50 Dunham Rd.
Beverly, MA 01915
16K -- cartridge
Editor's Note: When this game was first released by First Star Software it came in diskette and cassette form. Astro Chase is a registered trademark of First Star Software but it is now under license to Parker Brothers to market it in cartridge form. The new cartridge is only 16K (disk and tape were 32K), but the game is 99% identical to the original. Play begins at Level 1 instead of Level 8, but you may choose any level by pressing [SELECT]. Disk and tape versions by Parker Brothers will appear soon.
Get ready to lift off on a vital mission. You must save Earth from total annihilation by the Megard Empire! Because they were defeated and humiliated in a former attempt to conquer us, the Megard's hatred of the Earth knows no bounds. They have surrounded our galaxy with a force field and set Mega Mines converging on Earth. Each mine has the power to completely destroy our planet. Your mission is to vaporize the mines with your lasers before they reach and destroy Earth. Enemy attack fighters are programmed to distract you from your mission and to destroy you if they can. Hot stars and planets add to your difficulties and you must maneuver around them while dodging enemy fighters and destroying Mega mines.
Astro Chase begins with an animated scene where an astronaut walks out to a launching pad and is beamed aboard his saucer. The saucer lifts off and the scene changes to outer space. The Earth is in the center ofthe screen with planets and stars surrounding it. You are by no means limited to the Earth because you have several scrolling screens in which to fly around and hunt for mines. There are 34 levels of difficulty called chases, and the game automatically moves you ahead to the next chase if you save Earth, or back to the previous one if you fail. Failure to save the Earth results in a stupendous explosion ofthe planet including sound effects and flying debris. Success brings a flashing message and advances you to the next chase level.
Additional incentives to succeed are the seven intermissions awarded as you move to higher levels of difficulty. During the intermissions you are treated to animated graphics back on Earth. As you progress up the chase levels, the attack fighters grow more powerful and aggressive as they increase in number. You can use shields, which make you temporarily invulnerable, but that eats up energy and it is difficult to reenergize with enemy fighters buzzing all around.
Every reward (points or intermissions) is well earned in this challenging game. Watching the Earth blow up in your face can be frustrating, but when you get the message that "you saved the Earth", it can be immensely satisfying.
A unique feature of Astro Chase is the Single Thrust Propulsion which allows you to move in one direction while firing in another. It takes some getting used to but the advantage is worth the effort. There are more nuances to this game than I could possibly describe here that are well documented in the ten-page booklet you get with the game.
The author of this game, Fernando Herrerra, is well known for his program "My First Alphabet" which won him an Atari Star award. He has done an excellent job on Astro Chase and highly recommend it.
5221 Central Ave., #200
Richmond, CA 94804
$34.95, 32K--cassette and diskette
Reviewed by Roy D. Wolford
Blue Max is a three-dimensional, diagnally scrolling, World War I dogfight game. The action is fast and furious. The sound effects are excellent, with audible warnings for each key situation. You will be able to fly high- or low-level bombing runs and low-level (25 feet) strafing missions, blasting as many enemy targets as you like while avoiding enemy fire.
You can also set three levels of play with or without gravity. The joystick control can be set to function in a normal or reverse mode. (Note: reverse mode simulates an airplane stick, i.e, forward is down, back is up.) Play can be suspended without penalty by pressing the space bar. It can also be slowed by partially holding down the space bar as you play. With this in mind, get ready to experience the thrill of flying to battle as the famous pilot, Max Chatsworth, otherwise known as the "Blue Max."
"Rule Britannia" is the tune that beckons you into the cockpit of your Sopwith Camel, poised on the runway awaiting the [START] button to be pressed. You can hear the engine rev as your plane taxis down the runway. Warning: don't take off until your ground speed has reached 100 mph, or the mission will end quite abruptly.
Once in the air, be prepared for the challenge of your life. You must destroy designated enemy targets in a limited amount of time to gain access into the enemy's capital city where three specific targets must be bombed. After successfully bombing the targets, you have to land safely at one of your airfields to complete the mission. You will complete two successive levels of play -- the river front and the outer city -- before arriving at the capital. As you fly, the enemy will atempt to bring you down with fire from planes and anti-aircraft guns located on land and ships. You must maneuver your plane in order to avoid being hit while maintaining an altitude above 21 feet. Flying too low will result in a crash which ends play.
