After many years of Acorn Electron and Amstrad CPC gaming, I finally found my true love. The Atari ST, along with a carrier bag full of pirated game compilation disks (all individually wrapped, god bless you Mum) became mine one Christmas morning, and I have used one ever since. My Atari ST has been in the company of a multitude of systems throughout the hardware generations and never once played second fiddle. Until now, that is.
Last week I placed my Atari STE in the loft alongside its three STFM brethren in order to make room for the impending arrival of the fourth member of the Game & Write clan. What better way to mark this sad happening than with a look back at my favourite games for the system.
International Karate +
Copied onto one of those individually wrapped disks was Automation Compilation Disk #25, home of Pac-Mania and Solomon’s Key amongst others. As enjoyable as those two games were, it was game number 3 on the disk that would intrigue and eventually become my favourite fighting game of all time.
Archer Maclean’s programming genius is once again on show here: the huge move set, pixel-precise collision detection and intuitive nature of the controls have to be experienced to be believed. Genuinely funny spontaneous slapstick humour, superb sound and entertaining mini-games round off a unique beat ‘em up game that all fans of the genre should experience.
On the surface, Trapped 2 is a light cycles clone. Scratch that surface and reveal so much more.
4 player action, distinct levels, power-ups and a ton of options make this Shareware title unmissable. Power ups include the ability to freeze your opponents, clear the screen, swap positions with others, boost the speed of your lightcycle and burst through the otherwise fatal energy walls left behind by the other bikes. One of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve had, but be warned: friendships will be tested to their limits.
Championship Manager ’93
Championship Manager ’93 is the time sink to end all time sinks. I had plenty of expendable time in my teenage years and loved spending hour upon hour of it creating rags to riches tales of Barnet becoming Premiership Champions and taking Scarboro to the European Cup finals.
This was the first Championship Manager to feature real player names and the last (along with ’94 and Italia expansions) to feature simple and super quick gameplay. Later in the series I would lose patience with micromanaging training sessions or choosing my star striker’s stud length and return to CM ’93′s buy players, pick team, choose tactics, play game, rinse, repeat formula.
One Christmas eve, my uncle and my best mate started a game mid afternoon. Eight hours later my friend and I were ready for bed. My uncle, however, played right through the night and was still at the computer when we got up Christmas morning ready to open our presents. This game should have had a government health warning on the box.
Frontier: Elite 2
Sandbox or open world games were very rare in the early nineties, so a game offering as much freedom as Frontier really made me sit up and take notice.
Frontier‘s huge universe is exactly what the player makes of it. You can become a trader, pirate, mercenary, miner, assassin, explorer: the list goes on and on. Immersive and atmospheric (partly thanks to the ‘Gazetteer’ novella supplied in the box), Frontier would give you a ship and say ‘off you go’. With no narrative or objectives to guide you, it was up to you decide what it was you wanted to achieve and how to go about achieving it.
The only game I’ve ever completed twice in one sitting is a game that boasts the best co-operative mode of any video game I’ve ever played.
What at first seems like a simple platformer later reveals subtle nuances and secrets that take extensive play to learn. The ST conversion of Taito’s cutesy platformer hit is almost arcade perfect and as such is the most fun you can have as a goofy looking dinosaur blowing bubbles at wind-up robots.
Another top quality arcade conversion, Super Sprint would always be the go to guy in any ST vs. Amiga arguement (it never received a conversion for the Commodore machine, as it was an Atari arcade machine).
Super Sprint shines in 3-player mode (two on joysticks, one on keys), its simplistic controls lending themselves well to competitive play. Nevertheless Super Sprint works well as a score attack game thanks to one of the best difficulty curves I’ve seen in any game. The drone cars gradually get faster as the rounds go on, seemingly miles behind one minute, they slowly make up ground until they are really applying the pressure. Heart pounding stuff.
These games are my favourites, but the ST has so much more to offer (Speedball 2, Sensible Soccer, Sim City, Kick Off 2, Civilization to mention but a few) I feel I have barely skimmed the cream of titles available. Maybe more will be revealed in future posts.
One thing’s for sure: the solid foundation laid by my dalliances with Acorn and Amstrad machines was built upon by using the Atari ST. Here I have detailed some of the games I enjoyed, but my love for serious computing really blossomed too: DTP, pixel art, music, programming, databases and spreadsheets were all easily accessible using this machine, thanks to the wealth of software available on cover disks and in public domain libraries. I owe a lot of my IT knowledge and confidence to Atari’s beige beauty.