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    RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, Don't go into a dark Alleyway because you won't be able to see your Game Boy screen.   
    This January I finally completed my North American Nintendo Game Boy launch lineup. I have said in the past that I have been collecting games for the original Game Boy since August of 2015, though that's only half-true. In August 2015 I bought my first DMG Game Boy game on 3DS Virtual Console. Not a physical cartridge, though since I did pay money for it, it sort of counts in my eyes. The first game I got on 3DS was not any of the GB NA launch games, rather it was a very late release, Game and Watch Gallery. Later in September I bought the amazing Metroid II: Return of Samus (Lots of backstory about that game) and Super Mario Land, the latter being a launch game.
    I didn't get a means of playing official Game Boy cartridges until Christmas Eve of 2016 when I got my Super Game Boy. Earlier in August while on vacation at Blue Harbor in Sheboygan, WI we were shopping at the only retro game store I knew of at the time. I believe it was called Freaktoyz or something. Anyways they had an SGB there for $15, the exact amount of money I had brought with me on vacation. I was seriously considering it. My dad used to have an original Game Boy in college that my mom sadly threw out in the early 2000's. I assumed he had some of his original games with him still somewhere in the house. I had been on the lookout for them for years since I have always been fascinated by the original Game Boy. I was pretty sure they were somewhere, but as I had been snooping around for them for years at this point I didn't want to risk it, so I opted for StarTropics on NES instead. I kid you not, two days later we were cleaning the basement and what did I find? A cloth bag thing filled with Game Boy games. I couldn't believe it. I had been looking for these for years, and right after I saw a Super Game Boy I found them! Only one of the games my dad remembered wasn't there, that being Centipede and Millipede. I assumed that one was in the Game Boy when my mom threw it out. But all of the other games were there. Here are all of the ones I remember being there:
    Tetris Baseball Play Action Football Sports Illustrated Golf The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening F-1 Race So right off the bat I had two of the launch lineup. Plus at that point I had Super Mario Land on 3DS.
    I didn't get another physical Game Boy cartridge until last year because I was never around any game stores (or at least I didn't think I was), but I did get a few more games on the VC, including Tennis. When I discovered my new regular game store, Game Trade in DePere, WI, I had recently gotten a Game Boy Advance system and was getting in to collecting for the Game Boy DMG, Color, and Advance, though mostly the OG. I had gotten some money for Christmas to fuel my collecting. Some of the first games I got were games I had loved on the 3DS VC and wanted to play them on somewhat original hardware. In the clearance bin I saw a very beat up copy of Tennis, so I decided to pick that up. I had enjoyed the game quite a bit on the 3DS and since it was so cheap, why not? When I got home I got on the list for a physical cartridge of Super Mario Land. That was the last physical cartridge I picked up, but today's game, Alleyway, was the last of the GB launch lineup I actually played. I picked that up on maybe my second or third Game Store run for five bucks. 
    Anyway, let's actually talk about Alleyway.

    Alleyway was a launch title for the original Game Boy in North America, Europe, and Japan. Here in the states it launched in 1989. Alleyway is a breakout-style game. Note that I did not say Arkanoid style game. Though this game came out several years after Taito's 1986 classic Arkanoid, which heavily expanded upon the format seen in Atari's Breakout and Super Breakout. Arkanoid added things such as powerups, weapons, and enemies to the mix. Alleyway does away with many of these, though it is still obvious that it was inspired by Arkanoid. For instance, each level is distinct in its layout. Super Breakout had some distinction, but that game did it very differently. Super Breakout's level design was much simpler in comparison and a lot less varied. Plus, to my knowledge you couldn't progress from level to level like you could in Arkanoid and Alleyway. I believe if you beat, say, the cavity screen for instance, you didn't transition to the progression or regular Breakout screens. At least I don't think you could. I've never been very good at the arcade version of Super Breakout or on any home system.
    Like Arkanoid and the earlier Breakout games, different shades of blocks earn you different amounts of points. In this case, the darker the shade of puke-green the more points you will get. The darker blocks also increase the speed of your ball, though it is nowhere near as noticeable as it is in some other block-breaking games. Also like the original Breakout, starting on the fifth stage, if your ball hits the top of the screen, your paddle will shrink in size.There are also some indestructible blocks in the game like those seen in Arkanoid. In short, Alleyway is like a midpoint between Super Breakout and Arkanoid.

    The game's progression consists of three stages using the same basic structure followed by a timed bonus stage. The four-level setup is reminiscent of the world layout of the original Super Mario Brothers on the NES. The first level in an Alleyway "world" is a basic level with nothing going on. The blocks stay still for this level. On the second stage they wrap around the screen horizontally. In this mode it is easy to get the ball stuck in a pattern and wipe out many bricks at once. The third stage appears to not move at first, but occasionally the blocks will descend another step towards your paddle. Nothing bad happens if they reach the bottom; they just disappear. This mode is a straight ripoff of the progression mode in Super Breakout. The fourth mode, as I previously mentioned, is a timed bonus stage. These stages feature cameos of Super Mario characters and items in block form. The player has about a minute (in real time; the seconds on the clock move way too fast) to clear out the entire field. This is much easier than it sounds; the blocks disappear in a Breakthrough style. Though it still can be a little challenging at times. The game sessions in Alleyway tend to last pretty long as I can play for quite a while without Game Over-ing.
    The sound and music in this game are quite nice. This early Game Boy title takes full advantage of the stereo headphone jack, providing some great musical ditties. The title theme especially gets stuck in my head. I also enjoy jingles between levels, before the bonus stage, and during the bonus stage. I really dig the music in this game. The sounds are your typical Breakout sounds. The Game Boy tries its best to provide an echo effect on some of the block-breaking sounds. I thoroughly enjoy the music and sound in this game and highly recommend using headphones while playing.
    The packaging of the game is also very cool. I like the behind the paddle perspective and the stellar color palate. It really gives of that intergalactic vibe. I don't know what it was with Breakout games and outer space. Super Breakout was about the interstellar adventures of... was it Captain Jack Chang? I remember it was Captain something Chang. Arkanoid also has a space theme, where you control the spacecraft Vaus jettisoned from the mothership Arkanoid after it was destroyed and caught in a space warp. This game appears to take place in outer space as well, though with a twist. The pilot of the spacecraft is none other than our man Super Mario. Or maybe just Mario, as the opening cutscene of the game shows a sprite of Mario hopping into the paddle that appears to resemble his pre-Super Mario Brothers appearance. He looks like a bootleg version of himself. Oh, early Game Boy graphics with your tiny, creepy little sprites...
    Game Theory time: What if this game was the inspiration for Super Mario Galaxy? I mean, they both take place in space. Maybe that's a bit of a stretch.

    Even when this game was first released in 1989 it was an incredibly basic and simple take on the genre. It didn't have the little nuances that made Arkanoid so great. It didn't even have a single powerup in it. If this game were released at any other time than at the very start of the first mainstream portable game system's life, it would have been laughable. But the Game Boy was a new concept for most people. Sure, the Microvision and Adventurevision predated the Game Boy by several years, and the former predated it by a good decade, but those consoles were for the most part failed attempts at bringing the console and arcade experience on the go. Plus, I feel that Alleyway was a good way at getting more casual non-gamers to play the Game Boy. Compared to the NES, Nintendo's handheld system offered a much more all-inclusive experience with typically easier and simpler game experiences. Tetris sold many systems to the non-gamer crowd, and Alleyway probably had a few copies bought by those Tetris players.
    So why play Alleyway now? This game has nothing to set it apart from the crowd. There are much more complicated and engaging Breakout style games out there nowadays, so why pick this one? I'll tell you why:
    The controls.
    In all of my life, I have never played a better controlling Breakout style game that uses a D-Pad. The controls this game has are second only to the paddle controllers seen on the 2600 and other potentiometer-based knob or dial controller. The control you have over the game's paddle is exceptional. I have played many other Breakout games with digital-style controllers, like Arkanoid on NES, 1001 Blockbusters for DSiWare, and others, but nothing comes close to controlling better than this game. The paddle moves at the absolute perfect speed for the game. It's honestly hard to explain how good it feels; you need to play the game yourself. If the paddle's base speed is too fast or too slow for you, never fear. The face buttons are here! In this game, the A button will "accelerate" the paddle while the B button will "break". That's how I remember their functions. Though I don't often use the face buttons in the game, they can come in handy in the later levels.
    So how would I rate this game out of ten for the system it's on. Sadly, I have to put it pretty low as there are so many better games on the system like Metroid II, Link's Awakening and Super Mario Land 2. If I had to I would probably rate it a 6/10. The game is really good, but there are so many other games on the Game Boy that are better. Though I rated it somewhat low, I still recommend picking it up. It's not in very high demand. The controls are exceptional enough to make the purchase worth it. The controls alone turn this game from yet another boring Breakout clone I played to one of my favorites in the genre. All in all, Alleyway is a game I love to "Breakout" and play a few rounds of from time to time.
  2. Haha
    RickR reacted to MaximumRD for a blog entry, Hair grooming during self isolation.   
    So yeah, hair care IS a thing since we cannot go out and social distancing blah blah. I just recently SHAVED my beard off 😮 because I like to "reset" every now and then, let my face breath etc, it's cool, I will have 5 o'clock shadow by 3 o'clock again 🙄 I mention this only because I am posting these silly low res images I took in Linux on one of my low end craptops recently and so you can see my before and after. I used a webcam effect in the after image because I was MAD LIKE HULK or something 😆 Now, as for the hair on my head well, who knows? We don't have clippers and I am not hacking away at my head for over 2 hours with disposable razors like I did my face so, I am expecting my hair to get longer than I have allowed it in years, I will likely have the Mod Squad Clarence Williams III / Linc Hayes Afro going before this is all over. 😎

  3. Sad
    RickR reacted to MaximumRD for a blog entry, RE: My Tragic C64 incident   
    RE: Commodore 64. Once (I learned a lesson 😎) back in the early days, my first C64, the classic breadbox model, I loved it so, I even painted the case a cool shiny BLACK with spray paint. NOTE: Image show is not mine and included for descriptive purposes only. Sadly, I had more balls than knowledge and was always tinkering, wanting to see the guts of a machine etc. Do you know where this is going? I disassembled the machine BUT, and I think this was my biggest mistake in all this, with the cover and shielding OFF for some reason I still had it plugged in and turned on and poking around looking at the chips with screwdriver in hand I explored the guts noting numbers and labels when suddenly I dropped my tool (I MEAN MY SCREWDRIVER!) and there was a pop sound followed with a spark. It all happened so fast, I do not recall seeing any obvious damage but....well after putting everything back together, at first I was happy to see the machine start up and at first thought eh, everything fine but.....nope. Turns out everything I loaded, whether form cassette or disk just ran at the wrong speed, I don't recall if it was super sped up or super slow, IF I had to pick one I am pretty sure it was super slow, as if every process went from normal to the speed of a snail crawling through molasses, it seemed to work normally otherwise from what I recall but nothing was playable or usable after that. Oh man I was soooo upset and mad at myself. Such things were rare commodities for me at that young age and I was never going to get a replacement that's for sure, I had gotten it used as a hand me down. I learned a valuable lesson that day I can tell you. Oh I still tinkered, took things apart and explored every electronic item I would be lucky enough to get, MOST reassembled and working again successfully. Anyway, there was a time I got ONE hell of a shock that I think made my heart possibly stop temporarily while working at the back of a 26' cabinet RCA CRT Television but that's another story 😛 
    Note mine (it's long gone 😢) but similar

  4. Like
    RickR reacted to Video 61 for a blog entry, WELCOME TO MY LAB!   
    Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the first post of what will be my personal blog sharing small slices of life with you from within my Lab.
    For those of you who are just getting to know me for the first time, my name is Lance, I’m from Minnesota, and for nearly 40 years I’ve been in the Atari business operating Video 61, one of the last surviving original retail Atari distributors. We started in the video business as a local chain of video rental stores serving the Twin Cities area with locations along U.S. Highway 61, the road that musician Bob Dylan referred to in the album and song Highway 61 Revisited.
    I also love classic movies and spending time with my family and friends at my cabin up north. For decades I’ve gotten to know you guys as my customers and friends, buying, selling and remanufacturing Atari systems, games, software, and computers, and developing my own line of Atari-compatible Video 61 games and controllers.
    I’m still in my Lab working away dreaming up new creations and shipping off new original Atari products, and I thought after all these years of being in the Atari community it was time to start sharing tidbits of Minnesota life with you here on my blog. To old friends and new, WELCOME!
    - Lance 

