Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 7, NO. 7 / NOVEMBER 1988

ST Games Gallery

Typhoon Thompson, Bubble Ghost, Speed Buggy and more.

Typhoon Thompson Bubble Ghost

Road Runner Prime Time

Occasionally, a game comes along that has it all-graphics, animation, sound, playability and that certain addictiveness that keeps you comming back for more. My aching shoulders and bleary eyes attest to the fact that the Broderbund programmers famed for Choplifter have done their job well, with the new Typhoon Thompson.

It had seemed that Broderbund wasn't going to enter the ST market, which made me sad. But if Typhoon Thompson is a sample of what to expect from this publisher, then I'll say, "Take all the time you need, Broderbund." It's that good.

Here's the story: a spacecraft has been lost in the far reaches of the galaxy. At first, it was thought that all aboard were lost, but a faint signal indicates that an infant survived the crash. Several rescue teams headed for the planet where the ship crashed. But they were never heard from again. Thus, it has fallen on your shoulders to rescue the infant, known as the "sea child" because it is being imprisoned by sea sprites on a planet which is virtually all ocean.

As the game begins, your alter ego, Typhoon Thompson, is literally "dropped off" near the crash site. This opening sequence should not be missed-it gives a taste of what's to come. To get around on the watery planet, Typhoon uses a sled that looks like a tire with rocket engines. The left mouse button activates the weapons, while the right button increases the sled's speed by firing the jets.

The sled can even submerge to avoid enemies. Some weapons require both buttons, but learning to fly the sled is not difficult. Typhoon isn't armed, but after he meets the friendly spirits of the planet, they give him a laser cannon. After each level, the spirits provide more powerful weapons, which will be needed as the action intensifies.

The spirits need four Earthly relics before they'll free the baby. At the beginning of each level, you'll be told which object to retrieve. Then you use your direction finder to locate the sea sprite village. Each village consists of a central cylinder surrounded by small islands, each of which houses several sprites-and warlike sprites they are, too. As you approach the islands, the sprites sally forth to do battle. They are equipped with awesome weapons, including a variety of ships which will attempt to shoot you down.

There are two ways to lose this game. First, you can run out of lives. Many enemy ships have weapons that will vaporize poor Typhoon. The most horrible is probably the bubbles, which envelop him, let him struggle for a while, when dissolve him.

The other way is to run out of sleds. Some enemy ships will puncture or suck up the sled, dumping poor Typhoon in the water. He must then swim back to the spirits to get another sled-if there are any more. Making it even tougher to survive are some particularly diabolical enemies which emanate force fields, making it very hard to control the sled.

When battling the sea sprites, your objective is to shoot down the ships. This dumps the stunned sea sprites in the water, where you can swoop down and pick them up. Wait too long, and the sprite recovers and starts swimming away like a hyperactive seal-the graphics effects must be seen to be believed.

You can't grab a sprite when it's swimming. You must either give up or stun it again with your laser cannon. If the sprite makes it back to the island, it's safe, and will soon return in another ship. In the upper levels, it gets far more difficult to retrieve the sprites because you'll be attacked from all sides. Careful strategy then comes into play, as there are ways to limit the number of sprite ships that pursue you.

Once you capture all the sprites in a village, the distraught sprite king will appear, and you can trade his captured subjects for the object you require. Then you return to the spirits to get more powerful weapons, such as flash bombs, sprite magnets and freeze bombs, before moving on to the next level.

There is so much I like about this game. The graphics are incredible, with the smallest detail painstakingly rendered. From the multiple opening sequences to the horror on the sprite king's face when Typhoon holds up the wiggling bag of his subjects-the king's eyes actually bug out-this game is a graphic marvel. Of course, great graphics don't make a game, but they sure help.

Thompson is
among the most
playable games
I ever

Typhoon Thompson is among the most playable games I ever encountered. By the fourth game, I could survive for 20 to 30 minutes and achieve good scores. This is encouraging and keeps you coming back for more. I wish there was a "Save Game" feature, because a good game can last quite a while. High scores are saved to disk, although you can remove the scores from disk if you want. Finally, you can win this game. I haven't done it yet, but I've come very close, and probably by the time you read this, I will have managed it, because I am not giving up.

Lastly, to any pirates out there, this game is good. It is certainly worth buying. It's also the first major ST game effort by Broderbund and if you steal it, it may well be their last. Don't spoil things for the rest of the ST community by being a jerk and putting this game on your pirate board.- DAVID PLOTKIN

$34.95, color. Broderbund Software, 17 Paul Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903. (415) 492-3500.