If you get hit, the command console will briefly turn red and indicate, by displaying the letters F,B,M, or G, indicating that one of the controls (fuel tank, bomb gear, motor or machine-gun) has been damaged. Once damaged, the machine-gun ot bomb gear will only operate intermittently. Maneuverability is diminished when the motor is damaged. Fuel is consumed about twice as fast after the fuel tank is hit. If your plane is hit while all four controls are damaged, it will crash.
As you progress through the mission, fuel is consumed, bombs are used up and damage may be sustained to your controls. You will have to land at one of your airbases to refuel, load bombs and repair damage. A green "R" will display, indicating that you are approaching your airfield. You can clear for landing by pressing the fire button. The "R" will change to a flashing "L" signaling that you can land. Make sure you land quickly in order to allow enough room to take off again.
There are numerous targets that you can destroy which include stationary as well as moving targets. Stationary targets are buildings, tanks, planes, anti-aircraft emplacements, bridges, automobiles and ships. Moving targets are planes, ships, and supply trucks. Targets can be destroyed with machine-gun fire and bombs. The machine-gun is operated by pressing the fire button and descending several feet in altitude.
The number of points awarded for each hit is dependent on several factors, including: whether the target is moving or stationary; whether it is hit by a bomb or machine gun fire; whether it is a designated target; or, in the case ofthe planes, whether they are shot down flying directly at you or away from you. The points-per-hit range between 10 and 500. Even though you are given a rank that ranges from "Kamikaze trainee" to "the Blue Max", based on the total score, the accumulation of points is not the prime goal of the game.
Blue Max is very entertaining and perfectly implemented for use with a joystick and has many nice features. The control console located at the bottom of the screen gives you all the visual signals necessary to gauge altitude, fuel level, windage, score and plane status. There are frequent audible alarms that alert you to various situations. The plane dives, climbs, and banks with ease. Its shadow gives the playfield a nice 3-D effect. Although the graphics are not as detailed as in some Synapse games, they are still superior to many other products on the market.
Beginners and master-gamers alike will enjoy this game. The flow and play of the game at all levels makes it challenging without being frustrating. It gives you a reasonably realistic sensation of flying a biplane. All you need is the wind blowing in your face and this can be simulated with the use of a fan. Viva Blue Max! This game should be around for a long time.
SNOOPER TROOPS-CASE #1
215 First Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
$44.95, 48K - diskette
Reviewed by Valerie Pang
Snooper Troops is an adventure game for children and adults that can educate as well as entertain. Children ages ten and older can begin to develop critical thinking skills by playing detective to solve this mystery. Snooper Troops is a series of cases for the player to solve and in Case #1 - The Granite Point Ghost -- as in the subsequent two programs, you are invited to think.
As the detective assigned to Case #1, you are provided a well illustrated notebook which includes background information about the town of Granite Point and data on eight suspects. To crack the case, you must first gather clues and record them carefully. Then you must try to find relationships between the clues, and by synthesizing them arrive at several possible solutions. Your hypotheses must then be proven. In this way a young player utilizes literal facts or concrete clues to formulate judgments.
The Case of the Granite Point Ghost centers on the Kim family who recently moved to an old house called the Cable Mansion. Some of the townspeople believe a ghost lives in the mansion. They've seen lights flickering and heard strange noises coming from the house. After the Kims moved in, the lights would flicker, and when the telephone rang, no one was on line. Then loud clanging noises heard all over the house and one room was found ransacked.
Why is someone trying to scare the Kim family from the mansion? Is there really a ghost? And how did little Amanda's cat disappear? To find the answers to these perplexing questions, the detective boots up the program and hops into the Snoop Mobile.
The graphics in this mystery-adventure game are great. Additional instructions explaining possible moves the detective could take should be available for the young player, however. The mystery cannot be solved in one or two hours. It may take up to ten or 15 hours to solve the case and this could be frustrating for the junior detective. Also, the program is sometimes slow to respond to commands and this could dampen your enthusiasm for the game.
