product reviewsAPROM and SIX PACK
775 E. Evans
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
$99.50, Aprom Cartridge
$44.95, Six Pack
Reviewed by Larry Dziegielewski
program-storage product for the Atari 800 will make life at the keyboard
much easier. Aprom is a cartridge-based EPROM (Erasable Programmable
Read-Only Memory) programmer that fits into the right cartridge slot of
the Atari 800. It allows you to create your own cartridge-based software.
When used with the Six Pack, another program-storage cartridge,
you can access up to 48K of programs in only 8K of RAM space.
Aprom can access either 2764 (8K) or 27128 (16K) EPROM's in the right cartridge slot of the Atari 800. Aprom comes with the GP (general purpose EPROM programmer), and a "wedge" that adds commands to the BASIC or Assembler cartridge. With the GP program in control, it is possible to read, program, verify and erase EPROM'S. GP also includes the PARAM command (PArallel RAM), which disables the Aprom cartridge and "hides" it from the Atari Operating System. Aprom disappears when PARAM is selected, and the 8K block of RAM normally used by Aprom becomes free RAM. A POKE from BASIC or Assembler returns control back to the Aprom cartridge.
The Aprom also includes the Aprom Operating System command mode. When AOS is booted from disk and then written to the EPROM with the "Write/ OS" command, Aprom becomes a self-booting cartridge. AOS has its own set of commands, including some found under GP and its own "RUNU" (run utility) command. RUNU is used to select an 8K block of programs residing on the Six Pack cartridge. AOS gives the user the ability to store, list and execute programs on an EPROM.
The Six Pack cartridge is an EPROM board with three sockets in which 2764 or 27128 EPROMS can be mounted. As a result, BASIC, Assembler and PACMAN programs can be available with a simple two-key command, without the need to switch cartridges. This cartridge is used in the Atari 800's left slot and gives the user access to 48K of program storage, switchable in 8K blocks. (The full 48K is available only when three 27128 EPROMS are installed on the Six Pack.) The Six Pack enables users to keep programs that normally reside in the left-cartridge address space on the Six Pack, calling the programs in as needed.
Six Pack can be used in any Atari machine, with or without Aprom. When used with the Aprom AOS, it can call 8K programs with the RUNU command. Blocks available from AOS are labeled "A" through "F." A "RUNU C " command, for example, will cold start the computer and select the program in block C of the cartridge.
Aprom and Six Pack are gems, and I highly recommend them for work that involves jumping back and forth between the Assembler cartridge program and a debugger.
4517 Harford Road
Baltimore, MD 21214
$30.00, 48K - disk
$25.00, 32K - cassette
Reviewed by Edward Bever
"Panzer-jagd" means "tank hunt" in German, and that's what Avalon Hill's
game Panzer-Jagd simulates. As commander of a German battle
group, you lead 50 or more tanks, organized into platoons of five and often
supported by infantry and artillery, in typical offensive operations.
The computer controls the defending Russians, and skillfully deploys them
into a series of defensive positions concealed in the wooded countryside.
Your forces can find the Russians only by exposing themselves to enemy
fire, so you must maneuver carefully to minimize your own losses.
The German force includes a mixture of obsolescent Mark III light tanks and state-of-the-art Panthers, probably the best fighting machines of the war. Opposed to them are numerous weak anti-tank guns and profuse T-34/85s, the only tanks in the world that could fight the Panthers on roughly equal terms.
The program contains two scenarios. In the first you assemble and lead a mixed group of tanks to secure the flank of a larger offensive. In the second you command a force of tanks and infantry supported by field artillery in a diversionary attack designed to draw enemy strength away from a German offensive elsewhere by driving as deeply into Russian lines as possible.
Panzer-Jagd is suitable for both novice and veteran players. Although the graphics are on the dull side and the BASIC is a bit sluggish, the program is easy to operate, and the game is well structured and simple to learn. Playing well, however, requires concentration and practice, and the experience is a credible re-creation of armored tactics on the Eastern Front.
EXODUS: ULTIMA III
Origin Systems, Inc.
PO. Box 99
1545 Osgood St. #7
North Andover, MA 01845
$59.95, 48K - disk
Reviewed by Chris Chabris
You must discover and defeat a mysterious cause of great evil in this
fantasy adventure game. Created by Lord British (Richard Garriot),
this successor to Ultima II features scrolling wilderness and city
maps, 3-D dungeon views, monsters, and magic spells. In these respects,
it resembles its predecessor.
However, in the interests of a better plot and multi-player capacity, several frills have been eliminated.
Also in a radical departure from past procedure, as many as four characters can go adventuring together.
