Fun for a summer's day. (evaluation) Arthur Leyenberger.
In Western society, the number seven has folklore and even mystical status. Seven is a lucky number in craps. There are seven dwarfs, continents, days in the week and wonders of the world. There are seven deadly sins. And let's not forget the seven-year itch.
With all of these sevens, why not seven computer games? Indeed, here is a healthy half dozen games for your gaming pleasure. Murder on the Zinderneuf
It is 1936. You are 5000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean flying in the luxury dirigible Zinderneuf. Sixteen passengers were aboard the ship when it left London. Twelve hours out of New York, only 15 remain. The crime is murder. The victime is different in each game. The 15 passenger still alive are the suspects. You are the detective.
So starts the mystery adventure: Murder on the Zinderneuf. Zinderneuf has all the elements of a classic mystery: plot, counterplot, clues, suspects, and a famous detective to sort things out and solve the crime.
As each game begins, you choose to be one of eight different detectives. With tongue in cheek, some are reminiscent of famous detectives: Inspector Klutzeau, Lt. Cincinnato, Agatha Marbles. You get the idea. Your choice determines how quickly you will find clues, how explicit the clues are, and how well you interrogate the suspects.
You roam freely through the dirigible by scrolling with your joystick. You m ay follow suspects and interrogate them if you wish. The questions you ask are displayed at the top of the screen. They may be asked in a variety of ways such as forceful, naive, pushy, or polite, depending upong the identity of the detective you have assumed. The manner in which you ask a question may determine the answer you get.
You can also search the rooms of the suspects for clues. Once you think you have enough information and clues, you may accuse a suspect. If you are correct and the suspect believes you have enough evidence, he or she will confess. The game will then end, and you will receive a rating from "Freeble Flatfoot" to "Super Sleuth." If you are wrong or do not have enough evidence, the suspect will refuse to speak with you for the remainder of the game. It will not do your reputation and rating much good either.
Zinderneuf was created by Robert Leyland, Paul Reiche III, and Jon Freeman. It is an enjoyable participative mystery that, unlike some text adventures, does not become worthless once you solve the crime. A new victim is chosen each game, and you can assume the rule of any of the eight detectives. Zinderneuf is especially enjoyable when several people get together and try to solve the mystery. Triad
It's about time somebody did something with Tic-Tac-Toe. I mean, this is the computer age, isn't it. Now I am not asking for a mere computerized translation of this venerable classic. What I would like to see is something completely different.
Adventure International has answered my cry. They have taken Tic-Tac-Toe and combined it with a playable shoot'em-up. The result is Triad. Like TTT, the object of the game is to win three squares in a row. But in this game, you must earn those squares.
The screen displays a different bugaboo (that's what they are really called) in each of the nine positions of the Tic-Tac-Toe play area. When it is your turn, you select a square and do battle with the bugaboo. If you succeed in destroying the bugaboo, you earn that square.
The bugaboos are randomly placed in each square at the beginning of the game and each requires unique skills and strategy to destroy. There are moths, faces, bats, saucers, death masks, and killer bees, to name just a few. Some of the enemies fly horizontally, others vertically. Some require a hit head-on while others require that you not fire until you see the whites of their eyes.
Triad is a fun game to play. It is fairly easy at the lower levels, and at the higher levels presents more challenge. It can be played by one player individually, or two players alternating turns.
I would like to compliment Adventure International on two aspects of this game. First, the disk version of the game comes with an Atari version on one side and and apple version on the other. This helps keep costs down and minimizes the inventory a retailer is required to keep. Second, a very fair backup policy is offered. A backup copy of the game may be purchased for only $3.99 plus $2 postage.
Should the original game disk fail to load, it will be replaced for free up to one year from purchase date and for only $5 after that. Adventure International is to be congratulated both for having produced an enjoyable game and, especially, for their sane pricing policy. Checkers
Checkers by Odesta Software is a game that is simple well done. From the packaging to the documentation and features, it is a quality product. The power of the computer is not used for fancy frills and meaningless features. Rather, the computer is used to automate the game. The players are freed from such housekeeping chores as scorekeeping and move validation, so they can concentrate and on the game play.
Option include: playing the computer at only of 16 levels of difficulty; using the computer screen to let two people play against each othr; asking the computer for advice on your move at any time; having the computer display an instant replay of the entire game ("movie mode"); setting up board positions and continuing play from there; and best of all, watching the computer play itself from either a predefined board position or the beginning.
The player may choose a skill level from 0 to 15. The difficulty level chosen determines the amount of time the computer spends "searching" for its move. In the higher levels, a computer move may take considerable time. A special feature available only on the Atari version of Checkers allows the user to blank the screen during the computer's "thinking time," speeding up the process by about 30 percent. For a computer vs. computer game, a separate skill level may be chosen for each side.
Moves are entered via the paddle or keyboard and are checked for legality. Improper entries are indicated by an audible signal and ignored. Up to thirty moves may be taken back at any point in the game. Either half-moves (the player's move) or full moves (one move by each side) may be retracted. The STOP command causes the computer to stop its search and play--its best move so far.
