Scholastic Software, Inc.
New York, NY 10003
Reviewed by Phil Seyer
Bannercatch is a five-level partnership game of strategy and
skill. You and your partner compete on a 64sector playing field against
a character named Max. The object of the game is to capture Max's
flag with your robots and carry it back to your part of the playing field.
Your side has four joystick-controlled, "humanoid" robots. Max also
has four robots.
The game is quite involved and comes with a number of items including a detailed instruction manual, a reference card, a secret document marked "for robots only," a colorful bannercatch poster, bannercatch stickers, and playing field map.
The playfield is huge. Only a portion of each of the 64-sectors of the playfield is visible on the screen at once. The screen is split so each partner can view a different part of the field. To keep track of your location, you have to note the sector number you're in and then refer to the playing field map.
Defeating Max and his robots isn't easy. To do it you have to work with your partner and learn how to intercept and decode the secret messages he sends to his robots. That's where an added bonus comes in. Max and his robots communicate in binary code. By playing the game you learn to read binary numbers, an important skill to have if you're interested in computer programming.
Besides defeating Max, another goal is revealing his mysterious face. Each time you win a game, a bit more of Max's face will appear. A special sheet is provided so you can gradually sketch in his face as you win more and more games.
Interesting sound effects occur when you accidentally bump into something or when you cross the river dividing the playing field. Lively, well-written music helps announce the winner of each game. The action can be quite exciting as you try to elude Max's robots or chase them when they steal your flag. Careful though! I almost broke a joystick running from Tor, one of Max's robots.
Carousel Software, Inc.
877 Beacon St.
Boston, MA 02215
Reviewed by Christine A. Lunardini
Have you ever wondered how a computer really works? Simulated
Computer takes you step by step through the internal workings of your
computer. The program is an excellent learning tool that encourages
and rewards creativity.
Simulated Computer graphically illustrates the series of steps by which information is processed to produce a desired result. Across the top of the main screen is displayed a small keyboard with a set of hands which type in unison with your keystrokes. The keyboard is indirectly connected to the central processing unit (CPU), which is connected, in turn, to a printer. The remainder of the screen is devoted to three rows of boxes, six to a row, numbered for 00 to 23. These are the memory locations. The boxes include special locations for sound, graphic, and color definition.
Another strength of Simulated Computer is its documentation. Once you sit down at the computer, you are led through a series of hands-on tutorials that are clear, concise, and to the point. The tutorials are simple mathematical and Turtle Graphic exercises that get you right into the program. For example, as you work through the first tutorial, the computer hands at the top of the screen are typing right along with you. But you also see the invisible part of computing-where that series of instructions or data is stored internally, and what happens when you RUN your program.
Information transfer is represented by electrical impulses that surge along circuits, through the CPU which assimilates each piece of information as it is called up and, in turn, sends its own message back to the memory locations. This process continues until all the information in the memory locations has been filtered through the CPU and the results are sent to the printer for output. If you are working with Turtle Graphics, the output will be a second screen which will display step-by-step the design you are creating.
Simulated Computer also teaches some basics of Assembler language. The tutorials are more directly responsible for the success of this aspect of the program. A series of programming "challenges" at the end of the tutorials, when successfully mastered, is a pleasantly surprising indication of how much you can learn about programming in a relatively short time. They are also positive reinforcement for creating your own programs to run through Simulated Computer.
All in all, Simulated Computer lives up to its promises and deserves the "Best Microcomputer Software Award" it received from Learning Magazine. An additional bonus is that the program can be rewarding for children under age 12 whose parents want to take the time to work through the tutorials with them, particularly the Turtle Graphics routines.
For the boxing fanatic, Title Bout is a computerized simulation of the sport that lets you play manager to practically any boxer from recent history. The game includes data files for 509 real boxers from Muhammed Ali to Hilario Zapata (flyweight). Also, you can modify existing data files or create your own imaginary super pugilist.
Each boxer's file data profiles every aspect of his characteristics, from hitting power and ability to control the fight, to endurance and percentage of punches that actually connect. In all the program evaluates 19 factors for each fighter in every round. Other factors includded are the manager's strategy and fighter's attitude. If you play against the computer, you pick both fighters and the computer picks its strategy and fighter's attitude for each round. Otherwise, two human players make all decisions for themselves.
Each round is depicted graphically with animation and sound effects, but not in real time. The fighting seems to correspond fairly closely to each boxer's historic skills and whatever strategies you select. For realism, quotes like "You're meat" and "'Yo mama", attributed to the current pugilists, appear periodically at the bottom of the screen. Muhammed Ali even does a little dance!
