2350 Bayshore Frontage Rd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein
The marriage between hit movies and computer software has been a rocky
one in the past. Games based on the cinema have rarely been commercially
or artistically successful. That's usually because the game is produced
as a rush-job to capitalize on the motion picture's success. Until now,
Ghostbusters from Activision, is the first adaptation to capture both the feel and the theme of the movie on which it is based. For those one or two Antic readers who haven't seen the movie, I'll explain.
Supernatural phenomena (referred to in the game as PK levels) in YOUR town are on the rise and ghosts are everywhere. As the owner of the local Ghostbuster franchise, it is up to you to sweep the streets for mobile ghosts (Roamers), clean all haunted buildings of their inhabitants (Slimers), and finally face down the dreaded Marshmallow Monstrosity at the Temple of Zuul. Succeed, and fame and fortune are yours. Fail, and bankruptcy awaits.
Of course, no ghostbusters worth their salt can go into business without the proper equipment, and you have the option to buy Image Intensifiers, PK Energy Detectors, Ghost Traps, Bait, etc.
As a new franchisee, the bank supplies you with $10,000 to start. But as you progress and earn more money, you can buy more sophisticated equipment. You can win at Ghost-busters by finishing the game with more money than you started. But sneaking two men into the Temple of Zuul will earn you a substantial bonus.
This is Activision's first attempt at a role-playing game, and while the game is enjoyable, there is a flaw in the design. At the end of a game, if you are successful, you are given an account number to correspond to your name and winnings. It is up to you to make a record of this number, and enter it again next time you want to play. Any deviation in the number or in spelling your character's name, and you must start over from the beginning. It should have been a simple matter to put in a save-game routine to simplify matters.
And then there's the music. While the adaptation of Ray Parker Jr.'s hit is well done, it plays throughout the game, over and over again. Since a typical game may last 15-20 minutes, a way to toggle the music off would be more than appreciated. As it is, I've taken to playing Ghostbusters with the monitor sound turned all the way down.
But these are just minor complaints. Ghostbusters is most enjoyable to play, and I hope it's a sign of what Atari owners can expect from Activision in the future.
SPY VS. SPY
First Star Software
22E. 41 Street
New York, NY 10017
Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein
Too many products being released these days seem to be rehashes of the
same tired arcade themes. So it gives me great pleasure to announce that
Spy Vs. Spy is one of the most original and clever games for Atari
The Black and White secret agents, created by Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias, have been one of the most popular features in Mad Magazine since 1960. The game, with an excellent Atari adaptation by ace programmer Jim Nangano, not only remains faithful to the cartoons, but is challenging and great fun to play.
As the White spy, you race the clock and your opponent Black (controlled by either another player or the computer) to find 5 items hidden
within an embassy. Once you acquire the briefcase, secret plans, key, passport and money, you must find your way through a maze of rooms to the exit leading to the airport.
But that's not all! During play, you and your opponent leave traps for each other-bombs, electrified water, guns with strings attached to the trigger and so forth. Setting off one of these booby-traps puts you out of commission for several valuable seconds, giving your opponent the edge.
Of course, as a well-armed spy, you have an arsenal of remedies at your disposal. So the umbrella neutralizes the electrified water, the scissors saves you from the gun with the string, etc.
One of the most unique features of Spy vs. Spy is a technique First Star calls Simulvision. This splits the screen in half, so that the activities of White can be seen in the top half, and Black in the bottom, allowing each player to see what the other is up to. When a player enters a room already occupied, the action shifts to one half of the screen for a winner-take-all brawl.
I cannot recommend this game highly enough. The graphics and animation exploit all the possibilities of the Atari. And with several levels of play, Spy vs. Spy should provide loads of fun for both novices and experienced gamesters.
Optimized Systems Software, Inc.
1221B Kentwood Ave.
San Jose, CA 95129
requires MAC/65 Assembler
Reviewed by Andy Barton
The MAC/65 Toolkit is an impressive collection of some 67 macros
(assembly language subroutines) for use with the MAC/65 Assembler Editor.
These macros greatly enchance the speed and ease of assembly language programming
for both the novice and the experienced programmer.
The Toolkit's macro calls mimic many BASIC and assembly language commands. This makes an assembly language program almost as easy as a BASIC program to write and debug.
The macros are grouped into three libraries (files). The first library is a collection of utility routines for graphics, math, I/O and program control.
The second library offers 11 macros for setting up single line resolution Player/Missile graphics, moving the players and missiles with a vertical blank interrupt, and detecting collisions.
The third library offers a VBI routine for vertical, horizontal, and diagonal fine scrolling over a large screen display using the joystick.
The Toolkit allows assembly language beginners to focus on overall programming without having to develop complicated routines. An elementary understanding (or handy reference book) of assembly language is necessary for using this kit. It is also desirable to have a moderate familiarity with Atari's P/M graphics. The user's manual is clear and concise, but it's not as helpful for newcomers as I would have liked.
The P/M graphics library needs a macro for joystick input. Writing one might be a good first project for the user. The joystick routine from the scroll library, while not directly transferable, is a good starting point.
The libraries use fairly large blocks of memory. The utility library itself occupies slightly over six pages (about 1 1/2K). The P/M graphics library occupies a little less then two pages and the scroll library just over one page of memory. If memory space becomes a problem, you can, with a bit of effort, go through the specific libraries deleting any unused macro before final assembly.
