APX (Atari Program Exchange)
P.O. Box 3705
Santa Clara, CA 95055
Reviewed by Clyde Spencer
Mapmaker is an impressive program written by Stephen Hall to create multi-screen scrolling maps similar to the classic Eastern Front (1941). It is written in BASIC with machine language subroutines and is menu-driven and relatively easy to use, once you master the concepts involved. However, that means spending some time reading and probably re-reading the manual. To obtain maximum usefulness from it, you should get a character generator program as well. Recommended character generators are Instedit from APX or Fontedit from Code Works.
The minimum size map you may make is 22 x 13 characters (just slightly larger than the usual graphics mode 2 + 16 screen). The maximum size map varies with the amount of memory available in your computer. If you have a full 48K RAM, as do all the new ATARI 800's, you can make a map with a maximum of 128 characters horizontally and a maximum of 255 vertically, for a total display area of over 34 screens (the product of horizontal characters by vertical characters cannot exceed 8192). The completed map may consist of up to 64 different symbols or lines in any of four different colors on a fifth background color.
While the author states that the program was originally written to help him create war games, this all-purpose character set with tanks, swastika and Maltese cross seems to be better suited to re-writing Eastern Front (1941) than creating arbitrary maps or general (pardon the pun) war games. It might have been appreciated by most users if several different symbol files had been provided with Mapmaker. There could have been one with fractal shapes for boundaries, standard cartographic symbols for geographers, one for war games, and one for urban planimetric maps for urban planners and city administrators.
It would seem as though the author had originally intended to be able to call up a character editor from within the program and, either never finished the editor, or was asked to delete it. He hints at how one might go about installing an editor. You are therefore required to purchase or write a character editor to create map symbols different than those provided.
Those who are used to Eastern Front (1941) may be a little disappointed. The cursor does not move as smoothly, and the scrolling is not automatic, but is invoked by holding down the joystick trigger button. It is also possible to move the cursor right off the visible map. To my surprise, however, the cursor will come back to the edge automatically when you let up on the joystick button!
The program can use either joystick or keyboard input, so in the unlikely event that you don't already own a joystick, you won't have to rush right out and buy one. Since it is necessary to press [START] and move the cursor for every character entered, I personally found it more convenient to use the keyboard arrow keys rather than the joystick.
The demonstration map (50 x 46) included with the package is a map that looks somewhat like Eastern Front (1941). It has a large landmass on the right side of the map and ocean on the left, and has mountains, trees, rivers, and special symbols indicating various war machines. The cursor X&Y coordinates on the screen were virtually unreadable in the black default colors. Fortunately, pressing [SELECT] will alternately either remove the cursor position information or change it to white, which is more legible for the background colors supplied.
This program works smoothly and without major problems. There is a minor problem with restarting or going to DOS without first pressing [SYSTEM RESET]. Also, one cannot save maps when using an Axlon RAMDISK(tm) as I had tried. The problem may have been the result of a page six conflict with my BASIC/XA appended to the RAMDISK boot file.
The maps are, at best, only useable as demonstrations to your friends and family. Without a public-domain map loader and scroller with specific instructions on how to implement them, you have to be as good a programmer as the author to use your finished maps in any other software you might write. It seems to me then, it defeats the purpose of providing an easy to use tool for the uninitiated.
9421 Winnetka Ave.
Chatsworth, CA 91311
$39.95, 16K & 32K-diskette
(both versions on same diskette)
Reviewed by Marc Benioff
Long ago, in a world in a galaxy far, far away, stood a floating fortress. It was the most protected stronghold in the universe. This base was used for protecting one powerful entity-the deadly robot Zaxxon.
In the new home computer version, as in the arcade game, also called Zaxxon, you attempt to penetrate this fortress and destroy the robot. As the game begins, you are flying your aircraft in outer space. Within a few seconds you approach the outer wall of this protective base. It just so happens that there is a small opening for a ship that's just your size.
As you enter the base you see missiles, lasers, and fuel dumps everywhere. Your first goal is to destroy all these objects. As you begin the destruction you must be careful to avoid enemy fire. In turn, the pilot must try to secure more fuel by destroying the fuel dumps. If you fail to annihilate the fuel dumps, you will crash from lack of fuel. As you leave this enemy base, it appears that you have missed the robot. But the fact is, you will not encounter Zaxxon until you reach another level of play.
While leaving this first level you must shoot down the many enemy planes that attempt to attack you. You will be admitted to the second level only after successfully battling these planes.
At the second base you will find the laser walls which must be conquered. To survive these walls, you have to fly in between the openings that appear on them. When you finally maneuver through these walls, you will come face to face with Zaxxon.
