The Atari ST conversion of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts is pretty ugly.
Published by Microdeal in 1987, Airball is a weird and challenging isometric puzzle game where you play a bubble exploring a trap-ridden castle, looking for gems (which convert to a low number of points), and also looking for ‘Inflation Stations’ because the bloody stupid ball has a slow leak and needs to be constantly topped-up with air…
I keep banging on about Geoff Crammond‘s The Sentinel and will probably continue to do so until I’ve written about every version available. 🙂
Cap’n’ Carnage is so bad that the programmer hasn’t even spelled the word “captain” correctly in the game itself… When you see a mistake like that you know you’re playing a low quality piece of software. Professionals do not make that kind of mistake on commercial releases. Oh dear me, this game is bad…
Rotox was published by U.S. Gold in 1990. It is an obscure-but-interesting overhead robot shooter, with flat, polygonal platforms suspended over an infinite drop. Which you must of course avoid falling into.
Your robot stays positioned in the same place on-screen as you move, with the landscape moving around it. This does restrict your view, but it doesn’t seem to hamper the game at all. Some platforms rotate, or move in other patterns, so you have to carefully time your advances to avoid falling off the edge to your doom.
Each large level is divided into nine segments and you have to explore each segment individually, blasting away at pesky enemies, and picking up power-ups and upgrades as you go. At first the segments are all visibly connected and you can attempt each one at your leisure, but later levels restrict access to some segments and force you to attempt them in a certain order, which makes the game more challenging. The platform configurations become quite complex from the second level onwards, and by the third level you’ll have to deal with crazily-animated platforms to stay in the game.
Rotox is challenging and reasonably fun for a while. It’s not a patch on something like the overhead sections in Contra on the SNES, which are very similar to this in gameplay terms, but it is a decent ‘hidden gem’ on the humble ST nonetheless.
Rotox was also released for the Amiga and PC DOS.
Final note: I read a review of this online that said the name Rotox came from the use of ‘rotoscoping’ in the game, which is complete and utter BS. There is no rotoscoping in this game. None. Whatsoever. The name Rotox – and I’m taking an educated guess here – actually comes from the rotating control method in the game. Not rotoscoping.
More: Rotox on Moby Games
Archipelagos came out on the Atari ST, Amiga, and for PC MS-DOS, and was developed by Astral Software in the UK and published by Logotron in 1989.
It is a strange first-person puzzle game where you must cleanse a series of islands of the ‘Blood of the Ancients’ by clicking on some obelisks. Getting to the obelisks is not always easy, however, but the idea is to find and click on a series of them to open a portal to the next level.
The Blood of the Ancients (represented as red on the ground) prevents you from walking through it, and will kill you if it surrounds you with no way to escape to untainted ground, so you have to be careful where you walk. And not step on the blood…
All of the levels are procedurally-generated using seed numbers – from zero to 9999 – which makes an awful lot of levels… Archipelagos does have some variety, though. Later levels introduce enemies that you must avoid contact with, and other hazards.
Archipelagos was a critical success upon release, and is fondly-remembered by some (enough to have been re-made at least once), but it hasn’t aged too well overall. It’s just about fast enough to enjoy for a while and does present a reasonable challenge. Whether the gameplay contains enough variety to keep your attention for more than ten minutes is another question, though.
I have to say: I really love Chip’s Challenge, and have done ever since I first played it on its original platform: the Atari Lynx.
Converted by UK-based Images Software and published by US Gold in 1990, Chip’s Challenge is an old school maze/puzzle game, set inside a computer, and it features well-defined, cute graphics, and challenging puzzles. It has all the ingredients of a classic game.
The storyline in Chip’s Challenge is frankly ridiculous: you’re Chip, and you have to complete a series of challenges from a girl called Melinda in order to join their computer club, Bit Busters… Forget that. What’s important to know is that you simply have to collect a series of computer chips from within a maze. Although the tricky part is getting to them…
The learning curve is just about right. The first few levels are easy, and subsequent levels become more difficult as you progress.
The Atari ST version of Chip’s Challenge is probably my favourite version of the game, although – in reality; other than slightly higher-res graphics – there’s little to choose between the Lynx original and this ST version. It’s smooth, playable, and attractive, and contains over 148 different levels. So plenty for puzzle fans to sink their teeth into.
Known as Inside Outing on 8-bit home computers, and Raffles on 16-bit computers, this excellent isometric platform game translates very well to the Atari ST.
The name change was because someone at publisher The Edge obviously thought that it would be a good idea to name the central character (he didn’t have a name in the original game), so they called him “Raffles” and the rest is history. Except it isn’t. US publisher Epyx later changed the name again, to the ludicrous “Debon Aire in the Hidden Diamond Caper“, when releasing in North America.
The name confusion is a pity because Inside Outing/Raffles – whatever you want to call it – is a brilliant little self-contained adventure game. The aim is find 16 jewels hidden inside a big house, and return them one at a time to a woman who resides in a particular room in the mansion.
A lot of the puzzles in Raffles are physics-based, or involve stacking items to reach higher places, but the extra ‘pull’ mechanic really brings the game to life, allowing you to completely rearrange the furniture in most rooms.
It has to be said, though, that Raffles has some of the most annoying enemies of all time… Usually either innocent-looking mice or birds. But both can move furniture and items and deplete you of your energy if they touch you. So you have to avoid them. But that’s easier said than done when you’re trying to move a load of furniture away from a blocked doorway. You can lose a couple of lives easily by being harassed by a single bird. Thankfully some rooms don’t have any enemies in them so you can grab a breather and think.
The Atari ST version of Raffles has extra rooms, and extra diamonds to collect, compared to the original 8-bit versions. The pool table room, for example, now has a door in the top right hand corner, leading to a series of new rooms. And – thank God – this time you get three (count ’em!) whole lives to play around with, instead of the single one you got in the original. How generous.
Note: One thing I didn’t like about this (and the Amiga) version: candlesticks now hurt you when you stand on them. Whichever ‘genius’ decided that was a good idea deserves their qualification for video game development revoking! 🙂
More: Raffles on Wikipedia
Another great “hidden gem” on the Atari ST – Wrangler, developed by Magnetic Fields and published by Alternative Software in 1988.
Wrangler a strange isometric puzzle game, with you playing the role of a robotic cowboy called “Glint Eastwood” (groan), and who must patrol various levels, collecting a required number of coloured tiles in order to shut down some alien gates. It’s a difficult game to explain, but is quite easy to play when you get the hang of it, and also quite compelling.
As the levels increase, the traps become nastier and the challenge ever greater. The alien ‘gate-builders’ – the greatest threat to Glint Eastwood’s life – increase in frequency and start to vary more in type. All ‘gate-builders’ can be jumped over, and some types can be killed by removing the floor from under them.
If it sounds weird: that’s because it is weird. But Wrangler is one of those strange games that is actually fun to play – as well as relatively original. If you’ve never played Wrangler before I highly recommend giving it a try.
More: Wrangler on Atari Mania