Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 9 / JANUARY 1986

Product Reviews

Kennedy Approach Screen Image KENNEDY APPROACH
MicroProse Software
120 Lakefront Drive
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
(301) 667-1151
$29.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Charles Jackson

Kennedy Approach is a realtime air traffic control simulation that will leave you breathing hard. As a controller; you're solely responsible for the safety of all flights within your control zone. You'll be kept busy handling control zones at some of the highest traffic airports in the U.S., dealing with aircraft which fly at different speeds and in-flight emergencies. If you're working at New York Center or Washington Center; you'll also have to handle the Concorde SST!

MicroProse hired several Air Traffic Controllers from New York and Baltimore to ensure that Kennedy Approach would be as realistic as possible. For example, the screen duplicates state-of-the-art radar displays used in modern air traffic control centers, and the rules of play closely parallel the Federal Air Regulations observed by real air traffic controllers.

Kennedy Approach even sounds realistic. Each time you communicate with a pilot, both sides of the conversation are "broadcast" through your monitor's speaker. The simulation uses a software voice synthesizer to achieve this very realistic effect.

Halley Project Screen Image HALLEY PROJECT
Mindscape, Inc.
3444 Dundee Road
Northbrook, IL 60062
(312) 480-7667
$44.95, 48K disk

Review by David Plotkin

As a long-time astronomy buff, I was eagerly looking forward to Mindscape's Halley Project, a game that simulates flight through our solar system. I found Halley Project to be a complex and interesting program, although I suspect it may be too difficult and time-consuming for many users.

Each mission in Halley Project starts and finishes at a secret base on Halley's comet. Therefore, the comet is really lairly incidental to the program, since the base could have been located anywhere in space. The objective of a mission is fairly straight-forward – travel from Halley's Comet to a series of destinations, then return to the comet. Each successful return to the comet increases your rank. When you achieve the rank of Starbird, you are rewarded with a secret code number which can be mailed to Mindscape for details on some spectacular final mission.

Succeeding at a mission is quite complicated. The first order of business is to figure out what your destination is. This can be as simple as "Go to Earth" or as obscure as a series of hints such as "Go to a moon with an atmosphere." Often the hints can apply to more than one destination. It is then up to you to choose the one that would get you the highest score (it's closest to your present position).

Once you have decided on a destination, you have to find it. Navigating the heavens is no piece of cake in Halley Project! A "radar" screen shows the sun and planets. It is up to you to decide which of the points on the radar map is the planet you want to go to. For example, if you want to go to Earth, you must count to the third point from the sun, Of course, this assumes you know what order the planets are in!

Moons do not show on the radar map. You must go to the planet that the moon circles. Having selected your destination on the map, you now need to find its distance from your present position and choose the correct direction. Distance is easier than direction. Around the edge of the radar map are the names of the twelve constellations (Gemini, Taurus, etc.). The destination planet is in the direction of a particular constellation.

You must return to the main screen and turn your ship with the joystick while watching the scrolling stars until you recognize the right constellation. Then you accelerate in that direction, jumping into "hyperspace" if the distance to be traveled is great.

When you jump out of hyperspace, you may well have to go through this whole procedure again. But you should be able to find your target and move to within 100,000 kilometers of the planet or the appropriate moon. A "planet finder" window on your main screen will identify the targets as they get close.

The toughest part of the whole simulation is locating a landing site. The documentation simply tells you to orbit the planet and wait for the planet finder to indicate that a landing site is available. But orbiting is not explained, and I was finally forced to call Mindscape to find out how to orbit the planet.

You must tap your joystick foward and then right or left, to establish an orbit velocity around the planet. The planet will move out of your finder; so you must keep it in the finder by moving your joystick with the button pressed. This adjusts your viewing angle, and does not change your speed or direction. If you think it is confusing to be looking in a different direction from where you are going, you are right.

You must also watch your distance from the target. If you don't, you may move out of the range of the landing detector or crash into the surface, which assesses a penalty. If your distance gets out of line, you'll need to stop moving, realign your ship, and try again.

Halley Project has many nice features. The destination planet can often be spotted in a constellation by noticing an extra "star" which doesn't show on the included star map. As you get closer you may see this "star" move, which indicates that it is really a planet!