When fighting this mighty robot, you must be extremely careful. It only takes one hit from Zaxxon to destroy you, and six shots for you to destroy it. But if you destroy it first, the game will continue on at a higher level of difficulty.
The playfield of this game is a diagonally scrolling blue field. Within this field you see the missiles, lasers and assorted battle machinery. These graphics are extremely well done, and give a full three-dimensional look and feel to the game.
The sound effects in Zaxxon are also very good. As you fly through the bases, you hear the engine sounds of the plane. When you destroy the objects on the ground, you hear the resultant explosions. When you shoot at enemy tanks and missiles, you hear the distinct sound of laser fire.
Overall, I would say Zaxxon compares quite well with the original arcade version. I cannot recommend it as "excellent", however, for several reasons. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of "feel" (i.e., response and power) in controlling the aircraft, and the sound effects were less than spectacular. But for the amount of memory they had to work with, perhaps this is the best that Datasoft could do.
ANTIC readers should know that the disk version of the game can be used on a computer that has either 16K or 32K in memory. If your ATARI only has 16K, you will get the basic game that will be missing just a few features. The 32K version also has a pause feature and the base missiles, and you can move the aircraft up and down as well as from left to right.
5221 Central Ave., #200
Richmond, CA 94804
$34.95, 32K-cassette or diskette
Reviewed by Roy D. Wolford
A warning sounds and a signal flashes on the screen-"Low on Fuel". You must land your Rocket Copter on the fueling platform, load 2000 units of fuel and get ready to descend into the depths of the belligerent Kralthans' underworld. Your aim is to rescue 16 compatriots held captive in subterranean caverns filled with insidiously fiendish weaponry.
Before your mission is completed in Ft. Apocalypse, you will have blasted your way into the Vaults of the Draconis, rescued eight men on two levels of caverns, maneuvered your way through electronic walls (impact shields), Hyper-Chambers with glowing nodes and Rotating Field Envelopes with rotating energy blocks. Descending through a portal into the Crystalline Caves you will have to rescue eight more men, destroy the dreaded Ft. Apocalypse, then ascend to freedom. Through all the levels, you must be skillful enough to avoid or destroy Kralthans' tanks, missile drones, Robo-Choppers, Self-Propelled Mines (SPMs) and LaserChambers.
Points are awarded for each piece of the Kralthans' arsenal you destroy except for the Robo-Choppers. For each SPM destroyed, 50 points are awarded; 10 points for each missile drone destroyed or avoided; 250 points for each tank; 20 points for each door or crystalline block and 9999 points for destroying Fort Apocalypse. For each prisoner rescued, 800 points are awarded, but only 20 points are awarded if they are hit by one of your Plasma-Bombs or Interceptor Rockets.
Bonus points are awarded upon entering each major level of the Kralthans' Chambers.
The number of points awarded is based on the time required to complete each phase of the mission. A maximum of 9999 points are awarded. For each second that elapses, 7.5 bonus points are deducted. To increase the difficulty of your rescue mission fuel is consumed at a rate of 240 units per minute and you must deal with gravitational forces. If your fuel runs out or gravity pulls you into the ground, you lose one Copter. A refueling station is located at the entrance of the Crystalline Caves.
The game has three selectable options that give 27 different combinations of skill levels. The three options are Gravity Skill, Pilot Skill and RoboPilots (Number of Jet-Copters). Using the select key you can choose the Gravity Skill difficulty-weak, normal or strong. The Pilot Skill options are novice, pro or expert and you may choose 7, 9, or 11 Copters with the Robo-Pilots option. The first skill level under each option is the default value.
Ft. Apocalypse is played by one person who uses the joystick to maneuver the Rocket Copter through the playfields. The Copter's response to the joystick is excellent. Pulling the joystick toward you causes the Copter to descend, pushing it forward causes the Copter to ascend, hard left and hard right move the Copter from side to side. A slight touch of the joystick in the opposite direction the Copter is facing will cause the Copter to face forward. In this position PlasmaBombs can be released, which fall vertically when the fire button is pressed. Pressing the fire button while the Copter is facing left or right or inclined from the horizontal position during flight, will launch interceptor rockets.
Some of the features that enhance the game's action are the wrap-around scrolling, the teleporting of your Copter after being zapped in the Hyper-Chamber, the Navatron, the landing pads and the space bar. The wrap-around scrolling enhances the game's playability while the teleporting adds an element of risk and uncertainty because you may materialize in a chamber with choppers or SBMs. The Navatron provides a long range navigational view of the surrounding space. The landing pads provide a feature which permits you to land your Copter at particular locations within the caves, and be returned to that location in the event your Copter is destroyed. You can take a brief rest by pressing the space bar which suspends the action. Pressing it again resumes the action.
