by Pat Henderson
Qix is the latest cartridge game from Atari that first made the rounds as a successful coin-op. If its success in the coin-op world is duplicated on the home front Qix should rush to the top of the charts soon.
The object of the game is to trap the Qix (a swirling helix composed of four short rotating lines) in the smallest possible screen area. To trap the Qix you must draw lines around it with your joystick-controlled Marker and enclose more than 75% of the playing area with boxes of color.
|Qix from Atari|
Creating a box is simple. Just guide the Qix into contact with either a screen wall or another box. Once completed, a box fills with red or blue--the color being determined by your drawing speed. Quickly drawn boxes fill with blue and earn fewer points. The catch22: slowly drawn boxes may give you many extra points, but the Qix has more time to annihilate your Marker. The only way that a Qix may destroy your Marker is by touching the lines of an unfinished box. Once a box is finished and your Marker has returned to another finished box, or the side of the playing field, you are safe from the ever-swirling Qix. After you fill 75% or more of the screen with color three times, the Qix splits in two, creating double trouble. Point values double if you can drive your Marker between the splitting Qix and move safely to the other side. Incidentally, a completed box containing a Qix will not fill with color.
To keep you and your QuickDraw McGraw Marker from resting too long, Atari has thoughtfully provided menaces called Sparx. These little electronic devils roam about the finished boxes sniffing for your graphite vapor trail. Fortunately, Sparx never roam on the lines of an unfinished box, only on the sides of completed ones and the edges of the playing field. At the top of the screen, a line that clocks the game time decrements during play. Two more Sparx will appear as a penalty if the lines decrements completely three times. This process repeats until a maximum of eight Sparx appear at one time.
If you manage to avoid the Qix and Sparx, then watch out for the Fuse. The Fuse is a constant reminder not to stop drawing a box once you've started. Should you pause for more than a second or two, the Fuse ignites and races up your Stix in an attempt to destroy your Marker. To douse the Fuse, just resume drawing the box. If you stop again, the Fuse begins burning from the point at which it stopped before.
The top of the screen shows various game information, including player one and two scores, the percentage of area enclosed so far, and a gentle reminder to complete that crucial 75% of the screen area. Additional information includes the number of Markers remaining (you start with three), and the Sparx time bar. Each game begins with the time bar set to 40 seconds, but you can vary the setting from 10 to 90 seconds.
A good playing tip is to keep your guard up. Watch everything, especially the Sparx, because they become more difficult to see as the screen fills with completed boxes. Many small boxes may seem to confuse the sparx, but their confusion is usually short-lived.
|Qix from Atari|
The Qix is a hard helix to beat, and the best defense is to avoid it like the plague. But If you are resting on the side of a box, or the side of the screen, you can taunt it. Here's how: When a Qix is touching the side of a box or screen, you can move right through it or touch it without being obliterated. But once it moves off into the coldness of its domain, beware! Box in the Qix, and the entire screen (except for the area the Qix is in) will fill with color.
The best playing tip comes from the champions of the coin-op Qix! Try to build a wall of little boxes through the middle of the screen. When you reach the top don't complete a box to the other side; instead, turn and start building a horizontal wall in the direction of the Qix. When the Qix starts in your direction just dart back to your ever-growing wall. The idea is to trap the Qix in a small area and not fill in the rest of the screen until the Qix is enclosed in a small area. Execute this technique properly, and you'll reap extra points.
The good news is that the home version of Qix is one of the best adaptations of a coin-op game Atari has produced lately. Fans of the quarter-chewing Arcades version will find that the cartridge rendition of Qix is a solid remake of the original. And first time Qixers should be especially delighted with this, one of the most original and addictive games to come down the pike in quite a while.
Pat Henderson is a regular contributor to Hi-Res.
by Jeannie Gutierrez
Time Runner by Funsoft, Inc., is a game belonging to the Pac-Man genre. The object of the game is to stay alive and capture space territory while avoiding the deadly Defender-Droids.
