Strategy, adventure, shoot-em-ups, chess and simulations
By Harvey Bernstein
With its superior graphics, increased memory, and faster processor, the ST has been a boon to creative game writers, some of whom are taking the concept of computer games into an area never before explored.
What makes for a good ST game? Naturally, we expect to take full advantage of the new generation of computing power, "pushing the envelope" of graphics, animation, sound, and artificial intelligence. However, one factor is critical: you have to have good game play. One leading game company used to ask if a computer game can make you cry. Maybe not, but the best can transport you to another world and allow you to experience things you wouldn't otherwise.
Many ST games are conversions of older games or new games released in other formats, but with improved graphics, or the addition of the mouse/window interface. Most of the games that have been written specifically for the ST were developed in Europe, where the new Atari had a headstart in gaining popularity--that's where many of the games from MichTron and Firebird come from. In addition, there aren't many ST games that have been converted from video arcade machines, while some other game categories are top-heavy (there are five martial-arts games on the market, with a sixth just announced).
Here are some of the best games available for the ST, broken down by category.
Star Raiders ($29.95) This is a classic, and deserves a place in your game library. Its scenario of using maps, computer, shields and torpedoes has been often imitated but never duplicated. The graphics on the ST version are first-rate, although the sound is a little shaky. Atari Corp., 1196 Borregas Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94088. (408) 745-2367
Time Bandits ($39.95) One of the first original ST releases still holds up to the test of time. The game actually consists of 16 games within it, each having 16 levels! Looking very much like the arcade hit Gauntlet, Time Bandits never ceases to be challenging and amusing, as the wide variety creatures waiting to be blasted offers many surprises. MichTron, 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, MI 48053. (313) 334-5700
Starglider ($44.95) This is the shoot-em-up all others should aspire to! You control a single AGAV (Airborne Ground Attack Vehicle) against hundreds of enemy targets. At first glance the simulated vector graphics (they look a lot like Star Wars in the arcades) are nothing spectacular. But once play begins and the action gets hot and heavy, this is a minor complaint. Add some of the most exciting sound (digitized speech and music) in any game and you have a real winner. A must! Firebird Licensees, P.O. Box 49, Ramsey, NJ 07446. (201) 444-5700
Wanderer (39.95) is an ST game with a difference--it's in 3-D, and comes with a pair of anaglyphic (red and green) 3-D glasses! It's an odd combination of Star Raiders and intergalactic poker. Zip through space destroying the bad guys, then pull over to a nearby asteroid for a game of space cards.
ST Karate ($29.95) is the ultimate karate game for the ST. Play either against the computer or another player. Includes multiple opponents, digitized sound and splashy graphics. The joystick controls give you over 18 possible fast movements. Eidersoft USA Inc., P.O. Box 88, Burgettstown, PA 15021. (412) 947-3739
ST Wars ($39.95) A fast-action, space arcade game that uses digitized sound, graphics and multiple scenarios for an exciting gaming experience. You pilot a space fighter and must destroy the Starbase. Miles Computing, 7741 Alabama Ave., Suite 2, Canoga Park, CA 91304. (818) 341-1411
Airball (39.95) Imagine a wizard turning you into a ball and sending you into a mansion with over 250 rooms. Worse yet, the ball has a slow leak. You have to get to the end of the maze, where a spell book will return your human form.
