ST PRODUCT NEWS
3444 Dundee Rd.
Northbrook, ILLINOIS 60062
CIRCLE 225 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein
Most games released so far for the ST are but mere conversions from other machines. Very few software companies have yet taken the time and/or effort to create games with the depth and graphics which the ST is capable of. Of course, this is typical of many powerful computers. However, the folks at Mindscape have started to release their long-awaited Cinemaware series-games designed not only to take full advantage of the ST's capabilities, but to have the look and feel of an epic motion picture. Their first release, S.D.I., is, alas, only partially successful.
As anybody up on current affairs undoubtedly knows, S.D.I. stands for Strategic Defense Initiative, and is the formal title of President Reagan's plan for a network of satellites to prevent a nuclear attack on the U.S. S.D.I.- The Game is set 30 years in the future and is based on the premise that the grid of satellites is already in place and functioning. As Sloan McCormick, you are in command of the S.D.I. force, making sure the satellites are in working condition and constantly monitoring for enemy attack.
As the game begins, the Soviet Union is in tumult, with KGB-led revolutionaries attempting a coup. As part of the plan, the military insurgents have launched a two-pronged attack. Squadrons of fighters are attempting to knock your S.D.I. satellites out of commission, to be followed by a nuclear attack on the U.S. The first part of the game involves juggling 3 separate but interconnected arcade games. After mastering your shuttlecraft (a very basic flight simulator), you must patrol the area around your satellites, both intercepting and destroying the Soviet attack craft, as well as tracking and repairing damaged satellites. This part of the game is basically a variation of Star Raiders, with first-person perspective, radar, and radio messages to help you in your quest. Every so often, you will receive a radio message from Earth warning of an imminent Soviet missile launch. When this happens, you have exactly two minutes to dock with your space station (no easy task!), refuel and regenerate your ship, and return to command headquarters. From there, you go to the S.D.I. control module, and use your satellites to fire laser beams at the incoming missiles, hoping to destroy them before they land on their assigned targets. The fewer working satellites (remember to keep them in repair!), the tougher it is to shoot down the missiles. If this sounds like a souped-up version of Missile Command, that's basically what it is. So goes the first portion of the game-you swing back and forth between combat in space and shooting down missiles.
Meanwhile, back at the Soviet space station, your old friend Talya is attempting to hold off KGB troops. Eventually, if you've survived several waves of attack ships and missiles, she will radio for help. When that happens, you have four minutes to dock with the Soviet station, and shoot your way past several rooms of guards in order to rescue her. Once having done so, you can return to your fighter (you hope), shoot down the last of the rebel ships and live happily ever after.
Basically, S.D.I. is a series of old arcade games strung together in a fairly novel format. I found the concept of a movie-like game to be an interesting one, but unfortunately, this one doesn't have the depth to carry the idea to its full potential. In fact, moving between shooting down spaceships and shooting down missiles becomes fairly repetitious after a while. While the graphics are exceptional, actually resembling comic-book art, the play itself is inconsistent. During the Missile Command-like phase, the joystick response seems sluggish. Yet during the Star Raiders-style game, there was too much response, with slight joystick motion resulting in wild ship movements.
So I just have one question. lf S.D.I. is somewhat difficult
to play and not as original as it pretends to be, why do I find myself
playing it again and again? I don't know, but once I get into it, it holds
a bizarre fascination as few other games do. And if that's not a recommendation,
I don't know what is.
Access Software Inc.
2561 South 1560 West, Suite A
Woods Cross, Utah 84087
CIRCLE 251 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Mark Weaver
All is quiet as Mark Weaver walks up to the green. His outstanding drive allowed him to use his pitching wedge on his second shot. He putts... It's good! Mark Weaver has made a 20-foot putt to win the U.S. Open-with six under par for the day and 12 under for the tournament.
Well, at least that's how I felt when I played Leader Board. The intriguing graphics, easy play and clear documentation will keep you happy for hours as you try to come in under par.
This game's best feature is probably its 3-D graphics, which lets you see the shot from about 10 yards behind the onscreen golfer. The screen creates the illusion of looking down a real fairway The city in the background even gave me the feeling of being on a golf course after a hard day at the office. When the golfer on the screen swings, it's nice and smooth with no blur or flicker. I would love to have a real-life swing like that.
Leader Board allows up to four players with novice, amateur and professional skill levels. Each level brings in more factors, such as wind and ball control. After you master the four courses on the disk, you can buy course disks from Access Software for $19.95. The manual explains how to score the game in stroke, match or best-ball play. However, the computer only keeps score for stroke play.
Choosing a club and hitting a ball is done with the mouse. To aim, press the left button and move the mouse sideways. To hit the ball, press and hold the right button, release it and press it again. This will take some time to master, but once you've done it you'll have no trouble playing up -or down-to par. The documentation tells you to practice at the driving range. Unfortunately learning the putting greens is the only confusing part of the game.
The program doesn't play entirely by standard golf rules. For instance, when the player hits the ball into the water, it counts the stroke and makes the player play the ball from the same spot, instead of where it entered the water. I also have never hit the ball out of bounds, although I have sent it off the screen.
