Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 9, NO. 9 / SEPTEMBER 1983 / PAGE 127

Games for the PC to challenge your reflexes and your intellect (evaluation) Joe Devlin.

Space Miner is a colorful, exciting shoot-'em-up space game for the IBM PC running PC-DOS. It is a good game for indoctrinating your children into the values and perisl of capitalism as well. The object of the game is to earn as much money as you can on a mining voyage through an asteroid belt. Money is earned by collecting ore from asteroids with a robot claw natives who rain down on you from above.

Space Miner is played from the computer keyboard. The cursor keys on the keypad provide your ship with directional control. Ship motion is a bit odd in that no matter which way the ship moves, its nose stands ramrod erect, pointed toward the top of the screen. This is because the psace monsters as well as the meteors, space mines, and comets that provide your sustenance all come from the top of the screen.

There are two ways to earn points--by blasting the attacking space monsters and by collecting passing meteorites. The two top function keys on the left of the keyboard are used to fire the cannon and to operate the robot arm. Function key 5 allows you to freeze the game. Function key 5 allows you to toggle off the sound, which is a good idea because the music is quite raucous.

The three monster species are wonderful. All three look like crosses between colorful Japanese Kabuki masks and fiercely clawed Rhino Beetles. My favorite is Sparky (strange name for a Kabuki mask), partly because he is worth the most points and partly because of the artful way he thrusts his tongue out at you when he has been blasted into his death throes.

Each player is given three turns. Fuel and missiles are supplied in limited quantities as indicated by the bar charts at the top of the screen. They can be replenished by snatching up a passing comet or space mine with your robot arm.

Time, on the other hand, cannot be thwarted. Your mothership will arrive at the preselected time to collect you and your cargo. Should you get blasted by a monster before she arrives, you will forfeit both your turn and all the cargo you collected during that turn.

Space Miner is not a game that gets impossibly difficult. A good player can stay alive until the mothership comes. The challenge is to get the highest score possible by collecting the most meteorities without getting killed. High scores are saved on disk so you can compare your wealth against that of earlier miners.

In conclusion, Space Miner is a simple-minded but beautifully done capitalist tool for minors and adults alike. Mystery Message

I remember watching TV game shows during my school days. I remember my prideful jubilation when I could come up with the answer before any of the contestants. I would sit there in my chair and watch the contestants try to think of some perfectly obvious word. (Anything you already know is obvious).

I also remember the sense of injustice I felt when viewing game shows in which the outcome of every game depended on the last question. Do you remember this scenario? Contestant A was a bon fide genius who solved every puzzle in record time. Contestant B had been in a daze during his entire tenure on the screen. Nevertheless, the MC informed both of them that the final outcome of the contest depended upon the answer to the last question. How unfair! Yet the chance that the tables could be turned with one lucky guess added an extra element of uncertainty to what might otherwise have been a routine game.

When played with two or more people, Mystery Message imparts much of the same emotion as that game show long ago. The palyers take turns trying to guess the letters of a phrase outlined at the top of the screen.

They have three choices: guess a consonant, buy a vowel for 1000 points, or guess the solution. Each player goes in turn. A turn lasts until an incorrect guess is made.

But as in that game show everything rides on the last question. Points earned by guessing letters are awarded only temporarily. Only the person who finally guesses the word gets to keep his points. How unfair! But this means that no game is over until the points are tallied up.

Mystery Message is a guessing game for one, two, or three players. At the top of the screen is the line of blanks into which letters are placed. Below that is the wheel which turns, selecting the point value of each guess. On the right is the clock which counts down the 20 seconds allotted for each guess. Next to the clock is a box which indicates all the letters which have already been guessed.

Each game begins with one of the players guessing a letter. When a player elects to choose a consonant, the dollar meter spins and displays a dollar amount from $200 to $2000. This amount the player wins for each appearance of the consonant in the phrase. there are also occurrences of Lose Your Turn and Broke, each of which causes you to lose your turn.

