P.O. Box 3435
Longwood, FL 32750
Reviewed by David Plotkin
The newest release from Adventure International for the ATARI is an excellent arcade game called Sea Dragon. The talented author is Russ Wetmore, who wrote Preppie! Once again he has done a good job of mixing action and playability in this underwater version of the arcade classic Scramble.
In Sea Dragon, you are in command of a submarine which must navigate past various obstacles. The submarine is armed with an unlimited supply of torpedoes, but you can only have two torpedoes on the screen at a time. The air supply is limited so you must surface periodically. Since surfacing is not always possible, you must plan ahead to have enough air. The underwater landscape is constantly scrolling from right to left. By pushing your joysticks up and down you change the depth of the craft, and to the right causes the submarine to advance slowly until it reaches mid-screen. Holding the joystick left causes the submarine to move left at exactly the same speed as the landscape is scrolling. It effectively stands still in the water until the submarine hits the left edge of the screen. Then the edge of the screen essentially pushes the craft along. You cannot back up in this game.
Sea Dragon is divided into six distinct sections, each more difficult than the last, and each requiring a different strategy. The first section is a sea bottom dotted with ominous black mines. The next scene is a cavern filled not only with mines but also indestructible gun turrets that fire a stream of bullets. Sections three and four are also seascape and a cave, respectively, but you have destroyers and lasers firing at you. The last two sections are extremely difficult to gain access to and have even more sophisticated weapons and obstacles.
Sea Dragon is quite playable, but not advised for those with a low tolerance for frustration. It is one of the more difficult arcade games I have played. Adventure International told me that they deliberately made it hard to challenge players. The game is tough because the submarine responds a little too slowly and you have no downward firing weapons. Also, you have to go back to the beginning of the current sector each time you lose a sub.
Overall, however, Sea Dragon is a very fine game. The graphics cannot be called stunning, but they are very good. The submarine is a single line resolution player, complete with torpedo tubes which change shape as the torpedo is launched. The seascape itself is a redefined character set, as are the mines. The mines move smoothly with a much finer resolution than normal character position changes. The sound is great. The explosions and echoing sonar are superb, and the lasers are eerie.
Certain strategies are only made possible by Russ Wetmore's fine attention to detail. It is obvious that extensive play testing went into Sea Dragon. It can be played by one or two players and has five skill levels. For those of you who don't mind a challenge, I recommend it. Keep up the good work, Al.
WIZARD OF WOR
3335 Arlington Heights Road
Arlington Heights, IL 60004
Reviewed by Gordon Miles
My excitement and expectations rise when I see an ad declaring that a popular arcade game is now available for my machine. When will it be available? How much will it cost? Will it play and look exactly like the original quarter eater? All too often the novelty dissolves soon after the cellophane is removed, and I'm disappointed. Fortunately, Roklan lives up to my expectations and has done an excellent rendition of The Wizard of Wor.
Wizard of Wor plays almost exactly like the original arcade version. You and a friend can control up to seven laser-armed worriors. Your mission is to conquer as many of the Wizard's mazes as possible. The Wizard's worling monsters populate these mazes. Worlings are initially blue Burwors, but are transformed into the faster moving yellow Garwors, and then the super-speedy red Thorwors. Your worriors are killed upon collision with a worling or its laser shot.
The maze area itself is a square with hallways on either side and you may move from left to right within the square. A radar scanner lies beneath the maze display. The scanner is used to track Garwors and Thorwors, which may be invisible, unless they are in your worrior's corridor on the main maze display. For each player there is also a small entrance vestibule where all your worriors begin.
Each player enters from his own vestibule. If the maze in front of the entrance is not clear of worlings, you are given a ten-second count before you are ejected into the maze. From then on both strategy and swift reactions are needed to hunt the worlings while they hunt you. Best results are obtained in short corridors where your one-shot-at-a-time laser can regenerate faster. Constant appraisal of the radar scanner as well as judicious use of the connecting hallways are invaluable aids.
