Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 3, NO. 8 / DECEMBER 1984

product reviews

Parker Brothers
50 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA 01915
(617) 927-7600
$39.95, 16K-cartridge

Reviewed by David Plotkin

Gyruss is one of the very best arcade translations available for Atari home computers.  It's fast and exciting, and features a dynamite sound track of sped-up Bach.
Gyruss screen
   You're piloting a space ship which circles the edges of the screen under joystick control.  Clouds of aliens try to prevent you from reaching home, whirling and swirling as they come.
   You begin your journey in the far reaches of the solar system, out beyond Neptune.  To return to Earth, you must make a series of warp jumps between planets.  The problem is that every time you come out of warp you're under attack by the ubiquitous aliens.  They emerge from various points around the screen and follow a swirling pattern toward the center of the screen.
   In order to survive, you must obliterate all the aliens with your missiles, which converge on the center of the screen regardless of your position.  The aliens shoot back, of course, while attempting to ram your ship.  In addition, you must contend with space mines, force field satellites, and indestructible meteors.  It all adds up to an exciting and addictive gaming experience.
   The key to success at Gyruss is memorizing the patterns and positions at which the aliens emerge.  Even this is not foolproof, however.  Sometimes a wave of aliens will appear from a position which is not part of the normal pattern-a random element calculated to keep things interesting.
   The multicolored graphics are attractive, but motion is a little jumpy.  Play action is fast and furious, however.  The planets, which are rendered quite artistically, provide a visual reward for surviving that far.  The stars emerging from the center of the screen and the aliens changing in size give a good 3-D effect.  Playability is carefully orchestrated, although there is a significant jump in difficulty between Mars and Earth-it will take you a while before you make it through the last three warps.  Achieve your goal, and you start over again at a considerably more difficult level.

Broderbund Software
17 Paul Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 479-1170
$29.95, 48K-disk

Reviewed by Bryan Welcb

Dreams of fabulous riches have always plagued men, and those dreams form the plot for Spelunker.  Your challenge is to make your way to the very bottom of a cave and find the hidden treasure.
   That's simple enough.  But, as with most arcade games, there are plenty of obstacles.  Standing between you and your fortune are lava pits, bloodthirsty bats, restless ghosts, and countless other hazards.  In order to win, you'll need to use all the skill, speed, and wit at your command!  Why wit?  Because, unlike many games, Spelunker combines arcade action with diabolic puzzles and confusing mazes.  For example, in order to gain entry to the next level of the cave, you may first need to find the key that will open a door blocking your way.
   There are a lot of surprises awaiting an explorer skilled enough to make it to the deeper levels.  Each level is totally unique, and just when you think you've seen everything, a new puzzle pops up to confound you!
   Maneuvering is a vital part of the gameplay.  You'll need to jump, run, and climb your way through every part of the cave-no easy task.  But don't be discouraged-half of the fun is learning how to maneuver your man through the cave.
   Have you ever played a game in which you continually lose, but keep playing anyway?  Spelunker is a perfect example of this type of game.  It is extremely difficult to master, but, as you keep playing, you gain proficiency, and make it farther and farther into the mysterious cave.  Each time you play, you make a little more progress, and when the game ends, you wonder what new discoveries were ahead of you, so you try again!
   Spelunker includes spectacular graphics, and sound effects to match!  The cave itself is attractively depicted.  When you move off the edge of the screen, your man doesn't just appear in the next part of the cave-the screen scrolls to it!  Sound effects are abundant, from the tapping of his footsteps as he trods onward, to the threatening sound of a ghost approaching.
   I wholeheartedly recommend Spelunker to anyone who likes arcade-type games and is looking for a challenge.  It's one game you'll always come back to.

Atari Corp.
1265 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 745-2000
$49.95, 16K-cartridge

