The Top 50 - The Great Atari ST Games Survey

Discuss and discover all the great games of yesteryear!

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StickHead
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Post by StickHead » Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:21 pm

One of my top five in this one. Can you guess which? :lol:

#25 - Bubble Bobble

Released: 1987
Developer: Software Creations
Publisher: Firebird Software
Genre: Arcade Platformer

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Bub and Bob's first adventure is a high quality arcade conversion (like Rainbow Islands, its younger brother) that did an excellent job of bringing all the cutesy fun home to your beige (and definitely not cute) box.

The hokey plot takes a backseat in this platform cute-em-up, the play mechanic is what shines here. Baron Von Blubba has turned you into a dinosaur and your chosen method of violence is the ability to blow bubbles encasing your enemy, and then popping them. Simple, and ingenious.

Augmenting this simple combination of bubble blowing, baddie popping and platform hopping is some seriously deep gameplay. Everything you do in the game has influence on what is going on: the amount of running and jumping you do, the amount of bubbles you blow, how quickly (or slowly) you complete a stage all have an influence on what happens next.

The physics behind the scenes really add to the experience: some stages are 'bubble stages' that convert all loose bubbles into collectables when the last nasty is dispatched, each level has its own convection currents that push the bubbles around the screen, a bubble burst whilst touching another will burst that bubble and so on, there are so many nifty features.

The pick-ups are great too: Fruit gives points (the more baddies popped together, the higher the available points), sweets upgrade your bubbles (faster, longer higher rate of fire), running shoes increase speed, candy canes offer big end of level bonuses, umbrellas skip levels, the list goes on and on.

There are so many subtle nuances and tricks to learn that this game is still showing me new things today, and I've been obsessed about it for over 20 years!


#24 - Buggy Boy

Released: 1988
Developer: Tatsumi
Publisher: Elite
Genre: Racing

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Racing games can often be accused of taking themselves far to seriously. Not so Buggy Boy - It's ridiculous and down right silly. Race against the clock as you collect flags in the right sequence, pass through gates that give you points or more time, boot footballs, jump off logs over gates and trees, avoid barrels and boulders, speed through tunnels and over bridges.

With five courses to choose from, you must reach the goal via five legs of varying terrain using your two speed Baja buggy. Only the later courses will offer a challenge to complete, but as you learn how to exploit each course for points, the urge to return and improve scores will provide replay value.

Graphics are not mind-blowing but clean and clear - not without charm. Sound is minimal: whiny engine, spot effects for collisions, flags, gates etc. and the odd bit of music.

Buggy Boy is fun, and one of the few racing games that works brilliantly as a score attack game.


#23 - Time Bandit

Released: 1985
Developer: Bill Dunlevy
Publisher: Michtron
Genre: Action Adventure

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Time Bandit is often described as a Gauntlet clone, which is a little unfair, seeing as the original Time Bandit appeared on the TRS-80 in '83 way before Gauntlet saw the light of day.

As the bandit, you are tasked with travelling through time to 16 different levels separated into 6 eras, defeating their guardians, collecting treasure and recovering artefacts. You control the bandit with the joystick, limited to just four directions, using the fire button to shoot the guardians. The top-down viewpoint scrolls around to reveal mazes and puzzles of the 'find-the-key-to-the-door' variety.

The two-player mode adds extra interest, and you can choose to play cooperatively or to blast your pal into next week and keep the artefacts all to yourself.

Retro gamers will delight in the discovery of the Pac-Man level, Centipede pastiche and surprising text adventure elements.

Time Bandit is certainly showing its age, but in 1985 it was groundbreaking, offering both fast paced action and a sprawling world with levels which could be tackled in any order the player wished.


#22 - Lemmings

Released:
Developer:
Publisher:
Genre:

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Original concepts don't come along very often in video games. Even at the tender age of eleven, the first time I played Lemmings I knew I was witnessing something special.

Like most truly great ideas, the premise is very simple: guide your band of hapless rodents across some tricky terrain to the exit by issuing them with a stock of eight orders. You could order lemmings to climb, float, explode, block, build, bash (horizontally), dig (diagonally down), and tunnel (vertically).

Cunning level design had you using combinations of these orders (sometimes restricted in availability) in order to succeed, many levels having multiple solutions. Later levels will be seemingly impossible until a new technique is learned or new implementation of an old one realised.

Lemmings’ visual appeal is timeless: Expertly animated little sprites against well drawn backgrounds. I'm currently playing the homebrew conversion of Lemmings on my DS and it still looks fresh. Hilariously appropriate children's nursery rhymes and other familiar melodies accompany your rescue efforts along with the occasional splat or pop.

