|Emulation Rambler: Mac Games & More|
It's been an interesting history in the Mac emulation market on the Amiga if you've been keeping score, and much of the developments over the past 4 or 5 years have revolved around Jim Drew and his lesser-sung partner in crime Joe Fenton.
Mac emulation began with the A-Max, A-Max II and A-Max II+ from Readysoft of Canada. Black and white, back in the days of System 6, and the emulation took over the Amiga--but you could reliably emulate a Mac for a variety of purposes. Then full-page ads started appearing in magazines for an emulator (Emplant) which would be full-color, full-multitasking Mac emulation. While it got off to a shaky start and required several software revisions to stabilize, Emplant eventually delivered.
Readysoft tried to counter with A-Max IV, which offered similar features to Emplant but didn't keep step with upgrades and eventually fell by the wayside.
Emplant ruled the scene for quite some time. Then came ShapeShifter from Christian Bauer, and for the first time Amiga users didn't have to pay hundreds of dollars for a hardware and software based emulation package. ShapeShifter was shareware. It didn't take all that long for Emplant to follow suit with a version that did not require the custom Zorro board of earlier versions.
But the market spoke and seemed very happy with Shapeshifter, which was being frequently updated and was widely available.
Drew and Fenton were hardly done, though. They started regrouping and, in the meanwhile, Bauer discovered Be, Inc. and their fledgeling BeOS. Much of his development efforts have shifted over to that platform, making Shapeshifter upgrades few and far between.
Enter FUSION. Drew and Fenton (now operating under the Microcode Solutions name) have released a hardware-independent Mac emulator which seems to offer the features of Shapeshifter along with a more active level of support.
FUSION, like any Mac emulator, requires the native Macintosh ROM to function properly. If you're interested in Mac emulation, by now you probably know the standard things to expect. It's the new stuff in FUSION that's quite interesting.
FUSION has a wide variety of graphics board drivers, including some very speedy CyberGraphX and Picasso96 "direct" modes, offering increased speed at the expense of some graphical glitches if you switch over to another screen and the Mac screen keeps updating. It also has the best Mac/Amiga filesharing I've seen on a Mac emulator. You can mount Mac partitions on AmigaDOS, making them accessible through Workbench and the shell, as well as any other programs you like. (DirOpus 5 can address them as well although you need to manually call them up through a lister.)
FUSION has a "pseudo 24-bit" fallback emulation mode for those programs which are not 32-bit clean (but purport to be--you can't run the really old stuff this way.) I've so far only found one game that this applies to, but there may be other software out there that you would find it useful with.
FUSION will make use of AHI as well, offering full 16 bit support. ShapeShifter can use AHI but only pumps 8-bit audio through the AHI device.
Modem and printer Port support, the little annoying but necessary memory patch utility, they're all here. FUSION's CD-ROM support was pretty touchy and wouldn't recognize a number of discs until Jim Drew put out a new driver (See below.) I no longer find myself installing software on Shapeshifter so I can run it under FUSION.
FUSION's price varies worldwide but you should expect to pay under US$80 to run it. If you're not using FUSION 2.0 you should upgrade, as they fixed a number of the annoying glitches from the earlier versions. It looks like Drew has regained the dominant market position for Mac emulation on the Amiga once more.
FUSION is published and distributed worldwide by Blittersoft.
Phone: ++44 01908 261466
|FUSION and PCx CD-ROM problems fixed|
Those of you who have followed my reviews of PCx and have heard me talk
about FUSION know that I've never had good luck with the CD-ROM support.
Well, most of the problems seem to be solved. Microcode Solutions just
released a new CD support device for both emulators which does a far better
job recognizing real-world CD-ROMs.
|Microcode to release Atari and Apple II Emulators...free or shareware?|
Some time ago, Microcode promised to release a low-cost emulation bundle
of an Atari 8-bit and Apple II emulator on CD-ROM. These plans were
stalled and now it looks like the emulators may simply be distributed
online as free or shareware. The PowerMac incarnation of the Microcode
Atari emulator has already been released. I was fortunate enough to see an
early version of the Amiga emulator and was very impressed...and am very
embarrassed to report that I subsequently lost it. The Apple II emulator
didn't seem to offer much of anything that we didn't have already through
Apple 2000. We'll see what happens when they're finally released.
|Nintendo Emulator Overview|
The floodgates have opened and we've been inundated with Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) emulators for the Amiga lately. No less than four authors or teams are working to bring high-quality NES emulation to the Amiga. Some are doing a better job than others...