After all the worlings are destroyed, the Wizard's winged monster, a worluk, appears. Shooting the swift worluk before it can leave the maze via the connecting hallways earns bonus points. If the worluk is shot, the Wizard himself may appear. He throws laser bolts while teleporting from one random maze location to the next. The next round does not start unless you get him (bonus points) or he kills your worrior.
In each succeeding round the Wizard and his minions move faster, and the maze has fewer walls to provide cover for your worrior. Every fourth round earns a new worrior as well as the Arena maze where half of the maze has no walls. Every twelfth wave earns the Pit maze where there are no walls at all. The Pit, which is quite difficult, is aptly named.
The play of the game is fast paced as well as strategically demanding. Especially enjoyable is the two player mode. Although each player could shoot the other for points, cooperation resulted in higher scores. If you saved your fellow worrior from a tight spot you were usually returning a favor.
The characters are a tad chunky graphically, but the animation is smooth, colorful, lively, and well done. The sound effects and background mood sounds are also quite effective. Control of the worriors, especially when turning corners, required some education. Overall, the joystick was very responsive.
I recommend Wizard of Wor very highly. It is one of those games in your software library which will retain your attention for some time to come.
FLOYD OF THE JUNGLE
One Caribou Court
Parkton, MD 21120
32K-Cassette & Diskette
Reviewed by Gordon Miles
One enjoyable way to introduce your friends to your ATARI is to share a computer game. Unfortunately, most games are single-player, or two-player at best. Games for four simultaneous players are few, and usually do not show off the hi-res graphics, sound, or music possible with the ATARI. MicroProse's Floyd of the Jungle comes to the rescue by incorporating all these advanced features into a multiplayer, arcade-type game.
After a nicely-animated introduction, each player's name is entered and a point goal selected. The object is to be the first player to reach the point goal. Each player controls a different colored "Floyd," and starts out at the bottom of the screen. Above the Floyds are seven different tiers. Snakes, elephants, birds, lions, alligators, monkeys, and pygmies prowl each tier. Impassable jungle separates the tiers, and dangling vines are the only means of passage between tiers.
Your Floyd must jump and scamper through the jungle to do the things that are worth points. These include catching birds, punching pygmies, and rescuing Janice, Queen of the Jungle. When a player gets to Janice, the round ends and a different screenful of jungle appears. The game ends when the point goal is reached.
The animation of Floyd and his jungle mates is very good. The snakes rock to and fro. Toothed jaws open and close. Feet shuffle along jungle paths. Floyd himself is especially well done. He literally jumps for vines, rides the animals, and knocks out pygmies. He even appears short of breath! With up to four Floyds scrambling around, it's a zany foot race. The foliage looks real for a change, and the landscape allows actions like jumping for a canoe, leaping off a hill, or defying wild animals.
Timing is very critical. Leap too soon, and Floyd goes into the underbrush, the river, a deadly dart, or possibly some jaws. The penalty is harsh: back to the bottom. This can be extremely frustrating for beginners, but for experienced players, the penalty scheme works well to balance reflex play with the strategic demands of getting points.
The movement in Floyd is very fast. Even with four players, there is no apparent slow down. Although Floyd requires BASIC, MicroProse uses a proprietary language that uses BASIC only in functions such as titles & score displays. All game action is in machine code.
Other niceties include a handicap for more experienced Floyds (one or two sore legs), pause control, and bonus points for quick recovery of Janice. A solo option exists where Floyd plays against the clock.
Dallas, TX 75218
Reviewed by Steve Randall
Like most Atarians I am captivated by the graphic, color and sound capabilities of my machine. Nothing discourages me more than to boot up a program only to be presented with standard Graphics 0 white characters on a blue screen. Of course, the usefulness and effectiveness of a program is primary, but enhancing applications programs with some of the ATARI's charms, in my opinion, is a great asset.
