YouTube purveyor of excellence Interghost just tweeted a couple of pictures of the rather brilliant Power Pack. A huge black folder of joy that provided twenty pack-in games, serving as a great introduction to the world of Atari ST gaming. Here are those glorious images:
This week’s #CIBSunday inspired me to have a look at my favourite box art released for the Atari ST, maybe for any platform: Audiogenic’s Exile’s excellent port of a visionary BBC Micro adventure. I’ve only ever played the ST version, but even as a port from an 8-bit machine, it’s a game well ahead of its time and well worth exploring on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
…but still the greatest staffroom out there, The Atari STaffroom is the first of many ST resources that I want to share with you. It’s proprietor is a lovely bloke by the name of Kev Davies who has been an Atari fan ever since his first ST way back in ’88. From there he progressed to the Falcon and eventually the Medusa, such is his dedication to all things TOS compatible. He was a contributor to the Maggie disk magazine, but these days he is uploading Youtube video commentaries of ST games and compiling exhaustive lists of compilation disks and their compatibility with Hatari.
His site also features some cool hardware hacks and an interesting project to build a Raspberry Pi based Atari ST emulating console.
My favourites are his gameplay videos, and here is an example of what you can expect. It’s Kev playing a game with a protagonist who has the most heroic walk I’ve ever seen (yes, even more heroic than William T. Riker’s).
So, pop over to his site and subscribe to his YouTube channel, because his ST content is great and he’s a bloody good chap. Such a bloody good chap that he once spent his own precious time and money trying to help me with my Atari ST video capture woes by making a sync device called the STyncer. It didn’t work, but the ingenious name certainly helped me with my grief! Great stuff.
Right. Time to revitalise the old blog I think. I’ve been contemplating it for a while now, and I have recently been given the impetus to return thanks to a dirty WordPress bug that totally goosed my website. Originally I was only returning to restore the website and give people access to the Great Atari ST Game Survey once more (pretty much the only part of the site that gets any traffic any more) but once I was poking around the place, clearing off the cobwebs and dusting the dado rails I decided that it would be a nice place to highlight some of the great Atari ST content that is out there on the interwebs. It’s pretty few and far between, but what is there is lead by passionate individuals with a genuine love for our favourite beige wedge of computing loveliness. So keep your peepers peeled for some posts in the near future, and if you know of any current Atari ST content makers that need some love, drop me a line.
First things first: replace that pony picture of the kiddy’s trike in the header. (Edit: done!)
I was greeted by the most fabulous, musty smell when I retrieved this from the shelf. It reminded me of leafing through the 50p box at my local comic shop… aah the memories! Never mind that, let’s have a look at a classic arcade overhead racer… Super Cars! (more…)
I’ll have a round of mesmerising arps followed by a cup of the fluffiest bass you stock please!
I came across this last weekend whilst browsing Soundcloud. There are quite a few ST tunes on there, and many eminently listenable ones too. This track is by Ultrasyd, a chiptune scenester that produces music on a wide variety of machines.
OK, so I was preparing this entry for the archives, and when I went to my shelves to get the game to do the scans of the box, disk etc. I noticed that it wasn’t there! I have its prequel, but that’s no use to me right now, is it? Oh well, rather than let the hard work go to waste, I’ll post it here instead and hopefully one day I’ll procure a copy and this can be moved to the archive. What a dolt I am.
Release Year: 1991
Developer: Magnetic Fields
Publisher: Gremlin Graphics
Box and Contents
Not in the collection yet.
Magnetic Fields was a development company founded by two British game industry legends in 1984 (when they were known as Mr Chip Software) Before their success on 16-bit platforms, Shaun Southern and Andrew Morris had hits on 8-bit machines with wondrous games such as Trailblazer and the inspiration behind many a ruined school exercise book, Kikstart 2. In the early nineties, Magnetic Fields were really building up steam thanks to the huge popularity of their racing games Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge and Super Cars.