Reviewed by Gordon Wong

Atari Football is the home computer version of the popular Atari 5200 Football (see Antic, October 1983).  The game requires two joysticks for one or two players.  In the one-player practice game, you control the offensive team and choose the defensive play, but the computer moves the defensive team.
   The game screen is identical to that of the 5200 version.  A scoreboard displays all pertinent information, and beneath this is the football field complete with first down marker, combination scrimmage/down flag, and yardage lines.  During play action, the field scrolls horizontally to keep the hall centered on the screen (similar to a TV camera panning the field).  Each team has six men: you control the quarterback on offense and the middle lineman on defense.
   During each play, the offense uses the joystick to pick one of three team formations and one of five plays described graphically on a play chart.  The defense selects similarly from one of five defensive plays.  In each play, the non-controlled team members move to different patterns.  To boggle the opposition even more, you can also change your play once before the hike, throw to one of two eligible receivers on offense, or transfer joystick control to your receiver or guard to better catch a pass or intercept it.
   Atari Football is best played with two players since computer opposition is not very sophisticated.  With two human players, the game becomes very exciting and challenging.  The fifteen offensive plays and five defensive plays are quite varied and not easily memorized.  Although looking up these play patterns on the charts takes a little longer, this variety keeps the game interesting.
   Atari has done a good job of fitting this rendition of a favorite sport into a 16K cartridge that makes it available to every Atari computer owner.  This means, however, keeping the size of the program down.  One casualty of this budgeting is that there are no penalties, handoff plays, timeouts, fumbles, or kickoffs (although pause control, punts, and fieldgoals, and blocked attempts are included).  Also notably missing are the national anthem, the roar of the crowd, and halftime activities. just thinking of what a 48K version could have been is depressing.
   The animation and sound of Atari Football are accomplished, and amusing to watch (a touchdown, of course, earns a little dance).  As in real football, different types of players run at different speeds.  About the only thing bothersome during gameplay is that the defensive backs are programmed to stay with the receivers only until the end of the receiver's runs, leaving the receiver wide open to a quarterback who can stay untackled long enough to throw a pass to them.
   Overall, I recommend Atari Football highly because of its variety and strategy qualities, good arcade graphics and sounds, and also because the play mechanics of running and passing are much easier to master, as compared to other football programs on the market.  Now if the game had a smarter computer opponent, got rid of the need for two joysticks in the one player game, and had a few more bells and whistles ... (are you listening, Atari?!)

Activision, Inc.
2350 Bayshore Frontage Rd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
(415) 960-0410
$34.95, 16K-cartridge

Reviewed by Ellen Keyt

Keystone Kapers, originally written for the Atari game system, has now been released for the computer.  You, as one of the famous Keystone Cops, have cornered an escaped convict in the local three story department store.  Unfortunately, if you don't catch him soon, the store will open and the lives of innocent people will be endangered.  Attempting to avoid capture, the criminal has made your job even more difficult by bombarding you with rubber balls, toy airplanes, and shopping carts that you must either jump over or duck.  The robber also dodges you by moving from floor to floor.  The only way to follow him is by either using one or the escalators or the temperamental elevator that always seems to move to the next floor just before you reach it.
   Because the store is so large, it has been spread over eight screens.  By going to the edge of one screen, you instantly appear in the next screen.  The escalators have been placed at opposite ends of the store, which makes them harder to use than the elevator, located in the middle screen.  To even this out, the elevator moves from floor to floor so slowly that the only worthwhile time to use it is on the upper levels, where you try to stay on one screen, rather than risk your life by running all over the store to use the escalators.

The different levels of play
make it a perfect game
for anyone.

Although the background graphics are plain and shadowy, player/missile graphics in the foreground produce smooth playing and some very convincing animation.  Shopping carts and toy airplanes whiz by while rubber balls bounce realistically across the screen.  The Keystone Cop's legs stretch when he jumps over a shopping cart, his uniform creases when he squats to duck a toy airplane, and he even pumps his hands up and down, waving his stick when he runs.
   There are 16 levels of play, each one speeding up until the different obstacles are mere blurs and the rubber balls bounce all the way to the ceiling.  Because Keystone Kapers is such a simple game to learn, the different levels of play make it a perfect game for anyone.  Children can start on level one, where they can watch the superb animation, while adults may prefer to begin on a higher level where they can enjoy the fast action.
   Keystone Kapers is a very good game and will provide hours of fun for children of all ages-if they can get their parents away from it.

EPYX, Inc.
1043 Kiel Court
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
(408) 745-0700
$34.95, 32K-disk or cassette

Reviewed by Fred Pinho

Puzzle Panic is one of the new breed of hybrid games combining puzzles with arcade action.  It consists of eleven puzzles, with variations for a total of 42 screens.  To fully complete the game, you must go through each screen in correct sequence.  You then get a chance at the biggest challenge, the "Metasequence".  To solve it, you must have deduced the meaning of the numerous symbols used in the game and the correct order of the puzzles.  EPYX offers a contest drawing for those who've correctly completed the puzzle.  The winner gets a weekend at an Atlantic City casino with Ken Uston.
   Once you've completed a puzzle, gates open on the screen.  Each gate contains a symbol.  You must choose the correct symbol to move forward, to the next puzzle.  An incorrect choice transports you back to earlier puzzles.
   You maneuver an animated light bulb named Benny to solve each puzzle.  Built-in hazards range from time limits to frequent use of a monster chaser.  The chaser's advantage is that it can move diagonally while Benny cannot.  The monster always goes straight for Benny so that planning moves while avoiding the chaser gets hectic.  Although the main objective is to solve each puzzle, score is also kept.  If Benny gets zapped, you lose a life which reduces your score.  Unlike arcade games, you can stay with a puzzle, no matter how many lives you lose, until it's solved.
   The puzzles range in difficulty from easy to hard.  Determining what's required to solve the puzzle is usually easy.  The challenge comes in doing it without getting zapped by the chaser or running out of time.  The puzzles get more difficult as you progress through the sequence.  Typical puzzles involve placing a moving card in the correct sequence, capturing polygons in the correct order, following a moving block without losing contact, climbing a wall of color and mimicking a series of notes.  The graphics are simple yet cute and colorful.  A nice touch is the ability to call up any puzzle for practice via the [OPTION] and [SELECT] keys.  Simple tunes play in the background for each puzzle.  If that annoys you, there is an option to turn them off.
   Puzzle Panic is a nice blend of puzzle solving, strategy and arcade action.  The puzzles are nowhere as frustrating as the typical adventure game.  Neither are the arcade segments as demanding as the typical shoot-em-up.  For those not gifted with the joystick touch (the majority of us), this game will give a sense of accomplishment since every screen is conquerable.
   The game has been crafted with obvious attention to detail and is fun to play.  Ken Uston, the blackjack whiz turned software designer, made good use of his time away from the casinos.

