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atari on atari!

               Handy and V2600 Emulators for the CT60 considered.

Peter  P,  inbetween  frantically  updating SMS plus and looking  at  Frodo,
managed  to  slip out a couple more emulator ports worthy of  note,  in  the
period since we last looked at this topic.

'V2600' (VCS emulation)

First up, in January, Peter released a port of the 'V2600' emulation for the
Falcon. He carefully avoided raising expectations too high, describing it as
a quick port and generally 'flaky'.  It would also need a fast machine, such
as  a  CT60,  and  it  only  works on a Vga screen.  It  was  a  crude  .ttp
application,  which meant passing command line parameters to it for specific
things.  On  the  other hand,  you could just drag and drop a VCS rom  (.bin
file) and be content with that.

I  discovered it needed Mint,  as it will run in Tos,  but not very quickly.
Fortunately,  the crappy bodge Cripplemint version I've got lurking for this
kind of production seemed to be up to the job.

Peter  also  considered this a fairly 'dirty' port with lots wrong with  it,
and not  very compatible.   This was effectively seen as a dead end,  and it
was not going to be developed further.

With such an ill-starred birth and dire warnings, how did I get on with it?

Surprisingly well, within the limitations of the system. I tried a few games
and  even  some demos with it.  My immediate impression  was  that the speed
felt  adequate,  if  not native  speed  then pretty close to it.  The second
impression that the  screen seemed to be slightly misplaced  for  the  first
couple of games I tried. The sound emulation was described as imperfect, but
seemed to  be  serviceable  enough  for now.  The controls were very simple,
just  a matter of cursor keys and spacebar, and F1 to exit the emulator.

'Galaxians'  played like a dream,  apart from the fact you were shooting the
same two constantly replenishing columns all the time  without ever clearing
the screen!  In a parallel article,  considering a review of 'Stella' on the
Mac,  my  impressions were confirmed to be correct,  as the same game played
correctly on there.

I  tried 'Thrust',  quite a demanding game for the VCS,  and apart from some
on-screen  glitches,  that  seemed  to be ok,  apart from the fact that  the
thrusters  seemed  to be jammed on,  which made it difficult to get too  far
with it!  A game of Space Invaders seemed to work as advertised,  apart from
the  fact that you got killed and stayed dead on the second level,  in a re-
run  of the Jet Set Willy 'constantly dying in the same place' bug!  Do  you
spot a theme here yet?

There was a surfing game which ran correctly, as far as I could tell for the
strange  gameplay  in general.  And I even managed to get a couple of  small
intro's,  including  Ultra's  recent  'Stella'  code  to  work  as  well.  A
screenshot of one of these little demos is included here.

                Ultra says "Heftig me Beautiful" on a VCS2600!

I'm sure there are others which will work, or nearly work, but I will need a
process  of  trial and error to find out.  To be fair,  the couple of  other
demos which didn't work too well taxed Stella OSX,  the better emulator,  as

It's  a shame that there isn't going to be any further development  of  this
emulator.  From my impressions,  VCS2600 is a fascinating if flawed toy, and
many of its failings only seem to need a bit more work to sort them out.  In
general terms,  the Falcon '060 is able to host a reasonable quality VCS2600
emulation,  and  I  wonder if another solution is being pursued by Peter  or
someone else?

'Handy' (Lynx emulation)

But  we hardly had time to take in the march back in time to the  VCS,  when
Peter hit  us  shortly  after  with  a port of 'Handy', the widely known and
venerable Lynx emulation to the Falcon.

There  were some advantages to this situation,  Handy is almost the  default
'official'  emulator  so compatibility should be good.  The downside is that
Handy is very slow,  even in relation to the speed provided by a CT60. On my
set-up, which takes things to a 90mhz cpu speed, the emulator environment is
just  about  playable.  Peter  estimates this port runs at around 50  to  75
percent full speed, I would suggest that we're closer to the 50 percent end.

This initial  impression was  most strongly  reinforced with my tests of the
Handy emulator on the Mac where there was a lot more speed available.

Like the VCS2600 port, this was described as something of a rush  job. There
wasn't  going  to  be too much more done with it,  maybe  some  tweaking  or
cleaning  up  in  the future.  There was a suggestion that  Handy  could  be
optimised a bit further? This would be very helpful.

It  falls  into  the  'easy to use' category  again,  based  around  a  .ttp
application,  but  needing  a copy of the Lynx boot rom to run.  This is not
provided  with the package,  but it is easy enough to find on the web.  Then
you  also  need  an .LNX game image or two,  which aren't too hard  to  find
either, and you are ready to run!

The emulator runs a life-sized screen area in the middle of the screen, that
is   a reduced area,  but not as tiny as the OSX version. There is no sound.
The  Jagpad is usefully included in the options for controllers,  and  these
worked straight off. I guess you will need Mint again.

It  was  as  compatible as I first expected.  It ran several that  I  tried.
Aliens vs Predator, Blue Lightning, and Battlezone 2000 gave it no problems.
Speed was adequate rather than blindingly fast.  I'd be interested to see if
an  optimized  version of Handy appears in due course.  I also tried  a  new
homebrew game called 'Space Lock',  which also ran well. Here's a screenshot
of that little beauty!

          I bet this is even better on the original machine!

As an ultimate test,  I gave Sage's "Lynx Reloaded" demo from EIL 2 a go, in
spite of his suggesting that running it on an emulator was not a good  idea,
it went pretty well on here too, albeit in a very quiet fashion.

Out  of both of these emulators,  I'd say that 'Handy' has a definite future
on the Falcon, if someone can be asked to speed optimize it a bit further.

And in further news?

I'm  not   sure   what  Peter is is up to right  now.  He  has  attempted  a
preliminary  "ST  on  Falcon" emulator,  when he ported  the  'CaSTaway'  ST
emulator.  But  unlike  the  other two,  I have not yet managed to get  this
running as yet. He also updated the C64 'Frodo' port further, but not to the
point where it has got SID sound and a decent control menu at the moment.

I'm sure Peter P.  will break cover before too long, and have something else
new and interesting for us!

CiH, for Alive Mag, June '06..

Alive 13