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Greyfox

Games that pushed the Atari 8-bit Computer

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i was thinking of this subject the other morning in regarding my fondest Memories of the classic on the Atari 8-bit and though looking back now, what games actually pushed the Atari 8-bit machine to its near limits without additional hardware, but purely coding skill, artistic excellence and musical perfection.

 

You might be a little hard pushed to list them, but for me there was some real technical excellent Atari 8-bit and I've listed my list of games that pushed the Atari.

 

Rescue on Fractalus (Lucasfilm 1985)

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David Fox and Loren Carpenter We're ground breaking in their design for fractal landscape generation and true made the Atari 8-bit step outside its own comfort zone, this was one of most amazing games on the Atari 8-bit, used thereafter on titles like Koronis Rift and the Eidolon..

 

Alley Cat (SynapsE Software 1983)

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When Bill William (R.I.P.) brought this game out, it was so clever and so well executed to what it was like to be a cat, from the fantastic sleeping dogs level to the hopping through a giant Swiss cheese avoiding being tossed out the window by a possessed sweeping brush..pure genius!! , many people may have over looked Alley Cat, but technically it is superbly programmed along with so much originally and concept, IMO pushed the A8

 

The Goonies / Zorro (Datasoft 1985)

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When both these Games came out in the same year I might add, was the pinnacle of exception programming and graphics bringing both a true film to video game translation along with some clever puzzle directly lifted from the film which was fantastic to play and rank the Goonies high up on the list of technical excellence.

 

Zorro which arrived in the later half of that year was again, a fantastic take of the TV show accompanied with wonderful graphics and once that tune got into your head, it was near impossible not to be humming that god dam thing while being away from the game, although the puzzles were a little cryptic and didn't really make sense in places, didn't stop people from playing and that is how technically clever it is.

 

I'll leave it there for the moment to give others a chance to showcase what technically brilliant games they though pushed the Atari 8-bit, hopefully some I've never heard off or played..

 

Let's see what you've got? :)

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Great entries fella. Is there any that come to mind you remember pushing the limits of what felt like..WOW back in the old school days for you, the games you listed are cool , Anything that made the games look other than running on a Atari when people seen them, that type of thing is that makes sense? :)

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Some amazing title listed there, I'm going try and go for some obscure ones now, or one which weren't sold in Europe, a absolute classic that comes to my mind and remember playing thanks to my fathers friend whom worked in the country's telecom services known then as P&T(Post and telegraph) who had access to free calls to the United States in which became great friend with "Yogi" from Jellystone park bbs, but I'm off off on a history road there, back on topic.

 

Yes this one

 

Trivia Quest (Royal Software 1984)

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This was Trivia Pursuit with a difference, this took the Archon approach in the extend of an RPG style adventure while asking you general trivia from sports to movies, the battle sequences and arcade action extended this even further and was an amazing example of originality and darling to take one type of game and turn it into something completely else. It's super smooth and brilliantly programmed, one for those you love high adventure and quizzes all in one. Genius.

 

Cosmic Tunnels (Datamost 1983)

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One of my all time favourite games on the Atari 8-bit, so much it was, I did a video review of this game on my you tube channel about 5 years and can be seen here, this was another one of those games that brought multi levelled gameplay to the table, space flight, trust style landing, and isomeric play forming action across a planet designated level select, brilliant music matched with surprisingly good graphics all running out in 48k, technically again, brilliantly programmed and is the best presentation in terms of its C64 counter part.

 

Final Legacy (Atari USA 1984)

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Final Legacy from Atari was a bit of a sleeper title, when I first played this I was thinking that the Atari 8-bit was becoming a serious piece of kit with its map generation, with open ocean battleship battles with wonderful gradient skies and clouds and very recognisable battle cruisers been blasted out of the sea, followed by locking on and taking down nuclear missiles via this futuristic grid tracking system, made this a very varied and technically excellent design game that had a easy learning curve not to be unplayable for the novice player, so I'd simply like to say Kudo's to Dan Oliver and Chris Horseman for a technically brilliantly designed game.

