Special report. (analysing the innovations displayed at this year's Consumer Electronic Show) (Special Anniversary Issue)
by Tom Netsel, Peter Scisco
While the rest of the consumer electronics industry languishes in recession, computer makers and software developers are experiencing steady, if less than spectacular, growth. The thrills surrounding the PC and videogame exhibits at the 1991 International Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago were bolstered by advances in PC software entertainment and a new generation of videogame consoles. More than 250 companies that had never participated in a Summer CES, including IBM, Wang Labs, Leading Edge, and Prodigy, picked up on the excitement. Here's a preview of some of the products that are heading your way this fall.
Who is kidnapping the biggest stars in Hollywood? To help you solve this sinister mystery, call in the man who found the world's greatest entertainer in Accolade's first graphic adventure, Search for the King, and now stars in the sequel, Les Manly In: Lost in L.A. ($59.95).
Mike Ditka Ultimate Football ($54.95) is the first football simulation to feature multiangle player perspective, allowing computer coaches to view the action from any of four different viewing angles.
In Elvira II: The Jaws of Cerberus ($59.95) players must rescue Elvira from the ghastly Cerberus, a 60-foot tall, three-headed demon. See our Sneak Peek of this game on page 121 in this issue.
The competition among sound-card makers heats up with Ad Lib's announcement of its Gold Series. The Gold PC-1000 ($300) is a basic sound card for disk-based applications that features a microphone jack and tabletop microphone, game and MIDI ports, and standard stereo input/output jacks. The Gold PC-2000 ($400) adds a SCSI interface for CD-ROM applications. The Gold MC-2000 ($500) is designed for the IBM PS/2 MCA bus. All of the cards carry 20 channels of synthesized sound, 2 channels for sampled sound, stereo recording and playback, enhanced FM synthesis, 12-bit stereo digital-to-analog conversion and other professional features. Originally scheduled for a late summer release, Ad Lib says chip shortages have delayed release of the Gold Series until late fall at the earliest.
Game designer Chris Crawford is back with Patton Strikes Back ($59.95). This strategy game puts you in command of Allied or Axis troops during the Battle of the Bulge. This war game emphasizes tactical thinking over weapons skills. It's packed with data and analysis.
Take over as leader of Poland's workers union in Solidarity ($59.95) and attempt to lead the country to freedom in the face of tremendous Soviet military and economic pressures. Or, take the helm of a high-tech submarine in Wreck Hunters (price not available at press time), the working title of a new interactive game in which you search for sunken treasure.
Data East's latest combat game is - get this - compatible with Novell networks. Guide a fleet of mechanized droids against an alien race that has practically obliterated humanity from the face of the planet. Operate scout, supply, and soldier robots over a harsh landscape. A two-player mode allows for cooperative play against the mysterious aliens. The network version will support from six to seven players. The stand-alone version of Ultrabots Sanction: Earth will ship to stores this month. The company expects to have the network version ready by late November (just in time for that Christmas office party). The price wasn't available at press time.
Data East's other introductions included Battlefield 2000, the working title for a tank-battle game ($59.95), Bo Jackson Baseball ($49.95), and ABC Wide World of Sports Boxing (price unavailable at press time).
Big new products from EA include Chuck Yeager's Air Combat ($59.95) and Earl Weaver Baseball II ($49.95). A Sneak Peek of Air Combat appeared in the July issue of COMPUTE. Racing fans can get behind the wheel of Mario Andretti's Racing Challenge ($49.95).
Powermonger ($49.95), from the makers of Populous, casts you as the leader of a displaced tribe newly arrived in an uncharted territory.
This fall, look for Eco Phantoms ($49.95), a struggle for earth's survival; The Ball Game ($49.95), a test of strategy and reflexes; Geisha ($49.95), the Orient of the future; Star Collection ($29.95), a collection of great arcade hits; and Peghole ($49.95), a classic tactical game.
Simpson fans can get radical with Bart Simpson's House of Weirdness ($49.95), an adventure/strategy game that challenges players to be as resourceful as Bart. Simpson's Arcade ($49.95) is a conversion of the coin-op.
Challenge your ninja skills and fight crime in Manhattan with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Adventure ($49.95). If you want more Turtle action, try Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game ($49.95). More movie action is heading your way with Back to the Future III ($39.95). and Predator 2 ($19.95).
Baseball card collectors have a new utility to help them manage and track their collections. It's the Official Collector Series - Baseball Card Collector ($49.95). This could make an excellent holiday gift for the hardball fan on your list.
Topping the long list of Konami's brand-new role-playing games is Steve Peterson's Champions ($59.95), a multipart adventure with more than 20 villains to conquer. The Killing Cloud ($49.95) has you fighting an organized gang in San Francisco. For the more fantastically oriented, Riders of Rohan ($49.95) gives players a chance to build their own saga in true Tolkien flavor. If Middle Earth doesn't appeal to you, perhaps outer space does. Try Spacewrecked: 14 Billion Light Years From Earth ($49.95). Or venture into inner space in the ancient thriller Bloodwych ($39.95). For couch potatoes, Mission: Impossible ($49.95) combines action, adventure, and role-playing - if you choose to accept it.
Two Konami simulations include Team Suzuki ($39.95) and Top Gun Head-to-Head Dogfighting Simulator ($49.95). Action gamers can test their roller derby skills in the high-contact game RollerBabes ($39.95). Speedball 2 ($39.95) is a futuristic sport featuring armor and weaponry.
