Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 5, NO. 12 / APRIL 1987

Product Reviews

1001 Medical Park Drive S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
(616) 957-3036
$29.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Gregg Peariman

Do you have that Midas touch at the gambling tables? If you're like most of us, the answer is "no." But Baudville's Video Vegas gives you the chance to be a big winner without actual monetary expense (or reward).

Note that there's only the chance to win big. Unless you have the gaming experience and necessary savvy- or incredible luck and perseverance- you'll do little better than break even. But you'll get plenty of inexpensive practice at Blackjack, the Lucky 7 slot machine, Keno and Draw Poker.
Video Vegas   Blackjack's rules and hints occupy over four of the seven pages in the documentation. Video Vegas Blackjack includes a card-counting tutorial, so you ll have a better chance to beat the odds when you're playing with real money. In fact, the game counts cards for you, in case you lose track. One method just counts aces, ten-values (four and 16, per deck, respectively) and total cards played. For example, since you'd expect to see an ace for every 13 cards played, expect to see one soon if 13 cards are dealt without an ace appearing.

A more complex method is counting an ace or ten-value as minus one and and threes through sevens as plus one. Twos, eights and nines are worth zero. A running count of +5 or better means the deck is rich in aces and ten-values, favoring the player. If the count is -5 or less, the deck favors the dealer.

But Blackjack is still tough to win. Playing 100 hands of Blackjack, strictly by Video Vegas' rules, I won 43, lost 51 and had six pushes (ties), dropping an imaginary $40 in the process. Using the same rules with the Blackjack game in MichTron's Cards on the ST, however, I went 45-38-17, picking up $70. One main difference is that Cards recognizes a Five-Card Charlie (where a five-card hand under 21 wins automatically), but Video Vegas doesn't. And disproportionally often, it seemed, the Video Vegas dealer would draw exactly the card necessary to win.

Video Vegas' Lucky 7 slot machine really gives you that feeling of chasing a carrot on a stick: pump in some coins, lose, win a bit, lose, lose, win some more, lose, lose, lose, etc. You'll win enough to stay interested for a while, but not enough to keep you waiting around for Wayne Newton's next show Supposedly the payoff for the Lucky 7 is $98 for every $100 you play, but I found that hard to believe.

Draw Poker resembles actual video poker machines, allowing a $1 to $5 bet per hand and paying off on a pair of jacks or better. The better the hand, the better the payoff, with a maximum of $5,000 on a $5 bet for a royal flush. But decent hands are hard to come by.

The Keno layout has 80 numbers. You bet $1 to $5 and then select up to 15 numbers. Twenty numbers are drawn at random. The more correct numbers you've picked, the bigger the payoff (with a $50,000 limit). The odds of winning, as you might imagine, are poor, and the visual display is uninteresting. Any excitement in actual Keno is lost in this version.

The card game and slot machine graphics are colorful. Each game has odds charts, which help you determine your bet. Blackjack is the best of the four, but poker, slot machine and Keno enthusiasts will enjoy those games as well. Overall, Video Vegas provides a reasonably accurate simulation of what it's like to play these games in a real-life gambling casino.

19808 Nordhoff Place
Chatsworth, CA 91311
(818) 886-5922
$29.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

You crash-land on a planet and the game starts. In Mercenary you're a 21st-century soldier of fortune, and you've been lucky enough to land on the war-ravaged planet Targ, home of the organic Palyars and their robot adversaries, the Mechanoids. Whom you side with in this graphics adventure game is up to you.

Accompanying you is Benson, a portable computer that tells you what's going on (in a limited way). You'll meet the Palyars first-you won't see them, but you'll meet them. This happens after you buy a new ship and maneuver it from the Centrepoint Airport to a large elevator nearby.

You'll wind up on foot in one of the Central City Subterranean Complexes. From there you'll have to find the Palyars for a briefing, picking up odds and ends along the way-energy crystals, photon emitters (flashlights) and cheese. As you explore the underground realm, you'll encounter mechanoids from time to time.

