I have a soft spot for Microdeal’s Goldrunner. It was one of the first games I played on the Atari ST, and while it’s monstrously difficult and quite annoying at times, there’s something about it that kept me coming back for more.
It was likely a combination of things: the impressive performance, the excellent Rob Hubbard music, the sampled speech repeatedly bidding you “Welcome” even when you’d been playing for hours… it all combined to make one of the best Atari ST games out there, and a game I still enjoy a fair bit today.
Time for something a bit different today! The Atari ST plays host to a variety of excellent applications as well as games, many of which are still well worth your time today. So let’s take a look at some of them every so often!
Quartet is a four-channel sample sequencer and synthesiser by Microdeal. It was well-regarded for its ease of use and flexibility, and was used by a wide variety of composers in both the commercial and demo scenes. It’s not hard to see why — a little effort can produce some surprisingly excellent results that are a far cry from the ST’s usual pitiful warblings!
Microdeal offered the Atari ST some solid support in its early days, with the software they published covering a wide variety of genres — and not just games.
Probably one of the most “traditional” games they published was Jupiter Probe, one of many games by the prolific Steve Bak, and a solid shoot ’em up in its own right — even if its concept and setting is based on… somewhat shaky scientific foundation, to say the least. Music by the legendary Rob Hubbard, though!
For quite a while, games that ostensibly simulated “real” sports and activities weren’t necessarily concerned with realism — they were concerned with being fun video games first and foremost.
A good example of this is Electronic Pool for Atari ST by Microdeal. This game resembles real-life pool but doesn’t follow many of its rules — and in doing so it manages to create an entertaining arcade-style experience. (One might argue that it’s quite similar to Data East’s Side Pocket, but this certainly isn’t an official adaptation of that…)
There was a time when we couldn’t take first-person adventures for granted; a dark time when you could only turn by 90 degrees and move by 5 feet at a time.
Okay, we still have games like that, but at least we have a choice these days. Back when Slaygon was released for Atari ST, it’s pretty much all we had if we wanted to infiltrate some sort of complicated installation… such as a futuristic tech company looking to unleash a deadly virus into the atmosphere for… some reason!
Slaygon put an interesting twist on the dungeon crawler formula by putting you in control of a futuristic cybertank with all manner of fancy systems for you to use. It was still all about finding the right keys for the right doors though…
It’s really interesting to go back to some of the games of my youth and discover that creators who became much more well-known later in their careers worked on them.
Jug from Microdeal is one game where this happens: its graphics were the work of one Martin Kenwright, who subsequently became much better known for his flight simulations under the Digital Image Design (DID) banner, and later the World Rally Championship and Motorstorm games for Sony platforms.
Jug, meanwhile, is an interesting action-adventure with a touch of shoot ’em up about it. Does it, as the box proclaims, offer the best graphics the ST has to offer? Well, no, but it’s still worth a look!
There are some games in which it feels absolutely impossible to get anywhere meaningful… but where you still feel you’re having a good time regardless.
One such example is Airball for the Atari ST, a strange isometric adventure in which you play an unfortunate young individual who crossed paths with an evil wizard with a penchant for turning people into rubber balls.
Can you escape from the wizard’s mansion? It has over 150 rooms, you know…
I love it when game developers get creative. This is not an altogether unusual sight these days, of course, but back in the early to mid ’80s, it was always a real treat to see someone step outside of genre “norms”.
Such was the case with Time Bandit by Bill Dunlevy and Harry Lafnear, a top-down action adventure with elements of text adventures, role-playing games, Pac-Man and all manner of other goodness. While superficially resembling Gauntlet — which actually came out after Time Bandit was fully developed — there’s a hell of a lot of depth here, and some fiendish puzzles to unravel.
If you want a game that pretty much sums up what the Atari ST gaming experience is all about, you can do far worse than give Time Bandit the, uh, time of day.