Atari's 12 New Entertainment Cartridges
Bonanza for ALL 8-bit gamesters!
Continuing Antic's policy of reviewing all Atari XE Game System cartridges as soon as they become available, this article looks at the 12 new carts-priced $19.95 to $22.95 each-that shipped at the beginning of 1988.
According to our latest word from Atari, game cartridges will be released in smaller numbers throughout the year. Expected this spring are Food Fight, the Gato submarine simulation, Necromancer and Desert Falcon. Don't forget that XE Game System cartridges will work on any Atari 8-bit computer.
We'll start off this month's reviews with the one brandnew game in the
batch. All the other software has prevously been available either on disk
or in coin arcade versions that I've enjoyed playing for years.
Barnyard Blaster is a superb game that also brings some great news-the Atari Light Gun works just fine! Those aiming inaccuracies noted in my article, Shootout of the Video Game Systems (Antic, March 1988) apparently should have been attributed to the Bug Hunt software included with the XE Game System.
Barnyard Blaster's background graphics are colorful and the target animation is excellent. Inanimate objects explode convincingly, while the animals disappear in a tasteful twinkle. Each of the three scenarios has an introductory screen that you can blast realistic holes into.
You simultaneously blast away at stationary objects pumpkins, bottles,
watermelons, and moving targets gophers, mice, chickens. Ammunition is
limited and there's a bonus round where you shoot bottles thrown into the
air by "Gramps. " Sometimes a blank rectangle or garbage appears on the
screen instead of the score, but this doesn't seem to affect the game.
Archon is "the battle between the dark and the light." On a chessboard-like field, you control various pieces that each have differing weaponry, movement, distance, lifespan and other traits. Although the two sides are fairly evenly matched, the pieces are not identical. Archers use arrows, trolls use rocks, knights use swords, manticores use bolts, and magic spells are used by wizards on the right and sorceresses on the left. Archon is a game for one or two players, but be warned-the XE Game System is a mean opponent.
When it's your turn, use the joystick to move. Some pieces can fly or
teleport while others can be blocked on the ground. If you land in the
same square as another piece, you fight to the death. Pieces are
more powerful on squares of their own color. And some squares cycle through
the colors, so keep on your toes. The battlefield is littered with ever-changing
obstacles, which can shield a piece from attack. And it takes a while to
recycle your weapons-you can't just hold down the fire button and blast
In Fight Night, your boxer can climb into the ring with any of five challengers, controlled either by computer or by another player. Joystick and trigger combinations give you eight possible punch and block maneuvers. Each challenger has a specialty. For example, Hu Sim has a mean karate kick to the midsection, and the British Bulldog can belt you so hard that your onscreen alter ego's neck stretches. All the computer opponents have weak spots except the champ -- the Bronx Bomber.
The Tournament option lets you set up a tree of elimination fights. Main Event lets you control your fighter against the computer challengers. If you win you move on, but if you lose, you can have a rematch. You can build your own fighter by choosing various body parts from the available selections, even deciding how resistant your fighter will be to head and body blows. (However, resistance to one makes him succeptible to the other.)
You can save completed fighters to memory for the rest of the current
play session, or to disk if you have a disk drive. You can also use the
training and sparring options to practice, although with the sparring option
I was unable to figure out how to control the fighters. I also couldn't
tell how to use the constructed boxer in the Main event, for which I blame
ONE ON ONE
In One on One, you control either Julius "Dr. J " Erving or Larry Bird in a game of one-on-one basketball. These two basketball greats participated in the design of the game, and their strengths and weaknesses are well represented. You can play against another player or the computer, using your joystick to move, attempt steals, block or shoot.
The graphics are excellent and smooth. Dr. J's famous "jump and turn" shot is spectacular, and the shattering backboard on an enthusiastic slam dunk is very funny. There is even instant replay for a particularly impressive move. Levels range from "Park and Rec" to "Pro," and the computer gets successively better as an opponent in each level.
You lose the ball if you make an illegal move. Commit more than five
fouls, and your opponent goes to the line for a free throw. Even fatigue
and hot streaks come in. You can regain energy by dribbling the ball
or use it up by running around the court. One on One is a lot of fun to
play with a friend and you even have a chance against the computer.
DAVID'S MIDNIGHT MAGIC
This is video pinball, complete with bumpers, drop targets, rollovers
and flippers. The joystick starts the ball and flips the flippers, although
you must move the stick (rather than pressing buttons) for the flippers,
so the action takes a little getting used to. You can even bump the table,
but just as in the real thing, you might TILT. There are bonuses and options
for multiple players. The graphics and sound are well done, and David's
Midnight Magic is a lot of fun.
In Ballblazer, a futuristic sports contest for one or two players, you guide your "rotofoil" over a checkerboard playing surface, attempting to gain control of a floating ball and send it between two goal posts.
Half of the screen shows your view, and the other half shows your opponent's-you can even see yourself from your opponent's viewpoint. The graphics are outstanding, with a smoothly moving checkerboard playing field that gives a realistic 3-D perspective.
You can steal the ball from your opponent and then use your joystick
to move the rotofoil toward the goalposts at either end of the field. The
goalposts move, so hitting them can be difficult. The number of points
you get for shooting the ball between the posts varies depending on the
distance from the goal posts. If you can get the ball between the posts
when you can't see them -- quite a trick-you get three points. (I usually
get real close and settle for just one point.)
