Broderbund Software, Inc.
17 Paul Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
Reviewed by Jack Powell
Another ladder game? Yes ... but Whistler's Brother is worth
a second look. It has a sense of style, humor and pizazz, plus Broderbund's
special touch of whimsy.
Your absent-minded brother has just returned from an archaeological expedition in the rain forests of South America. (I know, another archaeologist.) Unfortunately, he has left behind all his tools, documents and treasures, so it is up to you to retrace his steps and recover the lost goodies.
This could be just another treacherous series of adventures, avoiding various traps and creatures, save that your brother is with you with his nose buried in a map. The only way you can keep him safely by your side is to whistle. But all is not chaos! You have studied sufi dancing with a local whirling dervish and can whirl your way past many of the dangers.
The style of the game is Saturday-afternoon serial melodrama and each of the 13 smooth-scrolling screens is a chapter. Our compliments to the programmer, Louis Ewens. The animation and graphics are excellent and the two characters are comically represented. Your brother helplessly putters along with his face hidden in a manuscript while you stomp by in a posture of barely contained frustration, clutching a rolled-up map.
The sound is clever at first, but soon becomes annoying. The background music can be turned off, but there remain the familiar clicks, squeeks and beeps that Atari owners have learned to expect from games originally designed on the limited Apple.
The documentation is cute, but inadequate. There are just not enough specifics of game play Even getting past the first screen almost requires a software pirate's expertise at deciphering programs minus documentation. Since Broderbund is a leader in the fight against piracy, they have no excuse for providing inferior documentation.
260 Holbrook Drive
Wheeling, IL 60090
Reviewed by Michael Ciraolo
Party Quiz is a computerized trivia game that gets an "A" for
good play mechanics, "C" for pointless questions-and "D" for outdated packaging
that features a hokey photo of two semi-Yuppie couples grinning in fake
delight as they play. "PQ makes your computer more sociable," claims the
ad copy on the box. Uh-huh.
For your $79.95 you get four hand-held controllers and two disks. The controllers are an excellent idea. They have four-foot cables that plug into a central switch box, which in turn plugs into the two joystick ports. Each controller has large orange keys numbered from one to four. So all you need to do is be the first player to press the key with the number of the right answer appearing on the screen. (But check your controllers as soon as possible-we found that one of ours was broken the first time we tried using it.)
The mechanics of PQ are good. You can easily set a game from one to four players, select your choice of response time, the number of rounds and so on. The space bar pauses the action-giving you time to think of the answer without the clock running. The faster you answer, the more points you get. You can also handicap any of your friends who win too often.
But then there are those 2,500-plus questions ... I really didn,t thinik that "6X14 = ?" qualified as a trivia question, even with new math. On the initial disk (you can get supplemental question disks), several questions asked for the number of days in certain months, area codes around the country, time zones of major cities, and other off-the-wall items.
One supplemental disk had four questions in a row about Monopoly. Sprinkled throughout are questions about history (mostly American, post-1775) and science. Can you name the chemical elements from their symbols?
But most of the questions deal with middle-American lore-do you know what networks air "Dallas" or the "Tonight Show?" What motor company made the Eagle? A substantial knowledge of American movies helps too.
Despite the complaints, this game is not bad. Trivia gaming turns out to be well suited to your Atari, especially with those well-conceived controllers. If the questions were more entertaining-as in "Trivial Pursuit" - Party Quiz could qualify as excellent.
17 Paul Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
Reviewed by Michael Ciraclo
Mac Steele has returned from tromping around the Central American pyramids
in search of the Mask of the Sun This time, he's off to Tibet, seeking
The Serpent's Star.
Your typical adventurer, Mac is interested in the Serpent's Star gem for the money it will bring on the black market. Fortunately, he also needs his classical training as an archaeologist- as will you, if you are to solve all the puzzles.
The latest graphics/text adventure from Broderbund is set in craggy Tibet among a gaggle of Buddhist monks. A knowledge of their religion will be a slight aid in solving the game's puzzles. (It also helps to be nice to religious strangers ....)
You can expect a variety of puzzles. Of course, you'll need to collect the proper materials during your Himalayan trek. You'll be quizzed by monks, forced to dodge an avalanche, required to negotiate the obligatory maze, and in many cases trapped in a dead end. Many of the puzzles in the Star must be solved in proper order. Otherwise, you'll need to go back to the beginning or SAVE to disk.
To communicate with the game, you have an adequate parser capable of understanding multiple commands in one sentence. It is not advanced enough to rival real life, or even Infocom games. But it doesn't slow the game too much.
All of this makes for a good, challenging game. There are some complaints about speed, however. Writing to, and reading from, the SAVE disk takes a great deal of time- nearly two minutes to load a saved game.
