P.O. Box 427
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Reviewed by David Duberman
Imagine a unique, addictive arcade game that challenges fully without making you feel like an uncoordinated boob if you fail. You need imagine no longer, because Joust is here. Joust isn't that new - it's been a popular coin-op game for a couple of years. If you want to play- test the game, try your local arcade; the game play in the home computer version is almost identical.
In Joust, you fly a giant ostrich among two levels of floating stone islands and the ground by flapping the wings with your fire button. Your opponents, the Buzzard Riders, attempt to dismount you, and you, them. When two flyers meet, the higher one wins. You're impervious to harm from contact with playfield objects, so you can bounce off surfaces to maneuver.
In upper levels, part of the ground vanishes to expose a lava pit complete with a troll who grabs and devours low flying jousters. Some of the islands vanish temporarily, changing playfield characteristics significantly.
If you unseat an opponent, an egg appears in his place. If you don't grab it right away, it hatches another Buzzard Rider. Once you become adept at flying, it's a real joy to be able to skip off the backs of several of the enemy in a row, and to gobble up the eggs along the way.
Every few waves is an egg wave. When the round starts, every surface is covered with eggs, and you must get them all. If you're not quick enough, they hatch and become dangerous. Other special waves involve a vicious pterodactyl, a survival wave, and a team wave.
Joust's two-player mode is simultaneous, and involves both competitive and cooperative play. In general, the best two-player strategy is to mark off boundaries and stick to them, and the team wave rewards both players for success in this ploy. However, there is also a gladiator wave in the two-player version, in which the first player to dismount the other is rewarded.
Joust is one of the best arcade games ever released for Atari computers, and Atari's finest since Star Raiders. I played it every day for almost a month straight, and I can't think of another game for which that's true. I wholeheartedly recommend Joust - if Atari keeps this up, they'll be back in the black ink shortly. Now, if they'd only identify the programmers! By the way, if you need a quibble, there's no high-score feature.
SCREEN MAKERIcon Software
925 Waverley St. #102
Palo Alto, CA 94301
$34.95, 48K -- diskette
Reviewed by Julie Sickert
Have you ever dreamed of the perfect set of software tools? A series of utility programs that you could use to aid your own programming efforts - not tutorials, but real tools that would allow you to produce the graphics, sounds and animation you had always imagined were possible? Maybe you haven't owned your Atari very long, and are still new to programming. You have new ideas for games or graphics, but you've been too timid or inexperienced to pursue them on your own. Instead, you've probably resigned yourself to several years of studying PEEKs and POKEs before you'll be able to make the computer do what you want it to.
Well, you can stop dreaming. One of the tools you'll need for the innovative programs you've dreamed of is available now. Screen Maker can do exactly what you've envisioned, and more. Using Screen Maker, you can set up a single screen with up to 15 different graphics modes. And you can test the way your screen will appear by typing characters or using a joystick to draw figures in the text windows.
Sound too good to be true? There's more. Once you've designed a screen to your satisfaction, you can use Screen Maker to automatically generate the BASIC code required for that particular screen. Then, by means of a few short lines of code, you can include the screen as a subroutine to your own BASIC program. Screen Maker handles lists and memory -- and you don't even have to know what a POKE is to use it! Screen Maker uses the Atari BASIC cartridge, 48K of memory, and a disk drive. A joystick is optional. The software package includes the diskette and a concise but informative user's guide. The diskette contains two demonstration screens, which are thoroughly documented in the user's manual.
Screen Maker's options allow you to establish a new screen file, create a new screen, load and modify (or test) a screen, save a screen, or generate a subroutine. You can use the editor to create a screen by assigning graphics mode numbers or blank lines to different areas on the screen. After you've created a screen, you can save it as a file on your own formatted diskette. Screen Maker lets you define up to ten screens in a single session. You can also append a screen-subroutine file to your program and save the program and the subroutine together in a single file.
However, Screen Maker will not allow you to save the results of any tests you make on a screen. And there are some limitations on the kinds of screen you can create. Since a window never wraps around the top or bottom of a screen, you can only combine graphics modes in patterns that will not interfere with the number of scan lines required for the different modes.
Despite these limitations, Screen Maker is invaluable as a utility tool. It provides the beginning programmer with an easy means of accomplishing what could otherwise be a very difticult task, by making available a set of creative graphics commands. If you are a novice programmer who wants a chance to be creative, Screen Maker is the tool you've been waiting for.
BASIC XLOptimized Systems Software, Inc.
San Jose, CA 95129
$99.00, 16K - cartridge
Reviewed by Jerry White
BASIC XL is the fastest and most powerful version of BASIC available for Atari computers. If you program in BASIC, or if you would like your BASIC programs to run faster, I highly recommend this language.