The graphics are excellent with good resolution and vivid color combinations of red, blue, green, yellow, black and white. The game is fun to play and has lots of action and good sound effects.
The only features that detracted from the game were the sound of the Copter and the requirement to repeatedly press the fire button to blast away the crystalline blocks in the Crystalline Caves. During hovering, the Copter sounds like someone walking in wet shoes. While in the Crystalline Cave phase of the game, the need to rapidly repeat the pressing of the fire button becomes tiresome. The game could be improved by having an autofiring option for the rockets and bombs
Although the main theme of Ft. Apocalypse is a copter rescue mission, this is not a clone of Choplifter by Broderbund Software. The action is much more varied and dynamic. The skill level can also be varied which makes the game much more fun for a beginner to play and will hold the interest and challenge of the player whose skill has grown with much practice.
Don't Ask Software
2265 Westwood Blvd., Suite B-150
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Reviewed by David Duberman
Player/Missile graphics is one of the ATARI's most powerful yet mysterious features. Programmer Roger Bush and the innovative folks at Don't Ask have performed a real service for the Atari community in bringing us PM Animator. Using the tools and techniques made available by this package, you can create animated figures and easily incorporate them in your own programs.
Beginners please take note: although PM Animator contains an extensive tutorial on the subject, you should probably have some understanding of programming in BASIC in order to be able to fully grasp the material.
This most complete package offers two editors, eight BASIC demo programs, an exhaustive tutorial, and a LISTed BASIC routine-TOTAL.LST -that you can ENTER into your own programs.
If you don't know a Player/Missile from a character set, the documentation includes the most complete tutorial ever printed on the subject in one place. The first five chapters are expressly designed to teach the basics of this admittedly complex subject to someone with absolutely no knowledge of the principles of computer graphics. The central portion of this 80-page manual describes in great detail the various features of PM Animator. The final section covers various advanced animation techniques. Appendices list special registers for P/M graphics and PM Animator as well as references to existing material on the subject.
At the heart of PM Animator are two Editors: Grafix Editor and File Editor. With Grafix Editor, you create a file of up to sixteen images, each eight bits wide by sixteen bits high. Each of these images can serve as a "frame" of an animation sequence. While editing, you can specify and view animation sequences, and overlay two differently colored designs to create multicolor players. Most DOS commands are available, and many others that make this feature of the package alone a joy to use.
Once you've created a file or two of "frames", you can customize their sequencing and size with the File Editor. This "spreadsheet" program gives you a five-by-ten array of empty boxes into which to load your files, thus allowing you to view fifty of your creations simultaneously. You can then move or copy frames from one part of the grid to another, and then save any sequence as a custom file. This editor also allows you to view and edit multicolor player sequences.
Once you have designed your animation sequence, PM Animator provides you with a relatively painless way of incorporating it into your BASIC program. TOTAL.LST is a BASIC program fragment containing machine language subroutines that gives you absolute control over your creations. You can move players horizontally and vertically with simple POKEs, and animate them with a USR call. There is also a high-speed memory clearing routine, a fast file loader, and a Supermove routine for smooth multi-player movement. You can merge TOTAL.LST with your programs by ENTERing it from the PM Animator disk.
A minor criticism: the program concentrates on the design and movement of players to the exclusion of missiles. It fails to take advantage of the fact that four missiles can be combined to make a fifth player. Most of the time, however, four players is more than enough.
The advanced features of the ATARI computers can be, for all their power, frustratingly difficult to comprehend and use for those of us (most of us!) who are relatively new to computing. Armed with tools like this, however, ATARI owners will disprove cynics who call the home computer boom a fad, and produce software that will allow the machine to truly deserve its nickname: Imagination Machine.
701 W. Manchester Blvd.
Inglewood, CA 90301
$29.95, 16K-Cassette and Diskette
Reviewed by Bryan Welch
Kid Grid is the most exciting mutation of Pac-Man I have ever played. With its dazzling graphics and original variations, this game is a real winner.
The game starts out like this: You begin in the top corner of a grid made up of many colored squares with your player, the Kid. But, being the new kid on the block, things aren't that easy. On your way, you must avoid four bullies: Squashface, Thuggy, Muggy, and Moose. If any of them catch you the results are explosive, and this game really lets you know it. Four against one isn't very fair, but you aren't totally defenseless.
At the start of each screen you load up with a number of stuns. Whenever you press the joystick button, the bullies are stopped in their tracks and become harmless. But be forewarned! This only lasts for about two seconds - just enough time to escape. Your supply of these weapons is also limited, and once they're gone, you're really in trouble. Luckily, you get a fresh supply for each screen.
