Four games for the Vic: dungeons, vermin, 'copters and claim jumpers. (evaluation) Brian J. Murphy; Steve Williams.
Tronix and Epyx have more in common than the letter x; both publish sophisticated games for the Commodore Vic 20.
Here we look at three original arcade games and a complex adventure in the tradition of Automated Simulations. At least one is sure to find its way to the top of your Christmas list. Scorpion
What is your favorite frog sport? Some players like to jump froggers across lanes of fast moving traffic, others prefer to stun them with a jolt of venom and store them up in a scorpion's hole for a rainy day snack.
If you belong to the latter group, you are, above all, very weird. You are also very likely to enjoy Scorpion, a hi-res color arcade game cartridge for Vic 20 systems by Jimmy Huey, for Tronix.
The lovable "hero" of this game is a nasty, venomous scorpion, on the prowl for frog eggs or, if none are available, whole frogs to bring back to the nest for midnight snacking. As the game begins the scorpion is found sitting quietly at home, awaiting the firing of a joystick button to be let loose on his unsuspecting environment.
The scrorpion moves in a very competitive environment that looks like a laboratory maze infested with all sorts of nauseating vermin. Hampering the progress of the scorpion in his search for frog-flavored snack food are predators ranging from dragons and worms to Venus flytraps, nasty "pod babies" and lethal "pod mothers." Your scorpion moves with greater speed than any of his enemies, and one blast from his stinger is usually enough to kill any of these creatures.
Of course the frog eggs your scorpion is after are frequently surrounded by one or more of these predators, and just as frequently stray stings destroy valuable eggs. That is too bad, because the eggs are worth 3200 points (in the "easy" version of the game you get bonus scorpions for scoring 4000 points) if you bring all four of them back--before they hatch into predatory frogs.
Nothing is harder on the appetite than bringing home an egg for breakfast only to have it hatch on you and bite your head off. It is just as bad to be heading for the egg department, after some unavoidable delays caused by having to kill a dozen dragons and worms that were attempting to devour you, only to find your intended omelette, now a crazed killer frog, charging at you with the intention of smashing you into a pulp. In a situation like this the best advice is to run far enough away to give you time to bring your stinger to bear on the frog for a stunning jolt of venom. Safely stunned, he can then be brought back, alive but paralyzed, to the scorpion's lair.
As the required number of frogs and frog eggs are collected, the game increases in difficulty and the layout of the maze changes. The number of predators also increases, and many of them swarm around the scorpion's hole and must be killed before he can even come out to start the next turn. If you can keep the scorpion on the move and keep shooting a constant stream of venom bolts, you should be able to survive to complete all the levels--all 32 of them. If that is not enough of a challenge, you could try one of the higher difficulty levels you can choose when the game boots.
The theme of Scorpion is, to put it mildly, rather offbeat, but that adds to the novelty of this well designed, fast moving game. If you crave an exciting game with plenty of violent, noisy action, Scorpion will surely fill the bill. Deadly Skies
The skies aren't all that friendly, no matter what United Airlines says. There are asteroids, smart bombs, anti-aircraft missiles and even UFOs that all do their level best to blow you and your helicopter out of the skies, and only because you are on an innocent little weekend bombing mission.
In Deadly Skies, a Vic 20 game by Thomas Kim for Tronix, you face all these hazards as you pilot your helicopter above a constantly shifting landscape of military installations and anti-aircraft missile sites. Using joystick controls you can move your 'copter in any direction you please to track the targets below or to avoid the ever-intensifying volleys of anti-aircraft fire from below and above.
As the game begins, the target area is completely obscured by a double row of clouds. You won't be able to hit your targets until you first blow some gaps in the clouds. While you are trying to do this, a UFO will be cruising by overhead, dropping bombs on you, so keep moving and shifting. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the round little "smart bombs" which will be fired up at you from the ground. They will follow you doggedly and shoot you down if you are too slow in evading.
As your skills improve and you wipe out the targets on the ground, the game automatically moves you up to the next level of difficulty. As the game progresses you find that more and more anti-aircraft fire is being directed at you.
On some of the levels, you encounter mostly smart bombs. More than a dozen can be in the air at one time, forcing you to spend most of your time running away from them, rather than aiming your bombs. At other times dozens of rockets are fired at you, several volleys at a time. With the skies full of missiles, you will find it hard to thread a safe path, even though they aren't homing in on you.
Another reward of reaching the higher levels are the banks of asteriods which course through the air, drifting like deadly clouds. Evading the missiles and smart bombs is doubly hard when you also have the slow-moving asteroids in your way. Worse, even though you collect a point per hit on them, they frequently block your attack against the targets on the ground.
When you have reached the 17th level of the game (there are 32 levels in all) the speed of the game is doubled, making it twice as hard to avoid the perils in the sky and throwing off the timing you learned in the previous 16 levels. Of course, if you have made it this far, you will probably catch on quickly, and you will certainly have won extra helicopters to carry on the battle (one extra is awarded for every 10,000 points scored).