The interior of the complex is something to see. There's a virtual labyrinth of differently colored rooms, from Palyar and Mechanoid briefing rooms to hangars to banks to hallways. There are also about 30 transporters to encounter. You'll have no way of knowing beforehand where you'll end up, but a pattern will become evident. You ought to make a copy of the supplied underground map and take notes about about each room as you encounter it.

The visual detail of these areas isn't much, but the scope of the maze and the first-person 3-D effect is awesome. True, the viewpoint takes time to get used to-on Targ you'll evidently have severe tunnel vision. Peripheral vision is nil and you'll find yourself walking into walls.

However, you won't get hurt. There's no need to worry about injury or death, because Datasoft wants you to play Mercenary, not just continually start over every time you die in a crash-landing, get shot, or walk into a wall. If a situation becomes unbearable and there's no way out, pressing [CONTROL] [Q] is your escape. However, you'll find yourself above ground again and stripped of your possessions.

All this assumes you can successfully navigate your ship to an elevator in the first place. The sparse documentation tells you how to read Benson's compass, a gauge that gives numbers from 00 to 90 and changes colors to let you know what direction you're headed.

Monochrome monitor owners are out of luck. But color owners can't rest easy, either. As you turn clockwise, the colors should change from green to black to blue to red. Don't be surprised, however, to see dark blue, red, lighter blue and red again. You can adjust your color, tint, brightness or contrast controls and you still might not know whether you're coming or going.

About the only way to get around this while in flight is to depend on the location monitor. Suppose you start at location 8-8 and have to go to 9-5. All you can do is keep either 00 or 90 dead-centered on your compass and change direction as the location numbers change.

Mercenary's video effects make it a good game overall. But if you aren't in the right place to pick up the right clues, you'll get nowhere.

Strategic Simulations Inc.
1046 N. Rengstorff Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043
(415) 964-1353
$39.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein

Software companies have been hard-pressed to come up with something new in role-playing fantasy games for Atari computers. The Ultima series provided new depths of characterization and game play Now SSI has released Wizard's Crown which throws in a few new tricks of its own.

Actually, Wizard's Crown is mostly old wine in new bottles. As usual, you control a party of adventurers, each of whom may possess different attributes. You set off to find the long-coveted crown.

The main difference between Wizard's Crown and its competitors lies in its combat system and the wide range of abilities your characters may have in addition to the standard strength, charisma, etc. Abilities in hunting, tracking, first aid and swimming become essential.

Fans of SSI combat games such as Six Gun Shootout will enjoy the combat phase of the game. Every time an encounter with the local monsters occurs, you have the option to resolve it quickly or go into a full-blown combat, in which case the action shifts to a tactical combat mode where each character has a variety of options- from loading and aiming a bow to moving and dodging to casting spells. In tactical mode, a round of fighting can take from 10 to 40 minutes.

Wizard's Crown is okay But I probably would have enjoyed it more if I felt that I was really controlling the characters-not just watching random-number generators at work.

20833 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 446-5757
$29.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

Fight Night is an arcade-style boxing simulation and "boxer construction set" that comes across as entertaining, frustrating and not just a bit silly (which is one of its strengths).

Accolade's press release accurately describes Fight Night as "whimsical." It's clearly not a serious boxing game. Some of the supplied boxers smoke cigars in the ring, sport derbies or caps, even wear glasses. Your joystick-controlled boxer becomes the new champion if he can plow through Dip Stick, Kid Kastro, Hu Him, British Bulldog and Bronx Bomber, the current champ.
Fight Night   An options menu in the title screen gives you these choices: Main Event, in which your joystick-controlled boxer takes on four contenders and the champ (should you get that far) in three-round bouts; Boxing Construction, which allows you to "build" 24 boxers that can be either player-controlled or computer-controlled; Training your constructed boxer; Practicing what you learned in training; and Tournament play which lets two players pit various boxers against each other in a round robin.

