Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 5, NO. 10 / FEBRUARY 1987

Product Reviews

Blue Chip Software
6740 Eton Avenue
Canoga Park, CA 91303
(800) 258-3244--National
(818) 346-0730--California
Requires BASIC
$19.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by John McConnick

I bought 300 shares of IBM and 10 call options on Exxon. My charts showed that General Motors looked good in view of the earnings projections in news reports, so I bought 200 shares of GM for my portfolio.

Two weeks later I had lost $50,000 and needed to sell all my shares of Dow Chemical just to pay the bills.

Some say money is the root of all evil--others claim it's the lack of money. I don't necessarily support either opinion, but I do know that the winning, losing, earning and spending of money fascinates me--much more than shooting down aliens or getting lost in mazes.

Millionaire is as much a stock market simulation as it is a game, combining real-life situations with exciting action. Millionaire and other Blue Chip Software games are so realistic that stock brokerage firms use them to train new brokers. Millionaire can either create a new game for you or restart one that you saved in progress. It also keeps track of the top scores for seven players.

I have been an active investor for years, so my interest in the game is understandable, but my wife, who has no interest in finance, still found Millionaire a most fascinating game.

You start with $10,000. Your goal is to increase this amount to $1 million through shrewd investments in 15 stocks covering computers, oil and gas, retail, auto and heavy industries (steel, chemical, machinery). You also have 14 weeks of market information for all 15 stocks, along with graphs for each industry group, and you have 77 weeks to meet your $1,000,000 goal.

As a Novice investor you can only buy stocks for cash (much like the real world), but as your profits grow and your net worth increases, you move up through the ranks of Investor, Speculator, Professional and Broker.

As your rank increases, so does your range of investment tools. Soon you can use margin purchases, or put and call options. Eventually you can even borrow up to 80 percent of the value of your assets and leverage your investments. This increases the rate at which you gain (or, more likely, lose) money.

Each week you automatically see graphs of all your investments, price and price movement information on all stocks, and news reports. You can also view graphs of every stock, or follow the activities of entire industry groups.

Purchases are easily made, with the software handling all needed calculations, telling you how many shares you can buy with available cash, and even deducting commissions and interest.

This might sound complicated to those unfamiliar with the stock market, or it might sound too simple to an investor. Believe me, neither is the case. I had great trouble tearing myself away from Millionaire once I started, and I rarely quit playing before finishing a full 77 turns. My wife said she learned more about how I invest money from playing one whole session of Millionaire than from reading the Wall Street Journal on and off for 15 years.

My only complaint is that Millionaire is slow at times-though my wife found that the program was always ready for her next move long before she'd made her decisions. Millionaire is completely menu-driven, often returning you to the main menu after completing an action when you might prefer finishing another transaction before leaving a particular area. This is really minor, though, because you can always leave the main menu again at any time.

The only tip I can offer in playing this simulation is not to pay to much attention to the news reports. Not that they aren't honest-it's just that, as in the real world, you can't always tell what will happen to a stock from the news about the company.

The only real improvement I can think of is if Blue Chip would send me a check when I win big at Millionaire. But then they'd probably want me to pay them when I lose. Oh, well, I guess using play money is probably the safest. So far all I have really lost is a fair amount of sleep.

Dresselhaus Computer Products
837 East Alosta Avenue
Glendora, CA 91740
(818) 914-5831

Reviewed by Len Dorfman

The Dots-Perfect Upgrade kit is designed for Epson's FX, JX, RX, and MX printer series. For this review, I'll divide the Dots-Perfect functions into two catagories. The first category lets you select standard Epson printer functions such as condensed print, elite and double-wide from the printer's original control panel. This is useful, but it can be simulated easily with a word processor or printer utility program that transmits the appropriate control codes to the printer.

However, one feature is so important that it deserves its own category--the Near Letter Quality (NLQ) mode. NLQ can be initiated either by software commands or by using the printer's control panel--while the Epson continues responding to its normal commands.