  5. Like
    RickR reacted to Atari 5200 Guy for a blog entry, It's a SMURFING Day   
    The SMURFS.  Arguably one of the most popular cartoon icons of the 1980's.  These little blue people took America, if not the world, by storm literally overnight.  Once the cartoon aired it wasn't long before stores started loading down their shelves with everything from lunch boxes, vinyl records, figurines, dinnerware, posters, and many other items too numerous to mention.  Seriously, anything you could think of to put SMURFS on was available.  The Saturday morning cartoon series ran a full 9 seasons (1981-1989) containing 256 episodes.
    I loved the SMURFS.  Even Atari couldn't keep me from watching my favorite Saturday morning cartoon show.  The Atari was on from about 6 until the SMURFS came on which was usually about 9.  The first shows aired for about 30 minutes in my area.  After the SMURFS I usually tried to watch Saturday Supercade on another channel if it was coming in good.  If not then back on went the Atari.   
    I would pick up SMURF items during the show's run.  I had lots of figurines but never could find a Papa Smurf.  I had three of the full-length LP vinyl albums and enjoyed them.  Some songs I still remember by heart.  
    "Hey! You forgot 6!"
    "You forgot 6."
    The the sounds of a rocket ship would take off followed by a pop-rock style beat and music.  Yea, you just never forget some things from childhood.  The one thing I was blind to was the SMURF games that came out for the Atari 2600.  This was due to my owning an Atari 5200 which did not get any games made by Coleco, Mattel, and most other 3rd party software developers that graced the almighty 2600.  
    I recently acquired a SMURF game for the 2600 titled SMURF RESCUE IN GARGAMEL'S CASTLE.  SMURFS?  On the 2600?  I have to admit my first thought was, "Oh dear.  Those poor SMURFS.  Even they were not immune to the 2600."  Knowing how the 2600 really was not suppose to be capable of decent graphics I only imagined what the game would look like.  I cringed to think about how it would play.  But I loved the SMURFS so I took a chance on it.  Would I see Gargamel?  What about Azrael?  What was the point of the game?  Was I going to run for my life or was I suppose to try to get something back from Gargamel?  These questions all popped up in my head because I only had the cartridge.  I didn't have the instructions to read that might have gave some insight to what I was suppose to be doing.
    On goes the game and I immediately hear that famous "La la lala la la" theme the SMURFS would always sing.  And it wasn't that bad.  Then I start playing the game.  Make it to the next screen and ... couldn't figure out how to jump over that first fence for nothing.  I lost all five lives in about 5 seconds...or so it seems.  It might have been longer than that.  I wasn't counting. 
    I try another round.  Found the jump button!  You push UP on the joystick.  And if you time it right you can get a double jump that is significantly higher than before.  I try the double jump and VIOLA!  I'm over the fence.  Next screen...a river.  No problem.  Double jump over that no problem.  Next screen.  Oooo...a spider!  I try just walking down the hole and die.  OK.  Walking in the hole doesn't work so I tried jumping in it.  Success!  Pass the spider, jump up the other side and on to the next screen.  Another river.  I mistimed my jump and ended up taking a bath.  Another life lost.  I managed to get over it the second time.  Next screen.  Gargamel's castle.  In the top right corner is Smurfette and now it all becomes clear.  I'm to strategically work my way through screens, each with its own challenges, to try to reach Gargamel's castle before Smurfette becomes Smurf Stew.  
    The more I played the game the more I became hooked on it.  The game is very colorful and the characters actually look decent.  The controls take a bit getting use to but that's commonplace for 2600 games.  What is a rarity with most 2600 games is in-game music that plays in the background while there is action going onscreen.  Only a few games did that including Pitfall II and Moon Patrol, the latter of which did not do it very well but tried.  SMURFS on the other hand managed to get background music and sound effects without either one cancelling each other out.  It's like there is a second sound chip in the cartridge somewhere.  There probably is truth be told. 
    What is even more interesting is how well Coleco captured one of the most on-going story lines in the cartoon series.  Gargamel, an evil wizard whose schemes almost always never worked, would manage to capture a few SMURFS to try to eat.  Eww.  It was never clear why the two never got along and I remember a few episodes where the SMURFS actually helped Gargamel and his evil cat Azrael a time or two.  By the end of some of the episodes where SMURFS were about to be Smurf Stew the SMURFS captured where always rescued and Gargamel kindly cursing his loss or blaming his cat for them getting away.  And that's the plot of the game.  To save Smurfette which, surprisingly, was originally Gargamel's creation to lead the SMURFS to Gargamel's castle.
    For what it's worth SMURF RESCUE IN GARGAMEL'S CASTLE is probably the first true hidden gem I've come across on the 2600.  It's not what you would think.  This game is more like the ancestor to the Super Mario Brothers games.  It's easily the first, if not the only, side scrolling style platformer for the 2600.  Putting it down is hard to do and as you progress the harder the game gets but speeding things up.  You will soon be trying to figure out how to jump a fence and avoid a pesky hawk, avoid snakes and rivers, and much more.  No, it doesn't scroll but it fits better in that category of gaming than any other as far as I'm concerned.  
    My original thought on the game before I even played it was quickly laid to rest as soon as I started playing.  I understand that this is considered one of the more rare games on the 2600 but should one be found in the wild don't hesitate to pick it up or might miss one of the best games Coleco put out on the 2600.  If Donkey Kong on the 2600 is considered their worst then SMURF on the 2600 should be considered their best work.  Period.  Don't miss it if you find it and if you have it play it more often.  Below is a video of me playing the game the first time after I learned the controls.  This should showcase all it has to offer and why I feel it is a 2600 hidden gem.
    Enjoy the video and I hope you enjoyed this post.  And have a SMURFING Day!
  6. Like
    RickR reacted to Atari 5200 Guy for a blog entry, Small Size, Big Heart   
    What to write about?  I know I want to write about the 2600 but I just don't know where to begin.  Do I talk more about the iconic woody console or the Junior model?  I don't have much to say about controllers because it's either paddle, driving, keypad, or more joystick designs than anyone could fathom.  Games?  Do I talk more about games that I have managed to pick up since my last post?  I might have to think on this a bit more.  While I'm thinking...
    As I sit here writing this there is a 2600 Junior model sitting in front of me.  Recently acquired in unknown condition I spent the better part of a day taking it apart all the way down to the motherboard and gave it a good cleaning.  Wondering why I couldn't get bubbles off the chrome strip I finally discovered that the protective covering had never been taken off.  Nice surprise.  So I removed it.  I couldn't let all that moisture remain trapped and ruining that beautiful chrome strip.  It still has some color issues I have to work out but is functional otherwise.
    Since I'm here, and more Atari games have been added to my collection, I'll do a bit of an updated version of my favorite cartridges.  Keep in mind these are personal favorites solely based on two factors...they are favorites and played the most.  Let's get started.
    Favorite Black Label Carts

    I have two black label favorites.  Video Chess and Yar's Revenge.  Yar's Revenge was a 2600 title I could have seen as a Saturday Morning cartoon show.  It wasn't until a recent Squad Challenge that the true nature of this game proved to me just how challenging Yar's could really be.  Because of that, and the few years I've been biased about the 2600 in general, that this game moved up the ranks as a favorite and played often.  It's arcade-style game play is rock solid and sure to give the joystick a workout.
    Video Chess is my go-to black label game when I want to play a relaxing game.  I still haven't managed to beat the computer but I enjoy playing Chess and don't really have a human opponent to go up against.  I'm not a pro at the game but I enjoy this classic strategy game.  I have never found a perfect computerized Chess game either and the 2600 is not without its own flaws.  However the 2600 is a very strong opponent no matter which skill level you attempt at trying to win.  And it will always plan its next moves carefully but at times it seems as if its first few moves are preset.  Still fun, though.
    Favorite Silver Label Cart

    One of my favorite games on the 5200 is Vanguard so it shouldn't be no surprise that the 2600 port of Vanguard became a favorite.  I love the artwork on the label and surprised that it isn't the same one that was used on the 5200 as was often done.  Compared to the 5200 port Vanguard on the 2600 seems a bit more challenging and a bit more unforgiving.  One mistake can mean sudden death.  I also believe this is the only 2600 game I have that has a continue feature.  It's also the only one where the player can move diagonally while firing because you can't do that in the 5200 port.   Graphics in this game are absolutely stunning and the sounds are not much different from the 5200.  I do miss the music that plays during some of the vertical scrolling segments.  I also miss the Striped Zone that is absent in the 2600 port.  And I have yet to destroy the end boss before it takes me down.  Believe it or not, I never knew this was an arcade game for the longest time until I discovered an actual cab during the NES days.  Very well made 2600 port with very little to no flicker issues.  My favorite shoot'em up on the 2600.
    Favorite Adventure Cart

    For most other 2600 gamers Adventure might be their favorite adventure-style game but for me Dark Chambers has slightly taken an edge above Adventure.  I enjoy having to figure out the levels to find items and exits that are often hidden.  I also enjoy having to go through the level screens to figure out how to reach those items.  For this reason this game gets more play time than Adventure in my library.  I personally think it is even slightly better than the 7800 version.  That one looks better but, as NSG has mentioned, if only it would have taken the game play concept of hidden items to find the 7800 version might have been the better game.  But, alas, the 2600 once again shows just how well it can capture a gamer's attention and hold it when properly developed for.  And Dark Chambers is one of those games.  I've not been able to spend as much time with it as I would like to fully enjoy it but what little I have played of it I keep finding myself spending more time in every level trying to find items than what is probably required.  Seriously, I've spent about 15 minutes in some levels.
    Favorite Pinball Cart

    Again, it should be no surprise that Midnight Magic makes for one of my most played 2600 games.  I like Video Pinball but at times you just sit there waiting to do something.  Midnight Magic manages to capture some of the pure essence that makes pinball tables fun.  There are targets, bumpers, a spinner, kickbacks, dual flippers, rollover targets...this game has the basics that are perfectly placed and captures what made some of the early pinball tables memorable.  Knock down all the targets at the top and the game goes into double points.  The table also changes color and plays a short tune.  Knocking down targets again advances the multiplier all the way up to five times the points obtained.  Lose your ball, however, and it's back to single points again.  Do it right and the player can obtain extra balls.  Lose all five balls and the game is over.  Easy to pick up and play, no flickering, and it looks good.  I'm also a little partial to this game because when I got my very first paycheck the NES and Sega Genesis were on the market.  Instead of buying anything for either of those I picked up a new 2600 Junior, Jr. Pac-Man, and this game.  All for about $50.  I played Midnight Magic the most.
    Favorite Arcade Cart

    The 2600 got lots of arcade ports.  While the limitations of the system kept most ports from looking like their arcade parents the game play managed to remain intact.  Two arcade ports stand out in my collection.  Space Invaders and Gyruss.  Space Invaders was the very first Atari game I remember playing many moons ago on a store display.  Dangling from a chain I put the game in and quit playing only when it was time to leave.  This game was the one that introduced me to Atari, the VCS, and the only reason why I kept hoping for one.
    Gyruss, on the other hand, was a game I remember playing in arcades and enjoyed it immediately.  I must have been sleeping when Parker Bros. ported this game over to various consoles.  Being fairly new to my collection Gyruss on the 2600 has quickly become a favorite.  It might not be graphically impressive but the game play is there and the music that constantly plays in the arcade was put in the 2600 port in all of it's 2-channel glory.  And it's really not all that bad.  Missing are the sound effects because the music constantly playing doesn't leave room for any sound effects.  A valiant effort that is a very worthwhile cart to play.  One of my favorite arcade games and one of my now favorite 2600 games.  Space Invaders and Gyruss.  What more could one ask for?
    Favorite Dot Munching Cart

      Mouse Trap is an easy to pick-up and play dot munching game where the player controls a mouse.  The object is to eat all the dots in the maze of which I'm not entirely certain what they are suppose to be.  In each of the four corners of the maze are X's that change the player into a dog temporarily when the fire button is pressed.  This helps keep the cats chasing the mouse at bay.  A unique feature of this game is the ability to change the maze by opening and closing doors.  Doing this can help block cats from catching the mouse.  Originally released on the 2600 by Coleco of ColecoVision fame the cart I has is the re-release Atari did with a red label.  Still an easy game to pick up and play today.  This one and Jr Pac-Man get lots of attention but I find myself coming back to this one more often.
    Favorite 3rd-Party Carts

    Fast Eddie and Planet Patrol are great 3rd-party 2600 games.  I'm sure there are others but I have to base this post on games I have in my collection.  Something about Fast Eddie is addictive.  The ladders are vary in position with each game played, enemy characters are basic but challenging, and the only real thing the player has to do is collect things like hearts, tanks, fish, etc., to grab a key being guarded by the enemy at the top.  It's a bit of Popeye (the collecting hearts part) mashed up with Lode Runner in a easier format.  Very colorful game that is fun for hours on end.
    Planet Patrol is another shoot 'em up on the 2600.  The only real difference is the changing of day to night, destroying enemies and reactors/power plants, and scrolling from right to left over left to right or vertically.  A bit unusual.  What makes this so appealing to me are the small details of this game.  Easy to pick up and play, takes a while to master.  I also love the chrome label, something rarely seen.  It's very attractive and I could see how eye appealing that package would have been sitting next to other games, fighting to be taken home.  It does that now in a large library of 2600 carts.  
    Favorite Activision Cart

