Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 6, NO. 2 / JUNE 1987

Product Reviews

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


Reviewed by Rich Moore

Warship is right on target in simulating surface naval battles in the Pacific during World War II. SSI has packed all the major elements of surface engagements and command under fire into this excellent wargame. While oriented toward the war in the Pacific from 1941-45, an experienced gamer can use the game's utilities to construct a wide range of naval warfare scenarios. At $59.95 it's expensive, but with the discounts widely available, it should be well worth having in your collection. Warship is fun, challenging and as new as you want to make it.

The package comes with four ready-to-play scenarios from World War II, three of them taken from historical battles at sea and one using hypothetical battle-groups. Games can be played by two human players or one human against the computer. You can also let the computer play both sides and just sit back and watch the action. Handicaps can be imposed on either side to provide more challenging games. Two control levels are provided: "Ship" mode, with command over individual units, and "Division Command" for the greater challenge of directing a group of ships.
   Warship considers a multitude of factors: land masses, visibility, damage control, ship size, armor, maneuverability, weapon size, accuracy and masking (which SSI calls "facing"). You can use smoke to screen ships, but radar can see right through it as well as extending normal detection ranges and allowing detection of the enemy at night.

Battle damage includes cumulative effects of fire, flooding, damage to the bridge, and losses of electrical power, propulsion, steerage and weapons. Also, a hit may cause magazine detonation, but I never saw this sink the ship in a game.

Neither side has air forces at its command, but the side designated not to have "air superiority" suffers a reduction in the points it scores. Given that this game is strictly for surface engagements, it follows that air power shouldn't be a factor on either side. Fortunately, you can construct your own scenarios and select "Neutral" for relative air power to keep it from confusing the outcomes of your surface battles.

With the provided utilities you can build a game from scratch, but you can't modify an existing scenario (or saved game). You can create charts (SSI uses the land warfare term "maps") of any area of the world that can be represented on a 60 x 60 grid of 1,000-yard squares. The maps can be independently saved and modified later. Land masses are represented effectively (if crudely) and can include terrain low enough to permit visual and radar detections across it.

Fleets can have up to 20 ships each. The forces are drawn from 53 Allied ship classes and 27 Japanese classes, but all of their characteristics and weapons can be modified. Warship is actually flexible enough to set up almost any surface battle from the last 600 years or so, though some consideration has to be given to the fact that the game has a built-in gunfire-accuracy disadvantage for the "Japanese" fleet.

It's a shame that Warship's display doesn't really take advantage of the Atari's graphics capabilities. Other SSI simulations offer high-resolution, multi-colored graphics and smooth scrolling, which really give the player more and better information. In spite of its weak graphics, Warship plays so well that it can still be highly recommended.

The manual is complete, and SSI even tells you how the computer evaluates the interactions between the forces. But once you've engaged and the battle has become a melee (and they always do), you better have a sound, relatively simple battle plan in-stead of scrambling to "optimize" your shots.

Antic wargame fans will be interested in this excerpt from Lieutenant Commander Moore's letter accompanying the review. "Warship came along at a good time. My primary project now is to get a naval warfare simulation for use in war-games here in Korea. And unfortunately the system fused in Newport at the Naval War College is far too large and complex. So I've got to check out some smaller packages and get appropriate software off the shelf" -ANTIC ED

Software Toolworks
13557 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(Distributed by Electronic Arts)
(818) 907-6789


Reviewed by Charles Cherry

While I'm not an advanced enough chess player to test the abilities of Chessmaster 2000 exhaustively, I can report that it beat my copies of Colossus Chess 3.0 and Odesta Chess 7.0 in single games. A single game does not necessarily prove superiority, but at least it proves that Chess-master 2000 is in the same league as the established software. By thinking all the time, even while you are making your moves, Chessmaster 2000 speeds up its play and is a quick and formidable opponent.
   For me, however, the deciding factor about a chess program is playability, not its ultimate power-they can all beat me at the highest levels. And Chessmaster 2000 is only average in playability. Despite the beautiful photographs on the package, the 3-D display is unusable even on a very good monitor-you can't tell overlapping pieces apart. (The 3-D in Datamost's Mychess II, reviewed in the October1985 issue, also got poor notices although the overall game was rated good.-ANTIC ED) Chessmaster 2000's standard 2-D is acceptable, although the pawn and bishop are a little hard to tell apart.

Of the features listed on the back of the package, the chess clock and the captured pieces functions are not available on the Atari 8-bit (read the small print). The ommission of the chess-clock is serious. If you want to play tournament-style, you have to provide your own timer and slap it for both yourself and the computer. But on the plus side of the features list inaccuracies, there are 20 levels of play instead of 12.

Chessmaster 2000 has a very nice booklet about the history of chess, but a poor instruction sheet. Part of the problem with the instructions is the poor organization of the chess program itself. Control keys make no mnemonic sense, menu names are not very descriptive, and submenus are not always logical. The joystick can be used for moving pieces, but not for menu selection. The joystick is a little tricky to use with this software and won't move diagonally I abandoned it early on. Atari owners have come to expect much more.

If you are an avid chess buff, you will want the power of Chessmaster 2000 and its library of almost 100 classic games. But I hope the ST version will be more friendly

19808 Nordhoff Place
Chatsworth, CA 91311
(818) 886-5922
$34.95, 48K disk


Reviewed by Dr. John Stanoch

Theatre Europe is Datasoft's first computer wargame. In this solitaire game the player can command either the NATO or Warsaw Pact forces in an imaginary war. Each turn represents one full day and the game can last 30 days before determining a victor. However, the rules don't explain how this is done, so the player doesn't know whether to concentrate on territory or to maximize enemy losses while limiting his own. The computer also gives the player a command ability rating based upon a percentage score for his performance. This isn't explained either.

