Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 3, NO. 5 / SEPTEMBER 1984

product reviews

Synapse Software 5221 Central Ave.
Richmond, CA 94804
(415) 527-7751
$34.95, 32K - disk $34.95, 32K - cassette

Reviewed by Andrew Bell
Rainbow Walker
Rainbow Walker, Synapse Software's latest arcade-style game, joins the company's previous games as one of the most imaginative, graphically stimulating and playable games on the market.
   The story is colorful.  Once, in a mythical land, a merciless meanie stole all the colors from the rainbow.  Wearing magic shoes, brave Cedrick tries to restore the colors piecemeal by hopping from square to square on the dulled rainbow.  Wherever he lands, Cedrick leaves a patch of color; hopefully the arc will be returned to its original colors.
   Unfortunately for Cedrick, there are some monochromatic-minded creatures who materialize to undo his work.  Wherever these creatures land, color disappears.
   You control Cedrick by using the joystick to hop in eight directions; pressing the fire button, you can take two-square giant steps.  When you color an entire rainbow you advance to the next level.  There are 20 levels, each progressively harder, with a surprise if you make it to the top level.
   As you move up, the rainbows' shapes become more complex, and new, more aggressive antagonists appear.  Fortunately, after each round you can supplement your stock of extra lives by playing the bonus screen, a set of three squares that move first slowly, then faster and faster.  The longer you can keep Cedrick on the squares, the more lives you earn. (This is-a great way to test your reflexes and acquired skill. -ANTIC ED)
   Rainbow Walker excels graphically.  The rainbow is shown in unique perspective, cutting the horizontal plane at the bottom of the screen and arching back to the horizon.  This is a three-quarter look down at the bow's floor-like tiles.  When Cedrick reaches the bottom of the screen and hops forward, the tiles scroll back and a new set of squares comes into view.  Hopping toward the top of the screen, Cedrick shrinks in the distance, making the image appear three dimensional.
   Rainbow Walker's sound complements the game without becoming obnoxious.  The many sound effects are so well meshed with the action that they contribute to the game's overall high quality of play.
   The game is hard to play at first, but after a little experience and some determined effort, you will be able to advance to higher levels and improve your scores.  Rainbow Walker has ample action and surprises, making it challenging to even the most sophisticated game player.  If you're looking for gold, you won't have to go to the end of the rainbow to find it in this game.

Electronic Arts
2755 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403
(415) 571-7171
$40.00, 48K - disk

Reviewed by Sandra Carlisle
Seven Cities of Gold
The Seven Cities of Gold is a role playing simulation of the 16th Century Spanish discovery and conquest of the New World.  You are a Spanish conquistador leading an expedition through unexplored dangers in search of treasure and glory.
   You may face complete panic when you're out of food and goods and can't find your way back to your ships.  If you discover and enter a village, you find yourself surrounded by natives.  At first you feel frightened - there are so many, crowding too closely.
   The subtlety of this game becomes especially apparent when you must deal with the natives.  There is no common language.  How do you communicate with a totally alien culture?  You can slaughter and plunder, try trickery or treachery, trade for your most pressing needs, or even try to convert the natives and establish missions.  These many variables give the game its authenticity, flavor, and challenge.
   As you move about, the detailed terrain scrolls by you, demonstrating the game's excellent graphics and animation.
   Your expedition is financed by the king, including four ships and their crews, soldiers, food and trading goods.
   The strategy and challenge of this one-person arcade-style game are evident as you explore unknown territory.

Seven Cities is highly
realistic as a historical and
geographical simulation.

