Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 12 / APRIL 1986


ST reviews

Commnet Systems
7348 Green Oak Terrace
Lanham, MD 20706
(301) 552-2517
Reviewed by John Kosiorek

ST-TERM software provides a host of useful features for 520ST telecommunications, including three popular file transfer methods and fully controllable RS-232 settings. At $39.95, ST-TERM is a good value-particularly when used with a Hayes-compatible modem.
   ST-TERM offers VT52 terminal emulation in a program with similarities to the design and flow of AMODEM for the 8-bit Atari. This program makes appropriate use of the [HELP], [UNDO] and Function keys, but the lack of color, GEM icons and mouse control result in drab-looking screens.
   The documentation consists of 20 well-organized pages. Among ST-TERM's features are full control of the RS-232 configuration including host remote echoing and six baud rates from 300 to 9600, 16K buffer for toggled capture, printer logging and three file transfer protocols. Files can be transferred by Kermit; XMODEM with unlimited file size; in standard and AMODEM dialects; or ASCII format with user control of delays between characters and lines, and optional line prompting.
   In addition, ST-TERM utilizes files for initial RS-232 settings, defining macro function keys and-for Hayes compatible modems-a 400-entry autodialer with the ability to reconfigure the RS-232 port.
   Each autodialer entry has fields for name, number, baud, data bits, stop bits, parity, password, account number and comments. Fields are provided for timers and billing rates-which are to be utilized in upcoming version 2.0. TOS disk functions are also available from within the program. Throughout the command menu system, each screen displays the valid choices. After you become familiar with the commands, you can enter most of them without going to the main menu.
   ST-TERM is installed as a TOS-Takes Parameter application. When loading the program, a setup file can be entered to set the initial values for the macros and the RS-232 port.
   When the program is running in terminal mode, pressing the [HELP] key displays the main menu from which all commands can be entered, either as a direct command or through a series of secondary menus.
   For example, if you type [A] at the main menu the first 10 entries of the [A]utodial directory are displayed. At this point you can edit any of those entries, page through the directory, or select a number to dial.
   The account number and password of an autodialed entry are transmitted once a connection is made. When a number is autodialed, the RS-232 port is re-configured to that entry's specifications. Through the use of the autodialer and macros, only four keystrokes can sign you off a 7-bit, even parity, 300 baud CompuServe session and connect you to an 8-bit, no parity, 1200 baud BBS.
   Utilizing the 10 Function keys along with the [ALTERNATE] key, ST-TERM provides 20 macros storing as many as 60 characters each. The macros are stored in setup files. By loading a different setup file, macro sets could be customized for different terminal sessions.
   While there are no GEM interface bells-and-whistles, many little touches make the program enjoyable to use. For example, all file transfers start transmission with an [ALTERNATE] [T] key entry. All editing is accomplished with the same keys, regardless of the data being entered-macros, autodialer or disk functions. If you accidentally press the [UNDO] key- which will exit the program-you are asked, "Exit, Are you sure?". This is certainly one appropriate time for the much overused confirmation request.
   The manual warns against selecting any printer function when a printer is not online. The ST's operating system waits for the printer to respond and the result is computer lock-up. (Actually, there is a BIOS call that will check for device availability The software, not the computer, is at fault here for not checking to see if the printer is there. -ANTIC ED)
   The 520ST is a very powerful computer. It would be nice to have modem software that takes advantage of more of its features. ST-TERM version 2.0 promises various improvements that are not currently included-such as connect timers and a billing calculator.
   Also, having an autodialer with 400 entries almost requires some form of automated search capability beyond the current method that merely displays 10 entries at a time. In addition, the main menu or a status screen could display all the current RS-232 settings and translation modes, making it easy to scan this data if things aren't going right.
   The ST-TERM disk is copy-protected but Commnet Systems will provide a backup disk for $10.

