Today’s indie scene is quite rightfully regarded as one of the most creative spaces in the games industry. But it’s been that way for a lot longer than most people realise.
Some truly fascinating games came out through the Atari Program Exchange or APX, a programme run by Atari where consumers (or indeed Atari employees) could submit their pet projects and get them published by the company — perhaps the earliest take on today’s “indie specialist” publishers such as Devolver Digital and its ilk.
One such example that it seems never quite made it to final release was Gossip, a fascinating game by Atari’s master of simulations, Chris Crawford. Gossip is an attempt to simulate social interactions using a mathematical model of affinity as a basis. As a game, it takes a bit of getting used to, but as you start to figure out what’s going on it becomes a fascinating experience. Check out my attempts to woo the virtual ladies in the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
Early arcade ports certainly varied quite significantly in quality, and opinion appears to be a bit divided online as to whether or not Ron J Fortier’s Atari 8-bit take on Sega’s classic Zaxxon is “good” or not.
Well, “good” or not, that’s what we’re taking a look at today — and it turns out there are two slightly different versions of the game out there. (I discovered after I made the video that these are due to there being a 16K cassette version and a 48K disk version — in the video you’ll see the disk version first, followed by the more limited cassette version.)
Enjoy this take on a classic in the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
The type-in listing scene for 8-bit home computers gave us some genuinely excellent games — with some even rivalling commercially released counterparts.
Such is the case with the unusually named Unicum, a take on the Arkanoid-style block-breaking formula that many regard as significantly superior to the official port of Taito’s classic to Atari 8-bit.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, “Unicum” is apparently a Hungarian liqueur, though whether or not that actually has anything to do with this game is anyone’s guess. Be sure to subscribe on YouTube for more valuable facts about international culture!
Today we pay another visit to a beloved publisher of the Atari 8-bit days: Synapse Software — and one of the company’s most well-regarded games.
Rainbow Walker isn’t an especially original premise — it’s a Q*Bert-style game in which you have to hop on all the squares to change them to the correct colour — but the remarkable thing here is the incredibly slick presentation, featuring a gorgeous 3D effect, smooth movement and some fancy special effects. It’s not hard to see why the game is regarded as one of the finest in the Atari 8-bit’s library.
Enjoy the video below, and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more.
Dot-eating maze games were a staple of both early ’80s arcades and home computers from the same era, as we’ve seen a fair few times on this series already.
Nibbler, originally released into arcades by Rock-Ola, became somewhat notorious for being the first game to allow players to score more than a billion points. There’s even a documentary about various attempts to pursue this milestone over the years.
The Atari 8-bit version was actually a pretty solid conversion of the arcade game. I have no idea if you can score over a billion points in it because I’m not that good… but at least we can have a look at the basics!
You probably have no idea what to expect from a game with a title like “Knicker Bockers”. I didn’t really know either.
What we actually get is a surprisingly fun, if challenging, maze game that combines elements of Lock ‘n’ Chase, Pengo and a teeny tiny bit of Drelbs. It’s a good time!
Well, okay, the narrative setup for the game — which features a guy named Knick playing in a door factory while being pursued by the local toughs — perhaps needs some work… but it was the 8-bit era and no-one cared about narrative if the game was enjoyable!
A popular thing for modern programmers of retro systems to do is to make new ports of games that previously remained confined to a specific platform.
Such is the case with Deathchase XE, a 2013 entry in the famous ABBUC software contest, which pits modern programmers of Atari systems against one another to produce the most impressive piece of software — be it “useful” or a game.
Deathchase XE reimagines ZX Spectrum classic Deathchase for the Atari, and does a pretty good job of it — even if the competition deadline meant that the creator wasn’t quite able to implement everything he wanted!
Our adventures in the Temple of Apshai Trilogy are finally coming to an end as we delve into the third part: Curse of Ra.
This particular module is designed for adventurers who have spent a bit of time gaining experience and gathering equipment in The Temple of Apshai and The Upper Reaches of Apshai, and as such is pretty tough.
It does, however, present some of the most interesting, well-crafted dungeon designs in the whole series, though, so it’s worth exploring if you think your character is up to the challenge!
Before we had “3D” we had the illusion of 3D, typically created through the use of an isometric or oblique perspective.
Various types of game experimented with this “diagonal” format to varying degrees of success, but Blue Max for Atari 8-bit is widely regarded as one of the best, successfully transplanting the shoot ’em up formula into a whole new dimension. Kind of.
Regardless of your feelings on the “realism” of the presentation, Blue Max remains a solid, challenging game — and believed by many to be one of the best games the dear old Atari had to offer. So let’s play!
Type-in listings in computer magazines in the ’80s were more than just an opportunity to get some “free” software, with the only expense being the cost of the magazine and your time. They were also a chance to learn something.
In many cases, type-in listings were accompanied by commentary from the author explaining the processes and techniques they’d used in order to create the various functions within the program. In the case of Ants in Your Pants by Allan Knopp, published in issue 27 of Page 6, the technique in question was “page flipping” — a method of getting the computer to draw several screens in advance, then seamlessly switching between them to create the illusion of full-screen animation.
As a game, it’s fairly limited, but as a demonstration of some of the things it’s possible to do in Atari BASIC, it’s definitely worth a look!
Find a full archive of all the Atari A to Z videos on the official site.