If you defeat or trade with the natives, you may have many native bearers.  They not only help carry supplies and gold, but also help to locate other villages and gold mines.  Your expedition can move at different speeds on land, and much faster on rivers.
   Seven Cities has three playing levels.  At any level above novice, you must contend with storms at sea, native ambushes, food spoilage, ship wrecks, and even with the disappearance of your ships.  Also, the native villages are hidden and can be located only by stopping to look for a "sign." The higher the level, the more realistic the play.
   Considering the size of this game (the "game" map alone occupies 65K of disk memory - 2,800 screens!), I was amazed by the speed of the play.  I never had to wait for the drive to load the next map portion.  Ozark Softscape, the designers, developed a technique to load new portions of the scrolling map without interrupting the play of the game.
   The "Random World" generator is an impressive feature of the game.  This will create (and write to a disk) as many unique "New Worlds" as you want (all with 2,800 screens), each with different shaped land masses, swamps, villages, mountains, and so on.  This sophisticated technique follows established geological rules of plate-tectonics and consults a cultural dissemination model for its work.  You can even make copies of your unique world and exchange them with your friends for "competitive" play.
   Upon your return, you can go to the Outfitters Shop to outfit more ships for future expeditions.  You can also visit the Royal Palace to receive recognition for your success, you can view the. game map, or drop into the Pub to save the game.
   Since Seven Cities is highly realistic as a historical and geographical simulation, it can be used quite easily as an educational tool.  There is no set solution, nor is there a single puzzle to solve.
   Best of all, the concepts of entertainment and education are totally integrated.  Seven Cities will undoubtedly be a strong contender for game of the year in 1984.

Activision, Inc.
2350 Bayshore Frontage Road
Mountain View, CA 94043
(415) 960-0410
$34.95, 8K - cartridge

Reviewed by Ellen Keyt
Deep in the jungle, far away from technologized, urbanized civilization, lives (for a short time at least), Pitfall Harry.  This daring jungle explorer has fearlessly entered the dense foliage in search of the fabled treasure concealed within.  Leaping over alligators, rolling logs, scorpions and snakes, he spots his first goal, a gold bar.  He runs across the clearing to retrieve it, only to fall to his demise in a huge tar pit.
   This may be the most common scenario in one of the most popular games from Activision.  Originally written by David Crane for the VCS, this fast action game has finally been released for Atari computers.  Every detail featured in the VCS version has been reproduced and as far as graphics are concerned enhanced.  Details are very lifelike: Pitfall Harry lopes across the screen in long, easy strides; the scorpion's pincers clutch at Pitfall Harry; barrels roll realistically across the screen, and a vine swings in a smooth, unbroken arc.  The animation of all the assorted creatures is excellent, and the joystick responds instantly, preventing "Slip of the Wrist" deaths,
   Almost everything about Pitfall is precise and perfect.  Although there is usually plenty of time to finish a game, the absence of a pause is annoying.  The graphics are 3-D and very realistic, but the game would be improved greatly if the player were allowed to move in and out of the third dimension.  In addition, I miss a choice of difficulty function, and, since the game was not designed to eat up quarters at a video arcade, the twenty-minute time limit is entirely unnecessary In spite of these faults, Pitfall is still exciting, and will greatly please the young arcaders who have long been waiting for the game's release.

Broderbund Software
17 Paul Dr.
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 479-1170
$39.95, 48K - disk

Reviewed by Brian Ho Fung
Drol is an original, addictive, arcade-style game with beautiful graphics.  The game takes you to the underground dream world of Drol, where you must rescue a small family and its pets trapped in the fantasy world by an evil witchdoctor's curse.
   You are equipped with an anti-gravity rescue suit and an unlimited supply of reality pellets.  Drol has three missions: rescue a wandering girl and her jet-propelled pet lizard; save her propeller-beanied brother and his pet crocodile; and liberate the kids' mother, who is bound with rope on Drol's bottom floor.
   Your hero, controlled by the joystick, travels through continuously scrolling multi-levelled corridors seeking captives and trying to avoid a host of dangers- giant scorpions, monsters, flying turkeys and a killer vacuum cleaner.  When you find a captive, you simply touch it to rescue it.
   Your hero starts with five lives.  Completing three missions, one round, earns you an extra life.  Each time your hero dies, he must start from the top corridor.  This can be frustrating, especially on the third mission where each corridor is separated by only one or two trapdoors placed far away from each other.  Each new round provides faster and deadlier monsters-some of which must be shot repeatedly before they die.
   Drol is an exceptionally well-programmed game.  It has staying power and a limitless challenge.  It can be paused; you can view the high scores while playing, and high scores can be saved to the disk.  Drol's one drawback-the long time it takes to load each successive mission-is offset by the game's beautiful animation, smooth-scrolling graphics and non-stop action.  Droll will delight players of all ages and will challenge even skilled game players.

Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Road, Building A-200
Mountain View, CA 94043-1983
(800) 772-3546
$59.95, 40K - disk

Reviewed by Christine A. Lunardini

Historic accounts of great World War II naval battles need little embellishment to emphasize their drama, The stakes were enormous in both theaters of the war, but the outcome for the American forces was nowhere so uncertain as it was in the Pacific in 1942. With Carrier Force, Strategic Simulations, Inc., has recreated four major battles of the Pacific (Midway, Santa Cruz, the Solomons, and the Coral Sea), with all the tension, excitement, complexity, and uncertainty that accompanied the actual conflicts between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy.
   Carrier Force simulations are very realistic.  Gary Grigsby and his creative team accounted for virtually every piece of equipment on both sides.  As fleet commander of either the U.S. Navy or the IJN, your first duty is to find the opposing fleet.  Then you must determine the most effective way to disperse the ships in your command.  These include carriers, destroyers, tankers, escorts, and submarines.  Aircraft, ranging from B-26 heavy bombers, and F4F fighters to minimally-armed reconnaissance planes, also must be strategically deployed.  How many should you place on aircraft carriers and runways?  And how far from shore can a strike force proceed before you risk the danger of having to ditch, thus losing valuable men and planes?
   Such decisions continually must be made throughout the game.  As com-

Carrier Force has recreated
four major battles of the
Pacific with all the tension,
excitement, complexity, and
uncertainty that accom-
panied the actual conflicts.

mander, you are given current and detailed weather and fleet information.  You know the location, heading, strength, readiness, damage, armament, and base capability of each fleet task force, reconnaissance plane, and strike force.  Task force size, location, and the enemy's attack plan are the unknown factors adding to the realistic tension as you develop your strategies, launch your strike forces, and cross your fingers.
   In addition to fleet information, the program features a high-resolution scrolling map with the appropriate island configuration for each scenario.  As task forces are sighted, they are represented on the map by colored symbols.  As in real sea chases, a task force located during one search can change direction or disappear under thick cloud cover.  You know it is somewhere in the area, but where?  Meanwhile, your radar report indicates an approaching strike force of approximately 150 planes headed for one of your bases.  Your next set of orders may well decide the battle.
   Carrier Force is an advanced strategy game that is easy to play.  The only real frustration I found was with the game's documentation.  It is very poorly organized, making it difficult to use effectively during game play.  It is also poorly edited.  For example, the game's list of abbreviations, which is potentially helpful, is incomplete and is not alphabetized.  You must read through the entire list to locate the term you are seeking.  Though the game comes with two laminated map boards which are quite handy for tracking both fleets, a similar card summarizing important play information (i.e., aircraft capability, pilot endurance, base operation limits, etc.), was not included.  Once you have mastered the play techniques, however, these are minor inconveniences in an otherwise excellent game.

10616 Beaver Dam Road
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
(301) 667-1151
$34.95, 48K - disk
$34.95, 48K - cassette

Reviewed by Edward Bever

Right now, nine Warsaw Pact armies confront nine NATO corps in central Europe.  Even in these tense times, experts see little chance of nuclear war, but if one were to start, it would probably start here.  You're in the hot seat; you're the NATO commander.
   As the game begins, Soviet divisions attack Berlin and roll across the West German border.  Urgent reports of fighting start coming in.  You must set the missions of air wings and deploy ground troops while the enemy moves relentlessly forward.  Your units also move automatically once you tell them where to go; play proceeds at a continuous pace.
   Eastern Block units will attack when they come in contact with your troops, while you must carefully plot your own attacks.  Your knowledge of the enemy's location is limited, and you must keep track of six variables simultaneously, scrolling across a board the size of four screens.
   Overhead, the Allied air forces struggle for domination of the skies.  If they succeed before Russian tanks break through, the invasion can probably be halted and peace restored.  In any case, the fight will be dirty with chemical and conventional warfare.

This simulation puts you in
command of the most
dangerous military operation
in history.

   The nuclear genie may remain in its bottle, but then again, it may not.  Both sides have tactical nukes.  What will the Russians do if they meet exceptionally fierce resistance?  What will we do if our air power cannot come through in time, as the Soviets close on our nuclear depots?  What would you do?
   NATO Commander lets you find out.  Although the program does not always execute flawlessly, the game is exciting and exacting.  The simulation puts you in command of the most dangerous military operation in history.