Now, this all sounds fairly simple. (Notice, I didn't say easy, just simple!) But our friends at Tronix didn't leave it at that. They added multiple skill levels, game options, and even a special feature for left-handed players. Since most joysticks are made for right-handed players, those who are left-handed sometimes find them difficult to use. This special feature lets you use the joystick normally, but with the firing button at the top right. Why should you be forced to modify your joysticks when the program can be written to use them either way? I hope more game programmers will take note and incorporate this feature into their programs.
The graphics and sound in Kid Grid are definitely state-of-the-art. The game has a polished look to it, which makes it very appealing. Careful attention has been paid to every detail, and the result is an action-packed game, which will be at the front of your game shelf for a long time to come.
If you enjoy fast-paced maze games, and are looking for something new, then try Kid Grid. You won't be disappointed.
981 University Ave.
Los Gatos, CA 95030
Reviewed by David Plotkin
When IMAGIC first brought out its Demon Attack cartridge for the venerable Atari VCS, it set new highs for graphics. It was also a lot of fun to play, with wave after wave of different aliens assaulting the player's defending the base. Demon Attack is now available for the Atari 400/ 800, and while it certainly doesn't strain the graphics capabilities of the computer (the graphics are almost identical to the VCS version), it maintains the good playability of the original.
Demon Attack is a classic space shoot-out with a left and right mobile ground base controlled by the player's joystick. You fire upward at bomb-dropping aliens. There are twelve different types of aliens, each new wave is comprised of a different type until, with wave 13, you start over again. Several of the types of aliens look identical and are only distinguished by the speed at which they attack. The aliens attack three at a time, with each alien flapping back and forth on a different level. Only the lowest alien drops clusters of bombs and each alien is replaced as it is destroyed until that wave is over. At the higher levels, the aliens break into two when hit, each one must then be separately destroyed. As is usual, you can only have one missile on the screen at a time.
The graphics on Demon Attack are clever-the flapping high-resolution aliens are eye-catching and some of the forms are quite amusing. The sound is well synchronized with the motions of the wings and other moving parts of the aliens. The screen is free of distractions, as well.
The Demon Attack cartridge, besides offering multiple skill levels, also offers two different game variations. In the first, your missile rises straight up, from the position the base was at when you fired. This makes it difficult to hit the upper levels of aliens, but you can duck under the lowest alien, fire, and get out of the way of its bombs. The second variation provides you with steerable missiles. After the missile is fired, it remains lined up with the missile base and can be guided. Clearly, the "duck and fire" strategy won't work, but it is easier to hit the upper level aliens.
It is perhaps unfortunate that IMAGIC seems to have translated Demon Attack almost exactly from the Atari VCS version. Thus, although the game maintains good playability - you want to keep playing to do a little better next time - it doesn't really have the depth one normally expects from a computer game. IMAGIC wouldn't have had to go too far afield to find a related scenario - the "Mother Ship" sequence from the Intellivision version of Demon Attack would have been an admirable addition to this game. I suspect that Demon Attack may not have the interest holding power of some of the other software now available. Only time will tell.
IMAGIC's Demon Attack is fun to play, and at $34.95, it is a bargain for a cartridge. If you're not tired of space games, and you want a fast, fun challenge, I recommend Demon Attack.
55 Wheeler St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein
The first in the INTERLOGIC, text only, adventure-game series from Infocom, Starcross is one of the most engrossing and engaging adventures I have experienced in a long time. This game was released just after the popular ZORK trilogy and it has been a favorite of mine for a while now. As a prose adventure, it is one of the great science fiction "interactive novels".
Starcross transports you to the year 2186, launching you headlong into the depths of space. As commander of the M.C.S. Starcross, your mission is to find and harness the energy of a black hole. Your ship is equipped with a computer that has taken over the functions of navigation and routine maintenance. A mass detector aids your search, along with powerful magnets. With such competent mechanical help, you relax and doze off into a deep sleep.
Suddenly, the alarm in the mass detector awakens you, and you head for the control room. Just outside the ship you spot an alien artifact and are presented with several challenging puzzles. How do you get inside it? How do you operate the device? You will also meet various inhabitants of the artifact. Zork players may even meet some old friends.
Starcross takes some surprising turns at this point and I wouldn't want to ruin the "plot" by saying any more.
Unlike most adventures, the text only format here enhances the experience for me. No graphics could match the descriptions provided by the rich prose of the game. Adventurers new to the Infocom series should be forewarned, however. Room descriptions may refer to items previously undescribed. This proves to be the most frustrating aspect of the game.
About Starcross vocabulary: In no other adventure have I found such a wide range of commands that can be "understood" by the program. This program accepts almost all the words you type, and in plain English. Not everything you try will be effective, but that is the nature of the game.
Starcross is a welcome addition to any adventurer's collection. Next time someone asks you why you like all-text adventures, show them Starcross.