C64 & 128
Increasingly, World of Commodore has become an Amiga show, with Commodore's booth proudly displaying Amigas rather than 64s or 128s. This year's show, held in Toronto December 1-4, confirmed that trend, with software publishers joining in the recognition of Amiga dominance.
The buying public, though, refuses to let the 64 fade away. People left the show with Commodore 64s, 1541 disk drives, and software as often as with Amiga products.
Meanwhile, the new software blitz continues as Berkeley Softworks (2150 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California 94704) releases geoChart ($29.95), the most recent package in a productivity software series. geoChart builds nine chart types from data stored in GEOS, geoWrite Workshop, geoFile, geoCalc, and the Note Pad. The available chart types include bar, scatter point, line, area, and the well-known pie.
Charts can plot as many as 80 values, and it can also plot subsets of values, as well. Once you've decided on the chart type, you can add text (all 53 FontPack Plus fonts are available), fill with patterns (32 fill patterns are available), and experiment with marker types for scatter-point and scatter-line charts. Axes can be labeled in many formats, and the charts can be printed on any GEOS-compatible printer.
This Year's Model
Just as they do every year, new games invaded the market this winter. The offerings were impressive. I won't get to all of the games this month, but as soon as my joystick cools down, you'll hear about them.
In Rack 'Em (Accolade, 550 South Winchester Boulevard, Suite 200, San Jose, Cali fornia 95128; 408-296-8400; $29.95), you can choose from straight pool, eightball, nineball, or snooker. You put the appropriate amount of English on the ball, as well as apply just the right amount of power to the shot. The feel of the game is very close to real pool, except that there is no provision for using the rake, no stretching or reaching behind your back to make a shot, and snookers aren't always obvious. The game's detail includes ten trick shots as well as different ways of determining who breaks. I know the game works, because I miss exactly the same shots on the computer's slate as I do on a real table.
Serve and Volley ($29.95), Accolade's tennis game, appears impressively detailed, but it's surprisingly unsuccessful. After learning how to hit a ball, in fact, playing the game quickly becomes a matter of watching the Control Box, which shows your options, rather than watching your player on the court. As long as you remember to keep your eyes off the court, you should defeat just about every opponent.
On a military theme, SSI (1046 North Rengstorff Avenue, Mountain View, Califor nia 94043; 415-964-1353; $49.95) has released Typhoon of Steel, a small unit-level simulation of World War II combat. The two-disk game includes seven ready-made scenarios. Two are set in the Pacific theater (Kakuzu Ridge and Iwo Jima), two are in the British vs. Japanese Asian theater (Kohima and Kampar), and three pit Americans against Germans in the European theater (including Omaha Beach).
Like all SSI's historical simulations, Typhoon of Steel is extremely rich in detail and in historical feel. The main manual is 43 pages long, with the final 4 pages devoted to charts and tables. An accompanying manual, which contains 15 double-sized pages, offers extensive unit data on all the combatant equipment, formation charts, and scenario information. Typhoon of Steel is derived from SSI's popular Panzer Strike game, and it furthers the company's reputation as a creator of detailed, but playable, tactical-level historical simulations. It's hardly an easy game to master, but Typhoon of Steel rewards continued attempts.
Electronic Arts (1820 Gateway Drive, San Mateo, California 94404; 415-571 7171) offers a highly unusual game. Following the spate of Olympics-based games, Caveman Ugh-lympics ($29.95), by Dynamix, sets the contest in prehistoric times. The six events include the Mate Toss, in which you toss your spouse; the Saber Race, in which a hungry tiger chases you; and Fire Making, in which you rub two sticks together while thumping your opponent on the head with some of your kindling. You can also compete in club fighting, dinosaur racing, and dinosaur vaulting.
One of the most important releases of the season is Modem Wars (Electronic Arts, 1820 Gateway Drive, San Mateo, California 94404; 415-5717171; $34.95), a game made to play through a modem. Telecommunications services have picked up on the game's possibilities by offering opponents.
Dan Bunten, designer of several other brilliant games, including M.U.L.E., Seven Cities of Gold, and the underrated Heart ofAfrica, opens new territory once more in this fascinating design.
Describing the game is next to impossible, except to say that it's loosely based on football-with a whole lot of nasty extras. The game even includes a messaging system.
You will need a modem to play Modem Wars, although you can practice without one. First, find out who else owns the game (often a call to your local software store can handle this); then, call the person and arrange for times to play. Your opponent must own a copy of Modem Wars but not necessarily for the Commodore (IBM owners can play against Commodore 64 owners). Alternatively, connect to Q-Link, the Commodore-specific communications service that supports Modem Wars. The Modem Wars package contains a Q-Link disk and instructions.
After setting up, prepare to spend a lot of time on the phone. Individual scenarios may not take long, but the game is addicting and will likely absorb more than a few hours. It's worth it, though; playing against an invisible opponent is as tense as anything you've likely experienced, and this game is far better than most of the games on the communications services.
- Neil Randall