Archive for the ‘ST Games’ Category

Kolmik (Deluxe Edition) review.

February 4, 2011

Kolmik is the new Atari ST game from Paradize and as you would have guessed it’s another puzzle game which this time has the player create columns and lines of same colour tiles (depending on game mode).

Presentation: The presentation of the game is quite good actually with a lovely Paradize logo displayed and a nice mod being played at the beginning, while the game logo is one of the nicest I’ve seen. The game options screen is very informative and it includes the game type selection, the game rules while the setup screen allows you to select between music and sound effects on/off and the difficulty level.

Kolmik Options screen

The Kolmik options screen

Graphics: The game graphics are very reminiscent of the graphics used in the Paradize previous offering Znax with the usual for the group predominance of purrple. They work very well and are easy on the eye and after all this is a puzzle game. The colours do fit very well.

Sound: This is really the strongest part of the game with some lovely tunes from DMA-Sc. There are separate tunes for each game mode, for almost every screen and game mode and though music is in the ear of the beholder I like all of them very much. The sound effects are minimalistic but they do complement the game very well.

Classic Kolmik screen

The classic Kolmik screen.

Gameplay: There are two game modes, classic kolmik and square frenzy. In the classic mode you get 3 rows of 12 tiles each and you need to drag them left or right so as to make columns of the same colour. You have a limited amount of moves and for each column completed you get an extra move. In the square frenzy mode you have a square of 8×8 tiles and you need to complete one row or column of the same colour. Again you have a limited number of moves which get renewed once you complete a row or column. The game is controlled with the mouse and three methods are used, a drag and drop method where you drag and drop a line left or right, the use of arrows left or right of the tile area and the keypad. Square frenzy only supports drag and drop. I personally prefer using the arrows but the drag and drop method isn’t that bad. It’s not that good either.

My biggest complaint though is that it’s not really addictive. While you get used to the controls I find little point in the game. I can’t really point my finger at one thing I find dull in Kolmik, perhaps it’s its slow nature or the fact that I’ve matched colours on tiles so many other times before but it really didn’t do it for me. I am sure though that others will love it and disagree with me right here in the comment section.

Grades:

Graphics: 3.5/5

Sound: 4.5/5

Gameplay: 2.5/5

A forgotton classic reviewed: Dugger for Atari ST

May 15, 2010

On April the 3rd in 2010 we started to play a new title in the ST Offline Tournament [1]. The game is called Dugger [2] and as I have never seen or played that one before, I decided to write a little review.

Dugger was a rather early release for the Atari ST, the title screen states 1988. A German team did all the work and the game features some classic Madmax chipmusic on the YM2149 which probably was already used in Demos as well.

After booting the game shows a rastered intro screen and then a cute animated intro screen. Press the gaudy button on your joystick to enter the game.

Dugger title screen (Atari ST)

Dugger title screen (Atari ST)

Gameplay follows  the 1982 vintage arcade game Dig-Dug closely. The player controls a little stoneage creature and leads him in the underground. Here the task is to destroy the baddies which move in seperated caves. For the difference to other games this is done using an airpump. Hold the firebutton down to pump the baddies full of air and let them blow up afterwards.

Level 1 of Dugger (Atari ST)

Level 1 of Dugger (Atari ST)

This sounds easy at first but the baddies start to chase the player through the walls and some even spit fire on you. One can try to quash them by letting rocks drop on them but it’s not easy. The last baddie left will attempt to escape to the surface so the palyer has to chase them for extra points.

My conclusion is simple, great graphics and music for 1988 standards, a proven and nice gameplay – if you like Dig-Dug, you will love Dugger too. Giving this title a try should be worth it!


Links:

  1. STOT season 3 round 14: Dugger
  2. Dugger on Atarimania

In offline competitions we need more goals instead of rules, but some rules are necessary

May 15, 2010

At the moment we have some discussions in the STOT [1] which are interesting for all kind of offline tournaments I think.

When we played Lethal Xccess, one of the technical best shooters on the Atari ST, we had the question if it’s allowed to cheat by typing a code to get autofire. This question was heavily discusses, but the question consist of two questions that have to be discussed standalone.

Is it allowed to cheat in a offline competition?
The answer could only be “No”. Cause it’s a competition, and therefor the scores has to be comparable. So one question  is answered and one is left.
No! Another question would be: “Why people like to cheat”. so we keep this question for later.

Is it allowed to use autofire?
At the beginning of the discussing I had the opinion, that autofire is only another way to cheat, but during the discussion I changed my opinion. That’s what discussions are good for.
Depending on the joystick you use, some games could really hurt your fingers or your hand, so using autofire, if the joystick offers it, is not cheating but a convenience. So this question could be answered: Yes autofire is allowed.