The colorful introductory title screen uses a scrolling technique similar to the Atari Logo demonstration program. Pressing the Start button clears the introductory screen and displays what is called the "Rush" screen. This screen consists of multiple rectangles within one large rectangle. The Time Runner himself is a green, elliptical-shaped "man." The player is challenged to maneuver the Time Runner around the dotted-line borders and capture space territory. You score points by completely tracing a rectangle. This may seem like an easy task, however, there are four Defender-Droids pursuing the Time Runner. Contact with a Defender-Droid will cost you a life. Initially you have three lives, and for each 10,000 points an additional life is awarded.
The Time Runner is quite easy to move, and responds quickly to the joystick. Although I managed to capture territory, I didn't move quickly enough to avoid the Defender-Droids, who annihilated me.
Pressing the fire button, which controls the jump and flip action, causes the Defender-Droids to flip upside-down and render them harmless. Armed with this technique, I captured more space territory, until I conquered the screen. Time Runner plays a cute musical jingle when you complete a screen. I moved to the "Countdown" screen, which is similar to the "Rush" screen but contains bonus points within each space territory. Countdown takes its name from the rapidly decrementing bonus points within a space territory after you trace its third side. I finally managed to complete the Countdown screen; the jingle played, and the "Rush" screen appeared again.
The three console buttons control the Time Runner. The Option button selects either Beginner or Expert mode, the difference being the speed of the Time Runner and the Defender-Droids. As expected, I consistently did better in the Beginner mode.
The Select button allows you to choose Direct or the Coast mode. The Coast mode allows the Time Runner to continue in the direction of travel, after the joystick has returned to the center position. I find this mode easier for moving the Time Runner and less tiresome on my hand.
The Direct mode requires a constant pressure on the joystick for movement, and at times it's difficult to move the Time Runner around the corner of a space rectangle.
The Start button, naturally, starts the game. The main drawback of the console buttons is that they take effect only after the Start button is pressed and play has started. Thus, you lose a few moments of play while selecting the different modes.
One feature that I believe all games should have is a Pause option. In Time Runner the "ESC" key is used as a Pause so you can answer the telephone, get to the refrigerator, or contemplate your strategy. Press the "ESC" key a second time to resume play--a feature not described in the instruction manual.
My playing Time Runner in the expert mode results in low scores and short games. My initial three lives did not last very long with those Defender-Droids hot on my trail. I restored my self-confidence by switching to the Beginner mode and amassing thousands of points. I definitely recommend the Beginner mode for getting the feel of the game and developing strategy. However, I was unable to develop a consistent pattern to follow in either mode in order to capture space territory and avoid the Defender-Droids. I relied strictly on quick reversal-type moves and Lady Luck.
What about skill levels? Yes, they are present in Time Runner. After completing several screens I noticed that the Defender-Droids increased in number, from four to seven. Believe me, it tends to get a little crowded out there when trying to capture space territory and six or seven Defender-Droids are in hot pursuit. You can render them harmless (without using the firebutton), but I don't want to leak all the secrets.
The game description is easy to read and easy to understand. The jump and Flip function is not clearly defined, but that allows for a certain sense of discovery that I find appealing. Now all I have to do is see if I can break the 10,000 point barrier in the Expert mode.
Jeannie Gutierrez is a freelance writer living in San Jose, California.
Santa Barbara, CA
by Steve Harding
The crowd tenses in anticipation as the teams take the field. The National Anthem plays and then the kickoff. It's the Reds against the Blues. Blitz the quarterback! Watch out . . . it's an end run! First and 10. Hike. The quarterback drops back to pass . . . he sees an open man downfield . . . another incomplete pass. Thus begins Gamestar's Starbowl Football.
Each game of Starbowl Football features twelve players--six on each side. Offensive and defensive plays are entered via the joystick. The offensive quarterback can run or pass. Passes are thrown by pressing the fire button. You have control of one football player, as does your opponent, the quarterback on offense and the free safety on defense. Only the safety can intercept a pass.
The computer always punts on 4th down, unless it is within your 40-yard line. Then you can expect a field goal try. Field goals and punts cannot be blocked.
After each touchdown and field goal, the scoring team kicks off. If you are playing the computer, you can run the ball back no farther than 16 yards (five yards, if it is a punt).
Occasionally, and it seems, randomly, you or your opponent will fumble the ball. In my case, it was usually when I was on a drive and inside the 10-yard line.