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Thanks pal appreciate the sentiment :)

 

The one thing you may of noticed was the years in which these games were created when in comparison to today's software houses, pales to the creativity of the talent that existed over 30 years ago, the games were daring, clever and exciting and understandably the economics of today's budgets in game development is 100 times greater, but is no excuse for the lack of innovation that we see 90% of the time and that tells you that 30 years was a better time than today IMO.

 

So I'll continue some more diamonds in the ruff that were exceptional on the Atari 8-bit, maybe a few of you will know and have played these games, some of you wont which is fantastic for you to find out how good they are.

 

First up....

 

Beer Belly Burt's Brew Biz (American Eagle Software 1985)

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Anything that came from coder extroardinar Frank Cohen was always going to you many how it was done with both game design and concept, He is the man behind such great games as Cohen's tower, ghost chaser And ollie's follies, so check them out if you haven't already done so.

 

Break It (Oliver Cyranka 1986)

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Showing how the Atari 8-bit was at accomplishing a near perfect arcade conversion of Tatio's Arkanoid against the poor conversion Imagine software did, no colour clashing here or sprite detection errors, so again coding talent wins the day with this port, although some of the screens are difference from the Imagine version, this version plays far superior even with a joystick.

 

The Great American Cross-Country Road Race (Activision 1985)

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I think this game goes unnoticed a hell of lot of times in recent years and was what OutRun was in gameplay mechanics over a year before Sega's smash hit arrived in Arcades, you travel cross country to different part of the untied states, but what made this technically brilliant was the you had races in fog (lotus esprit 2), night time races, real time day light chances and great American land marks when you arrived at the city's destination. Fantastic game this was and I still play it today.

 

Cave IN (Sunset software 1983)

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Just look at those graphics? And this is 1983!!!, this was a great testament that the Atari 8-bit computer in the right hands could deliver such high quality graphics and game play that matched and in some cases better arcade coin ops games out at that time, this is a familiar platform game nothing new there, but with big sprites and colour levels, isn't this enough to make it great? I thought so.

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I can't say too much because I really haven't played too many 8bit Atari computer games. I can say games I feel deserve recognition that I have played.

 

First up, Star Raiders! I love this game because it is a perfect blend of arcade style controls with computer style strategy and each game is different than the one before.

 

Second Up, M.U.L.E.! Offers a break from the hustle and bustle type games...for me anyway.

 

Third, Racing Destruction! I got this game with an XEGS system I bought used, years ago, for $40. I enjoyed the track construction and it reminded me of a prehistoric RPM Racing on the SuperNES.

 

My last one, for now, is after I discovered public domain games recently. After I seen this one I was like, "Wow!! Someone made this for an Atari?!?". And it has become my go to title regularly. Dr. Mario...on Atari 8-bits. Seriously fun game.

http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-400-800-xl-xe-dr-mario_25690.html

 

I really don't think these machines have been fully pushed yet. Close though.

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Some great title there guys and excellent classics too. @ Lost dragon I've check out that Crack-Up title you suggested , plays very nicely too and fluid and one I myself never heard of before, so cheers for the mentioning of it, I'm always delighted to play unnoticed classics sorta gives the revisiting of these titles a whole new balance and a refreshing recall :)

 

Some more titles I thought back then were really pushing the envelope, so I'll start with a title created in two different regions based on a classic 1983 computer influenced film with Matthew Broderick "War Games" the UK one been Computer War from Thorn EMI (Creative Sparks), but I'm looking at the other one, the American Version on the film.

 

War Games (Coleco 1984)

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With Computer War the UK take on the film War Games predates this by a year been released in 1983, but when this bombshell dropped and been released on a rival machine that wasn't even a console, did a extremely faithful job of key elements of the film, from satellite war fare, Air Plane invasions through sections of the USA, a really varied game with some great graphics and only ever did two games the other being "Tarzan of the Apes" another quality looking title, dam shame they didn't do any more as they knew how to make the A8 shine.