When I talked with Cyclone, the artist and level designer of Lethal Xcess, he said, that the autofire cheat let the game be much easier, cause this high frequency of shooting is not possible if you shoot manually. I also like to add, that the game has some autofire weapons, so that collecting a autofire extra is part of the level design.

Why people like to cheat?
To answer the question, let’s rewrite the question to: “Why people are motivated to participate in a retro offline competition?”.

Why people are motivated to participate in a retro offline competition?
From my experiences with the “Abbuc Bundesliga” (Atari 8 Bit offline competition), various Atari Age HSC’s, the STOT and some party competitions I discovered these motivations:

a) people who like to have a challenge. It’s a challenge trying to come as far as possible in the game or even do a play through.
b) people who like competition. It’s a challenge to win or even to pass by some other players
c) people liked the game that is played in the past a lot. So they are motivated to play it again, and then post one or sometimes more scores.
d) people like to enjoy some minutes playing on their ST.

The gaming industry like to categorize gamers into “hardcore gamers” and “casual gamers”. I don’t like these words, cause they were invented when I played my Atari already for 10 years or longer.
So I would like to categorize motivations a) and b) as “Challengers”, while motivation c) and d) could be called “Fans”.

Now I like to ask the following questions: “Are these enough motivations to keep an offline competition alive?

Are these enough motivations to keep a offline competition alive?
a) b) I would count myself into this category and so I say “yes”.
c) these kind of people are hard to motivate to join a competition regular, its great when they do, but as we all know, time is a valuable good, things happen in Real Life could be more important.
d) the way we did the competition so far is really not that motivating for these kind of people.
They always end at the lower places in the table, and in the end the table is what’s left of a round, so I could understand, that after a while they loose the motivation to participate.

So we need new motivations, cause a gaming competition need both groups of players Challengers and Fans.

What new motivations  could  we add?
1) Difficulty bonus
Some games offers the functionality to choose the difficulty of the game. So far, we had to look for a challenging difficulty, so in Super Cars 2 for example we chose “medium”. In  the future, we could set some bonus at the beginning. If you play difficulty “medium”, you get double score and if you play “hard” you get tripple score.

2) Medals of Honor
So far you get the Atari Gaming Activist Medal for participating 24 times (A season has 24 rounds). We also have the Atari Gaming Master medal. You get this medal for earning
192 points (If you would win all rounds you could earn 192 points a season).
Now after 3 years we only give away 3 times the Atari Gaming Master and 7 times the Atari Gaming Activist. So my suggestion will be to do some these changes:

  • Participate 10 times to earn a Atari Gaming Activist medal
  • Earn 100 points to become a Atari Gaming Master

3) Solved a level medal
Another motivation could be to set some more game specific goals at the beginning of a round. The easiest would be to say, that for each level a player solve he earns a “Solve a level in the STOT” medal.
If a game has really easy levels like for example Bubble+ the goals would be to solve 5 levels or something like that.  It’s also possible to give a ways the medal in “Gold”,”Silver”, “Bronze” depending on the chosen difficulty (easy, advanced,hard – if available of course)

What else?
I thought about new tables like A “Fans” table and a “Callengers” table, but I don’t think we really need this, same with a own table for the earned “Solved a level in the STOT” medals, cause this would look more or less the same as the existing one.

Publishing scores and medals to the rest of the world is a nice thing. If you play with a Xbox 360 or a PS3 today, you could post your successes to Facebook and maybe also somewhere else.
I like to have something like that as well. Technically it’s more or less already existing. We have a blog for the STOT. When somebody post a score together with a picture, the organizers are able to recognize that the given goals are fulfilled and they could do a new post to announce the giveaway of the medal(s). This post will be automatically posted to a Facebook page, and
there a player could share them with his friends.

My Conclusion

  • Entering cheats in offline competitions is not allowed cause the scores aren’t comparable
  • Using autofire is allowed, you only need a joystick that offers that functionality
  • We need new motivations for Callengers and Fans.
  • Difficulty is a chance for more motivation, but has to be mentioned in the post
  • Medals should be archived earlier
  • Medals for solved levels would be a nice addition
  • We don’t need more tables
  • It’s possible to post awards to Facebook

I would be glad, if all people who like playing ST Games use this article to discuss the conclusions and of course they are welcome in the STOT or any other offline competition

Christos’ views on the subject:
One thing our readers should know is that ThorN and I have  different opinions about how STOT should advance. It is with that synthesis of views that we made STOT what it is now (and we feel it’s very good too 😉 ).

There are two goals in STOT:

  • to promote Atari ST gaming
  • and more importantly to have fun with our old machines.