According to Gamestar, completing a pass is easy. Sure it is, for the computer, but not for a real-live klutz like me. A "klutz-no-klutz" player option would be nice, especially as a player handicap. Nobody likes to get beaten regularly 50-0.
The graphics of Starbowl Football, while not the best, are adequate. The playfield scrolls left and right. A scoreboard shows the game score, number of downs and yards to go. At the bottom of the playfield is the game clock and a 30-second clock. You play four 15-minute quarters, and the teams even change sides. At half-time the computer provides musical entertainment. Two types of game-play options are available: "College" and "Pro," with the latter being the faster of the two.
Gamestar's instruction manual can use some improvement. The offensive and defensive plays, for example, are described on different pages of the 16-page manual. This makes it difficult for two players to make their choices within the allotted 30 seconds. If you take more than 30 seconds to make a decision you will be penalized five yards for delay-of-game.
Apparently Gamestar has realized some of the game's shortcomings. They've cranked out a set of mimeographed playing tips. Using these, I got beat 23-17: Much better than the earlier 50-zip pastings the computer was meting out to me.
According to the manual you can stop by pressing the space bar, but you cannot call timeout to stop the game clock after the completion of a play. Instead, you must wait until the teams are in the huddle.
Although Starbowl Football adequately represents the game and involves the player in strategy, it's not for the average computer game player. I can only recommend it to someone who understands computers a lot better than he understands football. Given time, however, I'm sure you can become skilled at Gamestar's sport.
Steve Harding is West Coast Editor of Hi-Res Magazine.
400/800 Disk & Cassette
by Steve Harding
My mama always said if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. But mama didn't review video games.
Moon Shuttle, from DataSoft, is a copy (under license) of an arcade game produced by Nichibutsu, USA. I'll admit I'm not one who frequents the video game parlors and plunks his quarters into the machines. But if I were, just watching someone play Moon Shuttle would send me off looking for Ms. Pacman or Battlezone.
It bereaves me to give DataSoft a bad mark on a game, especially when I'm sure they have done their best to bring an accurate copy of an arcade game to the Atari marketplace. By and large, DataSoft's games are always fresh and exciting. Moon Shuttle opens up brightly enough with an impressive cover illustration on its instruction manual. After that, it's strictly downhill, boys and girls.
|Moonshuttle by Datasoft|
We are told how to load the game, how to start the game and how to score the game. The back of the pamphlet gives you some "strategy" tips. It also illustrates some of the objects you are required to "destroy." But they're shown sideways. I wonder if the writer had access to the game before writing the instructions.
As the game opens, you are piloting a spaceship (one assumes it's the shuttle. . . the manual doesn't say) through an asteroid belt. You must destroy those asteroids ahead of you. If you squeeze through the asteroid belt, you will score a bonus, the size of which depends upon the level at which you are playing.
After each attempt at an asteroid belt, you'll be greeted by one of four different types of creatures that are out to destroy you--bomb launchers, expandos, man-o-wars and the dreaded blob men. If you make it through one complete attack cycle, they will start all over again.
So much for Moon Shuttle.
One new marketing twist from DataSoft: They're packing both a cassette and disk of their game in the same box. DataSoft's feeling is that someone who initially purchases a cassette will later upgrade to a disk system. Datasoft is doing its part to reduce the software penalty for upgrading your system. Good thinking.
Steve Harding is the West Coast editor of Hi-Res Magazine.
Escape from Vulcan's Isle
by Marc Benioff
Epyx/Automated Simulations Inc.
by Gordon M. Wong
There are other programs on the market that take fuller advantage of the Atari than the following Epyx games. More imaginative software by my standards usually contains a mixture of wrist-wrestling shootouts and drama. The player waits for the computer to make its move. But not these sequels to the well-received Temple of Apshai series. In my opinion, strategists are going to dislike these simulated adventure games equally as much as arcaders.
The Nightmare has you awakening in a haunted mansion composed of a dungeon and three upper floors. You must escape this mansion within eight real-time hours or you will die. To escape, you must obtain your Mind's Eye. But, several evil personages are guarding the passages.
