Something for everyone. (evaluation) Steve Arrants.
For many serious game players, the Apple is the machine. Whether it is a text adventure, arcade adaptation, or brain teaser, it is sure to be available for the Apple. Developers are continually pushing the Apple to the limit. Some games are every bit as sophisticated as business software.
Reviewed below are seven new games for the Apple. One lets you race the Atlantic; with another you can corner the world oil market. Three arcade games are reviewed and another game marks the end of an adventure saga. All are fun, exciting, and worth the time and money spent. Bermuda Race
Most sports simulations are boring, repetitious exercises involving little skill or excitement. While they might teach you how to use a joystick properly, few actually involve the knowledge and skills necessary to excel at a sport. The graphics may be excellent, the crowd noises exciting, but how much do you actually learn about the sport?
Bermuda Race from Howard W. Sams is the exception. You and your computerized crew pilot an 80-foot, specially designed yacht from Newport, RI to Bermuda, battling rough seas, high winds, and quicker opponents.
To help you along, the authors--experienced sailors and Apple programmers--include extensive disk tutorials on sailing and navigation. Bermuda Race doesn't try to make you an expert in an hour, but it does give the feel of luff, leech, and tacking to starboard. The tutorials are so thorough, that even a novice like me can understand the difference between fore and aft, and why starboard is starboard.
Bermuda Race is a one- or two-player game. A single player races against the Nirvana, winner of the 1982 race. If the two-player version is selected, both start at Narragansett Bay and finish at Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda. The winner is the first to cross the finish line. Simple? Not at all. Winning Bermuda Race is much more than getting from point A to point B. You must set the proper amount of sail, tack against the shifting wind, struggle against high seas, and navigate blind when the satellite system breaks down.
The simulation is excellent. Bermuda Race takes all possible sailing factors into account. The graphics are fine--not too cartoonish or blocky. The first screen is a high-resolution map of Narragansett Bay, complete with Martha's Vineyard, Block Island, and the smaller islands in the area. As you sail onto the high seas, the scene changes into a navigation chart of the Atlantic Ocean.
When you near Bermuda, the scene changes back to the smaller scale, showing the position of the harbor and dangerous reefs. You can alternate between these graphics and text screens which display up-to-the-minute information on heading, wind speed and direction, wave height, and amount of sail. One important piece of equipment is the centerboard. It seems that any time the wind changes you must raise it or lower it to compensate--too high or too low and you're in trouble.
Bermuda Race is a challenge. There is really more than one opponent. You not only battle against another ship, you fight the sailing conditions. Just as you have set course, trimmed the sails, and adjusted the centerboard, a storm might appear. Down with the sails, up with the centerboard, and pray for a miracle. Prepare for the unexpected; the worst that can happen to a boat on the open seas often does in Bermuda Race. This game is about as much fun as you can have without the expense of buying and fitting a sailboat. Maybe this was the Australians' secret weapon in The America's Cup race. Minit Man
I hated Choplifter. Moving that helicopter was so much trouble that I ended up crashing into the tanks instead of bombing them. Kamikaze games don't interest me. When I saw the helicopter on the Minit Man package, I thought I was in for another quick disappointment. Well, I'm still playing Minit Man and still trying to better my score.
The plan is simple: pick up girders and trusses with the helicopter and complete a bridge. When the bridge is finally done, a train carrying a missile comes across and enters the command center. You then fly the helicopter to the roof, enter the command center, and launch a missile. When three missiles have been launched, the world is safe. That is the plan. The execution is more involved.
The girders and trusses are two screens to the right of the bridge. The enemy is a pack of crazed robots who smash into the bridge and fire on your helicopter. These thugs also enter the command center and try to sabotage the computer. Further complications take the form of microwave transmitters guarding the bridge and building materials. A zap from one of them and you drop whatever you are carrying. Minit Man also times you. At higher levels, a minute is deducted from your starting time, so the game is not so simple after all.
You are equipped with a magnetic hoist which must be positioned precisely over a bridge piece. If it is the slightest bit out of alignment, the girder or truss falls off, and you go back to the supply station for another. A gun in the nose of the helicopter is your only defense against the robots. If they enter the command center, you can shoot at them through slots in the walls. One shot won't stop them, however. Each hit causes them to mutate into another shape. After the third hit, the robot vaporizes, leaving a land mine in its place. If several of them have infiltrated the command center, just hit a few of them twice. When they crawl over the mine left by their comrades, they will be destroyed.