To my recollection, the first one released and the one who got the ball rolling. Mark Van Hal has also tried his hand at Sega MasterSystem emulation and his standard is the same here--shoot for high graphical support, including graphics cards. DarkNESs is stable although not always the speediest emulator. It supports double-buffering and frameskipping.
From Juan Antonio Gomez, who also created AmiGameBoy, AmiMSX, and AmiMasterGear. Never intended to be finished, Gomez' emulator works fairly well for the limited range of games it is compatible with. Takes over the system, and when you quit a guru is probably not too far distant in the future...
And the puns keep rolling in. CoolNESs from Fredrik Olsson offers sound support (only to registered users--the thing to get you to register. But if you don't know how good the sound support is before paying...), generally quicker graphics than DarkNESs, and a straight PAL AGA display. The documentation claims that some games run at full speed even on an 030/25, although on games I'd really like to play there were still the occasional glitches on an 060/50. (Contra in particular.) The speed is quite respectible, however. The CD32 gamepad is supported, a significant improvement over using the keyboard.
Just don't pronounce it as one word and we'll be fine. A/Nes from Fredrik Schultz and Morgan Johansson offers the most polished GUI of all of the emulators, and is probably the overall best to use, although CoolNESs still performs better on some games (like Contra). CD32 gamepad and sound support requires registration.
All of the emulators are available from Aminet in misc/emu.
|Mac Gaming through Shapeshifter and Fusion|
For the November 1997 issue of CU Amiga, I was asked to do a feature on
using Mac emulators to play Mac games on the Amiga. I wound up writing way
too much. What got published was really just an overview--below are some
game capsule reviews which would be a shame to let go to waste.
The obsession of the Amiga gaming market for years now, which as of this writing has still not produced a major title legally ported across from another system. But the Mac has a ready supply waiting for your killing urges.
The forerunners of the genre, Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, are available, but they're somewhat passe, n'est-ce pas? Instead of revisiting old territory, here's what's more current.
Duke Nuke'm Atomic Edition:
This was the 3D game that shook people out of their funk while they waited for Quake to come along. Duke took the basic Doom approach but gave it a set of really fun, sometimes campy weapons (shrink ray, anyone?), a ridiculously macho hero, and a great attention to design and atmosphere and created a game that doesn't become repetitive after the first three levels. Duke on the Mac was welcomed by the game-starved masses, who wanted to hear Duke preen for a mirror and say "Damn, I'm lookin' good!"
One of the complaints about Duke is that the variety of enemies was limited--this is definitely true in the first mission but was improved upon for the other three. The levels range from very linear to large and mazey, although most stay away from being so complicated "hunt the key" wise that they become boring. And the cheat codes are included in the manual, so what's there to complain about?
Duke can be played on a fast 030 system and AGA, but I'd recommend using FUSION or one of the go-faster Shapeshifter video drivers if you don't have access to a video card. On an 060/CyberGraphX system, Duke completely hauls. The game offers hints for keeping the speed playable--smaller window size is always obvious, but you can also choose to draw only every other line and play at a lower difficulty level (less monsters=less CPU time spent controlling them.) Even if the game looks ok while you run around, leave a safety cushion--combat tends to slow things down, as do the scary little _Alien_ knockoff beasties. (When half a dozen hatch and come after you, it's frightening enough trying to get away without the game seizing up on you.)
Duke is a lot of fun. Turn the speakers up and put on a smirk. The game doesn't take itself seriously, so you can just have a good time.
Requires: Fast 030 or better, CD-ROM. 040 and graphics card recommended
Compatible: Both Shapeshifter and FUSION.
Price: About US$45
When I first saw Dark Forces, it was an alpha version running on a 486/100 on a table at the Chicago CES in 1994. It was so primitive that nobody could shoot at anybody, and the bad guys had a habit of walking through walls, floors, and ceilings. The game came along quite nicely, I'm happy to report. While it got written off as mediocre in the PC mags, I think Dark Forces is the most clever and enjoyable "man against the world" Doom clone I've ever played.
