Category Archives: Atari A to Z

Atari A to Z Flashback: Dark Cavern

It’s always interesting to look at a very old game and see the earliest glimmer of a subgenre that became well-established much later.

Mattel’s Dark Cavern, actually an Atari 2600 port of their Intellivision title Night Stalker, is a good example. On paper, it’s a simple maze game, but in practice, you can see just a hint of what would become stealth and survival horror gameplay in there.

We’ve got a fragile protagonist; we’ve got an emphasis on outwitting enemies; we’ve got limited resources. How long can Your Man survive in the Dark Cavern?

Atari A to Z

Atari ST A to Z: Zany Golf

Electronic Arts has become a bit of a dirty word these days, gaining notoriety for, among other things, predatory microtransactions and taking over beloved studios, only to shutter them shortly afterwards.

But there was a time when EA was a label that stood for high-quality, unusual and interesting software — a time when it really did feel like they were pursuing electronic art. One great example of a title like this that they released in the 16-bit era was Zany Golf, a fun and highly creative physics puzzler masquerading as a golf game.

You’ll never look at hamburgers the same way again…

Atari A to Z

Atari A to Z: F*ck Man

Modern programming competitions on classic systems often throw up some really interesting results… particularly when there are some creative restrictions put in place.

F*ck Man is the product of a competition where programmers of various 8-bit computers were allowed just 10 lines of the BASIC dialect of their choice to put something together. It was actually the work of the competition’s organiser, and came in fourth place.

As for the game itself… well, it’s understandably simplistic, but it’s actually a surprising amount of fun, and a creative twist on a classic formula. Also it has an entertaining name.

Atari A to Z

Atari A to Z: Crystal Castles (2600)

Back in the ’70s and ’80s, players of home consoles weren’t looking for “arcade perfect” — mostly because the home systems of the time weren’t up to it.

Rather, they were looking for a roughly equivalent or perhaps complementary experience to that which could be had in the arcades. This meant that sometimes games underwent a few changes in the transition from the arcade to the home.

A good example of this is Crystal Castles for the Atari 2600, which provides a surprisingly authentic-feeling approximation of the arcade classic, while working within the constraints of its host hardware.

Atari A to Z

Atari ST A to Z: Yomo

While it’s primarily the 8-bit home microcomputer era that is associated with the “bedroom programmer”, thanks to the fact that most systems came with the programming language BASIC built into ROM, some of this still went on in the 16-bit era.

A popular platform for independent game development on Atari ST was STOS (short for ST Operating System). This was a BASIC-like language with a lot of features specifically geared towards game development: things like sprite handling, scrolling, music and sound generation, all that sort of thing.

STOS’ publisher Mandarin Software collected a bunch of impressive efforts from talented developers and bundled them together in a commercially available showcase compilation called Games Galore. One of those games was Yomo, which is the subject of today’s video!

Atari A to Z

Atari A to Z: The Eliminator

These days, we tend to expect multi-format releases to have if not complete parity, then certainly as close an experience as possible to one another.

That wasn’t always the case, though, and I can think of few better examples of this that Adventure International’s The Eliminator, which somehow became an entirely different game between its original TRS-80 incarnation and its Atari 8-bit “port” by Steve Coleman.

It’s a fun little blast ’em up, though, so I’m not mad or anything; I just thought it was interesting!

Atari A to Z

Atari A to Z Flashback: Countermeasure

Today’s title from Atari Flashback Classics is one of the few genuine exclusives for the Atari 5200: it’s Countermeasure!

Countermeasure is an interesting strategic shooter in which you navigate a “supertank” through a perilous environment in an attempt to destroy a selection of missile silos. Yes, it’s another “Cold War paranoia” sort of game, but this one has some interesting twists.

Unfortunately, it’s also a pretty strong example of how the emulation of the Atari 5200’s POKEY chip is a bit dodgy in Atari Flashback Classics, which is a bit of a shame — especially considering the fact the emulation of the arcade titles that use it is spot on! Ah well.

Atari A to Z