to give it a go.

Check out the Official rOx Wesbite for a bit more info and to grab the game.