 

Whistler's Brother (Brøderbund Software 1984)

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Again more originality being graced on the Atari 8-bit, this was no exception, Traversing through the level of the name, you had to whistle to your brother to follow you, It was a take on the Tom & Jerry Cartoon which had Tom trying to stop a baby infant from certain death, that type of gaming mechanic and had a great title screen tune to boot, high recommend this

 

Wioczykij (LK Avalon 1993)

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A late comer to the Atari 8-bit back in 1993 and with their very little companies producing Atari 8-bit games LK Avalon had free reign to produce some amazing games on the Atari, this being one of them. It reminds me of a C64 game, I can't think of the name, but they proved that they could do sprite style graphics similar to those of the Amstrad and C64 on the Atari 8-bit, and very worth checking it out.

 

Gemstone Warrior (SSi 1985)

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Now I'm not one for playing RPG's , in fact I hate them, I prefer the action type tittles out there, but this is an exception, I must of played this for about 15 hours back in the day, while every one else was enjoying the Ultima series this was as far as I got, Gemstone Warrior mixes great treasure hunting and mystical creature battles. In regards to it push the Atari 8-bit? not so much, but was one hell of a good game, seek it out, if you've never played this.

 

have a good one.

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Yep, Creatures it is..very similar, thanks Lost Dragon.

 

A few more to add here.

 

Dimension X (Synapse 1984)

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Steve Hales programmed and produced Dimension X for Synapse in 1984 and brought a new dimension to the Atari 8-bit, super fast scrolling, mixed with tunnel traveling, made this a great game on the Atari 8-bit machine, and one I was myself was very fond of.

 

Earth View (Antic Software 1984)

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No so much a game, but wow, the entire map of the world on your Atari 8-bit, some 18 years before Google earth appeared, this software allowed you to zoom into pacific countries and get there capital cities etc. it was way ahead of its time back in 1984

 

Electrician (Synapse Software 1984)

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One of my most favorite Atari 8-bit games was Electrician, You had to reconnect the lights in the house while avoiding rats biting your heels, then when you connected all the wiring, you then had to head down to the basement, with a flash light and traverse through the maze while avoiding bats/ and Crocodiles of all things? lol. this was a very polished little game.

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Although not game related, I'll give you a helping hand, the demo you speak of is one called "Music Digitizer Player Demo" by Kenny Davis back in 1987,

 

Here is a video for you to help jog your memory :)

 

It's the last song on the demo

 

 

You can download it from here : http://a8.fandal.cz/detail.php?files_id=3607

 

Enjoy,

 

Bring games with ya next time ;)

Edited by Greyfox

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Great stuff Fella, Have begun backing into the videos, and will be doing a series of these games as part of an Atari 8-bit Games that pushed the limits of the A8, so watch out for those. Just finished an Atari ST game today and will post about shortly in the ST section of the site.

 

Keep the scene alive pal ;)

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Into The Eagle's Nest is one of the best. It managed to get a lot of sprites on the screen at the same time, flicker free, and smooth movement. Sometimes when you're moving sprites on the screen there's jerkiness especially if there's a lot of stuff moving at once, and this one didn't.

 

Atari could have easily put Into The Eagle's Nest onto the 7800 or Lynx, it was a very modern game. Why wasn't this on the Atari 7800?

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Into The Eagle's Nest was probably not made for the 7800 because of a few things.  After reading programming guides for the 7800 it can appear that the system might not have been able to handle the memory requirements for the game.  Then again it could have been the timing of the 7800 as well.  It came way too late in the game to have much of a shelf-life.  By the time it came out others had moved on to other systems and the 16-bit consoles were just around the corner so why waste time on another 8-bit system?  For the most part, when looking back, the 7800's library was tired and boring when compared to what Nintendo and Sega was publishing even if it was filling in a much needed arcade-style gap.  Just a theory anyway.  

 

Then again, from what I've been told, there are a lot of things that Atari should have done but never did.  That 5200 JR model Atari Museum for example is stunning and I would have bought one.  The crash and management/owners of Atari back then I don't believe realized all the potential in the stuff they were creating.  It's a shame really and talent gone to waste.  So, the 7800 should have received Into The Eagle's Nest but missed it.  