$30.00. Avalon Hill, 4517 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21214. Phone (301) 254-5300. Requires disk, 48K.
If you have a dot matrix printer with graphics capability, MegaFont II will put it to good use. You can print in any of ten built-in custom fonts (character sets), or create your own fonts for use with the program. You can also dump Graphics 7 1/2 and Graphics 8 screens in three sizes. The instructions tell you how to convert compressed Micro Illustrator picture files for use with MegaFont,
If you use the standard font, even control and inverse characters are printed exactly as they appear on the screen. Among the other built-in fonts are two styles of script, various "fancy" fonts, italics, and Greek. You can print in two sizes. The large print is fairly light, and the other size is denser but too small. It would have been preferable to make the larger size a big denser.
MegatFont II is a revision of the earlier MegaFont. New features include the capability to type directly to the printer, changeable line spacing, faster operation and two new fonts. MegaFont II works with NEC, Prowriter, Epson (with Graftrax), and compatible printers. It works with Atariwriter, Bank Street Writer (mostly) and Text Wizard (if you print files to the disk), but is not compatible with Letter Perfect unless you have the LJK conversion utility.
$24.95, XLEnt Software, P.O. Box 5228, Dept A., Springfield, VA 2 150. Phone (203) 644-8881. Requires disk, 48K.
First Star Software
22 East 41st Street
New York, NY 10017
Reviewed by Roger Fairchild
Boulder Dash is not only the name of this game, it is also a
phrase you may be uttering often while you play. Your task in this
scrolling maze game is to collect jewels with a beautifully animated character
named Rockford. Pushing boulders out of the way to get to the elusive
jewels, Rockford must watch out for falling boulders that shorten his quest.
Once the required number of jewels are collected, a secret exit from each
level will appear. Most of the time this exit isn't visible from
your current location in the maze, and your search for the exit begins
as time to complete the level quickly fades.
Rockford digs his way around much like Dig Dug, but the resemblance ends there. Boulder Dash offers much more variety, with 16 different caves and five levels of difficulty. Out to stop Rockford are Fire-flys, Amoeba, Enchanted Walls and many other nasty characters.
Boulder Dash allows four different starting Points evenly spaced throughout the levels. This feature allows you to see some of the higher levels that you would not have viewed otherwise. After every fourth level is a short puzzle that provides some interesting diversion.
Boulder Dash is a fast-paced, joystick-busting, arcade-style game that will keep you coming back time after time. The game is suitable on the beginning levels for children and on the higher levels will challenge a dedicated arcade addict. You'll get hours of enjoyment for your software bucks.
17 Paul Dr.
San Rafael, CA 94903
Reviewed by Edward Bever
Tanks churn up a riverbank, with infantrymen darting and firing alongside.
Behind them, an enemy hulk burns, while in front an officer looks on with
a mixture of pride and preoccupation. Victory, according to the box
cover, "will provide a decisive breakthrough in the war"; defeat could
cause the collapse of the front.
Operation Whirlwind puts you in command of the tank and infantry battalion that must accomplish a critical mission. You must lead it across the country, surmount natural obstacles as well as enemy resistance, and seize and hold a town. The enemy, controlled by the computer, has prepared defenses and will undoubtedly receive reinforcements. Your skills as a strategist and tactician will be tested repeatedly as you struggle from one phase line to the next, and then turn to defend your conquest.
The game plays like a computerized boardgame, with each unit moved individually in sequence, and combat executed one attack at a time. The computer enhances this format by freeing the player from the need to memorize rules and keeping track of changes in the units' strengths during play. Furthermore, the computer keeps enemy pieces hidden until they fire, and it provides an opponent who is always willing to play.
The game's production values are very high. The documentation is clear and comprehensive. The graphics are first rate (except that on my copy some numerals come out garbled). The program is well structured, easy to operate with joystick or keyboard, and flawless in execution. It is easily learned, and it provides an absorbing challenge through four levels of difficulty.
Scarborough Systems, Inc.
25 North Broadway
Tarrytown, NY 10591
Reviewed by Jerry White
Songwriter is designed for children or adults who wish to compose
music on their computers and learn about music theory. The attractive
package includes a diskette, a well-written 64 page manual, and a cable
to connect Atari computers with a monitor or audio output line (800, 800XL,
or 1200XL) to your home stereo or tape recorder.
Songwriter completely avoids the use of standard musical notation. The documentation explains as its reasons that: musical notation is not easily understood, it requires a prior knowledge of music and presents a distorted visual picture of music. While I agree with this, Songwriter is not much use to those who wish to learn how to enter songs from standard sheet music.
