Atari Falcon, play the game?
When I was at the STNICCC 10th Anniversary party recently, one of the
things I did a lot of, was to catch up with my web-browsing. All those
strange and half-hidden corners of atari.org, which I never really
bothered with before, lay open for the picking, with the massively
quick and free of charge internet connection, that Richard K. had
kindly provided for us at the party.
One site yielded up a little never seen before treasure, as it had a
fair few small bits and pieces, and in the middle of it all, a Falcon
conversion of the ZX Spectrum classic, 'Knight Lore'! I eagerly
downloaded and unzipped it, and found, yes, it was, with one or two
differences. It did require a joystick, of the old-fashioned 9-pin
sort, which was the one piece of equipment I hadn't taken with me, so
it had to wait until I got home.
The other thing which I wish I had done at the time, was to get the URL
or atari.org address of the site. It was a site I hadn't visited
before, and this game was a genuine surprise to me, but I foolishly
forgot where it had come from! To be fair, the unknown authors didn't
include any kind of readme file with it either, which seems to
guarantee anonimity, unless someone else out there, can drop an email
and tell us who did it?
Knight Lore, for its time, which was in 1984, was quite a
groundbreaking game. It was written by Ultimate, latterly known as Rare
Developments. It was the first game to add a forced 3-D isometric
viewpoint. (Although the SoftSolid 'Ant Attack' may have got in with
the 3-D idea a bit earlier?) This was the major gimmick, indeed,
selling point of Knight Lore, and it inspired a thousand and one
imitations, the isometric viewpoint graphical adventure, proving to be
one of the most enduring genres of the classic home computer era, right
through to the 16 bit machines, and only losing ground when the PeeCee
started to be able to do real 3-D.
So what else was there, apart from being able to walk around in three
dimensions? Well, Knight Lore was quite an intelligent and intense
little game. The mission objective, which seemed to sort of follow on
from the previous Ultimate game, 'Sabre Wulf', had the player trapped
in Knight Lore Castle, trying to free himself of the werewolf curse. To
do this, he has to find the old wizard, deep in the castle, and
retrieve the six objects to put in his cauldron, to generate the magic
spell that breaks the curse.
This of course, easier said than done. Each room had its own little
features, as it was never just a case of picking up the goodies and
walking straight out. There were dissolving bridges which stood over
spike pits, little monsters, which could hinder you, or even destroy
you, which had to be manouvered around. Some objects were at the top of
very high points, and needed other objects, such as tables, which could
be moved around, to jump up on. There was a very high degree of
interaction with the game environment, in fact a huge amount for a game
written in 1984!
The game had a 'memory' of where objects were left, as you could drop
an object, and come back for it later, and it would still be there. The
puzzles were clever, a lot depending on some fairly sharp timing, so
that ingredient from classic two dimensional games was still relevant
here. Oh yes, there was a time limit, of forty (game) days and nights.
This passage of time was indicated by a sun/moon clock.
Another clever little extra, was the transformation of the game
character, from the human 'Sabreman' form, to a werewolf, when day
changed to night! This could be a bloody nuisance sometimes,
particularly when you are trying to get out of a tight corner, where
the transformation left you standing still at just the wrong time.
Changing to a werewolf also affected the game intelligence, as some of
the monsters definitely took a more aggressive attitude when you were
in werewolf form. This meant that certain rooms were impassable, when
you were in that big fur coat!
Anyway, Knight Lore is one of those games, which tends to be
responsible for the popularity of emulated 8-Bit computers! Back in the
olden days, I was personally a lot more familiar with the second
Ultimate isometric effort, 'Alien-8', which used the same game engine,
but a more sci-fi based premise for the game.
And what about this Falcon version? Well, the original game seems to
be fully represented, as I have just described above. In that respect,
it is identical to the classic Speccy original. There may have been a
set number of lives, and this restriction seems to have been removed,
perhaps the authors figuring that it is a tough game, even with
Also, I mentioned before, that a 9-pin joystick is needed (port 1, not
Kempston!), so the keyboard control option seems to have been removed
Where the most obvious effort has gone in, is with the recoloured
graphics. The game has been pulled apart, the sprites ripped out, and
redone in shades which give more depth, and a greater feeling of
solidity. The game has been recoloured to the 256 colour mode? It looks
a lot on first sighting how someone would do Knight Lore on the ST, but
still, a good end result. The sound effects, which are gently quiet
spot effects, seem to have been kept in from the original game!
You can get an idea of what it looks like here..
It does work on any Falcon, totally at home on my 16 mhz RGB-based set-
up, and not requiring any special conditions or tweaks to run straight
away on my Centurbo 2 SVGA-monitored Falcon either.
From there, not a lot else to say, apart from the fact that it is a
true classic, which still feels like a winning game today! Is a revival
of the classic arcade adventure due?
And who are the people responsible, please get in touch, as respect is
due to you!
But I'm still waiting for the Falcon truecolor version of 'Atic Atak'!
CiH - For Alive! Magazine, Jan 2001..