At the conclusion of the game, the player may start a new game, take back the last few moves, or view the Checkers "movie" which is a rapid replay of the entire game. Another option permits the player to step through the game move by move.
There are three additional features that I wish it had: a speed game in which each side is forced to move in alloted amount of time; the ability to print a listing (to a printer) of the entire set of moves for a game; and a screen dump of specific board positions for further analysis.
Checkers is an excellent piece of software from its well written and complete manual (it even gives the history of the game) to its quality packaging. It has many features that will satisfy all types of checkers players. Although it costs slightly more than the typical shoot-'em-up, it is a quality product. I just wish my grandfather were around to give the game a good run for its money. Popeye
Popeye is an American tradition. There are few people of any age who remain unaware of the escapades of Popeye, Brutus, and, of course, Olive Oyl. Now, thanks to Parker Brothers, Popeye and his pals have come to the Atari home computers.
In case you are one of the few who do not know the storyline, here it is in a nutshell. Popeye loves Olive Oyl, Brutus loves Olive Oyl and Olive Oyl loves Popeye. The latter fact is a sore point with Brutus. Now that you are familiar with the situation it is not too difficult to imagine what the game is like.
As in the arcade version, you manipulate Popeye around a multi-level pier with your joystick. Your goal is to collect the kisses that Olive is throwing down from the top of the pier. Collecting about 20 of these heart-shaped kisses allows you to go to the next screen.
But there is more to Popeye's life than just collecting kisses. He has his arch rival to contend with. It seems that Brutus likes to punch out our hero who seems unable to escape the oaf's fists--until he eats his spinach, of course. Once Popeye finds the can of spinach and eats it, Brutus gets a taste of hiw own medicine as the familiar "Popeye the Sailor" tune is heard.
In addition to avoiding Brutus's angry fists, Popeye must avoid jugs that are being thrown at him. The first screen seems to take a long time to complete mainly because you have to collect so many of the hearts. By moving off the screen to the left or right on any of the platforms, you can avoid contact with Brutus and simply dash out occasionally to collect some hearts.
The second screen is slightly different from the first. You are being chased by Brutus around different floors of a house. This time, instead of hearts, you must collect musical notes that are being thrown by Olive Oyl. There is a trampoline on the lower left side that hurls you to various floors.
Popeye from Parker Brothers is a light-hearted game with attractive animation and good sound. For me, the game does not have much staying power, however. The plot is weak, and the screens do not progress quickly enough. But if you enjoyed the arcade version of the game or are immersed in the Popeye, Brutus, Olive Oyl love triangle, give it a try. Shamus: Case II
Synapse Software is one of the most prolific software houses that produce games for the Atari computer. They have been releasing new titles at the rate of about two per month. One of the most recent additions to their already full line is Shamus: Case II.
Written by William Mataga, Case II is a sequel to the very popular Shamus. You will recall that Shamus is a combination of an arcade shoot-'em-up and a puzzle-type adventure game. The object of the game was to reach the heart of the Shadow's lair and destroy him. I am happy to report that Case II follows in the same tradition. It is not just a thinly disguised variation on the original theme. Shamus: Case II has the same clever design and hectic pace of its namesake in a completely new setting.
As usual, the goal is to reach the inner chamber of the Shadow's lair and destroy him. This is accomplished by progressively exploring all of the various levels and rooms and accumulating points, bonuses, and extra lives. This time the Shadow dwells in a vast under-water habitat protected by drone slaves and mutant aquatic life.
You begin your trek in the "pit room," so called because of the many spiked pits that may easily become your undoing. There are ladders, blind alleys, and snake patrolled passageways that must be navigated as you proceed through the maze. Many enemies must be either destroyed or avoided. These include all sorts of aquatic life such as fiendish fish, cantankerous clams, and mutant mollusks. If you pause for even a moment, the Shadow may swoop down and put an end to you. A quick blast from your plasmar detonator will stun him briefly, and give you enough time to flee.
Other perils also await you. Sliderrung ladders which occasionally lose their rungs at inappropiate moments may cost you your life. And each attacking mutant life form that gets past you causes a piece of the floor to vaporize. When all sections of the floor are destroyed, you drop through to the chamber below, which is not necessarily the last roon you were in.
Unlike the original Shamus, Case II has a pause feature. This should help you significantly in the preparation of a map of the Shadow's lair. Pressing the spacebar allows you to see the progress you have made by showing your current position and the rooms which have been successfully explored.
Shamus: Case II is really more of a shoot-'em-up than an adventure game. The addition of the multiple rooms and levels does add to the overall effect though, making it more than just another twitch game. The sound and graphics are appealing, making this a worthwhile addition to your game library. Pole Position
This is the game I have been waiting for. I first saw the home version of Pole Position at the Consumer Electronics Show in June 1983 on the Atari 5200 game machine. I knew that inevitably it would make the transition to the computer so I waited patiently. Now, it is here.
The Atari computer version of Pole Position is much like the arcade version upon which I originally became hooked. The major differences are that there is no female voice announcing "Prepare to Qualify," and the billboards spaced along the race track lack advertising messages. The billboards on the arcade version with the Atari logo and advertisements for Centipede and Dig Dug added to the cuteness coefficient of the bame but their absence is not a serious flaw. Also, control of your Formula 1 race car is via joystick rather than a steering wheel.