Perhaps it's got an unfair advantage since it draws on the Star Wars universe, but the game creates a sense of atmosphere above and beyond most of the carbon-copy first-person shooters out there. I'm not the world's biggest Star Wars fan, but there's a certain level of extra satisfaction in shooting an Imperial officer than there is in killing some impossible demon monster. The use of the angled gun which doesn't shoot in a straight line straight in front of you is an excellent innovation as well--and the extra challenge is probably what those lazy PC reviewers hated.
Requires: Fast 030 or better, CD-ROM. Graphics card recommended.
Compatible: Shapeshifter, Fusion (both w/System 7.5). Seems incompatible with System 7.6 and Shapeshifter.
Price: About 30 UKP
The Mac market's big home-grown 3D shooter: its AB3D, or Gloom, if you prefer. Like most of these games, it's you against the world. "You" in this case are the sole (to your and the computer's knowledge) survivor of an attack by an unknown alien force on your spaceship, the Marathon. All you have at the outset is a pistol, a few clips, and the occasional advice of the computer--and even that is unreliable after a while. The aliens are funny-looking guys in a variety of colors who carry pain sticks or various energy weapons. Your goal is to survive, find out who the aliens are, and repel them.
Marathon's graphics are a nice change from the mega-chunky look of most games of this ilk--the spaceship looks polished and smooth, and the monsters look fairly lifelike, although their animation is stilted. Combat is pretty difficult since aiming is fairly picky, and ammunition is very difficult to come by--making the game more cerebral than some others. The pace is good and you do get the sense of urgency as you and the computer race against the bad guys.
The strange thing about Marathon's engine, which I found very difficult to work around, is the way you move. It's much more like gliding than walking--rather like Wolfenstein 3D, but in a way worse because Wolf3D was cartoonish and it fit the overall design better.
Marathon is decent, but definitely not best of show. The demo is available practically everywhere, so it won't hurt to see if you disagree with my evaluation. Any 040 should be enough to run Marathon near full capacity.
Requires: Fast 030 or better.
Price: About US$30
I had never heard of Damage Inc. before it arrived in the box from MacSoft. After playing it, I have to say I'm completely shocked.
I am a little sick and tired of being pitted against the world with just a pistol in my hand, taken completely by surprise at the hordes of aliens or mutants or rednecks who want to kill me. I want professional planning, air support, and a team I can rely on when I do my killing. Damage, Inc. gives me exactly that.
The idea behind Damage Inc. is that you are a field leader for FITICA, a crack unit of the US Marine Corps dedicated to top-secret assault and recovery missions. You can assemble a team of marines (up to four), armed to the teeth, typically with hand grenades, a pistol, and a rifle with grenade launcher. You are similary equipped, and given a set of mission objectives--sometimes simply clearing an area of baddies to find an entrance to an enemy base, or rescuing hostages, or something perhaps more important to national security. As you go on, you learn more about FITICA's real objectives (after all, you're field personnel, not an officer).
Damage is based on the Marathon engine, but forget the nasty things I said about it, because the Damage crew fixed it up. You travel through the very convincing 3D environments at a very good clip, and the arsenal at your disposal will cut down your enemies in a variety of effective fashions. But remember that team I mentioned? They'll take their best shot at the bad guys too--and most of the time they're better shots than you, too. They have rudimentary AI and can accept simple commands (explore a direction, seek and destroy enemies, or follow you or another team member.) Friendly fire does become a serious concern in heated firefights, and it's up to you to make sure you don't blow away one of your own squad, or that you don't take a shotgun shell in the back from an overzealous Marine.
It would probably be enough for the missions and the graphics to be as engrossing as they are, but what really puts the game over the top is the digitized speech. Each of the twelve Marines has their own personality, and they acknowledge all of your commands as well as offer their own commentary on the subjects they hold dear. One believes he's John Wayne, another kills for Christ, one hates violence but is so dedicated to the Corps he will solemnly kill anyone who threatens his teammates. Of particular interest is Banzai, who peppers the action with totally inappropriate comments. (After gunning down a white supremist, Banzai offers: "I hope I don't meet him in the afterlife. 'Oh, hi, I killed you.'")
