VIC-20 Cartridge Games
Harvey B. Herman
In recent months, a flood of new VIC games has hit the market. Two excellent ones from UMI could keep the kids busy for weeks, or at least until better ones come along.
Spiders Of Mars
This game is reminiscent of the arcade version of Defenders. It begins with a demonstration of the action and allows a choice of skill levels. I like these features in any program. This program also uses color and sound quite effectively, something I look for in all VIC software.
Your character is a fly on the planet Mars. (I normally would not pick a fly as my role model, but this did not detract from the game.) Spiders, hornets, bats, and dragonflies are out to get you, as they would be on Earth. You get three flies (turns) at the start and an extra fly every 10,000 points. The fly is controlled by either the keyboard or a joystick (user's choice).
You shoot neutron missiles at the other characters (joystick button or space bar or both), while trying to avoid touching them or being hit by their missiles or smart bombs. Each character hit earns points, and a multiplier is applied at the higher skill levels. When you clear the screen of opponents, the background colors change and the difficulty level increases. Current background colors change and the difficulty level increases. Current score and previous high are displayed continuously. However, during the game the current level of difficulty is not shown.
Let me offer a few hints:
- My second son believes you can fire faster with the space bar than with the joystick button. He sometimes collaborates with one of his friends, one firing with the bar and the other controlling with the joystick, to rack up some really good scores.
- Watch out for the bats at the highest skill levels; they get very nasty.
- Stay away from the top and bottom of the display. Spiders randomly descend from the sky, and fallen ones shoot webs up from the ground.
- Use the pause button if you develop an acute case of space wrist.
Insect-like aliens on the attack in Spiders Of Mars.
Drifting space rocks and spacecraft in Satellites And Meteorites.
Satellites And Meteorites
This game appears to be modeled after the arcade game Asteroids. It begins abruptly without any preliminaries. Your spaceship is being menaced by meteors, satellites (pulsating and twirling ones), and black holes. You shoot and maneuver your ship with a choice of keyboard or joystick. As before, you can see your current score and the previous high. Points are awarded for destroying the attackers, and, if you're good enough, at 10,000 points, a free ship is awarded. (Three are given at the start of the game.)
The game has excellent graphics, but only fair to good sound effects. I was impressed by the explosions of struck meteors into smaller chunks and the 3-D effect as meteors slide by each other'. An aggressive satellite has even been known to hide behind an innocuous meteor and spring out at you when the meteor is hit, a nasty surprise.
Two factors make the game difficult to master:
- The satellites do not move in straight lines.
- One satellite is shooting randomly, which can cause unexpected hazards (flying chunks).
My testers liked the fact that you are given a new man only after the immediate danger has passed. They felt that the black holes are a unique feature of the game. As you can imagine, it is very difficult to escape from one, but my youngest son claims he did (as yet unverified). They did miss a hyperspace feature which can get you out of some tight spots. Overall, they gave the program a very good rating.
Of the two games, Spiders of Mars was the favorite of the kids. An adult would be hard pressed to choose between them. They are excellent games.
Spiders of Mars, $59.95
Satellites and Meteorites, $49.95
United Microware Industries
3503 Temple Ave.
Pomona, CA 91768