The Atari ST POWER PACK | Nostalgia Nerd

The Atari ST POWER PACK | Nostalgia Nerd


Back when I first got my Atari ST for Christmas
in the 90s, I received the ST itself, it’s box, some software and the Atari Power Pack. My ST was second hand, purchased from my good
friend Michael, but the impact of that Power Pack felt the same as if it were a brand new
machine and I’d just been presented with the key to enough entertainment to last a lifetime….
or a good number of weeks at the very least. The Power Pack was a compilation of “20 Superb
Software Games” included with Atari STFM models sold from 1988 onwards. It’s inclusion with new machines was genius
and boosted the ST’s sales as a gaming system significantly. But this wasn’t the first game bundle to be
included with the ST range. The STFM had been launched in 1986 to provide
a more friendly home computer compared to the earlier ST models which lacked a TV modulator
and internal floppy drive. Over in North America, the machine was marketed
with less emphasis on gaming, whilst Atari over in Europe had cottoned onto the machine’s
main selling point and by 1988 bundles such as the Summer Pack and Super Pack appeared. The Super Pack also contained 20 games, but
didn’t perform as well as the Power Pack. The main reasons for this were that the games
were generally better in the Power Pack, with it packed with more recognisable arcade hits,
and and also the bundle price dropped from £399 to £299 during it’s release. Europe was already a region gripped by the
home micro, having been weaned on Sinclair Spectrum’s, Amstrad CPCs and Commodore 64s,
so with consoles like the Sega Mega Drive only an Eastern whisper, the ST seemed an
obvious choice. Of course, there was also Amiga rivalry, but
on screen shots, ST games looked pretty identical to Amiga games, and given the Amiga was more
expensive, and lacking a huge game bundle, the choice or children, if not their parents,
often fell to the ST. The PowerPack therefore seemed to be Atari’s
masterstroke, but it was also part of it’s downfall. You see, 20 games is a lot of games. For me, it kept me entertained for as long
as I needed, and this often meant that sales of third party titles was less than perhaps
on rival systems, such as the Amiga. It wasn’t long before publishers gone frustrated
with this and rather than developing ST games to port to the Amiga, flipped it round. This posed a problem, as converting a game
designed to take advantage of the custom Amiga hardware to the ST was harder than the other
way around. This meant the Amiga began to amass a collection
of exclusive titles, and what’s more, even converted titles began to look a lot better
on the Amiga and Commodore’s machine began to widen the market share until the ST faded
away. Of course, this isn’t all of the story and
with the rise of the IBM compatible PC and game consoles, both platforms were commercially
doomed anyway, but it played it’s part. Just like I’m about to do with each of the
Powerpack games. So without further ago, let us begin with
Disk A: Afterburner. Before we dive into the gameplay, it’s worth
noting that in their original commercial incarnations some of these games were spread across more
than 1 double density floppy. Afterburner is one of those titles, but the
reduction is not all down to compression. Some elements are missing from the titles. In this case the arcade theme tune is missing
from the loading screen. Of course this isn’t an essential ingredient,
but to frequenters of arcades, it made these home conversions feel just that little bit
closer to the authentic experience. And it’s more important than you might think. It puts you in that mindset, standing in front
of the cabinet, because although the game itself isn’t terrible, the ST hardware just
wasn’t up to replicating the rapid, engaging gameplay. It does though, get my vote for being the
only game in this pack where you don’t actually need to do anything to progress. Disk B! R-Type. What can I say about this game? Other than my version requiring you to press
a key at a specific time during loading, otherwise it didn’t load.. something Michael and I worked
out probably though accident. It’s a timeless game. The arcade version was superb, and the ST
version holds up remarkably well, even on the sound front. But it’s a double edge sword, because also,
like the arcade version, it’s a hard game, with limited check points throughout each
level. Disk C! Gauntlet II. Probably my favourite game in the pack. This kept us engaged for hours and hours. Roaming dungeons, trying not to shoot the
food. It’s just an incredibly playable and addictive
game, and the ST conversion is spot on. The ST doesn’t have hardware scrolling, but
scrolling is never the less perfect here. In fact the game is so close to the arcade,
even down to the speech samples, that I couldn’t choose between them. Disk D! Super Hang On. By this point, it’s already easy to see why
this pack was such a winner. Electric Dreams take on Sega’s arcade sensation
is graphically pleasing, fast and even sports some impressive road undulation. Even the 4 arcade tunes are chucked in. You can play using either mouse or joystick,
with the latter somewhat preferable. Overall it’s a pretty good conversion. Disk E! Space Harrier. Another Sega classic and another impressive
arcade conversion, moving at a good pace and offering some frantic gameplay. I didn’t play this game much in my younger
years, but the colours and speed always captivated me, along with that wooly mammoth thing on
the loading screen. Disk F! The first disk to feature a multitude of tiles. 3 in fact, starting with Starglider…. I’ll admit, I used to load this game up just
to hear that intro music; I rarely played the actual game, which is a shame because
by all accounts, it’s amazing. Developed by Argonaught software, Jez Sans
worked on the C64 Elite release before creating this and it shows. The 3D graphics are great for the ST, especially
an 80s release, and once you get into it, the gameplay is good. Like an Elite light. The next title on this disk is Overlander. A game which exudes a dystopian feel from
the outset. That shadowy car. The initial choices to make, followed by the