I am in total agreement with ThorN that we need to make STOT more fun for all types of players and that we should be more generous with our awards. A game can provide all sorts of challenges and we should take advantage of them. So expect lots more surprises :).

However I don’t think that allowing people to choose their own difficulty setting is a very good move. Though it has its merits and it will allow people to enjoy more of the game it effectively creates a premier league and a second division if you excuse the football analogy. Also we introduce a mathematic formula to count points and if that’s simple enough as it should be it creates problems. What if “Normal” isn’t twice as hard as “Easy” but only by a small margin? What if easy is too easy making the game boring? Should we then change the formula to suit each game and doesn’t that make things overly complex?

We are looking forward to your input in the comments section below. Maybe you can give us an idea we haven’t thought.. 🙂


Links:
1. STOT at atari-forum.com

Switchblade – a classic game reviewed

August 30, 2009

Switchblade [1] is a game that I always liked although it never found a way into my collection back then. This game is a classic because it adds some different concepts while staying a playable platform game. Released in 1989 the game still offers a lot of fun.

Basically Switchblade is a platform action game for Atari ST and other platforms. The player guides the hero called Hiro through a vast underground city on the search of parts for a large sword. Climbing over platforms, crates and ladders Hiro is looking for parts of the sword. Baddies try to keep him from fulfilling his task and he can fight them. In the beginning the player only has his bare hands to fight with but additional weapons can be collected in the progress of the game.

Switchblade on the Atari ST

Switchblade on the Atari ST

The game map is vast and you will soon find yourself drawing a map for your usage. Hidden rooms and passages wait for your discovery and this applies for the whole game map. Although the game does not scroll, you can only see parts of the map that you have visited sofar. If there is a ladder leading down to an unknown area, you cannot see this particular area until you climb down the ladder. However any area that has been visited before stays visible for the player.This adds a nice aspect to the game which makes it different from the ordinary platformer.

Controls are a bit laggy and greasy. The game is definitly not a jumper liker Super Mario and the player has to think about strategies to progress. Brute force will only lead to loss of energy and loss of your precious lives. Even if the controls feel stiff at the start, the game is very predictable in its movements and with only a few couple of tries, control of Hiro feels ok and manageable.

The soundtrack is by Ben Daglish and very moody. However it can get boring and repetitive. So I recommend turning it off and playing with soundeffects instead.

As the game has been developed in the 1987-1988 time frame, it has no support for STE hardware features. regardless of this, the game runs well on the STE and with a proper patch, on Falcon and TT too.

Let’s have a look at the game in comparison to its ports to other platforms beside the Atari ST. As the Commodore Amiga version is more or less identical, it is left out of the comparison. We will focus on the known 8 bit platforms instead.

Gameplay wise there  are not many differences. Controls are laggy and  greasy in the same way on the Commodore C64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum. So judging by playing with your joystick, it is hard to detect the platform you are playing on. On the other hand, this indicates the playability of all versions is about the same.

Enemy and trap patterns are identical and the same applies to the main game map.

Most differences can be found on the ingame graphics and the performance of the game engine.

For comparison there are screenshots taken at the same location in the game.

Switchblade on the Amstrad CPC - reference location

Switchblade on the Amstrad CPC – reference location

On the Amstrad CPC the game runs in MODE 1. Instead of a lot of big blocky colourful pixels in MODE 0, you get a pretty good resolution at the cost of less colours. It is not a show stopper as raster interrupts are used to cleverly colourize the status bars. The music is pretty the same as on the Atari ST and the player feels directly at home. Sound effects are slightly different if music is turned off.

Switchblade on the ZX Spectrum - reference location

Switchblade on the ZX Spectrum – reference location

The ZX Spectrum is pretty himself, rather monochromatic and not very colourful. At this slight expense graphics feel smooth and playable. Only at a screen flip, a slight delay is noticeable. On a+3  with AY soundchip, there is a slightly different sound track in comparison to the ST or CPC. This is quite puzzling as the soundchip is more or less the same as in the Amstrad CPC or the Atari ST.

Switchblade on the Commodore 64 - reference location

Switchblade on the Commodore 64 – reference location

Switchblade on the Commodore 64 is rather blocky and the dull choice of colours makes the C64 Version the ugliest of the reviewed game versions. The game also stops noticeably at a screen flip which makes some jumps awkward and difficult. On the other hand, the soundtrack of the C64 version is very good and an enjoyable port of the original YM soundtrack.

All in all, a  very nice and enjoyable game, even 20 years after its first release. I can recommend playing this game!


Links

  1. Switchblade at Atari Legend
  2. Homepage of Simon Phipps – coder and designer of Switchblade
  3. Game map – from World Of Spectrum