Damage is a great cure for the sameness in a lot of 3D shooters. Highly recommended.
Requires: 040, CD-ROM. 4X CD-ROM recommended to spool audio direct from CD.
Price: About US$40
While some software manufacturers on the Amiga have finally taken to bundling several old titles at a single title retail price, few have taken the logical step to doing it on CD-ROM, keeping their price higher than it should be because they're copying all those floppies. The Mac market has moved beyond this, and you can find multi-CD sets for very reasonable prices.
Budget Bundle #1: Aztech's Mac Pack Counter Attack
Retailing at around US$30, this pack contains 5 CD-ROMs with a variety of games and "edutainment" commercial titles. There are some hits and misses here.
BB#1 - Lunicus:
Straight out of the bad old early days of multimedia CD-ROMs.
This sad attempt at an engrossing space adventure RPG (sort of) was paid
for by Paramount, the massive Hollywood movie company. It didn't do much
good. Lunicus is slow and plodding, with plain graphics. Lots of
digitized conversation isn't enough to make you care about the people or
the places you need to go to figure out why you're playing this game.
Requires: 030, CD-ROM.
Compatible: Shapeshifer. FUSION can run the game but with garbled audio.
BB#1 - Sim City Classic:
Just what it says, a classic. The Mac version is graphically rich and will run on a variety of systems. Sim City isn't for everyone (I personally find that many sim games try too hard to be realistic, and that I'd just be better off getting a job as a theme park manager and being paid for my efforts rather than slave over an unforgiving simulation), but Sim City has, in my view, a pretty balanced system of challenges and rewards. Two versions, one with fewer colors and less processor requirement, are included, meaning just about anybody should be able to run Sim City.
Requires: 020, CD-ROM. Faster system recommended.
BB#1 - Leisure Suit Larry 6:
From the folks at Sierra, who also bring you the King's Quest and Police Quest series. Faced with the option of playing a Sierra sequel or beating the proverbial dead horse, the latter often has a lot of appeal. The original Leisure Suit Larry was actually a tribute and recreation of Sierra's early smash hit text adventure "Softporn Adventure", and was whimsical and sophomoric despite not being everybody's cup of tea. LSL6 has come a long way since the more primitive 16 color graphics of the original, has added a fully digitized soundtrack (all game response is verbal, not textual), and a whole new sex farce adventure to run that squirmy little weasel Larry Laffer through. It might be good for a laugh, you might just enjoy puzzle solving for its own sake, but my guess is that only Larry completists will run for this game.
Actually, LSL6 (and most Sierra games in general) wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the horrible interface they keep insisting on using. Lucasarts got it right, Sierra got it wrong, and their customers keep paying the price.
Requires: Fast 030 or 040 system, CD-ROM. Faster system recommended.
BB#1 - King's Quest VII:
Included in the Counter Attack pack is another sequel to the venerable King's Quest saga which made Sierra rich and made Roberta Williams possibly the most famous woman game designer in history (and in the top echelon of the co-ed list as well!) KQ VII proved incompatible with both emulators for different reasons: ShapeShifter crashed shortly after the title screen, while FUSION can play the game but the audio is garbled (as in Police Quest IV, see below).
Perhaps the most disappointing part of the Counter Attack pack is the CD-ROM which neither emulator nor the Amiga's CD filesystem can read, containing Outpost, Jump Raven, and Space Madness. Another "watch and see".
Counter Attack Pack overall rating: ***. Will probably be a 4-star entry if those CD-ROM issues get sorted out, although part of the problem is the shoddy job Aztech did in their mastering process. Not having access to that disc of 3 games is a big problem. If you have access to a real Mac, you might want to try using it to shuttle these games across to your Amiga system.
Budget Bundle #2: Aztech Mac Pack Sneak Attack
After the Counter Attack, Aztech drummed up more titles for a 4-CD release, again for about US$30. Here's how the notable games fare:
BB#2 - Blackthorne:
The 1996 copyright on this game gives me the impression that the market didn't respond too well to this one. Blackthorne is an unapologetic derivative of Prince of Persia, except instead of a lithe martial artist, you're a burly guy with a huge shotgun and hover bombs. You jump across lots of holes which are "just a little too long" to land on your feet, so you have to pull yourself up, etc. etc. One interesting innovation which most side-to-side platform type games never get around to implementing is ability to dodge--your character can stand flush up against any wall, rendering him impervious to most of the things the bad guys shoot at you. It also means you can't shoot them, though.
