Carnival of Cartridges
Food Fight, Karateka and lots more hits.
Reviewed by David Plotkin
Atari's latest release of XE game cartridges--which run on all Atari XL/XE computers with at least 64K memory--revives a number of coin arcade or disk classics that had been unavailable in the Atari 8-bit market for some time.
Food Fight ($24.95) is a very simple (but messy) game. You control Charley, who starts out on the right side of the screen. The object is to guide him to the left side, where a dripping ice cream cone awaits him. Charley has 32 seconds to get across the screen, otherwise the ice cream melts, costing him one of his three lives. Sounds easy, right?
Well, of course, there is more to it than that! There are manholes strewn across the screen, and you must take care that Charley doesn't fall into one. More importantly, cooks emerge from these manholes, and they chase Charley across the screen, trying to keep the poor boy from his just desserts. If one of these cooks touch Charley, there goes another life.
Fortunately, Charley is not defenseless. There are piles of food on the screen, and he can grab these (one pile at a time) and toss them at the cooks. If he hits a cook with a banana, tomato, pie, etc., the cook becomes so embarrassed he turns red and leaves the screen. Unfortunately, another soon replaces him.
Food Fight is a challenging (and frustrating) game because the placement of the food on the screen appears to be random. Sometimes the cooks start out closer to poor Charley than a pile of food does. The cooks can run faster than Charley, so unless he can get to a pile of food and load up with some throwing weapons, it's curtains for him.
Still, the action is fast and the graphics are good. You'll want to use a good joystick for this one.
In Karateka you are an expert in the martial art of Karate. Your village has been destroyed and your intended carried off by the evil warlord, Akuma. You must defeat Akuma's warriors in battle to rescue your Sweetheart.
You can control the blond hero of Karateka with keyboard or joystick. Using the joystick, pressing the button quickly unleashes a punch, while holding down the button results in a kick. In the heat of battle it's hard to control whether you punch or kick. Blows can be directed high, medium or low by moving the joystick in the appropriate direction before pressing the button.
The keyboard controls work quite well. The arrow keys direct your alter-ego forward and back, while an easily-reached set of six keys direct punches and kicks. Because each key is assigned its own function, you can achieve very precise control, which is certainly necessary in the upper levels of the game.
As you defeat opponents, you begin moving towards the castle. Inside the castle, you will have to face more opponents, generally far more skillful than those you faced outside. You also have to figure out how to get past the diabolically deadly iron gate. And Akuma's war bird will attack to steal your strength.
Karateka is a multi-faceted game, requiring considerable arcade skill, plus the ability to recognize the attack patterns of your opponents. The graphics and animation are superb. The smoothly scrolling high-resolution background is extremely realistic, and the karate moves of both your hero and the opponents are true to life, right down to the swishing of the robes. And if you ever manage to see the final sequence (remember to bow to your intended. . .) it will make all the hours spent with this game very worthwhile.
In Crystal Castles ,you guide Bentley the bear as he makes his way through a variety of three-dimensional mazes. The paths in these mazes are littered with gems, and Bentley must pick them all up before he can move to the next level. He can also pick up pots of honey for extra points.
A whole host of creatures try to prevent Bentley from achieving his life's ambitions. These creatures include animated trees, skeletons, and a swarm of bees. Bentley can grab a magic hat to protect him for awhile. He can also jump over many of his enemies.
The mazes in Crystal Castles are what set this game apart from others--previously as a coin-op hit and now as an XE game cartridge. In extra-sharp colors, the mazes simulate 3-D, with gem-laden paths on multiple levels connected by elevators. There are also tunnels, and when Bentley goes into a tunnel or behind a structure, he becomes an outline so that you can see where he is.
Controlling the game takes a little getting used to, because the joystick diagonals are used to guide Bentley through the maze. But the system can be mastered and the game is a lot of fun.
