Atari Super Breakout
If you own an Atari 800 computer don't forget there are other game cartridges besides STAR RAIDERS available. My favorite game (next to STAR RAIDERS of course!) is SUPER BREAKOUT. If you've visited any game arcades recently you may have seen an Atari Super Breakout machine. Well the SUPER BREAKOUT cartridge provides the same arcade games for your Atari 800 as well as standard BREAKOUT.
The cartridge provides four games: regular BREAKOUT, Progressive, Double, and Cavity. Each game can be played by one to eight players if you have enough paddle controllers. As expected, the major idea is to knock bricks out of a wall and score points determined by the brick colors.
Regular BREAKOUT is just like the Breakout game contained in the familiar Atari Pinball Breakaway TV game. You try to knock out all the bricks from 8 rows in the wall with five balls. If you knock out all the bricks, a new wall of bricks will appear. There is no limit on the number of times a new wall of bricks can be reset during a game.
With Progressive, the setup is somewhat different from regular BREAKOUT. When the game begins there are four rows of bricks at the top of the screen, followed by four blank rows, and then four rows of bricks. After game play begins, the brick walls move down toward the bottom of the screen at a rate determined by the number of times the ball is hit. At the same time, new rows of bricks enter the top of the screen at a progressively faster rate. This game will continue forever if you're good enough!
The Double playfield is the same as for regular Breakout except that there are two paddles and two balls are served. The paddles are stacked one on top of the other. The point values are the same as for other games except that each brick is worth double the normal amount whenever two balls are in play. In this game, the wall can only be reset twice after the initial wall is knocked out.
For Cavity, the playfield is just like regular Breakout except there are two "cavities" and each contains a ball. When the game begins, the balls bounce inside each cavity but are held captive. When enough bricks are removed to release a captive ball, that ball then enters play and starts to knock out bricks and score points. Point values are double with two balls in play or triple with three balls in play. You do get two paddles, as in Double, and the wall will only be reset twice.
There are no options to vary the number of balls or the paddle size like on the Pinball-Breakaway TV game. However, there is an option to suspend play and another to obtain an additional five serves if desired. After each game, scores are rated from "OOPS" to "BEST". Watch out—these games can be almost as addictive as STAR RAIDERS. They're also great party games since more than one person can play.
More Games For The Atari 400/800
Once you have an Atari 410 cassette drive for the Atari computer systems, there are a number of programs available from various sources. If you're interested in games then you might want to take a look at Mountain Shoot by Adventure International. This is a two player game where players take turns shooting cannons at each other. You enter the angle (0 to 90 degrees) to position the gun and the amount of powder (4 to 10) to be used. You even have to watch the wind direction and velocity that is always changing. Each time the game is run, a different terrain is generated between the two gun positions to make things even more challenging.
There are three levels of play: easy, hard, and, very hard. The harder the level, the more accurate your shot must be to score a hit. In each level you can play with or without a powder limit. When playing without limits, the game ends when the first player hits his opponent. With a powder limit, you continue playing until both players have exhausted their powder. The first player to use up all their powder has to sit by and watch their opponent fire away at him. The player with the most hits, when both players run out of powder, is the winner.
When loading from tape, you first load a brief set of instructions. These remain on the television screen while loading the actual game program. While the program is loading don't forget to turn up the sound on the television. Otherwise you'll miss additional loading precautions and game instructions that are given audibly while the 1812 Overture plays in the background. The program takes full advantage of the two channel cassette drive of the Atari system. It sure beats sitting around doing nothing waiting for a program to load!
There are no printed instructions provided with the game but once played, they'd be unnecessary anyway. The graphics used by the game are not overly attractive. However, you do get sound effects and even a fanfare when you score a hit. The game does not check for a correct angle being entered; it will accept any positive number. If you're not careful you can destroy your own gun and score an additional hit for your opponent. On the other hand, the amount of powder is limited to 10 maximum even if you enter a larger number. All in all, this is a fairly good two player game for the Atari and it's easy enough for young children to play. It's not as elaborate as some of the games from Atari but it can be fun to play.
Thesis (P.O. Box 147, Garden City, MI 48135) offers a number of programs on tape for the Atari computers at $15 each. Their Casino I tape contains two games: BLACKJACK and SLOT MACHINE. Brief printed documentation is included, sufficient for these type of games.
The BLACKJACK game accommodates one to four players and uses full casino rules. It allows you to hit or stand, split pairs, or even double down. The game provides unique graphics that show the dealer as he shuffles and deals the cards each time the deck is exhausted. However, cards are only shown as a face value and a suit symbol. No graphics are used for the cards.
The game does check betting limits, but allows any fraction or full floating point number ($1.23456) to be entered as a bet. If a value entered has a number of digits past the decimal point, it does not get cleared right away and messes up the display slightly. Eventually, however, everything does get corrected. I guess if you enter a value less than a cent, then you deserve to get strange results.
BLACKJACK is a 16K program, so it does take a little while to load from tape. Playing the game is pretty straight-forward. You only enter single letter responses to select your desired action. What else can I say, It's a standard Blackjack game with reasonable graphics and sound.
The SLOT MACHINE game, that comes with BLACKJACK, shows a graphic representation of a slot machine (with parts of other machines on either side). The yellow START button on the ATARI is used to pull and release the handle of the slot machine. Some kind of "noise" is heard as the "wheels" spin and the game makes any appropriate pay-offs depending on the odds. On larger wins, you even get to see coins come out of a slot at the bottom of the slot machine. Since only three symbols (cherry, lemon, & gold bar) are used on the "wheels", there seem to be a fair number of pay offs or wins. This program is not quite as good as some I've seen for other machines but it is still interesting.
The CRIBBAGE game from THESIS is a 24K program and does take a while to load from tape. The game is a standard game of Cribbage, you against the computer. Little graphics are used other than for the cribbage peg board used for scoring. Cards are shown only as a face value and a suit symbol. Printed documentation is provided and includes brief rules on cribbage, as well as directions for using the program and how it works. The game offers two levels of play: beginner and intermediate. The beginner level does not penalize for any errors during play or scoring while the intermediate level will. However, the computer plays the same strategy at both levels of play.
If you've played cribbage, then you know the various steps in each hand during the game. In part of each hand, you alternate playing cards and scoring points, then later score points on your hand for various combinations (runs, flushes, pairs, etc.). In this computerized version, you must specify the card to be played, the current card count, and any score that you claim for your card played. The computer doesn't do any of the work for you. Again, when you later score your hand you also have to enter your own claimed score. Part of this is because of the intermediate level of play where you can be penalized for missing a possible score.
This game could be very good except for one major disadvantage. The author chose to use a very poor method of selecting the card suit when the user must specify his card. Instead of using an easy to remember key letter (like C for Clubs, H for Hearts, etc.) you must enter the actual graphic symbol for the suit. Thus, you have to remember that Control P is used for Clubs, Control comma is Hearts, Control period is Diamonds, and Control semicolon is Spades. Of course none of these are marked on the keyboard so you have to memorize them or have a reference card handy. Otherwise the game is rather good but slow playing.