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
'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..