Apple adventure and arcade action. (evaluation) Owen W. Linzmayer.
Apple Adventure and Arcade Action
One of the greatest fringe benefits of being a staff writer at Creative Computing is that I gent to see most of the new games as they are released. Even though it is my job to review programs, I also spend a great deal of my free time playing my favorite games. Of the new games I "had to' play this month, Aztec, Jawbreaker, and Spy's Demise are the ones that keep me at my Apple long after hours.
To be honest, adventure games have never really appealed to me. Wandering helplessly through screens full of text is not my idea of fun. Therefore, I was less than enthusiastic when Aztec appeared on my desk for review. Reluctantly, I booted the program and prepared to be bored. It wasn't long, however, before I realized that Aztec is like no other adventure game I have ever seen. I love it.
What sets Aztec apart from most of the other adventures currently available for the Apple? It is a real-time game with hi-res animation which allows you to control an explorer using 21 command keys.
As the player, you represent a daring explorer who bears a striking resemblance to Indiana Jones from the movie, Raiders of The Lost Ark. Your challenge is to delve into a tomb that is eight levels deep in an attempt to retrieve a priceless golden idol. The chambers and ante-rooms are literally crawling with death in the form of scorpions, cobras, spiders, and seven other lethal guardians of the idol.
If you encounter a guardian, you may fight it or try to run away. When you enter the "fight mode,' you must select the weapon you wish to use. The only weapons available are a machete and a pistol, both of which you must acquire in the tomb. Most guardians can be killed using only the machete, but some monsters can withstand multiple bullet wounds before they die. In general, the fighting controls are similar to those found in Swashbuckler, a program written by the same author, Paul Stephenson.
In addition to the guardians, there is a wide variety of traps designed to stop you as you weave your way into the depths of the temple. If you aren't careful, you will quickly find yourself dead. Some of the more clever traps include rooms that fill with water, ceilings that fall, and walls that slide together. The beauty of these traps is that they can be defeated with a little ingenuity. There is a sense of urgency as you play in real time because you must learn to act fast. Even on the easiest level, Aztec is extremely difficult. Too many times you lose a life at the mercy of the program rather than as a result of your own mistakes. This can lead to frustrating play.
The main appeal of this adventure is that it is a real-time, highly animated arcade game that allows the player to exercise an extensive range of options. The graphics are hi-res, but not too colorful. The animation is jumpy, as if the computer is flashing different images in sequence to suggest movement. Aztec looks like a cross between Castle Wolfenstein and Swashbuckler.
The thing that immediately turns off many prospective players is the large number of command keys. It took me about an hour of practice before I memorized the keys and "mastered' their use. I would wager that this game is nearly impossible to play if you aren't a touch typist.
Although there are a few unpolished edges in the program, Aztec is a fine package. If you enjoyed Swashbuckler, but felt that it lacked depth, Aztec is just what you are looking for. Any adventure player who wants a real challenge will find it in this game. Due to its complexity, I do have reservations about recommending it to kids under 14 or to gameplayers who believe themselves to be hopelessly uncoordinated.
You may be asking yourself "Hey, why review Jawbreaker? That game has been on the market for close to a year now.' Well, that's only partly true. The old Jawbreaker, the one that plays like Pac-Man, has undergone a total transformation, and the result is a cute new game that goes by the same name.
The object of Jawbreaker is to eat the dots that line the maze. Unlike other mazes, this one is composed of five horizontal corridors laid on top of one another. The hallways are separated by walls that have sliding doors in them. As you play, the doors are constantly moving along the hallways. When a door reaches one edge of the maze, it reverses direction. To pass from one horizontal corridor to an adjacent hallway, you must slip through the sliding door as it goes by. It sounds easy, but the timing is tricky.
As you guide your jaws through the maze, you must avoid the rolling faces. These four guys are the only things keeping you from eating your way to obesity. If you touch a face, you lose a set of teeth. To chomp on the faces, you must first eat one of the energizers that are located in the four corners of the maze.
Jawbreaker can be played by using the keyboard, a joystick, or a joyport controller. If you choose to use the keyboard, you are allowed to define the keys that you want to control the action. The joyport with a switch-type joystick is the most responsive and accurate type of controller for this style game in which precise, four-directional movement is required.
The playscreen is depicted in colorful hi-res graphics. As the faces roam the hallways, they roll, giving the illusion of three dimensions. The best word to describe this game is cute. It is simple to play, yet not easily mastered. You don't get the feeling that the faces are out to get you, but rather, that you must simply avoid them. This makes for a very light-hearted atmosphere.
The game can be played at one of ten selectable difficulty levels. The lower the level, the slower everything moves. The default level is fast-paced and provides a challenge to even experienced players. As the game progresses, the faces become more aggressive, and the energizers do not last as long.
This new version of Jawbreaker is written by Charles "Chuckles' Bueche, and it is nothing like the first version. If you are looking for a good variation on the maze game theme, Jewbreaker won't let you down.
As you sit in the lobby of the Bangkok Hilton, you overhear two Russian KGB agents discussing an encoded message which holds the key to very valuable computer data. Each component of the message is kept on a separate floor of the Russian embassy. There is only one secret agent who can infiltrate the heavily guarded Soviet embassy, and that spy just happens to be you. The mission is yours, whether you decide to accept it or not. Good luck.
Spy's Demise, written by Alan Zeldin, is a new arcade action game from Penguin Software. You play the role of a trustworthy spy attempting to steal an encoded message out from under the noses of Russian embassy officials.
You are portrayed in detailed hi-res graphics as a trenchcoat-clad figure who shuffles silently about. Scattered on the platforms are various spying tools which contain pieces of the encoded message. As you pass over them, you pick them up, but gain no points.
Basically, Spy's Demise is a "chicken' game, much like the popular Activision VCS cartridge, Freeway. You must stay out of the predictable paths of the on-coming guard elevators. The thing that sets Spy's Demise apart from similar games is the challenge of solving the encoded message. There is a strong incentive to reach each successive embassy floor.
Spy's Demise can be played by only one player at a time. You select what type of controls you prefer to use (paddles, keyboard, or Atari joystick). Moving your man left and right are the only two commands in this game. The thing that makes Spy's Demise difficult is that there is no way to stop the movement of your spy, which increases your chances of making a mistake.
There is very little happening in the sound effects department of the game. Each time a new man is introduced into the game, the computer plays a short musical tune. This is as complex as the sound routines get. The suspenseful game play more than makes up for this deficiency, however.
To succeed in reaching the advanced floors, you must have an incredible amount of patience and good timing. As mentioned before, when you climb to the top of a floor, you are shown a portion of the overall message. Each line consists of 16 strange characters. Even if you were able to pass the ninth level, you must still decipher the code to "win' the game. So far, I have seen eight lines of code, but the puzzle remains a mystery to me.
Spy's Demise is full of excitement. It is not a simple action game that relies strictly on dexterity, but rather, a game that requires a blend of coordination and mental ability. From the close shaves with the guard elevators to the thrill of acquiring each piece of code, Spy's Demise is a very addictive game.
Products: Datamost Aztec (video game)
Sierra On-line Jawbreaker (video game)
Penguin Software Spy's Demise (video game)