Minit Man is slow in some spots. There is a wait as you exit one screen and enter another. If you are as uncoordinated as I am, you may run out of building materials before you complete the bridge. But with all that goes on in Minit Man, these are minor complaints. The graphics are excellent and the playing exciting. Ultima III
Lord British, author of the popular Ultima games from Origin Systems has created another winner in the series. Exodus: Ultima III is his best work so far. For those unfamiliar with the series, each Ultima game is an interactive text and graphics adventure. Weak points in the earlier games included sketchy plotting and characterizations. The improvements in these areas make Exodus: Ultima III superb entertainment.
The plot appears sketchy in the documentation only because it unfolds as the game progresses. Players of "quest" games know, though, that it involves a search, battles, rewards, and mysteries. The mystery here is: Who (or what) is Exodus? Clues are gathered from every possible area--dungeon, village, mountaintop, and beyond.
The map is smaller than in the earlier games, and the time doors have disappeared. Moon gates, transport portals that activate only when the two moons of the planet are at the appropriate phases, lead you into different lands. Learning how to use them is a major accomplishment. In Ultima II it is easy to waste time on useless planets. There is no such place in Exodus: Ultima III; each location has a meaning and purpose that will help to complete the game.
Exodus: Ultima III has more characters, too. Lord British has included a program to create up to 20 characters on disk, though only four can travel in a game at any one time. The group is represented by one character when moving. When a conflict develops, their individual nuances appear. Each can then be controlled separately and can move, fight, or cast spells without interaction with the others. Characters can exchange items and cast spells with and at each other at almost any time.
As in any quest, the characters in Exodus: Ultima III start out with little knowledge, experience, or magic. Everything must be found, earned, or bought. You must decide what you might need later in the game because there is only so much you can carry. Each character must be designed to complement the others to make a well-rounded and successful group.
If you have the mockingboard attached to your Apple, a musical score accompanies each move and obstacle. Even without this peripheral the game is truly exciting.
I don't want to give away too much of Exodus: Ultima III. Play it for yourself and experience it. This is Lord British's best work so far. It is also supposed to be the last in the Ultima series. That's too bad. The end of Exodus: Ultima III is almost like the end of Tolkien's Ring trilogy. You are satisfied with the outcome, but a bit sad that there will be no more to come. Oil Barons
Whe! Talk about long involving games! Oil Barons combines classic board gaming with a computer to make it one of the most realistic games available. The eight-piece board locks together into a large, confusing playing surface. It isn't a recognizable map of the world. There are about 200 tiny squares, each filled with a photo of a different map feature. At first, this is perplexing, but after staring at it a while, the eye begins to recognize some order. Don't think of it as a map of the Earth--after all, who would build a major city in the ocean?
There are nine different game scenarios on the disk. The two easiest are Reality and Classic. Up to eight may play at one time, making this a good choice for a group.
In all scenarios, play is controlled and monitored by the computer. On each turn, it keeps track of the land sales, auctions, surveying, drilling, payments, and legal notices. It also interrupts for vital news developments and special announcements. There is always the possibility that you will lose a claim because the Secretary of the Interior declares your land a wildfire area, or lose a well to an earthquake.
At the start, you are dealt four parcels of land and given one million dollars with which to operate your company. Later on, the computer auctions more available land. In addition to the human players, the computer controls five dummy corporations to compete for land and resources.
At your turn, you survey your land. The computer tells you the cost of drilling and to what depth you may drill. When you drill, a graphics animation of an oil derrick appears showing the work above and below ground. The drill may encounter rough going and you must either authorize continued work at higher costs or abandon the well. Don't expect many gushers. As in the real world, there are few. Careful research rather than luck brings in a well.
When playing the Reality scenario, the computer randomly generates oil locations. It is just as possible to find oil in a desert as on Main Street. In the Classic mode, however, the location of oil is related to the terrain. The other scenarios let players set the play parameters within various ranges. Gambling is an exciting scenario in which the computer mixes up every parameter and you play it. Strange twists, such as a quick change in the environment or a large drop in drilling costs, can occur. You don't know what determines victory until the game is over.
Oil Barons includes colored stones for property markers, green markers to show active wells and blue markers for dry wells. The documentation is excellent, and you should take the time to read it. Playing without understanding the rules can cost you your company. The game can't be saved if you want to finish it at a later date, so plan on a long eening. Oil Barons is an exciting and realistic simulation of the oil world. Like the price of oil these days, however, the price of Oil Barons is high. It costs almost as much as a barrel of oil. Caverns of Callisto
The story is rather simple. You are on the moon Callisto when mutants invade your spaceship and steal important machinery. Before you can leave, you must descend into the interior of the moon and recover the parts. I wish the play were that simple.
You are armed with a laser-plasma rifle that can kill a mutant with one shot. Unfortunately, you usually end up hitting the far side of a cavern wall. The joystick doesn't just control your aim, it controls the laser burst. Even after you let off a shot, moving the joystick a fraction of an inch can push the bullet off its course.