The Songwriter program and documentation are well written, and do have significant educational value. The main display simulates a "player piano roll," and option displays are neatly implemented. Computer keyboard options are logical, and include user definable keys for a sequence of keystrokes known as musical ideas. Songs and ideas can be easily edited, loaded, saved on diskette, combined, and printed.
Songwriter comes with 28 songs on disk, ranging from children's songs to classical music. Songs may be played normally, or one note at a time, forward, or backward. Speed and sound quality may be altered as the music is being played. Songwriter can store over 6,000 notes in memory, and has many other nice features too numerous to explain in a short review.
The only major drawback I found with the program is its inability to store and truly play more than one voice. While it is true that a long sustain may be used to create two sounds at the same time, this is the limit of Songwriter's multi-voice capability. But if you can live with this shortcoming, you will find Songwriter to be a useful musical composition tool, as well as a great way to introduce music to both young and old.
Video Billboard makes it easy for you to create fancy text display sequences in multiple colors and different sizes of letters. it's a great tool for making title screens, in-store displays, breaking ground in video poetry, etc.
You can fill the screen with as many as ten lines of thirty characters each, or as few as four lines of fifteen characters-depending on which of the three text sizes you pick.
You choose colors for text and background of each line, For special effects, you can have any lines flashing. You can automatically display a sequence of up to 20 screens from RAM, or up to 180 screens from disk.
The documentation is very clear and full of helpful hints. In addition, fifteen screens of on-line help are available at any time. Also, you can obtain printouts of your screens. if you have a need for an easy-to-use elaborate text display, this program is for you.
$69.95 from Ronald C. Tinnell, 2221 Windy Drive, Garland, TX 75042. Phone (214) 530-8135 between 6-10 PM. CST. Requires disk, 4@8K.
5221 Central Ave.
Richmond, CA 94804
$139.95, 16K-disk & hardware
Reviewed by David Duberman
Relax is one of the most unusual products for the Atari ever!
It's a biofeedback device that measures electrical activity in the forehead
muscles. Potential uses for Relax range from no-hands computer game
playing to applications control for handicapped people. You can also
use Relax to monitor and possibly reduce stress in your life.
The measurement of electrical muscle activity is called electromyography. When the muscle is tensed, electrical activity increases. Sensors in the Relax headband pick up these tiny signals and send them through an amplifier box to the computer. Synapse software interprets the signals so you can easily see changes in your muscle tension.
The blue corduroy headband contains three disk-like metal sensors. It fastens with Velcro and plugs into the main unit with an eight-foot cord.
The Electromyograph unit connects to joystick Port 1 on an Atari computer. There is an on/off switch with a power LED, and two sliding controls for adjusting the unit's sensitivity. Since the unit (and you) are electrically isolated from the Atari's AC power supply for safety, four AA batteries (alkalines are suggested) are required. The unit drains power constantly whether in use or not, so you should be careful to turn it off when you're through. The LED lights up even when battery power is low, so the best indication of dead batteries is lack of response when using the Relax program.
The first program on the disk, a simple moving graph, is intended for use with the audio cassette. The 25-minute narration consists of suggestions for relaxation, spoken in an ultra-calm voice. Accompanying sounds imply various soothing environments, such as forests and beaches.
Part of the narration ties in with the graph program's display, which shows a vertically oscillating point drawing a trace on a sheet of horizontally moving "paper," much like a lie detector. The vertical "relaxation scale" ranges from 0 to 500, of which you can see 150 points at a time. You start at the top end of the scale (350-500), and use the sliding controls to adjust your trace to the arbitrary beginning point of 450.
When your trace reaches the bottom of the visible part of the scale, you must momentarily stop and switch to the lower range. I've found it surprisingly easy to get below 350, but it takes practice to progress from there. If you have difficulty obtaining a smooth trace, there are keyboard command adjustments to average out the readings and to take fewer readings per unit of time.
The second program, Kaleidoscope, provides a beautiful visual relaxation aid as it measures your relative relaxation. As you relax, colorful changing patterns split horizontally and scroll up and down while more appear. If you tense up, the process reverses.
The third program, Balloon Game, is a colorful Frogger-type game that rewards not only the ability to relax but also the ability to switch quickly back and forth between states of tenseness and relaxation. Your "trace" is replaced by a balloon floating up and down in back-and-forth crosscurrents which carry "good" bubbles (catch them) and "bad" spikes (avoid them).
