Four Atari Games
As software developers discover and exploit more and more of the Atari's features, the games become more colorful, dazzling, and exciting.
DataSoft's four new games, Canyon Climber, Pacific Coast Highway, Clowns And Balloons, and Shooting Arcade, are of this type. All these games show off the graphics and animation capabilities of the Atari. New graphics techniques are used to allow fine scrolling of multicolor playfield objects at varying speeds (a feat normally impossible, but it looks like it's done here with DLI's and the four-color character modes 4 and 5).
Shooting Arcade is a most attractive game, with a display just like the carnival game. Bouncing, quacking, twisting, and flashing targets invite you to shoot, but you had better be accurate – you have a limited supply of bullets. Run out of ammunition and the game is over. If you clear the screen, you can shoot a cagey bear for bonus points, and play again against a faster set of targets.
There is a row of faces that alternate between happy and sad. Hit a sad face and you get another bunny to shoot. The music, color, and smoothness are sure to make the game popular.
Rush Hour At 1.79 MHz
DataSoft is sure to score a hit with its Pacific Coast Highway. As either a turtle or a rabbit, you must try to cross a busy California freeway as you try to make it to the beach. Once there, you must hop (yes, the turtle can hop!) from surfboard to surfboard in search of the ultimate goal, bonus points.
The game is divided into two screens, a highway and a water scene. Each successful crossing makes the game more difficult. In the two-player game, the classic contest of turtle vs. rabbit is re-enacted.
Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Coast Highway
A frustrating aspect of the game is that if one player gets hit (or takes a plunge), both players have to start over.
The animation is in "strips" of screen (a byproduct of the graphics technique), but it suits this game very well. If you didn't know better, you'd think the Atari could control dozens of multicolor "sprites," as cars whiz and hum, and boats drift lazily along. The police car even flashes its lights!
Canyon Climber is similar to Donkey Kong, in the way that Pac-Man is like Head-On, or Galaxians is like Space Invaders. Canyon Climber is a "theme"
game, where a little man you control with a joystick can run, jump, climb, wield a shield, blow up bridges, leap over obstacles in a single bound, or even fly! It's not an adventure game. These possibilities are just integrated into the game, as hitting barrels with a hammer is part of Donkey Kong.
Canyon Climber is really several games in one. The first level involves setting charges on various bridges, and then detonating them. You must evade malevolent goats that are determined to butt you to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Assuming success, you advance to the second screen, where you dodge Indian arrows (or grab a shield that temporarily deflects them) as you wend your way to the top.
If you make it this far (don't count on it), you soar into the air as you progress to the third screen. Here you leap from rock to rock as you attempt to scale the canyon walls. Meanwhile, pesky (and surprisingly intelligent) birds overhead rain down rocks upon your weary head. If you can withstand this final barrage, you find yourself standing triumphant at the top of the Grand Canyon. The attainment of your goal is rewarded by a charging goat who knocks you all the way back to the first screen.
To fit a large-scale screen onto a standard TV set is quite a challenge. DataSoft uses small playing characters, but detailed settings. The graphics are less elaborate (and the colors are mostly Arizona dun and orange) than the other DataSoft games reviewed, but the overall animation and execution are perhaps the best of the four.
Clowns and Balloons
Shenanigans At The Circus
A seemingly simple game, Clowns and Balloons involves maneuvering a clown-driven trampoline across the bottom of the screen with either a joystick or paddle controller. A third clown climbs a ladder and leaps out to seeming doom. Ah, but that's your job, to save the clown, and what's more, bounce him to the top of the big top! Rolling along across the top three rows of the screen is an array of colorful circus balloons.
What this boils down to is an unusual janitorial duty. You try to clear the screen of balloons. Clear out a row at a time to reap bonus points. Meanwhile, a mischievous monkey keeps blowing up more balloons. More balloons will appear if you clear an upper row before a lower one, but the monkey does not stir from his high-wire perch, unless you clear the screen when he tips his hat at you.
The animation remains fairly simple, though smooth. The sound and music are some of the best I've heard. Despite the simple theme, Clowns and Balloons turned out to be great fun, and inspired hours of frenzied joystick twisting. Perhaps its appeal can be compared to that of Breakout, a similar game where you bounce a ball to clear out a brick wall. Breakout is one of the most popular games in arcade history (that's B.P. - Before Pac-Man).
With the release of these games, DataSoft has issued an implicit challenge to game producers: use the Atari's features to the utmost.
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