Atari’s 16-bit computer often gets derided by Amiga owners, but it’s a surprisinly capable machine with a great range of games and some superb exclusives. It’s impossible to list all the great games available on the ST, but we’ve managed to pull together ten of the very best. Make sure you play them before tackling the rest of the machine’s impressive library of titles.
We’re willing to put our neck on the line here and say that this Thrust-clone by Dan Hewitt is probably the best game of its type. Piloting a triangular V-wing fighter, your job was to travel to a variety of hostile planets to liberate the titular Oids – the planets’ imprisoned android slaves. However, working against you was the strong gravitational pull of the planet’s surface, which attempted to drag you into its sharp, mountainous maws. On top of this you also had to deal with hordes of rocket-spewing enemy spacecraft and your ship’s rapidly depleting fuel gauge. The icing on the cake came in the form of a nifty level editor that allowed you to effortlessly mock up your own planets and galaxies to play through.
Xenon 2: Megablast
The Bitmap Brothers’ sequel to its seminal shoot-’em-up franchise was entrenched in trippy colours, eye-blistering visuals and a punchy soundtrack by acid-house musician Tim Simenon (aka Bomb The Bass). Playing slightly differently to its predecessor, however, Xenon 2: Megablast retained the vertical shooter ideals of the original, but would drop the vehicle-shifting and arena-setting for an unusual underwater backdrop, plus a unique vertical-scrolling perspective that allowed players to pull the camera backwards. While Xenon 2: Megablast feels somewhat sedate when compared to some of its Eastern contemporaries, the game still proves to be a great blast, and this Atari ST port is just sublime.
Many people are put off by Midwinter’s complexity, but those who invest time into the game are greatly rewarded. Set in Midwinter, a sprawling island forged inside harsh snowy wastelands, the player must try to stop a maniacal general from overthrowing the snowy islet. Playing the role of a police officer, your mission is to explore the island, evade enemy troops, and enlist the support of the islanders. Played out through a first-person perspective, Midwinter’s harsh and bitter environment won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s definitely a place that every ST owner and strategy fan should take time to visit.
If you’re after a game that fuses elements of Pac-Man, Bomberman, Gauntlet, time travel and text adventures then you should track down Time Bandit. Debuting on the Tandy TRS-80 before being ported to the Amiga and ST, its authors,
Bill Dunlevy and Harry Lafnear, set about refining it brilliantly with the extra power. As a treasure hunter, your mission was to travel to 16 distinct worlds to collect valuable artefacts. One of its neat touches is that many of the levels pay homage to classic arcade games. ‘Shadowland’, for example, is clearly a send-up of Namco’s pill-chomping maze classic, Pac-Man.
No Second Prize
No Second Prize was a slick 3D motorbike racer that was clearly a few hundred CCs ahead of its contemporaries. The game featured six distinct drivers, 20 well-designed and diverse tracks and some staggeringly smooth scrolling. Bolstering its lavishness were its neat vector 3D graphics, a finely tuned difficulty curve and a sublime electro-rock soundtrack by one of the most established composers in the ST scene – oh and you could edit your own replays after each race, too (it was one of the earliest games to let you do that). If you’re looking for a great alternative to the excellent Stunt Car Racer then you should really seek out this overlooked ST classic.
Yet another ST classic, Lethal Xcess is a masterpiece on the ST that pushes its technical boundaries to the limits. While there exist far better examples of the top-down vertical shooter (we’ve got a making-of one of them in this issue), Lethal Xcess’s greedy looking sprites, and frenetic kill-everything-that-moves gameplay, struck a chord with ST owners. A sequel to another underappreciated top-down vertical shooter called Wings Of Death, Lethal Xcess boasted a neat two-player mode and a novel power-up system that allowed you to power up your power-ups. But even with a pal and a super weapon this game is harder than pure maths.
The prospect of getting sucked into your own videogame is one that few programmers – other than the team behind Rumble Roses – would relish, but this is the dilemma facing Captain Blood, and that’s only the start of his problems. After being zapped inside his own binary, Blood discovers he’s been cloned and each of his doppelgangers are leeching off his life-mojo. It’s up to you to travel the galaxy, decipher peculiar alien text and track your targets before it’s too late. A mix of Tron and Blade Runner, with some Giger-style imagery and Jean Michel Jarre tunes thrown in, Captain Blood is a gloomy but atmospheric RPG classic.
We were toying with putting R-Type on this list, but felt David Jones’ Blood Money was the marginally better side-scrolling blaster. It’s smoother, looks amazing and has an innovative gameplay mechanic where certain enemies would rather pilfer your pockets than cause you damage. Anyway, sticking with the R-Type comparisons, Blood Money can best be described as Irem’s game but set underwater. Controlling a chubby looking red submarine, your mission was simple: avoid hitting the walls, shoot anything that moves, collect the coins and kit out your vessel with all manner of power-ups. Blood Money is simple, sublime fun. Be warned, it’s no doozey.
One of Argonaut Software’s earliest games, Starglider clearly has the company’s 3D vector stamp all over it. Your mission was to traverse the planet of Novenia and blast away any and all alien craft from inside your AGAV or Airborne Ground Attack Vehicle. Inspired by Jeremy San’s love of Atari’s brilliant Star Wars coin-op, Starglider became a high-profile release and a big hit after it appeared in cut-down-for-telly-competition form on popular children’s television show Get Fresh. Packed with a 64-page novella, which was scribed by fiction author James Follett, Starglider was an engaging space blaster that slotted nicely between the fast-paced arcade action of Star Wars and the immersive reaches of the more strategic Elite.
A sprawling and flawlessly designed first-person RPG that oozed atmosphere, bagged itself a trove of awards and went on to influence a swathe of classic RPG brilliance, including the likes of Lands Of Lore and Eye Of The Beholder. The game is a brilliant portent of 3D labyrinthine levels, wonderfully imaginative creature designs and accessible RPG elements. It’s brilliantly intuitive mouse-controlled interface, glorious colourful visuals, fantastic strident score and real-time combat, helped to make it a huge success around the world. The game has since spawned four sequels, with the latter, Dungeon Master Nexus, finding an exclusive release on the Sega Saturn, a game that never found a release outside of Japan.