bleak in game graphics. I was a fan for these qualities alone. Really it’s a somewhat primitive clone of
Atari’s Roadblaster. A drab clone, and I like it for that. Which brings us to Super Huey. For some reason I barely loaded this one up
back in the day. It’s a helicopter game. It’s alright. Disk G! Eliminator. This is almost like a cross between Overlander
and Space Harrier, and it’s another game with exudes the arcade feel, although this Hewson
release isn’t actually an arcade game. The music and sound effects aren’t quite up
to scratch, but the game play will draw you in and keep you hooked. Thanks to a password system, progression isn’t
too much of a chore either. Also on disk G, Nebulus. Another Hewson Consultants game, and one which
I’m sure you’re well aware of. Playing as the creature Pogo, your mission
is to destroy 8 towers built in the sea. You do this by navigating around each tower
and planting a bomb at the top. Pretty simple, but the beauty lies in the
convincing clockwise and anti-clockwise turning of the tower, creating a sense of depth and
marking the game out as something pretty unique, especially in it’s day. The final title on Disk G, Pac-Mania. It’s not quite up to the same standards as
the Amiga release, but it has smooth scrolling in it’s half screen display area and it plays
well. I mean, it’s Pac Man from an isometric perspective. It’s not for everyone, but I loved the 3D
effect back then, and I still do today. Disk H! Predator. Arnie. Getting to the Chopper. Marvellous stuff. Being a huge fan of the film, even at the
age of 9, this was one game I loved getting stuck into. Like a lot of these games, it’s pretty darn
hard, but it does capture the story of the film in a certain side scrolling fashion. Saying that, the scrolling isn’t perfect,
but it’s not the shabbiest either. Targeting at angles can be a bit of a pain,
as can running away from the Predator’s sights when it appears, but overall it’s a reasonable
port of the 8 bit versions. Interestingly, due to licensing a few rare
packs contain Winter Olympiad 88 instead. Disk I! Another 3 games, starting with Bombuzal. A puzzle game where the aim is to destroy
all the bombs. To do this, you step on a bomb to light it,
you may then take one step and the bomb will explode. It’s a simple formula which works well, offering
another isometric game of delight. Although you can also switch to a top down
view, which is nice. More bombs, with the classic Bomb Jack next. I loved this game on the Spectrum. I played it a lot. So by the time I got my hands on the ST, it’s
appeal had waned a little. But it’s still a decent version of the 1984
arcade classic. Playing as Bomb Jack, your job is to collect
the bombs. Simple To round up this disk we have Xenon, by the
incredibly talented Bitmap Brothers. Flying your craft through 4 stages of alien
territory, your task is really to destroy as much as possible. Good graphics, good scrolling and good gameplay
ensure the longevity of one of the first games to truly take the ST hardware for a run. Disk J! Double Dragon. What can I say about this game. After Gauntlet II, this is probably the game
I’ve sunk the most hours into. Sure, it’s not arcade perfect, but then the
arcade game was never perfect anyway, and at least it includes the arcade music. Both versions slow down when there are too
many sprites on screen. But I’m a-ok with that. Especially because you get to turn on your
brother and beat the crap out of him at the end. It’s one of the easiest games here, but also
one of the most enjoyable. Remember, this was pre Streets of Rage days. Disk K! Black Lamp. What was this game about? I honestly couldn’t tell you from memory alone,
and my play time of it is somewhat, limited. It turns out to be a medieval melodrama featuring
Jolly Jack, the jovial jester on a quest to rid evil from the kingdom. To do this you must collect 20 lamps, with
the most powerful “Black Lamp” guarded by a dragon. The story makes little sense, but apparently
magazines liked it back in the day, On the same disk we have Outrun. It’s clear that reviewers were more lenient
back in the 80s. Saying that, I played this a fair deal, and
I remember enjoying it. I think it’s because I’d come from the Spectrum
version and so this was a step up. I mean, at the very least, it had reasonable
music and colourful graphics. Playing it today however, isn’t a nostalgic
gathering of bliss. It’s a frame churning little wretch of a game,
which only just manages to keep me playing to the end. Disk L!The final disk of games containing
Star Ray and Star Goose… Star Ray is another title I barely remember
playing. I’m not sure why it didn’t grab me, but it’s
probably because I was too busy playing R-Type. It’s a conversion by Steve Bak, responsible
for gems such as Goldrunner, and his skill shines through featuring an amazing 7 layers
of parallax scrolling. That’s two more than the Amiga version. Take that you Commodore people. Star Goose involves you, as a hover ship,
eight looped levels of heavily defended surfaces and various crystals, of which you must collect. Like other games here, you can control by
either joystick or mouse, but also like other games, joystick is preferable. Dying will send you back to the start of your
current level, so you can enjoy the game at a moderate pace. It’s a nice one for diving into occasionally,
when you feel like some concentrated but relaxed action. And that’s it. That’s the Power Pack. Arguably, the Atari Language Disk, Organiser
and Music Maker are also part of this pack, but I’m sticking to the games in this episode. We can cover those another time. But given the quality and variety of games
on offer here, it’s easy to see how this helped shift so many ST’s as the 80s drew to a close. I mean, many of these titles were on sale
at the same time for £20 or £30 each. It’s also easy to see how this kept many gamers
– like myself – more than contented, pushing the ST game market to dry up, just that little
bit quicker. But it’s a double edge sword. Without this pack, not as many STs would have
been sold and the problem would remain. Really the end of the ST as a gaming platform
as inevitable, but at least I had great fun with it whilst it lasted.

