Posted on November 23, 2012
Retro Atari ST Gaming – Tempest
By Jeff D. Fulton (8bitjeff)
Atari UK released a lot of arcade conversions for the ST line of computers in the late 80’s. Many of these were packed into “gaming” bundles sold at shops all over Europe and via mail order in the USA. I am not sure if Tempest is one such game, but it certainly looks like it could have been.
I remember playing many of those conversions and being left feeling pretty cold by the relative lack of quality compared to the best ST releases. While a great programmer, with intimate knowledge of the standard 1MB ST could squeeze enough power from the machine to come close to the best Amiga releases, in the hands of just a decent 68000 coder, with no knowledge of the tricks necessary to unleash the true power of the system, competent if some-what lacking releases were the result. One thing that is going to make our future exploration of Atari ST games (via emulation and my 1040 ST when I get it down from the attic) interesting is discovering the developers who where able to really get in and push the little 8Mhz multi-purpose machine to its limits gaming-wise. The machine was not a multimedia power-house like the Amiga, although later STE releases would improve sound, sprites, and colors, the standard machine was enough in 1986 to make us want to get rid of our 8-bit Atari’s and jump on the 16-bit bandwagon.
Here is Atari Tempest (by Paradox) being played by me in the STEEM Atari STE emulator.
Sounds and Music
The first thing I always notice with ST games are the sounds. The best developers were able to push both relatively nice chip tunes and sound effects through the relatively paltry 3-channel chip with ease. While less experience developers would usually opt for one or the other or let the user choose either sounds or music.
Tempest has just sound effects, and obviously they are not as easy to judge in an emulator as they would on a real machine, but they are sufficient here if a little lacking. Nothing extra special. There is no music at all.
The title screen is typical for ST games. Not ugly, not pretty, but better than the in-game graphics for sure. Tempest was a vector game, and the clock speed of the ST was high enough to make vector like graphics move at a very speedy clip. The game plays speedy like the arcade machine and looks quite nice – nothing extra-special in a Jeff Minter way was added to the game though. It looks like a straight port.
The game play
I was only able to get through three of the screens, but what I noticed was the green spikes were missing. I might be mistaken and they don’t come up on the first three screens, but I never saw any. The game play is difficult and fast, and you will need the space bar to use the Super Zapper as often as you can.
Its the little things that make a game special, and some of the arcade animation, the level select screen, and the between level animations (floating down the tunnel) are missing from this version. The ST certainly had the power to do this and more, so I am unsure if these were left out due to time and budget or the ability of the developer to replicate them properly.
History and tid-bits
According to the AtariMania.com, Paradox released a number of titles for the ST, including, but not limited to: Asteroids Deluxe, Bomb Jack, and Super Breakout. GameFaqs notes Paradox as having released a number of titles for both the PC and the Amiga also, starting with Warzone (Amiga) and ST Karate, both in 1986 and finishing with Cities in Motion (Australian release) in 2011.
GamesDbase.com has a really nice scan of the box cover art for the ST version of Tempest.
AtariMania.com has some collected info and more images of the box and disc for this version of Tempest.
AtariAge.com has a thread on the Atari ST Entertainment series – of which Tempest was released on.
Everyone always wants a score review for a game, so here is my first impression score. Taking all other Atari ST games I have ever played into consideration and knowing full well what the platform is capable of, I was somewhat disappointed by this version of Tempest. Now, had I purchased it in an import shop here in the USA in 1989 for $20.00, I probably would have liked it, but set it aside to play OIDS or Player Manager after a few goes. I give it a 75% out of 100, and that is purely subjective and based on pretty much nothing more than a few plays on an emulator.
If you know any more about this game, Paradox software, the Atari ST Entertainment series, etc, or have anything to add, comment on, or just want to spam your hosting company, feel free to use the comments below.