Colossus Chess, Blue Team Bridgeby Steve Panak
When I first received these games I was surprised. The Atari 8-bit market already has several excellent bridge and chess games, so the addition of more low-end versions seems superfluous. But while this may be true, these two programs nonetheless exceed the generic expectations they produce.
Actually, this is not the first time I had played Colossus Chess ($15.95). It challenged (and defeated) me a couple of years ago, when it was an import from England, just before it landed in The Catalog. I felt that it was the premier chess game, a bargain at twice its low price.
Even with Chessmaster 2000 as its main rival in the marketplace, Colossus still offers the best price/performance ratio. This is because Colossus Chess contains nearly all the features of Chessmaster 2000, except the high price tag. Sure, the screen display isn't quite as attractive, colorful or striking. But Colossus plays a good game and has all the options you need, such as move take-back, board setup and even the ability to view the program's thinking processes. Also included are a clock and a teaching mode, as well as multiple levels of play. And the program uses my favorite input device, the joystick.
Unfortunately, Blue Team Bridge ($19.95) was not quite as good, but it is complete--perhaps too complete. Its two disks contain enough information to teach both the novice and the expert a thing or two about bridge. The author admits that while the program excels at bidding, it's slightly weak in actual play. We quickly found this to be true--it does bid the standard Blackwood and Stayman, but such esoteric bids as the gambling 3 no trump and Roman 2 diamond are likely to be lost on most players. And by making the bidding so strong, the author has split the program into two modules, one that bids, one that plays--and which cannot coexist in memory. Thus there's plenty of time-consuming disk access.
Also distressing were a couple of apparent bugs in the program. For instance, after bidding a saved hand, you may then play that hand. But if you review the bidding of the saved hand, the program displays not what you actually bid, but what it thinks you should have bid. Another error locks up the program after playing one saved hand, forcing a reboot before you can play another.
Because of the low price, manuals for both these games are provided on the disks. This documentation can be sent to a printer
But overall, both of these programs--especially Colossus Chess play very strong games and are good values. The best thing about each is that few players will find them inadequate opponents.
48K disk. The Catalog, 544 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107. (800) 234-7001, (415) 957-0886.