ST PRODUCT NEWS
576 S. Telegraph
Pontiac, MI 48053
CIRCLE 203 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Gil Merciez
Last September, promos appeared for Time Bandit, promising thrilling arcade action as you battled Evil Guardians and collected the Treasures of Time, using Timegates to explore 20 different lands with 15 levels each.
At that time, MichTron envisioned Time Bandit as a relatively straight port from an earlier Sanyo version. Time Bandit authors Bill Dunlevy and Harry Lafnear had other ideas, however. Utilizing the power, speed and graphics capabilities of the ST, the authors transformed Time Bandit into a unique creation which raises standards of arcade gaming to a new high.
I have never been an arcade game freak. My joystick always seemed mired in mud, and rarely would I advance beyond the first few levels of any game requiring lightning responses to the screen action. Thus my interest would fade quickly due to frustration and boredom. However, I found it difficult to tear myself away from Time Bandit, even to write this review.
Because of the stunning color graphics, Time Bandit only runs on a color system. The copy-protected disk contains over 300K of assembly language code, and you have a choice of joystick or keyboard control.
The object of Time Bandit is to travel through Timegates into 16 different lands and recover the Great Artifacts. Each land is set in a different period of history, from ancient Egypt through the Old West and into futuristic space periods. All but one of the lands has 16 increasingly difficult levels and is protected by Evil Guardians, whom you destroy with your unlimited supply of missiles. Each level generally has a different floor-plan or adds new areas to explore.
The Bandit begins with 14 lives, gaining an extra life for each 1,000 cubits accumulated. Cubits are earned by gathering treasures and keys, opening locks, solving puzzles and destroying Guardians. Your manner determines how many cubits you receive for blasting Guardians. A psychotic pace garners 50 points, while a wimpy pace gets you nothing.
The carefully-detailed Guardians come in all shapes, sizes and colors: spiders, snakes, lions, trolls, evil eyes, robots, flying saucers, ghosts and other nameless creatures. When shot, a ghost suddenly displays the Ghost-busters symbol before evaporating in a cloud of smoke. A wide-eyed red face sticks his tongue out as he is obliterated. And, unless it's a dud, shooting a nearby bomb in the Bomb Factory can cost you a life.
The amazing depth and variety of the game is apparent as you begin to explore the different lands. Each time period is unique and requires a different strategy. In the Ghost Town, there are corpses to bury in the graveyard, levers to pull, combination locks to open and people to talk to. Shadow-land is a Pac Man clone and a great place to pick up an extra three or four lives on the beginning levels. Some lands present mazes which can only be conquered by practice or mapping. Darkside Dare is a land of invisible mazes, and is as sadistic as any game programmer has ever coded. Certain death awaits a beginner, even on the first level.
Excalibur contains a complete text adventure as you try to unravel the mystery of the empty spaceship. The parser is of the primitive two-word variety and the vocabulary is limited but the idea is well implemented, and, most of all, fun. Other lands also require occasional text input or present custom text screens to read.
The gates to these areas are graphically represented by various landmarks in the Timegates screen. At the start, you may choose which gate to enter but as your score increases, you must evade a growing number of flying saucers waiting to transport you to a random land.
Also located in the Timegates area is a journal which tracks your progress through the lands. Once you enter a gate, only by finding keys to its locks can you return. The next time you enter that same gate you will have advanced a level.
The Guardians are constantly regenerated through portals scattered across the land. Ladders, pits, arrows and transporters carry you to different areas of the level. The Great Artifacts are reputed to lie deep within the last few levels of each land. It takes time to master even one land, but you'll never be totally frustrated. Recovering all 16 artifacts takes superhuman effort.
An interesting feature is the dual player mode, allowing two people to play simultaneously, either cooperating or in fierce competition. In the latter mode the screen is split, with both players presented their own scrolling view of the area. Six high scores along with a record of levels conquered are saved to the game disk.
The graphics of Time Bandit are superb. Animation abounds in each land, whether it be a flickering torch or a flashing control panel. And great attention to detail has been paid. Tiny glasses and bowls dot the tables, beds have pillows, trolls carry clubs. And the dozens of nasty creatures moving toward you, sometimes at breakneck speed, make it hard to believe that the ST doesn't have sprites built into the hardware.
The original ST version of Time Bandit did not include a game save option. But widespread demand has caused the authors to include this feature in a new version. The authors also fixed a bug that occurs with some early STs, in which the keyboard controller chip occasionally sends spurious keyboard characters rather than the correct joystick signal. This causes Time Bandit to occasionally jump back to the title screen in these STs because it erroneously received the letter Q, the quit option. Upgrades are available from MichTron for a reasonable $5 service charge and the return of your original disk.
It is refreshing to find a piece of software that has lived up to it's
prerelease hype-and then some. Time Bandit has the credentials to someday
qualify as a true classic for the ST in the same way Star Raiders does
for the 8-bit Atari computers. At the least, it will be the ST arcade game
by which all others are measured for some time to come.
