Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 5 / SEPTEMBER 1985

Product Reviews


Star Micronics
200 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10166
(212) 986-6770

Reviewed by Charles Jackson

July's Antic favorably reviewed the Star SG-10, successor to the Gemini l0X. Now comes the mid-line SR-10 which is almost twice as fast, quieter, packed with features and compatible with most SG-10 software. Other SR-10 features include a good-looking "near letter quality" mode, built-in 2K buffer (expandable to 6K), reverse paper feed for super-script, ten different character sets and room for 240 user defined characters.

The rugged tractor feed assembly is hidden beneath a rear cover just behind the platen. It is invisible during normal operation.

Tractor assembly is easily bypassed for single-sheet operation, you won't have to wrestle with a stubborn "removable" tractor!

The SR-10 printhead uses a 9-wire, 9 x 11 dot configuration like the SG-l0, and both are able to print quadruple density bit image graphics.

The SR-10 is also a paper miser. You only have to advance the paper one inch from the printhead to the paper tear bar. That's only one-fifth of the space required by the Gemini l0X and SG-10.

Our one complaint about the SR-10 is that it does not use standard typewriter ribbons like the two models above. This printer requires a special $9.95 ribbon cartridge similar to those used by Epson printers.

The 244-page manual accompanying the SR-10, though poorly organized and not indexed, is both comprehensive and instructive.


Royal Software
2160 W 11th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97402
(503) 683-5361
$39.95, 48K, 2 disks

Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein

Trivia Quest has much in common with other games of the genre. Playing against an opponent, you take turns answering questions of various values and difficulty in order to gain points. Players can determine the difficulty level of their questions, making for a fairer game. However, instead of being presented in the form of a dull Graphics 0 text screen, the game incorporates the questions into a race around a game board, a la Trivial Pursuit.

Players scramble to guide three pieces-Page, Knight, and Prince-around the board from their home castle. Each turn starts with the timed Wisdom Round. The faster you answer it, the more food you earn. The more food you have, the farther you can travel across the board. The first to bring all three men around, and earn the most gold points wins.

However, there are several complications. Each square on the board can represent a different category-TV & Movies, Sports & Entertainment, History & Geography, and Miscellaneous. The square you land on determines the category of your next question. In addition, there are flashing Dragon Squares. Landing on one of these brings you into an arcade mode, where you must shoot a dragon to gain additional gold.

The graphics and animation of the board and players are first-rate, making this one of the finer boardgame to-computer translations I've seen. Unfortunately, this brings up the one feature of the game that I didn't like. You should be able to decide which of your three pieces to move each turn, based on the square it will land on. But that is impossible since the board scrolls and you can only see a small part of it at a time. On several occasions, I found that the category I landed on had no bearing on the question that came up. Also, in the games I played I've yet to see somebody succeed in killing the Dragon.

Trivia Quest comes on two double-sided disks-three sides containing question data. In addition, Royal Software sells a $24.95 Utility Disk that contains 1,000 additional questions plus a program to create your own question banks. Trivia Quest is the first trivia program to really take advantage of the special capabilities of the Atari. That by itself is enough to make it unique.


Mindscape, Inc.
3444 Dundee Road
Northbrook, IL 60062
(800) 221-9884
Illinois: (800) 942-7315
$49.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Michael Lasky

Bank Street Music Writer will not only teach you the basic concepts of music, it also enables you to write and "play" music as well.

Of course it helps if you can already read music, but that isn't a prerequisite. Included in the clear and concise 64-page documentation is an introduction to music fundamentals that will teach the most tone-deaf neophyte such basics as notes, tempo, pitch and melody.

To demonstrate finished results, Music Writer has a dozen complete pieces of music on the flip side of the disk. These range from a long excerpt from Tchaikovski's "Nutcracker Suite"' to Scott Joplin rags and "On Top of Old Smokey." This last song is used as the basis for the program's tutorial, which quickly teaches how to operate the keyboard commands and use them to start writing music.

The menu driven program exploits the Atari's four-voice POKEY chip to its fullest capability. Each separate voice can be further enhanced and customized through a secondary [OPTION] menu. The various choices on the Main Menu screen are selected by using the cursor keys. To enter music, the New Piece option is selected. The work you do is saved on a separately formatted disk created with the special MusicDOS included with Music Writer.

To write notes on the screen music "paper," you position the cursor at the line corresponding to the note you want, and press a number key. Four is a quarter note, eight is an eighth note, and so on. If you make a mistake, the program's error protection alerts you and prevents the note from being entered. Notes already entered can be erased with a touch of the [SPACE] bar.

The music you have already notated can be heard at any time simply by pushing [START]. Each of the four separate voices is highlighted in different colors as each note is played, like a follow-along bouncing ball.