After developing the excellent shooters Menace and Blood Money, Lemmings would shoot DMA design (now known as Rockstar North) to super-stardom, giving them the scope and financial backing needed to produce their seminal Grand Theft Auto franchise.


#21 - Microprose Formula One Grand Prix

Released: 1992
Developer: Geoff Crammond
Publisher: Microprose Software
Genre: Racing

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Time - perhaps more accurately, emulation - has been very kind to Geoff Crammond's Formula One Grand Prix. While offering the first truly immersive F1 experience with practice, qualifying, racing and car tweaking all deeply involving; the slow frame rate shatters my rosy memories. The 3D engine was truly breath-taking at the time, but when I return to it now I find it very difficult to enjoy.

Never fear, this is where the excellent Steem emulator steps in. Under the 'Machine' tab in the options menu you can set the CPU speed of the emulated Motorola 68000 CPU from 8Mhz all the way up to 128Mhz. A little experimenting with this to find the optimum speed, and a smooth racing experience is yours!

This is the closest the ST gets to an accurate racing sim, but still manages to be accessible. When first learning the game, the game has many assists turned on: auto braking, gears, visible racing line, no damage etc. and as you begin to learn the accurately modelled tracks you can switch them off one by one until you are in full control. Incidentally, I was playing Forza motorsport on XBox earlier today that has a very similar assist related difficulty setting. F1GP was obviously very influential.

Real driver names and teams are not featured (this game did not acquire the FIA licence) but a nifty edit feature means that you can keep everything up to date. Personally, I just like to put Schumacher in so I can repeatedly run him off the road.

Full seasons, lots of cars on track, Working mirrors, realistic collisions with flying debris, weather conditions, car tuning and replays with multiple camera angles all added to this superbly definitive F1 driving experience.
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Post by Gnome » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:31 am

It's Lemmings, innit? Well, it should be. :!:
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Post by woody.cool » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:33 am

I have to say, Lemmings is superb on the ST - a really impressive version.

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Post by Matt_B » Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:10 am

Both Lemmings and F1GP would be in my top ten. :)

I'd guess it's easy to look back harshly on F1GP, and old 3D games generally, given that we practically expect a 60fps or better framerate for similar games now. However it was always a compromise between speed and quality of graphics on the limited hardware of the day, and I thought F1GP struck a reasonable balance for the sort of game that it was.

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Post by yethboth » Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:08 pm

Lemmings looks very good on the Atari ST, both title picture screen and actual game itself.

:)
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Post by mrbungle » Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:25 pm

Just wanna say nice one StickHead for the top50, you think when you are done you might tackle a top 50 stay clear/rough/super dodgy/dont go there list of games for the ST? :D
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StickHead
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Post by StickHead » Fri Sep 19, 2008 4:23 pm

It's Lemmings, innit? Well, it should be.
Lemmings would be in my top 10, but not my top 5. I thought my glowing, not even trying to be objective review of Taito's arcade classic would give it away. Man I love Bubble Bobble. 8)

Just wanna say nice one StickHead for the top50, you think when you are done you might tackle a top 50 stay clear/rough/super dodgy/dont go there list of games for the ST?
Thanks for the kind words! Considering how long it takes to do a top 50 of good games (most of which I've played extensively), I don't think a top 50 is likely, my time is far too precious to waste on playing 50 pony games. Maybe a little top 5 stinkers feature might happen. I think the games on offer would put 'Retro Shamer' to shame.
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Post by StickHead » Tue Sep 23, 2008 4:51 pm

We are into the top 20 and it's all gone a bit strategic:

#20 - Populous 2

Released: 1992
Developer: Bullfrog
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Strategy

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Playing as a demi-god and a son of Zeus, you must prove to your father that you are worthy of entering the Pantheon by defeating the Greek gods one-by-one in combat. You won't be getting your hands dirty of course, that's what your loyal followers are for.

Populous 2 offers many more ways to influence your people and their environment. This time around you have twenty-two divine powers (compared to the eight of the original) each split into six categories (with their own mana bars). Instead of ordaining knights as in the original, each category has a hero, and each hero has special abilities. For example: Perseus (human category) will pillage all in his path, while being intelligent enough to avoid malevolent obstacles; Adonis divides every time he fights; Hercules is very strong and Helen turns your enemies into love-sick puppies, following her to their watery doom.

Other new god powers include: plagues, tree-planting (I jest ye not), road and wall building, lightning storms, tsunamis, and baptismal fonts (these can convert followers' allegiance from one deity to the other) and many more whose strategic value must be learned in order to ensure success.

In some ways, the extra godly powers you possess in Populous 2 upset the balance and as a result, multiplayer games aren't always as enjoyable as in the original. It is much harder to pre-empt your opponents moves when there are many more different strategies they could adopt, so the Chess-like struggles and stalemates that made marathon matches so enjoyable is lost. This is countered, however, by the fact that there is loads more to do and more powers to experiment with, keeping the single player campaign interesting for longer.