Although I'm familiar with software design, programming techniques and software usage, I could never disassemble computer hardware without undue anxiety. But since I recieved my Dots-Perfect Upgrade Kit on a lazy afternoon after my local Atari repair center had closed, I bravely decided to install it myself.

With some trepidation I opened the upgrade kit. The kit for my Epson JX-80 printer included a very clear installation instruction manual, three IC chips and a sticker showing the commands for the Dots-Perfect Upgrade. I removed the JX-80's cover and located the auxiliary board, using one of the manual's many photos as a guide. The chips to be changed were located below the auxiliary board and easily identified.

The manual said that rare versions of Epson printers have a jumper wire I would need to cut. I was so delighted by the ease of installation that I was actually disappointed that my JX-80 didn't have a jumper wire. A shorting block form needed to be moved, a few DIP switches flipped, and the printer was re-assembled in a few moments. I held my breath, plugged in the JX-80 and initiated the printer's self test. It worked the first time.

I returned the JX-80 to its proper place beside my Atari and printed a text file from the desktop using the condensed printing mode. Normally, I would have run a short utility program to initiate the condensed mode, but I decided to try the command sequence of the Dots-Perfect upgrade. I turned the printer on. As per instructions, I pressed and released the JX-80's On Line and FF buttons at the same time, then tapped FF, LF and On Line once each. My file was then printed in the condensed mode.

Truthfully, I didn't get the Dots-Perfect upgrade for the convenience of controlling my printer's function settings from the control panel. I got it for its NLQ printing mode, which I could barely wait to test. Following the easy instructions, I turned on the NLQ mode and printed the same text file. It was truly amazing. The print looked like the NLQ print quality on a more expensive Toshiba printer.

I really appreciated the thorough manual with its photos of Epson internals, logically-presented instructions and many examples. Installation was easy as there was no soldering required. As far as I can see, the chips work as advertised and the Dots-Perfect Upgrade is fun to use. On the down side, it appears to print as slowly in regular mode as the normal Epson does in its slow modes. Printing long documents would be very time consuming.

If you've ever bemoaned the fact that your Epson didn't have one of those fancy NLQ printing modes, you needn't fantasize about buying another printer. If you judge $80 and 45 minutes as fair payment for upgrading your Epson printer to have an NLQ function, then Dots-Perfect will do the trick. I'm glad I've got my upgrade. It's recommended.

Reeve Software
29W150 Old Farm Lane
Warrenville, IL, 60555
(312) 393-2317
$19.95, XL/XE

Reviewed by David Plotkin

Super ReeveKey software allows you to use the old Atari CX85 10-key (actually 17-key) number pad with DOS, BASIC, SynCalc, HomePak and a few other programs.

To use the ReeveKey, boot up your Atari with the the ReeveKey disk in the drive. It takes a while to load, because the copy protection scheme causes your disk drive to retrack no fewer than six times. After the program finally loads, you can choose which joystick port to plug the keypad into and which "filter" to use.

The filter attempts to protect ReeveKey's customized operating system from being corrupted by the main program being run. It can have three values. From BASIC or DOS, value 0 seems to work. Some programs need a value of one, but the brief documentation doesn't say which ones. A value of two is only for SynCalc--don't use it with anything else. But the ReeveKey does work well with SynCalc, and this by itself may make it worth having.

ReeveKey also accepts custom keypad layouts from disk. This is a nice feature, since each key of the pad can represent as many as 10 characters. For example, one of your templates could be 17 of your most frequently used BASIC keywords, such as GOTO and PRINT, which are then put on the screen whenever you press the appropriate key.

After making your selections, put your main software into drive 1 and press [START]. This reboots the machine. The instructions say to hold down [OPTION] to get BASIC when rebooting, which is the opposite of normal. But the screen prompt says that holding down the [OPTION] key disables BASIC. Believe the instructions, the screen is wrong.

On the other hand, the instructions also say that pressing [START] and [SELECT] at the same time will reboot the machine leaving the keypad driver intact so you can change programs. This rarely worked, especially from BASIC and DOS. Instead I got the cassette load tone.

