The Sentinel, Atari ST

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. đŸ™‚

Converted in 1986 by Firebird, the Atari ST version of The Sentinel is just as good as the Amiga version – or any of the other conversions that were made from the BBC Micro original. Meaning: no bad versions of the game exist. Not that I’m aware of anyway.

The Sentinel is actually quite simple to play, when you figure out what to do, and the aim is simple: to gain height on the landscape, until you’re able to see the ground The Sentinel is standing on. Once you can do that you can absorb him, rather than the other way around.

A tense and gripping game with 10,000 different, procedurally-generated levels, The Sentinel really is the thinking-man’s video game classic. It will definitely not appeal to lazy people who can’t be bothered to learn how to play a game unless it’s spoon-fed to them with a tutorial. And it will positively delight those who twig it.

Don’t be a Sentinel virgin. Join the club: know how to play it… Go and absorb The Sentinel. At least once. Then you can say your life is complete.

More: The Sentinel on Wikipedia

Cap’n’ Carnage, Atari ST

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…

It’s a side-scrolling shoot ’em up – of sorts – except the controls are sluggish; the action is boring, and the graphics are truly terrible.

There’s so little of value in Cap’n’ Carnage that all I can say is: I played it, so you don’t have to. And even then I only played it once…

If I had to sum up the game in one word (without swearing) I’d have to say “moribund”. And – as Alan Partridge knows full well – that means “dead or dying”. Cap’n’ Carnage is really only worth loading if you like bad games, or are a masochist. Which pretty much equate to the same thing.

Cap’n’ Carnage was developed by Golden Sector Design, and published by Energize in 1991 (a British/German co-production I believe). I think they’ll probably all want to forget it ever existed… As do I, to be honest.

More: Cap’n’ Carnage on Atari Mania

Rotox, Atari ST

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 Rotoxand 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, Atari ST

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.

More: Archipelagos on Wikipedia

Chip’s Challenge, Atari ST

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.

More: Chip’s Challenge on Wikipedia
Steam: Chip’s Challenge (2015) on Steam

Raffles, Atari ST

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! đŸ™‚

More: Raffles on Wikipedia

Wrangler, Atari ST

Another great “hidden gem” on the Atari STWrangler, 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

Voodoo Nightmare, Atari ST

Created by Zippo Games and published by Palace Software in 1990, Voodoo Nightmare is an original and fun isometric action adventure with a pleasing mix of overworld exploration and dungeon-crawling.

You control – I don’t know what it is – a bizarre character called Boots Barker, who kind of looks like a cross between an iced lolly and bottle-opener. Is he meant to be a voodoo doll? Or a fetish? Even the manual offers no explanation as to what Boots Barker actually is, but I guess it’s not really that important… He is one of the weirdest game characters I’ve ever seen though.

The aim of the game is to explore the jungle; find and solve puzzles; and also find and complete dungeons as you encounter them. The first dungeon – The Spider Temple – is a fairly simple collect-the-gems-style maze game. When you collect them all you appease the spider boss and are returned to the overworld to continue your exploration, and onto the next dungeon. So no boss fight. At least initially.

Graphically, Voodoo Nightmare is colourful and well-drawn and even has night and day periods. The enemies are a bit skittish (ie. ridiculously fast-moving and unpredictable), but are easily dealt with by either jumping on them or throwing knives at them. They also disappear at night, which is strange!

Some of the mazes in the game are quite complex, so play can get a little frustrating at times (just trying to find your way around), but solutions to puzzles do click into place if you invest enough time into exploring. Is it worth the time? I would say it is. Voodoo Nightmare is a hidden gem on the Atari ST.

More: Voodoo Nightmare on Atarimania.com

Smash TV, Atari ST

On the face of it the Atari ST conversion of Williams Electronics‘ classic Smash TV looks pretty good, but scratch below the surface and you might realise that it has one or two major deficiencies.

Like – for example – the fact that using the rotating shield prevents you from walking near the outer walls (the shield’s collision detection seems to prevent this). Which I would call a major bug – one that ruins the game.

Secondly, why doesn’t the single joystick control system employ a more logical use of joystick and keys? Then a player might have been able fire in directions other than the one they’re facing. A bit of creative thinking – and programming – might have even had a joystick and mouse combination, or at least something better than there is.

Graphically, this conversion is not bad in places, but certain things (such as the bosses) are very amateurishly drawn.

Gameplay-wise: this seems like a rough approximation of Smash TV. The boss battles in particular are grossly unfair in terms of survivability – particularly in single-player mode.

Overall: not a good conversion. Not a patch on the original, or the SNES version, or any half-decent Smash TV conversion for that matter.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smash_TV