Peace River Canada
A look at the first VIC three-in-one program package from The Code Works, creators of the "magnetic magazines," CURSOR for PET and IRIDIS for Atari.
VIXEL #1, for VIC, is the first in a series of software packages published by The Code Works, following in the tradition of CURSOR for the PET and IRIDIS for the Atari. For $12.95 you receive three excellent programs that can keep you tied to your VIC for hours. Also included in the package is an informative booklet which gives you the instructions and explanations of the programs. Here is a, brief summary:
The first program is called FIRE!. It is a game in which you pilot a helicopter and try to douse a skyscraper fire with the water in your tanks. Sounds easy, eh? Well, there is more to it than that. You only have three minutes to extinguish the fire or the people you are trying to save will die. Also, you may only hold 1000 gallons of water in your tanks at once and, when you run out, you have to waste precious time refilling the tanks, as the fire mercilessly continues to spread. It isn't easy to put out the fire, but it can be done. My record for putting it out was eight seconds, and, although I admit it was really a fluke, I challenge anyone to beat that!
The game itself is very creative. It uses no custom characters to form the helicopter or fire. Instead if uses the VIC's graphic symbols (with some creativity). It also uses a short machine language program to make the fires flicker, but, apart from that, there is nothing special about the program itself that any knowledgeable programmer couldn't figure out.
One of my friends has an Apple, and the thing I admire most about it is its HI-RES graphics, where you can draw a line from any point on the screen to any other. Apparently, this feature will be incorporated in the Commodore [a new VIC add-on, expected soon].
DRAW has partially solved that problem. This program allows you to draw in HI-RES within a 13x14 character-wide box in (he middle of the screen. Using function keys and the standard VIXEL control keys (described in the instruction book), you can draw, erase, or move the cursor around at your pleasure. And, when you're finished drawing, you have the option of SAVEing the whole thing for later viewing.
Basically, what the program does is create custom characters "on the fly" using a machine language program. It creates a character which looks like part of your drawing. It is a good idea, exploited to the utmost, and I find it very useful as a way to get children interested in the VIC.
You control a race car and are trying to earn as many points as possible before the computer's car crashes into you. You pick up points by passing over dots on the track and, after having passed fifty dots, the computer's car starts laying down diamonds after it, with each diamond being worth five points. If you happen to collide with the computer's car, do not fear. You have two other cars in reserve (when these are used up the game ends), though you start over with a new screenful of dots.
RACE is divided into two programs: the first, called RACE.CHSET (for RACE CHaracter SET), creates the special characters used by the game and then automatically loads the second program, the game itself. RACE is very enjoyable; a good finale to VIXEL#1.
I neglected to mention that, at the start of the tape, there is actually a fourth program called COVER. This program uses the custom characters to create a likeness of the VIXEL mascot and move him across the screen, chalking out the words "VIXEL # 1," tapping his feet and blinking his eyes all at the same time.
It shows the VIC owner how he can use the VIC's ability to create custom characters for his own special purposes. After this demonstration, the user is prompted to press the SPACE bar, after which the program lists the programs available on that particular tape. All the user has to do now is LOAD the program of his or her choice.
In my view, VIXEL #1 is a good investment for the VIC-20 owner. I feel that the programs need only one major improvement: that The Code Works change the selection of keys used to control the programs. Perhaps they use the L, J, K, and M keys instead of the present W,A,D, and X. I always manage to hit the SHIFT LOCK key instead of the A key, and this is rather frustrating as it prevents the other keys from being read. It can cause problems when you are playing RACE.
Apart from this minor problem (probably due to the fact that these programs are mainly made for use with a joystick,) VIXEL #1 scores an A + with me, and Lean hardly wait for the release of VIXEL #2.
VIXEL #1, The Code Works, Box 550, Goleta, CA, 93116 .$12.9=). For VIC-20 withtape drive.