Royal Software
2160 W 11th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97402
(503) 683-5361
$49.95, 48K-disk

Reviewed by Joy Shulman

Super Mailer Plus is a convenient and easy-to-use program that's really "much more than a mailing list." Menu-driven and well-documented for the beginner, it is also very usable as a simple database for small businesses and for many home needs.  A step-by-step tutorial walks you through the various functions clearly, and screen prompts take care of the rest, especially for users with one disk drive.
   As a mailing list, it can sort, print and search for information by any field-including name, Zip code, or any of your own customized information codes.  The program can also do a "Zip Sort" on multiple fields within each Zip code-first by Zip code, second by last name, and third by first name.  Trying to reach people whose Zip codes you don't know?  No problem: just tell Super Mailer Plus to search by city, phone area code, or any geographical area you designate as a code.  I found this feature very useful to target people for specific events in their area.  No need to waste postage on people living too far away to attend.
   The Retrieve-by-Code feature can also be used to keep track of birthdays, anniversaries, sales contract numbers, personal interests, financial or marital status, whether or not they sent you a Christmas card last year-or any information you customize to your specific needs.  Then you can create a subfile to easily locate people according to data they have in common.
   Another helpful feature is an instant-reference listing two-letter state postal abbreviations within the United States. included is a really timesaving feature called "Auto Data Repeat." This lets the computer enter for you any data that repeats from the same field of the previous record entered.  Why type the same city name, for example, hundreds of times?
   For addresses outside the U.S., however, I found the city-state-zip code format limiting.  This can probably be gotten around by a feature that allows the user to rename any of the 8 fields and bring the "Data" field as a line of the address.  This involves a few extra steps which could be simplified by future editions simply including an extra line to accommodate other countries.  The ability to print the "Data" field as a line of the address is also useful for contacting individuals at a business address.

It can sort, print and
search for information
by any field.

   Printing can be done as a database file copy, or on labels.  The label format is preset for standard 1 " x 3-1/2 labels, but is very easily changed to any size label and spacing, from 1 to 9 lines.  The program can print labels laid out 1, 2, or 3 across on a sheet or roll of paper, depending on your printer.
   Super Mailer Plus is also a small database adaptable for many household uses.  It can help catalog your books, records or tapes (and who you lent them to), correspondence, collections, and even recipes.  The authors suggest using the special code field to sort for special ingredients, food type, season, etc.  This could be a real help when trying to cook a large meal for a group of people with different favorite foods, allergies and/or dietary needs.
   Easy to understand and customize for individual needs, this program can help you organize things you might have never thought organizable.  Its uses are as unlimited as the user's imagination.

Electronic Arts
2755 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403
(415) 571-7171
$40, 48K-disk

Reviewed by Jerry White

If you want to create music on your Atari computer, Music Construction Set (MCS) is probably the best tool available today.
   Any good music creating software provides the usual enter, edit, load, save, and play functions, but MCS offers much more.  If you have a graphic printer, MCS can graphically print sheet music.
   With most music editors, you must enter each note using the keyboard.  MCS lets you use the keyboard or a joystick.  You may also use either the Koala Pad or Atari Touch Tablet to indicate your choice of graphic icons displayed on the screen.
   You may use up to four voices in a four octave range, or choose the three voice, five octave range option.  You control the speed, volume, and sound.  MCS lets you choose from 13 different sound types.
   To help get you started, MCS comes with well written documentation and sample song files.  The documentation not only teaches you how to use the software, it also provides information on music notation.  Notes, rests, dots, ties, time signatures, sharps, flats, scales, and keys are all explained.
   The only real limitation I found is the 700 note maximum capacity.  Since the vast majority of songs require less than 700 notes, this should not be considered very important.  But it would have been nice if the documentation explained the disk data file structure.  This would be useful to those interested in playing MCS in their own programs.  In fact, that might be an interesting topic for an article in Antic.