Some reviewers criticised Populous 2 for being to similar to its predecessor, but at the end of the day, this is Populous - more variety, better sound and better visuals, and that can't be a bad thing.


#19 - Civilization

Released: 1993
Developer: Sid Meier/MPS Labs
Publisher: Microprose
Genre: Strategy

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Sid Meier's third solo project for Microprose (following Railroad Tycoon and Covert Action) was to make his name in the industry and spawn a franchise that spans three decades and is still going strong. It kick started a genre and opened up the strategy games market to a much wider audience.

The year is 4000bc and your normally barbaric and nomadic tribe have decided to stop clubbing each other on the head, put down their loin cloths and get their act together. You, as their leader, must guide them through this difficult period, shepherding them through the trials and tribulations of communal living, technological advances, cut-throat revolutions and encounters with other cultures.

Do you choose to develop technologies to ingratiate your populace and improve their standard of living in order to boost city growth, or do you concentrate on martial advances in order to build and train units of unequalled might to crush your enemies - taking their land and pillaging their gold? Each approach has its problems and benefits.

The game's interface is sometimes a little slow and cumbersome, and there are some issues concerning the randomness of battle outcomes. For example, it is entirely possible for your heavily armoured tank to be defeated by a bloke in a tin hat carrying a spear (or a phalanx to you).

Despite the flaws, this game offered something truly unique at the time of release and is still eminently playable today. That 'just one more turn' addictive quality and huge variation of game styles and difficulties (no two games are ever the same) that are the hallmarks of the Civ series shine through in what is an essential experience for both strategy enthusiasts and curious onlookers.

#18 - Hunter

Released: 1991
Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Action Adventure

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As mentioned before (see #29 - Damocles) open world games were once a rarity, and when one came along it really made you sit up and take notice. Hunter was no exception with its 3D filled vector graphics and sprawling world of island-hopping gameplay.

Each game starts at allied HQ with a very simple objective ranging from assassinating the president to destroying a variety of military targets. You are given a gun and a car and what you do next is totally up to you. OK, so you can't decide to bake bread or sew yourself a nice elven doublet a la World Of Warcraft, but you are given complete freedom to explore the map, interact with NPCs, pilot/drive/sail/ride the game's seemingly inexhaustible supply of vehicles, find a range of weaponry, fight enemy troops, catch ducks and so on.

This was the first game I ever played where it was so fun to be part of its world that I would often go off task, completely ignoring the objectives and exploring its rich world: old men in lighthouses, man-eating sharks, helicopters sabotaged with deliberately low amounts of fuel, enemy uniforms (when worn you would not be shot at by enemy forces), hidden areas, new vehicles. This game really did have the appeal of a proto-GTA: when the missions get boring, just go and find something more interesting to do.

To fit a game like this onto a 16-bit machine with just 512k of memory is astounding, and well deserving of its top 20 placing.


#17 - Deuteros: The Next Millennium

Released: 1991
Developer: Activision
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Strategy

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As a big fan of Millennium 2.2 I was delighted to discover that Deuteros, its sequel, has a very similar feel - its dystopian near-future setting side-stepping cliché and providing a superbly atmospheric backdrop to more resource-management strategy brilliance. (This game features a magnificent knowing nod to its prequel which I won't spoil here)

Set a thousand years after Millennium 2.2, the Earth city has matured and its inhabitants are ready to expand into the solar system once more. To do so, materials must be collected, citizens trained and scientific theories researched. As before, tasks are allocated, then time can be advanced with a click of the appropriate icon. This time around, it is possible to build up to 16 factories, meaning that your job of task-juggling is made that much more tricky.

All tasks are easily accessed through an icon driven interface, and a little bit of experimenting during the gentle opening part of the game will soon see you well acclimatised. Everything is well drawn, and the sound - though minimal, it is space after all - adds to the atmosphere.

Unfortunately it is possible to miss key 'trigger' events in this game, leaving you with nothing to do to progress the game's narrative and having to restart the game due to this happening is very frustrating. It can also be a little overwhelming at times, too many balls in the air as it where - if this grates then you may want to stick to Supremacy: more brain friendly, but not as deep and rewarding as this.

Several twists along the way will keep you enthralled and available building projects requiring exotic minerals will keep you exploring. More scripted events than its predecessor - including some genuinely shocking moments - keep you on tenterhooks, you can never rest on your laurels in this game.


#16 - Captain Blood

Released: 1988
Developer: Exxos
Publisher: Mindscape
Genre: Adventure

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From a game of exploration to a one of space strategy, now here is Captain Blood: a space exploration strategy game, and a very strange, metatextual dream-like odyssey it is too.