    It's almost unlawful to mention the 2600 without thinking immediately about the first 3rd-party game developer known as Activision.  Activision literally pushed the 2600 as hard as they could and, in the end, it paid off.  Almost every title they released for the 2600 was an instant classic.  While I enjoy all Activision games in my collection the two that I go to the most are Enduro and Space Shuttle.  
    Enduro took me completely by surprise in 1988 when I picked up a used 2600 with a bunch of games.  This cart was one of the games included and when I first plugged it in I expected it to be a Pole Position rip-off.  The next thing I know I had been playing it for over an hour and forced myself to stop when it was time for dinner.  I was in 8th grade then.  Enduro left such an impression that I would have an agonizing 24 hour wait time to return home to play it again.  To help with that I woke up an hour early to get a game in before having to get ready for school.  Space Invaders game me a reason to want an Atari, Enduro gave me a reason to hang on to one.  Enough said.
    Space Shuttle.  Gee, where do I begin with this one?  You're a NASA astronaut and your mission is to dock with a satellite in space currently orbiting the Earth.  Sounds simple, right?  Then you give it a shot and wonder why in God's name you can't seem to leave the planet without killing you and your crew members.  Then you grab the manual for some pointers.  It is at this precise moment you realize what you have plugged into your 2600.  This isn't a game...this is a simulator.  The author wanted to capture as much as he could about space flight that he literally went to NASA and participated in learning everything the astronauts have to do and even used NASA's flight simulators used for training.  I would have to say that his efforts paid off in probably the only simulation game made on the 2600.  The amount of detail in unreal.  Every switch on the 2600 does something to the space shuttle.  There's a switch for running gear, brakes, deploying parachute when landing...let's see what else?...one to turn on ignition I think...it's unreal!  The instructions alone are like a shortened step into NASA's school.  The manual is thick and can take a lot of time alone to absorb.  But it is also probably the most expensive instruction book made for any 2600 game ever.  Full color, exploded views of an actual space shuttle, step-by-step instructions on what you are suppose to do.  And it's on the 2600 to boot.  I'm not very good at it but I keep finding myself coming back to this simulator because its visuals and sounds are absolutely amazing to me.  I consider this one of Activision's, and Steve's, holy grail.  If only today's games went this far.  I believe there was only one other game to do something similar but it was at least a decade after Space Shuttle.  For those that wanted to be astronauts but never did...here's your chance.  This is as close as it gets.
    Favorite Paddle Game

    The 2600 had plenty of games but it also had plenty of controller options.  I don't know how many times I would play a 2600 game without paying attention only to realize I needed paddle controllers.  For the longest time I felt the paddle controllers for the 2600 could have been better.  Once I found Warlords, however, that thought quickly changed.  It didn't take me long to realize just how comfortable those paddle controllers actually are.  And after hours of playing Warlords the design of the paddle controllers made sense.  What makes playing Warlords for hours on end a must on the 2600 is the fact it's a mix of Pong and Breakout put together and then shaken up with steroids in the mix.  The 2600 might not be graphically impressive but when it comes to game play it can strut its stuff like no other.  Warlords offers four-player game play either solo against three computer players or with a group humans be it they are friends or enemies.  And once the action starts it's hard to put down.  All you have to do is break down your opponents' barrier to their castle to hit the center of their castle with the ball.  That's it.  Yea...good luck with that.
    Favorite Red Label Cart

    Since I did my favorite black and silver label carts I might as well tell my favorite red label cart.  I kept wanting to put Solaris on this list but that game makes me rage quit so much that it could take me weeks to return to it.  Radar Lock on the other hand is a well done game, by the same author, using most of the same mechanics found in Solaris.  This is easily the 2600's answer to those needing an After Burner fix.  It looks good, sounds good, uses dual joysticks (one stick is used to select weapons), plays good, and is just all around fun for hours on end.  This on is probably one of the more rare red-label carts out there so if you find it I would suggest picking it up.  
    Favorite Non-Game Cart

    One cart in my collection that is not a game at all is Basic Programming.  The 2600 is interesting not only from a gaming point-of-view but also from a technical perspective.  It's hard to believe a game console designed to do strictly tank and pong games showed that it could do so much more, often times surpassing what it was originally designed for.  For the curious this cart would allow anyone with the enthusiasm and patients to write small programs for the 2600 to perform.  While it doesn't unlock the full potential of the 2600's inner workings it does give a taste of what it's like to program the 2600.  However, with the memory limitation, don't expect to write the next Adventure game as there simply isn't room.  Also, once turned off any programs you've written are erased.  Pencil and pad are your best friend.  I use this one often just to toy around with the system.  Kind of neat to see what can be done with it.
    Final Thoughts
    The 2600, no matter which model you own, has always been a small system with a big heart.  Even the almighty six switch models are not that large.  When taken down to just the heart of the system only a small footprint remains.  Big things do sometimes come in small packages and the 2600 has proven time and time again that it is very capable of entertaining for hours on end.  I still run across games that are just unbelievable in terms of what the developers managed to pull off.  Again, here is a console designed for simple Pong and Tank style games.  It was never designed to play Space Invaders, Galaxian, Gyruss, Pitfall!, or anything close to Space Shuttle...but it did those things and did them pretty well.  Truthfully, the video game genres we have today have their roots dating back to the 2600.  This is the console that started it all and it is still showing it can stand its ground against modern gaming hardware.  And that, my friends, is no small achievement.
  7. Like
    RickR reacted to Atari Creep for a blog entry, You are ALL my children now!!!   
    I love taking something old and giving it new life. That said when it is a creation from someone else past it can be a bit touchy. Anxiety on red alert. This kit was someones work of art, their creative outlet in the time in witch it was created. No matter, some things need to be restored and given new life. I am more than happy to do so. In fact it's an honor. Someone its giving you something VER PERSONAL regardless if they feel so or not. Regardless of the extent I do or do not put my spin on a restoration I try to retain something, even a small part of what was there to start with. 
    Thanks to @btbfilms76 for entrusting me with small slices of your childhood, even if you do not take it as serious as I do.
  8. Like
    RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, Annex 002 - Rikki & Vikki (Atari 7800)   
    Welcome to the second "annex" entry of the Game Cave.  In this entry, I'll discuss the PenguiNet game Rikki & Vikki for the Atari 7800.  
    Rikki & Vikki was a surprise release on Steam (12/2018) and the 7800 in February 2019 from PenguiNet.  Some of you may be familiar with PenguiNet for their amazing work on Zaku for the Lynx; arguably one of the best original titles on the platform.  Zaku really pushed the Lynx and stands as a tremendously fun, graphically stunning and amazing sounding game.  For Rikki & Vikki, PenguiNet continues in that tradition, delivering an original gaming experience on a classic console that largely exceeds Atari published efforts in key areas of gameplay, graphics and sound.  Make no mistake - this is not a homebrew.  This is a professionally developed game with a high level of production value and a stellar physical product.  Now for some impressions & observations! 
    Rikki & Vikki is a sort of puzzle platformer.  The goal of the game is to save your two children - Mary & Sam - from Misery the Inconvenient.  Misery has kidnapped your children and taken them to the six cavern Miseryland Themepark - "a downward spiral of inconvenience."  On each level, use Rikki or Vikki to collect all of the keys within the time allotted to progress to the next level.  Collecting keys isn't always easy.  You have to move cubes, navigate enemies, spikes and other hazards to get to the keys.  Some puzzles are more obvious than others and don't be surprised if you run out of time before solving a puzzle. 
    Rikki & Vikki requires a 7800 compatible controller with independent fire buttons.  This means that you can't use a standard 2600 controller or a Genesis gamepad for the game.  The left button is used to "interact" with the cubes and the right button is used to jump.  When you grab a cube you can throw it at an enemy or stick it to the floor or wall in order to gain access to an otherwise unreachable area of the play field.  Falling into a void will cause you to re-emerge from the top - this is sometimes necessary to solve a puzzle.  Each area of the Park - called "caverns" - consists of several levels and culminates in a boss battle.  Gameplay modes come in three flavors: co-op with Rikki & Vikki, solo Rikki, and solo Vikki.  I have not yet played co-op mode and from what I can tell, the solo experiences are the same whether playing as Rikki or Vikki.  
    This is a hard game.  You will die.  You will run out of time.  You will make stupid mistakes.  You will get stuck.  While you can continue, doing so forces a restart at the beginning of the cavern. Fortunately, after a few continues, a character named "Dut", a large penguin and "salesman" of you unlimited continues in exchange for your points.  You will no longer get points in game - so no high score - but you will get to keep problem solving.  This makes it a little less arduous to develop your skills and improve your puzzle solving strategies.  
    Rikki & Vikki boast what are possibly the best graphics on the 7800.  The character animations, level-design, character and enemy sprites all look amazing.  Add to that, the game runs in the 7800's 320 mode - a higher resolution mode that few games have taken advantage of.  I struggle to think of a single game published for the 7800 that looks better.  It looks first-party NES/SMS good folks.  The animations are not just good, they're thoughtful and add depth to the game.  The levels look great with coherent themes throughout.  Its clear the people at PenguiNet are getting all they can out of the 7800.
    Like the graphics, PenguiNet went all in with the sound here.  Apparently, they developed a custom chip for sound that allowed for NES level music.  The TIA is still there and - at least on my 7800 - the harsh crashes are a bit louder than the music.  However, that's my LHE mod and not the game.  The music here is absolutely fantastic. 
    The packaging on this game is beautiful folks.  Everything from the cart, to the box to the manual screams professional.  The game comes on a custom transparent orange cart shell with a wrap around full color label.  It fit my 7800 perfectly.  The box is likewise full color and is in the same size and style as original run 7800 games - just missing "Atari."  The instructions are full color and come as a "Miser Land Official Tour Guide" fold out with gameplay and character info.  The package even comes with a warranty card, two passes to Misery Land and a PenguiNet sticker.  Top notch all the way! 
    Final Thoughts:
    This is 7800 gaming at its best.  It has game design, graphics, sound and amazing packaging. If you own a 7800, I urge you to support the developer and grab a copy today.  For $59.99 plus shipping, the package is well worth the price of entry.  Even if you don't own a 7800 or don't have the $$, the game is also available on Steam for $9.99.  For that price, you could hardly find a more fun and complete game play experience.  
    Have you played Rikki & Vikki?  What are your thoughts on the game?  How does it stack up to other games on the 7800?  
    PenguiNet Rikki & Vikki Trailer:  

  9. Like
    RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, Annex 001 - Robotron 2084 Controller for Atari 7800   
    Welcome to the first "annex" entry into the Game Cave.  I'll post reviews of homebrews, community projects, and other goodies here. First up, my review of the Robotron 2084 controller for the Atari 7800 by Mike @RetroGameBoyz   I ordered my controller last week after reading about it on the forums and received it on Friday.  It was shipped in a plastic mailer with plenty of bubble-wrap for protection.    
    As many of you know, the Atari 7800 version of Robotron can be played with either one or two controllers.  With one controller, you can only shoot in the direction in which you are moving.  Using a two controller configuration, the first controls the direction of movement and the second controls the direction of fire.  Honestly, this is the best way to play Robotron 2084 and closely mirrors the experience of the arcade version.  That said, as you can imagine, without a coupler, using two unsecured joysticks or gamepads can be difficult. This is where Mike's gamepad comes in.     Using a 3D printed gamepad, modern style pad holder, dual d-pads and two 9-pin cables, the RetroGameBoyz Robotron 2084 controller allows you to play the game in the way that it's meant to be played.  

    First impressions:

    The game pad itself is just about the size of an NES pad.  In the optional holder, it's just a little larger than a Dual Shock 4 and is pretty comfortable.  At first, I was worried that the square-ish shape of the holder would feel clunky.  I'm happy to report that it actually feels quite nice and I don't anticipate taking the pad out of the holder.  

    The parts have that "ridged" look that is typical of things made with a 3D printer. However, this isn't to say that it doesn't feel substantial.  The build quality is legit and the controller responds nicely in all directions.  I really like the custom sticker; it's a nice finishing touch.     The two 9-pin cables are extra long, measuring 9 feet!  No extension cables needed! 

