February 21, 2017

Diamonds in the Rough: Random Atari 8-Bit DIY carts

I considered throwing these in with the Lost Gems posts, but really... They're more like Diamonds in the Rough! I'll explain a bit further down.

Most of the projects I have gotten myself into the past few months have been cartridges, as I've mentioned in the last couple of posts. This time I'll showcase a few Atari 8-Bit carts I've made recently.

For Sinistar & Space Dungeon, I used Maxflash 1mbit flash cartridges. If you buy 5, they're only $20 each, which I feel is very fair for the capability these carts offer. Both games are too large for the 8KB/16KB Pixels Past circuit boards and the Maxflash Studio Software allows users to bypass the multicart menu option and load single roms directly. I just really love that feature for one-off carts that I enjoy making for myself and they handle a nice variety of file types as well, it seems. Both games play great using these flash cartridges.

Sinistar has been a lot of fun, but it's not super polished. You can read a nice write-up over at AtariProtos, which goes into detail on this A8 version. I did use a fixed AI rom that was posted at the AtariAge forums and felt like the AI was challenging enough to keep me on my toes. My thanks to the guys who did that. Also, I absolutely love old console games that are Voice-Enhanced! Beware I Live! Super awesome!

Space Dungeon is an Atari 8-Bit conversion of the 5200 game, that was done by the famous " Glenn the 5200 Man" years ago.

Space Dungeon
I really wanted this on the A8 and was determined to have a cart for myself, lol. It's pretty fun, but the controls are a bit funky, since the original 5200 version was designed for a pair of 5200 controllers that would mimic the arcade controls using one stick for ship control and the other for firing. In this conversion, each time you fire, it pauses the ship, which adds extra challenge to an already difficult game. Other than that, I'm still really happy to have it in the collection now and it's been fun to play.

Ahh... Montezuma's Revenge. The game I wanted so very badly in the 80's and could never find! When I finally got a copy years later, it was for the Colecovision and I was really disappointed with how difficult it is. I mean... Seriously, it's crazy hard. After learning this, I started looking at the other available versions and pretty much stopped at the Atari 8-Bit version. It looked graphically in-league with the Colecovision port, but was only released on diskette. I don't have any problems playing diskette based games, but prefer cartridges most of the time, if they're available. Well, during my search for unreleased cartridge games, I found a version that was never released for the A8 and decided to make myself a cartridge of it. It's a 16KB file, so I was able to use a dedicated Pixels Past PCB and it works great! My first impressions on this version was "Wow! It's a lot easier! and about half the speed of the CV version!". I can actually get decently far along in this version. I haven't finished it yet, but it fits my play style a lot better than the Colecovision port. They did have to cut some extra things from the disk version to fit the 16KB cart, such as the intro screen, etc. Again, a nice write-up can be read over at AtariProtos for this game.

Montezuma's Revenge
Finally, we arrive at Satan's Hollow. A much deserved port for the Atari 8-Bit. I don't know much on the history of this version, other than it was unreleased and I wanted to play it on my 800XL! It's a pretty solid version really. I'm sure this could have sold some copies, so I can't help but wonder if the marketing over at Atari decided it had a bit too much evil for parents in the 80's or something, lol. It has difficulty selection, some nice sounds and explosion effects and so far has run without a hitch for me. It's not as nice looking as the released Commodore 64 disk version, but for a 16KB cart, I'd say it's pretty dang slick!

Well, there ya have it folks. Some fun Atari 8-Bit carts that never were. I hope you enjoy and check them out. If you're interested in making any of these yourselves and need some help, let me know. Always happy to help fellow gaming hobbyists!

I think I still have some carts for other systems I might be posting about in the future and I am also looking into PCB design currently, so hopefully in the not-so-distant future, I'll be extending my cart making to other realms.

Until then, thanks for stopping in! Cheers

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