Blackthorne is nothing special--the graphics are nice but there's not a big hook to keep you playing. If you decide you're interested, though, it would occupy an afternoon or two.
BB#2 - Police Quest IV: Open Season:
Sierra's not afraid to make sequels, although for the Police Quest games they've tried to take their time to make games which are procedurally accurate, and, since PQ 3, somewhat grotesque as well. PQ IV is similar to Leisure Suit Larry 6 in that all of the game response is verbal rather than textual--this can be a real problem, however, if the game gets slowed down and a stray mouse click skips over a very important detail. I can't help but think that a different interface--any interface--would be better than what Sierra offers.
The colors in PQ IV are rather washed out, which is odd considering Mac games if anything tend toward the garish--but this is an uninspired port from the PC, the same thing Sierra did to Amiga users with unfortunate regularity.
Requires: Fast 030, 040 recommended.
Compatible: ShapeShifter. (FUSION ran the game but audio was garbled.)
BB#2 - Shadow Wraith:
Out of all the games I played for this review, this is probably the most "Amiga-like". You are the pilot of a super single-seater jet plane in "cyberspace". Oh, never mind where you're supposed to be, it's a high-tech maze full of nasty little cubes and enemy fighters who want to kill you in the worst way. You have a machine gun, missiles, mines, and grenades at your disposal as you whip through the maze, collecting keys and hitting the afterburners to make it through to the next level.
The smoothness of the graphics is phenomenal, and not in the artificial way most Mac games tend to feel when they try to accomplish this. If a little hard to control with the keyboard (remember what I said about joysticks!), Shadow Wraith is a lot of fun for those of you who hearken back to the salad days of Psygnosis.
Compatible: FUSION. (Requires FUSION's "pseudo-24 bit" mode as Shadow Wraith was somewhat poorly coded.)
BB#2 - Brain Dead 13:
Oh, the irony! Brain Dead 13 is the game Readysoft dropped all of its Amiga development and support in favor of producing. Among the dropped products was A-Max IV, the Mac emulator!
Other than A-Max, Readysoft has one major claim to fame--they ported the Dragon's Lair and Space Ace games to personal computers including the Amiga, and developed sequels and knockoffs (like Guy Spy). So, when in 1994 they wanted a new product, what else would they choose but a game in the genre they knew best? Of course, impossible and illogical animation slideshows!
The quality of the animation in BD13 shows a lot of work--Readysoft claimed in an interview I did with them at the time that they had over 100 artists working on it. But 1,000,000 artists can't make these games enjoyable as anything other than walkthroughs, with the exact winning sequence of moves ready at hand. There is absolutely no way to be a "good" player of these games--it requires you to be patient and figure out every move, usually by trial and error, and keep at it until you win. I saw a lot of copies of Brain Dead 13 for the PC and game consoles get dusty at local computer stores. With good reason.
Stars: ** if you don't have the walkthrough, **** if you do
Requires: 040 and graphics card recommended.
BB#2 - A-10 Attack!:
Combat flight simulator. The first thing you should do if you really want to play this is print out the documentation--these Aztech packs come with no printed documentation and it is impossible to successfully fly a simulator unless you know what the buttons and knobs are and how to use them. The game puts you in the cockpit and allows you to fly a variety of exploration and combat missions, although it mostly serves as an ad for the game which followed, A-10 Cuba. If you were disappointed by JETPilot maybe you should take a look, but on the other hand F/A 18 Interceptor is still more fun.
BB#2 - Masterpieces of Infocom:
The nearly entire back catalog of Infocom text adventures. With the exception of Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy (the rights to which now belong to Douglas Adams, not Infocom) and a couple of forgettable graphical games, this is the entire collection of Infocom's work in the 80s, when they defined adventure games. Comes complete with Adobe Acrobat documentation--not as good as the toys and clever packaging of the originals, but since you're paying so little for each game it's difficult to complain. While not every game was a "masterpiece", a great number were. Also includes 6 modern text adventures from 1995.