In Blue Max you fly a World War I biplane over enemy territory and do as much damage as possible with guns and bombs. The three-quarter view features a well rendered, smooth-scrolling landscape with buildings, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, rivers, boats, bridges, cars and trees. And enemy aircraft better avoided if possible do sometimes appear.
Occasionally you'll see an airfield where you can refuel, re-arm and repair damage. Watch the onscreen altitude gauge: If you fly below 24 feet, your guns will damage smaller objects on the ground, but don't fly too low, or you'll crash.
To drop a bomb, climb a little, then dive, then press the fire button. Bombs are especially useful for buildings and bridges with flashing targets, and you can score big by sinking a ship with a bomb-which requires really good aim. The final goal is to fly into the enemy's capital city and bomb his headquarters.
Almost everything except the trees will shoot back at you. Sustain too
much damage and you'll crash. Loss of your guns or bombs, or a hole in
your ftiel tank, are good reasons to look for a friendly airfield. But
even on the ground, your troubles are not over-an enemy plane could bomb
you. This is the part of the game I didn't like, since you're helpless
on the ground with only one life.
STAR RAIDERS II
In this sequel to the original Atari blockbuster space game, the Zylons are again on the attack and sending ships from a neighboring star system. You must defend the Celos IV system's four planets not only by destroying the Zylon ships, but also by warping to their star system and wiping out the bases which are producing the attacking fleets.
To accomplish this, you have a single star fighter. It has shields, three kinds of weaponry, warp drive and subspace radio. There's a star map used for selecting warp destinations. You also must protect three space stations which you need for refueling and repair.
To win, you must wipe out attacking fleets trying to destroy your cities. If they're all destroyed, the game is over. Each fleet has a squadron of small fighters that attack first. Wiping these out with your laser cannon brings on the "destroyers," for which you'll need your ion cannons. Once you have cleared out the Celos IV system, you can warp to the enemy system and use "surface bursts" to destroy bases on the planet surfaces. If you wipe out all bases and remaining fleets, you win.
Star Raiders II is very playable. It's completely different from
the original Star Raiders, yet maintains that same desperate flavor. The
graphics and animation are excellent.
Imagine 150 screens-some devilishly clever-for you to guide the Lode Runner through, each containing platforms, ladders, bricks, poles-and guards. Your goal is to pick up all the pots of gold on a screen. When you do, a ladder appears which leads you to the next screen. Drilling holes in the bricks can trap guards. If you time it right, the bricks will grow back over a guard. This is the only way to grab his gold.
There are a variety of controls, including ways to "cheat" by giving yourself extra lives or advancing to another level and picking up where you left off. This makes the game even more fun, although the high score is not kept if you use these methods.
Lode Runner also lets you build your own screens. You can save as many
as 150 additional screens on disk, if you have a drive. Otherwise, you
can still design a screen, although it's lost at the end of the current
play session. The editor provides nine different types of items (bricks,
poles, ladders, guards, etc.) on each screen, and lets you test each screen.
Adapted directly from the arcade version, Battle Zone places you in a tank, battling enemy tanks and other vehicles. All the details are rendered in line drawings. (The original used vector graphics.) Your radar screen spots enemies; you must line one up in your sights and blast it.
The landscape is littered with obstacles, which can block you at critical
times and prevent you from escaping when the enemy shoots back. This, coupled
with the fact that graphics don't always make clear what's going on, makes
this a rather frustrating game.
With HardBall, you can play baseball on your XE Game System against either a friend or the computer. You can change the lineup, shift the infield or outfield or choose a designated hitter. Once the game starts, you control the pitcher or the hitter.
The view is over the pitcher's shoulder, with the infield diamond in the lower right corner. The pitcher can choose the pitch (fastball, offspeed, change-up, etc.) and location, while the batter chooses when (or if) and where to swing.
If the ball is hit, the view shifts to the infield or outfield, and
the fielder is controlled by the defending team. Whoever fields the
ball can throw it to any base to cut off a runner. HardBall has excellent
graphics and sound. It supports extra innings, tiring pitchers, stealing
bases and changing the lineup.
RESCUE ON FRACTALUS
From its animated launch sequence to the realistic mountains and valleys, Rescue on Fractalus is an exciting and very playable game. You pilot a spacecraft whose mission is to rescue downed pilots on the planet Fractalus. Your long-range scanners tell you where the pilots are, but you must deal with enemy saucers and lasers as well.
You have an unlimited supply of torpedoes for destroying enemy installations, and you are heavily shielded as well although it depletes your fuel when your shields are taxed. When you locate a pilot, you must land and pick him up. Your ship gains fuel from a downed craft, and when you have rescued the required number of pilots, a mother ship takes them and you move to the next level.
Besides being very entertaining, the thing which sets Fractalus apart
is the graphics. The animated control panel is impressive, but the craggy
surface of the planet, generated using the mathematical technique of "fractals,"
is extraordinary. You can fly between mountains, skirting the sides of
valleys and swooping over long ridges to pounce on the enemy.
$19.95 to $22.95 each. Atari Corp., 1196 Borregas Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA 94086. (408) 745-2000.
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