Financial Wizard, a personal finance program by Computari's Bill McLachlan, is an excellent example of an applications program that integrates many ATARI features into a well-conceived program. It requires a disk drive and at least 24K of memory. If you wish, a printer is useful (Centronics 739, Prowriter, Epson with Graftrax, or NEC).
The use of color and sound in the data-input prompts and error checking routines is so well done that it's quite simple to boot up the disk, follow the very clear documentation, and be "up and running" in short order.
Some of Financial Wizard's features include the ability to search checks by a range of check numbers, range of dates or amounts, as well as by payee or category. When entering checks the last check number is displayed along with the current balance. The program comes with budget categories already set up, and most of them are applicable to most people. Still, it is possible to change any or all of them. With the "replicate" feature these categories, along with the budgeted amounts, can be carried over from month to month or year to year.
The check-balancer routine is designed to work just like the form included with your bank statement. All of the routines, (check entry, budget entry, tabulation, etc. ) allow you to go back and correct any data. I personally feel this is a key feature of Financial Wizard.
One menu selection calculates and tabulates the percentage of outlay each category represents. These figures can be displayed in a very useful bar chart that compares budgeted expenses to actual expenses by category (for a month) or shows one category for each of twelve months. For those interested in complete automation, Financial Wizard will even print your checks. Check writing requires custom checks available from the source mentioned in the owner's manual.
I give Financial Wizard high marks in ease of use, documentation, and performance. If a disk-based home finance package is in your future, the "wizard" should get serious consideration.
5327 Jacuzzi St.
Richmond, CA 94804
24K-Diskette & Cassette
Reviewed by David Duberman
Slime is a fiendishly clever, delightfully disgusting game that's guaranteed to give you green dreams for weeks after you get it. There are two objects to the game. First, you must protect your warship, which is floating on a sea of green slime at the bottom of the screen. Second, you must channel the slime falling from above into the Gamma-Tube Absorbers located at the sides of the screen.
As the game progresses, the slime that falls into the ocean causes the level of the ocean (and hence your warship) to rise. This renders your warship increasingly liable to damage from lightning that strikes during the slime storms .
Your deflector warship is supplied with a total of twenty wedges which can be placed strategically in various areas on the screen in order to deflect the slime and protect your ship. You can position the wedges one at a time, or you can create diagonal "sluices" or horizontal "shields" by holding down the fire button and moving the joystick in the desired direction.
There is a Trac-Ball option. There are also many other options, including number of players (1 to 4-one at a time), bonus levels, and starting storm. There are 50 storms through which you must progress to win, thus 50 levels of difficulty. All the options are presented in a clever menu format on pressing Select, and it is here that you may adapt game specs to your heart's content.
Getting back to the action, there are many obstacles to your two objectives, as you may expect. Plexarian saucers are your primary enemy, and their evil intent is manifested in many ways. First, they seed the clouds to create the slime storms. Then, they remove wedges that you've placed so that the falling slime can ooze through. Occasionally, they'll drop a plug into one of the gamma tubes. Soon thereafter, a friendly helicopter will come to remove the plug, but you must protect the chopper so that it can fulfill its mission .
The instructions say that if you can shoot the saucer, you get 1000 points, but I've been unable to hit it so far. It's very fast. The saucer is also responsible for fireballs which can wreck your wedge formations and sink your ship. The slime will also sink your ship if it falls on it. You start with up to seven ships, and the game is over when the last one is gone, or when the slime level reaches the top of the screen.
My primary source of frustration in playing this game was the good old Atari joystick. This is one game that could really benefit from a heavy-duty ball-trigger-head stick, and even more from a Trac-Ball. The more advanced levels of the game are winnable, but only with a very high degree of control and concentration, not to mention great agility, on the part of the player.
I'm glad to see products like Slime come out, because this game really is an improvement over most other video games I've seen, and compares very favorably with the best of the coin-op games. It tells me that Atari's potential as a fantastic game machine is finally being fulfilled.