The single, nonscrolling screen map is bordered by the French Atlantic coast, northern Italy, the Soviet frontier and the southern half of the Norway peninsula. The map has sea, mountain, clear and capital city terrain types. Each unit is shown as a solid white disk for the Pact, blue for NATO and purple for the neutral forces. A Pact unit represents one army, while the NATO units are corps.

Each unit has three ratings: ARM represents the overall effectiveness and combat strength of the unit; AIR shows the relative aerial ground support strength; and SUP shows the amount of ammunition, food, water and fuel. As units attack and take losses in combat, their ratings are decreased.

The first phase of each six-phase turn is the movement phase, in which you access a unit by placing the cursor over it and pressing the joystick trigger. After the cursor turns green, you can place the unit in an adjacent empty space. When a unit is programmed to move, a dot appears in the center of its disk. Pressing the space bar executes all movement commands. The second phase is combat, where attack commands are issued as above. This is followed by the battle phase, where the player can either sit back and watch all involved units flicker briefly, or have an arcade-style battle involving enemy helicopters, jets, tanks and guns.

NATO players
must phone Cali-
fornia to author-
ize nuclear attacks

Next is the rebuilding phase, where the player allocates ARM, AIR and SUP points to his units. Then comes the air phase, for allocating air points-among which are air superiority, interdiction and reconnaissance-to seven air missions.

Lastly, and most ominously, is the special mission phase, where the player can launch a strategic chemical or nuclear attack. As the NATO side, you must obtain an authorization code in order to launch a nuclear strike-you must actually call a California phone number. When a nuclear attack is launched by either side, the screen shows a city under a missile attack, then shows it in ruins with a mushroom cloud rising from the ashes.

Although the concept of this game is sound, the execution is uneven. First, the arcade battle phase bears no similarity to its description in the manual and quickly becomes a nuisance. Next, the game is not play-balanced. The NATO forces in this game cannot possibly prevent the total overrun of West Germany by the Pact forces. In playing the game for over three days, I was never able to win as the NATO player, regardless of which strategy I used.

Disappointingly, these flaws don't occur in the Commodore 64 version. Datasoft should have spent more time polishing and testing the Atari conversion.

Small Systems Innovation
600 West 21 Avenue
Apache Junction, AZ 85220
(602) 983-2686
$19.95, 64K disk


Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

In the midst of cries for 80-column word processing on the Atari 8-bit computer, Small Systems Innovation has developed System-80, whose display is crisp and readable.

System-80's other main feature is a date and time display (set upon booting), but otherwise the package contains nothing that other 8-bit word processors don't. In fact, it doesn't have most features that other 8-bit word processors do-including cut-and-paste, text buffers, search-and-replace, italics, boldface, underlining, or different print sizes. Documentation is six pages long.

While System-80's display and limited features might make it appropriate for letters or other short documents, currently the program cannot be considered as a serious word processor. However, Small Systems Innovation has assured Antic that work is already underway on a new version of System-80 that will include many standard word processing features- and thorough documentation.

XLEnt Software
P.O. Box 5228
Springfield, VA 22150
(703) 644-8881
$29.95, 48K disk


Reviewed by Gregg Pearlman

Miniature Golf Plus is a kick. It's fun to play although-or partially because-the game does not entirely pay homage. to physical laws. Inertia and momentum are taken into account, but sometimes it takes quite a while for the ball to lose speed after striking an obstacle. Rebound angles appear to be correct, however, which is a great aid in planning a shot.
   The feature that makes this game so amusing is a construction set for designing your own miniature golf holes, as many as 60 on a disk. Twelve pages of documentation is enough to send you on your way.

Obstacles include isosceles triangles (with apex facing up, down, left or right), rectangles or diagonal lines of any size within the screen boundaries, and "barriers'-small rectangles that move across the screen. These would more or less correspond with pendulums, paddlewheels and other mobile hazards found on a real miniature golf course. You set the minimum and maximum x-coordinates and the speed.

You can set up a hole to offer a formidable challenge. You can back yourself into a corner with a bad shot easily, especially if you mistime a barrier's movement. You can also edit a hole that proves too easy or too difficult.

After you boot the program, the screen presents these choices: Play Miniature Golf, Construction Set and Initialize a Disk. The third selection is necessary for creating a course disk, as the program not only formats it but places an initialization routine on the disk.

If you choose to play the game, you'll be asked to insert a data (course) disk and enter the players' names. The joystick-controlled putter is represented by a small block, with a notched corner that hits the ball. The joystick is used to guide the club to the desired position on the field. When you press the fire button, the club strikes the ball.

Ball movement is slow, but this lets you closely observe the angles of impact with obstacles and hazards and makes it easier to plan a shot. Running scores are kept for each player, but no par is set for the holes. After you play the last hole, the screen shows the scores.

Miniature Golf Plus is a nice way to relax. It doesn't take long to play and it's easy to set up your own course. Since the ball doesn't behave exactly as it would on a real miniature golf course, it might be best not to be in a "miniature golf" mindset, but rather to treat the game as its own entity-a game in itself, not just a simulation of another game.