The only real weakness in this elaborate but easily-learned program is that the author has unwisely chosen a hard to read crimson red for the often-used edit screen. Other than this-which can be corrected by ad-justing your TV set or monitor-the program is really worth getting keyed up about!


Strategic Simulations
883 Stierlin Road, Bldg A-200
Mountain View, CA 94043
(415) 964-1353
$59.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Dr. John Stanoch

Any wargamer will tell you that one of the most popular game subjects is the WWII Eastern Front. With the introduction of SSI's newest Atari game, Kampfgruppe, there are now eight computer wargames on the market dealing with this topic.

Kampfgruppe simulates platoon level combat from 1941 through 1945 on the Eastern Front. Each unit represents either a company or battalion of infantry, tanks, artillery, or transport vehicles. All are grouped into "combat formations."

One very strong feature of this game is that it allows players to construct their own scenarios using the whole gamut of weaponry employed by both sides during this conflict. Also, the players can create their own maps with any terrain placed on any desired square. However, there are also four widely varying historical scenarios provided for those who are not interested in building their own.

This game can be played by one, two, or even zero players. Although playing time is given as one to three hours, a new player can easily spend four or five hours playing while becoming familiar with the rules and game system. The game comes with a 23-page rulebook, a double-sided disk and a player reference data card. The scrolling map is massive, containing over 12 screens. While the background is plain black, the terrain features are rendered in high resolution color graphics. The tank silhouettes are particularly well done.

Movement on the map is across an "invisible" square grid, with units able to move horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Units are controlled by issuing keyboard input commands, assigning them each a movement or target objective. This may become tedious in larger scenarios in which each side may have more than 60 units apiece!

However, to aid the player, the game allows him to issue selected orders to an entire combat formation at a time, which may consist of 1 to 6 units. This feature speeds up the playing time considerably. After all units are given orders, the combat phase executes them. This phase is broken down into four "pulses," each representing 30 seconds of real-time. Units automatically search, select and fire at eligible targets.

During each pulse, when opposing units are in sight and range of one another, the computer lumps to that map area and displays it on the screen. The game can become quite intense as the computer skips around the map displaying key actions unfolding. Although the players have no direct control over the combat at this point, it is still very exciting to sit back and see how the battle develops.

My main criticism was that reading the rulebook was like studying a mathematics textbook abounding with formulae. These didactic explanations should have been separated from the rules proper and put into an appendix.

The game is an absolute must for any East Front devotee. But I would also recommend it to any serious wargamer. Kampfgruppe admirably simulates the flux of mobile warfare and the importance of proper use of combined arms. Together with the excitement of the combat resolution, this makes the game well worth the hefty price.

Guidebook for Winning Adventurers

by David and Sandy Small
Baen Enterprises
810 W. 36th Street
New York, NY 10018
339 pages, paperbound

Reviewed by Scott Lewis

Are you frustrated from repeatedly dying in the desert or disintegrating in outer space? Are you sick of mocking messages written by smart-aleck programmers with obviously twisted minds and the sick desire to humiliate others? Or are you merely running out of places to hide your hint books when friends come to call?

If any of the above descriptions fit you, now might be time to buy The Guidebook for Winning Adventurers A good introduction to text adventures, this book provides specific tips and hints about six of the most popular Infocom games, Zork 1,11 and III, Enchanter, Infidel, and Planetfall.

The hints are all written in a simple code (b=a,c=b,a=z, etc.) so you won't accidentally see more clues than you need. The hints themselves are very good, progressing from a gentle nudge in the right direction to quite specific statements. Maps to the games are at the back of the book.

Lessons on winning methods of play are also offered. Mapping is covered in great detail and there is an interesting description of the programming techniques behind text adventures.

The authors are obviously dedicated and enthusiastic players of text adventures, and bring much of this enthusiasm to their book. Unfortunately, the text is not especially well-written and extracting the valuable information it contains can sometimes take a lot of effort.

In the end, though, the insights and help gained are well worth the exertion required. And ten bucks is little enough to pay, if it means not dying in that blasted desert again!


by David Heller and John Johnson
Addison-Wesley Publishing
Jacob Way
Reading, MA 01867
236 pages, paperbound

Reviewed by Suzanne Clupper

Dr. Wacko Presents Atari BASIC and the Whiz-Bang Miracle Machine-to give the book's full name-is the latest in the well-known series of humorous but thorough introductions to BASIC programming for various computer brands.

The mythical Dr. Wacko introduces each Atari BASIC concept with plenty of examples to type in and try. Because so much is covered, no subject is treated with great depth. But there's more than enough to start out beginning programmers. Occasionally the humor becomes a bit much, but if you don't mind non-stop horrible puns, this is a good book to introduce you to the fundamentals of BASIC for the Atari 400/800, XL's and XE.

