The Software Reviews

reviewed by Les Ellingham

 

Issue 8

Mar/Apr 84

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Name

Manufacturer

Memory/Players/Price

TAROT CARD

English Software Co

16/48K Any 12.95

FAI2RSTRIKE 2

English Software Co

16/32K 1/2 9.95

HYPERBLAST

English Software Co

32K 1/2 9.95

JET BOOT JACK

English Software Co

32K 1/2 9.95

CAPTAIN STICKYS GOLD

English Software Co

16/32K 1/2 9.95

BOMBASTIC

English Software Co

16K 1/2 9.95

BATTY BUILDERS

English Software Co

16K 1 9.95

CAVERUNNER

English Software Co

32K 1 9.95

SHATABLAST       

L. B. D. Ltd.           

16K 1 8.95

GIANT SLALOM       

Artworx

16K 2/9 7.50

SPACE TRAP         

Artworx

16K 1 7.50

CRAZITACK          

Artworx  

16K 1 7.50

GEOGRAGUIZ - U.K.

Soflow Software

16K 1/2 6.50

GEOGRAGUIZ - U.S.A

Soflow Software

16K 1/2 6.50

LEGGITT

Imagine

16K 1/2 5.50

 

The Software Reviews take on a different format this issue to bring you reviews of fifteen new programs all but one of which can be purchased for less than 10. Read on to see if you can after all get good value at low prices for your Atari.


Top of the list for Atari software is English Software Co who have eight recently released titles. TAROT CARD should not strictly be included being priced at 12.95 but this does include a book on the Tarot. Not just a few flimsy pages but a genuine Penguin paperback. Tarot Card begins with a neat opening sequence before showing you three cards from which you must choose the one with which you feel most affinity. You are then invited to ask a question that you want the Tarot to answer and the cards are dealt and your reading is given. As each card is dealt, its characteristics are revealed and at the end of the reading your question is repeated with the Tarot's conclusion. There are two versions on the tape, 16K and 48K with fewer cards in the 16K version which would not please those with a serious interest in the Tarot! Certainly a very different and interesting program and great fun. At least it answered my question in the way I wanted! 

 

AIRSTRIKE 2 is just what it says, a follow up to one of the most successful Atari titles. The format is the same although there are naturally many improvements. This one is easier to play than the original which in my opinion is a vast improvement as AIRSTRIKE verged on the impossible for mere mortals! The familiar scrolling cavern is there but there are now options to enter caverns below the main one thus allowing several different ways through. Bomb control is now by joystick, although you may still choose the spacebar as an alternative, but it is fairly difficult to get used to. You must push the joystick up at the same time as pressing the fire button which if you are not careful will see you crashing into the roof. There are five skill levels and again 16K and 32K versions on one tape. The 32K version has a radar scanner similar to Defender to show you where you are in the cavern. One super innovation from English Software is the provision of new landscapes to load into the game if you become tired of the original. For only 4.95 you may purchase a data cassette which allows you to load in two new landscapes. The disk version costs 6.95 and has four new landscapes. A great idea. 

 

HYPERBLAST is in the Galaxians vein and looks good as the aliens burst upon your screen. There is a scrolling starfield and ten waves of flying diving creatures to destroy before the next set of creatures with different movement patterns appears. These creatures are not in the familiar formation but dance and flit all around the screen. Your ship is moved along the bottom of the screen and you have a centre cannon -and two wing missiles with which to shoot. As You hit a creature it releases a flurry of bombs which increase in number as the game goes on and you must avoid these. There are three difficulty levels which will provide you with plenty of challenge. 

 

JET BOOT JACK is probably the pick of the bunch. It is a multi screen jumping game with lifts and conveyors and nasty bugs and gremlins. The theme is quite original and features Jet Boot Jack as a space age jogger (complete with Sony Walkman!) zipping around a record pressing plant collecting stray musical notes. No ordinary jogger is Jack for his boots are rocket propelled and he must refuel as he goes. Death comes to Jack in many guises from falling into open shafts, cracking his head on projections from the ceiling, getting crushed by a moving platform, eaten by a nastie or just running out of fuel. There are ten different screens with the option to jump ahead only after you have completed that screen. Although on a now familiar theme the unique story line and good programming makes Jet Boot Jack well worth getting. The music is good and the scrolled opening credits are superb. 

 

CAPTAIN STICKY'S GOLD comes next and has some really superb title music. The game however did not seem quite up to the excitement of the opening credits and music although it is still quite playable. The action takes place underwater and you have to lower Captain Sticky on a rope to retrieve gold bars from the ocean bed. As well as watching your air supply you must keep an eye on the creatures of the deep which you can fight off with your harpoon gun. Each dive is timed and you must resurface for fresh air or suffer a watery death. Points are scored by harpooning shoals of fish as well as recovering gold and there are eight levels to complete before moving on to the next of eight zones. Somehow this one did not seem as exciting as the others but the theme is certainly different and you may enjoy it just for that. It is worth getting for the music which, as I have said, is really great.

 

BOMBASTIC is a throw back to the early days of Breakout and Pong and is basically a two player game, although one can play against the computer. The object is to shoot at floating blocks to prevent them from reaching your side of the screen. The blocks are harmless until they start flashing when they will destroy part of your defensive wall. The idea is to push them towards your opponent` s wall just before they begin to flash so that they can do their damage there. The simple themes often make the best games and Bombastic is, despite its simplicity, very addictive requiring both strategy and quick action. An ideal game for two players and a refreshing change from the search for ever more involved themes. 

