Two-Game Disks From
L.A. SWAT and Panther, Las Vegas Video Poker and Vegas Jackpot
Reviewed by David Plotkin
L.A. SWAT, PANTHER
The first disk includes two arcade games that feature decent graphics and are difficult to master. In L.A. SWAT -- the better game from a standpoint of overall playability -- you are in command of a patrol penetrating gang territory. There are initially three patrol members, but you control only the squad leader and he is the only one vulnerable.
The idea is to move up a street filled with obstacles. There are buildingss on both sides and the streets are filled with hostile (are there any other kind?) gang members. These will attack your squad leader with clubs if they get too close, so you must shoot them to prevent it. They also toss grenades, and you must try to anticipate where the grenade will land and move out of the way.
You control the squad leader with your joystick, and he shoots only in the direction he is traveling. His machine gum has a moderate range and it isn't too difficult to take out the gang members in the early levels.
You can use obstacles for shelter. Gang members seem to be able to climb over most obstacles while your way is effectively blocked by the barriers. Snipers on the rooftops fire at you, and there doesn't seem to be a way to bring them down. All you can do is avoid their bullets. Complicating matters further is the presence of innocent bystanders, who will cost you a hefty 1,000-point penalty if you blast them.
At the end of each level there is an intersection swarming with gang members, who come at you from all directions. If you manage to survive the intersection, then you move on to the next level, where the gang members become more aggressive -- there are more of them and some shoot back. When the squad leader is taken out, one of the remaining patrolmen takes his place, until they are all gone.
L.A. SWAT is quite playable and convincingly animated, although very violent. Somehow, I don't think the Los Angeles Police Department would be amused by this game!
Panther is a science fiction game, somewhat reminiscent of Blue Max and Choplifter. You pilot your saucer across the scrolling landscape, landing periodically to take aboard survivors (hidden in bunkers) of an alien attack. The view is three-quarter perspective, so that the landscape scrolls from the upper right to the lower left corner of the screen.
To control your saucer, you must use the joystick. Mostly, you control the altitude -- if you fly too low, you can pile into one of the features which dot the landscape: telephone poles, buildings, bunkers, etc. You can't control the speed. Instead, the saucer travels faster as you move higher.
You can land by pressing the joystick all the way forward. If you do so by a bunker, small figures will climb aboard your craft. You can also fly left and right across the screen, and fire your missiles by pressing the joystick button.
Mastertronic recently released a pair of double game packages as "flippy" disks with Atari versions on one side and Commodore 64 versions on the reverse. At only $9.99 apiece, these disks are good entertainment values despite some shortcomings.
Of course, the aforementioned aliens are not standing idly by while you arc doing all this. They launch attack waves at you, and you must depend on skill (and luck) to avoid them. The aliens swarm about you, trying not only to shoot you down with their missiles, but also to ram you! And they always seem to show up when you have landed to pick up survivors.
The aliens are very difficult to avoid because its hard to tell how high you are. There is no real measure of altitude, although after a while you learn to judge when you are at the same altitude as an alien, so you can shoot it down.
The graphics of Panther are a mixed bag. The landscape is highly detailed, but the spacecraft resemble nothing so much as blobs. The landscape changes as the game progresses, with desert, city and ocean scenes among the variations.
This is a tough game, and most of your early games will be very short as the alien attack waves mow you down. One good feature is that you don't lose your survivors when your craft is shot down. L.A. SWAT and Panther in combination make a good gaming value.
LAS VEGAS VIDEO POKER, VIDEO JACKPOT
The second flippy consists of two gambling games with good graphics. But one game is not a very faithful simulation, and both are marred by the fact that only instructions for the Commodore version are included in package. It takes some significant trial and error to figure out how they work on the Atari.
Las Vegas Video Poker is a simulation of Jackpot Poker. You can choose to play with nickels, quarters or dollars, but since it isn't real money, just take your pick.
Place as many as five coins in the slot by pressing the [RETURN] key, then press the [SPACEBAR] to draw a five-card poker hand. The cards are displayed across the top of a simulated slot machine.
Once the cards are displayed, press the number keys at the top of the keyboard to designate which cards you want to hold. Then press the [SPACEBAR] again to draw replacement cards. The machine pays off according to how good a poker hand you have. Minimum payment (return of your bet) requires a pair of jacks. The maximum payment (250 coins) comes for a royal flush, a hand that I never saw in all the time I've played Video Poker.
The graphics for Video Poker are good, as are the sound effects. Unfortunately, the interface is clumsy and uses widely separated keys. The joystick would have made a superior control mechanism, even simulating the pulling action of a real slot machine.
The other game in this package is Vegas Jackpot, a slot machine simulation that's unlike any slot machine I've ever seen.
First of all, you can only bet one coin and there's only a single pay line. Real slot machines give you more chances to win with multiple pay lines as the stakes go up. There are also some lights across the top of the machine. After each spin some of the lights light up. Occasionally you get a chance to "hold" your choice of the four reels, so that on the next spin, the selected reels don't move. There is also something called a "nudge," which automatically moves the reels to a winning position and awards a random jackpot.
There are a few significant problems with Video Vegas. Again, the clumsy interface doesn't use the joystick. More seriously, however, the instructions are only for the C64 version. There are no instructions on how to use the hold or nudge features on the Atari! The instructions for the C64 even state that you can save your nudges and gamble them, but I was never able to figure out how to accomplish this.
Overall, the Video Poker game is good enough to warrant purchasing this package, and Vegas jackpot is a nice bonus.
$9.99 each. Mastertronic, 711 West 17th Street, Suite G9, Costa Mesa, 92627. (714) 631-1001.