Both series of games are known for their arcade racing style and well presented execution, but are distinguished by their differing perspectives and disposition towards violence. While the Lotus series was a mostly straight-laced and stoic arcade racer, evolving a tradition well established by Out Run and its ilk, the Super Cars series took its inspiration from Super Sprint and Badlands by maintaining the tight driving physics of the former whilst developing the latter’s more aggressive tendencies.
Super Cars 2 gives you the keys to a trusty Alfa Romeo SZ, straps a few missiles to the front and rear and pushes you in the direction of a cut-throat tournament of explode or be exploded. There is very little plot to speak of, though colour is added via a series of Monkey Island style question and answer sessions in-between races, either from authorities questioning the road-worthiness of you and your vehicle, or from reporters looking for a scoop. Cash and championship point rewards are available for those who give the appropriate responses, but it’s very easy to trip up and receive a fine.
There are three difficulty levels to chose from, each of which are comprised of a number of tracks in which you and several CPU controlled cars vie for a position on the podium in order to grab the points and cash prizes. Cash can be spent at the end of each race on various upgrades to improve the arsenal and capabilities of your car. This actually comprises a great deal of the appeal of Super Cars II; the few power-ups available are well thought out, balanced and complement the gameplay and track design.
Top down racers live and die by the physics that govern the car’s movement and its interaction with the course, other racers and obstacles, and I am happy to report that Super Cars II’s controls are very responsive and translate a feeling of solidity when racing that makes overtaking and destroying your opponents very satisfying. The car is initially very sluggish, but after a couple of engine upgrades the speed and therefore the excitement soon ramps up. The weapons, two of which can be activated by pushing up or down on the stick, can be fired accidentally at times, but this is only a minor gripe.
The difficulty is nicely balanced, and progress is never rewarded with either helplessness or invincibility, as your car’s upgrades are countered by increasingly intricate tracks and increasingly devious and aggressive enemies. The tracks themselves are a reward to progress, as it becomes interesting to see what the designers will throw at you next. A tricky jump after a sharp bend? Or a level crossing complete with marauding train?
Although the dialogue-based interludes do offer a change of pace and add colour, it is common to find yourself backed into a corner where there is no seemingly correct answer to give, resulting in fines that are a detriment to the racing experience. Less money means less weaponry means less fun, after all, so it’s a shame that an entertaining aside has a negative impact on the enjoyment of the racing experience.
The game as a whole is really nicely put together. The snazzy opening sequence and well drawn interview sections frame the beautiful driving sections, with their authentic looking car sprites and track-side decorations. Although the Amiga version features some absolutely stellar sound design, the ST chip isn’t used to its strength here. The tune that plays in-between races begins to grate very quickly, and the engine sounds had me reaching for the volume control within seconds of my first race.
Excellent presentation and expert execution aside, Super Cars II is just bloody great fun. The driving is marvellous, the difficulty well-balanced, but when you overlay that with the ephemera – the weapons, preposterous track design and silly cut-scenes – you end up with something remarkable and rare: a game with a truly charismatic character.
This is the start of something new on the site: an archive of my ‘core’ collection, that is those games that I value, either for personal reasons or historical significance. The first game of many I’ve decided to add is Frontier: Elite II.
The archive pages will each contain images of the game, the contents of the box and the box itself, a video play-through (with commentary) and a written review. It will take me a while to get through these, but it will be nice for my collection to have an online presence and to share it with everyone. Who knows, one day it may become a little treasure trove of Atari ST gaming info!
Stick around to watch this archive grow to hopefully one day encompass my entire ST collection of games, software, hardware, magazines and books. Subscribe to either the Twitter feed or the RSS to stay abreast of any developments. Happy reading!
“It’s total payback time where the hunted becomes the hunter. The score doubling for eating Inky, Blinky and co. makes for a great risk reward, with super tension as the timer runs out and the part-time predator becomes the prey once again. It’s like being Cinderella at midnight. Fantasy turns to nightmare again.”