Still, I recommend Leader Board as an entertaining game
for anyone, regardless of skill and knowledge of golf.
576 S. Telegraph
Pontiac, Michigan 48053
CIRCLE 230 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Sol Guber
One of the advantages of owning an Atari ST is having lots of memory which you can use to speed up operations. One of the most timeconsuming personal computer operations is waiting for a printer to finish its job -printing a document. The second-longest wait, possibly is when your computer is accessing files from the disk drive. M-Disk Plus contains two simple ST utilities: a printer spooler and a RAMdisk program, which make the aforementioned operations less tedious.
For those of you who are new to high-speed computing the next few paragraphs are for you. My good printer will put out about 120 characters per second (cps) when typing in the standard fonts (excluding underlining or anything else unusual). Once my ribbon gets old, I type everything in bold. When I want to print in a proportional font, my speedy 120 cps printer drops down to about 30 cps. This translates to a double-spaced page every minute. While I type at nowhere near this speed, it does mean a long wait to regain access to my computer while it's printing out a ten-page report.
A printer spooler alleviates this long wait. What a spooler program does is set aside a small part of memory which the computer interprets as your printer. The computer will then send, very quickly all the characters in your file to this spot in memory, then the spooler sends the information slowly out to your printer at a speed the printer can handle. A good spooler is transparent: You shouldn't even be aware it's there. When you feed your information to the printer spooler, it will hold it in its memory, begin printing, and the instant it has your entire file stored, it will free up your computer, allowing you to do other work.
A RAMdisk is an area in your computer s memory that pretends to be a disk drive. When information is sent to the RAMdisk you can retrieve it almost instantaneously Disk access time is virtually zero. A good RAM-disk is also transparent. Your programs should act as if they were going out to a separate piece of hardware. A RAMdisk speeds up file copying and programs which need a great deal of disk access, like compilers. However, you must remember to save the information on your RAM-disk back to a regular floppy disk drive before turning off your computer-since your information is in RAM, powering-down will eliminate it from memory.
MichTron's M-Disk Plus is a combination printer spooler/RAMdisk. These programs are quite small and are not copy-protected, so they can be put into any AUTO file to be loaded when you boot your system. The disk also contains a configuration program which will inquire what spooler or RAMdisk you want. It will write this information onto the program itself, so that the configuration needs to be done only once.
Both of these programs are quite useful and are needed
for almost any application. They work well and are easily installed. The
four-page manual explains many of the details you need to put these programs
onto a disk and how to use them. If you do not have a good printer spooler
and a good RAMdisk, do not pass up this package
NINE PRINCES IN AMBER
One Kendal Square
Cambridge, MA 02139
CIRCLE 278 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Reviewed by Jim Pierson-Perry
Even after completing this adventure several times, I am still uncertain how to describe it best. While Nine Princes in Amber is basically an adventure game adaptation of the first two books in the Amber fantasy series by Roger Zelazny, there are also elements of logic puzzles, arcade gaming and political simulations. Complicating the play are uneven plot pacing and content ranging from the exciting to the banal.
You are the exiled Prince Corwin, whose goal is to win
his way back to Amber and its kingship. What makes your life, and this
game, interesting is
decide the series of
moves and counters
so you can emerge
or as dog food.
a collection of siblings who make the Borgia family resemble the Brady Bunch by comparison.
The program comes on two disks with supporting documentation that describes the current situation in Amber, basic rules of swordsmanship and a listing of recognized verbs. The latter is of paramount importance, due equally to a substandard parser (most accepted inputs are of the early "noun plus verb" vintage), and the unusual verbs used (such as shrug, maybe, continue) that would not be guessed readily by most adventure gamers.
Evidently the program is a direct port of its initial release for the Apple and Commodore 8-bit computers, and it shows. There is no attempt to take advantage of the ST's capabilities. Graphics are mediocre and the few sound effects contribute nothing.
My problem with this game is that it is essentially a computerized "Classics Illustrated" adaptation of the books rather than an adventure game in the Infocom or even Scott Adams tradition. Maybe that was intended, but I expected more. The plot is so faithful to the books that there are no surprises for players who have read them. There are only two real puzzles, both of low difficulty Completing the game took about two (interrupted) hours.
But (with a capital B) completing the adventure is where this game becomes interesting. That's right: only after finishing it the first time do you realize the scheming of your family members, and how these maneuvers can lead to your kingship, assassination, exile, or any one of 40 possible endings. The name of the game is political alliances, which in Amber are about as trustworthy as a promise from JR. Ewing. Several times I've jumped back into mid-play (bless all those game saves) and tried different tactics to influence the outcome.
The other source of fun is an all-too-short sword fight segment reminiscent of the fight with the troll in Zork I. Although all text, you must decide the series of moves and counters so you can emerge either victorious or as dog food. It's a shame that this only occurs at one stage and not as a challenge throughout the adventure.
Unfortunately, this game comes up short. It's simply not
interesting or well-executed enough to be recommended. It might have been
acceptable a few years ago on an 8-bit machine, but is now too outdated
and outclassed-particularly given its relatively high price. I suggest
you use your money instead to buy an adventure game worthy of the ST, like
The Pawn, and with the change buy the original Amber series books.