Each level of the mansion is represented as a floor plan in which you, as a man-figure, move under joystick control. If you've ever played a graphic adventure from the now defunct Crystal Software, this format will be very familiar. As you scroll across hallways and unlocked rooms on a single floor, only the small portion of the floor, comprising your immediate surroundings, is viewed on the screen at any one time.
To get to another floor, you must move your cursor to a stairway. Bumping into walls or locked doors results in an "OUCH." Each of the rooms are labeled, and their walls are nicely textured with torches mounted on them. The author has done a good job of redefining the character set for his static display.
Two readily found keys are down in the dungeon. With these keys, you can find the locked room that each opens, and retrieve an object and a new key inside that room. Then you must repeat this pattern with your new key. The major difficulty you will have is searching for the right room, since it can be on another floor. Hint: It is best for you to keep a map of each floor, and before too long, you will obtain all the objects necessary to appease the sentries of your Mind's Eye so you can escape. No puzzle-solving abilities are needed in this game.
The game presents very little combat challenge, even to a rank novice. In your quest for objects, you will encounter several roaming tormentors, which are supposed to provide difficulty. In the dungeon, it is a pack of rats, easily avoided by keeping a wall between you and them. On the second level, a psycho in a bathroom comes at you. Beware, for on the third level, a ghost will threaten you. Although it can transverse walls, the spirit makes a late appearance, so if you hurriedly search through the floor, you will find what you are searching for without too much harassment. Except for a locked door, treasures are not guarded.
If you choose to fight, rather than run, do not expect arrow-shooting or sword-thrusting animation. All combat here is done with dual random number generators. Yep, much like a slot machine. Just push the button to see how well or poorly you are doing.
The second Epyx program, Escape from Vulcan's Isle, is very similar to The Nightmare, only the locale is different. You, as a shipwrecked sailor, must collect certain magical items in order to escape from a volcanic isle. Along the way, you will pickup gold pieces to trade for commodities at a forbidden village and thwart the dogged attacks of a man-eating villain, giant Medflies, Satyrs, and guardians of the tombs.
As in the earlier game, you must search in order to find the treasures but it is a bit easier since every item you need to find, with the exception of a magical cloak, is in the same part of the island you are presently scrolling. So, you won't need a map. The four parts of the island, three of them subterranean, can be fully explored and the game finished in less than two hours (the save game feature of both games is unnecessary.) The game ends so suddenly that a player is liable to feel jilted.
The program simply lacks the combat challenge that an adventure game should have. You can very easily outrun your foes, and once your power is built up, these menaces are not much of a challenge.
Both of these games represent the state of the art in Atari computer software . . . two years ago, when the use of redefined character sets and coarse scrolling techniques were very innovative. Since then, however, the abundance of helpful technical information from Atari Inc., the popular microcomputer literature, and user experiences, has resulted in many more creative game innovations. Concurrently, user expectations have risen.
Among newer expectations is the use of machine language. Both The Nightmares and Escape From Vulcan's Isle are programmed in Basic. While these two programs eliminate the use of the nuisance keyboard input, found in the earlier Crystalware programs, joystick response is still deadly slow for player movement. The use of machine language would speed up movement routines considerably. Coupled with finescrolling techniques, movement across the screen would be less clunky.
In addition, a more extensive use of animation adds interest to these games. The man symbol, serving as little more than a location cursor, is dull, and the monsters, which are slightly animated, do not look like monsters. Since there are few personalities in the game besides you and one foe, the use of player-missile graphics would be an ideal vehicle for movement animation, as well as spirited combat sequences. Both of these are noticeably lacking.
Even with the above improvements, gameplay is still unprovocative. The difficulty of the games needs to be raised, having goals with more complex solutions. Monsters should be more numerous as well as more intelligent. As is, almost the only challenge comes from trying to read the documentation, which overdoes itself in establishing the mood of the games.
Lastly, these two recent games fortunately lack the program bugs which became inherent in the Crystalware programs. They retain, however, many of the limitations found in an earlier period of the Atari software market. If you are looking for good animated adventure, try Epyx's Temple of Apshai, Quality Software's Ali Baba or Synapse's Shamus instead.
Note: These two games will not load properly if a Newell Industries' Fast Chip is installed in your Atari. If the programs do not run correctly, this may be the cause.
Gordon M. Wong is a freelance writer living in Oakland.