Each character may be "forged" from one of five races and eleven professions-a good mix is needed to complete the adventure.
During a session of play, the party of characters wanders around the continental map, exploring sites, obtaining clues, fighting monsters, and, of course, taking treasure. The puzzle-solving aspects of Ultima III resemble a text adventure more than a "hack and slay" fantasy game. Virtually all of the game's elements must be used to win. Surprises continue to appear, even near the end of the quest.
This is a well-crafted program featuring animated figures, polyphonic background music, game save, (an essential function), and magical gates. It is one of the few programs on the market complemented by documentation, including an introductory "Book of Play" and gazetteer, two tomes of magic spells, and a command reference card. All are excellently written and add to the game's atmosphere.
However, the Atari translation by Chuckles (Charles Bueche) is disappointing. All colors are produced through artifacts, restricting the display to white, black, red, and green. Although most objects are animated, the animation slows down when the player
is typing a command. No Player/Missile Graphics were used and sound effects do not fully utilize the power of the Atari. The dungeon graphics are low resolution and poorly colored, and the character set is hard to read.
Exodus: Ultima III is an excellent and engrossing adventure, but the graphic execution could be better. If you expect every game you play to stretch the graphics potential of your Atari, be prepared for a possible letdown. However, if you enjoy fantasy role-playing games, this program will not disappoint you.
6723 Whittier Ave.
McLean, VA 22101
$39.95, 48K -
requires cassette and disk
Reviewed by Rhonda Holmes
is a flashy presentation starring Max the Cat in two movies and four games
that teach youngsters ages three to seven how to cross the street safely
and what to do if they get lost. The two games that follow each movie
exercise the "Safety Tips" outlined in the movies.
I tested this game on 25 children aged two through seven at a Montessori school. The children, even the youngest, instantly took to the bright graphics and bouncy music of the first movie, in which Max introduces a little boy named Sam. Max, Sam's invisible friend, helps him cross the street to get to school. In the second movie, Sam gets lost at the zoo and Max helps him find his way back to his teacher.
In the first game, "Streetcross," you must help Sam get to school safely. In the next game, "Hidden Tips," you have to find a word from the "Safety Tips" in a word-search puzzle. This word is prominently displayed at the top of the screen. Children who know their alphabet but cannot yet read can play this game, as it involves finding letters in the correct order within a puzzle.
"Tipmatch" is designed for one or two players who can read. You are given eight squares; within each square is a statement about safety. If you find four matching squares, you win!
By the count of "oohs" and "ahhs" in the classroom, "Zoomaze" was Safetyhnes most popular game. To play, you have to help Sam through a maze whose walls appear only after you bump into them. At the four corners of the screen are boxes; one contains the teacher, two contain other familiar faces (those of a police officer and a store owner), and the last contains a stranger. If you find the stranger, you lose.
Two- and three-year-olds had some coordination problems and trouble understanding the correlation between the joystick and the computer. However, I believe that, with practice, three-yearolds can play the games that don't involve reading.
The four- and five-year-olds, many of
whom already could read, remembered the "Safety Tips" when questioned and enjoyed playing the games. The six- and seven-year-olds understood the importance of taking safety precautions and played the games very well.
This product is an excellent introduction to the computer: it's fun, and the games are easy to play. Most importantly, they teach children vitally important lessons about safety.
Broderbund Software, Inc.
17 Paul Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
$34.95, 48K - disk
Reviewed by Keith Valenza
you're looking for a humorous arcade game in the tradition of Mappy or
Domino Man, Broderbund's Spare Change fits the bill.
Here's the scenario: You are the owner of the Spare Change video arcade. Two of the characters from your newest game have escaped and are trying to save enough tokens in their piggy bank to retire. If they succeed in depositing five tokens in the bank, the game is over.
Your task is to stop these characters called Zerks-by collecting tokens for yourself. One way is to steal them from the Zerks: they will get angry and stomp up and down-one of the game's many amusing touches.
You can also distract them: put a token into the jukebox and watch the Zerks dance for a few seconds while you collect your tokens. Their imitation of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers might not win first prize on "Dance Fever," but it will make you laugh.
If you collect ten tokens before the Zerks get their five you progress to a higher level. You can then empty the Zerks' piggybank by entering the Zerk Cartoon Show booth. Here you're treated to one of several brief cartoon intermissions, reminiscent of the interludes between levels on Ms. Pac-Man.
However, Spare Change does have its flaws. Poor graphics is one of them. The Zerks aren't very detailed; they just don't look enough like arcade characters.
Another potential problem: advancing to the higher levels happens slowly. However, the authors included a feature rarely seen in arcade games-the ability to adjust the difficulty level by changing several combinations of variables.