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Apparently A8 Dropzone took 4.5 months of 18 hrs a day coding by Archer Maclean and came about as a result of his earlier conversions of Defender and Stargate for the Atari 800, never seeing the light of day for legal reasons.

 

The A8 was actually used a few times in C64 Magazine, ZZap64, their C64 review of Bounty Bob Strikes Back, used A8 screens and the magazine was honest enough to admit this and they also used A8 screens of Elektraglide to preview the C64 version, with Jazza Rignal admitting the A8 screens were a lot prettier than the forthcoming C64 screens, (due to the A8 hardware offering more colours). 

 

Now we know why Jack bought Atari.  It was a conspiracy!  It was his way of slowly destroying Atari while Commodore could live on.   :rofl:

 

In all honesty, I had a C64 in 2005 that a co-worker literally gave me with a floppy drive and ton of copied floppy disks.  It was cool and all but I didn't like it all that well.  When I ordered an Atari 800 shortly after from V61 (no...it's not an advertisement trick) I was not surprised to feel the Atari 8-bit computer seem more powerful.  It also remains, in my opinion, the most supported and well documented computer for the time because of Atari making it an open system for anyone to develop for.  There are hundreds of books just on programming the Atari.  I truly believe that the APX and Atari computers were one of the best business tactics to ever come about...and something that would be nice to see again in a modern world.

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That was certainly a really good title on the Atari, but with little or no clues on what you had to do, it's didn't in my opinion fit the strong or progress of the film? But it's coding, music from Ben Daglish was well received. Another few games that I feel were excellent and excelled the Atari 8 as a great games machine was L.K. Avalon's 1992 Adax, video below

 

 

Follow by this little gem a year later from L.K.Avalon's Spy Master which has fantastic Animation and very decent graphics from this of 6 years previously seen in Atari games and even contains a hidden Centipede game at the end.

 

 

Prime examples of polish coding at its best there and the following with no exception, it show that later devs could do tricks with the Atari 8-bit that earlier coders could only dream off and with the next title is a perfect example of this, a game not released over here commercial, but in Poland of its home origin, a title by the name of " Magia Krysztalu " has fantastic graphics, music, animation and the charter can even morph into another creature right before your very eyes, but alias is only in Polish, no English translation for such a lovely game :(

 

Edited by Greyfox

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I thought on this topic and since I've gotten back into doing video on you tube, here is my latest offering cover a company in 3 part gameplay review, I decided to cover Datasoft, the first of these three videos cover a brief history of who was behind the company and then onto the first game, which was an easy selection of three classic games, the first being the great "Bruce Lee" so please check it out, thanx

 

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Many thanks for your appreciation Fella, delighted you and many others have enjoyed the video, the next one next week, no Two wonderful games there, I remember loading up Gremlins and marvelling at how good the graphics and character animation was in the game, and saying to myself, why can't all games be this smooth running? Living daylights would of being one I wasn't around for considering I moved to the ST in 1986, this would of been 1987, so I was 16-bit'ing at that time, but still great scrolling and multiple layer going on, showed the A8 was not out of its reign by any stretch of the imagination.

 

Another game that fits on par with Gremlins was Broaderbund's lovely little classic "Drol" the colour edition, it's a 2d up'n'down platformer shooting scorpions and flying chicks or duck, anyways the animation and fantastic sprites holds a place here

 

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Encounter is one of my favs. The AI is great. Tempest Xtreem is one of the best homebrews- it's highlights are the music and the speech that was implemented without screen blank. Space Harrier - I wish I could take a cart back to 1983 and drop it off to someone competent. Capture the Flag - two player simultaneous split screen 3D, with really good copy protection in 1982? WTF? Drol- great gameplay and animation. Bomb Jack - great work, but requires extra ram most do not have. Crownland - extra ram required, but needs to change the jump from up on the joystick to the button, I hate that. So many more..

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Here's a couple more of those games that did more than a simple PMG routine :)

Tagalon from Tynesoft

 

Thunderfox from Atari UK - a superb Uridium clone for the a8 1987

 

Realm of Impossibility from Electronic Arts

 

Run for IT from Optimum Resources Ltd.

 

Edited by Greyfox

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