Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sabre Team

Sabre Team was released in 1992 by Krisalis and is a turn-based isometric war zone of pure hardcore strategy. I first featured this game back in July simply because of its incredible pixel art which I suggest you take a look at. Why? Because it's ace and freaky!

In control of an elite SAS squad, we enter the lion's den to kill all the bad guys, rescue hostages and save the day. This ain't no fake arcade action affair but instead, tries to be realistic thus requires stealth and tactical thought. One wrong move could end with team members being killed and there are no second chances!

Firstly, we need to select a 4-man team from eight of the best warriors. Equip them with the right weapons for each mission whilst taking into consideration their type, rate of fire, ammo, weight, and even noise. The range is superb with lots of fun hardware: machine guns, assault rifles, a sniper rifle, stun grenades, and gas canisters. However, some weapons may need a reload action after each shot... Also, it might be advisable to wear a bulletproof jacket and I hear there are a limited number of medkits which certainly helps for a faster recovery when suffering an injury.

It's now that you should put aside any ideas you may have had of quick arcade-style action for one of careful, calculative and strategical thinking. Your assault should be executed with a stealthy approach to protect your men from potential dangers, such as standing near an open window! The terrain isn't just something nice to look and can be used for cover, the enemy won't know you're there if they cannot see or hear you. Slow and steady wins this race.

The battlefield is viewed isometrically with gorgeously detailed environments and our soldiers are controlled through the use of action points which means each of your men are allowed a specific number of possible moves before the computer gets its turn. This is performed using a superb user interface stuffed with lots of cool animated icons which help to identify their purpose (just hover your mouse over them). They offer the basic options to turn, walk, shoot and fun stuff like searching dead bodies! The compass not only controls the soldier's direction but will display the number of action points required for each particular task along with alerts for what a soldier might see (red) or hear (blue).

                            

Sadly, I'm most perplexed by the time it takes for the computer to calculate its move during the 'Enemy Turn Screen'. Perhaps I'm missing the point but waiting around 3 minutes seems like overkill to me? Sure, it's relevant when an enemy takes a pop shot at one of my soldiers but I really don't want to watch a hostage wander around his cell. Thankfully, the agony can be "eased" by constantly holding down the mouse button. It's a backwards idea and the whole process still takes over a minute!! So... all that time... with your finger on the mouse button... waiting...

Ignoring my quibbles, never have I enjoyed such a tactical game of stealth and careful strategy. Don't expect a cakewalk, I'm sure your first attempts will end in casualties without ever coming close to rescuing all of the hostages. Stick with it because this is an innovative experience with massive attention to detail and very rewarding. Covertly eliminating terrorist scumbags is always extremely satisfying and Sabre Team is nothing short of a classic.

LINKS

 - 8BitChip have a hard drive installable game and floppy disks can be found via Old Games Finder.

Friday, September 08, 2017

PouifOuf

PouifOuf is a platformer written in GFA Basic for the Atari STe by Le GLod. It has us collecting pointless items left lying around familiar-looking screens and we can only move onto the next level once all are collected.

Movement and control of our cool dude are both fast and energetic with a playability style that reminds me of Roger. We are only able to walk left or right which means there is no way to jump or to use any weapon with our magic pockets! However, all is not lost, each level has several platforms with "springboards" that will propel us upwards to reach every item. It's now that you realise the cunning navigation needed to beat the maze-like level designs because there is often a specific way to win. Beware of silly enemies who love to get underfoot, they aren't lethal but will humorously bounce your around the screen like a pinball. Also, fruit items fall from the top of the screen but don't appear to do much more than to offer a little visual diversity. I assume PouifOuf is an unfinished project and I'd love to know more about this GEM... I've contacted Le Glod but heard nothing back as yet...

The visuals are lovely and incredibly smooth to compliment the ultra fast gameplay. However, and I cannot stress this highly enough, please forget about emulation and play using a real Atari STe for the best experience. Sound effects and music can be activated at any time using the Function keys but I preferred the gorgeous chiptune myself.

I admit to being sceptical at first because of an ultra tight learning curve and mechanics which aren't exactly what I expected. However, I'm smiling like a Cheshire Cat thanks to this furious platformer and its superb playability, albeit unfinished. PouifOuf isn't a word I can pronounce but I do know a great game when I see it. This is a great game!!

Friday, September 01, 2017

Jumping Jack'son

Jack is a fella who simply wanted to chill out and listen to a few of his favourite records but he never got the chance because the soul of Rock 'n Roll is somehow trapped and now manic classical instruments roam the land looking for blood. Of course, your blood... Yep, if ever there was ever a strange idea for a game then this is it!

