My Wasted Life: The Atari Years, Part 1
Hello, my name's Phil and I'm an Atari ST user. No, it's okay. I've come to accept it now.
Yes, in 1991 I became the proud owner of a 520STFM(a whole half a megabyte of memory!). My parents, in their wisdom, thought I should own a computer that could do sensible educational things like word processing and BASIC, not like one of those flashy, brain-rotting games consoles. So, while other children had their Nintendos and Megadrives, I had this. But like I said, I'm fine with it now. Totally, absolutely fine.
So where am I going with this? Well, basically, the gist of this article is I've decided to dig through the lists of old ST games I never got to play, download them, play them, take a load of screenshots and write flippant and hopefully semi-amusing comments about them. Beginning, in correct chronological order, in 1985. It could be a gleeful journey into nostalgia or soul-destroying saga of sheer bloody-mindedness. We just don't know!
I've set myself a few ground rules for this little exercise. Firstly, I'm going to be ignoring text adventures like Infocom's "A Mind Forever Voyaging", as that would require more commitment than I'm prepared to spend on such a frivoulous article. Secondly, each game has to be one I haven't previously owned or played for any length of time before, which hopefully means I'll be able to avoid boring myself and you about games everyone already knows about. Lastly, I play each game through once and once only until I reach a Game Over or further progress becomes impossible. THAT'S IT. But enough of this waffle, let's get "down to it"!!!
Okay! First up in this digital lucky dip is the thrillingly-titled "Auto Duel".
This is the title screen, which is accompanied by what sounds like a long, slow fart. That's probably a bad omen already. Also there's a strange red thing that keeps poking over the horizon, but I'll let you think up your own amusing sexual connotations about that(which I'm sure you have already, you filthy beasts).
Note that this game was created by Lord British, whom you might be aware is the gigantic living brain behind the groundbreaking but terrifyingly obtuse series of Ultima RPGs. I'm not sure who "Chuckles" is, but I'd like to think he was perhaps a children's entertainer fallen on hard times, employed by the cruel despot British to help carry out his nefarious RPG-designing schemes.
After choosing a suitably intimidating name and messing around with some stats, it's finally time to enter the dangerous and exciting world of...Auto Duel!
Yes, this is really it. Stop laughing. In the early days of the ST, most games looked like this, as many were simply programmed on 8-bit systems and then ported over with minimal tarting up. That stickman with the chunky thighs is me, or rather my avatar, the fearsome road warrior Biggins. As you can see, there's a vast array of facilities for Biggins to patronise, all fairly straightforward, except...AADA? What in God's name is that? Let's find out...
Oh. That's quite dull, then. Still, I quite fancy being a courier, so let's see what's on offer...
Pfft. As if my burgeoning career as an Auto Duellist is going to be stymied by such a trivial setback.
Okay, so maybe it is. Time to go and acquire a vehicle, then.
As I can't seem to find a car showroom anywhere, the assembly plant is our only option. Onward, Biggins!
Now, my vehicle needs a name that will strike fear into the hearts of my enemies. BIGGINSVAGEN it is.
Oops, I seem to've spent all my money on armouring my new van and now have none left for weapons. Ah well, I'm sure once my couriering career takes off I'm going to be raking it in.
As you can see, my stickman Biggins avatar has now been replaced with a tiny red rollerskate, indicating that I now possess vehicular transport. Wheee! At last, I'm finally getting somewhere.
Never mind. I'll just have to acquire cash in the tried and tested RPG manner of beating up random strangers and then robbing them all their worldy possessions. Except...I still can't actually afford any weapons, so this is going to be interesting.
Upon exiting the town, the game unexpectedly turns into a cross between Ultima and Micro Machines, as you chunter in your incredibly slow and jerky way to the next destination. Presumably the game as sold would've had maps with it, as there is absolutely no hint as to which direction you should be going in.
And oh Jesus, is it boring. Nothing's even attacking me. It's just screen after screen of utter nothingness, going on forever, and ever, and ever...
Look, here's a house. You can't do anything with it, it's just there. I think I'll try running over one of those suspiciously large cows standing immobile in the corner.
These are small, but the ones out there are far away.
Hang on, isn't that the same house again? Have I somehow started looping back on myself? ARGH!
At this point, I ran into my first enemy car that killed me in approximately 0.05 of a second. Hooray! Er, I mean, oh dear. So ends my brief career as an Auto Duellist, and it's back to the panto circuit for poor Biggins. Perhaps the game would've been more fun if I'd known(or cared) what I was doing. But I doubt it.
Well, that's first game down. Hopefully the next will be slightly less dreary. I wonder what it is?
Yes, it's CRIMSON CROWN! But is it as head-slappingly dreadful as it looks? Find out, next time! Maybe.