Bubble Ghost is an amusing and addictive strategy/arcade game featuring excellent graphics and sound, along with an admirably original and non-violent storyline. This French import is a delight to play because it's so full of surprises. You control a ghost who is doomed to wander the halls of a 35-room mansion forever- unless he can successfully move a bubble through all the rooms. Each room is loaded with obstacles and some very tight passages. The bubble pops if it touches anything, and the ghost gets angry-one of the better effects in the game.

The ghost can be rotated clockwise with the left mouse button and counter-clockwise with the right button. To move the bubble, you press the [SHIFT] key to make the ghost blow on it. The closer your ghost is to the bubble, the harder he blows the bubble. Also, the direction in which the ghost is facing affects the direction the bubble will be blown. Duration of the airflow is also important.

You begin with five bubbles, periodically gaining extra bubbles for various successes along the way. The obstacles include candles, needles, knives and scissors, as well as some unidentifiable (but still deadly) bubble-poppers. It takes ingenuity and critical timing to get the bubble past obstacles, and even seasoned arcade gamers will be challenged by this little gem. Each room has a timer, and you get bonus points for getting through the room before time runs out.

The hidden surprises in each room can be quite useful in your ghost's quest for eternal peace. One example is a candle, which pops the bubble whenever it passes overhead. Not surprisingly, your ghost can blow out the candle.

The graphics are quite good, and the bubble itself is excellent. It shows highlights from the light and "wobbles" through the air just like a real bubble. The sounds of the breath and of a popping bubble (which you will hear all too often) are also realistic.

I highiy recommend Bubble Ghost. It's imaginative and fun, sometimes letting you compensate for faulty strategy with fast reflexes. But if you're careful and think it through, you can negotiate the rooms of the mansion with your bubble successfully-without once needing the reflexes of a teenager. -DAVID PLOTKIN

$34.95, color. Accolade, 550 S. Winchester Boulevard, Suite 200, San Jose, CA 95128. (408) 296-8400.

The main difference between the Road Runner cartoons and Mindscape's unusually fun Road Runner game is that in the cartoons, Wile E. Coyote never eats the Road Runner- only the big one. Though the game format doesn't break any new ground, Road Runner is a graphic masterpiece. For example, as in the cartoons, when Wile E. Coyote falls from a high place you can almost hear him sigh as he accepts the fact that it's going to be along, unpleasant ride down. The little "HELP" sign really adds to his futility.

Perhaps unwisely, Mindscape decided to have the player control the Road Runner. You must dodge Wile E. while inducing him to blow himself up with his arsenal of Acme toys, fall from a plateau, or somehow run in front of a truck or boulder. Along the way, you must grab all the birdseed you find and in the higher levels, every glass of lemonade. There are mines and other perils to avoid-and even without these hazards, the game would be difficult enough because the roads veer crazily and you can see only a small section at a time.

For the most part, you just have to move the stick-in all directions at once, it seems-and press the trigger to jump. Oddly, the Road Runner never says, "Meep meep." Mindscape should have digitized that sound effect and at least played it at the title screen. The documentation is extremely scanty, but all you really need to know is, "If he catches you, you're through." Road Runner has four basic screens, featuring colorful, multilevel scrolling backgrounds full of the kinds of things you'd expect. Starting at level 5, the scene returns to the level 1 screen, but with more hazards. The action is accompanied by the kind of fast classical music you'd expect in Road Runner cartoons.

the cartoons,
the coyote
never wins; in
the game,
he never

One strange thing is that when the coyote catches the Road Runner, he drags him back past the right edge of the screen. So if you're careless, you could wind up further back than your last starting point. However, the game doesn't drag you all the way back to the beginning after you run out of lives. If you got past level 1 and if you manage to reach the Short Cut tunnel in the first screen after restarting (it's pretty easy), you'll pick up where you left off.

Each level has two or more sets of hazards. One tough hazard is the cannons in level 3. After you get hit by a cannonball (and you will, you will), sometimes Wile E. Coyote will deposit you directly in front of a cannon which fires as soon as you move-and your charred carcass will be carried further back. Also, you can still be hit even when the cannonballs seem to miss you by miles.

The battered wooden bridge is also lots of trouble. You can't really tell where you are, so seemingly logical moves tend to send you plummeting.

