Crystal Raider from Mastertronic is not a game I’d come across prior to recording this video, but it seems it was rather fondly regarded back in the day — and likewise a lot of people today seem to like it, too.
It’s an interesting puzzle-platformer with a peculiar jumping system similar to that found in Atari’s arcade title Major Havoc: so long as you hold the fire button down, you continue the upwards arc of your jump. Mastering the crazy moves you can do with this is essential to success — and Crystal Raider certainly demands some inhuman agility at times!
What does any self-respecting dictator do when he gets the smackdown from the allied forces? He strikes back in a sequel, of course — and that’s exactly what happens in Access Software’s Beach Head II: The Dictator Strikes Back.
Offering a series of competitive minigames that can either be played against the computer or a friend, Beach Head II is an enjoyable game that feels like a noticeable improvement over its predecessor in many ways. Just a pity that the Atari 8-bit version missed out on the Commodore 64 version’s digitised speech!
When contemplating video game history, an important side of things that often gets overlooked or ignored is the public domain sector.
Here, programmers would put together often very good pieces of software, release them into the wild for free and be perfectly happy for people to distribute them as they saw fit. Such is the case with this week’s game XPoker, which was originally released via a bulletin board system, and subsequently found itself getting into the hands of all sorts of people.
Type-in listings written in BASIC were a common sight in Atari 8-bit magazines — as were BASIC listings that were used to create executable machine code programs on disk or cassette.
The magazines Antic and ANALOG in the United States also had a strong interest in the programming language Action!, though, and published a number of listings written using this speedy, game-friendly setup. Today’s Atari 8-bit game is one such example, bringing some solid and challenging platforming action home for us to enjoy.
“Let’s make a video game about doing our taxes!” thought John Freeman and Anne Westfall of the brand spanking new software company Free Fall Associates. “I’m sure that will resonate with the game-playing community!”
Sadly, it did not — but that doesn’t mean that Tax Dodge for Atari 8-bit isn’t a good game. Quite the opposite, in fact — it’s a really fun, interesting take on the maze chase genre with a non-violent twist. Although it does benefit you to have at least a passing understanding of all things financial, especially if you don’t have a manual to hand…
The 8-bit home computing era played host to some great single-screen platform games: Donkey Kong, Miner 2049’er and Jumpman, to name but a few.
I hadn’t come across Karmic Caverns before. There might be a good reason that people haven’t talked about this much over the years — but it does have a few interesting ideas, most notably with how it’s more of a mobility puzzle than an action platformer.
Although their name might suggest otherwise, Adventure International put out many different types of game for the Atari 8-bit.
One interesting example from the relatively early days is Triad, a game that combines noughts and crosses with shoot ’em up action, in which each square on the board contains a specific type of enemy — and each type of enemy requires a specific means of defeating them! It’s a fun combination of shoot ’em up and puzzler that is still surprisingly addictive today.
Shamus is one of those games that probably every Atari 8-bit enthusiast has played at one point or another; like many other games from publisher Synapse Software, it’s an all-time classic.
Developed by Cathryn Mataga (credited as William Mataga in the game), Shamus is a top-down action adventure that draws some inspiration from the classic shoot ’em up Berzerk and combines it with a more coherent world that you need to explore in order to proceed to the next level. Offering massive mazes and tons of replay value, Shamus is still a great time today.
Today’s Atari 8-bit game is not one I’d heard of before, and with good reason: it never sold any copies!
Despite this, it somehow managed to find its way out into the wild — as a lot of unreleased, prototype or otherwise difficult-to-find software tended to do back in the day — and, many years later, the original author even made a video talking about the making of the game on YouTube.
Sadly, said author — one Jeffrey McArthur — is no longer with us, as he passed away in 2017. But we can honour his memory by enjoying his work today! So let’s take a look at Icky Squishy. Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
Back in the early days of home computing, developers were experimenting not only with how different game genres worked, but also with using game-like mechanics in various contexts.
One pioneer of these experiments was Douglas Crockford, who we’ve seen a couple of times on this series previously. Today we look at his Hollywood Medieval project, which combines music effectively arranged by the “player” with the game-like mechanic of navigating a maze — with your location determined by the musical phrases you’re hearing.