In spite of some of the game's problems, the authors worked hard to make this game as "arcade-like" as possible. The demo mode features a brief Zerk cartoon, followed by a demonstration of the game. At the game's conclusion, a screen with the top five scores which the scorers can initial are displayed. However, scores could not be saved on the disk.
Like many of the computer arcade games that preceded it, Spare Change is challenging, with fast-action. The game is non-violent and just plain zany fun.
BASIC BUILDING BLOCKS
Micro Education Corp. of America
285 Riverside Ave.
Westport, CT 06880
$79.95, 48K - disk
Reviewed by George Adamson
BASIC Building Blocks turns your computer into a teaching machine
straight from a science fiction fantasy with its interactive and stimulating
People buy computers for a variety of reasons, but sooner or later they want to know how to program. BASIC Building Blocks can help; it is a useful tutorial for the whole family as either an introductory or remedial course in programming. The program is also suitable for classroom-type seminars.
Unlike a book, BBB gives immediate feedback and reinforcement to the learner. (This is the aspect of computer-assisted instruction which is so important. -ANTIC ED) The program reviews the user's progress by asking multiple choice questions. You cannot proceed to more difficult concepts until you correctly answer the earlier queries.
As you progress through the lessons, which range from "Introducing BASIC," to "Arrays," to "Strings," and more, you'll practice about 60 BASIC programs. These calculate things such as gas mileage, temperature conversions and grade averaging. At the end of each chapter, you're given a simple problem and are encouraged to solve it with the BASIC programming techniques you've just learned.
The program comes on two disks with the introductory material on the
first and the more difficult lessons on the second. One of the useful features of the program is that you can skip directly to the example. The Disk chapter even permits a secret password number to be inserted and then correctly input later to run a program. The last two chapters on "Sticks and Sounds" and "Graphics" are specifically written for Atari's capabilities.
A few minor deficiencies should be noted: the documentation contains several misspellings, not acceptable in an educational program. The tutorial treats the POKE command very superficially. Additionally, BBB is not compatible with BASIC XL from OSS. It is compatible, however, with all XL series including revision B of Atari BASIC, included on the second disk is the "BASIC Design Tool".
BBB's exclusive "Basic Design Tool" is like a window into the computer, allowing you to watch a program execute line by line. But, the "BASIC Design Tool" can also be used as a "standalone" to trace and debug any programs with its variable, statement, and stack windows. BDT uses 12K of RAM and does not interfere with BASIC programs. (The documentation says it does move the BASIC screen address.)
Combining a tutorial and a debugging tool into one package makes BASIC Building Blocks a genuine good deal which you can use long after you master the lessons. (MECA bas done a good job, and we encourage our readers to let them know. A lot of their current effort is aimed at the IBM and Apple market. Let them know you are Atari owners and you d like to see more. ANTIC ED)
Neanderthal Computer Things (NCT)
RO. Box 16489
Irvine, CA 92713
Reviewed by David Duberman
If you've owned your Atari 810 disk drive for a while, you've probably
"bumped your head" at least once on its limited storage capacity.
The standard 810 only holds about 90K of data per side (180K total), much
less than similar drives for other home computers. Well, here's some
good news: Neanderthal Computer Things' 810 Turbo offers you a way
to increase your system's storage capacity without incurring the expense
of a new drive.
When installed in an 810 drive, the 810 Turbo circuit board provides true double-density storage, thus doubling the capacity of each disk side to about 180K. The installation instructions for the board are so clear and explicit that even novices should have no trouble following them. Many illustrative photos are included, and no soldering is necessary. However, you must make sure that your drive's head is clean, and that the drive mechanism is in good working order, because double-density operation is much more sensitive than single-density.
The Turbo also lets you use Mach DOS, which is included with the circuit board. Mach DOS speeds data transfer to about four times its normal rate (which makes it comparable to Happy Computing's Warp Speed). Programmers, who often load and save programs many times before they're complete, will find that this feature saves a significant amount of program development time. They'll also save time going back and forth between DOS and the programming language in use. In addition, because the Turbo uses track buffering, it permits faster data transfer even without Mach DOS.
Another special feature of the 810 Turbo is its ability to disable write protection. This feature can be controlled by Mach DOS, and lets you use the back sides of disks without having to notch them. There is no provision, however, for the write protection of notched disks.
The 810 Turbo automatically recognizes the density of the first disk inserted into it after it's turned on, and configures itself accordingly However, application programs that use a DOS disk format and directory, such as DataSoft's Text Wizard, can use double-density storage for data files. in fact, the Turbo's documentation includes specific instructions for just such situations.