Is there a joystick made that can stand up to the lightning-fast stick movements required continuously in Road Runner? In reviewing this game I destroyed at least two joysticks. And due to my habit of maintaining a death-grip on the stick, I acquired unbelievable cramps in my hands and arms that lasted for days.

As Warner Bros. cartoon fans know, the coyote never wins. In the computer game he never loses. Wouldn't it make more sense to have the player take on the role of Wile E. Coyote, with all the built-in frustrations blocking the ultimate goal of catching the Road Runner? Put some weapons at his disposal. Perhaps have a mail-order screen before each level so he can send away for the latest weaponry from Acme. Throw in birdseed for Road Runner bait. Maybe there should be a Road Runner II.

If you can get past joystick-related hand cramps and occasionally deceiving graphics, Road Runner should keep you entertained for hours on end. It's just about the most challenging chase game you'll ever see.- GREGG PEARLMAN

$49.95, color. Mindscape Inc., 3444 Dundee Road, Northbrook, IL 60062. (800) 221-9884; in Illinois, (312) 480-7667.

Soccer fans everywhere should enjoy International Soccer, especially its stunning, fluid animation. If the players were choppy and halting in their movements, it would take away from the realistic beauty of the sport.

With this joystick-driven game you can play against a human foe or the computer. You can also choose from about 100 colors for either team's uniforms. But make sure you can tell the two teams apart, because the program has no built-in safeguards for this.

You can also set the length of the game; wet, dry, or windy weather conditions, day or night. Probably the most difficult part in the first options screen is deciding on the formation. Experimentation is the only answer for players not too familiar with soccer. But otherwise, you'll have no trouble enjoying a good game of soccer, though it's unlikely you'll beat the computer the first time out.

Before the game starts, use the number keys [l]-[9] to set the difficulty of the computer opponent. The propram controls the game, acting as a referee to set up throw-ins, corner kicks and goal kicks when needed.

Push the joystick button to kick the ball. How long the button is depressed determines whether the result will be a pass, chip or longshot- for which the joystick must be centered. If the stick is off-center, the player will attempt a tackle of an opponent that has the ball.

You control only one player with the stick and the computer runs the rest of the team. When the player you're controlling doesn't have the ball, you can control a different player by just pressing the joystick button. When the goalie comes into view, you can activate him by pushing the stick toward the goal and then either left or right, depending on the direction in which you want him to dive.

Now to the game's problems. First, the documentation is sparse, ambiguous and devoid of helpful illustrations. Second, there's incessant music and while I could choose which of four songs to play, I couldn't find a way to turn the music off completely. You also need $10 to buy a backup of this copy-protected disk. Because of the size of the players and the fact that the screen scrolls side-to-side, but not top-to-bottom, this game feels more like Major Indoor Soccer League soccer than the outdoor international variety. There is no feel of the true width of a soccer field-RICK TEVERBAUGH

$39.95, color. Microdeal (MichTron), 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, MI 48053. (313) 334-8729.

Scrolling arcade shoot-em-ups are among the oldest forms of computer entertainment software. There are only two things that can make a new entry stand out from the crowd and Goldrunner II has them both.

fire won't
destroy you;
it sends you off
in a different

One factor is flawless execution. After playing this game for several hours for review purposes (Try telling that to my wife when the hedges need trimming), I really can't find fault with the play interface. The graphics are outstanding, and the music lends a certain atmosphere to the game without driving everybody up the wall.

Your goal is to pilot a ship, singlehandedly destroy enemy vessels, and recover your captured robot ships. There are many different kinds of enemy ships and this is where the game's solid graphics are especially valuable. At a glance you can tell the differences in the vessels. Sometimes the distinction is made through colors, sometimes by shape and design. One rescue craft is a certain color when empty, but a different color when carrying a robot ship. Shooting it down when empty is almost useless. But shooting it when it's carrying a robot and then capturing the robot before it falls to the ground is really what the game is about.

The second factor in making a standout scrolling arcade game is giving it a twist. Here, the twist is that enemy fire doesn't destroy your ship. Rather, it sends your vessel off in a different direction-at high speed.

You lose ships by crashing into structures too high to fly over. These structures can be identified with the Local Area Scanner, which also serves to locate enemy ships. Other onscreen displays include the number of ships left, the number of robots on board (dump those off in the landing area at each opportunity), the score for the current platform and the overall score for each platform completed.

