Gamut of games; action for all. (evaluation) Russ Lockwood.
Gamut of Games
Much of the entertainment software we receive each month fails to entertain us. Often, the new packages are inadequate rehashes of existing software of once-popular arcade games. However, every once in a while, new offerings catch our eye and call us to man the joysticks. These five programs succeeded in grabbing our attention.
System and Price: C64 disk, $34.95; Atari cartridge, $24.95
Summary: Rather addictive
Manufacturer: Activision P.O. Box 7287 Mountain View, CA 9439 (415) 960-0410
Activision touts Zenji as an exercise in Eastern philosophy, with mumbo jumbo about karma and yin and yang. Well, we do not buy any of that, but we do buy the premise of the game and can attest to its excitement, addictive qualities, and entertainment value.
The screen displays what looks like a maze of disconnected plumbing. Your goal is to connect all the pipes to a central point before time runs out or one of the evil spirits touches or shoots you. Traversing special sections of pipe earns you bonus points.
The maze grows larger with each completed screen. The graphics are plain and functional, and an enchanting tune plays in the background.
Activision scores a big hit with Zenji, an original, exciting, and addictive arcade game.
System and Price: C64 disk, $34.95; Apple disk, $39.95; Atari cartridge, $29.95
Summary: So-so game has some high points
Manufacturer: Activision P.O. Box 7287 Mountain View, CA 94039 (415) 960-0410
We think the movie is fabulous. It is witty, funny, creative, and embodies all the other good things that make movies entertaining.
You own a Ghostbusters franchise and start with $10,000 in seed money to buy such necessary items as Ghost traps, bait, a PK Energy Detector, and a Portable Laser Confinement System. You drive a specially equipped car around the city looking for ghosts. You try to trap them and then go on to the next. Each ghost is worth money. To win, you must earn more than $10,000 and sneak two Ghostbuster employees into the Temple of Zuul.
So far, so good. The theory of the game follows the movie. In practice, the driving and trapping aspects of the game wear a little thin. This is not to say the game is easy; in fact, it is just the opposite. Ghostbusters is so tough, it borders on frustrating. Fortunately, practice improves your score.
The game features the catchy theme song and also screams a demoniacal "Ghostbusters' when you nab a ghost or "He slimed me' when a ghost nabs you.
We wish we could be more positive. In its present incarnation, Ghostbusters is an ordinary game adapted from an extraordinary movie.
The Ancient Art of War
System and Price: 128K IBM PC with graphics board, $44.95
Summary: Excellent abstract war game
Manufacturer: Broderbund 17 Paul Dr. San Rafael, CA 94903 (415) 479-1170
Of all the recent Broderbund releases, The Ancient Art of War is by far the best. The game takes its title in part from the book The Art of War written in 400 BC by Sun Tzu, a Chinese philosopher turned strategist. The book outlines principles of planning and strategy needed to defeat the enemy. The game allows you to put these techniques to work.
The game is a "generic' wargame with 11 campaigns that span the ages, from Wu versus Ch'u (China 400 BC) to War in the Mountains (Vietnam 1970). It has three types of soldiers--Barbarians, Archers, and Knights--and like the rock-scissors-paper game, each type fights better against a certain other type.
However, many variables must be considered, such as the condition and number of troops facing each other and the different battle formations they are in. The computer keeps track of the variables, which can be called up at any time.
The screen shows a portion of the strategic map. You maneuver your platoons using a joystick-controlled cursor and your troops require time to march from one place to another. Since this is a real-time game, the computer-controlled troops are also moving. When one of your platoons touches an enemy unit, they battle. Here you face two choices: let them slug it out without your expertise, or "zoom' into the tactical mode and command your troops personally.
You are allowed limited tactical control of a battle. You decide when the archers loose arrows, the knights swing swords, and the barbarians attack with kung fu kicks. At the conclusion of a battle--and there will be several during a campaign--the victorious troops raise their arms in a salute.
In addition, The Ancient Art of War contains a game generator, so you can create your own campaigns, complete with different types of terrain, troop strengths, and starting positions.
