1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 34086
$24.85, XL/XE and disk
Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman
Atari Planetarium puts the galaxy on your monitor. You can recreate past celestial events, or plot future ones. Set it for any hour and date between 9999 B.C. and A.D. 9999, and the Planetarium will show where the heavenly bodies were or will be then. The program even accounts for the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian in 1582, when 10 days in October magically disappeared to accomodate the new way of reckoning.
The Planetarium plots the movement of these bodies with a time clock that can go backward or forward at up to 64 times faster than real time. If you move the cross-hair cursor off the screen, the picture scrolls in that direction. You can even make printouts, but unfortunately the cursor appears on them.
The Earth is "transparent," so that celestial objects are visible through the planet. For example, if the computer's vantage point is set at San Francisco in the late morning, you can still see the moon on the screen.
SKY is the normal display mode. MAP lets you select a location on Earth from which to view the heavens. SET selects the time and date. CHART, used chiefly for printouts, , allows you to view sections of the celestial sphere without obstruction by the horizon, and with north always directed upwards for easy orientation.
Planetarium is also full of interesting options. LINES draws line diagrams between stars to help define constellations. NAMES displays three letter abbreviations next to constellations. SYMBOLS marks planets with their respective astronomical symbols. DEEP SKY displays very distant galaxies. TRACK records the orbits of two celestial objects, such as a planet and a moon, to determine their closest approach. SOUND turns the cursor into a space shuttle, complete with noise.
The 115-page instruction booklet contains latitude and longitude tables for almost 200 locations on the Earth, lists of stars and constellations, a few future astronomical events and mathematical conversions. An example in the manual shows Halley's comet over Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, on April 5, 1986.
If you know the date of a solar eclipse, just enter that date, plus the time and location from which it was seen, and it will be reproduced on the screen. Other events covered include planetary transits (where Mercury or Venus lines up between the Earth and the sun), planetary occultations (eclipses of a planet by another planet, or by the moon) and planetary aiignments.
Planetarium, though fun, has a somewhat limited appeal. It is probably most useful for amateur astronomers. Its best feature is making printouts which will help users find heavenly bodies with telescopes.
When making printouts, the printer's dip switches must be adjusted manually to disengage the automatic line feed. And don't forget to turn the automatic line feed back on after using Planetarium.
Setting the longitude and latitude of your location is tricky. On the program's world map, San Francisco's coordinates appear to be in Washington. Therefore, if your coordinates are not listed in the manual, consult an almanac. Don't guess, because you'll be way off.
However, Atari Planetarium is informative and has interesting graphics. You might learn a lot from it while you're enjoying yourself.
MICROFLYTE ATC JOYSTICK
PO Box 488 Leesburg, VA 22075
Requires SubLogic Flight Simulator II
Reviewed by Charles Jackson
SubLogic's popular Flight Simulator II program is the most powerful flight simulator available for 8-bit Atari computers. With a few keystrokes, you can adjust the plane's flight controls, engine controls, radio controls, even the view you see from the window.
This is also the simulator's weakness--real airplanes are not keyboard-controlled. Proficient pilots who aren't proficient touch-typists quickly become disenchanted with using the R, Y, V, N, C, M, / and arrow keys to control the elevator and ailerons trim, flaps, throttle and rudder.
But now for the price of renting and flying a real airplane for an hour, you can purchase the MicroFlyte ATC Joystick and take control of Flight Simulator Il with a minimum of keystrokes. Special throttle and flap buttons are mounted on this self- centering analog joystick. A standard joystick uses internal ON/OFF switches to recognize eight directions (forward, back, left, right and combinations of these). An analog joystick uses two potentiometers (similar to volume controls) to recognize the direction as well as the magnitude of the turn. Simply put, the MicroFlyte joystick helps you "fine tune" your flying.
The joystick's shaft, a metal rod about two inches long, is mounted in a metal box about half the size of a telephone. The package includes a joystick driver program which lets Flight Simulator II use the MicroFlyte joystick instead of a standard one.
Currently, the MicroFlyte joystick will only work with SubLofiic's Flight Simulator II program. A joystick driver for MicroProse's F-15 Strike Eagle will be available soon, according to MicroCube.
MicroLeague Sports Assoc.
2201 Drummond Plaza
Newark, DE 19711
$39.95, 48K disk
Reviewed Gregg Pearlman
Nothing frustrates a baseball fan more than the time between the World Series and spring training. But with MicroLeague Baseball, you can have a baseball fix in the dead of night or the dead of winter, and you don't even need videotapes.
MicroLeague has fine graphics and easy-to-understand rules. The players move pretty freely and do "baseball things" like throwing the ball around the horn after a strikeout or gathering at the mound when the manager comes out.
The disk has statistics, rosters and characteristics for 25 teams (mostly world champions). A solo player can go up against the "Baseball Buddha" computer manager, or two human fans can compete against each other.
I managed the 1973 Oakland A's in four games, winning twice. The most exciting game went 14 innings against the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies. The lead changed hands three times before the A's tied it in the eighth.
After Manny Trillo and Greg Luzinski had powdered Ken Holtzman's pitching for a 3-1 Philadelphia lead, the A's outlook was dim. But Gene Tenace homered to right-center off Steve Carlton and RayFosse's two-run single put the A's up 4-3.
