Newest Game Cartridges From Atari
Ace Of Aces, Desert Falcon, Mario Bros.
Reviewed by David Plotkin
ACE OF ACES
Ace of Aces is a rather complex game in which you need to be both the pilot and crew of a Mosquito fighter-bomber. You'll have your hands full, especially because of the incredibly frustrating control system.
You have the choice of either flying practice missions (dogfights, bomb the train, or bomb the submarine), or real missions which are far more challenging. During the practice mission you are simply placed on target and shoot at the enemy or drop your bombs.
In a real mission, you can choose to fly more than one mission before returning to base. If you can complete all four in one trip and come back alive, then you are the Ace of Aces.
You must equip your plane. If the mission is deep inside Europe, you'll need extra fuel tanks. Next, you decide how many rockets, how much cannon ammunition, and how many bombs to carry with you. The Mosquito has a limited lifting capacity, so you won't be able to take everything you'd like to.
You then begin the flight to your destination, using the map screen. It's best to stay away from weather systems and head straight to your destination.
There are five views you will need to switch between while engaged in a mission. First is the cockpit view, with all the necessary flight instruments-radar, altimeter, turn and bank indicator, compass, plus an instrument that tells the enemy's altitude.
The view out of the cockpit window is updated smoothly and the plane's control yoke moves at the bottom of the view in response to your joystick. The cockpit view also includes crosshairs for firing the cannons and rockets at enemy fighters and bombers.
Two other views include the left and right engines, where you can adjust the throttle, booster, trim and flaps, as well as control the landing gear. It is also here that you activate the fire extinguisher to put out an engine fire (which is visible out of the window).
The bomb bay view is where you can change weapons (cannon or rocket), switch fuel tanks, open the bomb bay doors and drop bombs. All views include an "intercom", which is a picture of the plane showing what parts are damaged. You can then switch to that view and attempt to correct the situation (e.g., putting out an engine fire).
The graphics in Ace of Aces are good, but the system for switching screens is terrible. You can use the keyboard (keys 1 through 5), and these work fine. But the problem is that you can also double-press the fire button and move the joystick in certain directions to switch views.
In the heat of battle, I found myself switching screens when I didn't want to-- usually resulting in bullet holes in the windscreen and my Mosquito crashing in flames. This happened over and over again. The result is even more noticeable if you have one of those rapid-fire attachments for your joystick!
Because of this flaw in the control system, Ace of Aces is very frustrating. This is too bad, because as a battle simulator, it's very good and a lot fun to play.
In Desert Falcon, your mission is to guide a giant mysticaI bird of prey flying over a beautifully detailed scrolling desert.
Viewed in the-quarter perspective the desert is lined with pyramids, sculptures and towers. For points, you can pick up treasures dropped by marauding grave-robbers. The falcon can land and hop around in the desert, although he is quite vulnerable when he does.
Also to be found in the desert are hieroglyphics. Picking up three of these useful items gives the falcon superpowers, including an "air bomb" which destroys all enemies, invincibility, and lots of points. Some of the so-called superpowers have some drawbacks. In particular, they can limit certain types of movement. Fortunately, the superpowers don't last very long.
The manual descibes a wide variety of enemies. Unfortunately, except for some flying triangles, they all looked pretty much alike and it was very hard to tell which enemy was which. However, it really doesn't matter, except for scoring.
Some enemies can only get you when you are on the ground, others are deadly in the air. Running into any enemy creature takes one of the falcon's five lives. Your falcon can also fire forward, destroying any enemy hit by its arrow missles.
At the end of each section, there is a giant Sphinx. You have to blast it between the eyes while dodging the fireballs it is firing at you. If you manage to hit it the right place, you blast a satisfying hole in its head and preceed to the next stage.
The only difficult thing about Desert Falcon is the control scheme for flying the great bird, which takes some getting used to. But before long, you are moving the falcon around the screen smoothly, gathering prizes and blowing enemies to desert heaven. I like this game. It has excellent graphics and is very playable.
Mario Bros. takes you on the continuing adventures of Mario, the unfortunate plumber whose girlfriend was stolen by Donkey Kong. After recovering her from the amorous ape, he returns to his everyday work (with his brother Luigi in the two person version), only to find that their plumbing works are being overrun by all manner of strange creatures.
These creatures include the turtle-like shell creepers, crab-like sidesteppers, hopping fighterflies, and so on. To eliminate them, Mario must get onto the level below the creature, then jump up (press the joystick button), bumping the level above and flipping the creatures over. He must then jump up to the level the creature is on and kick it off the screen before it can right itself.
As the levels increase, everything gets more difficult. The sidesteppers must be bumped twice to get them to tip over and they start to move faster after the first bump. The fighterflies hop around, and can only be bumped when they are touching the level.
There is a POW button which can be used three times to flip everything on the screen. There are also bonus rounds where gold coins can be collected for extra points. These coins occasionally show up during play as well.
The graphics and animation of Mario Bros. is excellently done. Mario even turns red and loses all his hair when he gets fried by a fireball! But, make no mistake--this is a tough game. You won't get past the first few screens for quite awhile.
$24.95 each, XL/XE with at Ieast 64K memory. Atari Corp., 1196 Borregas Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94086. (408) 745-2000.