    Let's see how it plays: 

    I really love the 7800 version of Robotron 2084, although I'm not that great at it.  On the default "intermediate" setting, I can generally get up to wave 8 before giving up the ghost.  Playing with one controller requires you to play in a defensive way.  With the dual pad, I was able to get to wave 12 and score over 170,000 points.  Being able to have independent directional control over both movement and fire allows you to play much more aggressively.  Simply put, it's an entirely different - and better - game.     The controller also includes independent fire buttons for use in other 7800 games.  Its important to note, this works with the left pad only; the right pad isn't used outside of Robotron.  I played Xevious, Choplifter, Centipede, Ms. PacMan and Food Fight to put the controller though its paces. I found it to be light, comfortable and responsive. The buttons seem to work correctly.  The d-pads hit all of the directions accurately.  After a solid two hours of gameplay, I didn't feel the least bit of fatigue in my hands.  Compared to the Atari 7800 europad, this controller was at least as good if not better in most every respect.     Final thoughts:   The dual-pad Robotron 2084 controller for the Atari 7800 is a winner.  It looks cool, plays great, can be used for more than just Robotron and - for $49 - is just about the best damn controller you can get for the 7800.  I really like it and can see this becoming my goto for the 7800, 2600 and A8 although Mike has a single pad variant on offer via eBay.    If you want more information on this controller, check out the original thread or visit Mike's eBay link: https://www.ebay.com/sch/retrogameboyz/m.html         

  10. Like
    RickR reacted to StormSurge for a blog entry, Storm's Homes - Article 0   
    In my first blog post here, I talked about how I wanted to use this blog to document so many of the wonderful memories I have of growing up.
    In thinking about that, I've often wondered the best way to do that. By year? By topic? Some other way? I don't think there's a right or wrong way, but I think I've come up with an interesting way.
    I'm going to sort them by the homes I've lived in & others that are special to me.
    I'll be starting with my first home and end with my current. Along the way, there are a lot of others.
    You'll probably learn a little more about me than you'd care to but hopefully you'll be entertained as well.
    (Not my bedroom above. 😀)
  11. Like
    RickR reacted to Atari 5200 Guy for a blog entry, Atari 7800 - Top 10 Games   
    I'm just going to put this right out there without any introduction (I'll save that for another related article) and pick the 10 games I play most on the 7800 in the small collection I have which is now at 16 games.  We start with number 10.
    10.  Centipede
    Mom's favorite...but on the 5200.  She tried playing the 7800 version when I got the system and a few games for Christmas around 1990.  I have to admit that even though it gets more play time than others it doesn't quite capture everything I enjoy about the 5200 version.  Never the less the 7800 Centipede is a rock-solid title full of all the bug killing envy anyone would wish to do.  It's very colorful, sounds are OK, controls are done well.  Visuals are a bit different than the 5200 version but once the game play starts the difference is quickly overlooked.  And Spidey still needs to go decaf.
    9. Dark Chambers
    Dark Chambers was Atari's attempt at making a Gauntlet clone without having to pay for a license.  That's my opinionated theory about Dark Chambers.  This adventure game features levels that are lettered from A to Z giving the game over 20 levels to explore and conquer.  Graphics look good, sounds are appropriate, levels are colorful, controls are solid, and the enemies can be a handful.  Along the way the player gets to pick up items to help maintain health, increase weapon power, and a few other things.  No 7800 player should be without this game in their library.  This game is also on the 2600 and XEGS/A8 computers.
    8.  Choplifter
    I have to admit that my first encounter with Choplifter was with Sega's remake of the game for its Master System.  When I played Choplifter on the 7800 for the first time a few years ago I was taken by surprise how much more basic the game was.  But this is the way the game was originally designed and not the way Sega did it.  This game can be challenging and unforgiving to those who don't know what to expect.  Very colorful, sounds are awesome, controls are very responsive.  Watch out for those tanks while rescuing people, though, as they can take you down in no time.
    7. Xevious
    Xevious was originally not one of my favorites mainly because I had no clue what I was suppose to do or if there was an end to it.  But the more I played it the more I enjoyed the game.  And the only way I ever played the game was on the 7800.  Sounds are really good with great control options and visuals are impressive.  It's hard for me to not spend hours on this game once I decide I want to play it.  The only downfall is if the standard 7800 controller is the only controller option available Xevious can cause cramps in a matter of minutes.  For this game I recommend a game pad of some sort or even splurge on the 7800's EuroPad controller.  Those are way better options for this game than what the 7800 came with in the USA.
    6.  Robotron: 2084
    I'm just going to call it Robotron for short.  Robotron remains the one game on the system that can showcase its graphical power.  While it is a simple game there is so much going on that it can be considered a chaotic madhouse.  Seriously, there's all kinds of things going on to distract the player and yet the 7800 never slows down or breaks a sweat.  It is games like this that made the 7800 different from the other consoles of the time.  Sounds, graphics, and controls are spot-on in my opinion.  Great game.  Pick it up if found.
    5.  Food Fight
    Food Fight was one I questioned as soon as I unwrapped it that Christmas morning I got a 7800.  It was the last one I tried but easily became a favorite.  It would have had a lot more game play if not for the hand cramps caused by the standard 7800 controllers.  Even then it remains hard to put down.  There's something fun about throwing food at chefs.  It never gets old.  And if a round is played great the game treats with an instant replay.  The only game I know to do this.  I've also noticed that after playing a game it will use that instant replay for a demonstration until the system is turned off.  Good graphics, sounds, and controls are good.
    4.  Commando
    Out of the NES and 7800 versions of this game I prefer the 7800.  It simply performs better in my opinion.  It's also seems a bit easier to play than the NES version.  Graphics and sounds are amazing and the controls are responsive.  If there was a game made to showcase how much better the 7800 could be over the NES I would put this game on that list.  If this is missing from a 7800 player's game library keep an eye out for it.  This one should not be missed.
    3.  Galaga
    Some may question this game being high on this list but this is one of the most-played games on my 7800.  This was also the first game I tried that Christmas morning I unwrapped a 7800.  I prefer Galaxian over Galaga but I enjoy this game the most on the 7800.  The game play starts out easy but after awhile the game really speeds up which increases the challenge factor.  Graphics are good, sounds are OK, controls are good.  A solid 7800 title no 7800 owner should be without.  This is a common title so it should be easy to find.
    2.  Ms. Pac-Man
    Out of all of the ports of the queen of video games I've played the 7800 port of Ms. Pac-Man is probably the only one that is the closest to the arcade.  The sounds are amazing considering they are coming from the 2-channel limitations of TIA, even surpassing the same game on the 2600.  The colors are right, the graphics are detailed, the ghost AI is spot-on, and the speed is just right.  This is the only title on the 7800 I can enjoy playing using the standard 7800 controller without much fatigue.
    And the most played game on my 7800 is ... (drum roll)...
    1.  Asteroids
    Asteroids on the 7800 is the most played game in my library.  I just can't get enough of those 3D-like boulders and the small space sounds that randomly call out.  And lots of memories playing this game on two-player with a friend where we would just fly around in every direction to see how long we could last without shooting anything.  We would always laugh out loud when we would collide with an asteroid flying full speed.  Who said you had to play by the rules?  I absolutely love the graphics and sounds in this game and it is a 40-plus year old concept that never gets old.  There's just something mesmerizing about blowing up asteroids and alien saucers.   
    And that ends my top 10 7800 games.  I like every game I have for the 7800 but these are the ones I go to the most.  I'm not big on Donkey Kong or his son and I'm not that interested in sports although I find Hat Trick a fun, if not supped up, version of Pong even if it is suppose to be hockey.  And Ballblazer?  A LOT of fun with that game...I simply lack that game in my library.  I'm sure as I acquire more games for the system that what gets played the most may change.  But no matter what when I think about the 7800 I immediately think about Asteroids. 
  12. Like
    RickR reacted to StormSurge for a blog entry, Auntie Em! Auntie Em!   
    I already had Monday, October 29, 2018 circled on my calendar. It had been for months. That was the day for me to cash in my birthday present from 5 months prior. Tickets to see Metallica in concert, 26 years after I saw them for the first time. No band I had seen since then has been as good live (and I saw a lot, working as an usher in an arena, but that's a story for another day).
    I woke up at my normal time, a little after 7 AM. Before getting out of bed, I checked my email and hopped on social media to see if anything interesting was going on. It turns out there was! There were thunderstorms nearby and looking at the current radar, one may possibly hit me!
    Now, if you couldn't tell by my username, I'm a weather junkie. I've always been fascinated by crazy weather. The more extreme, the better. Hurricanes are by far my favorite type of weather, mainly because they're so rare by me. (Gloria in 1985 was my first, followed by Bob in 1991, lots of teases since then, with a couple of tropical storms in 2011 & 2012.) After that are blizzards & any kind of good snowstorm. Thunderstorms are also up there but I never see any real good ones.
    I've lived near the ocean for the majority of my life, Long Island Sound specifically. LIS does weird things for weather. In the winter, the ocean water is warmer than the air over the mainland and that warm air usually helps to keep snow amounts down. In the summer, the ocean is cooler than the surrounding air and that helps to remove instability, which translates into "no, or weak, thunderstorms". I'll watch storms on radar move over Connecticut & look like they're headed right for me. As soon as they get close, the marine influence destroys them. I'm usually lucky to hear a rumble or two of thunder.
    Now that I'm on an island in the middle of the sound, surrounded by water, these negative influences are magnified.
    As with anything, there are exceptions. If a snowstorm takes the right track & keeps me on the cold side of a storm, we can get a lot of snow. If a thunderstorm approaches me from the ocean rather than from land, the storms can hold together and pack a punch. 
    Back to that October morning. I headed downstairs to prepare to get my dogs up and feed them, it started to thunder a bit. Then it REALLY rained. I stood by my picture window watching the rain runoff roll down the street like a river. I wasn't about to take the dogs out in that, so I went back upstairs to lay in bed for a bit.
    About 5 minutes later, my pager went off. There was a fire alarm activation at a home about a mile and half from me. Not a surprise, as I've learned in the past year as a volunteer firefighter, that any power disruption from a storm or anything else, tends to trigger fire alarms. I was already dressed, so off I went to the firehouse to respond.
    While I was there waiting for another member to join me (we only roll the trucks with two or more people) ANOTHER call came over the radio for the same thing. That struck me as VERY odd, seeing as we average one fire call per week. To have two calls within five minutes of each other was strange, but nothing that made me be overly suspicious.
    Someone else showed up and away we drove. We were responding to the first call, which was on the east end of the island, which is the private end. As we passed the gate house, the attendant stopped us to say that a neighbor of the home we were headed to had called down to say that her home had been hit by a tornado and that there were trees down everywhere.
    As someone who has been following weather phenomenon for a long time, I knew that anytime people see tree damage from a thunderstorm, they almost always say they were hit by a tornado, when in reality, it was a downburst, microburst or just really strong winds. That doesn't make the storm any less destructive, it's just not as sexy as saying you were hit by a tornado. Tornados are rare, ESPECIALLY where we were. In my 40+ years, I don't ever recall a tornado hitting my part of Connecticut (southeastern), let alone Fishers Island. So needless to say, I was quite dubious, even after we arrived at the house and saw all the tree damage.
    We quickly called off this call as a false alarm and tried to make it to the other home, which was also on the east end. The road I was going to take was blocked by downed trees. We tried to take a different road but that road was also blocked. Another member of the fire department was able to make it to the home and cleared that call as well.
    However, it was obvious that we had been hit pretty hard by that storm. Once I returned the fire truck, I headed back to where the initial call came in to survey the damage on foot and take some pictures.
    I had been in contact with a meteorologist from a Connecticut news station via Twitter. I let him know that there was significant damage on Fishers, but again, a tornado wasn't even a consideration at that point.
    I began walking east, over the downed trees that made the road impassable for us in the fire truck. There was some other damage, including a wooden fence knocked over & a garage door blown off, but nothing too spectacular. 
    Then I noticed a very large tree uprooted and more trees down. At this point, all of the trees had fallen in the same direction, which again had me thinking that this was straight line wind damage. And then I began to look up, at the tops of the trees.
    There, I could see just the tops of some trees damaged, while the rest of the tree was intact. That now had me considering the possibility of a tornado, as that damage was different than what I had seen earlier. (Again, I'm an untrained eye, just someone who was very excited.)
    The road I was walking eventually comes out onto the main road that spans the island. I stayed on that road, headed east, when I ran into the utility company. There were wires down and a pole snapped. It was pretty remarkable and when I stopped to talk to the president of the utility company, he said it was worse farther up. We hopped in his truck and went to check it out.
    Once I saw that damage, I was no longer firmly in the not-a-tornado camp. There was little doubt in my mind. There was a stand of trees that had been shredded completely. It looked exactly like footage from a midwestern town that had been hit by a tornado. There was a shed that had been destroyed and just so many trees down. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. 
    I tried to update my meteorologist friend, but cell service out there was spotty. I couldn't wait to fill him in. I knew he would be just as excited as I was.
    The National Weather Service paid a visit to the island the following day and determined that we had in fact been struck by an EF-1 tornado. By that point, we all knew it, as a video capturing it had surfaced. Of course, I was in Albany for the concert, so I missed my chance to follow the NWS around while they checked out all the damage. However, I was happy to have been one of the first to realize what happened and grateful that I was on the island for it. My poor luck usually results in me missing something like this.
    Oh yeah, Metallica kicked ass again. 🤘
    Fishers Island's Tornado News Report
    Some tweets as they happened in real-time, followed by some of my damage photos.