The ReeveKey only works with Atari XL/XE models. Owners of the 400 and 800 are out of luck. A patch is available to allow SynFile+ to work, but you must send your original SynFile+ disk to Reeve Software along with a $2 handling charge. Save your work frequently, since unexpected crashes do occur. And stay away from the [RESET] button. Pressing it will reboot and you'll lose the keypad driver.

The customizer screen lets you enter up to 10 characters next to each keypad symbol. If you type a character wrong, there is no way to erase it. Since every keystroke prints a character to the screen, you can only correct an error by adding an appropriate number of [BACKSPACE] characters, followed by the corrected character.

If you work primarily with BASIC or DOS and are happy with Atari's default key definitions, then Atari's own keypad driver works just fine. On the other hand, if you want to redefine the keypad keys, or use the keypad with SynCalc, SynFile + , HomePak or others, then the ReeveKey is just the ticket. Also, recent CX85 owners may have bought their keypads at closeout sales without any software included. Just be warned that you will need to do some experimenting with it before you can trust it for important work.

MicroProse Software
120 Lakefront Drive
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
(301) 667-1151
$24.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

Top Gunner Collection is an anthology of three best-selling MicroProsee aerial combat programs--Hellcat Ace, MIG Alley Ace and Air Rescue. It's nice software with impressive graphics and sound effect. All three games are controlled with the joystick. In fact, the keyboard is virtually left untouched except when you occasionally press [P] to pause a game.

Hellcat Ace, set during World War II, gives you a first-person perspective of 14 scenarios that recreate air battles from 1940 to 1944. The object in most of the scenarios is, of course, to shoot down an enemy bomber. But in the Midway and Leyte Gulf segments, your main purpose is just to avoid being shot down. Some sophisticated flying maneuvers in 3- D airspace must be learned. The instructions discuss the loop, which is easy, and the split-S and Immelmann turn, both of which require flying upside down.

Similar moves and perspectives also apply to MIG Alley Ace, set during the Korean War. This has only five scenarios, but a plane can be flown by a two-player crew. The screen is split into cockpit views for each opposing plane.

Air Rescue is substantially different from the first two games. Here you're a chopper pilot trying to rescue a team of trapped archeologists in Northern Africa. The view is third-person 2-D this time, as you navigate your helicopter through a treacherous underground labyrinth, taking out nuclear furnaces and drone helicopters along the way. Three helicopters pursue you at all times--if you knock out one, another takes its place. Your chopper must not collide with anything, or else it will explode instantly.

All three games are interesting to watch and play. At $24.95, Top Gunner is a must for the collection of any combat flight simulation fan.

Epyx Inc.
600 Galveston Drive
Redwood City CA 94063
(415) 366-0606
$34.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein

At the June Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, several companies announced renewed support for the Atari 8-bit computers. Epyx has made good on its promise by releasing World Karate Championship, one of the best sports simulations I've seen.

World Karate Championship is based on the popular arcade-type kung-fu and karate games. Like those, the game gives you a series of opponents of greater and greater ability in matches set all over the world. Using the joystick, you have a selection of 16 moves-- depending on whether or not the trigger is depressed. You can throw everything from high and low kicks and punches to flips, lunge punches and the ever-popular backspin kick. And you'll never get tired.

Normally it would be hard to remember the correct stick-button combinations to execute desired moves, but World Karate Championship is more than a hand and thumb exercise. The game actually encourages a Zen-like approach, as you carefully consider the appropriate move. But this doesn't mean your opponent will allow you too much time to consider your actions. You have to strike a perfect balance between offense and defense to be successful at this game.

The graphics and animation a similar to Broderbund's Karateka, with the motions of both player an opponent quite lifelike. Anybody who has seen "The Karate Kid" will understand the system used to score the game. Every time you or your opponent lands a blow during a 30-second round, the judge will award either full point or half point. The first to score two points wins the match, and the game ends when the computer wins. In addition, after three matches you are faced with a challenge of "mental or physical discipline." This usually involves breaking bricks or dodging flying knives.

World Karate Championship is an excellent arcade game. If you think it's for you, head on down to the local software store and buy a copy. It's the least you can do.