Dark Chambers ($34.95) is one of the best dungeon arcade games released in XE cartridge. Using the joystick, you must guide your well-animated onscreen character though 26 mazes. He is armed with fireballs, and it's a good thing--these dungeons are full of dangerous beings.
At various places in each level "spawners" create the enemies, which are set up in levels of power. The most powerful is a Grim Reaper. Shooting one of these turns it into a Wizard. Shooting a Wizard turns it into a Wraith, then a Skeleton, and finally a Zombie. Shooting a Zombie kills it. Thus, some of your enemies must be shot five times to kill them!
The spawners keep creating creatures until you destroy them by shooting them. As you have probably have guessed, it takes five shots to destroy a Grim Reaper spawner (through Wizard spawner, Wraith spawner, etc.).
Fortunately, the enemies aren't very bright (But then, you aren't either, or you wouldn't be in this dungeon.) So they simply line up to be killed. You lose life energy if an enemy does touch you, and the game is over when your life energy is gone. You can recharge your energy by eating food and drinking potions which are found in the dungeon.
Other things can be found in the dungeon, such as the Keys necessary to open locked sections. Bombs which destroy all enemies on the screen, treasure, or extra weapons such as shields and more powerful fireballs are also to be found. But look out for the traps and poison, which all cost you life energy.
The smooth animation and fast action, coupled with the excellent playability (at the beginner setting, even a novice should be able to survive quite a while) make this a superb game. The 26 levels provide lots of variations as well.
Crossbow ($34.95) is a game for the Atari light gun. The opening screen shows a large number of locations including a desert, volcano, castle, town and jungle. From your current location, two or three paths are available, and these paths lead to other locales. Unfortunately, the paths don't show on the screen, so you'll probably want to map where the three color paths lead to so that you don't wander aimlessly around the screen!
Once you choose a path, the characters in your party (referred to as Your "friends") set out on their journey. The scene switches to the selected location, and your party appears, moving leisurely across the screen while all heck breaks loose around them. Large numbers of unfriendly creatures try to wreak havoc on your friends.
Lightning bolts descend, ghosts appear, rocks careen down the path, attacks come from spiders, scorpions, alligators, pterodactyls (!) and man-eating plants--to name just a few of the different hazards in each location. Of course, if anything touches one of your friends, the poor soul is fried and no longer remains a member of your party.
So what is your job? Well, you must protect the party by shooting the obstacles out of the way with your light gun before they can do any harm. This can be quite a challenge, because not only is the Atari Light Gun not especially accurate, you are required to protect four or five characters from all those hazards.
The game becomes a little easier after some members of your party get fried, but when the last one is gone, the game is over. If you do extra well on a screen, another person is added to your party (lucky you!).
Crossbow, I must admit, is just a gas to play. The effects are great (watch closely when a friend gets fried), the playability good and addicting you'll keep coming back for more.
Your home planet is under attack (again!). It's up to you in your Federation Thunderfox ($24.95) space fighter to destroy the alien transports bringing special crystals to power a deadly war machine.
This game is played in stages. When you first launch, you must approach the transport, dealing with formations of enemy fighters that try to both ram you and fire at you. Additionally, the transport has powerful guns, and part of the transport sticks up so high that you will crash if you try to fly over these portions of the ship.
Your fighter is armed with two weapons--guns which are effective against enemy fighters, and bombs which must be used against the transport. The transport has "ground installations" which are good for points but should be ignored because they are surrounded by obstacles you can crash into.
The object is to bomb the two "anti-gravity stabilizers". Each one must be hit five times. Since you can't carry ten bombs, you must return to your mother ship to reload, then return to finish the job.
If you can manage to disable the stabilizers, a door in the transport opens and you enter the thermonuclear laser room. You must maneuver through some very close quarters and avoid enemy lasers--hurrying all the while because of the room's radiation. If you survive, the third level has you facing off against a large "Crystal Guardian," which takes multiple hits to kill.
Thunderfox is simply too hard. Typical games last only seconds, especially since your fighter "bounces" off the invisible boundaries of the scrolling screen--usually into an obstacle. You can have just a single missile on the screen at once, which further limits your shooting.