Also slowing play are the extensive road scenes. Every move outside a building takes several screens of peaks and valleys. The page flipping that does this is technically pleasing, but the repetitive scenes quickly become boring.
SPACE WASTE RACE
POCKETS: Speech Parts Game
Sunburst Communications, Inc.
39 Washington Ave.
Pleasantville, NY 10570
$55 each, 48K-disk
Reviewed by Anita Malnig
At the foggy end of Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, just a few blocks
from the ocean, you'll find a seafood cafe with a converted-apartment office
upstairs. Nestled way out here is the western branch of Sunburst Communications,
educational software developers.
Jack Perron, ex-Atari employee with an English Education Ph.D., leads this group of young programmers and designers who have just produced some stimulating learning games for their Pleasantville, New York parent company.
SPACE WASTE RACE
Space Waste Race's colorful graphics and super sound (kids will love the GRRRR and WHOOOSSH of the rocket taking oft) were designed by programmer Peter Wierzbicki, a midnight Atari hacker and former Teamster.
A child looks at an animated story, then plays games related to that story. Geared for four to eight year-olds, this software can provoke some thinking. Certainly, sending all the world's garbage into outer space is quite a thought.
You see a rocket blast the garbage away and compact it into a second moon that gives our old faithful moon a run for its money. The two moons race and collide. The reader is then given the choice of... "Would the garbage dirty the face of the human race, or the face of the man in the man in the moon??"
So what makes this different from a storybook? The child can play games and receive direct feedback. Not only do the games relate directly to the story, they teach important learning and comprehension skills.
The games teach counting skills, number and letter indentification, concepts of over/under and above/ below, sequence of numbers and letters, directional concepts of up/down and left/right. In "Moondrops," bits of debris fall from the moon and the child must count the drops. "Hole in the Moon" lines up three moons, two with numbers or letters and the third a blank in sequence, such as AB_ or 1_3.
In "Fall Out," a letter, number, or symbol drops from the top of the screen. The child must press the key that matches the character shown. However, the characters seem too small. Young children need graphics that are big and bold.
The well-written documentation offers ways for teacher and parent to use the program and suggests additional activities.
Pockets: the Parts of Speech Game may just be the way to liven up school grammar lessons.
Here's an arcade-style game where students gain points racing against the clock while practicing parts of speech. Pockets comes in three levels: for 4th and 5th graders; for 6th and 7th graders; and for 8th grade through high school.
In level one, on the screen you see sentences such as, "Mary bought a lunch at school. She spilled the milk and felt very foolish."
Using a joystick (or arrow keys) the player moves Pocket the Kangaroo onto a word, picks the word up, moves upward to a colored pouch labeled with a part of speech like "verb" or "noun," and drops in the word. If a correct match was made, the pouch flashes and the player scores points. Also, the word in the sentence changes into inverse video, showing it's been identified correctly.
But watch out for the Rovers! If these little demons bump into the busy Kangaroo before a word is picked up, the player loses points.
The Teachers' Edition ($65) offers many helpful features. Teachers can edit the sentences and the parts of speech pouches. They can focus on adjectives and pronouns today, verbs and adverbs tomorrow.
Also, only the main program disk is copy-protected. The package includes data disks which can be copied for each student. This is one of the fairest solutions I've seen for this problem of pirating vs. high cost of software.
ABCs OF ATARI COMPUTERS
by David E. Mentley
20660 Nordhoff Street
Chatsworth, CA 91311
228 pages, paperbound
Reviewed by Jack Powell
Each week Antic receives at least a hundred letters with questions
about Atari computers. Atari users at all levels of experience want to
know everything from how to blink the cursor to how many programming languages
are available. Only a fraction of these letters can appear in our I/O Board
pages and unfortunately the Antic editors simply would not have
time to get out the magazine if we answered each letter personally.
Until now the answer to many of our readers' questions could only be found scattered throughout many books, technical manuals and magazine back-issues. New Atarians had no way of knowing where to look. And even experienced users would have a hard time remembering exactly where they saw that specific bit of information they need.
David Mentley's ABCs of ATARI COMPUTERS admirably fills this void. Mentley took over as president of the San Francisco Atari user's group, ABACUS, after founder James Capparell left to start Antic Magazine. During his 18 months as president, Mentley collected thousands of user newsletters from across the country. He compiled technical tips, tricks, and little known Atari facts from their pages and presented them alphabetically in a clear and concise style.
This book covers an incredible range. The author himself says it's primarily aimed at the beginner to intermediate user. But the book is so chock full of Atari trivia that experienced users are sure to enjoy it, if only to have all this stuff in one place for a change.