PERCOM DOUBLE DENSITY, DUAL DRIVE SYSTEM
Percom Data Company
11220 Pagemill Road
Dallas, Texas 75243
Reviewed by Richard DeVore
ATARI owners who have wished for a disk drive system with larger storage capacity - your waiting is over. Percom has responded with a group of drives that deserves your attention. You can select from 40-track, single-head, single-drive systems to 10-megabyte, hard-disk systems.
RFD40-S2 is a 40-track, first-drive system with two single-head, double-density drives and power supply and controller mounted vertically in a single cabinet.
It is a configuration that will serve those who have no drives as well as you who already own one or more ATARI 810 single density drives. The list price is $1105, which compares favorably with the cost of two 810 drives. At the same time, it offers twice the storage as well as being completely compatible with any disk product produced for the ATARI.
When you open the box of the RFD40-S2, you will find the drive, a cable with ends configured for connection directly to your system, an instruction book and a copy of the newest version of OS/A+, Version 4 by Optimized Systems Software, Inc. If you already have an 810 drive, the first thing you will notice is the size of your new unit. It takes up less space than the 810 drive due to the vertical mounting of the drives.
The drive has two switches at the back. These consist of an off / on rocker switch and a set of four dip switches at the rear. These dip switches allow some variety in unit configuration. Switch number four sets the controller drive (the one on the right-hand side) to default to either single or double density, depending on the setting of the switch. Switch number three does the same for the left-hand drive. Default means that if you don't tell the drive anything specific via software, these will be their configurations.
I discussed these switches with the technical support people at Percom and they said it was possible that they would be eliminated in later production. This is because the software allowed you to set drive density as desired.
In testing out the functions, the drives were used by themselves, and in conjunction with both one and two ATARI 810 drives. Regardless of the drive number, everything worked properly, allowing access to any drive as desired. At the present they are set up with one 810 drive which lately has not even been uncovered. This is due to the fact that everything I need to do can be done by the one dual-drive unit. For those with higher storage requirements, there are 40-track, add-on units in single, dual, or triple drive configurations. The prices range from $399 to $1195.
While using the drives over the past month, they loaded programs to zero free sectors and read back all of the stored information without error. I was able to copy from single to double-density and back with no problems. Some programs which depend upon 128 byte sectors, which use note and point, or which are copy protected (obviously), would not function in double-density format.
I tried every program that I could get my hands on and all loaded properly. This included many games as well as Microsoft BASIC and VISICALC. With the dual-drive unit connected in conjunction with an 810, I loaded several cassette-based programs and they also worked properly.
The documentation, however, is rather poor and confuses more than communicates. Percom has assured me that a new instruction booklet is planned and will be understood by the average owner.
Overall, the dual-drive, double-density system functions perfectly. If you feel that you need two drives, this unit deserves serious consideration.
Med Systems Software
P.O. Box 3558
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
16K-diskette or cassette
39 W. 37th St.
New York, NY 10018
Reviewed by David Plotkin
In this review I will discuss two products together. I've found an arcade game with exceptional playability and a new joystick which should enhance the play of most games, particularly the game reviewed here.
ARENA 3000, programmed by Simon Smith, is an original arcade shoot-em-up which keeps the player coming back again and again. The player controls a white robot which is being assaulted from all sides by a wide range of attackers. The robot is armed with a pistol capable of firing multiple shots. Up to four players can be on the screen at one time.
The game is divided into arenas. Clearing the screen of all the attackers allows you to go on to the next screen, or arena. These arenas increase in difficulty in several ways. The attackers move faster, but there's more to it than just an increase in speed. As the levels progress, different kinds of attackers appear, and each attacker moves differently. The number of attackers present at the beginning of each arena also increases, and there can be up to 40 attackers in the arena at one time.
Another way in which the game increases in difficulty is that when you shoot certain types of attackers they mutate into another form. Some of the mutated forms require up to four hits to destroy them. There is a certain fairness here, however, since the attackers requiring more hits to destroy also move slower, and it's easier to run from them.