The Ancient Art of War combines good graphics, tactical and strategic dilemmas, and simplicity in a fine war game. We give this a five-star rating.
Bounty Bob Strikes Back
System and Price: C64 disk, $39.95; Atari cartridge, $49.95
Summary: Buy this game
Manufacturer: Big Five Software P.O. Box 9078-185 Van Nuys, CA 91403 (818) 782-6861
If you have played Miner 2049er, you have already experienced the excitement and action of a Bounty Bob game. Well, Bob is back with 25 of the trickiest screens this side of the Mississippi.
This climbing and jumping game requires split-second timing and nerves of steel to cement the blocks in place, grab the various treasures, and vanquish the denizens of the mine. Slides, steps, teleporters, grain elevators, and other terrain provide enough challenge for veteran joystick jockeys, yet the learning curve is gradual and satisfying.
The game can be customized with varying difficulty levels, number of lives, and other options like pause and secret messages. The top ten scores are saved, although they vanish when the power is turned off.
In short, this is a first class arcade game. With 25 screens and 40K of memory, it packs a lot into a single cartridge. It is exciting, challenging, and addictive. Buy this game.
System and Price: 128K IBM PC with graphics board, Apple II, Macintosh; $39.95
Summary: Excellent submarine simulator
Manufacturer: Spectrum Holobyte 1050 Walnut Boulder, CO 80302 (303) 443-0191
Gato, a real-time World War II submarine simulation from Spectrum Holobyte, plunges you beneath the waves of the Pacific in search of Japanese ships. As you patrol the sea lanes, you try to locate and stalk a convoy, close in to torpedo range, sink the ships, and escape before the escort destroyers zero in with their deadly depth charges and send you to Davy Jones's locker.
Gato takes its name from the class of diesel-powered submarines that formed the mainstay of the U.S. submarine fleet during WWII. The disk holds all sorts of interesting historical information on Gato-class subs.
Obviously, sailing a submarine solo on a computer is a little easier than doing it in real life--especially under wartime conditions. Yet how do you capture the feel of submarine operations?
In the case of Gato, designers Ed Dawson and Paul Arlton tapped the knowledge of retired Navy Captain Bill Graves. According to Spectrum Holobyte, veteran submariners agree Gato is an accurate simulation of submarine operation. The historical nits to pick are the inclusion of surface radar, use of only four instead of six forward torpedo tubes and zero instead of four aft tubes. Note that the Macintosh version corrects these omissions.
My experience on a submarine is limited to watching reruns of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.' However, as a game, Gato is to submarines as Microsoft Flight Simulator is to airplanes.
The manual is informative and a must read to truly understand how to operate the game. Gato has 10 levels of difficulty and includes daytime and nighttime play. Above level 7, messages from COMPACSUB (Commander Submarine Force Pacific Fleet) are beeped in Morse code. Various screens give you damages reports, radar findings, view from the bridge or periscope, and patrol area. The program saves your score (the Captain's Log) to disk.
Normally, the sub runs on diesel engines. However, when you dive below 20 feet, you must switch to electric power. The program tracks the charge left in the batteries as well as the breathable oxygen remaining.
The theory behind sinking ships is easy: line them up and fire a little ahead of them. However, doing so proves to be difficult. Fortunately, practice makes perfect, or at least good enough to sink a ship or two. I have to admit experiencing quite a bloodthirsty thrill when I sank my first Japanese cargo ship. This thrill carried over into successive games and is testimony to the ability of the simulation to involve you. Once you master the art and science of sinking a ship, you are ready to advance to tougher levels.
Gato is a terrific submarine simulation and should appeal to the same users who have become addicted to Flight Simulator. It is historical, involving, and incredibly versatile. If you yearn to lurk beneath the waves, play a deadly game of hide and seek, and experience the closest thing to undersea warfare next to submarine duty, take a close look at Gato.
Products: Ghostbusters (computer program)
Zenji (computer program)
Bounty Bob Strikes Back (computer program)
Gato (computer program)
The Ancient Art of War (Computer program)