Caverns of Callisto includes a map of the caverns but game play is so frantic that you need to keep one eye on the map and the other on the screen. The mutants pop up so quickly that you don't have many chances to peek at the map. Don't ignore the map, however. It is vital to winning this tough game.
The mutants are everywhere and they never stop coming at you. If you fly to the extreme right or left of the screen, some mutants disappear off the other side. When you come back, they won't be there. A tricky way of ridding yourself of work or the work of a lazy programmer?
Caverns of Callisto is the toughest game I have played since Joust. You not only have to kill mutants, you must find your stolen rocket ship parts and get them back to your ship. What is bad about Caverns of Callisto is that there are so many mutants to kill you might forget about retrieving the stolen parts. Sure, you earn bonus points for finding keys, the ion drive, and other parts, but will you ever get out of the caverns to use them?
If you enjoy a lightning-fast game that can get your heart pounding, Caverns of Callisto will make you happy. Dino Eggs
It seemed like such a simple trip. Hop into your home time machine, zip back to the Mesozoic, check out the life forms, and be back in time for M*A*S*H re-runs. Well, science in the twenty-first century is advanced enough to build a time machine, but it still hasn't eliminated measles. You brought the disease back in time with you, and the dinosaurs are doomed. They have just one chance. If you can gather enough eggs and return with them to the future, they can be saved.
Dino Eggs is not as simple as that description makes it sound. And it is more difficult than you can imagine. While you are running across a mountain wall gathering eggs, you must start a fire, dodge radioactive spiders and worms, run back to your time portal, avoid Dino Mom ... Sound complicated? Dino Eggs is the first program that requires multi-tasking from the user rather than the computer.
The eggs are out in the open and hidden under rocks. Pressing button 1 of the joystick picks them up. You can carry only three at a time, so get back to the time portal and transport them to the future. If you eat a strength flower, you can pick up six eggs at once. Pick up all the eggs before they hatch and you move to the next level.
This becomes very difficult when you encounter the dinos' natural enemies. One bite from a snake, spider, or centipede and you must rush back to the tome portal for decontamination. Miss it by a second, and you devolve into a spider. Oh yes, don't forget to start a fire. If you are too slow to do this, Dino Mom steps in. She is not a very understanding lady, and when she puts her foot down, you can kiss the past goodbye.
Dino Eggs has nine skill levels. On each level, the challenge is deadlier, the pace quicker, and the risks greater. Dino Eggs is even better than Micro Fun's popular Miner 2049'er. The graphics and sounds are much cleaner and more life-like, and the game plays much faster. You won't have much time to plan out a strategy while playing Dino Eggs, but that shouldn't bother you. You will be too busy trying to stay alive and out of Dino Mom's way. Drol
Fresh from the success of Loderunner, Broderbund, strikes gold with Drol. The story is a bit far-fetched, but Drol is a game that requires the suspension of disbelief. It seems that a little girl and her brother have been lured by a witch doctor into the multi-leveled ruins of a lost civilization.
Under his spell, they wander aimlessly through the underground corridors, oblivious to the perils around them. It is your job to rescue them, their pets, and their mother. As the hero, you are equipped with an antigravity suit that lets you float throughout the corridors and slip between levels. An unlimited supply of reality pellets can disintegrate the monsters and phantoms that threaten you.
Each game consists of three levels. On level one, you must rescue the little girl and her pet lizard. On level two there is a little boy and his pet crocodile. If you reach level three, rescue Mom and watch a victory cartoon.
Getting through all three levels requires quick reflexes and fast thinking. If you do succeed, you find yourself back at a much tougher level one.
On each level the monsters and phantoms become more hideous. Scorpions, flying turkeys, the witch doctor, snakes, and even green vacuum cleaners all stand in your way. One shot from your reality gun will destroy all except the turkeys and vacuum cleaners. Flying turkeys must be shot at repeatedly and the green vacuum cleaners are indestructible.
Because the play area is larger than the screen, you scroll right or left as you move. A full-screen radar score at the top of the screen helps you keep track of the monsters' movements. You start out with five lives, and earn an additional one for each round completed.
Drol is not another Loderunner, but it wasn't meant to be. You can't create your own game screens or play practice levels, but Drol is a lot of fun. The graphics are excellent and the idea behind the game is just humorous enough to make it succed.
Products: Bermuda Race (computer program)
Minit Man (computer program)
Oil Barons (computer program)
Exodus: Ultima III (computer program)
Caverns of Callisto (computer program)
Dino Eggs (computer program)
Drol (computer program)