Requires: 020 (faster processor recommended for Adobe Acrobat reader)
Budget Bundle #3: Alone In the Dark Trilogy
For about US$30, you can pick up the Alone in the Dark trilogy series. These games, originally developed by Infogrames (now called I-Motion), tried to capture the elements of 3D gaming in a way fast enough for most computers to run. The result was a compromise--3D characters in a set of static, conventionally drawn landscapes. Combined with atmospheric storylines, the games are still classics.
By far the best game is the original--it plays like a classic horror novel. Its engine is perhaps a little less polished than in the later games (although few changes were made for the future games--they were made because the development cost was so low and the enthusiasm for the products pretty high), but the unfortunate part is that the Mac implementation of the first game was poor, so it does not run nearly as fast as the other two. You'll probably need to stay in 320x200 mode on any system, even the fastest. For 2 and 3 you can bump up the resolution.
Alone 2 and 3 pit you against more supernatural foes, but it starts to feel a little played out. The actual navigation of the worlds is a bit easier, so they're worth checking out.
Requires: Fast 030. Faster processor and graphics card or third-party driver recommended.
Yes, the Mac has a pretty active free and shareware developer base, too. Not everything is a work of art (many are living examples of why you maybe should NOT put a sampler port on every machine you ship) but there are some games you should really check out given half a chance. The home of Info-Mac, the Mac shareware archive, is at ftp.hawaii.edu.
Ever wanted to play the arcade classic Tempest on your computer? This is it, practically blow for blow. The vector game looks great on a decent configuration, and the mouse control is actually pretty comfortable. Unless you've got an Amiga with a high enough spec to run Tempest through arcade emulation, check out Arashi.
Since time immemorial (we're talking decades, here), computer geeks have written games based on Star Trek. Up until the 80s, these were text-based, where you entered warp speed and direction and gave phaser energy to shoot at Klingons who wanted to blow up starbases. Rescue took this to an art form, with authentic graphics, sounds, and great action gameplay for the 90s. Unfortunately, the higher profile 90s meant that Paramount, who owns Star Trek, saw his activities and didn't take kindly to the heavy use of their trademarked material. Rescue shed some of the original Star Trek spellings in later releases, and it seems that in late 1994 he gave up the project entirely.
Which is a damn shame, because Rescue is a lot of fun. Your job is to rescue colonists from defenseless outposts, as a major invasion of Rulans and Cardaians (remember that changed spelling) threatens their safety. The Kigons are your allies, and the Fengis are generally neutral (although they'll pitch in with you if the odds are good, or take a potshot at you if your shields are damaged.) You have to ferry the colonists to starbases, which can come in handy as resupply posts as well as teammates in a fight--but even starbases can fall to the Rulan Superhawks, which can cloak themselves. You can face over 30 enemies, and if that's not enough, you can set the game to send the Borg after you. (Alternately, if you make Q, who makes a guest appearance in the game, mad, he'll summon them to waste you.)
Rescue is not enormously speed intensive--if you need to, you can kill the sounds or play in monochrome mode. The killer is that the interface is somewhat large, spread out over several windows, so a standard Amiga NTSC or PAL resolution display may make having everything easily accessible difficult. Even at 800x600, you can't fit all of the windows on the screen--it's not always necessary, though.
Requires: 030. Graphics card recommended for large display.
If you have Mac owning friends who've told you about a game they love, odds are pretty good it's Solarian II. I'm not sure why, however. It's Space Invaders, with the twist that your enemies do not move sideways across the screen but spin in circles at the top, and some of them dive-bomb you with 100% deadly accuracy. But it's tough to control and not enough of an improvement on the original design to make it better or more worthy than, say, Deluxe Galaga (or the arcade Galaga itself.) The samples are really annoying, too.
Requires: 020. 030 recommended.
This isn't a shopping list, it's an overview. There's a lot more out there. If you want to look into these titles further, or want to buy and can't find a source near you, try checking online:
Remember--using your Amiga's resources to play these games isn't
"abandoning" the Amiga or somehow diminishing the efforts of Amiga game
programmers. Mac emulators broaden the horizons of what your Amiga can
run, and you've got a unique opportunity to draw on two large software
libraries. Enjoy the treasures out there.