BASIC XL's special features include Microsoft-style string handling. Added to the standard Atari-style string commands are string arrays, including such string commands as FIND, LEFT$, MID$, RIGHT$, and PRINT USING.
New program development commands include LVAR, RENUM, and TRACE/TRACEOFF. LVAR instantly lists all variables in a program, including line numbers where one variable appears. RENUM provides line renumbering and references to constants. TRACE tells BASIC XL to display each line number as it is executed until a TRACEOFF command is encountered -- an invaluable debugging aid.
Disk users will appreciate built-in DOS functions. If you haven't yet quite mastered Player/Missile Graphics, BASIC XL's special commands give you full control of this technique.
To test BASIC XL's speed, I tried this test. First, I loaded a 220-line (880 statements) BASIC program into Atari BASIC. Next, I added the following fragment to the beginning:
0 POKE 20,0
1 FOR COUNT = 1 TO 100
2 NEXT COUNT
3 ? PEEK(20):STOP
This routine counts to 100, then displays the number of 60ths of a second (jiffies) that it took. When I typed RUN, the result was 15, or one quarter of a second. I next entered the same lines starting at line 32700. Executing this routine with a GOTO 32700 command, the result was 91, just over one-and-one-half seconds. The reason the routine takes much longer near the end of the program is because of the way Atari BASIC executes FOR/NEXT loops. Each time the loop is executed, BASIC must search the entire program for the correct line to which to return.
When I tried the same test with BASIC XL, the routine at line 0 took 10 jiffies, and the routine at 32700 took 88.
BASiC XL provides a FAST command. FAST tells BASIC XL to perform a "precompile" of a program. All line numbers are changed to addresses, eliminating the need for a line number search. When I performed the above test with BASIC XL in the FAST mode, the routine at line 0 took 10 iiffies, and the routine at 32700 also took10 jiffies. To recap, the ratio of improvement in the first routine was 15 to 10, and in the second it was 91 to 10. BASIC XL's FAST mode can make a real difference.
BASIC XL is compatible with most programs written in Atari BASIC. The 16K cartridge uses only 8K of your computer's RAM, thanks to bank switching. Some commercial BASIC programs, particularly utilities, may nor work properly with BASIC XL.
The manual for BASIC XL is exceptional. The first section, an exhaustive tutorial entitled, "30 Days to Under standing BASIC XL," takes the novice by hand and walks him through the fundamentals of BASIC programming. Experienced programmers can proceed directly to the excellent 135-page reference section.
A truly outstanding computer deserves a truly outstanding BASIC. This is the language that should be built into Atari computers. Is anyone at Atari listening?
BC'S QUEST FOR TIRES and OIL'S WELLSierra On-Line
Sierra On-Line Building
Coarsrgold, CA 93614
$29.95, 40K - disk (Oil's Well)
$39.95, 40K - disk (Quest for Tires)
Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein
There is no denying that "cute" is in, both in the arcades and home software. Game writers, seeing the popularity of PacMan and Q'Bert, are starting to realize that most of us are turned off by the old "shoot the aliens and save the world" scenario. Both BC's Quest for Tires and Oil's Well fit nicely into the cute mold, as well as being successful graphically and satisfying to play.
For Quest for Tires, Sierra On-Line licensed the rights to the characters from Johnny Hart's popular comic strip, "B.C." The game is similar to the arcade game Moon Patrol. You control Thor, who, astride his trusty stone unicycle, traverses a horizontally scrolling landscape fraught with danger, in order to rescue Cute Chick. Along the way he must contend with potholes, rocks, logs, low branches, a lava pit and Fat Broad who lies in wait with her club.
The animation is first-rate. Quest for Tires looks very much like an animated Sunday comics page. By varying the scrolling rates of foreground and background, the programmers have created a nice 3-D effect. My one complaint about Quest for Tires lies in the game play. The first level is easy, and with a little practice, you can see all the screens alrnost immediately. The only difference between the first and succeeding levels is speed. The game might have had more staying power had each level introduced new elements, as in Donkey Kong or Miner 2049'er. As it is, I think most gamers will enjoy the game for a day or two, then relegate it to the shelf. It seems as though the programmers put so much effort into recreating the look of B.C. that they forgot about game play.
Moving from the Dawn of Man to the forefront of current technology brings us to Oil's Well. In this game, creatures named Oozies live underground and eat oil pipes, leaving behind land mines. Each level shows a cut-away view of the drilling site, with the partially-built refinery above, and the mines below. You control an extensible pipeline and drill bit. You must maneuver through the maze of tunnels in the mine, eating oil pellets and avoiding Oozies and their bombs. If an Oozie is about to cross your pipeline, pressing the fire button retracts the pipe into the refinery. This retraction through the twists and tunnels of the maze, accompanied by a convincing sound effect, is what raises Oil's Well above the level of the dozens of Pac-Man clones on the market. I wish that Sierra had eschewed such maze-game cliches as bonus prizes and a super-pellet that slows everything down when eaten. Still, Oil's Well is an addicting game. Unlike Quest for Tires, game play starts out challenging, and graphics become more complex and detailed as the game progresses.
