Monday, 7 November 2016

My Gaming History - Part 3.1 - Other People's Pixels (Atari)



Before I finally got my hands on my own computer to play games on, and when I wasn't able to get to an arcade or got board with my handhelds, there was always somewhere else I could go for my gaming fix....friends houses! It would often seem like everybody had a computer or console except me, especially in the late '80s, but at least there was a few people I could rely on to let me play on their machines....

My cousin was one of the first people I remember always having cool game systems, and whenever I visited I'd try and persuade her to play on them at least for a little while, before we ventured outside and played Tarzan (she was always Tarzan, I was Cheetah) or The A-Team (everybody wanted to be Murdoch)...

The Atari 2600 was the first one I played, but as it was early on my actual memories of it are pretty hazy. The only game I really remember playing  was Pitfall....


Pitfall - Atari 2600


I won't spend much time writing about Pitfall, as pretty much everybody who reads this should know what the games about! If you don't, you play an Indiana Jones type character who has to swing over pits and crocodiles, avoiding other nasties, quicksand and rolling logs and trying to find as much treasure as possible!

It's pretty much credited with creating the whole side-scrolling-platform genre, so if you've never played it you'd better seek it out so as you can maintain your "proper gamer" credentials!


I'm sure there were other games I played on my cousin's Atari, but this is the one that sticks in my memory, and it was very influential in getting me to buy many of the handhelds and tabletops in the previous blog post. It would be a while before I really experienced proper home computer games though....

Many years later, when I was almost 12, I moved home from a small group of cottages in the middle of nowhere, to a village with slightly more houses, but still in the middle of nowhere! There was still a much larger population of kids there though, one of whom was a girl who I'd grew up with at the farm who had moved away a few years previously, but had also come to stay in the new houses being built in the village. Our friendship was rekindled and we started hanging out, going on adventures in the surrounding countryside with the other kids or having epic cycle races round the block! I eventually discovered that she was the owner of an Atari ST 5200FM, and yet another batch of games would add fuel to the fire of wanting my own computer....

Barbarian (Atari ST)


As you will have noted in previous posts, I'm a sucker for the Fantasy genre, so when I discovered this game that basically let me be Conan and behead enemies, I was very intrigued! This was the first one-on-one fighter I had played that had weapons, and also the first that I remember learning the moves for! Later, when battling with my friend's little brother on woodchip piles left out the front of our houses, using canes stolen from their garden, I would impress him with the Web Of Death move I had taught myself after seeing it in Barbarian! Hehe...


My favourite bit of this game though is when you lop your opponents head off, and a little green lizard dude comes walking on, kicks the head off screen, gives a little chuckle and drags your defeated opponents corpse off somewhere..

Anyway, as fighting games go, Barbarian is one of the best of its era, and if you haven't played it yet, you really should hunt it down and give it a go. The presentation and music are excellent too, and its still pretty groovy even today!




Quadralien (Atari ST)


My memory of this game is a bit weird...mainly because it's less about having played the game, and more about trying to work out how to play the game! My friends dad worked in a computer lab y'see, and most of the games he had for this ST were 'acquired' from certain individuals with wooden legs and eyepatches. This meant that they rarely came with any form of instructions, so if you got anything a little more complicated than a shoot-em-up, you would have to try and work out what buttons did what and what the hell it was that you were actually meant to be doing...

Apparently, the plot involves aliens taking over a large reactor in space and sabotaging it so as it's dangerously close to exploding, and you have to move barrells and orbs of radioactive material down chutes, or destroy them in other ways, whilst battling aliens at the same time. You do this by using droids with different abilities, but can only take two droids into a level at once, meaning you have an added strategic element in trying to work out what droids you'll need to solve the Sokoban-style puzzles...


Given all this, it's no wonder we didn't have a clue what we were doing when we tried to play this without instructions! Nobody ever wanted to try and work out except me, and I'd sometimes get my friend or her brother to load it up just so as I could listen to the groovy music! Nowadays, I have a bit more of a clue what's going on, but still find it damned tricky! Still it's well worth a go if such puzzley-strategy-type things are your bag.... 


Black Lamp (Atari ST)


Another great fantasy game that had me hooked from the first play was this tale of a poor Jester trying to win the heart of a princess by returning the coloured lamps stolen by evil dragons who have invaded the kingdom! By returning the lamps, the protection spells that kept the kingdom safe from marauding monsters will be put back in place, and the day will be well and truly saved!


