VIC-20 Cartridge Games
Harvey B. Herman
The cartridge games described here have some common features. They all plug in to the back of the VIC and start automatically on power up. Each has impressive graphics, color, and sound as part of the program. They begin with a demonstration of the program features. Provision is made to center the program on the screen if your TV is misaligned. Many of the games can be played with either the keyboard or a joystick. When a score is shown, the previous high is also given, so subsequent players have something to shoot for.
One cautionary note: do not insert or remove the cartridge with power on. The instructions make this point and I heartily endorse it. Perhaps it would be wise to assign the task to a careful adult or older child. Now on to the games.
Armchair astronauts can now have a real time simulation of a space ship landing on Jupiter. Three landing sites are available – two of them are quite difficult at first. Your object is to score the most points before your fuel runs out. When you land softly, bonus points are awarded and your fuel supply is boosted. More difficult sites, of course, have a higher bonus. The rate of descent (or ascent) is continuously monitored by a gauge on the right side of the screen. The landing is A-OK if the gauge needle is centered on touchdown.
My kids rated the game, initially, 8 out of 10. However, they seem to play it more than the others so I suspect the real rating is higher. An old fogey, like me, enjoyed it, but found it almost impossible to land on the more difficult sites. The kids found it challenging but learned how to do it almost every time. C'est la vie.
You are in an irregular grid being chased by unfriendly aliens trying desperately to stay alive. When an alien catches you, he eats you – not a pretty sight. The object is to score points by trapping them in air bubbles which you have laid down in strategic spots. When an alien is trapped by a fully inflated air bubble, you have a short time to reach it (using the keyboard or joystick) and deflate it off the board. Otherwise, the alien escapes, destroys the bubble and continues the chase. Points are scored when an alien is removed from the board. The number of points is determined by removal time, i.e., faster players will receive a higher score. Extra aliens are added when all the aliens are removed and the game begins anew. Your turn is over when you have been eaten three times. The aliens are normally relatively slow moving and not terribly smart. However, if the game goes on too long, they suddenly become fast and aggressive and it is impossible to escape their greedy mouths.
I enjoyed playing this game more than my kids; they rated it 6 out of 10. Perhaps they were influenced by the fact that our joystick was not working properly (the connector was loose) and they were forced to use the keyboard. Also the grid was oversized for our TV and you could not see the score and the whole grid at the same time.
This program is modeled after the popular arcade game, Space Invaders. You are in control of a base (space ship) at the bottom of the screen which can move left or right while firing at enemy aliens and dodging their bombs. The aliens are arranged in rows which move back and forth relentlessly closing in with time. As with many of the other games, you are given a choice of keyboard or joystick control. Points are scored when you destroy an alien. At unpredictable times a mystery ship moves across the screen. Each class of alien is assigned a different point value. The score for the mystery ship is random. Your base can protect itself by hiding behind solid objects but these are continuously being annihilated by enemy bombs. If the aliens drop too low you cannot avoid being destroyed.
At the start you are given three bases (turns). When you reach 1500 points an extra base is awarded. The game is over when you have lost all your bases. My kids rated it 9 out of 10 and it has proven to be the second most popular game. They have become quite proficient at it and put my feeble attempts to shame.
VIC deals you a poker hand and your payoff is determined by the odds. Less than a pair of jacks is worthless but a big hand like a royal flush pays 500 to 1. You are allowed to bet up to 9 coins. As you bet, odds are displayed so you can see exactly how much each poker hand is worth. The cards have their backs to you (Commodore Japan logo) and are exposed dramatically one at a time. After the deal and before the draw you select the cards you want to keep (0 to 5). If you wind up with a winning hand the bank will offer to cut cards with you, double or nothing. Resist the temptation on big winning hands.
My kids rated it 6 out of 10 as they don't seem to care much for poker simulations. As for me, I prefer losing to friends.
This program is a realistic computer simulation of a slot machine. I believe you lose as fast as you do on the real ones in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. You have the option of playing with the keyboard or a joystick. First you place a bet of up to 5 coins from your initial stake of 80. Betting extra coins allows more winning combinations. If you bet the maximum, you can win five different ways. The possible winning combinations are shown initially and can be recalled at will. When you're ready to play, a smiling man is shown pulling a lever. He keeps smiling even when you lose. The wheels spin – cherries, lemons, plums and other assorted goodies flash in front of you. The three wheels stop one at a time with lots of dramatic music. If a win shows, your money supply goes up. In any case it's time to bet again. As in real life, the game is over when your money is gone.
The kids and I were impressed with the remarkable graphic symbols. They rated it 9 out of 10. I am not sure how long it can keep an adult who isn't an inveterate gambler amused. Nevertheless, the program should be seen just to appreciate the capabilities of the VIC.
Commodore Business Machines, Inc.
950 Rittenhouse Rd.
Norristown, PA 19403