Gold Runner ($39.95) The Earth is dying. You must lead the survivors to a new world through a hostile section of the universe--the Ring Worlds of Triton. Goldrunner is one of most popular shoot-em-ups for the ST. Microdeal software distributed by MichTron, 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, MI 48053. (313) 334-5700
Sub Battle Simulator ($39.95) A recreation of World War II submarine warfare in either the Atlantic or Pacific. You can choose to command either an American or German submarine, the year of the action, and whether you will fight a single battle or an entire campaign. Sonar, radar, torpedoes and anti-aircraft guns are all at your disposal. Excellent graphics and great sound add to the enjoyment. Epyx, 600 Galveston Dr., Redwood City, CA 94063. (415) 366-0606
Silent Service ($39.95) A highly detailed WW II submarine warfare simulation. Sink enemy ships while keeping your sub from being destroyed. All aspects of game control are mouse-driven. Microprose, 120 Lakefront Dr, Hunt Valley, MD 21030. (301) 771-1151
Gato ($39.95) A real-time submarine warfare simulator that puts you in the role of captain of a WW II attack submarine. Can be run through the mouse or the keyboard. Spectrum HoloByte, Inc., 2061 Challenger Drive, Alameda, CA 94501. (415) 522-3584
Flight Simulator II ($49.95) The classic! Zoom under the Golden Gate Bridge or past the Statue of Liberty in your own twin-engine Cessna. Possibly the most sophisticated simulation ever released, this may not be the same as having a Link trainer in your living room, but it is as close as you are going to come. Additional scenery disks are available for $24.95 each. SubLogic, 713 Edgebrook Dr, Champaign, L 61820. (217) 359-8482
Rogue ($39.95) This is an excellent beginner's game and a good introduction to the genre. Your character has no real attributes other than strength, constitution, and the worthiness of his armor. Your goal to to make it through a 26-level dungeon and back again. A wide variety of monsters, weapons, scrolls, potions, rings, plus the fact that the dungeon is different every time you play makes the game timeless. Epyx, 600 Galveston Dr., Redwood City, CA 94063. (415) 366-0606
Phantasie I,II,III ($39.95 each) In this exciting trilogy you assemble a hearty band of up to six characters of different races (Human, Elf, etc.) and classes (Wizard, Fighter, so on) in order to defeat the evil Nikademus. Lots of challenging puzzles here, but be prepared to spend a lot of time on each game (30 to 50 hours). Graphics and sound just get better from one volume to the next, and the mouse interface is perfectly integrated into play. Any one of the three games can be played separately, but if you proceed in order you can pass your characters from one volume to the next--a real plus! Strategic Simulations, 1046 N. Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, CA 94043. (415) 964-1353
Alternate Reality: The City ($44.95) The first of a seven-part series of interrelated role-playing fantasy adventure games. In The City, you create your player character and go through various adventures in the enclosed city, and build up your character for the next adventure. Datasoft, 19808 Nordhoff Place, Chatsworth, CA 91311-9969. (818) 886-5922
Pirates of the Barbary Coast ($24.95) A graphic adventure game for one person aged 10 through adult. You are the captain of a sailing frigate and must earn enough money to ransom your daughter. . . or fight Bloodthroat hand-to-hand and rescue her. StarSoft Software distributed by TDC Distributors, Inc., 3331 Bartlett Blvd., Orlando, FL 32811. (305) 423-1987
Karate Kid II ($39.95) Imported from England and adopted from the popular film of the same name, this is by far the best of the glut of karate-inspired games available to the ST owner. Sixteen basic karate moves are available to you based on eight joystick positions and whether or not the trigger is pressed. While this is not unique unto itself, what makes KK II stand out is its seamless animation as you face a series of adversaries more and more powerful. The characters are finely detailed, and the sound is MIDI-compatible. MichTron, 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, MI 48053. (313) 334-5700
World Games ($39.95) It's actually eight games in one. Whether cliff-diving in Mexico, weight lifting in the U.S.S.R., or bronco-busting in the good old U.S.A., the best challenge comes from playing against a human opponent rather than the computer. Animation is OK, and while the joystick control can be clumsy at times, most players will enjoy the range of the games presented here. Epyx, 600 Galveston Dr., Redwood City, CA 94063. (415) 366-0606
Micro League Baseball II ($59.95) A must for anybody who played statistic-based baseball games as a kid! Manage any one of over 20 classic teams, from American League All-Stars to the 1961 N.Y. Yankees. How would Mickey Mantle fare against Nolan Ryan? Playing against either a human opponent or the computer, Micro-League Baseball give you the opportunity to create your own classic confrontations. Additional features such as rain delays, injured players, and arguments with the umpire add to the realism of this strategy simulation. Micro League Sports Association, 2201 Drummond Plaza, Newark, DE 19711. (302) 368-9990
Leader Board ($39.95) is an excellent 3-D golf game. It allows up to four players with novice, amateur and professional skill levels, and each level brings in more factors, such as wind and ball control. Additional course disks are available for $19.95. Access Software, 2561 South 1560 West, Suite A, Woods Cross, UT 84087. (801) 298-9077
Mean 18 ($44.95) Simulation of professional golf that lets you choose from easy courses all the way up to courses like Pebble Beach or Augusta. Includes a course construction option. Plays one to four players. Additional course disks available Accolade, 20833 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino, CA 95014. (408) 446-5757