I loved wandering around the lovely little villages and castle in this game, battling the evil monsters that have started attacking due to the lack of the aforementioned protection spells...and I remember being really impressed the first time I came across a dragon, killed it and retrieved the fabled Black Lamp of the title!  It really struck a chord with me and I later came up with several ideas for my own games (none of which I ever made) based around very similar settings....




Eddie Edwards Super Ski (Atari ST)


Hehe...this marvelous game of skiing sticks in my memories not for the actual game itself, but for the memory of what happened one fateful afternoon when several of the local kids had gone to my friend's house to play it...

Being only a single player game, we passed the joystick from player to player as we took turns to ski down the slopes and try to beat each other's times. There must have been about 5 or 6 of us there that day, which was a bit more than the usual 2 or 3, so the joystick was getting a bit of a hammering. One girl was a bit more heavy handed than the rest of us though, and after she'd had a go, the next person on discovered that suddenly the skier would shoot of to the right of the screen and not do much else..


Funnily enough, it was upon noticing this that a very strange event happened...The girl seemed to obtain amazing auditory powers and could hear her mother calling her from the other end of the village! Nobody else could hear this, but she assured us that this was the case and she had to rush home as soon as possible, leaving the rest of us to inform the girl whose computer it was (who bizarrely wasn't even there that day) about the broken joystick. Needless to say it was a while before we got back in to play the ST again....



Starquake (Atari ST)


This is quite possibly my favourite platformer ever, and I'm not even sure it can properly be called a platformer! It was after playing this that I found myself making excuses to visit my friend a lot more often, so I could have another go at trying to beat this gem of a game. Many, many fond memories of playing it, including a run when all I seemed to find where the extra life joysticks meaning I could play for ages and almost complete it!

You play the part of B.L.O.B., and odd little creature tasked with repairing the unstable core of a rogue planet that has appeared from a random black hole. To do this, you must roam the planet looking for items you'll need to take to the core and use to repair it.


To help you, you'll find lots of little teleportation huts that you can zip between to save time. To do this though, you'll need to learn the passwords, and finding these out added another fun element to the game! Careful management of your extra platforms (which you seem to poop out by pressing down), health and ammo is also required...and to really get around you'll need to find the Access card pretty early on too!

All this adds up to a surprisingly strategic yet simple game that's loads of fun to play! I might go and give it another go actually after writing this...I never managed to beat the ST version, only the Speccy version...




Marble Madness (Atari ST)


Quite a few nice memories of playing this game too, but another one that we were all pretty bad at. Trying to navigate a marble down an isometric maze courses whilst avoiding tubes, drops and acid puddles is even trickier than it sounds! We had fun trying to beat each others progress through the levels though!


I seem to have a false memory of this being played on some late eighties gameshow, like First Class or something, but apparently it wasn't, and I might be mixing it up with 720° which definitely was played on First Class...still, if anybody else reading knows if they did play it on any random TV programs, let me know in the comments....



Nebulus (Atari ST)


This was another one that looked really cool, but none of us could get the hang of...it's amazing how many games we just couldn't get very far in but played nonetheless! A bit different from nowadays where there's so many games flying around that if you can't work something out in 5 minutes, it's consigned forever to the "Naaah!" pile....


You have to navigate your little frog-like character up a rotating tower, avoiding traps and enemies, which can either knock you further back down the tower or into the sea, causing you to lose a life...Revisiting this game recently, I was finally able to get a bit further than the first level, and I discovered a nice little side-scrolling shooter section, where frog-dude pilots a submarine to get to the next tower! I can only imagine how excited we all would have been if we'd managed to see that back in the day! But yeah, now that I can actually play it, it's not a bad wee game at all! Quite addictive....


Buggy Boy (Atari ST)


Now this is one we could play! A brilliant little driving game where you control a beach buggy, racing to the finish line trying to drive through point gates and collect flags whilst avoiding trees, walls, spikes and various other obstacles!


It's a really well presented, bright and fun game, and again we all had a blast trying to get further than the person playing before us! I have many fond memories of spending sunny afternoons playing this when we should probably have been out on our bikes or something instead! Hehe....

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So that was some of the games that further fed my craving for games, but before I finally managed to get my grubby little paws on my Speccy +2a, there was another 8-bit that almost swung me to the dark side....the Commodore 64! And we'll take a look at what games took my fancy on that machine in another post soon...... :-) 













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