Omnitrend Software
PO. Box 3
West Simsbury, CT 06092
(203) 658-6917
$89.95, 48K - I or 2 disk drives

Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein

In the past, role-playing games have been confined largely to the fantasy world of orcs, trolls, demons, and the like, with not much attention given to the hard-core science fiction fan.  Good news, fellow rocket-rangers!  Omnitrend's Universe has arrived.
   This game takes place some time after man's colonization of a galaxy called the Local Group.  All contact with Earth has stopped.  At the same time evidence has appeared which hints of the existence of an alien artifact, believed to be a hyperspace booster.  As a citizen of the Local Group, you must find this mysterious booster and use it to find out what's happened to the people on Earth.
   Rather than beginning the game by endowing your character (or yourself) with characteristics, such as strength and dexterity, you borrow 300,000 credits from the Central Bank of Axia (your starting point).  With this money you go on to purchase equipment for

Good news, fellow rocket-
rangers!  Omnitrend's
Universe has arrived.

mining, trade, or piracy, all of which you use as a means of survival while on your quest.  You quickly find that the easiest way to make money with the least amount of risk is trade and passenger transport.  You buy goods and pick up passengers on one planet, and deliver them to a planet of lesser sophistication.  As you increase your wealth, you upgrade your equipment and explore the outer reaches of the Local Group, all the while searching for the missing booster.
   Many facets of Universe make it a remarkable game, but the main one is its sheer depth of gameplay.  Universe is the first Atari game to come on four disks.  Included with them is documentation of over 80 pages!  The folks at Omnitrend tell me the game takes well over 100 hours to complete, making it one of the better values around.  Another first is that Omnitrend has set up a bulletin board that players can access for help.  The nitty-gritty action happens after four years of game time play so players can learn the game's fine points before the action gets hot.
   Universe does, however, have some serious flaws.  It requires a LOT of disk swapping with a one-drive system.  The programmers have included a handler for a second drive in the new revision, available now.  Also, the game is too slow.
   Omnitrend's Universe is a good game that could have been outstanding with a little more polishing.  But if you are in the market for a science-fiction strategy game that has more depth than the average adventure, and that will take several months to complete, then Universe is the ideal addition to your game library.

by Carl M. Evans
IJG, Inc.
1953 W 11th Street
Upland, CA 91786
(714) 946-5805

Reviewed by Jerry White

Atari BASIC Faster and Better is a 300-page wealth of information.  I recommend it highly to those who use BASIC beyond the beginner level.  It is a useful addition to the libraries of both the hacker and advanced programmer.
   This book contains more subroutine and demonstration program listings than any other book currently available for Atari computers.  The BASIC and machine language subroutines are designed to be easily incorporated within the reader's programs.  All subroutines and demo programs are also available separately on diskette.
   The printing is top quality and easy to read.  The book includes a detailed table of contents, which, along with an index, makes it an excellent reference.  The appendixes supplement the index by listing subroutines alphabetically and by line number.  They also list assembly language routines, application programs, and demonstration programs for each chapter.
   The first four chapters of this book cover programming techniques such as USR subroutines and memory management.  This information is logically necessary for implementation of the routines found in later chapters.  Chapters five through fifteen contain hundreds of subroutines, tricks, and concepts.  The presentation avoids technical manual computer jargon, and uses clearly defined charts and demonstrations.  The novice assembler programmer will benefit from the commented source code listings, yet a knowledge of

This book contains more
subroutine and demonstra-
tion program listings than
any other book currently
available for Atari computers.

machine language is not needed to use these routines in your BASIC programs.
   Some of the topics covered include string manipulation, date and time subroutines, Boolean logic, formatting data entry, display tricks, sound effects, disk utilities, and much much more.  The book also contains the most detailed explanation of Atari's error codes that I've ever seen.
   If you write BASIC programs on your Atari computer, you will want to keep Atari BASIC Faster and Better near your keyboard.  This is one book that will not wind up sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.
   (Note:IJG has provided ANTIC with a number of these books, which we are selling for $15.95.  We will accept your cheque, or you can charge it to your MasterCard or VISA.-ANTIC ED)

Codewriter Corp.
7847 North Caldwell Ave..
Niles, IL 60648
(312) 470-0700
$99.00, 48K - 3 diskettes

