The Atari ST had it’s large share of shareware, freeware and PD games. They were generally found in the PD pages of Atari ST magazines and were collectively known as public domain. Nowadays we call those indie games (from independent) and I prefer that term since it’s broader than all the other terms combined and pretty much explains them. One term to bind them…
So before I start the list, let’s set some ground rules. First of all the list didn’t come from any collective effort. It’s not even comprehensive since only a small fraction of the Indie games available have been played by the authors of lowres. Also the games included are the ones that appeal more to the author, which sadly means that you will not find any RPG’s.
So let’s start the countdown.
10. Sinister Developments Centipede. Centipede is a well known game from the arcades that made it to the ST thanks to the efforts of Sinister Developments. There is not much to say about the game other than that it’s nicely drawn, super smooth and with nice sound effects. Unfortunately there is a small logic flaw in the game that might spoil the fun but I had to know it was there to spot it. Still Sinister have given us some great arcade conversions and they are worth a place in the list. Even if it is the last.
9. Holocaust. Holocaust is a 2d vertical scrolling shoot’ em up game. It features many levels, smooth scrolling, good looking graphics, nice music or samples as well as animations and a little of voice narrative -with the use of a speech.tos the st speech trademark- to promote the story. Did I mention everything runs in 1 VBL? The enemy waves don’t shoot at you, which is a good thing, but issues such as the high level of difficulty and the total lack of information such as shield, score etc award it only the 9th place. Still the game outshines most commercial efforts and is very polished for an indie game.
8. Entombed. A Rick Dangerous clone. You are an Egyptian trapped in an Egyptian tomb and you need to escape. So pick up your bow and arrows and keys, avoid the pikes and the fires and the waters, solve the insiduous puzzles enjoy the beautiful graphics and the simplistic sound effects and whatever you do don’t forget to have someone call you after a few hours of gameplay to get you back to reality. There are five tombs, one worse than the one before.
7. Frantick. In 1993 Atari released it’s ill fated Atari jaguar console. The best game for it was Tempest 2000 but the ST version of Tempest is better left in the bad memories of those who bought it. So why this introduction? Is Frantick a Tempest clone? No, not quite but I bet it was inspired from that. You see the gameplay is similar… only in 2d. The enemy waves come to you from up and down and are strikingly similar to those in Tempest. There are power ups, bombs and bonus stages, great samples and the music fits the frantick gameplay. Though it doesn’t induce Jeff Minter’s epileptical seizures, Dave Munsie comes close with one of the best arcade shooters on the ST. With 4 game modes and 50 waves there’s a lot of gameplay time.
6. Grandad 2 – In search of Sandwitches. Grandad 2 is a beautiful graphic adventure. You are an old person who lost his sandwiches and is trying to find them. The humour is excellent, the main character is the stereotype of the grumpy smelly old man, the puzzles are interesting and the graphics are beautiful.. but using the joystick to control an adventure game kind of feels wrong. There is very little sound in the game but the game is one of the best written adventures made for the ST. The game was well worth the shareware fee Mr Ian Scott demanded.
We are almost ready to move to the top 5. Now things get difficult 😀
5. Crapman. Pacman has been one of the most remade games in the history of videogaming. It’s never been done so well in the Atari 16/32 platform at least. Crapman was part of the Synergy mega demo and it inherits all the achievements of the demoscene. Smooth 8-directional scrolling, constant framerate and great level design make this excellent dot eating game.
4. Cybernetix: What happens when Defender meets Asteroids? A very smooth game (but with some drops in the framerate when a lot of sprites appear), beautiful graphics and lovely sound effects. Quite a few types of enemies, a lot of sectors to clear and a more than reasonable 5 quid asked by Mr Paul Andrews and Mr Rodney Smith. The game is fast paced and of excellent quality. Plus you don’t lose your power ups when you lose a life. How cool is that?
3. Superfly: All games by Reservoir Gods deserve a place in the top 10, but this one is probably the most addictive one of them all. Simplistic graphics, beautiful music, great looking sprites and more modes to play in this one button avoid em up then you can count, make for an amazing gaming experience. Go save Kylie from Dr Evil, from water to air to space and open all the secrets.
2. Starball, a pinball game where you have to shoot monsters and ships using the ball. It’s a game that combines the usual gameplay of a pinball game with forcefields, space stations and minigames. If you ever wanted to know how it is to play space invaders and arkanoid with pinball rackets then this is the game for you. Starball will run on all ataris and will make use of the extra hardware. Beautiful graphics and sounds, fast action and lots of hours will be spent on it. Only complaint is the ball physics. It feels like Newton’s first, second and third laws don’t work the same way in starball’s universe.
1. Llamatron: Once upon a time there was in the arcades a game called Robotron. Jeff Minter prefers Llamas so you get to go on a shooting rampage with your friendly neighborhood llama. So pick up the powerups and beasties, kill everything else, finish all the levels and get your epilepsy medicines. The game can be played with one or two joysticks just like the original Robotron. Llamatron was probably the most succesful shareware game ever released for the ST. Jeff Minter has said he received thousands of letters, and while not all the people payed the shareware fee a significant portion did. 5 pounds well spent.
So, this is our list. What’s yours? Please send us your comments and your favourite indie ST games.