The Phils regained the lead when A's reliever Horacio Pina balked a home run and Mike Schmidt singled. Oakland scored when the usually sure-handed Trillo booted Tenace's grounder Tenace went to third on Billy North's hit-and-run single and I scored on pinch-hitter Vic Davalillo's infield out. With one out in the 14th, Tenace homered yet again to rightcenter. The A's led 6-5.
Unfortunately, in bottom of the 14th with two outs and men on first and second, the Baseball Buddha chose to let Phillie reliever Kevin Saucier hit for himself. The game was history, and the A's, I imagine, leapt all over each other in delight.
It bothered me to see such an exciting simulation sullied by such an obvious glitch. MicroLeague Baseball is not as realistic as it should be. Slow runners stole bases and the faster runners were washouts. Pitchers drew nine walks in four games, more than any other players. Pull hitters didn't pull the ball. Only the outstanding fielders made errors. Murderers' Row--those Yankee sluggers of old--managed only one home run, by Tony Lazerri.
But why quibble about minor inaccuracies when you want to have fun? Without question, this is a good simulation for those who really love baseball. If you want more realism, visit the ballpark.
STAR RAIDERS II
1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
$19.95, 48K disk
Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman
Star Raiders II stacks up well against its predecessor, the classic cartridge game that was one of the best reasons for buying the early (and expensive) Atari computers. However, the two Star Raiders look entirely different and the main similarity between them is the title.
Welcome to "High Noon in Space." It's you and your trusty ship, the Liberty Star, against thousands of baddies in the struggle against the Zylon Empire. Star Raiders II will hold your attention for hours. Its excellent sound and graphics create a fascinating space-battle simulation, and every time you turn around there's another Zylon squadron to decimate.
The 12-page instruction book contains all the information you need. The Liberty Star is equipped with Pulse Laser Cannons for the Zylon Fly Fighters, an Ion Cannon for the enemy Destroyers and Command Ships, and Surface Star Bursts (SSBs) for the Zylon attack bases in the Procyon Star System.
However, you should first clean up the local Celos IV system, and you'll initially face the Fly Fighters. After picking them off, your task is to destroy the Destroyers before their macrowaves destroy allied cities. Sometimes Zylon Command Ships pop into the area, and the best move is to fire once or twice and warp out quickly--those ships are the most serious threat you'll face, so strike the first blow.
Once your little corner of the Universe is decontaminated, warp to the Procyon system to pillage the attack bases on the planets. Blowing up the bases prevents the Zylons from making more ships to terrorize the Celos IV system.
There are the two simple rules to follow if you want to stay alive. Don't ignore your message window, and respond promptly to the danger messages. The message window indicates the status of your ship. When it announces that your energy level is critical, warp to a starbase and fuel up. If your shields, weapons, or communications devices are damaged, go to the starbase for repairs. It's not hard to stay alive if you follow the advice of the message window, but there is a constant need for fuel and repairs, especially in the midst of battle.
Continually having to blow away the same ships can become monotonous. The Fly Fighters are indeed like flies, easy to kill and more annoying than dangerous. They often hover just outside your range of fire. But although they can run, they can't hide. You won't see Destroyers until all present Fly Fighters are eliminated.
The Destroyers are more like horseflies. They are also fairly easy to Destroy-- although you'll need to hit them two, three or even four times. But they can bite you if you're careless. Sometimes they obstinately refuse to be hit, and you'll have to "steer" your cannon blasts at the erratically moving ships. Unless the Destroyers have lowered their shields while macrowaving a city it is useless to fire directly at them.
As you'd imagine, it's easy to rack up points. Each Fly Fighter is worth 100, and each Destroyer 500. Squadrons usually comprise about 3,000 to 5,000 points worth of ships. So if points are all you crave, you can just ravage the squadrons and pick up 200,000 points in a couple of hours.
However, the goal of the game is to save the allied cities in your sector. Only after you've cleaned that up should you go to Procyon and destroy bases. But Procyon is no picnic because of that constant need for fuel and repairs. By the time you've warped back to a starbase in the Celos IV system to refuel, the Zylons could easily could have sent more squadrons your way, further delaying your return to Procyon.
The Zylon attack bases are difficult to destroy. It's not that they fire back, or because of the Fly Fighters. But while the planet rotates, you keep orbiting in the opposite direction. The Liberty Star can't shift into reverse or synchronize in an orbit with the planets, so there is time for only one shot at one attack base before you must move on to the next.
Star Raiders II is enjoyable and challenging enough to keep you involved for several hours. Saving planets is no day at the beach, but it's not so difficult that you won't have a chance. Just follow the rules, keep an eye on the message window and fire away.
COMPUTE YOUR ROOTS
Wasatch Genealogical Software
2899 West 7550 South
West Jordan, UT 84084
$39.95, 48K disk
Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman
No program can trace your family heritage back to your original ancestor, but Compute Your Roots can take genealogical information from you, store it on disk and print it neatly in standard diagram formats called pedigree charts and family group Sheets. This menu-driven package by Jerry Halls, a Utah 16-year-old, also includes a simple word processor for entering interesting details about family members. The word processor features a global search routine that can find any name, date, or any other information in your data files.
Along with the program disk, the package contains a 12-page instruction manual and a sample pedigree chart and group sheet in l0-inch and extra-wide 15-inch carriage formats. A printer that can produce condensed typeface (17 characters per inch) is required.