100 Replies to “The Atari ST POWER PACK | Nostalgia Nerd”

  1. Pretty good and varied collection of titles to kick off anyone's ST collection. I can see how it backfired though with people content with those 20 and seeing no need to get more allowing the Amiga to pull ahead. I had the option of buying either the ST with the Power Pack or the Amiga and the Batman pack and I went with the Amiga but had I went with the ST I would have been okay with that collection.

  2. My Favourite Christmas present of all time (1989) I picked a boxed Atari ST Power Pack a few years back and gave it to my wife to give me back as a present 🙂 It was Xmas 1989 once again!

  3. The power pack was a godsend for me. There was no way my folks would pony up for games and the entire time I had my ST, I bought 3. We had a Yamaha DX7 plugged into the ST through the MIDI ports when I loaded up Bomb jack. The music played through the Synthesizer.

  4. Loved this slice of nostalgic goodness. I remember the st power pack coming out as if it was just yesterday. Some great games included. Just wondered what the no 32 sticker on your st signifies?

  5. The ST was a fairly popular line of computers here in Canada when I was a kid. It actually sold more units in Canada than the hard to find Amiga line of computers. Which was odd, because the C64 was so easy to find in Canada and it was a popular 8-bit home computer here as well.

    But during the mid 1980's, Commodore were pretty clueless about distribution outside of the EU and UK and Atari had Jack Tramiel, who was better at keeping department stores stocked in Canada with Atari ST's and software for the machines.

    I never knew anyone with an Amiga back in those days, but I knew many people with Atari ST's.

  6. I HATED the fact that the Amiga was playing second-fiddle to the ST for so long, it made sense for the developers to settle on the superior platform.

  7. Loved my St back in the day shame I only had a 4 game bundle, carrier command, space harrier, bomb jack and hard n heavy aww the nostalgia!

  8. Black Lamp was amazing. I remember the intro being Green Sleeves.

    There was an Atari ST game that was a side scroller that involved getting flying chairs and getting out before their fuel ran out.. Any ideas?

  9. Star Goose ! I had this on my Amstrad PC1640. Still have 1640, might do a solid state mod on it some day. Battle of Britan was my fav game on that machine.

  10. I to had a ST in the day playing xenon was amazing. I used to have slideshow images of some films ghostbusters and raiders of the lost ark even had some NASA space images. Probably look terrible today but back then they where the bees knees but sold the lot to go towards my first car. Tried to look on the tinternet but never did find those images again and can't think how I got hold of them I know neochrome was on the same disks

  11. Great review and I'm glad you out yourself as an Atari ST fan.

    Never had the pack but quite a few of its games as copies…I remember Starglider as the first ST game I ever saw. And it worked on the SM124 too, not sure about the Powerpack version though.