As the game begins, a blimp passes across your view towing a sign that reads, "Prepare to qualify." The musical fanfare " Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat" is heard and you are off. A joystick is used to move your car left and right. Forward and back selects low and high gear, and the button is your brake. A paddle controller would be much easier to use and more natural, but you soon get used to the joystick.
You have 73 seconds to complete the lap and qualify for the race. Depending upon how well you do, you are placed at the starting line with seven other cars. The coveted position of first, also known as the Pole Position, is reserved for players with a qualifying time of less than 58.5 seconds. I have yet to attain anything better than a starting position of third.
The "Christmas tree" starting lights signal the beginning of the race, and your goal is to complete the circuit in the shortest time. As you pass other cars, you can hear the roar of their engines and rack up bonus points. However, taking a turn too fast will result in, at best, loss of valuable time as you spin out into the grassy area. At worst, you may hit a billboard or another race car and end up as a fireball. A hint for you "lead foots": when going around the corners, quicly downshift and then upshift again to reduce your speed slightly. Then, just barely move the joystick in the direction you want to turn. A nudge is all it takes.
As you tear around the course, the graphics provide an effect that closely mesembles the feel of driving a race car. Clouds move across the sky; the background scenery changes; and a picturesque view of Mount Fuji is seen. Do not let the colorful graphics distract you. Intense concentration is needed to drive at your very best.
If you complete the first race lap in the time alloted you earn extended play. Forty-five seconds are added to your time, and you may continue the race. You gain additional time for each lap you complete, and you can continue to race as long as you have unused time. Finally, you see the checkered flags, and the race is over.
The sound effects as you race around the course and up and downshift are excellent. And, of course, the graphics are sensational. Pole Position for the Atari computers is a winner. I give Pole Position the pole position for computer race games. Starbowl Football
There is good news for Atari computer owners who are also football fans. Gamestar, makers of the excellent Star League Baseball game, now has a computer football game. Called Starbowl Football, and written by Dan Ugrin and Scott Orr, this is probably the best football adaptation yet for the Atari computer.
One complaint I have with other computer football games is that there is no provision to play solo against the computer. Normally, that is not a big problem, but sometimes a human opponent just cannot be found. Now, thanks to Starbowl Football, I can play a leisurely game against the computer anytime I want. This not only lets me enjoy a gridiron conflict in the privacy of my own home but it allows me to get some practice sessions under my belt for when I go head to head against another human.
First, let me give you the stats on the game. It features excellent scrolling graphics and a full 100-yard field. The smooth scrolling of the playfield back and forth to follow the action resembles that of a panning television camera from high atop the stadium in the press box. You call each of your own plays from a variety of 132 offensive and 54 defensive play alternative. Many of the features of football, such as fumbles, off sides, and pass interference, are built into the game.
This game has class. At the start of the game, all of the players line up as the National Anthem is played. Next, they line up for the opening kickoff. There are six men per team. The defense has a top and bottom cornerback, three defensive linemen, and a free safety. The offense consists of a top and bottom receiver, three offensive linemen, and the quarterback. Player I always kicks off at the beginning of the game. Player 2 or the computer, kicks off to start the second half.
After the ball is kicked, the field scrolls in the direction of play. The kick returner catches the ball and turns black to indicate that he has possession of the ball. The offense maneuvers the ball carrier up the field until he steps out of bounds or is tackled. At that point the whistle blows, and the clock stops.
The offensive player has full control of the quarterback and can program him for four pass patters: fly, square out, slant in, and screen. Only one of the receivers can catch the pass, and this eligible receiver must have been chosen before the play. Although passing is more fun, a good run can earn a half dozen yards for the quarterback. Four blocking assignments can be made: sweep top, pass protect, sweep bottom, and tarp middle. Pass patterns and blocking assignments are made with the joystick.
The defense directly controls the free safety. The pass coverage of both corner-backs and the rushing assignments of the defensive line are also programmed with the joystick. On a rushing play, the computer automatically sends the pass defenders after the ball carrier. If the ball crosses the path of the free safety, an interception may be attempted by pressing the joystick buttom.
During the huddle, the scoreboard is displayed showing all of the necessary information needed for play. Quarter, down, yards to go, ball possession, and score are clearly indicated. The game clock, 30-second play clock, and number of remaining time outs are also displayed. All of this information is there when it is needed and presented clearly.
Starbowl Football provides good football playability. The outcome of each game depends upon the abilities of the players rather than on chance. The only criticism I have of the game is that the computer opponent is so good. My loss record against the compute rivals that of the New York Giants. But with practice and a lot of patience you may be able to send your video squad to the Supper Bowl. And if you can beat the computer by 14 points and document it, Gamestar will sign you up for the Starbowl Allstars. Good luck; you will need it.
Products: Murder on the Zinderneuf (computer program)
Triad (computer program)
Checkers (computer program)
Popeye (computer program)
Shamus: Case II (computer program)
Pole Position (computer program)
Starbowl Football (computer program)