VOLKS VM520 MODEM
6624 Valjean Avenue
Van Nuys, CA 91406
CIRCLE 228 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Patrick Bass
The Volks VM520 from Anchor Automation, manufacturers of the well-known Volksmodem line, is a Hayes-compatible 300/1200 baud modem for Atari ST computers. The VM520 is about as standard as a Hayes-compatible modem can get. In fact, I was able to start using it immediately with the same FLASH! macros we created for Antic's Hayes SmartModem.
The VM520 features auto-answer, auto-originate, automatic selection
of baud rate and pulse/tone dialing. Two modular phone jacks are built
into the back panel. The specs call for operation between 0 and 50 degrees
Centigrade. That's hot! The modem understands 48 Hayes SmartModem commands-like
ATDT1234567. It has nine internal registers, used for the selection of
different time-outs, number of rings, etc. The VM520 returns six individual
messages to the computer describing the state of the call in progress-OK,
modem can get
If you don't have any terminal software, you can use the VT-52 emulator desk accessory that comes with your Atari ST. The VT-52 emulator will get you onto a bulletin board and let you look around. But it won't allow you to upload or download programs or information. If you need these capabilities, you need a more powerful terminal software package, such as FLASH! or ST-Talk.
I logged over 30 hours on CompuServe using the VM520 and can report no operating difficulties. Whenever I accessed a "noisy" telephone connetion at 1200 baud, I found that the modem dropped one or two characters per thousand. This problem disappeared at 300 baud on the same phone line.
The 42-page manual has nine sections and an appendix, but no index. It covered just about every question I had while learning to use the VM520. The package includes a 6-foot modular telephone cable to connect the modem to your telephone. There are also velcro pads for attaching the VM520 to the wall or your desk. An enclosed pamphlet has a discount offer for joining The Source. online service.
The VM520 has a built-in 63701 microprocessor and comes in a molded plastic case that matches the Atari ST. It attaches to the computer via a ribbon cable with an RS-232 connector that plugs into the Atari ST modem port. To complete the setup, plug in the modem's 9-volt wall-mounted power supply and attach the phone line to the modular phone jack in the back panel of the modem. The on/off switch, located on the left side, is the only visible control on the modem. When the modem is off, your telephone works normally, and when the modem is on, the phone is disconnected.
The Volks VM520 is a good value and should be seriously considered by
all ST owners who are thinking about moving up to a 1200 baud modem.
LOGIKHRON CLOCK CARD
Shanner International Corp.
453 Ravendale Drive
Mountain View, CA 94043
Calif .-(800) 626-9273
CIRCLE 206 DN READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Chuck Trunk
Are you tired of resetting the date and time every time you turn on your new Atari ST computer? Then the Logikhron Clock Card is for you. It is the first product for the ST that automatically enters the date and time whenever the computer is turned on and maintains correct chronology even while the computer is unplugged.
Developed by Softlogik Corp. and marketed by Shanner International, the Logikhron package contains a concise manual, a cartridge and a disk. The cartridge is battery powered and fits into the slot on the left side of the ST. Caution: Never insert or remove the cartridge while the computer is turned on.
The disk contains a desk accessory file and a resource file. To install the system, load the GEM desktop in the usual manner. Then copy the files labeled DESK5.ACC and CLOCK.RSC onto your system disk. To set the time and date, put your system disk into drive A and boot your computer. When the desktop appears, click on the Clock option from the file dropdown menu. A dialog box then appears, containing a prompt to input time and date. The procedure is similar to setting the time and date in the control panel.
You're now installed and you'll never have to input the time or date when switching between resolutions or booting-which somehow destroys the time and date previously contained in the control panel.
In some versions of GEM, there is about a 30-second delay before the control panel will reflect the correct time and date. Don't despair, though, if you have created a file within the initial 30 seconds. The correct time and date will be saved along with the file name and size.
The same situation exists when you switch between resolutions. The ST uses an internal clock/calendar when displaying the control panel. The Logikhron software updates this internal clock/calendar only at system boot or change in resolution.
I had a few problems with the clock card while using ST-BASIC with GEM in RAM, most probably due to insufficient memory. But problems disappeared when I installed my TOS ROM chips.
I feel the clock card is useful and reasonably priced at $49.95. My
only criticism is that the complete sealing of the cartridge will prevent
changing the battery when it expires. But Shanner offers to install new
batteries at a nominal price and expects the original batteries to last
at least five years.
The Atari booth at the Chicago Consumer Electronics Show was the largest in memory since the Tramiels took over the company.
The newest ST products at CES included: Hole in One Golf from Artworx; Comic Strip Maker by First Star, the company that made Spy vs. Spy for the 8-bit Ataris; Typing Tutor and Word Invaders, two new educational programs from Academy Software; and Winter Games and Temple of Apshal Trilogy in ST versions from Epyx. Infocom had a party to announce plans for Leather Goddesses of Phobos, "the first adventure game with sex in it."