Controlling your boxer with a joystick isn't easy If your opponent lands a blow, you must wait one or two beats before trying one of eight moves-throwing or faking a jab or body blow, putting your guard up or down, or moving left or right. You'll know how you're doing by the scoreboard: each boxer has "point" and "resistance" values for each punch. Also, the "KO bar" shows how close a boxer is to being knocked out. The longer your boxer's bar, the sooner you'd better hope for the end of the round.

The cartoon-like graphics are fun to watch, and the manual tells all about the contenders on the game disk. For instance, Dip Stick, small but slow, specializes in kidney shots and low blows. British Bulldog, upon learning to walk erect, resigned as Dean of Oxford to pursue pugilism full time. And The Bronx Bomber won his championship by creaming Darth Vader. He has no weaknesses, everything is his strength, and suggested strategy is to "Phone Lloyd's of London... pray"

Fight Night is amusing, but it does have its quirks. For instance, you'll find yourself flipping the disk over often enough to lose count. Also, constructed boxers must be stored on side B of the game disk and can't be loaded from another disk.

Fight Night's primary function is to involve you and make you laugh, not to precisely mimic the action in a boxing ring. It de-brutalizes the sport, which is a point in its favor.

Strategic Simulations Inc.
1046 N. Rengstorff Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043
(415) 964-1353
$59.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Rich Moore

SSI has an excellent simulation of a chaotic Civil War battle in Gettysburg: The Turning Point. The tide of victory turns frequently throughout the game, just as it did more than a century ago in Pennsylvania.

Whenever the battle seems to be under control, reinforcements pour in for the other side. Painstaking plans and maneuvers disintegrate into one melee after another. Neither the Union nor the Confederate commander enjoys a particular advantage. Though the North can ultimately field more men, the South could flank the larger Union army and shatter it before the masses of troops can arrive.

Gettysburg is a very tactical war game played on a 36 x 52 grid of 200-yard squares with three elevations of terrain. The players must manage their forces at the army, corps, division and brigade levels.

The players must also take care to mount and dismount cavalry, limber and unlimber artillery and choose a "facing" that effects each unit's field of view. Lines of sight and communication have significant effects on this simulation of the turning point of the Civil War.

Since the game only covers the three days of the battle at Gettysburg, supply lines are not considered to any great extent. But uncontrolled expenditure of ammunition could make a unit run out of bullets or shells at a critical time.

Gettysburg seems to be best played solo, unless you've got something entertaining to do during the other player's turn. Early in the game this process goes quickly but by the beginning of Day Two, each player can easily spend an hour making a single move-which only covers one hour of game time. Yes, the three-day Battle of Gettysburg could easily take a week or more to complete on the computer.

Other options include various levels of difficulty playing with or without a time limit, "hidden units" (Cavalry does nice reconnaissance work), and icons or "military" symbols for units. The manual does warn that the default level (3) is "a challenge".

The player can play any or all of the three days and change reinforcement and ammunition resupply rates. The basic game is good for learning the fundamentals of Gettysburg. But it doesn't constrain either side with dismounted cavalry, limbered artillery, "facing" lines of sight or poor command and control, all of which will make the game tough on an unwary or reckless commander.

The software spends a lot of time accessing the disk, although the two-drive option makes life much easier. Keyboard commands are straightforward, except for cursor control using the number keys. A "compass" on-screen helps, but moving right with the [3] and left with the [7] is awkward.

SSI has included a nice way of checking on each unit according to its position in the order of battle- very useful to ensure that all units are checked in each move and that command control can be maintained.

The manual is good overall, but it has rough spots and doesn't discuss all the differences between the basic game and the more challenging levels. The command summary pages and the order of battle are helpful, along with the nicely done map cards. There is a lot of "quick reference" information, most of which is essential to successful play SSI has also included a well-written narrative of the Battle of Gettysburg which does an excellent job of setting the mood for the game.

I found Gettysburg enjoyable and educational. The Civil War isn't really one of my major interests, but this game easily held my attention. It left me appreciating the problems faced by both sides in this battle and feeling great respect for the men who fought there.