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

Reviewed by Kevin G. Swiger

In Broderbund's new graphic adventure, you're Mac Steele, an Indiana Jones-type archeologist, searching for the fabled Mask of the Sun.  Opposing you is Francisco Roboff, a not-so-esteemed colleague.  Your companion and assistant is Raoul, a fellow archaeologist and linguist.  A major complication takes the form of a horrible rotting disease that Mac has contracted.  This can only be held off by his bottle of little white pills, with which he must never part.
   The graphics in Mask of the Sun are absolutely superb.  It's obvious that someone worked hard to produce screens of such quality.  And these aren't just pictures tacked onto a text adventure-they're a vital part of the game.  I gained nearly as much important information from the screens as I did from the text.
   Another aspect I enjoyed was the ability to enter strings of commands at once, similar to Infocom's Interlogic system.  For instance, the computer has no problem with "ENTER JEEP, THEN SEARCH, THEN GET ALL."
   While I found the game's quality generally excellent, I have one complaint.  I won't describe the particular circumstances to avoid giving anything away, but I was amazed to find a room where nothing but luck and split-second timing would succeed.  One reason I was so surprised was that, until this point, the entire game had been geared toward making you use your head.  It took a friend and me nearly three hours to get past this room.
   A minor flaw is that travel through passages is a little slow.  Other than this, I found every facet of the game at least satisfactory, and most aspects to be excellent. in fact, I can hardly wait for Mac's next adventure.  So, get to your nearest Atari dealer and buy Mask of the Sun immediately, if not sooner.

Electronic Arts
2755 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403
(415) 571-7171
$40, 48K-disk

Reviewed by George Adamson

Electronic Arts caged the year's hottest sports simulation in Julius Irving and Larry Bird Go One on One.  A role-playing match-up involving two of the biggest names in pro basketball, this game is far more than a joystick-driven cartoon fantasy.
   You assume the habits of the players -Dr. J is faster and jumps longer, while the stronger Bird is a better rebounder and outside shooter.  Programmer Eric Hammond spent hundreds of hours reviewing game films, action shots and interviewing the two stars.
   During play, the players automatically rotate their bodies to follow the hall, no matter where they are on the court.  The game's only graphics shortcoming is limited color, mostly red, white and blue against a black background.  As the game proceeds, you hear the ball bouncing, the referee's whistle, the clock buzzer, the swish of a basket and the crowd's cheers.

Game surprises include
a shattering backboard.

   With the menu, select the two player game or let the computer play as Dr. J or Bird on any of four levels.  There is an official who calls hacking, reaching in or charging, and the screen interrupts play to signal travelling and clearing.  You can also choose to play to a predetermined score or in quarters of variable length.
   Game surprises include a shattering backboard, following a hard slam.  The computer will also interrupt your play to show an "instant replay" of fancy shots.
   To win, you must have joystick dexterity and decisive thinking.  The computer supplies strengths and weaknesses of the real players, hot and cold streaks and fatigue, which is relieved by calling "time out."
   Despite the game's complexity, the disk loads in one pass and there is no annoying drive accessing during play.  This game is one Atari program worth its $40 price.


Charming graphics and music light the latest Frogger scrolling game.  The little amphibian must swim past hungry barracudas and alligators to score points and reach the pond's surface.  Points are awarded for completing the underwater, surface and airborne screens, each of which is filled with perils.
   Frogger II is a well-design joystick game.  Graphics and ease of Play are satisfying.  Two or three hours of serious play are enough to exhaust the game's possibilities.  Frogger II would probably suit younger players more than adults. - M.C.

See your retailer for prices. Atari Corp., 1265 Borregas Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94086, Phone (408) 745-2000. 16K-cartridge.

Beach-head is one of the better recent games.  Choose from four levels of difficulty and attempt to destroy the fortress of Kuhn-Lin.  To do so, you must navigate a mined passage while dodging torpedoes, or meet the enemy head-on.  If you choose the latter, you'll have to shoot at enemy fighters, sink battleships and cruisers, penetrate beachfront defenses and eventually destroy the fortress.
   You use your joystick to steer, aim and fire weapons.  The screen puts you on the deck of a ship, at the machine gun's triggers, or in similar tactical position.  There is a "realistic" response to steering a ship and an excellent correlation between joystick movement and gun aim.  The graphics and sound are fine, and the game is intricate and varied enough to provide long-term entertainment.

$34.95, Access Software., 925 East 900 South, Salt lake City, UT 84105.  Phone (801) 964-0566. 48K-disk.