As an adventure game, Snooper Troops - Case #1 does not respond as immediately or as creatively as Infocom's Deadline, which I really enjoy. My feelings about this Spinaker game are mixed. The program is highly innovative and pioneering as an interactive educational tool for children, but I was disappointed in the extremely slow response time. The slow pace coupled with the facts that not enough key clues are provided at the beginning could lead to instant boredom for a player of any age. The graphics are quite clever though, and Snooper Troops does offer a chance to analyze and have some fun.
P.O. Box 25625
Los Angeles, CA 90025
$29.95, 16K--cassette and diskette
Reviewed by Larry Dziegielewski
If you're a sports fan like myself, then you probably have noticed the lack of good sports games available for the ATARI. There is nothing I enjoy more than sitting down in front of a great game of baseball or hockey, and I couldn't wait until my copy of Hockey arrived in the mail.
Hockey by Gamma Software is a two-, three- or four-player game featuring two four-man teams playing on an enclosed rink. Players use joysticks to control the figures on the screen. Nine different game options are allowed, ranging from a two-player game with a three-minute period up to a four-player game with an eight-minute period. An unusual three-player option allows two players to team up against another player. When the game boots up, the default option is a two-player game with a five-minute period.
The game starts off with the last few bars of Our Nationai Anthem (I stood up, of course), and the puck is faced off. The players gain control of the puck by simply touching it. Once on offense, the player can move, pass, and shoot the puck. Defense players can also steal the puck, making for an interesting game. A friend and I were able to master control and shooting, but we found it almost impossible to pass the puck off to a fellow player.
Pressing the joystick button allows you to shoot the puck in any direction you wish. When an attempt is made to score on your net, you get control of your goalie, who can only move up and down in the net. The goal can block the shot but not gain possession of the puck. If a pass or shot is missed, the puck will bounce around until someone gets to it. When time has expired, the buzzer soundsa nd the team with the high score wins. Ties are settled in a tiebreaker period of two minutes.
Game play in Hockey is good, but this game is not without its problems. First of all, there is no "one-player against the computer" feature. This means you always have to have at least one other person around to play this game.
Another thing that bothers me is ATARI's excellent sound capabilities are not fully utilized. From start to fnish, you have to listen to the "roar" of the crowd. If you weren't watching the game, this "roar" could be mistaken for a rushing river, or a landslide, or almost anything else. When you score a point, the roar increases, then gently drops back to a mild rush. I preferred to turn the sound off.
Also, there is no pause feature, which would be nice for the longer games, and no handicap feature to pit a better player against a novice.
While the game play in Hockey is fun and certainly better than average, I feel the game falls short on realism. If the flaws in the sound programming were corrected, and certain features that make it appear more like a real hockey game were added, this could have been a great game.
845 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 843
Chicago, IL 60611
Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein
Software for youngsters that is educational and entertaining has been all too rare. Most "educational" programs released in the past have amounted to little more than math drills incorporated into Space Invader-style shoot-outs. Now, Davka Corporation has attempted something completely different - the merging of baseball and Bible studies. Bible Baseball is the game and the result is not quite a home run. A double or triple maybe, but not a home run.
The game can be played by either two players or one player alone against the computer, and the rules are as standard as hot dogs and beer. The difference comes in when you swing at the ball. At your turn at bat you are asked a multiple-choice question out of the Old Testament. When you choose an answer, the pitcher throws the ball. You (the batter) swing and hit it. If your answer is incorrect, one of the outfielders will catch the ball and you are out.
The program will tell you the correct answer, as well as the Bible chapter and verse where the answer can be found and the question goes back into the file, to be asked again. If the question is easy, you might hit into a double play. Answer correctly, and you usually have a hit. You may answer a question correctly and the ball will still be caught.
Of course, the harder the question is, the more likely you are to hit a double or even a home run! The game comes with two files -- "major league" and "minor league" - of 100 questions each. Supplementary question disks are expected to be released by Davka later on.
For a game written in BASIC, Bible Baseball has some good graphics and animation routines. The diamond and players in the field are redefined characters, while batting and base-running is accomplished via P/M animation. If one team is way ahead, the pitcher may be taken out and replaced. In addition, there are organ breaks and a 7th inning stretch.