First Star Software
18 E 41st Street
New York, NY 10017
Reviewed by Anita Malnig
This learning game might have some trouble competing with the latest
Infocom adventure. However, U. S. Adventure-by Antic contributing
editor Jerry White-could work very well in a history class, or be enjoyed
by a youthful history buff. You've got to know your facts to succeed.
First you've got to know the order in which each state entered the union. There's a help key to give you clues, but each clue takes away points. You must move from state 1 to state 2, etc., by using directional signals which appear on the screen in the form of a compass.
After you've correctly guessed the state, you choose your next move from an Options Menu. From this menu you can choose Time Travel, Take Event, Review Map (here's where you get clues to the order of states), and several other less-used options.
Take Event and Time Travel test your knowledge of American history some more. You choose Take Event only after you have correctly chosen the next state's entrance. You're given several historical events and must weed out ones that may be bogus. Watch out for those! They can drastically alter your points.
Then you move to Time Travel to guess the year that the particular event took place. Time Travel offers nice computer sound and graphics as you appear to be looking through a long colorful tunnel. Years, 1776, 1821, etc., pass by and you control when to stop, advance, or go backward. You've got to correctly guess the date of an event with as little time travel as possible. (I hadn't read the instructions all the way through and got very intrigued with making those years go backward and forward through this tunnel ranging in hues from yellows to purples to blues. Well, I paid for the fun with my score!)
This learning game is full of interesting facts and proves to be a good history lesson. However, the instructions are not easy to follow and there are a lot of them. Getting from state to state seemed more convoluted than it had to be. I also found a spelling error: Massachesettes. That's really unacceptable in any piece of software, and especially in a learning game.
However, none of this is enough to turn thumbs down on the whole program. Young history buffs will enjoy U. S. Adventure and the game could certainly add a spark to any classroom history lesson.
50 MISSION CRUSH
Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Road, Building A-200
Mountain View, CA 94043
40K-disk, requires BASIC
Reviewed by Karl Wiegers
50 Mission Crush puts you in the pilot's seat of a B-17 heavy
bomber in World War II. Your goal is to survive 50 missions from an Air
Force base in England against 23 targets in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Your opposition includes enemy fighters and flak guns, weather, your own inexperience, and the random number generator. This role-playing game lets you share the feelings of a real pilot-relief when a "milk run" target is selected by the computer, dismay when yet another fighter shoots holes in your damaged bomber, frustration when the target is protected by clouds, anxiety as you pray your fuel will last until you return to England.
You control the movement of the bomber as well as functions such as dropping bombs, changing altitude, and fighting fires. You direct the fire of your machine guns when fighters appear. And you watch helplessly as puffs of flak appear around the plane. The crew members become more effective at their jobs as they gain experience. Games and crews can be stored on disk for continuation at another time.
This is not a visually exciting game. The few animation sequences used are very simple. The game moves slowly in spots, possibly because it is written in BASIC. Combat sound effects are good, but more sound features would add to the game. The game is easy to learn and play. A typical mission takes 5 to 10 minutes of real time.
The strength of 50 Mission Crush lies in its detailed simulation of combat results. Damage accrues gradually and realistically Consumption of fuel and ammunition require constant decision-making. I took more damage from flak than from enemy fighters, in contrast to the historical reality.
Unfortunately, there is not much of a learning curve with 50 Mission Crush. Random events play a larger role in your fate than do skill and practice. This is a good operational-level war game, but don't expect a lot of exciting air combat action.
BEYOND CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN
347 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein
When Muse Software introduced Castle Wolfenstein for the Apple in 1981,
it quickly shot to the top of the charts and remained there as one of the
most popular games for any microcomputer. The Atari translation was remarkably
faithful to the Apple, right down to the lousy sound and black-white-green-purple
Now we have the sequel, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, and while there have been some minor improvements, the game play doesn't provide nearly as much depth as the documentation suggests.
The scenario in the follow-up is different, yet similar enough to the original to allow the same spare graphics. As an allied intelligence agent, you must penetrate Der Fuhrer's bunker, a 3-level maze of rooms. Hidden in a closet on the first level is a time bomb, which you must find and then set outside Hitler's office, two levels below, after which you must retrace your steps out before the whole place goes up.
As in the original, each room is swarming with unfriendly guards. You have no uniform to allow you access, but you do have numbered passes. When you enter a room, the guard demands to see your pass. If you show the wrong one, you will probably be arrested, but you do have money to bribe the guards.
Once you find the correct pass for a level, it works with every guard on that level, so the game becomes a lot easier. The chests of the previous game have been replaced by closets, some of which are locked, requiring the talents of a safecracker.
There are some improvements over the original, most notably the speech synthesis used for the guards. With a
The game promises more than it delivers in strategy.
little practice, you can recognize their grunts as actual German words. Also, if you accidently walk into a wall, you don't get the filling-rattling routine that accomanied Castle Wolfenstein.
Now for the bad news. The game promises more than it delivers in strategy. For example, while I found keys in several closets, after playing 3 games in progressively difficult levels, I found nothing to use them on. Also, there is a toolkit which the documentation says can be used to disable the alarm system. Not only do I still not know how to disable the alarm, but I've yet to figure out why I would want to.
Once you know which passes to use, you can breeze through the game with only mapping needed. It's this sameness and ease that keeps me from going back to play Beyond Castle Wolfenstein again and again. Not to mention that it takes so long to load that it recalls fond memories of my old 410 recorder.