 

BATTY BUILDERS seems at first to be too simple requiring you to just catch failing bricks and then throw them back up to build a wall. The first level is fairly easy, although you must think carefully to gain maximum points, but thereafter it becomes very hard as you have to dodge fast moving obstacles whilst at the same time trying to catch the bricks. The brick supply scrolls across the top of the screen in beautifully smooth motion and the bricks drop at random. Once caught you can move to a chosen position to throw them up. Catch them carefully though for death in this one is literally shattering and still gives me quite a f right each time I play! 

 

And so we come to CAVERUNNER. They can't all be good can they! After all the above Caverunner is a disappointment being extremely frustrating to play and a little slow with the monotonous death march being toiled out in a single sound voice every few seconds as you die. This is the only one of the English Software releases that requires Basic to load and it shows in comparison to the rest. The object is to run through various caves avoiding green slime, water and various obstacles to reach hidden treasures. Each screen requires you to run from side to side descending a level at a time. I must confess that I never got past the first screen and gave up very quickly. Maybe this one requires a great deal of patience or maybe it was just that the others were so good making a fair judgement difficult.

SHATABLAST is from a newcomer to Atari software L.B.D. Ltd and there are one or two rough edges such as the attract mode not being disabled which shows that this is a first release for the Atari. At first sight the graphics look disappointing being a stationary view from the turret of a defence ship to outer space but the game comes alive as you play it. You must defend your planet from a guided missile attack from an enemy Battle Star which launches fast and furious salvos at you. You have a cross sight and must line this up on the incoming missiles to shoot them down whilst at the same time avoiding your own orbiting satellites. The trajectory of the missile homing in on you is excellent and this is the part that makes the game quite a challenge. Forget the somewhat blocky graphics and simple titles and concentrate instead on those homing missiles which will give you a good run for your money.

Allrian Data Services' FIRST GAME SERIES is a re-release of early titles for the Atari which in their time were 'state of the art' games but which have now been overtaken by the many games available in machine language. At 7.50 each the series is among the cheapest available for the Atari and they have been re-released to give you more games for your collection without emptying your pocket. SPACE TRAP has your small craft inside a black hole where you must shoot as many enemy craft as possible before the hole closes in on you. Hitting the walls or an enemy craft will lose you points and you may run out of fuel. There is no end objective, just get the highest score possible. CRAZITACK sees lots of player-missile creatures hovering about for you to shoot in order to defend the city. You have banks of missiles which are used up as fired so you must plan your shots carefully. When all banks are exhausted you move on to the next screen which is nearer the city. If you fall then an alien craft levitates the city and drops it in a heap of rubble. GIANT SLALOM is the best of the three games reviewed and is one of the few games which can be played by a whole bunch of people. COMPUTE! recently published a Skiing game which used true fine scrolling but Giant Slalom, despite its simple use of graphics characters, is much better to play. Just a downhill slalom course with different gates for you to negotiate and improve upon your time. This one again proves that the simple ideas are among the most playable. Also in the series are INTRUDER ALERT and RINGS OF THE EMPIRE. At the very least these games will give you an insight into what you can achieve using Basic and will probably give you a bit of fun into the bargain. Hardened old Atari hands won't like these but they do give the youngsters and beginners the opportunity to purchase some low priced software.

It is perhaps a little unfair to include educational software in a long review of this nature but Soflow Software are one company that are dedicated to bringing you Atari software at a price you can easily afford. Educational software by its very nature is not spectacular and indeed many readers would doubt its worth if it were so. Soflow's TARITEACH GEOGRAQUIZ series are guessing games which require you to identify places in various countries of the wor Id. The first two in the series are UNITED KINGDOM and U.S.A. The first presents you with a map of Great Britain and flashes a location which you must identify from a choice of four locations given. The choices are well worked out so that they remain challenging whilst not being confusing and the correct answer Is given if you are wrong. There are one or two player options and playing against someone else certainly gives an edge to the game. In a program of this nature which has deliberately been kept to 16K it is inevitable that some questions will repeat but the number of repeats has been cleverly kept to a minimum. The U.S.A. program is similar except that you have to guess States instead of places. There is no doubt that this series will teach you about the countries they feature as well as providing good family entertainment. If you are a parent who cannot understand (or can't play!) the arcade games, the Geograquiz series will allow you to join in with your children and both you and they will learn something new. One of the many reasons for buying a computer is 'for education' but there has been a dearth of educational material for the Atari. Soflow Software have made a good start in filling this void.

Finally LEGGIT from Imagine is the cheapest of all and is a conversion of the best selling Spectrum game Jumping Jack in which you have to move 'Leaping Lenny' from the bottom of the screen to the top through a series of moving gates. As you get higher more gates appear through which you may fall back. If you reach the top of the screen new hazards are introduced such as a witch with broomstick, an aeroplane, train etc. There are one or two programming flaws which fortunately do not spoil the play and at 5.50 including postage you will get many hours of play for little outlay. Thanks to Steve Tullett who provided a full review of Leggitt from which this information is taken. Unfortunately we did not have room to print it all.

Can you get good value at under 10? It depends on your outlook. If you can afford to keep buying 30 ROMs and 35 - 50 Infocom adventures, or are a master programmer yourself, then you will probably dismiss many of these programs but if you are an ordinary Atari user who does not want his computer to lie idle then the majority of these programs will prove well worth while.

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