There are some irritating bugs, however. Questions that have been correctly answered once come up again and again. Disabling the [BREAK] key is so easy from BASIC that there is no excuse for not having done so. Also, the program loads very slowly, but Davka promises that this will be corrected in future revisions.
For those that might be interested, Davka has also released Jewish I.Q. Baseball. This is basically the same game, with the questions focusing on aspects of Jewish history customs, and traditions. This seems to be the earlier product, as it was obviously programmed by someone unfamiliar with the ATARI's capabilities. The graphics and animation are very crude, and Davka says the program is being revised to incorporate the superior graphics and animation of Bible Baseball.
I would categorize Bible Baseball as a good game that, with some minor revisions, could be a much better game for Bible students and baseball fans of all ages.
MMG Micro Software
P.O. Box 131
Marlboro, NJ 07746
Requires BASIC cartridge
Reviewed by Roy D. Wolford
Career Counselor, as the title indicates, is a program to help you select the career best suited to your wants and needs. The program is easy to use, has many help screens, and is entirely menu-driven. The manual gives adequate instruction on the use of the program and has some additional tips and references for the selection of a career. There are 337 careers available for review. Two options provided in this program -- the Career Search and the Career Dictionary.
In the Career Search option of the program, you define the elements of the position you are seeking. The program contains 12 major career criteria to assist you in narrowing down the number of careers that may be suitable to your needs. The criteria are interests, aptitudes, educational level, physical demand, environment, variation of tasks, independence, creativity, leadership, career category, earnings range and employment outlook. As you make your choices, the total numbers of careers available to you is narrowed. Depending on the commonality of the element through the range of careers, your choice may narrow the remaining careers very quickly. For example, if you want a career where your earnings will be over $30,000 per year, the number of careers remaining after this selection will drop from 337 to 50 if salary is of prime consideration. The career-category choice will also quickly narrow down the number of careers remaining. Nine career categories, as established by the U.S. Department of Labor, are defined. After you define each element, you can list the careers remaining to the screen or printer. One nice feature of this program is that you can change your selections any time and the program will reevaluate the available careers.
In the Career Dictionary option, you are given the opportunity to learn more about each career. You select the specific title of a career in order to get a brief one- sentence description of the job function, the D.O.T. (Dept. of Occupational Titles) number, the earnings range and the employment outlook. The Dictionary holds 337 different titles. Each title along with its descriptive information can be listed to the screen or printer.
This program offers an interesting application for the ATARI computerist. The program is fun to use and may yield valuable benefits in the initial phases of a serious career search campaign. However, the program is limited in scope. Many of the careers wanted to review were not in the dictionary. Also, if you are too selective in your preferences, all 337 careers will be quickly eliminated. Conversely, if you do not give enough preferences for each career criteria, the number of careers will not be narrowed down enough to determine what job is suitable to your tastes. The title-search feature in the Career Dictionary phase is somewhat difticult to use because the career title must be spelled out exactly as it is listed in the table - there are no wild card searches. I also found one bug in the program: the computer locks up when [BREAK] is pressed. In view of the program's limitations and cost, you may want to test the program before buying it so you are satisfied it will provide good value for your money.
The Avalon Hill Game Co.
4517 Hanford Road
Baltimore, MD 21214
Reviewed by David Plotkin
Boxing is a sport few of us will ever participate in, and personally, I can't say I mind. Going head to head with some big bruiser till one of us is knocked senseless does not get me real excited. Still, one sometimes wonders what it would be like to climb into the ring, and now, with the help of this game, you can get a taste of this sport.
The first thing to realize is that, even more than with other sports simulations, computer boxing has to leave out a lot. This is basically due to the limitations of using a single joystick. Two joysticks or the keyboard would offer more options, but how many Atarians do you know who are proficient with a keyboard! For example, in Artworx's Golden Gloves, you can duck and weave, but your punches can only be thrown from a single level--no high or low punches are allowed. One cute feature of Golden Gloves is that a knockout does show your opponent (or you!) flat on his back - a nice touch.
Knockout from Avalon Hill is probably the best implemented boxing arcade game available to date. The two boxers are quite well done in three colors by overlaying two Player/Missile shapes. At the beginning of the match, they come out and bump gloves, return to their corners, and come out slugging. You may play against a human opponent or the computer. Be warned, however, that the computer is a formidable opponent. When you play against the computer, you use a joystick plugged into port 1. A second player plugs a joystick into Port 2 in two-player mode.