Balloon Game suggests interesting possibilities for Relax, particularly for the handicapped. Those who are without the use of their limbs may be able to use it for sophisticated control of complex programs.
The Relax workbook, which wasn't ready at review time, will supplement Relax programs with exercises and suggestions for using the system effectively.
Relax provides a valuable service by giving us visible feedback on the state of tension in our muscles, but it's up to us what we do with that information. However, the new availability of bio-feedback programs for the home computer opens up many fascinating possibilities.
The Institute was released in very limited quantities several years ago in a text-only version. Shortly thereafter, work began on this high-resolution graphics version.
This deviously clever game places you in a mental asylum, from which you can only escape in your dreams. When you "solve" one dream, you return to The Institute to solve another. Commands are typical for such games, including compass directions N, E, S, W, NE, etc. Many of the puzzles are extremely challenging (the solutions may strike you as illogical), so there are 22 encrypted hints included in the instructions.
One of The Institute's best features is its graphics. The cartoon-like drawing style is cute and fun to look at. There are over 60 different colorful high-resolution graphics screens, some of which contain important visual clues that aren't mentioned in the text. If you're moving through a familiar area, you can turn off the graphics for a faster journey. For a real challenge in adventure gaming, try The Institute.
$29.95. Screenplay, Box 3558, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. Phone (919) 968-0051. Requires disk, 48K.
50 Dunham Rd.
Beverly, MA 01915
approx. $30, 48K-disk
Reviewed by David Duberman
Parker Brothers' latest arcade conversion, Montezuma's Revenge
is a graphic action game par excellence. It's now available for Atari
computers on XL-compatible 48K disk.
You're Panama Joe, an explorer lost in the depths of the Mexican emperor's fortress. The countless rooms of the fortress may each contain jewels, weapons, and other valuable objects. The rooms also hold enemies that you jump over or duck-rolling or bouncing skulls and crawling spiders, plus non-moving snakes.
The variety of rooms seems almost endless. Many rooms contain moving surfaces that dump you unceremoniously into flaming lava pits if you're not agile, causing you to disappear in a puff of smoke. There are ladders for moving vertically and chains for climbing or jumping about. And watch out for the laser gates!
Rooms contain objects that you must pick up in order to progress through the game. Most important are keys, which come in three colors. if you encounter a door without possessing the proper color key, you cannot pass. Pick up jewels for extra points. Earning lots of points gives you extra lives. Possession of a sword lets you vanquish the next enemy you touch, whereupon you lose the sword. If you find a hammer, you're invulnerable to skulls and spiders for the next five seconds or so.
There's only one (extremely inaccessible) torch at each play level, but you must get it in order to explore the lower depths. The rooms here are dark, and it is possible to explore them without a light, but very risky.
You'll know when you reach the emperor's treasure room, the final room in each level of play. The room is filled with chains and jewels and glows with an eerie light. The only ways to move about are by jumping or climbing from chain to chain.
You can start at any of the first three of the nine levels of play. Each higher level features more and faster enemies, and more dark rooms. if you lose
while playing on the first level, you're allowed to start the next game in the same room in which you died-once only.
The next time you die, you must start over from the beginning. This can be frustrating if you keep getting killed just before you finish a level. It would be good to have the save game option that's standard on most text adventure and fantasy role-playing games. One nice feature eliminates time limits from the game, allowing you to work out a strategy for getting through a room without pressure.
CityWriter is a word processing program aimed at beginning computer users, All commands are immediately accessible via Atari's special keys-Option, Select, and Start. The list of currently available commands always appears in a window at the bottom of the screen. At the start of the program, you can simply press [START] and begin to type in Enter mode.
Edit mode lets you move through the document by character, by line, or by page, search and replace, and type over existing text. Unfortunately, to insert a passage you must type it at the end of the document and then use the text move function to place it correctly,
From the File sub-menu, you can see the disk directory, load a file either by adding it to or replacing text currently in memory, save, erase or rename a file, and format a disk. Finally, Print mode lets you format your hard copy, including page width and length, margin width, beginning page number at top or bottom, single or double-spaced, and right justification, There are no built-in printer control functions for underlining, boldface, etc. However, you get instructions for creating a printer control disk file that lets you use these features if your printer has them.
One major criticism is that the Atari keyclick isn't disabled. This sound can be quite annoying to those in the typist's immediate surroundings, Also there isn't much room for text-only six pages can be held at one time in a 48K Atari's RAM. For beginners, though, this program will probably satisfy most needs.
$39.95 from Software City, Dept. A, 1415 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck,
NJ 07666. Phone toll-free 1-800-421-5300 Ext. R264 or (201)