Survey of recent cartridge games
We've been receiving a steady stream of game software in the form of ROM cartridges lately. Games on cartridge offer several advantages to the Atari owner, including speed of loading, lower memory requirements, and convenience. Since most Atari 400's are equipped with at least 16K of RAM, all cartridges run on the bottom-of-the-line computer. Here are some brief descriptions of the more noteworthy games we've received.
476 Vandell Way
Campbell, CA 95008
Flapper is Marc Russel Benioff's first attempt at writing an arcade game, and not a bad one at that. Your player is a bird in a garden, and your object is to maneuver close enough to each of the 24 fruits in the garden so that your bird can pop them with its beak. When you've done this, you are challenged with a new array of fruit. Meanwhile, two farmers cruise up and down the sides of the garden, throwing rocks at you. You are also fighting time -- the sun literally flies through the sky -- and when it sets, you lose a life and must start with a fresh, full garden.
Player movement is a novelty - push the stick to either side for lateral movement, and push the fire button to move upwards, a flap at a time. The only way to move downwards is to await gravity's inevitable tug. You must plan your movements carefully to avoid finding yoorself between a rock and a hard place (so to speak). Accompanied throughout by a jaunty tune penned by Marc's grandmother, Flapper is fun, and a relatively, non-violent arcade entertainment.
Also from Romox comes Spark Bugs, featuring a unique play mechanic involving various insects and electricity. Spark Bugs is a fast-paced, lively and colorful game.
2350 Bay Shore Frontage Rd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
River Raid is Carol Shaw's adaptation of her hit game for Atari VCS. This is your basic, vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up, with a lot of graphics frills thrown in. Your object is primarily to survive as long as possible, while shooting everything in sight. River Raid is difficult at the start, and becomes increasingly challenging as the game progresses. Shaw has spiffed up the game visuals somewhat for the computer, but the concept remains identical to that of the VCS original.
Also from Activision, Kaboom!, another VCS conversion, involves catching falling bombs with laterally moving paddles. The graphics are cute, and the play action is simple, but not by any means easy.
2104 Summit Ave.,
Plano, TX 75074
In Droids, you find yourself in command of a futuristic space transpart which has just undergone the rigors of an ion storm. Your crew of normally helpful droids has gone beserk, and is attempting to disable your ship by deactivating the various support systems. Armed only with an integrator-beam gun, your task is to return your ship's systems to the proper working order.
The ship's layout is maze-like, with droid compartments at one end, and your transfer shaft at the other. At the base of the shaft is the device to which you must return for energy every time you reactivate a system. The four systems are engineering, weapons control, life support, and communications. When you shoot a droid, it returns to is compartment briefly, then goes berserk again.
When a system is deactivated, it turns red. To reactivate it, you must pass over it twice, each time with a new charge of energy, without a droid having touched it. When you have fully reactivated all the systems you pass to the next level, where your task is similar, but more difficult.
In Night Strike, you are entrusted with the defense of your city against a vicious enemy. Armed with a mobile anti-aircraft tank and different types of weaponry, you must rid the skies of enemy aircraft. Flak shells, flares, and 20mm anti-aircraft rounds are at your disposal. Night Strike adds several new wrinkles to the Missile Command theme, resulting in a fine challenge.
Both Droids and Night Strike were written by The Solitaire Group, an organization of programmers.
981 University Avenue
Los Gates, CA 95030
From Imagic comes Atlantis by Dave Johnson, also a conversion front a VCS game. You command three defense posts that guard the underwater city against aerial invasions. The dreaded Gorgon Fleet is attacking, and you must destroy each ship before it reaches the level from which it can vaporize one of Atlantis' buildings. The play mechanic is unusual -- you fire straight up with a gun in the center of the screen, and at a 30-degree angle towards each opposite upper corner from two guns situated at the centers of the screen's right and left edges. You can't change the guns' angles or positions; you can only determine which gun will fire when you press the button button by moving (or centering) the joystick. Graphics are fairly sparse but very attractive and colorful, but the play mechanic may take a bit of getting used to.