Would you like to know how to modify the 810 disk drive for greater accuracy? If you're a new user, you might just want to know what "Star Raiders" is. Plenty of newcomers are grimly trying to figure out what's "page six" while the rest of us assume everyone knows about it. How about a chart of printer control codes comparing many major brands?
This book is not going to replace the Atari Technical Reference Manual. But ifyou're planning to write a question to Antic, please look it up in ABCs of Atari Computers first. You'll save some time and postage.
G.E. COMPU-MATE DATA RECORDER
Housewares & Audio Business Div.
P.O. Box 70050
Charlotte, NC 28272
Reviewed by Nicholas J. Worth
G.E:s Compu-Mate computer data recorder is a viable alternative
for Atari owners who are looking for a cassette unit.
The Compu-Mate is streamlined and compact. It comes with an interface module, a power cord/adaptor and cables for both the Atari and Commodore computers. The Atari cable connects the interface module to your I/O port or any other peripheral. The interface module also connects to the power supply, and has three built-in recorder plugs, the 6V DC, earphone and Mic/Rem.
Because it only has one I/O connection, the recorder must be the last item in a peripheral daisychain. Also, the interface module is a second unit taking up desk space. These are obviously shortcomings.
However, several features are very good. First, the RECORD and PLAY buttons are connected. When SAVING a program or data from the computer to the recorder you need only push the RECORD button-the PLAY button will automatically move with it.
The Compu-Mate also has LED indicators for RECORD and PLAY, along with a data level indicator. The data indicator works with an LED on the interface to let you know if recorded data is being transferred to the computer at the proper rate.
The recorder has a standard digital tape counter with reset button and a small, built-in speaker with volume control (for listening to the data transfer process). You can also switch between "Atari" and "All Others."
The recorder comes with an instruction booklet that is well-written -except that it doesn't mention the LIST "C:" and SAVE "C:" options open to Atari users.
Checking the Compu-Mate against the Atari 410 recorder by SAVING and LOADING several programs of varying lengths, I found that the CompuMate performed comparably with the Atari 410, but was faster on the REWIND and FAST FORWARD cycles. The Compu-Mate's smaller keys were more comfortable than those of the 410.
19808 Nordhoff Place
Chatsworth, CA 91311
Reviewed by Michael Ciraolo
The flowing hair and acrobatic leaps of Conan have joined Datasoft's
Famous Faces series (Bruce Lee, Dallas).
Conan must fight his way through seven levels of giant floating eyeballs, dragons, flame monsters, electric spark creatures and other nasties to find and destroy the villian Volta.
The legendary barbarian can perform astounding jumps and tumbles; he can fall from any height, and throw his magical sword at foes.
Datasoft describes Conan as "surrealistic". Surely the purple trees add to that. You'll also encounter lava pits,
large triendly birds, and transporter booths.
All of this is combined with challenges typical of any ladder game. What detracts from the enjoyment are programming quirks such as Conan walking halfway through trees, standing in mid air, and so on. Conan lacks the crisp movements of Whistler's Brother or Montezuma's Revenge.
The greatest shortcoming is the game's excruciatingly long loading time for each screen. Considering there are only seven levels, no scrolling and no page flipping, this seems quite unnecessary.
Because you must go back to the beginning each time you exhaust your two initial lives, you can spend several minutes waiting to get back to the level of your death. Better take along some coffee on Conan's quest
UP AND DOWN
Sega Enterprises, Inc.
360 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
El Segundo, CA 90245
Reviewed by David Plotkin
Up and Down is an unusual new driving game that's definitely
worth a look. The object is to navigate your joystick-controlled car across
the scrolling landscape, keeping to the roads and picking up flags as you
go. When all flags have been captured, you move on to the next level. Attempting
to prevent you from completing your mission are enemy vehicles-primarily
pickup trucks- which will try to run you off the road.
The scrolling screens are viewed from three-quarter perspective, as in Zaxxon or Blue Max. This tends to make steering a little confusing at first, but you soon adjust. Your car also has the ability to leap into the air for short periods of time, as in Lunar Lander. This enables you to jump from one road to another, avoid enemies, hop over the chasms in higher levels, and even destroy your enemies by landing on top of them with a most satisfying "squish".
You may also slow down or back up, although I don't recommend this as a steady diet. You can't leap into the air while backing up, which leaves you vulnerable to enemies coming up fast from the rear. Further complicating your life are the hills (up and down!) which you must either climb with a running start, or speed downward at the worst times.
When several enemies appear on the same line of the acreen, they begin to flicker in a most distracting way, ala 2600 PacMan. This seems to be a function of the fact that all motion is by Player/Missile Graphics. But the flicker can be adjusted to, and it's not a fatal flaw. All in all, Up and Down is a lot of fun, with smoothly increasing levels of difficulty, unusual play mechanics and good sound effects.