Games abound this month, and pretty good ones at that. Even though MS-DOS machines are growing in popularity as home computers, some games are still released first for the 64 and 128. That's what an installed base of over 7 million computers does for you.
From Taito (11715 North Creek Parkway South, Bothell, Washington 98011; 604-984-3344; $29.95) comes Qix, pronounced "kicks." Based on the arcade game of the same name, Qix is now billed as "The Computer Virus Game." According to its new description, you are trying to neutralize a Qix virus by surrounding it with a vaccine.
In fact, the virus stuff is just a gratuitous description to make the game seem contemporary. Qix is actually a puzzle game, albeit a clever and mind-boggling one. A viruslike collection of lines called a Qix runs unpredictably around a rectangle that takes up most of the screen. You draw boxes from the rectangle's perimeter in an attempt to color-in parts of the screen to trap the Qix. Fill in 65 percent of the screen and the Qix is trapped, and you're on to the next level.
The Qix will destroy you if it touches an unfinished box. Various other creatures also try to destroy you by chasing you around the perimeter. Screen 1 is easy; screen 2 begins to get tricky. Reach screen 5, and you're either a genius or a joystick whiz.
Qix has one very annoying aspect. After each game, the program reloads the title screen, a process that takes far too long. If you could skip this step, the game would be infinitely more playable. Don't developers test their own products?
We Got a Convoy
Destroyer Escort is a new simulation from Microplay (180 Lakefront Drive, Hunt Valley Maryland 21030; 301-771-1151;$39.95). Graphically gorgeous, this game simulates the actions of a convoy escort on the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. Your duty as a destroyer captain is to make sure the convoy reaches port safely while you destroy as many enemy ships and subs as possible.
The game gives you a choice of three difficulty levels, depending on how much enemy resistance you want to face. Six missions are available. You can cruise from America to Great Britain, Great Britain to Gibraltar, Murmansk to Great Britain, or take any of these routes in reverse. Heading from America to Britain is the easiest because you have time to get used to the controls before meeting up with a concentrated enemy attack.
A map station yields a strategic map of the North Atlantic or the Norwegian Sea (depending on the mission), while a navigation station lets you guide your ship. At the five-inch gun mounts, you can fire on the enemy as you see fit. From the antiaircraft gun station, you shoot down enemy planes (when you aren't attempting to do away with enemy subs at the depth-charge station). The torpedo launch station is where you coordinate attacks against enemy ships, while the damage report and ship's status stations give you information about the condition of your ship and your mission's progress.
Destroyer Escort is a complete simulation that isn't inordinately complex.
Having a Baal
Psygnosis (Century Buildings, Tower Street, Liverpool L3 4BJ, United Kingdom; $29.95) has released Baal, another graphically rich arcade game. Following in the footsteps of Barbarian, this game has you guiding a figure across a series of screens, blasting away at enemies and avoiding obstacles. You are one of a squadron of time warriors, whose mission is to retrieve a stolen war machine from the enemy. Problem is, the enemy is led by the evil Baal, and before you can get the machine, you must destroy him.
Like Barbarian, this game is fairly addicting. Its considerable graphics appeal gets you into the game and keeps you going. Unfortunately, also like Barbarian, Baal is interesting only for a limited period of time. Not a bad game, but it lacks seasoning.