Polarware/Penguiri Software
P.O. Box 311
Geneva, IL 60134
(312) 232-1984
$34.95 each

Reviewed by Mike Fleischmann

In Transylvanla you are a brave traveler journeying to Transylvania to search for the king's daughter who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. You receive a letter from King John (in your program documentation) asking for your help, as well as a business card from Zin the Wizard and a page from the local newspaper.
   Beginning your trek at an ancient stump, you are almost immediately confronted by the land's monstrous inhabitants. There are bats, floating figures, voices from nowhere, strange forces, witches-and an annoying werewolf that incessantly hounds you (excuse the pun) until you find a way to dispose of it.
   Now, in The Crimson Crown (Further Adventures In Transylvaala) you are once again a bold adventurer. But this time the king has died and the evil vampire has taken his magic crown. You must somehow find the crown and get it back before the vampire learns of its magical powers and bends them to his will.
   In this adventure you have two traveling companions, Eric the Crown Prince and the Princess Sabrina. Each has a definite role to play in the adventure, but it is up to you to find out what those roles are and to use them to succeed in your quest.
   Included with your disk is a full color poster, a map of the countryside, a journal, and a sealed parchment. Do not open the parchment! In the game there are definite instructions for what to do with the parchment and you lose some of the fun when you peek early.
   You start the game on the shore of a lake, but soon fall into a trap. It seems as if the entire land is out to get you!
   You will also see some old familiar places and animals from the earlier Transylvania adventure. I found that this gave Crimson Crown a nice feeling of continuity. But you don't need to have played the previous adventure to enjoy this one.
   Crimson Crown is a riddler's delight. At least four major riddles need to be solved. Also, during your journeys you will occasionally come across a hooded sage who gives you cryptic hints-more riddles, of course-about how to solve the adventure.
   Of the two adventures, I would rate Transylvania as easy-to-medium. Crimson Crown is definitely harder-especially if you have trouble with riddles, as I do.
   The graphics are good in both programs but Crimson Crown's screens are somewhat superior. Nevertheless, both adventures contain colorful, atmospheric and well-detailed pictures. In one screen, there is even a small spider on a web that is clear and distinct.
   Both Transylvania and Crimson Crown use an interpretive parser called "Comprehend" which allows use of full sentence commands and has a vocabulary of over 1,000 words. I found Comprehend easy to use. It understood what I wanted to do about 80 percent of the time-which meant that I wasted very little time rephrasing my instructions so the programs could understand them.
   The adventures are not without their flaws. The worst is probably the text scroll. When there is enough text to fill the area at the bottom of the screen, the program waits for you to press the mouse button or a key. I often found myself typing in commands twice.
   Also, if you try to type while the text is being put on the screen, the type-ahead buffer captures only a few characters randomly. This annoyed me at first, but I soon adapted and the problem became only a minor inconvenience. In all fairness, when running the programs in text mode, covering ground you are familiar with, you don't experience this problem.
   Crimson Crown has a few logic flaws. As an example, I had been trying to get some flies to feed a hungry frog. In a cellar, when I felt the ceiling, I had bugs raining down on me, but I couldn't get any to feed the frog with.
   The programs let you save as many as four games on the game disk, so you don't have to constantly switch disks. Also the company is supportive. You can get a free book of hints just by writing in.
   Overall I think these two programs are worth the money and quite enjoyable to play. Even my wife (who is no adventure fan) liked the pictures and enjoyed the text.