Planetfall, Stationfall, Moonmist, Zork, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Trinity, Bureaucracy ($39.95 each) Infocom is the Rolls-Royce of interactive fiction, with something to please every age group or level of ability. Whether your taste runs to science fiction (Planetfall, Stationfall), Gothic mystery (Moonmist), fantasy (the Zork series), or R-rated comedy (Leather Goddesses of Phobos), Infocom will never let you down. All the games are attractively packaged, well-written, and come with a host of extra tchochkas to add to the enjoyment of the game. Every game collection should have at least one Infocom title. Infocom, 125 Cambridge Park Dr., Cambridge MA 02140. (617) 576-3190
The Pawn, Guild of Thieves (Firebird, $44.95 each) Firebird created quite a splash with the release of The Pawn last year, and now follows it up with Guild. Yes, these games do contain graphics, but they are designed to play as text adventures, as the graphics are accessible only by scrolling the menu bar and are not necessary to completion of the games. While a little more stiffly written than Infocom's titles, these games boast the most advanced command structure in the genre and provide a promise of better things to come Firebird Licensees, P.O. Box 49, Ramsey, NJ. 07446. (201) 444-5700
Kings Quest I,II, III ($49.95 each). When KQ I debuted several years ago, it broke all the rules for graphic adventures. Instead of static screens with a two-word parser, it offers a three-dimensional universe. Your character, controlled by joystick or keyboard, walks around the screen and passes in front of or behind other objects. In fact, you can't manipulate an object unless you're close enough! Combined with a story line and parser almost as sophisticated as a good text adventure and a wicked sense of humor (particularly in KQ III), these games make for a great play. Sierra On-Line, P.O. Box 485, Coarsegold, CA 93614. (209) 683-6858
Ogre ($39.95) Originally a board game, Ogre lets two players play head to head and design their own battlefields with the built-in game editor. The game pits the Ogre, a Cybertank, against a more conventional force of infantry, armor units and command posts. In the one-player mode, the player can control either the Ogre or the armed forces, and the two-player mode pits two human players against each other as each attempts to outmaneuver, outlast and outblast his or her opponent. Origin Systems. Distributed by Electronic Arts, 180 Gateway Drive, San Mateo, CA 94404. (415) 571-7171
Universe II ($69.95) is a space based strategy game. You have been retired from the Federated World Special Forces for years, but now you're on a spy mission. Engage in nefarious pursuits, such as stealing from enemy ships, or the more mundane, such as shuttling ore and passengers between planets. The game is played on three disks. Omnitrend Software, P.O. Box 3, West Simsbury, CT 06092. (203) 658-6917
Chessmaster 2000 ($44.95) Chessmaster 2000 provides 12 levels of play, teach and hint modes, and the option to retract moves. It also has a library of 100 famous games, including the 1986 Chessmaster 2000 vs. Sargon III game. Electronic Arts, 1820 Gateway Dr., San Mateo, CA 94404. (415) 571-7171.
Techmate ($49.95) An easy-to-play, mouse-driven chess game. Just click on the piece and the square to move to. . . Bang! It's done. Szabo Software also offers incredible support which includes free newsletters and updates. MichTron Inc., 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, M148053. (313) 334-5700; or Szabo Software, P.O. Box 623, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
CARD GAMES AND GAMBLING
Bridge 4.0 ($29.95) A contract bridge game which allows you and your computer partner to play against two computer players. The program reviews bidding, keeps track of score and even tells you when someone is cheating. Artworx, 1844 Penfeld Road, Penfield, NY 14526. (800) 828-6573
Strip Poker ($39.95) Here's your chance to try to "beat the pants off' Suzy and Melissa. The more you win, the more they take off. Be careful, though--they're capable of doing the same to you! Artworx, 1844 Penfeld Road, Penfield, NY 14526. (800) 828-6573
Home Casino Poker ($34.95) Features video draw poker and a lightning-fast stud poker game from one to four players each. In stud, choose from any of six computer-controlled opponents. Home Casino Poker works with keyboard and/or joystick. Dubl Dubl Funware, P.O. 06401, Portland, OR 97206.
BEST OF THE BEST
Barbarian ($39.95) Part graphic adventure, part arcade game, part animated cartoon. You control Hegor the Barbarian, out to avenge the death of his father at the hands of the evil Necron. Using sword, shield, and bow, you fight your way through countless animated creatures and hidden booby traps. Hegor is controlled via a series of icons at the bottom of the screen. What makes this game unique is the graphics, done in the style of the finest animators. The backgrounds are richly detailed, and the variety of characters you encounter is truly amazing. Sound effects are digitized, and Barbarian has a wicked sense of humor that makes it a joy to play. Psygnosis, distributed by CSS, 495-A Busse Rd., Ell: Grove Village, L 60007. (800) 422-4912
Balance of Power ($49.95) Billed as the world's first computer peace game, this is the brainchild of game-design whiz Chris Crawford. As President of the U.S. or Premier of the U.S.S.R., your goal is to attain as much political prestige for your superpower as possible, at the same time thwarting your opponent, all the while trying to avoid a nuclear confrontation. The graphic display is nothing more than a world map, yet Crawford manages to supply all the needed information via a series of menus. This computer game, the best of all available for the ST, will not make you cry-it will make you think! Mindscape, 3444 Dundee Rd., Northbroo1z, L 60062. (312) 480-7667