In Knockout, you view the ring from the side, and it is strictly two-dimensional. That is, you cant move past your opponent to the other side of the ring. Joystick control is quite simple. Left and right motion of the stick makes your boxer move in that direction. Up and down motion raises and lowers the boxer's gloves. Thus, you can block punches by shifting your gloves, and throw punches by pressing the fire button. Rounds are scored by punches landed, and punches to the opponent's head are worth more than body shots. Enough punches landed, especially to the head, results in a TKO (technical knockout), and the game ends.
Although the graphics in Knockout are a little sparse, the overall game is quite enjoyable. Many aspects of real boxing are treated fairly realistically. For example, punches landed from farther away are more telling than punches from up close. You can even "clinch" with your opponent by moving in very close, where punches are largely ineffective. One good strategy is to clinch, then step back and swing. Your opponent will even be knocked back if you land a good punch.
Unfortunately, it is pretty hard to tell what effect your punches are having. Aside from "knocking back," there are no indications; the head doesn't jerk when you hit it, and the only way to know you've scored a knockout is that it says so in the text window at the bottom of the screen. Your opponent never goes down, but then he also doesn't spurt blood or spit teeth, a fair trade of realism for sensibilities in my opinion.
Knockout is very hard on the joystick hand, even using a quality stick like the WICO. I suspect that a standard Atari stick might not survive prolonged play, but then, neither would your hand. The constant working of the stick and fire button is very wearing, especially since there is a tendency to push the button and stick hard in the midst of a bout.
If you would like to try boxing without getting hurt, Avalon Hill's Knock-out is just the thing for you. But remember, if you pick your ATARI for your opponent, you may need an icepack for your ego!
P.O. Box 51346
Pale Alto, CA 943031
Reviewed by Julie Sickert
MICROGROUP multi-user educational programs by Edupro take advantage of children's natural inclination for sharing by allowing up to four players at a time. Each game in the series is designed to provide children with an opportunity to compete and cooperate at the same time. Players must work together to achieve the highest possible score for a game.
The Math-Hunt Addition and Subtraction games are a good example of the appeal of this series. The Math-Hunt programs use three different themes, each for particular age group: Storybook Friends is for ages five to nine, American Themes is for ages eight to 13, and the World Around Us is for ages 12 to adult.
Players can choose games with a number of different formats: Fill-in-the-blank, Track or Maze. Joysticks are used to manipulate a lettered cursor around the screen. When the cursor is placed over an empty "bubble" in the number problem to be solved, numbers from 0 to 9 scroll through the cursor's "window." A player selects a number by pressing the firing button on the joystick. If the number is correct, the entire screen will flash briefly, and the score will be incremented.
Each of the formats requires slightlyy different strategies for play. Fill-in encourages children to work together to complete the problems on the screen. Every player solves his or her own set of problems in Track, but can speed the entire group's progress by helping out others verbally. As players become more conifortable with their joysticks, they can improve their skills by choosing to play longer games with harder problems, or increase their score by the speed with which they move the cursor.
The MICROGROUP programs make good use of the ATARI's graphics, color, and sound capabilities. Jovsticks are certainly more fun to use than keys on the keyboard, and a lot easier to control. And the multi-user concept on which the games are based is unique. Children do seem to prefer to work in groups at the computer; they appear to gain more by~ the interaction that takes place whenl several children solve a problem together.l Often, they will learn by discussion, or observation and imitation of each other. Parents and other members of the family may also choose to take a turn with their children. MICROGROUP games are designed to give everyone a chance to play.
Other programs in the MICROGROUP series from Edupro are Word-Draw, Word-Race, Math-Race, and Team-Word, intended for use by up to eight players with paddles. The Just For Fun programs for all ages include a math and language Sampler, and Picture-Play, which allows children to use ATARI graphics characters and letters to draw pictures on the screen.
Parents and educators alike will appreciate Edupro's guarantee of satisfaction. Disks have not been protected, so making back-up copies is easy. Extra joysticks, paddles, and extension cables can also be ordered directly.