Astronomical distances are well handled by the "hyperspace" device which, though unrealistic, certainly moves things along. The ship is easy to pilot, it's even equipped with landing brakes which make a squealing sound when you apply them. The graphics, while rather uninspired, are adequate. In particular; planets and moons tend to be featureless.

The graphics of the planet surfaces are quite nice, although the surface of Tethys (a moon of Saturn) looks just like the sun-baked surface of Mercury. The planets do go through dark and light cycles. It can be quite disconcerting to be within 20,000 kilometers of Venus and not be able to see it except where it blocks out a star. Finally, the moons throw a shadow on the planet they circle when they pass in front of it.

The game has a couple of sound cues that could have been handled better. As you accelerate towards the speed of light, an alarm sounds and you automatically enter hyperspace. However, sometimes you may want to stay just under the speed of light for a particular voyage – and the alarm continues to sound.

Also, when you approach a planet or moon and get within 100,000 kilometers, a pitter-patter alarm starts. As you may have to orbit the planet for some time before a landing zone appears, this warning can drive you to distraction. The obvious solution of turning down the TV volume leaves you without some critical sound prompts for the landing zone.

The Halley Project is interesting at first. But I suspect that only a few players will ever finish the multitude of missions required to discover the final mission. There is an awful lot of work required for the rewards being offered.

Infocom, Inc
125 Cambridge Park Drive
Cambridge, MA 02140
(617) 492-6000
$34.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein

Welcome to Festeron, a quaint little hamlet somewhere on the New England coast. This is a real nice place to bring up your kids. Except...

Except that Festeron has its dark side – a mirror-image town known as Witchville where Evil rules, Magick abounds, and the Elder Gods dwell. Even your boss Mr. Crisp, the town postmaster; is now the....well, the less said the better.

This is where the action takes place in Wishbringer, the latest in a long line of excellent text adventure games from Infocom. As the game begins, it is up to you to deliver a mysterious letter to the old woman who runs Ye Olde Magick Shoppe at the outskirts of town.

Once she gets the letter, you are suddenly thrust into Witchville with an important and dangerous mission – rescue the old woman's cat, which has been kidnapped by a sorceress known only as The Evil One. Your only aid is the power of the stone known as Wishbringer. Once you find it, you will be granted as many as seven wishes to aid you in your quest.

In many ways, Wishbringer can be seen as a successor to Sorcerer and Enchanter. Wishes take the place of spells, of course. But your seven wishes only work if you have a proper item in your possession. In addition, each wish can be used only once, so it is critical that you not misuse or waste one.

According to Infocom, for every puzzle that can be solved with a wish, a logical solution exists. The game could be concluded without using any wishes at all. Well, if anybody has gotten past the Hellhound without using a wish, please write me care of Antic and tell me how it's done.

Wishbringer is Infocom's second attempt at an introductory level adventure, and as such it is considerably more successful than last year's Seastalker. Although written for novices, the prose is not in the least juvenile. Veteran adventure game players will not be challenged at all, although they will enjoy the story line, the wit and the inside jokes. Be sure to open the mailbox next to the white house.

And there is the challenge to earn a perfect score by completing the game sans wishes. But most of all, Wishbringer is an excellent attempt to bring new blood into the fold – those who previously have been unable or unwilling to get the most out of Infocom's finest. If you've been curious about Infocom text adventure games but never actually took the plunge, Wishbringer is the game for you.

Mind Shadow Screen Image MIND SHADOW
P.O. Box 7287
Mountain View, CA 94039
(415) 940-6044
$34.95, 64K disk

Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein

Mindshadow is a nice, old-fashioned graphic adventure game. You awake on a deserted island with a headache and no recollection of who you are or how you got there. The first (and most intriguing) puzzle in the game is finding your way off the island.

If you escape, Mindshadow takes you through the streets of Luxemburg and London on a quest after your own identity. After you pick up enough clues, you "think" them over. If you have been successful, you get to read a newspaper account of your own recent history.

There are several areas in which the hype for Mindshadow exceeds the reality. The parser is claimed to be state-of-the-art and supposedly understands prepositions like "the" or "a." So if you try a command like "sit down," the game responds with "You can't sit a down."

However, Mindshadow does contain one unique feature – macros. By pressing [SHIFT] along with a key from 1-6, you can call up frequently used commands – drop, load game, save game, etc. These are not reprogrammable, but do save typing time.