Activision has taken over the marketing of Audio Light's N-Vision paint program and changed the name to Paintworks. FTL, the folks who brought you Sundog, showed off Micro Cookbook (not to be confused with Electronic Art s Financial Cookbook)-yes, it s a cookbook on disk
SOFTWARE IBM EMULATOR
Unlike the long-awaited Atari Corp plug-in IBM PC emulator, Ms. Em. (tentatively priced at $150) is an IBM emulator in software. Programmer Daniel Rosengarten, who has a patent pending on his invention, says a 520ST running Ms. Em. (short for MS-DOS Emulator) will have 448K (If usable memory. In clone" mode, Ms. Em. runs at half the speed of an IBM. In "compatible" mode, it runs 70% faster, but uses an additional 32K of memory.
With a 5 1/4-inch drive, the simulator can run popular IBM programs such as VisiCalc, Sidekick and Wordstar. So far, Flight Simulator is the only program Rosengarten has been unable to run on the PC-compatible setup.
A 520ST or 1040ST can read and write to IBM 5 1/4" floppy diskettes with a Microbyte disk drive. Available in IBM XT-compatible, double-sided/double density 40-track version ($269), or IBM PC AT-compatible double-sided/quad density 80-track version ($279), it includes a direct-connect cable and six-month warranty.
Paradox Enterprises, 8444 E. 19 Street, Tucson, AZ 85710. (602) 296-4650. BETA, FINAL.
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The BigFoot Clock Card ($59.99) with battery backup fits inside an ST cartridge. EPROM Boards ($17) fit the ST cartridge slot; are silk-screened, pre-drilled and accept EPROM types 2764, 27128, and 27256. Protective plastic cases are also available to prevent unwary users from inserting the circuits upside down.
BigFoot Systems, 2708 E. Lake Street, Suite 207, Minneapolis, MN 55046. (612) 722.9515. PRESS.
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With AC/FORTRAN ($195), Macintosh programs written in Microsoft FORTRAN, a version of AC/FORTRAN, can be easily ported to the ST. The first full ANSI-standard FORTRAN 77 for the ST, AC/FORTRAN features IEEE floating point numbers, linker, library manager and a full-screen source-level debugger. It is written in assembler for fast compilation and uses the GEM interface.
Absoft Corp., 4268 N. Woodward, Royal Oak, Ml 48072. (313) 549-7111. PRESS.
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In the real-time world of Breakers ($44.95), the action keeps moving even when you aren't. This science fiction text adventure game has a 1,500-word vocabulary.
Broderbund Software, 17 Paul Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903. (415) 479-1170. PRESS.
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Prospero Pro Pascal, a full ANSI 770X3.97 standard Pascal compiler, has 7 and 16-digit precision floating point, separate compilation and 4 byte integers. It features full GEM, AES and VDI bindings. Turbo Pascal source code will port over with minor modifications.
Prospero Software, Ltd., 190 Castelnau, London SW13 9DH, England. PRESS.
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Two more translations from German join the Abacus line-up of ST reference books. The BASIC Training Guide ($16.95) is aimed at beginning ST BASIC programmers. Graphics and Sound ($19.95) describes how to create visual images and music.
Abacus Software, RO. Box 7219, Grand Rapids, Ml 49510. (616) 241-5510. FINAL.
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Deserving special mention for their creative software names is Quack Software Company with Squeeg and Unsqueeg ($24.95). Even difficult files, like executable programs, can be squeezed to almost half their original size with this GEM-based file compression utility.
Quack Computer Co., 10 Freshman Lane, Stony Brook, NY 11790. (516) 689-8738. PRESS.
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Even when your ST is turned off, the LCM-200 Logikhron Clock Module ($49.95) continues to keep time. The clock in an ST cartridge has a battery back-up. Comes with software for automatically installing the clock each time you power-up.
Shanner International, 453 Ravendale Dr., Mountain View, CA 94043. (415) 964-2992. FINAL.
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The Atari ST Explored (approximately $16), is a guide to the operating systems and languages of the ST series. Covers GEM, TOS, BIOS, ST BASIC and Logo, configuring the keyboard, networking and 68000 assembly language.
Kuma Computers Ltd., 12 Horseshoe Park, Pangbourne, Berkshire, RG8 7JW England. PRESS.
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Disk Library, a file manager organized like the card catalog found in public libraries, cross references, categorizes and searches disk information at your fingertips. Diablo, an arcade-style maze game, is based on Diablotin, a European game consisting of tracks, panels and a ball. $44.95 each.
Classic Image Software, 510 Rhode Island Avenue, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002. (609) 667-2526. FINAL.
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New ST product notices are compiled from information provided by the products' manufacturers. Antic assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of these notices or the performance of the product. Each mention is followed by a code word indicating that, at press time, Antic had seen a FINAL marketable version, near-final BETA, earlier ALPHA, incomplete DEMO, or PRESS release.