Guybrush Threepwood is back in a swashbuckling adventure called The secret of Monkey Island II: LeChuck's Revenge ($59.95). Visit new puzzle-packed islands with many of the zany characters from the first game. And look for an original game not based on a movie in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis ($59.95). Indy is drawn into the ancient mysteries of the fascinating and legendary undersea world.
This fall's oddest game just might be SimAnt (price unavailable), an ant colony simulation (no kidding) complete with rival bands of black and red ants, a hungry spider, a nosy kid with a mean garden hose, and a pesky dog. Try to get your colony insider the house, where the readily good food is.
MicroProse has a large slate of products scheduled for fall and spring releases. Topping the list is Sid Meier's Civilization (price unavailable). This simulation begins in 4000 B.C. and players must develop an entire civilization from a small, nomadic tribe. By balancing economics, politics, and defense, it's possible for the tribe to evolve into a civilization of tomorrow. The game may be played for an entire 6000-year span or in 100-year periods - not real time, of course.
Flight simulator fans can fly in nine worlds in F-117A ($69.95). Look for enhanced graphics, replay options, night views, sprite explosions, and more.
The spring of 1992 will bring MicroProse's first fantasy role-playing game. Live in fifteenth century Germany, a violent time of three popes, powerless emperors, gangster nobles, and venal clergymen. Darklands emphasizes people's belief in witches, magic, alchemists, and dragons. Guide your party of four on a quest for fame, fortune, and immortality in the Dark Ages.
Also slated for future release from MicroProse and its Paragon subsidiary are Codename: White Shadow (price unavailable), Flames of Freedom ($49.95), and Twilight 2000 ($59.95).
Once again Richard "Lord British" Garriott and Origin have plans to transport you to another world in the popular Ultima series. Look for improved technology and better narrative elements in Ultima VII: The Black Gate ($79.95), scheduled for release in December.
The popular sword and sorcery elements combine with more screen detail, 256-color VGA graphics, new methods of conversing and interacting with characters, and sounds so real that you can actually hear rivers flowing and crickets chirping.
Another eagerly awaited release is Wing Commander II: Vengeance of Kilrathi ($79.95). This starfighter sequel offers exciting 3-D VGA graphics set on digitized backgrounds and will take advantage of speech synthesis that employs the speech chip in the CMS Sound Blaster. Also, another step in the Wing Commander series is Chris Roberts' Strike Commander ($79.95). This time you are part of a mercenary squad, flying a fine line between right and wrong, profit and loss. You must determine the viability of missions from a moral as well as a logistical standpoint. Pilot a staggering array of aircraft from a P38 to an F22 Lightning 2 as you engage rival squadrons and renegade Third World dictators.
Wordtris ($39.95) is a must buy for any fan of word games and puzzle challenges. Manipulate falling letter blocks so that they spell words either horizontally or vertically on the screen.
The Cyrillic connection continues with Crisis in the Kremlin ($59.95), in which you assume the role of Soviet President. Guide the U.S.S.R. out of its present economic quagmire and inherent instability, or risk social disintegration.
The folks in the California mountains are moving boldly into CD technology, with several of their more popular games slated for CD-ROM release. They include Space Quest IV, Leisure Suit Larry I, and King's Quest V. All of the CD-ROM titles are priced at $59.95 and are designed for the IBM PC.
On the MS-DOS disk side, you'll be seeing Mixed Up Fairy Tales ($49.95), Castle of Dr. Brain ($49.95), EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus ($59.95), Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work ($59.95), The Laffer Utilities ($34.95), Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood ($59.95), and Police Quest 3: The Kindred ($59.95).
Sierra's Dynamix subsidiary will bring Nova 9 ($34.95), a sequel to Stellar 7, and Adventures of Willy Beamish ($59.95) to the PC screen this fall and winter.
SSI introduced its first IBM sports game, Tony La Russa's Ultimate Baseball ($49.95). Every essential detail of major league baseball is provided; play a whole season or one game in a variety of levels. As current as today's headlines, Conflict: Middle East ($59.95) is a new strategy war game focusing on desert combat. SSI also has a new AD&D "goldbox" game, Gateway to the Savage Frontier ($49.95).
Three-Sixty's fall lineup includes two war games and a sports package. Theatre of War ($49.95) is a strategy war game boasting a 3-D filled-polygon environment. Patriot ($59.95) is a land-based war game. The ABC Wide World of Sports Winter Olympics 1992 ($49.95) gets the events down cold.
In Battle Isle ($49.95) your goal is to capture the most terrain possible in a world made of islands. For sports fans, Pro Tennis Tour II ($49.95), improves on the original by including female opponents, the choice of strong or weak points of your player, doubles play, a training mode, improved graphics and better music. Here's your chance to improve your net play.
Fantasy and flight fill the bill here. Conan the Cimmerian ($49.99) puts you in the role of Conan. You must avenge the deaths of your family and friends who were massacred by the ravening hordes of Thoth Amon, high priest of the vile cult of Set. If that sounds like a little too much fun, you can get down to business with Corporation ($59.99), an action game that has you tracking down a mutant robot.
In flying is more in your line, then Thunderhawk ($49.99) puts you in the seat of the AH-73M Thunderhawk helicopter gunship. Shuttle ($59.99) is designed as an accurate simulation of NASA's Space Shuttle. During play you'll be asked to perform various feats like repairing satellites, maneuvering your spacecraft, and - oh yes - landing.