    Xenon, Pacmania, Star Goose and Nebulus are all on my favourite list, and I play them from time to time.
    All4 played through to the end while thinking about it, Nebulus is possible without loosing a single life with concentration.

  12. It might just be me, but as a kid I had NO idea that Atari made computers. I only thought of them for the video game consoles. I understand, thanks to your videos there were essentially 2 Atari's, and very much enjoy learning about them!

  13. I remember moving up from my Spectrum to my ST… man, so exciting. Got my ST second-hand from a mate at my first job in 1987.  Those days, man….those days…

  14. Awesome video brings back a lot of memories like you are remember the bug with R-Type if you didn't press the button fast enough it didn't load and also like you I was coming from the spectrum to an Atari ST fantastic video brought back a lot of memories

  15. That Gauntlet 2 being a different colour is annoying me. Mine was blue. I hope to god I've still got it when I go rummaging in the attic. I'll send it to you.

  16. GREAT video. This was a really insightful nostalgia trip; I had no idea about the Power Pack, and its being bundled with new systems perfectly explains why my mate and I – like you – played so much Gauntlet II, Double Dragon and Super Hang-On on his Atari ST. Some great historical exploration here that has really illuminated parts of my childhood. And thanks for the lovely wistful synth tunes ❤️

  17. What a pack! Never seen it but damn, even if there are a few stinkers here, there are also many frigging good games such as Gauntlet II, Xenon, R-Type or Star Ray (unlike you I had a blast with Star Ray back then).

    Also I have the same joystick as you but I didn't like it much compared to the others ones that I also have such as the almighty Speedking (so good! But a bit fragile) or the Navigator (both by Konix).

    Still the best compilation of games that I can think of for the ST (and the 2nd one I ever owned) is "Les Gen D'Or de Génération 4" which includes IK+, R-Type, Bio Challenge and Voyager. Sure it's less games in comparison but each of them is a winner and they're completely different in genre to each other (respectively: fighting, shoot 'em up, side-scrolling action and 3D exploration) making the whole compilation a fantastic package wich still impresses me! ^^

  18. Pushing Up Roses took a look back at Stargoose Warrior for DOS (which was a port of Stargoose)…wow was the DOS version cut down from the ST and Amiga versions!

  19. I have an Atari ST and I honestly don't know what to do with it. It has a 12 inch screen IIRC. I would like to be able to connect it to a larger screen. I don't even know if thats possible. Maybe an Atari ST aficionado could point me in the right direction

  20. I had great fun with the power pack as well, fav game must have been Gantlet 2, but all the games were great, but super huey was naff, don't think I managed to even take off :p

  21. Fantastic video. I most recently found your channel. I am hooked. I checked out your uploads and my mouth dropped open seen there were nearly 500 videos to watch. It's going to be a great ride. Thank you for creating such interesting content.

  22. In Xenon it looks as if you were piloting a Roomba, and your girlfriend at the end of Double Dragon looks like as the most awful drag queen

  23. I have the Super Pack but missing Disk I/9 from it. The selection isn't as good, a lot of Elite stuff and quite a few hit & miss titles in it.

    Disk A : Arkanoid 2 & Wizball
    Disk B : Buggy Boy & Ikari Warriors
    Disk C : Beyond the Ice Palace, Thrust & Thundercats
    Disk D : Marble Madness
    Disk E : Chopper X & Roadwars
    Disk F : Summer Olympiad
    Disk G : Seconds Out
    Disk H : Black Lamp & Quadralien
    Disk I : Eddie Edwards Super Ski – So not missing much there!!!
    Disk J : Starquake & Xenon
    Disk K : Return to Genesis & Zynaps
    Disk L : Test Drive
    Atari Explorer + : Ranarama, ST Tour, ST Desk Accessories & Organiser (Maybe this is Disk I?)

    I got this pack with my 520 STe when I recveived it for Christmas 2014, it is a decent enough set of games with stuff like Test Drive, Xenon, Wizball & Beyond the Ice Palace being the highlights. I do need to source Disk I so I have the full set.

  24. Great video. Used to play these games to death. Quick tip, if you eject the Space Harrier disk before you defeat the end of level dragon, you'll skip the next level. Then just put the disk back in and it'll carry on as normal. Was a great way of seeing the later stages

  25. Ah the Power Pack how I loved it. I remember the day we bought the STE and the Power Pack that came with it; trying game by game and being overwhelmed over and over. My favourite game, at least now, is probably Black Lamp.