  13. Like
    RickR reacted to StormSurge for a blog entry, Before & After   
    As a young kid spending time on Fishers Island (my current home), I was fascinated with the natural history of the island. The main focus of my attention was on the area of the island that used to be the home of Fort H.G. Wright. 
    Fort Wright was part of the coastal defense network & protected the eastern part of Long Island Sound. It was active from 1898 through 1947. 
    I loved playing in and around the gun pits (the cannons were long gone) and other buildings, including lookout towers, etc. I REALLY became interested when I saw old photos and postcards of the same buildings I saw now back when they were in their heyday. 
    Since that time, I’ve collected those old postcards & photos. A good friend of mine gave me a photo of Officers Row (the top photo in the below comparison). 
    Officers Row is extra special to me as the first house I ever stayed in on Fishers was one of these houses. 
    After the fort closed, the US government sold off many buildings at reasonable prices, with the condition that they must be restored (or at least made presentable). A decade of neglect had many of the buildings in disrepair. Sadly, a lot of buildings fell to the wrecking ball. 
    My father’s brother in law & his brother purchased one of the houses (located on the right side in the photos below). By the time I was born in 1973, the house was restored & this is where we stayed when we visited. In fact, one of the very first memories I have, period, was sleeping in a crib in this house. 
    Anyway, here’s a comparison of a photo taken sometime in the 1910s and taken from the same spot today, April 19, 2019. 
    And if you want to know what my uncle’s house looks like on the inside, here you go: https://shuttersandsails.com/listing/parade-grounds-cottage/ (my father’s brother-in-law ended up selling his share to his brother & moved on to bigger & better houses on Fishers (stories for future blog posts), but his brother (my uncle by marriage) still owns the house today.)
    **I forgot to mention that the house on the far left in the top image was either demo’ed or burned down years ago. I’ve never laid eyes on it. 
    I have a good story about the house that's straight-ahead in the photos. When I was young staying next door, the woman who lived there made THE BEST vanilla milkshakes. She was an author & you may recall my story I shared with @VicSage about a woman who was an old-time radio personality.

  14. Like
    RickR reacted to StormSurge for a blog entry, Fire Call!   
    I thought it may be interesting to share what happens when my pager goes off for a fire call.
    Thankfully, I've only had false alarms to respond to, aside from two minor car accidents. (Since October 2017).
    We average one call per week. Thankfully, most of them are during the day, but there have been the occasional middle of the night calls. (The pager also goes off for any ambulance calls, which I only assist if the EMTs need help lifting the stretcher onto the ambulance boat.)
    Technically, I only need to respond to every call while officially on call (we're split into teams that are on call for two weeks at a time, eliminating the need for 20 people to show up for a false alarm), but because I live so close to the fire house and that I want the practice of putting my gear on & driving the truck, I make it a point to go to every call. (Again, there's not that many calls, so it's no big deal.)
    The pager tones don't sound like Station 51's tones but it's still pretty startling when it goes off.
    Anyway, here's the video. Let me know if you have any questions!
  15. Like
    RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, 011 - World Tour Racing   
    World Tour Racing
    Published: 1997 by Telegames
    Developed: Teque London
    Polygonal racers were all the rage in the mid-90s.  At the time of the Jaguar’s release, Sega’s Virtua Racing ruled the arcades.  Atari’s answer was the lackluster Checkered Flag; a game notorious for its low frame rate and horrible controls.  The innovative but visually bland Club Drive also failed to impress gamers.  By 1994, the Sega 32X had an excellent port of Virtua Racing.  The release of the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation brought home amazing versions of Daytona USA and Ridge Racer, respectively.  Atari needed a response.  Something that would make up for the sin of Checkered Flag and provide Jaguar enthusiasts with a modern polygonal racer worthy of their 64-bit machine.  Atari turned to developer Teque London to produce a Formula One licensed racer, complete with real tracks: F1 Racer.
    Unfortunately, by the time the game was ready in early 1996, Atari was on life support.  The ruinous 1995 holiday season brought Atari to the brink and many complete or near complete Jaguar projects were cancelled.  F1 Racer was shelved until Atari’s merger with JTS, at which point the title was purchased by Telegames along with Towers II, Worms, Zero 5, Iron Soldier 2 and Breakout 2000.  The official F1 license was dropped and the final game, now called World Tour Racing, was released in 1997 on the Jaguar CD add-on.
    Is World Tour Racing the polygonal racer that the Jaguar always deserved? Let's take the game to the track and see if it qualifies!
    Gameplay: “Imagine that, a Jaguar polygon racer with decent controls!”
    Gameplay is straightforward in WTR.  Under the default setting, use the controller’s d-pad to steer, B-button to brake and A-button to accelerate.  Control is responsive and steering is tight.  The brakes and acceleration work as they should.  Options for a track map are available in single player mode.  This helps tremendously. 
    The C-button is used to toggle through the game’s three standard views: In-car, Chase 1 and Chase 2.  The game views can really affect gameplay and your mileage may vary depending on which view you select.  I prefer Chase 2 which is behind the car and above.  The car looks smaller in this view but it was easier for me to control.  Chase 1 probably looks the most contemporary with other polygon racers of the time.  The In-car view puts you in the driver’s seat.  This looked cool but I found it difficult to take corners in this mode.  Other views are available on the controller’s keypad, as are options for track maps, music and road textures. 
    WTR’s three main gameplay modes are Single Race, Championship and Arcade.  Both Single Race and Arcade modes have a two-player, split screen option.  In Single Race mode, players can elect to race any of the 16 available race tracks.  In Championship mode, players race the entire calendar, taking on each track in turn.  Both Single Race and Championship mode offer qualifying and free race options.  Qualifying will establish your car’s grid-position in the actual race.  If you choose to skip the qualifying option, you will automatically get the last grid-position.  In Arcade mode, players race each track in turn, scoring points based on finishing place.
    Among the modes, my favorites are Single Race and Arcade.  I enjoy Single Race because you have the option to select any of the 16 available tracks.  There is a good deal of variety in the track layouts and its nice that all of them are unlocked from the start.  Arcade mode is just easy to hop into.  No qualifying, no problem! 
    WTR offers a great deal of customization.  In all modes, players can access the “Workshop” which allows tire selection, gearbox ratios, brake balancing and wing angle.  I played around with these but they didn’t really enhance my race performance.  One thing missing: Color selection! I hope you like a red car because that’s what you’re getting!
    Note: The action noticeably slows down during two-player split screen.  Also, the track map feature is not available.  This makes taking tight corners a bit trickier than in single-player mode.  I consider the split screen option a novelty. 
    Graphics: Graphically, WTR is a bit of a grab bag. In-game, WTR uses a combination of gouraud-shaded polygons, bitmaps and minimal textures.  In still shots and on straightaways where you are the only car, this looks great.  Atari-themed signs (“Atari”, “Jaguar”, “DOOM”), buildings, crowds and trees fly by and give you a real sense of speed.  However, when there is too much on the scree the slow-down is noticeable.  This doesn’t ruin the gameplay but it can be distracting.  As mentioned above, the slow-down is even more prevalent in two-player mode.  There is an option to turn on a texture on the race track.  This option looks really strange and I found that performance improved slightly if I left it off.
    The information graphics (speed, place and lap) look very clean and are in line with the style of the day.  Fonts are modern (for the 90s) and have a slight gradient shading which looks really good.  In single player mode, there are three options for a track map. The first shows just a portion of the map in a translucent box.  The second is a map of the full track, which rotates with you.  The last map option is to have no map at all.  I found the rotating full track map to be the easiest to use.  
    The tracks themselves are different from one another but none of the environments really stand out.  Is it Britain?  Is it Brazil?  Is it Hungary?  Without the menu, who would know? It would have been cool if the artists incorporated something unique in each track to distinguish one nation’s track from the next.
    One of the tell-tale signs of a 90s CD-ROM title are the weird CG cutscenes and movies.  WTR is chock full of them.  These range from the bizarre Teque title-card, to the game intro, to an arcade machine bursting through the wall when selecting Arcade mode.  The models here are much smoother than what was capable in-game and was at least on par with what other systems were doing at the time.  None of these have aged well but its part of that era and always makes me laugh.  Its clear someone was having fun with all of the extra storage the Jaguar CD provided!
    Sound/Music: WTR really shines in the audio department.  Engine sounds and screeching tires sound just as you would expect.  In true mid-90s fashion, in-game music consists of high-quality techno that is really fun to drive to.  It truly shows off the Jaguar CDs audio capabilities and is some of the best music on the platform.  My only complaint is that there are only 3 tunes over the course of 16 race tracks.  It would have been great if more in-game music was included. 
    Other Notes:  There is no Memory Track support in WTR. Instead, you use an over long pass code.  This is CRAZY for a Jaguar CD game.  Maybe Teque didn't have time to implement Memory Track support but its a real bummer.  
    Final Thoughts: World Tour Racing is a competent polygonal open-wheel racer.  It controls reasonably well, is full of options, has a variety of tracks, and features some of the best music on the Jaguar.  The graphics definitely tax the system and there is noticeable slow down during gameplay, particularly in two-player mode.  Does it hold up to contemporaries on the Saturn and Playstation?  Not by a long shot.  That said, it is a fun game and its the best polygonal racer on the platform.  If you have a Jaguar CD or are an F1 fan, its definitely worth a look.
    Thanks for reading and please share your memories and thoughts on World Tour Racing in the comments below! Do you think that it takes the pole position among Jaguar’s racers?
    The next game is: Primal Rage!
  16. Like
    RickR reacted to dgrubb for a blog entry, In defence of emulation   
    A common sentiment found among retro-computing enthusiasts is that there's nothing quite like the real thing. It's understandable, computers and game consoles (i.e., computers disguised as toys and appliances) are physical items and our happy nostalgic memories are complimented by recollections of touch and heft: the feedback of button clicks, shunting cartridges into slots, and so on. However, there's a particular aficionado - we've all met him, he's a member of every fan group and forum - whose affection for real hardware gives way to an unpleasant snobbery. A "true fan" would never emulate, he says, implying that a gaming community is only a place for those with disposable income, space, and a nihilistic acceptance that the platform will die with the original hardware.
    I'm certainly not arguing against the value of hardware and experiences which come with it, we're all in agreement of its importance, but I do insist that emulation is also a first class citizen without which a platform has no future.
    Ashes to hardware ashes
    Take the Atari Jaguar; fewer than 250,000 are known to have been produced, with even fewer numbers of accessories such as CD-ROM drives. Of that number a great deal will have been owned by people with no interest in preservation. Many Jaguars have likely been dumped in the trash along with an avalanche of VCRs. Of the survivors many will suffer electrical faults due to old-age (the dreaded open-circuit capacitor problem). Many more will simply be damaged in accidents.
    This is already a serious problem for CD-ROM units which were produced in much smaller numbers than the console itself and are notoriously failure prone - although, arguably, no more so than other CD-ROM drives from the time.
    Taking the long view there will be a time when, for most people, original hardware will no longer be a viable way to access the content produced for the platform!
    New developments
    This is perhaps the strongest argument in favour of emulation. New content is vital for a platform and emulation is key to lowering the barrier in producing new content. In the late 70s it took highly skilled programmers with excellent design sense (a very select cross-section of personality) months to produce new games for the Atari 2600 using mainframe computers costing thousands of dollars. Today, a cheap PC with the Stella emulator, which includes an excellent debugger and the ability to step through program execution and inspect the emulated Atari's emulated state. Imagine what those original Atari and Activision programmers could have achieved in an afternoon with such capabilities! Imagine what today's programmers, of all kinds of skill levels, can achieve!
    A more thoughtful perspective
    I highly recommend that anybody with an interest in retro-gaming listen to Frank Cifaldi's GDC talk on the subject of emulation. It's witty, thought-provoking and quite brilliant. There's a lot to unpack, but in under an hour he touches on numerous relevant subjects such as preservation, the ethics of piracy, and how emulation can be leveraged in the most positive (and commercial!) ways:

  17. Like
    RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, 008 - Zoop!   
    Published: 1995 by Viacom
    Designed by Hookstone, Ltd.
    Jaguar Version: Electric Spectacle Productions, Ltd.
    Zoop is one of those games that no one seemed to ask for but was nonetheless pushed out to nearly every platform on the market. Billed as "America's Greatest Killer of Time!", this puzzler appeared on Gameboy, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis, PlayStation, Saturn, Macintosh, Windows, and our own beloved Jaguar. The ads were EVERYWHERE. This was a game that was scientifically proven to be so addictive that you would lose your mind. This was Viacom's Tetris and we were all going to be glued to the screen.
    As I indicated in Post 000, one of the reasons that I'm doing this blog is to play some of the least played titles in my collection. Prior to this review, I had never played Zoop. I picked it up in a lot of sealed commons about six years ago and never even opened it. In fact, it is the only game in my Jaguar collection that I had never booted up. UNTIL NOW.
    Is Zoop the addictive puzzler it was advertised to be? Did it drive me cuckoo bananas? Was it worth ripping off the cellophane? Read on to find out!