Mach DOS has several other useful features. When you read the directory of a disk whose density is opposite that of the last disk read, Mach DOS automatically switches the density mode and displays the density modes of all drives in the system. You also can use special options on the Mach DOS menu to switch density, turn write verification on and off, switch the default drive (the one addressed by "D:") to a drive other than Drive 1, and convert files between densities.
At $195, the Turbo 810 costs much less than a new double-density drive. It works and it's a good value.
DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN
1043 Kiel Court
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
$39.95, 48K - disk
Reviewed by Ellen Keyt
of Pern, based on the novels by Anne McCaffrey, is an unusual and intriguing
strategy/action game. Set on the planet Pern, the game centers around
the periodic fall of a deadly rain of silver thread, presaged by the appearance
of the Red Star. Pern's human population inhabits holds and Weyrs,
strongholds in which commerce, industry, and dragon-raising take place.
As the representative of an important Weyr, your twofold task is to win
the confidence of the other holds and Weyrs through negotiation, and to
defend the planet from the falling silver thread by riding dragons whose
fiery breath burns it.
Dragonriders of Pern is a winner. Its 16th century music transports you back to medieval times. A dragon soars across the screen in time to the music. You can choose a game with or without thread fighting, and select the game's speed and length. There are two stages of play: negotiating and thread fighting. After negotiating, you can save the game to disk to finish later.
In the negotiating stage of the game, you try to persuade Pernesians that your plans for the future of Pern are sound. You'll meet many different characters, each with a distinct personality. Negotiation is difficult because you can't foretell exactly how a Pernesian will react to your approaches. You may negotiate well and still be denied the political alliance you seek. Sometimes, if a Lord persists in refusing an alliance, you must resort to a duel.
In the thread-fighting sequence, you battle silver threads from the back of your dragon. In level 1, you fly in two dimensions. Levels 2 and 3 are more challenging because you have to fly your dragon in a three dimensional playfield. Learning to maneuver the dragon isn't easy, as you can only rotate a quarter of a turn at a time. However, once you get the hang of steering, flying your dragon is a breeze.
Dragonriders of Pern is a challenging game. You can assume different types of behavior when negotiating with Pernesians, so the game is never the same. The thread-fighting sequence is very realistic. This is a satisfying game for anyone who likes adventures. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a negotiation meeting to attend ...
SUCCESS WITH MATH
1 Fawcett Place
Greenwich, CT 06836
Reviewed by John and Mary Harrison
Success With Math is billed as a "comprehensive, self-paced math
tutorial." The first two packages cover the basic operations of addition,
subtraction, multiplication, and division with whole numbers. The
last two explore fundamental topics in algebra: solving linear and quadratic
equations. The educator who created this made sure they were classroom
tested; this alone makes the programs unusual.
In each of the four packages, you select the number and type of problem on which you want to work. The program keeps track of the errors and gives a summary at the end of each problem.
Each program comes with a short instruction manual that briefly explains how to load and use the program by following an example step-by-step. The directions are also included in the program-you can display them by pressing the [H] key.
The packages for primary school students (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) are drill-and-practice rather than tutorial programs. When a child errs, the correct answer is shown without the explanation one expects from a tutorial. These two programs are also visually drab: white text on a black screen with no color or sound. Other programs that cover these topics are just as technically correct, yet present a more visually exciting package.
However, the two algebra packages, directed toward older students, are well-written tutorials. Although their presentation offers no more visual interest than the previous packages, the purpose of the programs is different and their starkness is less obvious. With the algebra packages, the program explains and guides the student to the correct solution when an error is made. Thus, the student is eased into learning while practicing effective techniques for solving simple equations.
There are a few relatively minor complaints we have to make about the packages. Only on the disk itself is it stated that the programs require BASIC to run; this should be clear from the documentation. The BREAK key is not disabled; this simple procedure can eliminate the frustration encountered with a misplaced keystroke. The on-screen instructions are long and boring to read. There should be more interaction between the student and computer if for no other reason than to guarantee attention. Finally, as mentioned before, none of the programs make use of the computer's graphics capacities. It is a shame that the author did not vary the screen colors to reflect different difficulty levels or at least to reduce the eyestrain that comes from staring at a black screen.
On the positive side, the programs are technically sound and bug-free. They always encourage and never criticize the student, even after several mistakes. Best of all, CBS recognizes the right of the consumer to create archival copies of the software. The packages are not copy protected so you are free to make backup copies. Although we cannot get overly excited about another set of drill and practice arithmetic programs, we feel the algebra tutorials are well done, accomplish their goals and are worthy of consideration.
Note: The algebra packages will not run on the Atari 400. The addition and subtraction packages for the 400 require 16K. All other packages run on all other Ataris and require 32K.