In addition, Broke causes you to lose all winnings for the current game.

The 500 phrases included in Mystery Message can be chosen randomly, in sequence, or by number. All phrases are on a relatively high (adult) level. We hope that there aren't many kids around who would guess "Interncontinental Ballistic Missile" in the first round.

In general, Mystery Message is nicely implemented. The wheel spins rapidly, prompting appears promptly, and letters are filled in efficiently. There are a few bugs, however. Sometimes, as previous prompt is not erased before the next one overwrites it. If you type too quickly, the buffer gets cluttered, and the game oscillates for a while until the buffer is cleared. (The game does not crash, though.)

If you enjoy playing Hangman-type word games, and you enjoy an element of suspense thrown in too, then you'll enjoy playing Mystery Message, alone or with an opponent or two. Spyder

There are more than 30,00 species of spiders. All have movable fangs and most have poisonous glands located next to the fangs. Most are harmless to man. There are a few exceptions. Among those poisonous to man are the so-called "spyders" that lurk in the caves of the game by the same name.

In the game of Spyder you control four men trapped within a cave infested with web spinning spyders. Allow a spyder to slide down from the cave roof top onto one of these poor fellows, and you are down one man. Fortunately each man is equipped with a laser gun that can be used to cut down the descending arachnids.

Laser guns can only be fired directly upward. To kill a spyder, the man must be positioned directly below the creature. This is done by manipulating the left and right cursor keys. Although extra power-packs do materialize from time to time, each gun has a limited number of shots in its powerpack. So good aim is important. Points are gained for each spyder hit. Missed shots cause the deduction of points and chip of pieces of the cave roof.

With luck you can shoot all the spyders before one reaches the ground or lands on your head. Should you miss some, the hoedown begins. Spyders can then attack from the ground as well as the air. Your only recourse if this happens is to stomp the bugs before they get your.

Squishing spyders attacking from the right and left requires you to flait away on the F9 and F10 keys. Each keystroke slams a giant foot to the ground and, if properly timed, allows your man to dance his way through the approaching horde.

There are ten levels of play, ranging from "easy" to "at your own risk." At the advanced levels more spyders slide down their webs faster and flying scissors swoop across the screen, cutting the webs. With the webs cut, the spyders fall toward the ground at a much more rapid rate. The game ends when all the men have been webbed.

Each level of difficulty starts with four initial rounds. Complete all four rounds and you enter a bonus round during which the object is to shoot all the developing eggs before they turn into attacking spyders. Kill them all and you are awarded a bonus man and return to the game for four more rounds at the next higher level of play.

Basically, Spyders is a versiono f Space Invaders. Like Space Invaders, the object of the game is to shoot the enemy before he reaches the ground and destroys you. The fact that the game does not end when the spyders reach the ground should provide an extra element not found in Space Invaders. In fact, it does not because the spyders are too easy to stomp. Rapid strokes of the stomping keys will kill all the spyders crawling toward you from one side. The situation would be more desperate if the critters started advancing from both sides. This danger can be avoided simply by blasting an area free of spyders on the left or right of the screen. Thus, dedicated game players looking for a real challenge will be frustrated by how easy Spyder is to beat. Games clods and children will be pleased by the opportunity to glimpse the usually forbidden higher difficulty levels. Hide and Sink

Hide and Sink is a sea war game that provides three variations on the board game Battleship. Each of the three versions pits a single player against the computer in a game of hunt and destroy, played on a ten by ten sea grid.

You and the computer command equaly matched fleets. Your fleet consists of a PT boat, a submarine, a destroyer, a cruiser, and a battleship. Each craft is a specific length and possesses a certain amount of firepower. You hide your ships where you wish on the left sea grid by telling the computer where the nose of each craft lies and how it is oriented. The computer automatically hides its fleet on the righthand grid and promises not to peek at your selection of hiding places.

The battle begins as you enter the letter-number coordinates of the spot on the enemy's grid you wish to attack first. Each shot you take is marked by an X for a miss or a letter indicating the type of vessel hit. When firing a missile you must specify which ship, PT boat, or sub is launching the weapon. After you have fired your first salvo, the computer gets to shoot at you. If you hit a ship, it catches on fire where hit.

There are three versions of the game. The versions differ in the number of shots that may be taken per round, the type of firepower available, and whether the game ends with the destruction of all weapons or all ships in one of the fleets. A nightime option can also be engaged. This option removes all indications of the type of craft hit from the sea grid. Thus you know when your weapons have struck a vessel, but do not know the length or type of vessel hit. Therefore you use more shots as you try to locate the remainder of the damaged ship.

If you liked Battleship, the board game, you will probably like this computerized version. They are very much alike. The primary difference is that the computer version must be played solitaire, with the computer acting as your opponent, while the board game requires another player.

The computer version does have a few unique features. For example, the computer will not let you attack the same spot twice, and it shows you where its ships were hidden when you lose the game. Nevertheless, the differences between the computer version and the board game are minor. It makes me wonder why anyone would go to the trouble of remaking a board game for a computer if he couldn't add something to the game? The board game is bound to be cheaper and a lot more portable. Besides all else being equal, I would rather play against another person than a computer. There is little joy in beating a computer. I want to hear my opponent moan as his last ship goes under. Shultz's Treasure

Shultz's Treasure is one of those games that are exciting to discover, even if they are not always satisfying to play. It is a hybrid--an adventure game, in which you must weave your way through a maze, and an arcade game, in which your gaming life depends upon how quickly you can blast attacking bats, spiders, and rats. Because its design is so ambitious, the accomplishments of Shultz's Treasure are remarkable, andits deficiencies are understandable but very disappointing.

The object of the game is to enter the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, locate and blast out the mother lode, then escape to the outside without being killed.

The graphics are unusual and exciting. The mine you traverse is made up of a series of tunnels. At the start of the game you find yourself looking down a short corridor that is the entrance of the mine. Your passage through the mine is directed either by joystick or keyboard. A leftward movement of the joystick or a press of the INSERT key and you turn left and begin moving down a long corridor with a wall on the left and a series of passages on the right. You have several choices--you can turn right as you pass a corridor (by moving the joystick to the right or hitting the DELETE key), you can go forward into the maze, or you can head back in the direction from which you came.

To help you make your way through the mine, you can use a variety of tools and weapons. On the first level, you start out with everything you need to get the gold and get out. On the seventh level, you start out with just a mazer weapon and a mine car and you must scour the tunnels for the other things you need.

It is easy to tell which tools you have amassed by looking on the right of the screen. For example, on level one you start with a mazer gun, an extra mazer powerpack, night goggles, a compass, a gold detector, a stick of dynamite, a mine car, and the path finder. A picture of each of the gadgets you have acquired stays on the screen until you lose it.

The path finder is an electronic gizmo that helps you keep track of where you are in the maze. Your current location is marked on the map that appears in the lower right of the screen as long as the pathfinder is in your possession. If you lose your path finder, the dot that indicates your position in the maze disappears. Each maze is quite complicated. Without the pathfinder it is very easy to get lost, especially when criters start attacking.

You never know when you will come under attack. Turn any corner and you may find a rabid rat, mutant tarantula, or bat rapidly approaching, growing larger by the instant as it closes in for the kill. When faced with one of these creatures you have two choices--run or fight.

Sometimes fleeing is the wise action to take. But turning your back on a beasty that has gotten too close is likely to mean death. You can fight if your mazer is loaded. Press the top fire button on the joystick or the F9 function key on the keyboard to activate the sight on the mazer. If you are fortunate, you will be able to center your sights on the approaching menace and blast him before he gets you.

Tarantulas and rats bite, sapping your strength as indicated by the lifeline on the top of the screen. Bats will bite only if you don't have anything left for them to steal. Each time they steal something they deposit it somewhere else in the mine where you might find it again in your travels.

With luck and skill you can find the gold buried in the mine, blast it out with the dynamite and remove it from the mine in the mine cart. To be perfectly honest, in several hours of game play I never successfully escaped with the gold. Even at the first level the game can be quite challenging.

Part of the reason the game is so difficult is that aiming and firing the mazer require a technique I was unable to master. The gun sight acts like a billiard ball in space. Once in motionit stays in motion until you stop it with exactly the right counter force or until it strikes a wall.

There are some things in life that are impressive, even though they are not always much fun. What this game has going for it is its originality, complexity, and beautifully done perspective graphics. You actually feel as if you are traveling down the corridors of a spooky old mine.

Unfortunately, other aspects of the game fall short of the high graphics standards. In particular, the control of the mazer weapon is ponderous and makes the game play frustrating at times. Such objections, obviously, are entirely subjective. If you are a joystick wiz, you may find aiming the mazer a challenge rather than a chore. In any case, Shultz's Treasure is lovely to look at; its design is complex and interesting, and it succeeds on many levels. I guess we can't all be weapons experts. Super novaTron

Super NovaTron is a high-speed strategy game which involvs building walls to trap your opponent (the computer). Games of this sort have been around almost as long as microcoomputers have existed. If you saw the movie TRon, you saw a cinematic version of the game in which the heroes tried to trap bad guys with the trail left in the wake of their speeding motorcycles. Several flourishes have been added to this version of the game to provide visual and auditory flash, but they do not affect game play to any great extent.

The game begins with two walls moving toward each other from opposite sides of the screen. You control the wall forming on the right; the computer controls the one on the left. Using either the keyboard or thejoystick, you can turn your wall to the left or the right. The purpose of all this construction is to trap the wall being built by the computer, forcing it to crash into your wall, itself, or the periphery of the screen.

There are three levels of difficulty. Even the first level, in which wall-building proceeds at a reasonable pace, can be quite challenging. Part of the challenge comes from the fact that the game is played from the perspective of the wall rather than from your perspective. For example, a left tug on the joystick turns the wall to its left. This may be your right or your left depending upon the orientation of the wall. IF the wall turns to its left while it is heading toward the bottom of the screen, it will actually turn to your right.

I takes a while to learn to play the game from the perspective of the wall even at the slowest speed. The fastest speed requires more coordination than I possess.

Super NovaTron makes use of some very colorful graphics. The game opens with a shimmering portrayal of the manufacturer's logo. The gimick that adds the most flash to the game is the use of three-dimensional drawing. The walls that you are building are perspective images of walls. They look great, but the fact that they appear in 3-d has no effect on the game play. Those watching the game being played have time to admire the walls as they form; the person playing the game is too busy to take much notice. Another nice touch is the use of a simulated voice that announces the winner of every round. Obviously, narration after teh fact doesn't affect game play, either.

The game ends when the player loses three rounds. If the player wins three rounds, the game continues on to the next level. In this level the player and the computer each generate two walls. Win three more rounds and you get three walls to manage, and so on.

Again, the graphics are impressive. Each level is played on a different stage. Stages are stacked one atop another like a miser's coins. The game would be played no differently if the graphics were less impressive, however.

Super NovaTron is a reasonable decent game. The basic concept must be sound, or the game would not have lasted as long as it has an survived to be reincarnated yet again. This version of the old standard may not play any better than earlier versions, but then again it is available for the IBM. And the graphics are nice to look at--especially if you can find someone to play for you so you have a chance to watch.

Products: Space Miner (video game)
Mystery Message (video game)
Spyder (video game)
Hide and Sink (video game)
Shultz's Treasure (video game)
Super NovaTron (video game)