    Gameplay: On the face of it, Zoop is a simple puzzler. The goal of the game is to eliminate colored shapes marching toward a square box in the center of the screen using a color matching game mechanic. You control a triangle that resides within this center square. The square itself is 4 rows tall by 4 columns wide. Blue, purple, green and orange shapes approach the center square from all four sides along sixteen different pathways. As new shapes appear, the earlier shapes will be pushed one space closer to the center square. If a shape gets to the center square, it's GAME OVER!
    To stave off your inevitable demise, the player uses the d-pad to move the triangle within the center square, targeting the shapes. Pressing the action button sends your triangle hurtling at blurring speed into the shapes. If you hit a shape that is the same color as your triangle, you'll eliminate that shape. If multiple shapes of the same color are stacked together, you can eliminate the whole lot for a score multiplier. If you hit a shape that is a different color as the triangle, you will swap colors with that shape without eliminating it. This can be used strategically to build stacks and improve your score. There are also a few power ups which come in handy.
    Control is tight and responsive. This is critical as you progress through each level. Speaking of levels, Zoop offers two game modes: Continual and Level. In Continual mode, the shapes on the board remain as you progress through each level without pause. In Level mode, the game field is cleared of shapes with each completed level. I preferred to play Level mode.
    Graphics: The graphics in Zoop are unremarkable. The player sprite is a simple triangle. Likewise, the approaching shapes are rudimentary blobs of color. There is minimal animation. The play field changes with each level. For some levels, the color combination is more interesting than others. That said, it's clear that they were going for a certain vibe with this game and stuck to it. Could it have used a little more graphic flare? Probably. But that isn't really the point. As it is, the game is bright and colorful and does the job.

    Sound/Music: The music in Zoop is sorta like "smooth jazz." It is calming and the tempo doesn't change as the pace of the game quickens. While competent, the music seems to be at odds with the gameplay. There are audio alerts if the shapes border the center square. Additionally, your triangle makes noise when moving or eliminating shapes.
    Overall: Zoop is a decent puzzle game. The few hours that I spent with it were enjoyable. The simple graphics and gameplay mechanic works well and control was what it should be. Was it as addictive as Viacom claimed? Not in the least. While I could see myself picking it up again, it was very easy to put it down. No one is going to miss sleep or be late to work over this one. At least I still have a firm grip on reality!
    Final Verdict: The Jaguar has few puzzlers and, in that way, Zoop fills a certain niche. If you like the genre, consider Zoop.
    Thanks for reading and please share your memories and thoughts on Zoop in the comments below!
    The next game is: Syndicate

  18. Like
    RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, 006 - White Men Can't Jump   
    White Men Can't Jump
    Published 1995 by Atari
    Developed by High Voltage Software
    White Men Can't Jump (WMCJ) is an Atari Jaguar exclusive developed by High Voltage Software and published by Atari in 1995. The game shipped with the Jaguar Team Tap peripheral for four player action. WMCJ is loosely based on the 1992 movie of the same name, which stars Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes as street basketball hustlers. As in the movie, players play pick-up basketball for cold hard cash on the mean streets of early-90s Los Angeles County. Otherwise, the license is wholly wasted as neither character is mentioned in the game. WMCJ is notorious as one of the worst games in the Jaguar library. For many Jaguar owners, it tops that list.
    So, does WMCJ deserve the hate? Or is it, as the manual claims, "the most hyped up, monster jammin', bruisin' elbows, rebound snatchin', rim stuffin', skying over suckers, down your throat, money making game of street ball you never thought possible?" Let's plug WMCJ into the big cat and see what it's all about!
    Gameplay: WMCJ is a two-on-two basketball game, in which players play half court ball in a semi-3D perspective. There are two game modes: Vs. mode and Tournament mode. In Vs. mode, up to four players can play using the Team Tap. In Tournament Mode, up to two players take on the best street ball duos in L.A. with the hope of making it to the Slam City Tournament at the Inglewood Forum. At the start of the game, you take out a loan from a couple of loan sharks for money to bet. You have to win enough to make the $5,000 entry fee and pay the sharks back - or else! Game progress is saved through the use of one of three save keys - represented by actual keys.

    Playing the game is fairly straightforward. You use the d-pad to move, and the Jaguar controller's three main action buttons to pass/punch, jump/shoot, or for speed boost. The action triggered depends on whether or not you have control of the ball. The buttons are customizable from the options menu. Wait a minute, back up. Did I just write "pass/punch"? I sure did. This is street ball, so punching is front and center. Want to steal a ball or block a dunk? Just punch your opponent. It's perfectly acceptable. In addition to the violence, each character also has a "super dunk", which can be pulled off with a combination of movements. I have to say, pulling off a super dunk is pretty magical.
    Action response seems a bit slow, with blocking jumps coming just after a shot, punches thrown late and shots taken a few steps after you intended. Also, the computer controlled characters pass like pros but - frustratingly - I could never quite get the hang of it. Additionally, due to the semi-3D perspective of the game, it can be hard to tell what's going on at times. All of this combines to make WMCJ less fluid and enjoyable than it could be.
    Graphics: WMCJ uses an interesting art style to say the least. The game employs 2D sprites in a semi-3D perspective. The game uses sprite scaling to provide a sense of depth on the court. A dynamic camera follows the action. The camera movement is fast and can confuse the onscreen action. Words and phrases like "Bangin", "Take it back", "Airball", "Money" and "You gets none" appear on the screen in rapid succession. These use colorful fonts in full 90s glory. This can be a bit jarring and distracts somewhat from the gameplay. Fortunately, this feature can be switched off.
    The player characters appear to be digitized from real photos like Kasumi Ninja, but unlike Kasumi, these digitizations are in fairly low resolution. It's an interesting look, if a bit muddy. The characters themselves are generic and their design doesn't show a lot of creativity. From a player's perspective, I really have no reason to pick the "Urban Angels" over the "Dunkin' Demons", or vice versa. They just aren't terribly memorable or distinctive. This may be unfair, as other games benefit from team/player licensing. That said, even if a lot of players feel the same, playing as your favorite NBA star does make you feel a bit more engaged.
    The game environments are darker than they could be. To my mind, all the match-ups seem to be held at dusk. In sunny Los Angeles County, would it have killed them to make a really bright level? It was the 90s, so maybe they were trying to evoke smog. Also, no LBC? WTF. Otherwise, I generally like the look and feel of the courts.
    Between the dynamic camera, digitized character models, sprite scaling, onscreen text and other effects, there is a lot going on here. Unfortunately, it's just a little too taxing and the framerate suffers for it. Action can seem stuttered and the animations are anything but fluid. This doesn't break WMCJ, it just makes it less fun than other two-on-two basketball titles.

    Sound/Music: Sound and music are a strong point of WMCJ. Unlike some Jaguar games, WMCJ features full audio, including in-game music, decent sound effects and heavy voice sampling. The in game music is well done but some of it seems a bit out of place for the game setting. One would expect more of a late-80s to early-90s hiphop sounds. Instead, we get some weird jazz music. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think the "Dis Masters" are playing jazz on their boom box while taking on the "3pt. Kings" in Compton. The voice over sampling is quality, if somewhat repetitive. I would like to hear a little more varied trash talk. The sound effects are what you'd expect from a basketball game, with swooshes that are sufficiently swooshy.
    Overall: WMCJ is a strange two-on-two basketball game. While its clear the developers were trying very hard, it is definitely a case of style over substance. I enjoyed some of the 90s quirkiness and it is truly unique. That said, there are better basketball games out there - even on the Jaguar. Sports games require a certain responsiveness and fluidity of action that WMCJ just doesn't have. This makes it a missed opportunity.
    Note: While this write-up has focused on the single player game, I want to add that this is tremendously fun with four players. People just really can't believe what they're seeing and it makes for a lot of laughs. A few years ago, I had a "Dads' Day of Atari" and someone picked this out. It was the loudest we laughed all afternoon. WMCJ itself isn't great, but it definitely has a so bad it's good quality that's best enjoyed with friends.
    Final Verdict: WMCJ is another odd edition to the Jaguar library. It is far from the worst game on the system but pales in comparison to the excellent Jaguar conversion of NBA Jam TE. If you find it cheap with the Team Tap, you might consider giving it a try. Four player Vs. mode is probably worth the price of admission. Besides, you can use the Team Tap on NBA Jam.
    Thanks for reading and please share your memories and thoughts on WMCJ in the comments below! Do you think it ranks as the worst game on the Jaguar? Or do you agree with me that it can be so bad that it's good?
    The next game is:Super Burnout

  19. Like
    RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, 005 - Robinson's Requiem   
    Robinson's Requiem
    Published 2011 by Songbird Productions
    Developed by Silmarils Sofware
    Robinson's Requiem is a combination first person adventure and point and click survival game. The player is Trepliev1, a Robinson space explorer from Alien World Exploration (AWE) who becomes stranded on the planet Zarathustra. With minimal equipment, you set out to explore the planet and survive various hazards. These include other Robinsons, natives, and a generally hostile environment. Robinson's Requiem saw release in the mid-90s on a variety of computer platforms including the Atari ST, the Atari Falcon, the Commodore Amiga and the PC. The game was also released on the 3DO.
    The Jaguar port of Robinson's Requiem was released by Songbird Productions in 2011. For those not familiar with Songbird, the company is run by Carl Forhan and specializes in the completion and release of "lost games" for the Atari Jaguar and Atari Lynx. Robinson's Requiem is one such title. Advertised on the back of the Jaguar CD packaging, the game was essentially complete when Atari ceased support of the Jaguar platform in 1996. Years later, Carl rescued the game and licensed it from the developers for release. Like all Songbird releases, the game has professional packaging on par with Atari's commercial Jaguar releases.
    So, how does Robinson's Requiem stack up? Let's take a stroll on Zarathustra to find out!
    Gameplay: The computer roots of Robinson's Requiem are clearly evident in the game's control scheme. The player uses the d-pad to move a cursor on the screen to search an area or body, pick up and use items, or access options from the ever present icon panel and "Sesame" screen. The Jaguar 9-key pad is used to move across Zarathustra's sprite-based landscape. The control scheme is anything but intuitive and would likely be better suited for a keyboard and mouse. That said, after an hour or so of roaming, I got the hang of it.
    The game is light on action. I quickly encountered two other Robinsons and had to kill both of them. The first, a man by the name of Socrates19, warned me - via an FMV sequence - that it was "every man for himself", that I was in his sector and that I needed to get lost or else. He went down with a few awkward punches which were activated by clicking on the weapons icon, selecting the fist icon and pressing "B." If that sounds laborious, that's because it is. It's very clunky and unresponsive.
    Searching Socrates' body revealed a treasure trove of equipment, including a survival knife, matches, battery and gourd. These can be used later in combination with other items to fight (knife), build a fire (matches) or get water. The second Robinson, a man named Darwin5, seemed pleasant enough at first but by the end of his FMV inexplicably turned into a werewolf.
    Moving around the game's environment was less than thrilling. I found myself hitting dead ends and getting stuck in crevices of the world map. There is an overhead map but I didn't find it very helpful. As it is, Socrates and Darwin5 were the only souls that I encountered in my time with the game. Zarathustra, garden spot that it is, seems oddly devoid of life.
    One of the more interesting gameplay mechanics is "manufacture". You can select items that you have scavenged and combine them to make a tool. For example, I used a branch and wire form the wreckage of my ship to make a noose. While crafting is commonplace in many of today's games, it is surprisingly deep for a 90s adventure. I have no doubt more useful tools are available but I didn't get that far into the game. In two hours I managed to kill the only two people I met, fill up my water gourd, boil said water, slice leaves and branches from trees, find some food and give myself food poisoning.
    Speaking of food poisoning, another action is a medical scan. Activating medical scan will let you check your overall health and determine what is wrong, the seriousness of the illness and treatment options provided you have the medicine. Like the manufacture feature, I found the need to scan and treat illnesses to be a nice touch.
    Graphics: Graphically, Robinson's Requiem is a mis-mash. Like other early CD-rom games, the developers were perhaps trying too hard to use all that the new medium had to offer. At start-up, the game treats the player to some classic 90s CG rendered video. The intro sequence is lengthy and sets up your mission and crash landing on Zarathustra. Once you take control, the game switches to a first person perspective. The game world is made of sprite-based textures. They are very muddy and do not look good at all. Pop-up is horrible and every few minutes there is a slight pause in the action to load a new area of the map. The landscape is dotted with trees that seem like paper cutouts and you are surrounded by mountains. When you do come upon another Robinson, they appear as a generic human shaped sprite. Upon approach, you'll be treated to grainy FMV typical of CD consoles of the day. Acting is sub-B movie level.
    On the bright side, the fire animation was well done as is the icon panel and health status scan. I also quite enjoyed Darwin5's lupin transformation.