The 64 delegates to the Peace Conference have been taken hostage by the Bungeling Empire and placed in locked bungalows. Your mission in Choplifter ($24.95) is to pilot a helicopter from a secret base (disguised as a post office) into enemy territely and rescue the hostages.
Your chopper can hold sixteen hostages, which means you must make multiple trips. Each trip gets harder because the enemy adds more sophisticated weapons to make your life miserable.
On the first level you face tanks, which are rather easily avoided by simply staying above their fire and blasting them into tiny pieces with your guns. The danger of the tanks, however, is that the gunfire will kill some of the hostages, so it is best to take out tanks as soon as possible.
You must blast open each bungalow. (Or let a tank do it for you, they're really good at it.) Little figures will then run out and wave at you. Be careful where you set down your chopper, or you might crush a few hostages. When you land, the figures run to the helicopter and climb aboard. You can then fly back to base and unload for the next trip.
Starting with the second trip, more enemies show up--jets firing missiles and homing drones. The drones are rather easily destroyed, but the jets are tough--they come in fast and are to hit.
The helicopter can face forward, left or right. To switch directions, you must press the fire button and pull the stick in the direction you want to turn. Unfortunately, this is exactly the same maneuver you make in the heat of battle when you don't want to turn! Thus, you end up changing directions a lot when you don't want to, which can shorten your games considerably.
The graphics are incredible. The helicopter, enemies, background and base are highly detailed, and the rescued hostages even wave to you as they get off the chopper. Choplifter is a timeless classic on the Apple and Atari 8-bit computers, and the even more detailed graphics in this version help make it a very good game.
INTO THE EAGLE'S NEST
Three of your comrades have been captured in Into the Eagle's Nest ($24.95). The Eagle's Nest is a Nazil fottress where top officials are meeting to plan a counterattack. You must try to rescue the three saboteurs and blow up the castle with the explosives they planted. The castle contains locked doors, many floors, an elevator, chests, jewels, spare ammunition and many, many soldiers.
You must negotiate the castle (which looks suspiciously like a maze), blasting Nazi soldiers as you go. They, of course, shoot back (or more accurately, try to hit you), and if you are hit 50 times, you die and the game ends. You can recover from these hits by finding medical kits and food which have been rather carelessly left about the castle.
Pay close attention to ammunition too, because you can only carry 99 rounds, and you run out surprisingly quickly. If you manage to find your comrades, you must attempt to exit the castle with them. This is tough, because they are weak and sick and don't move too fast.
The Nazi soldiers (This game should sell real well in Germany!) simply line up to be shot, much Like the creatures in Dark Chambers. In fact, this whole game is quite similar to Dark Chambers, but not as playable. Your lack of ammunition makes it tough, and a single mistake (like shooting a box full of dynamite) can cost you the game! Overall, Dark Chambers is a better game of this same type.
Crime Buster is an exciting game that uses the Atari Light Gun and provides a "blasting" good time. You play one of the city's top detectives, out to wipe out crime once and for all.
You choose a one- or two-player game by blasting holes in the appropriate choice. You can, of course, shoot holes in anything you want. The destructive effect is quite gratifying.
You must choose a section of the city from a map--just fire twice at the section you want. If the section of the city you choose is not adjacent to the section you currently occupy, you must travel to the portion of the city in question. Travel is very dangerous and the best strategy is to avoid it. If you do have to travel, your car appears on the screen, traveling down a road which scrolls from left to right.
You control the car by firing at arrows pointing left and right, which makes your auto move towards that direction. Periodically a gangster car appears and fires at you. If it hits you, your car explodes and you lose one of your three lives.
To fire back, you must shoot your light gun at arrows which determine your direction of fire. This is difficult, since you can't control the car's position and fire at the mobsters at the same time. It would have made more sense to let you fire at the mobster's car with your light gun. If you somehow manage to hit the mobster's car, it rolls over and explodes.