Jack's world is viewed top-down and made up of square tiles which he can hop on. There are also special groups which can produce a record if you turn them all the same colour. This must correspond to an unused turntable so, for example, a red record for a red player. The song will gradually compile as each record player is activated and the level is complete once all are working.

Each level is like a jigsaw and isn't always continuous so the use of a transporter is required. However, this can be dangerous as it's often not always possible to see the destination so you might bump into a baddie. These angry instruments love to chase and if you get too close it's a life lost, but at least you witness a humorous "Pif-Paf" cartoon-like effect! There are many items to collect for extra points and other features to look out for - wear a pair of cool shades or rest and safely gather your nerves on a chequered tile. Also, why not try dropping a couple of your old cassettes on the floor to block an instrument dead in his tracks. Well, for a few seconds but it gives you that break you desperately need and nobody needs those old tapes anyhow! As you progress, the maps become far more technical to offer a great challenge in this insane musical world which makes no sense. This game is not easy but is always superb fun!

Aesthetically, Infogrames have worked their magic and produced another jaw dropper. The music is great and the sound effects are hilarious, I love it when instruments violently bash out their sounds if you get too close. Graphics are constantly rich in colour with smooth scrolling and fantastic animations. Heck, even the high-score table is funky, but can you beat my first attempt? -->

This is actually pretty simple puzzler but presents itself well to feel fresh and innovative with such addictive gameplay. Jumping Jack'Son is superb and has lots of unique humour - come on, there's nothing like an angry trumpet chasing you down the screen! It's obvious a lot of love went into making this game and I cannot recommend it highly enough. A personal favourite of mine.

LINKS

 - 8BitChip has a cool download that can be installed onto your hard drive.
 - Floppy disk dudes should try Reanimators #11 from Stonish or Automation #239 via Old Games Finder.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Phantom

   

The Phantom Demo was released by Amiga/PC crew, Arkham who (for me) seemed to appear out of nowhere only to disappear once again into their natural cold habitat. This is actually two different party releases from 1993/4 bundled together and features super duper visual effects and fantastic chiptunes by Kane Wood. I enjoyed this a bunch!!

LINKS

 - A download is over on AtariMania with more of Kane's music available via Demozoo.
 - I recorded two videos a couple of years ago. Incomplete, but they give you a good idea what to expect while you're copying it across onto floppy. Yep, this demo is best experienced using a real computer!! (part one & part two)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Top Banana


Top Banana is a vertically scrolling platformer not too dissimilar to Magic Boy or Rainbow Islands. Ignoring the stupid eco storyline, this certainly has an unusual mix of weirdness and even begins with a tripped out acid-style intro reminding me of Grotesque and Aciid Burn (Whattaheck). Well, a little, but it's in stereo and worth watching once.

This is a fast playing platformer which is both enjoyable and easy to control using the keyboard. Yep, I couldn't use my joystick but the keys work rather well guiding our little goth girl through the tricky levels. Gameplay is simple, we start near the bottom of the screen and must leap across the platforms to reach the top and avoid the rising water levels. Along the way are many unusual nasties to kill and our weapon appears to be love itself which delivers a fatal kiss of death to anything dumb enough to get in our way. So take no prisoners and enjoy killing everything!!

Graphically, this is so incredibly unique but also very "busy". At first, I didn't like it and felt the screen was too cluttered as I struggled to see some dangers lurking amongst its visual mess. After a few more games I had got over that and actually found myself admiring the rough and abstract styles but mostly for daring to be different.

Atari ST (no Blitter)
Atari ST (w/ Blitter) and Atari STe

Interestingly, Top Banana is one of the few games which supports both the Atari ST and STe. The oldest computers (without Blitter) have a plain background and the usual chip sound effects but the later ST's (with a Blitter/socket) feature two-layer parallax scrolling albeit with the same sounds. The Atari STe gets the same visual enhancements plus DMA stereo music and in-game samples. However, whether you enjoy these samples is debatable. I did.

Top Banana is certainly unusual and offers up a fun challenge but I don't think it's anywhere near as good as the previously mentioned games. However, I do fear it's also a much underrated because it's a great alternative to play one quiet afternoon which is exactly what I'm doing today. Finally, kudos to Hex for supporting both ST computers!!

LINKS

 - A hard drive installable game was fudged by the D-Bug boys.
 - Stonish has two excellent floppy disk options:
      1)  Fuzion #151 (a one-disk download without the intro but this is the version I recommend)
      2)  Pure Energy #6A and #6B (with the silly intro and comes on two disks)