Bay View Software
177 Webster Street, A-295
Monterey, CA 93940
(408) 373-4011

Reviewed by Sol Guber

Why buy a computer Scrabble game? Well, it's fun to test your wits and vocabulary against the 520ST. And maybe you have trouble finding opponents at your own level.
   Word for Word is a Scrabble-type game that even lets you design your own boards. It is almost completely mouse-driven and can be played by as many as four people simultaneously. Or the ST can take on three human opponents-at three different levels.
   The board used for the game can be a normal Scrabble board with squares that double or triple the value of letters or words. There are also bonus squares that increase the value of a letter by a fixed amount.
   The computer plays at three levels-beginner, intermediate, and advanced. And it thinks "out loud." You can see the words and their placement on the board as the ST considers its move. At the beginner level, the software plays a mediocre game and can easily be beaten. (Note:   this is the reviewer's opinion. We didn't find the beginners level all that easy!-ANTIC ED) At the intermediate level, the computer plays well. At the advanced level, the fun really starts.
   Word for Word can help increase your vocabulary. You can let the computer suggest words for you, using your letters. This will teach you some new (and often arcane) words.
   Another vocabulary booster is based upon the rule of Scrabble that lets you challenge your opponent as to the validity of his words. This option is built into Word for Word. The computer can challenge one of your words and vice versa. The computer has a 50K dictionary built into the system. However, it cheats! Every so often in the advanced version, it will throw in a bogus word. I do not feel that this is an error on the part of the programmer, but a feature to keep human players on their toes.
   You can, of course, also use made up words and when the computer challenges the word, explain that you have looked up the word in a dictionary. You do this by clicking the CORRECT box. But it takes a mighty low person to cheat a trusting 520ST.
   It's easy to use the mouse to design and save your own board layout and your own letter values and frequencies. This feature makes the game even more fun.
   For example, I always thought it was unfair to have only one high-value X. And now I regularly play with 12 Xs. This makes for a much higher-scoring game. Or you can increase the amount of letters taken by each player per turn. Add more blank tiles, lots of triple word squares and higher values for exotic letters-the whole character of the game is changed.
   Word for Word uses drop-down menus for commands, so the clear and complete manual is not really needed at all. The play is quick and exciting and uses the capabilities of the 520ST very well. The mouse is used to good advantage both in manipulating the letters and pointing to the spot where they should go. When there are more than one human players, you can hide your words from the other person when you take your turn.
   My only complaint is that Word for Word came from an IBM PC version, and there is not a word in the manual about the ST. Otherwise, this is a good, solid version of a board classic.

125 Cambridge Park Drive
Cambridge, MA 02140
(617) 492-6000

Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein

As any longtime reader of Antic probably knows by now, I have been an avid Infocom text-adventure freak ever since I bought my Atari 810 disk drive and Zork I on the same day Thus it was with great anticipation that I greeted A Mind Forever Voyaging-Infocom's first 128K-minimum game and its first original release for the ST Written by the venerated Steve Meretzky, whose previous credits include Planetfall, AMFV is the most original game to come out of the Infocom stables in ages.
   The game begins in the year 2031, when you make the shocking discovery that your life and memories until now are just electronically implanted delusions-that you are actually a sophisticated computer known as PRISM! The reason for revealing your true origin is somewhat sinister. Society is on the verge of collapse, so the ruling powers have instituted the Plan-a complex series of sociopolitical steps designed to put civilization back on the right course. Your job is to enter a series of simulations-10, 20, 30 years into the future-in order to test the long-term effects of the Plan. But what is the Plan, and who is really behind it? Is the Plan truly a boon to mankind, or does it need to be stopped? And if so, how can it be stopped? Answering these questions becomes the ultimate goal of A Mind Forever Voyaging.
   As expected, AMFV makes no use of the GEM interface and contains the usual Inocom parser, only larger. Command structure is actually twofold. In the early parts of the game, you cannot move or pick up objects- don't forget, you are a computer. Instead you can enter different "modes" allowing you to tie into a worldwide news service, communicate with human beings, review your own message banks, or even interface with other terminals. In this manner, AMFV is very much like Suspended. Once in-side the simulations, however, it becomes a standard adventure.
   AMFV is considerably more open-ended than your average text adventure. You can wander almost anywhere, and you don't get killed (at least not that I've discovered). The bad news is that this game continues the trend started with Cutthroats and Hitchiker's Guide-if you don't do the right thing at the right time, everything comes to a standstill. Oh, you can walk around, all right, but nothing happens to advance the story and the other characters can't be found. At least with a locked door you have some idea of what to try next.
   The expanded memory of the ST allows for one of the nicest upgrades of the Infocom parser-the "oops" command. If, like me, your mind works faster than your fingers, you might type something like "Unlock the doob." Rather than retype the whole command, simply typing oops door" will correct it. Nifty!
   A Mind Forever Voyaging is an essential addition to the library of any ST owner who loves Infocom games as much as I do. Whatever else they may have in the works for 128K-minimum computers will have to go a long way to beat this.

New Products
Rising Star Industries has announced the first of what will apparently he a series of software development utility packages. Resource Disk-Volume 1 ($79.95) contains a command line interpreter called COMMAND.PRG that's similar to the interpreter in the Developer's Toolkit. The disk also contains a modem program, a file comparison utility and other goodies.

Rising Star Industries, 25500 Hawthorne Boulevard, Suite 2000, Torrance, CA 90505. (213) 373-9112. PRESS.