    Also: I think Predator had some sort of bug where it wouldn't end properly. I recall fighting the Predator, and he'd always just run off and never come back, followed by several empty levels of just running without any further encounters.
    Also, pt.II: so THAT's why R-Type would only load for me sometimes!

  26. Back in 1992, one of my sisters old boyfriends of the 80's sent me his old Atari Mega ST which cost me nothing. It had a Hi Res monochrome monitor and hard drive. Great for CAD and not too bad for music programs and office apps…then I got an Amiga 500 and later a A1200, the latter of which I still use today.

  27. I was really proud of my Atari 800 and ST. In retrospect the 800 was a great machine, and the Amiga was.. much more powerful than the ST 🙂

  28. Bought an ST because of this pack, and already had an Amiga. This kept kept me on the ST and stopped me buying Amiga games, so it probably hurt both companies.

  29. Great video. It makes me wish I had my 1040STE with me . I fitted it with 4MB of RAM and upgraded to TOS2.06 and even got an UltraSatan for it. The edition I got was called the Music Maker that came with a copy of Steinberg Pro. Thankfully it's safe and well at my parents house.

  30. My top 3 atari games are 1.pang 2. alcatraz 3. Sly spy secret agent and remember kids… Winners don’t use drugs!

  31. So all the best games.

    This must of been when devs learned to package a bunch of random knock offs together for bonus packs, and not all the top notch stuff.

  32. Oh man.
    My STFM came with Super Pack, a lass down the road got an STE with Power Pack. Much disk-swapping occurred
    Truly hit the Nostalgia button here sir, another fine presentation

  33. I got the Power Pack with my STE in 1989 as a favor from the seller. I was so happy back in the time. Everything a 9 year old boy wanted.

  34. We all had C64's then Amiga's at school and would all swap copies, yes yes I know, I had a hard childhood, amazingly on one of the many many cassettes we would "share" was a program that took a couple of hundred rotations of the tape counter but after all that waiting and watching the C64' loading screen you'd get "Everybody wants Kung Foo fighting". So each and everytime a new mate came round it would be repeated, oh yeah I forgot the C64 would have to be turned off and on again each time, and back then it was the most amazing thing in the world to us Imagine having the tech you have now but back when you were a teenager? you would have blown your own tiny mind, because I know I would've. Imagine how cool you'd have been even with a cheap Chinese handheld emulator, I mean, first of all, it'd be bloody colour. so pi55 off Gameboy, Oh if only.

  35. I remember you'd just beg and pray for whatever machine your friends had, luckily me and my friends all had Amiga's, someone's Dad work at a magazine distribution sent back, I remember it was £1 for 4 disks, oh do you remember filling those disk caddies with none of the disk labels in col warehouse and each Friday he'd come in with a bag bulging with coverdisk from the unsold magazines being sent back, I remember it was £1 for 10 disks, and I remember filling those disk caddies, of course with none of the disk labels in colour order, lol. I had 2 huge caddies each one the size of a pc desktop case.

  36. My friend got this pack for his Atari, Double Dragon, Gauntlet II and R-Type were my favourites, I got the Tenstar Pack which was no where near as good, only good games in that pack was Rick Dangerous & Trivial Pursuit.

  37. I helped convert quite a few friends to getting an ST after they played the Power Pack (plus a bit of piracy). Even modern retro compilations today struggle to give that kind of value.

  38. I remember seeing the advert for the st power pack bundle. I couldn't believe all the arcade games that were included. I managed to convince my dad to buy it for me for my impending birthday. Moving from spectrum to this, I was so chuffed. Played the st solidly for years. Still in the attic now, man I loved that machine.

  39. That pack was solidly good. I had so many games and creative tools for the ST but I'd come back to those games a lot.

  40. STOS took up more of my life than any of those games, it was hypnotic trying stuff out. Sure I'd written stuff in ZX Spectrum BASIC before, but with STOS you had POWER!

    Never turned out a finished game, of course, but I was only 11 or 12.

    And then when I wasn't STOSsing there were 300-odd Automation disks. Grud bless those boastful young geeks!

  41. Ooh! Starglider, I have that on my dad’s old ZX Spectrum, and it’s really similar to your Atari ST version, but the frame rate is way lower.

  42. I recall Christmas 1989. I'd not long got my Amiga 500 and my school mate got an Atari ST just before Christmas itself as an early present. I went to his place and played on the ST…. He came to my place and played the Amiga. And then just after Christmas, he sold his ST and got an Amiga 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *