Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 9, NO. 9 / SEPTEMBER 1983 / PAGE 135

Fun and games with the TI 99-4A. (evaluation) Sherrie Van Tyle; Joe Devlin.


At last, an absorbing space shoot-'em-up for the TI 99/4A. In Parsec from Texas Instruments, you command a starship, armed with a laser, that is under attack by alien space craft.

Your ship patrols the skies of an alien planet; a clever melange of robots, jagged rocks, towers, rockets, and the TI logo scrolls right to left. Beneath the surface of the planet are: messages ("alien craft advancing"), a fuel gauge, your score, the number of ships remaining, and the lift number (level of vertical speed).

You have a total of five ships, one onscreen and four in reserve. Press the fire button to start; the joystick moves your ship vertically and horizontally. A message flashes that enemy ships are approaching. Press the fire button to unleash the laser. Don't fire continuously, however, because if the laser overheats, your ship explodes. If you need to refuel, press 1 to slow your craft and fly carefully into the refueling tunnel on the surface of the planet.

The first wave of aliens, the swoopers, are aptly named; the two-winged space craft descend from the upper righthand corner of the screen and dive unpredictably at your ship. They aim to collide with you. You can move vertically to elude the aliens and blast them with the laser at the same time. If you move right, you will find yourself in the path of the swoopers. The best evasive moves are up and down.

While dodging the aliens and firing the laser, be careful not to crash into the ground. If you miss any swoopers, they fly faster, becoming difficult to fire upon without a deadly collision. If you are hit by an alien or your ship crashes into the planet, your replacement ship must destroy the remaining swoopers before you take on the next wave of aliens.

The urbites are particularly nasty to fight; they resemble flying electric plugs as they emerge from the right side of the screen, firing twin photon cannons. The urbites have the uncanny ability to track you vertically. Fire immediately or lose your ship.

Your skirmishes with the four urbites are short and often fatal; so there is little danger of overheating the laser.

If you demolish the urbites, you encounter the light triangular fighters. Like the swoopers, they plummet erratically to collide with you, but they move a bit faster.

If you survive the fighters, you may need to catch your breath. Press P (pause) to stop the game. The message "time warp activated" flashes. Press any key to resume play.

The next wave, the dramites, home in on your ship as the urbites do, tracking you vertically and firing a blaze of photon missiles. The dramites, however, move even faster and draw closer to your ship. As soon as the warning of their approach appears, start firing.

Your next opponents, the saucers, play a devilish space demolition derby. They try to ram on your ship from behind; failing that, they circle and hit you from the front.

The last wave of aliens, the bynites, fire clusters of photon missiles. After you destroy the bynites, you bore through an asteroid belt with your laser. When you reach the end of the belt, the planet turns green and you reach the second level of play. In the second set, you must hit the alien spacecraft twice with your laser to demolish them. At the third level and beyond, you must strike the aliens three times with the laser. In the higher levels of play, the urbites pop up closer to your ship. The swoopers dive more rapidly.

Scoring is complicated; suffice it to say that aliens increase in point value as you progress within a set and at higher levels. At 5000, 15,000, and 25,000 points, you win another ship.

Use of the speech synthesizer is optional. The booklet that accompanies the game includes a scoring chart and is helpful in explaining the game.

Parsec is a treat for TI users; it combines fast action, good graphics and enough difficulty for skilled players, though novices may be a bit intimidated at first. The game is so engaging that it eventually draws them in. An excellent game, it is well worth the price.--SVT Henhouse

For a change of pace from interstellar combat, Henhouse from funware provides a down-to-earth challenge: You are a farmer who must fend off poachers and wolves as you gather eggs to take to market.

The object is to collect the eggs as they drop from the henhouse and carry them to the truck while you shoot the two- and four-legged predators that stalk the henhouse. As the game begins, an egg comes out of the henhouse and drops into one of five chutes of graduated lengths.

Since you must wait until the chutes are full to collect the eggs, you can pick up your rifle from the lefthand corner of the screen and shoot poachers while you wait by pressing the fire button on the joystick.

You also score points by shooting the birds that fly across the top of the screen. After the chutes fill with eggs, the pace quickens. You must put your rifle back in its spot on the left before you can catch the eggs. You press the fire button to gather them; and then deposit them in a truck parked in the lower righthand corner of the screen.

Watch the wolves and poachers, though; you must be ready to grab your rifle. If you miss a poacher on his way into the henhouse, you can shoot him on his return. If a wolf enters the henhouse, however, the game ends. The computer keeps track of the number of broken eggs on the left side of the screen.

Although the farmer moves faster than a poacher or wolf, it is a bit tricky to deliver a load of eggs and move back quickly enough to grab the rifle and catch the predator. The game also lags a bit at the start when the chutes are filling and you have more than enough time to aim and fire. Although the game may be played from the keyboard, a joystick is recommended.

Henhouse inspires some split-second decisions because the eggs drop at random into the chutes. This is fun for those who like risks, frustrating for players who like to plot strategy. The game is often quick-paced and funny especially as you frantically race left and right to keep up with dropping eggs and poachers.

We do feel, however, that the $44.95 price is too steep to make Henhouse a best buy.--SVT Anteater

Have you ever watched ants carve a labyrinth in an ant farm? In Anteater from Romox, you become one of those ants, pursued by a voracious anteater that chases you through tunnels that you burrow in the sand.

Your objective is to move the ant from the colony to the basket of food without being consumed by the anteater. You have three ants to carry four cubes of food to the nest, creating tunnels as you travel.

To reach the food, you must break the surface; when the eater spots your antennae poking around the food, the chase is on. Fortunately, the eater can pursue you only along the tunnels you have carved. To repel or destroy the relentless eater, press the fire button to drop an egg bomb. The bomb hovers for several seconds, flashes as it blocks the eater or explodes as it kills him. You also can tunnel directly under one of six rocks causing them to fall and crush your pursuer. Don't linger under a rock, howeveR, it can smash you.

As the game begins, you are in the nest at the lower righthand corner of the screen. The food basket is in the upper lefthand corner; the anteater appears at the upper right corner. In the first set, there is one eater. It moves fairly slowly, so you have plenty of time to carve a shortcut between the food and the colony to gather the cubes quickly.

If you retrieve the food without losing all your ants, you advance to the second set. If you keep three ants alive--an easy task at level 1--you gain an extra ant.

In the second set, you face two eaters and the pace quickens. At level 3 andup, three eaters chase you; the game moves faster with each new set. If the early sets are too easy, you can select a level of difficulty up to 9 by pressing numbers 2 to 9 on the keyboard before you press the fire button to start the game.

At level 9, the anteaters hunt you mercilessly. Your food gathering and tunneling is more feverish than strategic as you try to elude the frenetic eaters. If you are tempted to cut a tunnel and rest a bit, try carving a short vertical tunnel and rop a bomb at the entrance when you spot an eater.

The five bombs are effective for only a few seconds; wait until the eater is close to you or backtrack a bit to drop the bomb. Keep your tunnels narrow--if the tunnels are too wide, the eaters sneak by the bombs. Though you move quicker through tunnels than through sand, you win points for each block of sand through which you tunnel.

Each two seconds of play subtracts five points from the bonus period. If you gather all the cubes at level 9, you advance to level 10. For each set you complete, you score 100 points. An anteater killed by a rock is worth 100 points; an eater destroyed by an egg bomb is 200.

Press AID for the rules of the game. The magenta screen and the crowded letters make them difficult to read, however. The tune that accompanies the game is catchy, but grows wearisome. Press N to stop the music.

We congratulate Romox on an excellent game. The levels of play increase evenly in difficulty; young children and novice players can manage the early sets, sharpen their skills, and improve, while the higher levels challenge the experts.

You may select one or two players before the game starts.--SVT Tunnels of Doom

Tunnels of Doom from Texas Instruments is an intricate quest game that challenges your memory and judgment rather than your reflexes. If you like details, the game will delight you with its array of armament for players, the choices of moves, and the variety of treasures.

If you habitually toss aside the instruction book in a game package, resist the urge this time. In fact, set aside an afternoon in which to play the game.

Two games are included: Quest of the King and Pennies and Prizes, a simpler version of Quest, designed for children. In Quest, you search the dungeon of a castle for the king, who is being held captive by monsters. In addition, you must find the king's rainbow orb of power before it is destroyed or time runs out.

Your party of rescuers roams the dungeon, fighting imps, rats, and dark slime. You gather treasures such as gold pieces and magic scrolls from vaults and chests.

A few minutes spent studying the key functions in the instruction booklet may save your life. The goblins that lurk in the corridors strike without warning, so it helps to know how to trade weapons or negotiate with (bribe) the monsters.

Think of the knights in the Middle Ages girding for battle: You equip your warriors with crossbows, quarrels, shields, battle rations, and healing by purchasing these items at a general store. Reserv e some of your gold pieces to negotiate with the monsters rather than endure a bloody battle. Before you embark, you choose one of three levels of difficulty, the number of floors in the dungeon (up to 10), and the number of rescuers (up to four).

Each player has a distinct personality. The rogue, for example, can sense a trap hidden in a vault or treasure chest. A wizard is equipped with a magic scroll to use in combat.

At first, moving from room to room is tricky. One of the treasures is a map, a floor plan of the dungeon. You press M to see the rooms your party has explored in black and the rooms still to be searched in blue. The colors look too similar onscreen, however.

The halls are marked north, south, east, and west, but the screen shifts to an overhead view when a monster confronts you or when you enter a room. In rooms with several objects, it is a bit difficult to distinguish between monsters and treasures until you are attacked by one of them.

If you are badly wounded, you retire from combat until you are healed by rations, a magic item, or "healing" you purchased at the store. If the entire party is disabled, the game ends. As you find enough gold pieces, you may return to the store for supplies. However, the store is on a different floor, so it is quite a trek for your party if you have reached a remote corner and need equipment.

Quest is intriguing; it is apt to hold you spellbound for hours. The instructions are specific and straightforward. Because Tunnels of Doom contains two games for the price, we rate it a best buy.--SVT Princes and Frog

It's an old tale but one worth retelling. A tale of a tiny green frog who lusts after the kiss of a beautiful princess. But the world can be cruel to a little frog. Obstacles never fail to appear in the path of love--in this case jousting stickmen, alligators, snakes, and the dreaded time limit. As Kermit the Frog put it so well years ago, "It's not easy being green."

Princess and Frog is a fairy tale version of Frogger. It is a one player game that can be played with either joystick or keyboard cursor controls. The object of the game is to hop frogs across field and stream to the ivory tower where princesses' lips wait.

The first obstacle encountered by our green skinned Romeo is a field of jousting stickmen. There are four rows of jousters--two rows riding to the left, two rows riding to the right.

Hopping forward into the field brings our amphibian closer to the castle but places him in the path of rapidly approaching lances and galloping hooves. To avoid the point of the lance, the frog must hop to the left or right ahead of the approaching danger or forward or back when an opening is available.

Having survived all four rows of galloping horses, the frog reaches a safe area where he can rest his webbed feet. But he can't rest too long, for the clock on the righthand side of the screen counts down the seconds left of the original minute granted him to reach the tower. Four more frogs wait in reserve in case the lance skewers the first frog.

The next obstacle is a moat filled with alligators and snakes. To get across the moat our frog must leap onto the backs of the beasts as they swim past. One false leap and he falls in the water, and it's the next frog's turn. To make matters worse alligators periodically submerge, dragging bare-back riding frogs down with him.

The alligators are not all bad, however, some carry pretty white frogs on their backs. The damsel frogs love to be leaped on, rewarding such boldness with extra points.

There are six rooms in the tower. To get into a room the frog must leap from the back of a passing alligator. Should his timing be off, he will the room, hit the tower wall; and slide into the moat to be eaten by one of the passing beasts. The most desirable room is the one in which the princess is waiting. She is impatient, however, and moves from room to room at random intervals. Each frog can find a princess if his timing is just right.

When a frog reaches one of the rooms, an extra frog appears to take his chance running the gauntlet to his love. When all six rooms of the tower are occupied, a new tower with a fresh battery of frogs appears, and play begins anew at an increased level of difficulty.

The graphics used in the game are colorful, and the frog-hopping sounds are appropriately bubbly. But the funeral concerto for the unsuccessful frogs is long and a bit too gleeful.

Princess and Frog may not be terribly innovative, but it is well done. Where else can you watch a fairy tale come true for the price of a game cassette?--JD

Products: Parsec (video game)
Henhouse (video game)
Anteater (video game)qeTexas Instruments,
Tunnels of Doom (video game)
Princess and Frog (video game)