I can recommend BC's Quest for Tires for its animation, and Oil's Well for its game play. I hope that future arcade licenses of popular comic strips will be as successful graphically as Quest for Tires.
CLIPPER AROUND THE HORN IN 1850PDI
11 Idar Court
Greenwich, CT 06830
$29.95, 32K - disk
$29.95, 24K -- cassette
Reviewed by John and Mary Harrison
Clipper Around the Horn in 1850 is an excellent simulation of a voyage often made by one of the fastest sailing vessels ever built, the clipper. As Captain, you choose the amount of cargo, the number of men and the amount of provisions that you need to maximize profits for your company. Once this task has been completed, you make a final review of the ship's log before setting sail frqm New York.
Once at sea, you must use your skills as a sailor to select the proper course and amount of sail for the wind and sea conditions you encounter. You must also be alert to the hazards that often befall such ships: mutiny, illness, storms, rogue waves, and running aground on rocks, ice or uncharted reefs. You can consult the ship's log and your charts to review the voyage's progress and plot vour future course. It will require your total dedication and concentration if the ship is to reach its ultimate destination - San Francisco.
Clipper is not without its minor faults. Time stops when the cassette recorder is activated, which makes it impossible to adjust the sails or change course. And to view the charts, you must first leave the bridge, check the log book and return to the bridge; only then can you look at the charts. Finally, there is no indication of the passage of time when you are on the bridge. Days pass quickly, and unly a log book tracks your progress.
On the positive side, the program's use of graphics and sound greatly enhances and adds realism to the voyage. The integration of the cassette recorder's voice track with the program makes possible a wealth of sound effects - sea chanteys, words of advice from experienced captains, and the unforgettable sounds of the sea itself.
Written in Atari BASIC, Clipper runs smoothly with few delays. The ship's wheel turns as you change course, the ship pitches, and the sky darkens as storms approach. You actually get the feeling of running a sailing ship without having to go to sea.
Clipper is an exciting, challenging game that can sharpen your map reading, arithmetic and navigation skills. Not everyone who attempts to sail around the Horn will be successful, but with practice you should be able to reach San Francisco. Good luck and smooth sailing!
5221 Central Avenue
Richmond, CA 94804
$34.95, 32K -- disk or cassette
$34.95, 16K -- cartridge
Reviewed by Richard Herring
Dot, dot, dot. Dash, dash, dash. Dot, dot, dot. So begins William Mataga's latest entry into the Atari game market - Zeppelin. When Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin designed his first rigid airship, he certainly did not imagine it navigating underground caverns filled with laser gates and crumbling rocks.
Zeppelin bears a certain resemblance to Magata's hit game Shamus. As the pilots of rigid airships, one to four players maneuver through a scrolling maze ofwinding horizontal and vertical passages. Three dangers must be confronted. First, enemy balloons and zeppelins patrol in fixed paths. Although you can dodge them, their patterns are often so tight that you myst blast your way through.
Falling rocks, laser gates and barriers which block many passages are the second danger. Some of these can be shot, others cannot. All of them may be turned off by hitting a toggle switch hidden nearby on a cavern wall. Third, since the screen scrolls constantly, you must maneuver carefully through the jagged rocks. At the intersections of passages, you have limited control over the direction the screen will scroll by steering your dirigible that way.
When your zeppelin collides with something, you lose one of your extra ships, but continue playing from where you were. Firing and maneuvering can be a bit tricky. Firing in a direction other than that in which the airship is moving will override your control of the ship's movement.
Progressing to lower levels of the caverns depends on your ability to explore and to use the objects you find. Your airship can carry, one at a time, explosives to open passageways between levels, keys to special locks, or food for the monsters which guard some passages. You will slowly develop fairly rigid patterns of movement in order to get the objects where they are needed. Drawing maps of the caverns may be not only useful, but even essential.
STAR LEAGUE BASEBALLGamestar Software
1302 State St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
$31.95, 48K -- disk
Reviewed by Gordon M. Wong
For every Walter Mitty who has dreamed of hitting a grand slam over the center field fence to win the game, Star Leaguel Baseball holds forth a chance at glory. It also offers superb graphics, animation, sound effects and music, and successfully blends the many nuances of baseball with excellent game play.
Star League's main screen is a baseball field viewed from high in the right field stands. From this vantage point, the ball's shadow gives you an idea of how far it is from the ground. The use of a shadow cue adds tremendously to the game: Low or high pitches, grounders or pop ups are all immediately identifiable. And the shadow cue, along with the detailed diamond (complete with dugouts and packed bleachers), helps to create a powerful illusion - the illusion that you really are watching and participating in a baseball game.