    Sound/Music: The sound in Robinson's Requiem is ok. When there is music, it's well done. The in game sounds also set the tone for a hostile planet with gurgling water and animal noises. You also make noise when you're sick or fighting.
    Overall: You can probably tell by now that I didn't much care for Robinson's Requiem. Anytime a player spends more than an hour walking around without encountering in-game action, it's a problem. Zarathustra was simply much too ugly and desolate to keep my interest.
    Final Verdict: Robinson's Requiem strikes me as a game that is ambitious in concept but poor in execution. It strives to give the player a new kind of gaming experience but ultimately falls flat. This one is for the serious Jaguar collector only. If you're not a completionist, pass.
    Thanks for reading and please share your memories and thoughts on Robinson's Requiem in the comments below! I'm particularly interested in hearing from anyone who enjoyed this or another version of the game.
    The next game is: White Men Can't Jump

  20. Like
    RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, 004 - Cybermorph   
    Published:1993 by Atari Corporation
    Developed by Attention To Detail (ATD)
    "Good luck." These are the first words that the player hears when their morphing T-Griffon unfolds on a remote planet. And Atari needed all the luck it could get when the Jaguar launched to limited markets in the winter of 1993. The odds were stacked against the once-giant of the industry. Atari released the Jaguar to a crowded market where the SNES and Genesis dominated and other consoles from SNK, 3DO, Phillips and others competed for shelf space. Further, next generation consoles from Sega and Sony were looming on the horizon. More than luck, Atari needed something special to show the prowess of its new 64-bit machine. What they had was Cybermorph - the Jaguar's oft-derided pack-in. It is perhaps most famous for Skylar, the game's green-faced guide well known for the apparently meme-worthy phrase "Where did you learn to fly?"
    When I first got my Jaguar I was quite pleased with Cybermorph. I thought the morphing ship, full 3D exploration and Skylar were all great. In '94, it was one of the more interesting and advanced games that I had ever played. So, how does it stack up today?
    Graphics: The graphics in Cybermorph are quite bland. The planets have dull, oddly colored landscapes and dark skies. The landscapes are sparsely populated with pods, trees, mountains, roads and enemies. Everything in the game is made up of Gouraud shaded polygons. At the time of its release, the in-hardware use of Gouraud shading was a technological advance over the flat shaded polygons found in many computer and console games. It can be a really cool effect when implemented well. Unfortunately, the art-style in Cybermorph leaves a lot to be desired. Aside from Skylar and your ship, the aforementioned T-Griffon, it does not appear that much care or imagination went into Cybermorph's polygonal models. Enemies are not very exciting and the trees and buildings that dot the landscape look like they were designed by a first grader. Draw distances are quite limited and pop-up can be a real problem. If you're moving too quickly, it is very easy to run into a mountain or other obstacle. On the bright side, I've always liked Skylar and the shape-shifting T-Griffon is cool.
    Sound/Music: Cybermorph lacks in the audio department. There is music at start-up that begins with a punch and devolves into a weird "smooth jazz" type thing. There is no in-game music at all. The fully voiced Skylar is impressive. Most impressive. The only people that will be annoyed by her haven't bothered to learn how to play the game. If you're hearing "Where did you learn to fly?" over and over again, you're doing it wrong! The ship sounds, weapons fire and crash noises are sufficiently "spacey" but aren't very imaginative. You've heard better whooshes and blasts in a hundred different games. Overall, the audio and sound effects feel underwhelming.
    Gameplay: The most interesting aspect of Cybermorph's gameplay is that it offers the player full 3D exploration. This was novel in 1993. Unfortunately, the world design and missions don't leverage this very well. As mentioned above, the game's worlds are sparsely populated. While there is plenty to blow up, there are also slow periods of inactivity and exploration. This would be interesting if the landscape offered more than tiny trees, the occasional building and oddly colored mountains and canyons. As it is, it is a bit of a snooze fest. Game worlds are also pretty small; it is easy to traverse a level at speed within a few minutes. Game missions lack variety and mostly involve collecting yellow pods. If this doesn't sound exciting, that's because it isn't. The gameplay just doesn't have a lot of depth.
    Control takes some getting used to, but I've always found it tight and responsive. In my view, Cybermorph is best played with a light touch and at slower speeds. Doing so helps to avoid Skylar's warnings and prevents overshooting targets and pods. Cybermorph also makes use of the overlay. Weapons selection is easily toggled using the top row (1-3) and multiple views are available using the rest of the pad.
    Overall: Did I enjoy playing Cybermorph? Yes. Despite its many shortcomings, the game does offer some fun and a romp down memory lane. That said, the game just feels undercooked. The lack of music, rudimentary level design and boring landscapes leave a lot to be desired. It's hardly good enough to be a flagship title. Fortunately, the Jaguar CD sequel Battlemorph is superior in every way.
    Final verdict: As the Jaguar's pack-in title, Cybermorph has earned a place in video game and Atari history. It is inextricably linked to the legacy of Atari's last console. As such, it's a must have for the Atari Jaguar collector. That said, the repetitive missions, lack of in-game music and bland graphics make the game hard to recommend from the player's perspective. There is fun here but the Jaguar has a host of tank-style 3D games and Cybermorph ranks pretty low on that list.
    Thanks for reading and please share your opinions and memories of Cybermorph in the comments!
    The next game is: Robinson's Requiem

  21. Like
    RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, 003 - Pinball Fantasies   
    Pinball Fantasies
    Published: 1995 by Twenty First Century Entertainment
    Developed by Spidersoft Limited
    Released in 1995, Pinball Fantasies is a Jaguar conversion of the 1992 Commodore Amiga game of the same name. Billed as a “pinball simulator”, Pinball Fantasies features four tables and semi-realistic play. In addition to the Amiga and Jaguar versions, Pinball Fantasies saw release on the Amiga CD32, Super NES, DOS and Gameboy. The game has also appeared in compilations on platforms as varied as iOS and PS3.
    The Jaguar version of Pinball Fantasies is notable as one of only a handful of Jaguar titles published by a third-party company; Twenty First Century Entertainment. In the Jaguar’s library, it competes against Atari’s own Ruiner Pinball for the system's coveted pinball crown.
    Pinball Fantasies is a game that I have not spent a lot of time with over the years. Outside of a few highscore club matches, I rarely plug it in. So I was actually excited to see it pop up on The Gaming Notebook’s randomizer.
    Graphics: The graphics in Pinball Fantasies are competent. The layout of the four tables is well designed and the art is colorful, if bland. The score and ball readout is at the top of the screen and attempts to replicate the dot-matrix score display of a real machine. The ball looks right and moves fluidly around the table on various ramps, rails and loops. On the other hand, aside from some light-up bonuses and bouncing bumpers, there isn’t a lot going on.
    The art style on the game tables themselves are somewhat generic. “Partyland” has a carnival theme, “Speed Devils” has a racing theme, “Billion Dollar Game Show” has a game show theme, and “Stones & Bones” has a horror theme. There are no crazy bonuses that set off a myriad of lights. Nor are there any character animations, explosions or other effects that might have been done given the videogame format. It’s all very vanilla. One of the things that I love about actual pinball tables is the over-the-top table art, lights and sound. Those are meant to attract players. The tables here all feel a little sterile. If I were walking through an arcade, I definitely wouldn’t look twice at any of them.
    I don’t have the game on any other platform but a quick review of gameplay videos on Youtube leads me to believe that the Jaguar version compares favorably with contemporary ports. Like many of the 16-bit games ported over to the system, the Jaguar versions are typically sharper, with greater color depth and smoother animations.
    Sound/Music: The clicks, bumps, pings and rings of classic pinball is well represented in Pinball Fantasies. A true pinball aficionado might find a fault but to my ears, the pinball sounds ring true. In-game music is a mixed bag. I didn’t mind the music in “Speed Devils” or in “Stones & Bones”. In fact, the music in both of those tables is fairly enjoyable. The music on “Billion Dollar Game Show” was inoffensive. I found the music in “Partyland” intolerable. Keeping with the table’s carnival theme, it is music suited only to knife wielding psycho clowns.
    Gameplay: In terms of gameplay, Pinball Fantasies is just fine. With the standard control layout, the d-pad is the left flipper and the “B” button is the right flipper. The “A” button can be used to nudge the table and the “C” button launches the ball. It’s pinball so there isn’t a lot to it in terms of control.Like a real table, the tables in Pinball Fantasies are pretty big – too big for a standard tv. In order to accommodate, the field of view is limited to half of a table at a time and scrolls with the ball. You can set the scroll setting to “hard” or “soft”. A “hard” setting makes the action much faster and the scrolling is more jarring. I enjoyed playing with the “soft” scroll although this seems to slow the action somewhat. The game offers two difficulty settings: easy or hard. For me, the combo setting that most felt like real pinball was “hard” with a “soft” scroll.
    Game physics seem spot on. The ball doesn’t feel too floaty or too fast the way it can in other video pinball games. This is a high scoring game with generous multipliers and bonuses - typical in pinball. One thing that’s missing is multiple balls. This is likely due to the scrolling nature of the playfield.
    Of the four tables, I like "Stones and Bones" the best. It's just interesting enough to make me want to keep playing. "Speed Devils" is also a fun table. The other two are pretty forgettable.
    Overall: Pinball Fantasies is an above average video pinball game. It generally replicates the pinball experience at home and I think that was largely the intent for the original game designers. That said, I can’t help but feel that there was a missed opportunity here to leverage the media to not only recreate the pinball experience, but to bring something exciting and fresh to the table.
    Final verdict: If you like realistic video pinball, you might enjoy Pinball Fantasies. It definitely lives up to its description as a pinball simulation. If you prefer your video pinball to be a little more fantastical, pass.
    Thanks for reading and please share your opinions and memories of Pinball Fantasies in the comments!
    The next game is: CYBERMORPH!

  22. Like
    RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, Post 000 - An Introduction   
    Welcome to what I hope is the first of many entries in The Game Cave. In this blog, I will share my thoughts and impressions on various games. The point of this exercise is to reacquaint myself with some of the lesser played titles in my collection.
    The main focus of this blog will be Jaguar gaming. I have been playing Jaguar since late 1994 and have a complete retail collection, the majority of post-JTS releases and many homebrews. At last count, this equates to 82 Jaguar games! That said, from time to time I might throw in a non-Jaguar title.
    A few notes:
    1) I will not be playing the games in chronological order. Instead, games will be selected randomly using Excel.
    2) I will play each game featured for at least two hours. I feel that this is sufficient to get a good impression of the game. I have no doubt that I'll play some of these for much longer.
    3) I don't intend to get into the minutiae of a game's history, development and contemporary reviews. Other platforms do a fantastic job at that. This is just my personal take on these games from a player's perspective.
    4) Feel free to comment and share your own gameplay impressions. I only ask that you've actually played the game on real hardware.
    That's all for now. I hope that you check in from time to time!
    The first game to be featured will be: Bubsy In Fractured Furry Tales