The only problem with this entire package is something that Microdeal's documentation isn't worth the paper it's printed on. The manual has only 14 pages and one illustration. It's vague and poorly laid out. There's a nice on-disk demo display of the alien ships, their value and when they should be shot down. But that doesn't help if you need a quick reference in the heat of battle. There's a tutorial key that provides vocal tips throughout the beginning levels. It's almost as if the programmers knew the documentation would be worthless when they put the game together.

The game can be played with joystick, mouse or keyboard, though I found the joystick to be the most natural choice. The function keys can be used to turn on or off the tutorial messages and music, and they simplify the game somewhat.

Goldrunner II is a worthwhile addition to the library of any gamer who yearns for something different for his arcade tastes. If you can survive all the screens that come with the original game, you can buy two additional scenery disks for $12.95 that are even more stunning than the originals.- RICK TEVERBAUGH

$39.95, color. Microdeal (MichTron), 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, Ml 48053. (313) 334-8729.

Prime Time is a good concept- you're a network programmer trying to schedule a season's worth of inane television programs like "Wheel of Torture." The season lasts from September through July (barring writers' strikes), in this one-player to three-player game. Keeping your job depends on your network's ratings and, more importantly, the amount of money you rake in-each ratings point represents huge sums of money.

Each prospective show has a genre (comedy, drama, etc.), a target audience broken down by age and sex, and ratings for sex and violence content. After establishing your network name, you're given program listings including blurbs, which you can print-helpful if you create a terrific show and want the details for future sessions.

Next comes the front page of Variety, with headlines that might provide information about your ratings, hot or cold show formats, and the health of comedian Bob Gelg, host of several comedy specials-if you bought one of his shows and he dies, you'll have to eat the cost. Finally, you'll see the programs ranked in reverse order, which you can also print, as well as the networks' overall ratings.

The highest-rated network during the previous month juggles its schedule first. Each computer-run network is headed by Fred Silverfish, a Michael Nesmith lookalike who tells you what shows his network has bought, cancelled, pushed (advertised heavily), unpushed, etc. The best way to get in touch with the other Freds is to "do lunch."

You must juggle your office schedule. A clock counts down from five minutes-if you take too long, each extra second costs thousands of dollars. Your rolodex has the names of five studios to call when you want to buy or develop a show Your Network Review folder includes the Show Board, which displays the programming schedules, ratings and rankings for all three networks' shows. (This would be much more useful if you could make a printout.)

job depends
on your ratings
-and how much
money you
rake in.

There are two doors, marked "Programming" and "Exit." The programming room has shelves for each night, representing the time between 8 and 11 p.m., which hold film cans with the names of your programs. The wider the can, the longer the show. At the top is the "Shelf" shelf, for "shelving" (temporarily halting production) of up to five programs. To cancel a show, drop it in the can- which has a triangular top and a swinging gate to put trash through. The sound effect is excellent.

Perhaps you'll want to push a new show, one that's sagging in the ratings, or even your entire Thursday night lineup. Clicking on Push brings up a list of your shows. Left-click to push or unpush a show, and right-click for rating, ranking and type.

From your office you can phone a studio and buy a program (and schedule it right away) or develop your own- which takes time, but the results can be satisfying. I derived great satisfaction from the rapid upward progress of my brainchildren, "Leave it to President Cleaver" where The Beav grows up, becomes President and accidentally blows up Kuala Lumpur, and "Nipples!", a drama about life in an infant bottle factory

After you exit the office, it's time to bid on specials, such as Bob Gelg's shows and the World Series, which can add significantly to your overall ratings. Each season has 15 specials, and your budget dictates your spending limit. The overall bidding process is slow, but the graphics are terrific.

Interesting effects in Prime Time include the scrolling credits on the title screen and, especially, the digitized sounds-a blood-curdling scream (courtesy of comedian Sam Kinison) that tells you it's Monday, a receptionist answering the phone at a studio, a cash register, and doors opening and closing. The light switch in your office really does turn the lights on and off. The phone really does ring. And if you want to doodle, that's what your desk blotter is for.

Though Prime Time is addictive, it's not perfect. For instance, what I call the "Different World" factor, sandwiching a weak show between two strong ones, doesn't seem to help the weak show in Prime Time as much as it does in real life. The game and documentation have several misspellings. And twice Prime Time bombed inexplicably.

But this takes nothing away from the overall charm of this challenging game. Its originality, color and humor will keep you busy for hours. And if you can win, the networks probably need your help.-GREGG PEARIMAN

$39.95, color. First Row Software, 900 E. 8th Avenue, Suite 300, King of Prussia, PA 19406. (215) 337-1500.