Reviewed Joseph Kattan

Even if it's just for recipes, phone numbers or household inventory, most personal computer users will sooner or later want to have an easy database or home filing program.  Codewriter is the Atari translation of a popular program written for the Commodore 64.  Unfortunately, this latest entry in the Atari database management sweepstakes pretends it can generate programs to your specifications instead of adequately taking care of some basic needs of a home filing system.
   You can only look up information by one key field. if you set up a phone directory with names as the key field, you would not be able to look up a record by entering the phone number.   The number of records you can save is also too small.  In a simple 12-field application, Codewriter informed me that I could have no more than 211 records.  This limit is not enough for many common database uses.
   The Codewriter package comes with three disks.  Disk 1 contains the data entry system while Disks 2 and 3 are, used for creating reports.  Atari owners will not be pleased to find that they get the Commodore instructions manual plus three pages of changes, which are needlessly duplicated on one of the disks.
   Codewriter will allow you to store records in multiple fields, as many as 50 on a screen.  But that is almost the full extent of what it can do as a database manager.
   The program begins directly enough by letting you design an input screen identifying the fields of each application, with input-area masks plus prompts for entering field data.
   But once you've designed the screen, your problems begin.  Unless you've got a dual disk drive, Codewriter puts you through an obstacle course of swapping disks.  The manual flat-out admits that "turning your design into a working program may take from 25 minutes to a bit over an hour." Not exactly the speedy, effortless operation claimed by this product's advertising.
   Eventually all your work does generate a BASIC program - which is only slightly altered from Codewriter's standard format.  I wrote several applications that all came out as pretty much the same program with only minor differences.
   Each application took up 190 sectors on a single-density disk!  You're entitled to expect a good database program to use disk space only for the data and essential information on field arrangement.  In contrast, every Codewriter "program" gobbles up so much disk space that the manual recommends you put only one application per disk.
   For those whose only experience with databases has been lower-priced products like Home Filing Manager or Microfiler, Codewriter might be the next step up.  Its greatest redeeming value is that it will use any numeric function legal in Atari BASIC - letting you use it much like a spreadsheet.
   Codewriter Corp. rates credit for offering the buyer a reasonably priced set of backup disks.  The company also sells Disk 1 separately as Filewriter and Disks 2 and 3 as a package called Reportwriter.

by Linda M. Schreiber
Tab Books, Inc.
Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214
$24.95, 32K - sample program disk

Reviewed by Matthew Ratcliff

Here is a book for the experienced Atari BASIC programmer.  It will teach you how to use all of those special commands you've never quite been able to master.  Advanced Programming Techniques For Your Atari covers some topics we have seen many times, such as Player/Missile graphics and character-set editing.  But many other techniques are explained that have rarely been addressed in print.  The author presents her subjects in detail, and gives many sample programs, including assembly language routines called by USR commands.  Complete explanations of all programs are straightforward and easy to follow.
   The book can be purchased with a Sample Programs Disk, and with all 62 sample routines just a LOAD away, you will find yourself learning much more quickly than if you had to type all that code and debug it.  A few complete programs are presented as well, including a character-set editor.
   Some assembly language routines are used, and the "source code" is provided.  But if you wish to eventually make the jump to AL, this book will not help you much.  Although the USR routines work nicely, the comments in the source code are cryptic.  The comments tell you exactly what the AL command is doing, without giving you a clue to its purpose.  Compare the two listings below.  Both will result in the same "object code" (the bytes that the machine operates on), but which is easier to understand?

   SAMPLE #1
(Typical for this book)
LDA #0     ;LOAD THE
           THE NUMBER ZERO
           LOCATION 77
   SAMPLE #2
           MODE (POKE 77,0)

   There are things in this book that I have only seen in De Re Atari, which is a bit on the technical side for those not familiar with AL.  One of the major advantages of this book over magazines covering similar information, is that it consistently uses the same pro technique throughout.  This is a real plus, provided you like the author's style.  Her BASIC code is well structured and commented.
   Some of the more interesting subjects covered include a Vertical Blank Interrupt routine that plays music continuously, even after the BASIC program has stopped, and sample code on page flipping.  Below is a quick rundown on the book's table of contents.

Number Systems
The Display List
Inside BASIC
Display List Interrupts
Page Flipping
Sound Generators
The Keyboard
The Screen Editor
Disk Use
Cassette Use

  This book will certainly help you put into code many of those nifty programs that have been just too tough to tackle before.