Activision's Hacker ($44.95), demonstrated at COMDEX, has reached the Antic offices in final form. Nice graphics. A real improvement over the 8-bit version. We're still awaiting Borrowed Time ($49.95) and Mindshadow (no price at press time).

Activision, P.O. Box 7286, Mountain View, CA 94043. (415)960-0410. FINAL/PRESS.

After all the publicity on Brataccas ($44.95), it's nice to see that the game has made it into the marketplace. From Psygnosis LTD, this sci-fi animated graphics epic includes very nice packaging and a bonus poster by Roger Dean.

Distributed in U.S. by Apex Resources, 17 St. Mary's Court, Brookline, MA 12146. (617) 232-9686. FINAL.

Polarware/Penguin Software has more graphics adventure games coming. The Coveted Mirror, Frank and Ernest's Adventure, and Oo-Topos are all currently in development. Prices are not yet available. Oo-Topos is a space-pirate adventure hy Michael Berlyn of Infocom fame. We can't wait.

Polarware/Penguin Software, 830 Fourth Avenue, RO. Box 311, Geneva, IL 60134, (312) 232-1984. PRESS.

In what is hopefully the continuation of a recent trend, another Macintosh developer is announcing software for the ST Assimilation, Inc. has officially announced the development of four software applications/utilities and two hardware products. The company, which has not yet named the new ST products, created a macro-key programmer and a printer spooler for the Mac. Also in the works is an ST version of their successful Macintosh Turbo Touch-a trackhall-like device-for the ST.

Assimilation, Inc., 485 Alberto Way, Los Gatos, CA 95030. (408) 395-7679. PRESS.

Firestorm ($15) is a new arcade game from inner fire software. Written entirely in 68000 machine language, Firestorm features a three-track music sequencer, smooth colorful animation and 19 levels of multiple rounds. User groups ordering 10 or more copies of the game directly from inner fire will pay only $10. The company has also announced that the complete source code for the game, music sequencer and custom graphics drivers is available for $100.

inner fire software, P.O. Box 36503, #259, San Jose, CA 95158. PRESS.

Monarch Development has created a Shape & Icon Editor for the ST called SHICED ($19.95). This programmer's utility should help you customize your icons. It can also be used to create small graphics shapes to be manipulated by your programs.

Monarch Development, 3927 Fisher Road N.E., Salem, OR 97305. FINAL.

For those game players with monochrome monitors, The Other Valley Software presents Monkey Business and Delta Patrol ($24.95 each). Delta Patrol is a helicopter arcade blaster and Monkey Business bears a marked resemblance to the classic Donkey Kong.

The Other Valley Software, 8540 Archibald, Suite A, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730. (714) 980-0440. FINAL.

Holmes & Duckworth, the unusual programming duo from Mirage Concepts, have thrown their hats into the ST language arena with Holmes & Duckworth Forth ($39.95). This is an 83-standard Forth which is fully relocatable with a 32-hit stack and full GEM access. The language was used hy Holmes & Duckworth to develop their ST Toolbox ($39.95) utilities.

Mirage Concepts, 4055 W. Shaw, #108, Fresno, CA 93711. (209) 227-8369. FINAL.

Ultima II ($59.95), one of the most popular fantasy role-playing games in the 8-bit market, has been translated to the ST The popular Lord British adventure sits in GEM with full drop-down menus, from which you may choose your armor, weapons, or make other Life-and-death decisions. (See this issue's review of another Sierra On-Line ST graphics adventure, King's Quest II.)

Sierra On-Line, Coarsegold, CA 93614. (209) 683-6858. FINAL.

The anxiously awaited final installment of the Enchanter trilogy, from Infocom, is here. Spellbreaker ($44.95) concludes the fantasy text adventures which began with Enchanter and continued through Sorcerer. All three are very close relatives to the famed ZORK trilogy. Spellbreaker is rated up there in the 'expert" category by Infocom. So all you Infocom freaks should find this a real challenge.

Infocom, 125 Cambridge Park Drive, Cambridge, MA 02140. (617) 492-6000. FINAL.

New ST product notices are compiled from information provided by the products' manufacturers. Antic assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of these notices or the performance of the product. Each mention is followed by a code word indicating that, at press time, Antic had seen a FINAL marketable version, near-final BETA, earlier ALPHA, incomplete DEMO, or PRESS release.