Deadly Skies is a great action game requiring quick strategic decisions and even quicker reflexes. The graphics are good and so are the sound effects which, though not elaborate, do enhance play. Once you get your hands on it, you will find it pleasantly addictive. Just remember to dodge those smart bombs and keep your thumb glued to the fire button. Gold Fever
Deep, deep in the heart of your Vic 20 computer a treasure is waiting, a motherload of gold ore. A fortune in the yellow metal is ready and waiting for the first adventurer willing to brave a gauntlet of careening ore cars, crazed claim jumpers, and runaway boulders.
If that kind of treasure hunt appeals to you, you will enjoy Gold Fever, a cartridge game in high-resolution color authored by Corey Oatman for Tronix. Gold Fever is a fast moving arcade game played on tiers and levels, in the great tradition of Beer Run, Donkey Kong, Apple Panic, and Miner 2049er.
As the game begins (with a brisk electronic rendition of "My Darling Clementine") you find your miner on one of the uppermost tiers of the mine. Scattered around the five levels of the mine are little piles of gold. Using a joystick, you can maneuver the miner toward the gold and pick it up. To move your miner safely from level to level you steer him up or down the vertical shafts in the floors.
Of course there are a few little complications, such as runaway ore carts, which interfere with your miner's progress by knocking him flat. Three such collisions and you run out of miners, ending the game. But don't despair; like all good heroes of multi-tier arcade games, your miner will be able to jump over the obstructions--if you time the jumps perfectly. This saves the miner's skin and adds from 30 to 40 points to your score. If your miner is nimble enough to cross a chasm by running across a boxcar, he earns another 20 points.
Your miner's troubles also include having to jump over a lunatic claim jumper who will, from time to time, ambush and mug our hero. The best way to handle this guy is to jump right over him, the same way you jump over the runaway boulders. Didn't I mention the boulders?
They are what makes that odd, ominous rumbling noise while you are trying to concentrate on avoiding ore carts and maniac claim jumpers. Moving from one tier to the next before the rocks appear on screen doesn't help you evade them; they always appear on the same tier as your miner. The only thing that helps is to learn to time your jumps.
Once you have collected all the gold on the screen, you can make a run for the exit at the lower left of the screen and begin the process on the next level. Each of the nine levels, of course, becomes increasingly difficult as you go along. You must collect more gold on each succeeding level, the obstructions are faster, and as a result you must change the timing of your jumps. By the way, remember not to slow down your miner's action while you study the terrain. The oxygen supply is limited, and slow-moving miners tend to suffocate.
Gold Fever mixes great graphics with fine musical and sound effects and fast arcade action. It is a combination that results in great entertainment and great fun. Sword of Faragoal
"The Protectorate Sword was forged, it is told, in the fires of the gods. Kept sheathed in the massive stone floor of a temple in the center of Ferrin, the sword protected the Great Forest from evil for countless years. When wielded against an evil hand, the enemy is surely defeated."
In Sword of Faragoal, the player must recover the renowned blade from a dungeon where it has been hidden by an evil wizard. There it can no longer protect the land, and the wizard is free to implement his diabolic schemes.
The player is rated in two main characteristics which improve with his experience level, a numeric measure of his accomplishments in the dungeon. These characteristics are "maximum hits," the amount of damage that he can take before dying, and "battle skill," his ability to fight.
The dungeon, which consists of twenty floors, is randomly determined every game. Each level occupies a single screen and is displayed as an aerial view as in Temple of Apshai. The player's character, monsters, stairways, sacks of gold, treasure, traps, and temples (sanctuaries where the player can offer gold) are likewise shown in colorful illustration.
When play begins on a level, unless the player has a magic map, the dungeon is dark everywhere except the area within the radius of his torch light. Therefore, other rooms must be explored to uncover their contents. Previously entered areas remain alight.
Movement is controlled by joystick, and the eleven special commands, which include drinking a healing potion or casting any of the five spells (invisibility, teleport, regeneration, shield, and light), climbing stairs, and burying gold are executed via the Vic keyboard.
Sword of Faragoal is a streamlined fantasy game that emphasizes graphics, ease of input, and real-time situations rather than a complex plot. Hence, it may appeal to those who do not care for traditional, intricate fantasy games.
The game uses definitive and crisp graphics. For example, the dungeon walls are not represented by the solid bars that similar games offer but instead by rocky patterns. This and other features such as the gothic text set enhance the atmosphere of the game. In addition, the player may choose background and foreground colors to suit his taste.
Sword of Faragoal is fast-paced for a fantasy game because of its radical (but welcomec alteration of traditional fantasy rules. A character's experience level may rise two or even three times while he explores just one level of the dungeon.
One of the few weaknesses in this game is the lack of player interaction during combat. The player merely moves his character near a monster and watches the message window. I realize the game is meant to be streamlined, but I would like to be able to specify my actions when my life is at stake. Moreover, the game has no sound effects.
Neveral outstanding points. It is one of the few games for the Vic that devotees of both fantasy and action games can enjoy equally well.
Products: Scorpion (video game)
Deadly Skies (video game)
Gold Fever (video game)
Sword of Faragoal (video game)