The documentation recommends paying close attention to the graphics, as not everything is mentioned in the text. That's fine, except sometimes it takes a Sherlock Holmes to figure out what is being pictured. I finished the game, and I still don't know what the Doctor is holding (a scalpel? monkey wrench? tire iron?).

There is also a serious bug that should have been eliminated before this game was turned loose. After anchoring the pirate ship, you will be prompted to turn the disk over. Go ahead and you will see the Queen's Navy. But be sure and flip the disk again before moving (although you are not prompted to) or you will crash the game and have to re-boot. It took two disks from Activision before I realized this was not just a fluke.

Despite the merchandising claims, Mindshadow is not state-of-the-art. But it's not a bad game either; just ordinary and a bit dated.

Twirlybird Screen Image TWIRLYBIRD
Hardwood Software
4390 Provinceline Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 924-5323
$24.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Jimmy Yu

Twirlybird is an arcade game with some of the best graphics and music that I've come across in a while. It uses variable-speed, multi-directional scrolling, multiple character sets, Player/Missile graphics and display list interrupts.

Your mission is to pilot a swift little helicopter over a strange land littered with enemy defenses, and drop "Penetrons" down vents under which the enemy lurks. Meanwhile, enemy tanks and guns are trying to shoot you down and a metal-eating gas slowly fills the air.

The joystick controls your direction and speed, while the keyboard controls your altitude and the type of bomb you drop, and freezes the game. You can fly the helicopter anywhere inside a large, high-resolution, scrolling landscape of about 3 by 5 screens, which is different each game.

Helicopter movement is done superbly. There are 32 rotation positions in a full circle, plus about 10 speeds. The helicopter itself is animated with whirling rotors.

By pushing the joystick button, you can drop bombs or Penetrons. There are many objects on the ground which can be shot at for points – trees, moving tanks, bazookas, radar dishes, and laser pads.

The higher your helicopter flies, the longer the bombs take to drop and the harder it is to hit anything. However; when flying at high altitudes, your helicopter is damaged much less from the enemy shells, and you can fly over the "force-field" walls that always seem to be in your way.

When hit, you do not automatically die, but instead accumulate damage points. For example, if your bomb launchers are damaged, you will only be able to shoot one bomb at a time. Enough damage, of course, results in your demise.

If you succeed in destroying all the vents, you are treated to a colorful, animated interlude with music, and then you advance to the next level of difficulty.

This game cannot be mastered in a few hours. It takes plenty of flight time to become dextrous enough to hit your targets accurately I've only made it to the second interlude.

Like almost all games, Twirlybird tends to get a bit repetitive. Also, once in a while the display list interrupts which create much of the color seem to become misaligned. However, I think you'll fmd yourself playing Twirlybird for a good long time. It's already one of my favorites!

Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Rd, Bldg. A-200
Mountain View, CA 94043
(415) 964 1200
$39.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Dr. John E. Stanoch

Boardgames of the Battle of Kursk have long been popular. One reason for the topic's interest to wargamers is its challenge for the commander of the German side. During this 1943 battle, two elite German forces attempted to encircle and destroy a much larger Russian force deployed 70 miles around the city of Kursk.

The Russians learned of these plans and prepared diligently for the offensive. They constructed a complex pattern of minefields, behind which waited dug-in troops bolstered by fresh reinforcements from the east. SSI's Objective: Kursk gives a player the opportunity to command the southern arm of the German pincer.

The computer controls the Russians in the solitaire mode. Forces are ordinarily moved as combat groups, which may contain up to five different units. These combat groups may be transferred within the same division at the start of each turn.

All movement and combat is plotted first and then carried out simultaneously. This is one of the few computer wargames in which a unit is eliminated if it attempts to retreat through an unoccupied hexagon in an enemy zone of control. Thus an enemy unit can be surrounded and destroyed rather than pointlessly pushed around the board.

The rulebook is concise, clear and only six pages long. I found that I was able to absorb most of the rules in only two readings. But I feel that a map with all of the initial unit placements should have been provided.

The game is long and might become tedious for some players. Also, the situation it accurately simulates is desperate, at best, for the German player. However, if you are like myself and many other wargamers who have tried repeatedly to win as the Germans in paper boardgame versions, you should find Objective: Kursk a welcome addition to your computer wargame library.