(BIG FIVE SOFTWARE)
BY MATT FRIEDENBERG
If there were a prize for the game whose title best describes the game itself, there is a program that would win it hands-down. In this game, you must destroy over a dozen different types of aliens, each one having its own distinct characteristics. It is one of the weirdest games that I have ever encountered, and it is called Weerd.
Weerd, written by Arthur Gleckler, is one of Big Five's newest arcade games for the TRS-80. In it, your mission is to destroy the creatures that swoop down in an attempt to destroy you. Sound easy? Chances are, you will not last more than a minute or two on your first few games.
You see, not only does each of the dozen or so creatures look different, but they also fly at different speeds and have different flight patterns. On top of this, each one has a different firing pattern. One type of alien is actually made up of five independent creatures all moving across the screen at the same rate. Yet another creature is made up of three parts. Two of these separate from the creature and try to collide with your ship. The third part fires a cluster of about six missiles down at your ship.
A group of missiles like this is easy enough to avoid, but picture two of these combined with five or six other creatures on the screen, all firing missiles and trying to collide with your ship. It can get very hectic. Fortunately, two features are included in the game to help you out of those tight spots when death seems imminent.
The first of these is the shields. Instead of having a protective shield around the ship as some games have, there are three horizontal shields behind which you can hide. Unfortunately, the shields protect the ship only from enemy missiles, not from the enemy creatures themselves. The shields stay up for a few seconds, but you get only three of these for each ship.
A second feature of the program allows you to move your ship at a faster speed than usual. This is accomplished with the shift key, and comes in very handy if you have to dodge ships or missiles at the last minute. Sometimes, however, even this is no help, and your ship is destroyed. By the way, the sound accompanying the destruction of the ship is very realistic and sounds almost like a car crash.
My major complaint about Weerd is its speed. When the screen is filled with creatures, the game moves at a fairly slow rate. Of course, this is a problem with the TRS-80, not the software. Nevertheless, it does detract from the game.
One of the unique characteristics of Weerd is the ability to play the game in reverse video. What this means is that instead of white ships on a black background, you play with black ships on a white background. It is a nice feature, but there are a few problems with it.
The first problem relates mostly to Model I owners. You know that nasty flickering that takes place during an animated game? Well, it exists in the game itself, but it is greatly intensified with the reverse video.
The second problem is that the reverse video slows the game down even more. This is simply because there is more for the computer to draw. Sure, the program is written in fast machine language, but even this has its limitations. Of course, if you do not want to cope with these problems, just play the game in its normal mode.
Another unique feature of Weerd is its high score display. Most games keep track of eight to ten scores, but Weerd can handle up to thirty high scores. Ten of these are "built-in" scores by such famous people as E.T., Elliot, Gertie, Bounty B., and Mork. All high scores are saved to disk on the disk version.
Weerd is a game for which you must get a feel before you can play it effectively. It will take quite a few short and very embarrassing games to learn about and get used to the different types of creatures. Eventually, you will discover the best way to destroy each enemy creature, and it is then that you start getting your money's worth out of the game.
All in all, Weerd is a fun game that requires timing and a bit of manual dexterity. Although it is not Big Five's best game to date, it is a very good game in its own right. I recommend it to anyone who is willing to lose a few games in preparation for some good arcade excitement. It will be worth the wait.