You can choose between two starting pitchers who have different pitching styles and also vary in terms of stamina and ball control. And if your starting pitcher begins to falter, fear not -- after the seventh inning you're allowed to send in a relief pitcher!
The animation and sound effects are top-notch. The pitcher peers in at the catcher and winds up to throw, the batter can check swings, and fielders fling the ball about with enthusiasm. The game also includes many of the most beloved sounds of baseball: The roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat, and the thud of a ball landing in a mitt, as well as a sonorous rendition of the National Anthem and the stirring call of a trumpet ("charge") when a runner threatens to score.
Star League definitely has a learning curve; you should not expect to beat the computer team for some time. Joysticks are used to control almost all aspects of the game, and it takes time to learn to use them proficiently. For instance, the double play requires quite a bit of practice. There are also a number of tricks you will want to learn. You should, for example, mix up your pitches, and use changeups occasionally - they usually result in an easy out. And don't give up until the game is over. Some of my most exciting moments have taken place in the ninth inning of a Star League game.
The game does include certain compromises between game play and authenticity (for instance, all catching and running to first base are automatic), but on the whole these compromises serve to keep the game lively. I do think the game could use improvement in two areas, though. First, it needs a pause control. Second (realism aside), the computer pitcher should have to wait until the batter is ready to hit.
All in all, however, I highly recommend Star League Baseball to anyone who enjoys the sport, polished computer simulations, or both. It will keep your interest for a long time, impress your friends, and, most important of all, help fulfill your dreams. I've already hit three grand slams!
JUMPMAN JUNIOREpyx, Inc.
1043 Kiel Court
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
$39.95, 16K - cartridge
Reviewed by David Faughn
Alas, things are still not going well at Earth's outpost on the far side of Jupiter. In a previous game, Jumpman was sent into action to defuse bombs placed in the Command Station by the Alternators, the Substation's dreaded enemies. Now Jumpman Junior, his apprentice, has been pressed into service on a similar endeavor.
Junior must move through the Substation's 12 levels (12 entirely new screens). Along the way, you must avoid hazards such as electrocution traps, moving walls, bullets that change direction in mid-flight, hellstones, blackouts and a multitude of other perils. The game starts with a brief preview of all the screens.
One to four players can play Jumpman Junior, and eight speed levels are available. Speeds 4 and 5 seem to be about right - don't try Speed 1 unless you can move a joystick faster than a humming bird flaps its wings.
The game's graphics are excellent. The crumbling fortress that appears when you lose (I've seen this one often enough) is especially good. However, Jumpman Junior suffers from the same fault that has plagued many similar games: When you lose, you must start over from the first screen. This is unfortunate, because many of the advanced levels are more challenging (and more fun). But you can't get to them without enduring the relative tedium of the earlier screens.
18779 Kenlahe Pl., NE
Seattle, WA 98155
$34.95, 32K - disk or cassette
Reviewed by Roy D. Wolford
Zombies is a "non-shoot-em-up" adventure game with 3-D scrolling graphics. You can play Zombies by yourself or with a friend in the two-player cooperative mode. The music and sound effects are distinctive and well integrated. The graphics are good, with rich colors. You control your player with a joystick. On-line instructions are included - a nice touch.
The object of the game is to recover seven magical crowns that are hidden in seven perilous dungeons. The creatures that inhabit the dungeons, including zombies, giant spiders, snakes and orbs, pursue you with a single-minded fervor. Usually they move very quickly, and they sometimes lurk at the base of ladders directly in your path. Also, your player tends to get hung up on corners and ladders. These elements make the game very challenging, if somewhat difficult to play.
Each dungeon contains about 10 screens to create a web of mazes that must be traversed. Each successive dungeon is more difficult. You must use quick reflexes, and strategically deploy magical crosses and cast magic spells to avoid the creatures or slow their pursuit. You drop a cross by pressing the fire button. Crosses temporarily freeze whatever touches them (including you). Magic spells can be obtained by picking up scrolls located in some of the rooms. Once you have a spell, you can cast it by stopping your motion, pushing the fire button, then moving the joystick in the appropriate direction. There are three magic spells: freeze, confuse and project. Each lasts only a brief period of time.
The game ends after you recover all seven crowns or when your strength is drained to zero. At the end of play, you are given a rating based on your success in recovering crowns and avoiding creatures. High scores can be saved to disk.
A unique feature in Zombies is the co-operative two-player mode. You and a friend travel through the dungeons together. By cooperating on strategy, you can travel much farther than would be possible in the single-player game. If one player dies, the other can revive him.
Computer enthusiasts who enjoy quick-paced, challenging action games will like Zombie.