There are some nice features to this game which increase its enjoyment. When you lose a robot, for example, you don't have to go back to the beginning. You start again with the number of attackers that were left when you were "killed". Since there are fewer attackers when you restart, they now move faster. This increase in speed does not occur if you go all the way through an arena without losing a robot.
The graphics and sound of ARENA 3000 are only fair. There are no fancy titles or music, primarily due to memory limitations of 16K. Within the game itself, the attacking shapes are of medium resolution and are not animated. They move rather smoothly without changing shape.
One interesting effect I have not seen before is the explosions that occur when you hit an attacker or they hit you-you blow apart in a very tall, narrow blast which is clearly done by use of a player, somewhat similar to the explosions in the arcade classic "Robotron".
One of the most unique features of ARENA 3000 is the way in which you control the little robot. You have the choice of using one or two joysticks. If you use one joystick, then you fire using the red button in whatever direction the robot is facing. If you use two joysticks, stick 1 controls the direction you move, stick 2 controls the direction you fire in. At advanced levels, the only way to succeed is to get out near the edges of the screen and fire back into the crowd of attackers while running away, so you can forget using just one joystick. A pair of good quality joysticks, with heavy bases (such as WICO or Baylis) will work quite well when set on a table. However, even these sticks can shift in the heat of play, ruining your shots. What to do?
A new joystick from Spectravision may be the answer to the needs of ARENA 3000, as well as the other two-joystick games Med Systems has promised. Internally, the SureShot is similar to an Atari joystick, although less pressure is needed to activate the stick. Externally, there are two firing buttons-one in the normal position, one on top of the stick. These buttons work simultaneously. The stick is a molded hand grip which nestles to the hand better than any other joystick I've tried.
Lastly, and very uniquely, the SureShot comes with four suction cups which anchor it firmly to Formica, glass, or Plexiglas table tops. The suction cups (it comes with standard rubber feet as well) keep the joysticks from sliding and two Sure-Shots work very well with ARENA 3000.
P.O. Box 3191, Dept. 1-C
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Reviewed by Ike Hudson
I recently received the light pen that I ordered from Programmer's Institute (PI). At the same time I got one of their programs so I could see exactly how the pen works. Most of PI's programs are for children from pre-school through second grade. The software I ordered, called "Shapes," works with both keyboard input and the light pen.
Shapes is a graphics program that displays a particular shape and four choices that match it to create a new form. You make your choice by entering the number of the block from the keyboard or by pointing the light pen at your selection.
The choices were easy for my eight-year-old and me, but as my son pointed out, it would be more challenging to a younger child. In making selections it was necessary to point at the object in the box. Pointing to just anywhere in the box or at the number did not work. In a few selections it seemed to work only if you pointed a couple of pixels to the left of the object.
The program is written in BASIC and can be listed. This is some help to those of us who like to use different programs or use them to learn how some new hardware works. The code for the light pen is relatively simple. It seems that any average hacker (like me) could probably write some fun software for it in BASIC in a relatively short time.
The light pen comes in a rubbery plastic housing and looks like a ball-point pen with one end cut off and a wire out the other end. It plugs into joystick port number four for use with the PI software, but could be programmed for any port. The housing is relatively simple and not heavy-duty, and may not withstand use by unsupervised juveniles. It should last, however, if used by non-destructive or mature individuals. Although lightweight, it is quite functional and at $19.95 it compares favorably with the $125.00 pen available from Atari.
The pen is a very unsophisticated design that works well with multiple-choice drills or similar educational applications. I think it can be a fun toy, as well as an aid in education, especially for users who aren't typists.
Unfortunately, the light pen has no documentation on how to write programs to use with it. PI said they would be producing an inexpensive series of tutorials in the near future.
I have to give this light pen a good rating. It is a great value for the price and brings the light pen within the reach of all home computer owners and schools.