Kurt Howe, known as Nukey Shay in the Atari homebrew developer scene, died last year at age 54, as a result of a tragic accident on Feb 5, 2020, when he was hit by a car while crossing the street in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His loss came as a shock to the Atari Age community as it was discovered over a year later, announced by Albert Yarusso today.
Nukey was a 20 year Atari Age forum contributor, very active in the homebrew and romhacking scene, and a 6502 ASM guru who helped numerous developers with their projects. One of the most knowledgeable active Atari 2600 programmers on the planet, his death mirrors that of Nintendo’s Gunpei Yokoi, a major contributor to Metroid, Kid Icarus, and the original Game Boy handheld, who died in 1997 at age 56 under similar circumstances.
My own Superman romhacks were only possible because Nukey decompiled the ROM and annotated the source code, and shared his work with the world, which made it easy for me to re-arrange the map to create alternative Metropolises. Nukey’s contributions are far too numerous to list succinctly, but his loss is deeply felt by all in the Atari homebrew community.
Atari Age, the fan-operated homebrew operation that holds the most legitimate claim to the legacy of Atari-that-was, has opened up pre-orders for a new batch of games for the Atari 2600, 5200, 7800, and 400/800/XE systems, and even the Atari Jaguar.
I’m most excited about Zoo Keeper, a faithful port of the early 80’s arcade classic to the 2600 developed by Champ Games — who have been killing it with their talented Atari 2600 ports of classic arcade games like Galaga and the upcoming Robotron 2084 — and Ninjish Guy in Low-Res World, a homebrew platformer for the 2600 in the vein of Super Meat Boy. I’ve been looking forward to playing a 2600 homage to one of my top early 80’s arcade classics Zoo Keeper for quite some time.
Also-worth-a-look releases are Deepstone Catacomb, a zelda-like adventure game, which looks really well done for an Atari 2600 title. Venture Reloaded, another early dungeon crawler, finally does justice to the classic arcade game Venture, should appeal to fans of the original.
Fans of the maze genre should find Hugo Hunt and Robot City to their liking. Dare Devil shows off some impressive chiptune chops and parachuting action reminiscent of classic games like Frogger, Freeway, and of course Sky Diver. But it appears to be an update or direct sequel to 1983 release, Parachute. Cannon Head Clash is a really fun-looking 2p artillery duel with destructive terrain and frantic action. If you enjoyed games like Outlaw/Gunslinger, and Combat on the 2600, this is one to check out. It’s even available for SECAM60 television sets, which is amazingly rare for a homebrew. Avalanche should appeal to fans of Activision’s classic paddle game, Kaboom!Tower of Rubble features fantastic audio, and super-slick animation and platform-edge hanging action as you struggle to stay atop a crumbling tower of falling blocks.
All of these new games show that the Atari 2600, released now 43 years ago back in 1977, still has many extra lives nearly half a century later, and nearly three decades after the last Atari 2600 rolled off the assembly line. The dedication of the programmers who pull off these minor miracles to their craft is astounding. The fact is that every produced by the homebrew community these days are among the best ever released on their platform. While the prices might seem steep at $40-50 apiece, the games are produced by hand in small batches, and are every bit as professionally presented as the best games produced by top industry developers during the system’s heyday. If you’re a fan of the system and still have working hardware hooked up in your house, they are absolutely worth their price.
I haven’t even looked at the titles for the other systems yet, because my budget frankly can’t take it. Just about every game I have looked at looks like a game worth playing, with most of them being must-buys.