At your destination, your goal is to plug all the gangsters in a classic shoot-out, while at the same time avoiding the innocent bystanders who don't have the good sense to get out of the way. Complicating matters, the gangsters sometimes dress up like innocent bystanders to try and fool you into not shooting them.
Each scene is different. Settings include buildings, a ship, and the inside of a warehouse. Gangsters appear in doorways and windows, pop out of boxes and manholes, and even come up from the water.
The graphics in Crime Buster are very good. The mobsters' cars rolling over and over are very satisfying. When you blast the gangster with the hat on, his face changes and the hat flies off. Other effects are equally good. Overall, Crime Buster is an excellent game which will keep you coming back to try to do better.
In one ofthe more birarre scenarios for video games, you become the plaything of an evil wizard who turns you into an Airball--with a slow leak! In order to escape this fate, you must find a spellbook and return it to the wizard. Of course, the spellbook is hidden in a 150-room mansion, which also contains spikes, needles and other nasty, pointed objects detrimental to the health of an airball.
You move from room to room using your joystick and make your airball hop into the air by pressing the fire button. The rooms are viewed in three-quarter perspective, which can be confusing.
Bonus objects in the mansion include gold bricks and precious stones. There are also crates which the airball can move, to uncover valuable objects. You may also find such useful objects as a lantern, which can be quite handy in the rooms that have no light! When your pressure gets low, you must try to find an air pump-- and then avoid death by overinflation.
The graphics in Airball are very well done and detailed, with many of the rooms containing elaborate decorations. Strategy definitely plays a significant part in winning this game, as it is quite easy to get lost in the huge mansion. Be warned, though. This is an extremely frustrating game, with death just the barest miscalculation away.
Summer Games presents eight Olympic events for you to compete in, including diving, skeet shooting, pole volt, two swimming ewnts, gymnastics and track. You may choose to compete in all the events in order, compete in a single event, or practice any given event.
If you decide to compete, you must choose a name and country. Just highlight the flag of the country you want and that nation's national anthem will play. The impressive opening ceremony has the Olympic theme playing, a runner lighting the torch, and doves flying away.
The events themselves basically test your skill and timing with a joystick. Some work pretty well, while others are exercises in torture.
The diving and gymnastics are similar in that you must press the joystick to various positions to control the amount of "tuck" your contestant uses. Both events end with scoring from the judges.
You dive from the ten-meter board, and you can choose a variety of dives (forward, back, reverse). You control the spinning, twisting diver on the way down. The more difficult the dive the more possible points you can get.
The Gymnastics event has you leaping onto a springboard, then vaulting into the air (using a vaulting horse). Again, you control the gymnast as she leaps and flies through the air.
The first track event is a four-man relay. Here, you control the runner's speed, trying to go as fast as possible without using up the runner's stamina. There is also the small matter of passing the baton. The other track event is the hundred-yard dash, a "joystick buster" -- just rattle the stick back and forth as fast as you can.
The two swimming events are similar. One is four-man relay, while the other is just a two-lap race for a single swimmer. You control the timing of your swimmer's start and kick-turn, and apply power to the swimmer's arms at exactly the right moment by pressing the fire button.
The best event is the skeet shoot. You control a cursor that represents the aiming point of your shotgun. A standard pattern of skeet launchers throw groups of up to four clay pigeons into the air and you must fire at them. This simple event works very well.
The most difficult and frustrating event is the pole vault. You must precisely time the placing of your pole, leaping up and over, and releasing the pole in order to make it over the bar without knocking the bar off. Unfortunately, correctly timing that final press of the fire button to let go of the pole seems virtually impossibie.
No computer game can give you the actual feel of competing in a physical sport--but how many people can seriously hope to compete in the Olympics? Summer Games, with its excellent graphics, animation and sound will provide a good time over all for Olympic dreamers.
1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
$24.95 or $34.95, 64K XL/XE