First we meet the keyboard, cursor movement, entering and editing text. Next come simple programming statements such as PRINT and REM, with examples to try in immediate mode.

This brings us to the real meat of BASIC, introducing variables, functions, strings, loops, subroutines and arrays-a tall order for one chapter. The chapter, called "The Great White Expanse," leads you on a quest through the desert from one oasis to another. At each oasis several new concepts are introduced.

There is so much information in this chapter that you even have to make sure you read all the cartoons in the margins, or else you might miss some necessary information. Another thing you might easily miss is the discussion of how to store and retrieve programs. It's in Appendix B, not the most likely place you'd expect to find such vital data.

A graphics chapter discusses screen pixels and then introduces graphics modes and the statements used to control them. The short chapter on sound explains the SOUND command and the concept of changing sounds by varying the pitch and volume.

The last chapter discusses programming style. The method given is to break down a problem into steps or modules, and then program each module separately. This method is commonly used by advanced programmers and makes it possible to test and debug a program while you are writing it.

Appendices at the end of the book cover Error Messages, ATASCII codes, (numeric values for each character produced by the Atari), PEEK and POKE accessing of memory locations, and a display chart of the different graphics and text modes.


by Michael S. Tomczyk
Compute! Publications, Inc
P0. Box 5406
Greensboro, NC 27403
(919) 275-9809
301 pages, paperbound, 1984

Reviewed by Scott Lewis

The Home Computer Wars is a must read for any dedicated Atari fan. An insider's story of Commodore's successes in the home computer market, this book gives a detailed portrait of the current head of Atari, Jack Tramiel. It also provides a succinct analysis of the problems that haunted Atari during its transition from game machines to computers.

Much of the book is devoted to describing Jack Tramiel's business philosophy, referred to as "The Religion." The central tenet of this creed is, "Business is like war." Near the end of the book, the difference between the old and the new Atari is summed up by one insider: "Warner Communications likes to do things right. Jack likes to do things that work."

There are many more hints of what Tramiel might have in store for Atari hidden away in this book. To give one concrete example: During his first job interview with Tramiel, Tomczyk told him, "Your user manuals look like they're mimeographed. Apple has a two-color, spiral-bound booklet." At Antic just the other day we unpacked our first l30XE. The accompanying user booklet was printed in red and black, and, yes, it was spiral-bound.

Welcome to Home Computer War II.


Avalon Hill
4517 Harford Road
Baltimore, MD 21214
(301) 254-9200
$30, 48K disk

Reviewed by Dr John Stanoch

I was suffering from wargame "combat fatigue" when a friend told me about Avalon Hill's Computer Title Bout.

In this game of professional boxing, one or two players assume the roles of fight managers and decide what strategy their fighters should use in each round. As in real life boxing, victory is achieved by knocking Out or outpointing the opponent in a 10,12 or 15 round match.

One of the two disks contains the main game program and the other has data files for over 500 historical boxers, flyweights to heavyweights. You can also create your own fighter.

One night, I treated myself to a card that matched Sugar Ray Leonard against Roberto Duran, Chuck "Bleeder" Wepner vs. Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano vs. Muhammad Ali. . . all in their prime! Each fighter is rated in some 20 categories such as aggressiveness, endurance, defense, hitting value, and effectiveness when facing a boxer or slugger. Fighters are controlled by issuing them a fighting "order" at the beginning of a round.

This order consists of a single number and letter. First is the strategy such as fighting inside, fighting outside, covering up and going for the knockout. Each strategy type can be used by a fighter only a limited number of times during the match. If the fighter is issued a strategy type more frequently than allowed, the computer will change it to NO STRATEGY.

The second part of the order is the fighter's attitude, ranging from an all-out attack to an all-out retreat. After the orders are given by both sides, the screen flashes to the execution phase in which the boxing ring is displayed. The fighters, ring and referee are portrayed in stick figures.

The time remaining in each three minute round and the round number are shown in the upper comers of the screen. At the bottom of the screen there is a two-line text window which lists what a particular fighter is saying and what type of punch he is throwing. A fighter may say, "You are my punchbag" or "Feel this pain" as he delivers a combination. The next moment, an opponent may retort with "Your mama" and a right uppercut.

In this phase, both players have no direct control over their fighters, and must, as any real life manager, "watch "from ringside and shout encouragements.

This game gives you the excitement and challenge of real professional boxing without the crowds, noise or blood. I immensely enjoyed the tactical options, easy rules, and huge array of fighters to chose from. Computer Title Bout is definitely a sleeper of the year.


Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Rd., Building A-200
Mountain View, CA 94043
(415) 964-1200
40K disk, 32K cassette

Reviewed by Robert Fox

Battle of Shiloh is an interesting war simulation that plays well, but falls short of being memorable. The game re-enacts the well-known Civil War battle, pitting the Union armies of Ulysses S. Grant against Confederate armies commanded by General Albert Johnston. Both sides use infantry and artillery units to gain control of Pittsburgh Landing-the key to winning the campaign.

The scenario is intriguing, and Shiloh possesses many attributes that further enhance its playability. Players can take command of either side and alter the relative strength of the armies from what they historically possessed. 'Terrain is important and troop movements require careful planning. SSI was wise in making Shiloh a one-or-two player game, since two players can initiate more spirited and unpredictable battles than those of the computer.

Shiloh does, however, have several weaknesses. The graphics are murky, making it difficult to distinguish between forest, field and hilly terrain. The computer calculates a simple random loss factor for each skirmish. This means that a surrounded and heavily outgunned army can still inflict unrealistically heavy losses on its adversaries! The main disappointment, though, is in the game's complete lack of sound, a feature that could have contributed greatly to the player's enjoyment.

Overall, Battle of Shiloh has good documentation and consistent game play, but lacks the extra creative effort that might have made it a classic.


Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Rd, Bldg. A-200
Mountain View, CA, 94043
$39.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Dr John Stanoch

Think of fighting in the 'Age of Sail" and you envision majestic vessels moving gracefully over a balmy sea beneath a canopy of flowing white sail. But these beautiful ships were really lethal war machines bristling with the most advanced weaponry of the day. With SSI's Broadsides, you can experience the tension and challenge of wind-powered warfare. Broadsides places one or two players at the helm of "tall ships" around the latter part of the 18th century. Victory is achieved by sinking, capturing, or outscoring the opposing ship within 12 hours of game-time. (In real-world time, an average game lasts 30 minutes or less.)

There are three levels of play: the arcade version, the boarding screen only version, and the full tactical game that encompasses all the rules and options available.

Two of the screens are sailing modes, one at 2,400 yards across, the other at 600 yards across. They depict a topdown view of both ships with the wind direction and velocity, score and screen scale displayed at the bottom. The boarding screen is displayed when the two ships are grappling.

To the side of the playfield is a silhouette of each ship with its damage, maximum and current speed, number of remaining guns and sails. Ships are controlled via joystick or keyboard when on a sailing screen, and by only keyboard commands during grappling.

One of the outstanding characteristics of this game is the graphic details. For example, when a salvo misses the opposing ship a water spout is displayed. Crewmen fall when hit by sniper fire, during sword-play the clash of steel is heard in the background. The ship's sails become increasingly riddled as they take damage.

The speed of play can be changed anytime while on the sailing screen. This allows a new player to slow the game down. Advanced players are given the option of designing their own ships from stem to stern. Eleven historic scenarios are provided with the game the player may change any of these parameters too. One of the few faults I can find is that nowhere in the rules is the effect of wind direction and velocity on the play of the game explained. Any captain of that age had to thoroughly understand the proper use of the wind in order to defeat an enemy ship. While playing the game, I found that the speed of a ship drops to zero knots when it's turned into the wind.

There is only one ship per side, so this game does not simulate large fleet action. However, the superb graphics succeed overwhelmingly in providing a realistic and playable simulation of a duel between two wooden ships. I recommend Broadsides to any computer gamer.


17 Paul Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 479-1170
$19.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Scot Lewis

A 19th century wit once remarked that the entire tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was not equal to the story of a cat in heat. Alter playing Alley Cat you might very well end up agreeing with him.

As Freddy, an alley cat seeking the love, etc, of fair Felicia, you must run a gauntlet of obstacles to even come within kissing range.

First of all, you have to get into the Catalina Condominiums, Felicia's residence. Jumping through the windows is difficult enough, what with an angry dog and a stool-pigeon tramp of a cat lurking below. But once inside your ordeal has just begun.

Depending on which room you jump into (a completely random factor), you may be asked to catch four mice in a huge piece of cheese, drink the milk right out from under the noses of six sleeping dogs, or dive into a bowl of water and eat twelve goldfish without touching the bluely evanescent electric eels.

The graphics are really superb. Concentrating on the everyday (well, almost) instead of bizarre occurrences in outer space, Bill Williams has created a challenging and interesting game with something of a storybook quality to it. Each new graphics scenario is a pleasure to see, and the animation of Freddy himself is completely first-rate. Freddy's main method of getting about is jumping, and owners of kittens will be pleasantly surprised by Williams' realistic duplication of "cat-in-flight."

The game has several difficulty levels, and becomes automatically harder as you continue playing. Score is kept for you, but it doesn't really seem to matter. Alley Cat is simply a lot of fun to play!