L'Arche du Capitaine Blood is the nickname of Bob Morlock, a games programmer inspired by the 1930s film of the same name. While alpha testing his latest sci-fi themed game, he is sucked into the very world he has just designed. Blood soon finds himself in a spot of bother - a hyperspace accident results in him being cloned several times over and left in a deteriorating state of health. If blood can find his clones and kill them, he can recover the vital fluids he needs to survive.

However, the last five clones have caught wind of Blood's plan and have buggered off to the five corners of the known universe (the universe is pentagon, you know). Finding them is going to be trickier than eating a jam doughnut without licking your lips. Luckily, you can get helpful info from aliens you meet on your travels.

To reach these Xenomorphs, you must remotely pilot a probe through a fractal landscape until you reach its location. Communicating with these aliens via the UPCOM (an icon driven interface) will reveal coordinates of other inhabited planets that you can hyperspace to in order to continue your search (cue 2001: A Space Odyssey style hyperspace colourshock).

Captain Blood offers something rarely seen in the world of video games: an experience that is truly unique. Captain Blood is like no other game made before or after it (We'll gloss over the mediocre sequel, Commander Blood).
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Post by Coopdevil » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:03 am

I've just come to this party a little late but congrats - this is a quality thread and makes me want to drag out Lemmings and Nebulus again.

No idea why Rainbow Islands is in number 50, when I started reading I thought you'd done it the wrong way around and started at the top!

Sadly Xenon 2 just hasn't aged well. It looks and sounds great but the flaws are obvious from the start - the collision detection between your bullets and the enemies is just too lax and if a formation of 6 aliens fly past the nose of your ship at point blank range your finger can be a blur on the fire button but somehow you will still conspire to miss half of them. This makes the game harder than it should be and correspondingly the old playability suffers for it. I periodically drag this out and then remember why it's not as good as it used to be and switch it off again. Being able to fly the ship (slowly) in reverse was a good idea though.

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Post by pantal00ns » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:12 am

This thread gets better and better (I know its a countdown :wink:) Strategy is good!!!!


Captain Blood has to be my favourite weird game, still not a real clue what to do but it was always fun trying.

Shamefully I have never heard of Hunter, looks like a midwinter/carrier command bizzarre mix.

Keep up the fantastic work Mr Stickhead, this hard work is probably worth a mention in the mag at some stage.

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Post by Matt_B » Wed Sep 24, 2008 5:31 am

I'm surprised Civilization didn't rate higher; I think it's one of the best games on any format and the ST version is quite respectable apart from a few irritating bugs.

I also played Populous 2 quite a lot, but I wouldn't really put it in the same league; it's more about out-clicking your opponent than out-thinking them.

Captain Blood certainly is a very weird game, but I never really managed to get into it. The flying around is fun, but communicating with the aliens seems very frustrating to me. Even after seeing the walkthroughs, I still don't really get what's happening.

Deuteros and Hunter I've never played much but they're a couple I keep meaning to give a go sometime.

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Post by AmigaJay » Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:15 am

SO glad you included Hunter as that is one of my all time favourite games, though imo it should be higher!
Forget Mario64, THIS was one of the first go anywhere 3D games, go in buildings, drive various vehicles, solve things etc, really memerable game, i still have nightmares about those horses!

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Post by adrianbean » Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:40 am

Come on, this has to be a joke. Me and all my friends had STs in their heyday and believe me, someone's got their voting wrong.

Rainbow Islands only 50th,
Canon Fodder only 43rd,
Speedball only 39th,
Xenon 2 only 34th,
Speedball 2 only 29th,
Populous only 28th,
and I just can't believe that Bubble Bobble is only 25th,

I'm afraid that the games that I mentioned should, without a doubt, be in the top 10.

I suppose Dungeon Master will only be in 15th place.

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Post by Coopdevil » Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:57 am

adrianbean wrote: I suppose Dungeon Master will only be in 15th place.
Tied for 15th place with Super Sprint, Cadaver, Llamatron, Another World and The Secret of Monkey Island I suppose! :D

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Post by OldSkoolCoolFool » Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:33 am

adrianbean wrote:Rainbow Islands only 50th,
Canon Fodder only 43rd,
Speedball only 39th,
Xenon 2 only 34th,
Speedball 2 only 29th,
Populous only 28th,
and I just can't believe that Bubble Bobble is only 25th,

I'm afraid that the games that I mentioned should, without a doubt, be in the top 10.
I never voted for any of the above... I'l get my coat now shall i? :oops:
Jagfest_UK wrote:Looks like your use of the letter T made your trousers fall down :wink:

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