Three VIC Cartridge Games By Creative Software
Harvey B. Herman
The objective of Choplifter is to save lives, specifically the lives of hostages trapped behind enemy lines. Points are scored only when the helicopter you are piloting brings men back to home base. Destroying the enemy is secondary – you do what is necessary to insure the safe arrival of your men.
The pre-game demo has some clever graphics – the "i" in Tom Griner (he's the programmer) waves at you, as the hostages do later. At this point, you are given the option of changing the default colors by successive pressing of any function key (not documented).
When the game begins, your helicopter is on its home base. Lift up with the joystick and fly left toward enemy lines. Watch the three-dimensional star background and front-line pass behind and below, respectively. Listen to the realistic chopper noises.
The hostages are either trapped in houses or are frantically running around on the ground waving to you. Set the chopper down carefully, and the hostages will climb aboard (16 max). If you accidentally land on one, you hear a plaintive "blink." Lift off and return them to base.
Evading the hostile tank, the helicopter attempts to rescue the waving hostages (lower right) in the VIC version of Choplifter
Sounds easy? Not quite. There are hazards to watch out for, like enemy tanks, jets, and killer satellites. The enemy is out to get your chopper, and you must either avoid them or destroy them with your cannon. A perfect score results when you have returned all 64 men to base in the three missions allowed.
I usually lose too many men, but my kids seem to have mastered the game fairly quickly. Although the game's action noticeably slows when too many hostages or enemies are in the field of view, this game is fun and challenging.
I played this game on an Apple once, and the VIC version appears to be identical. You are a blue segmented serpent moving in an irregular maze. Your twists and turns are controlled by a joystick. Hostile red segmented serpents are after you and will eat you if you're careless. You survive by creeping up on them from the rear or side, and snipping off their segmented tails.
When the evil serpent is red, you cannot attack from the front or you will be eaten (lose a turn). But if you snip off enough of a red serpent, it turns green, and you are free to attack it from any direction. In fact, at that time a successful frontal attack awards your blue serpent an extra segment. Similarly, extra segments are given when you eat frogs, which hop around randomly on the maze, or the eggs laid by enemy serpents.
There are several complications and strategies which make the game more interesting. A red snake will turn green when it has fewer segments than your blue snake and back again when it has more. When snakes lay eggs, they lose a segment. If a head-on collision with a green snake is imminent and your snake decides to lay an egg, you might find yourself face-to-face with an angry red one.
The swiftly creeping serpents are a blur as they flee through the maze in Serpentine.
My kids enjoyed this game more than the other two, and I was able to pick up a strategy tip from watching them play. They sometimes delay the clearing of all red snakes from the board until their blue snake lays an egg. Assuming a frog doesn't get the egg (frogs love eggs), they get an extra turn after the board is cleared.
The game uses color, music, and sound effectively. Tension builds when the game gets more difficult as successive screens are cleared, but the points go up proportionally. One kid suggested a speed-up button to help escape tight spots, even if it cost penalty points. Overall, we found it exciting and engaging.
In principle, this game is very similar to Pac-Man. You are at the controls of a garbage truck riding around town (a maze), collecting trash (dots), and emptying trash cans (energizers). Both activities score points, and the object of the game is to clear successive screens and achieve as high a score as possible. Giant flies are continually molesting your truck, and you must evade them or lose a turn.
After a trash can is emptied, the flies change color, and for a short time it is safe to counterattack. But don't wait too long, or they will revert to their original color and revert to their essential nastiness.
This game offers a choice of difficulty (or bonus) levels at the start, and my kids appreciate this feature. They consistently play at the highest level, but have not lost interest yet. The game has good sound effects and well-drawn, animated flies, especially at the beginning and when the flies are caught and sent back to home base. I also liked the idea of a random bonus which appears about half-way through a screen to liven things up a little. The joystick is optional for this program, but recommended.
Among these three games, we liked Serpentine the best, then Trashman, then Choplifter. Personal taste will be the deciding factor, so try them out before you purchase, if possible. But if you are an inveterate game player, you'll probably enjoy all of these VIC cartridges; they're among the better ones we've seen.
230 Caribbean Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
$45 to $47
Players must negotiate a maze to pick up garbage in Trashman