  23. Like
    RickR reacted to Atari 5200 Guy for a blog entry, Nintendo Entertainment System   
    For my 13th birthday, in 1987, my mother picked up a game system I never knew nor heard of. It just mysteriously appeared. For I had unwrapped a game console that would forever change the way I perceived video games. That gift was the Nintendo Entertainment System. At first I didn't like the controllers because there was no joystick. In a joystick's place was this "thing" that controlled on-screen movement of a playable character or other image. Then again when the only games you have are Gyromite and Duck Hunt the controllers really didn't get a chance to show their worth until a while later.
    Mom and I were living with my grandparents, her parents, and the town had barely 2,000 people. Mom had got the system from the only video rental store in town at that time on a payment plan. And with every payment she made I got a ticket to rent a game. So the controllers eventually got to prove how good they really were. This is when I would come across games I would eventually declare as the best on the system. These games include Gradius, Castlevania, and most of the initial issue titles. As much as others enjoy it I am really not a huge Donkey Kong fan but the NES really got a spot-on port of that one. Really well done.
    It took us (Mom and I) month after month to locate a single copy of Super Mario Brothers. That game was very hard to come by. But...I wasn't too worried because I had come across a different game one time while paying a visit to the hometown's Wal-Mart. As luck would have it I was planning to spend the weekend with my Grandmother in my hometown and my NES was back at the other grandparents' house. But, this visit scored me what I am assuming was an initial release of the adventure game everyone would talk about decades later as well as spawn a huge franchise with a large fan base following. Zelda had made it to store shelves.
    I had to sit for an entire weekend admiring a game I had no way of playing. I took the game out of the box, read the instructions front to back, read the back of the box, rinse and repeat, over and over. Mom could not have come to pick me up any sooner. But, once back to my NES I didn't hesitate one second. I made a bee line to the system which was setup in the room we were sleeping in. On went the TV, in went Zelda. I started my adventure not realizing just how involved this game would become.
    At school I could hear others talking about the game I picked up over the weekend. Some were getting stuck in areas I had not reached yet. One couldn't find the first dungeon. Mom and I paid a visit to one of her friends who's son was a friend in school. He also had Zelda and we spent a few hours on that game trying to get through dungeon after dungeon. What was really happening was that the NES and Zelda had triggered video gamers to socialize about the games being played, how to beat this or that boss, and getting unstuck in troublesome levels. This was before Nintendo Power so the only thing left was pretty much word of mouth.
    Once Mom and I moved back to my hometown there was a change in schools and atmosphere for sure but there was one thing that didn't change...the talk about the NES and its games. Call me weird or crazy, or both, but there was nothing I wanted to do more than stay at home and play Nintendo games. After school I would come home and spend time on it before doing my homework. On the weekend, if I wasn't sleeping, eating, using the bathroom, or doing something for my grandmother, or visiting my other grandparents (I love them dearly so don't get that wrong...I just don't know how else to word it), I was on the NES playing games.
    The little console had revitalized video gaming on a massive scale. I still have one here that works without issues. Well...there are times it will do the screen flashing thing but that doesn't bother me. I just clean the carts and keep trying. I rarely blow on them.
    For what it's worth I really owe a lot to the NES. The game play was addictive because once you had that latest game in your hand nothing else mattered except beating that game. If you got stuck you turned to a game magazine or call the hotlines at 99 cents a minute, give or take a few cents. You see, I was so involved with the NES that I didn't go out of the house much. I had no need to. I sat, in my room, playing video games. At the same time the NES was keeping me off the streets and out of trouble in a lot of ways. I might have gotten into trouble sometimes for not always doing my homework but I wasn't being arrested for being intoxicated or under the influence in public like some of my high school friends were. I didn't have a girlfriend because, now that I think about it, I was already married...to the video games. As crazy as that sounds that's pretty much how I was.
    I still play the NES on a regular basis. As much as I love my Atari stuff the NES is the only non-Atari console that has a large place in my heart. It is a well balanced system with lots, and I mean LOTS, of games. If you've never had one before for one reason or another pick one up. Before you do, however, do your homework first and ask around about what games you should lookout for. Whatever you do don't compare the system and its games with modern stuff. The system and games have already proved their worth years ago...they should simply be enjoyed as they are.
    To think that any gamer who lived and experienced the NES during its production run spent countless hours if not months or more on a single game just to beat it. With a few exceptions like Zelda had there really was not much of a way to save the game progress. You started and endured the challenges. Later the idea of writing down a password to save game progress was seen in most NES games like Metroid and Kid Icarus but if you got one character wrong, guess what...you had to start over again.
    The real value of the NES is the overall package. The games, the system, the controller options, and I have never seen ALL of the NES games. There are sooo many that I would most likely need another lifetime to try them all. So...NES...solid entertainment that will challenge you. I would love to hear favorite games of other NES gamers so be sure to post those in the comments section below. Thank you for reading and I will return with more thoughts running in my head. Well...that might be a bit scary.
  24. Like
    RickR reacted to Atari 5200 Guy for a blog entry, Mouse Trap (Atari 2600)   
    My first encounter with Mouse Trap, the video game and not the board game, was not until 2011 when I had, for a short time, a Colecovision console with some games. I ended up selling that off to help with holiday funds that same year. I would not see Mouse Trap again until about Spring 2016. This time the game would be for the granddaddy of all consoles...the Atari 2600.
    Mouse Trap is a different take on the Pac-Man theme. The player controls a mouse that is hurrying to eat up all the cheese scattered about the house. Trying to keep our mouse from his rewards are three pesky cats who are hungry...and our mouse would make a perfect snack. To aid our mouse are "cheese enhancements" that can turn our mouse into a dog for a short amount of time, allowing the mouse to attack the cats. Sounds like a game that should have been called Tom and Jerry because it sounds like the game was based on those two cartoon mascots. So, in goes the game and on goes my 2600. The game starts instantly with a short tune.

    Mouse Trap on the 2600 is actually OK. Moving around the "house" I manage to get all the "cheese" without being eaten by a cat. Next round...same thing. I spent a good hour on this game getting all the cheese, turning into a dog when needed, eating cats, collecting "bones" to change into a dog, racking up points. I stopped once just to see what would happen and, guess what? The cats only move a short distance in a continuous loop. They only relocate when my character, the mouse, moves. Try it sometime. There is an invisible mode by moving the TV Type switch from color to black and white (B/W) which is very challenging but the rest is the same. After an hour I'm still going with plenty of extra lives left. With each round advance the cats move faster but it's not enough to take me out completely. Tired of playing I put down the controller.

    Mouse Trap is made well. I like the fact that I can alter the "house" design a bit by holding the fire button down. Areas in the maze can be moved to help alter the path the cats are taking. The colors in the game almost seem like those on the early computer systems that couldn't do graphics and had a monochrome monitor. Even with the cats being of a slight yellow color the game has that monochrome appearance. The only other color that is noticeable is when the mouse changes into a dog which changes the player from the same green as the maze to a brown color. The maze also changes to a pinkish-purple when the mouse is caught by a cat. The game does control well and sounds are not annoying.
    Mouse Trap is a game that should be in a game library for a bit of a variety. However, once mastered it might not hold as much replay value as it did before being mastered. It is a fun game none the less and maintains an arcade feel that is easy to pick up and learn without instructions. I have the Atari release that Atari bought once Coleco left the video game market during the crash. And I am not sure if any changes were made during the ownership switch. Either way I recommend the game to offer a bit of variety in a 2600 collection.
  25. Like
    RickR got a reaction from Starbuck66 for a blog entry, Behold -- The power of the "Scraptop"   
    A blog post for the cheap retro-gamer who likes to tinker....
    I'd like to introduce the concept of the "Scraptop". It is essentially, a really old laptop, bought for a low price...souped up, and loaded with retro games (emulators) and tools.
    Why? What's the point? Well, it all started with an Atari SIO2PC cable, which is a piece of hardware that allows any PC with a serial port to easily emulate an Atari 8-bit disk drive. The function of the cable is probably a good subject for another blog post...but keep this in mind...it's only about $30, and it allows you to load ANY Atari disk image on a real Atari computer. Did you notice the mention of serial port? Most new laptops do not have serial ports. Old ones do. So I can have the scraptop right there next to my Atari computer and load any disk image. Cool, right?
    The scraptop I have here is a Dell Latitude D520. It came with an Intel Core Duo CPU (2 cores) at 1.83Ghz, 1GB of memory, and a 20Gb serial hard drive. It has a fully functional battery. The screen, keyboard, and case were in really nice condition (except for dirt). It was marked down at Goodwill for $10...probably because it had a big security cable bolt on the top.
    Step 1 when I bought this thing was to make sure it worked. It fired right up. Everything seemed fully functional. Hard drive was blank, but that's OK.
    Step 2 was getting the security dongle off. A few minutes with some acetone and a paint scraper, and it came right off. I put a sticker over the discoloration left behind. My backup plan was to buy the case top on ebay, but that wasn't necessary.
    Step 3 was replacing one of the 512Mb memory sticks with a 1Gb stick I had in my box of parts (more on this later). More memory = faster computer.
    Step 4 was opening the laptop up. Dell's are usually super easy to work on. In this case, removing the keyboard was easy, and it allowed me to pull the dust out of the heatsink and put new thermal compound in.
    Step 5 was loading Windows Vista on it, which went really smoothly. Why Vista? Well, it works fine for emulation and the Atari tools, and it's free (since I have a Dell disk that came with another Dell PC). It will load on any Dell computer.
    Once I had it working, it was time to soup it up a bit. I bought a 32Gb SSD on Ebay for $15, as well as a $3 1GB memory stick. You'll be amazed at how cheap parts are for these old computers.
    The extra memory and SSD allow the computer to boot in about 40 seconds. Very nice! And even though this computer is a good 10 years old, it will run emulators perfectly. DVD's play fine on it, and surfing the web is fast. The SSD makes the computer almost completely silent. Moore's Law is dead, my friends.
    So for a roughly $40 outlay, I got a very nice portable PC that holds all of my Atari disk images, can run old emulators, and even play movies. Plus I had a lot of fun getting my hands dirty and working on this thing. It's a lot cheaper and more functional than a tablet.
    For me, I like to stick with the "Dell" brand, since I have a lot of spare parts already (this isn't my first scraptop), and that important Vista disk.
    So there you go. If you ever spot a lonely old laptop at a garage sale or thrift shop, you might take a look and consider doing something similar with it. All I'd suggest is to make sure it has at least a dual core CPU, a functioning battery, and seems to be in good shape.
  26. Like
    RickR got a reaction from The Professor for a blog entry, Behold -- The power of the "Scraptop"   
    A blog post for the cheap retro-gamer who likes to tinker....
    I'd like to introduce the concept of the "Scraptop". It is essentially, a really old laptop, bought for a low price...souped up, and loaded with retro games (emulators) and tools.
    Why? What's the point? Well, it all started with an Atari SIO2PC cable, which is a piece of hardware that allows any PC with a serial port to easily emulate an Atari 8-bit disk drive. The function of the cable is probably a good subject for another blog post...but keep this in mind...it's only about $30, and it allows you to load ANY Atari disk image on a real Atari computer. Did you notice the mention of serial port? Most new laptops do not have serial ports. Old ones do. So I can have the scraptop right there next to my Atari computer and load any disk image. Cool, right?
    The scraptop I have here is a Dell Latitude D520. It came with an Intel Core Duo CPU (2 cores) at 1.83Ghz, 1GB of memory, and a 20Gb serial hard drive. It has a fully functional battery. The screen, keyboard, and case were in really nice condition (except for dirt). It was marked down at Goodwill for $10...probably because it had a big security cable bolt on the top.
    Step 1 when I bought this thing was to make sure it worked. It fired right up. Everything seemed fully functional. Hard drive was blank, but that's OK.
    Step 2 was getting the security dongle off. A few minutes with some acetone and a paint scraper, and it came right off. I put a sticker over the discoloration left behind. My backup plan was to buy the case top on ebay, but that wasn't necessary.
    Step 3 was replacing one of the 512Mb memory sticks with a 1Gb stick I had in my box of parts (more on this later). More memory = faster computer.
    Step 4 was opening the laptop up. Dell's are usually super easy to work on. In this case, removing the keyboard was easy, and it allowed me to pull the dust out of the heatsink and put new thermal compound in.
    Step 5 was loading Windows Vista on it, which went really smoothly. Why Vista? Well, it works fine for emulation and the Atari tools, and it's free (since I have a Dell disk that came with another Dell PC). It will load on any Dell computer.
    Once I had it working, it was time to soup it up a bit. I bought a 32Gb SSD on Ebay for $15, as well as a $3 1GB memory stick. You'll be amazed at how cheap parts are for these old computers.
    The extra memory and SSD allow the computer to boot in about 40 seconds. Very nice! And even though this computer is a good 10 years old, it will run emulators perfectly. DVD's play fine on it, and surfing the web is fast. The SSD makes the computer almost completely silent. Moore's Law is dead, my friends.
    So for a roughly $40 outlay, I got a very nice portable PC that holds all of my Atari disk images, can run old emulators, and even play movies. Plus I had a lot of fun getting my hands dirty and working on this thing. It's a lot cheaper and more functional than a tablet.
    For me, I like to stick with the "Dell" brand, since I have a lot of spare parts already (this isn't my first scraptop), and that important Vista disk.
    So there you go. If you ever spot a lonely old laptop at a garage sale or thrift shop, you might take a look and consider doing something similar with it. All I'd suggest is to make sure it has at least a dual core CPU, a functioning battery, and seems to be in good shape.
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