BY ARTHUR LEYEMBERGER
I think I am like most ST users. When I get a new piece of software, I prefer to jump right into the program and attempt to figure it out. Rarely do I first read the manual except for the installation procedure. This is one way to test the design and operation of a program. However, major application programs do require you to read the documentation. For these, I typically read the manual cover to cover, then refer to it as I need to during the use of the program. Still, little things can often be overlooked.
Last month in this space I contrasted two operating systems used on PCs and compatibles: GEM and Windows. I stated that I preferred GEM to Windows because GEM is a more finished and complete graphical interface. Unfortunately, I made an error, and in the spirit of software truth, justice and the ST User way, I'd like to make a correction.
I correctly mentioned that to change directories (what GEM calls folders) in Windows, you click on the directory name and the computer goes to that directory and displays the list of files contained in it. However, I erroneously stated that to return to the parent directory, Windows requires you to type in its name, whereas GEM lets you click on the close button to move you back to preceding directory.
Windows does let you return to the preceding directory by pointing and clicking with the mouse. To do so, you point to the name of the directory you want to return to in the displayed path. In fact, Windows betters GEM in this regard.
GEM will let you return to the immediate parent directory by clicking on the "Window Close" button. But you can only return one level. With Windows you can point to any directory name in the path, allowing you to jump to any higher level directory, including the root directory itself. Being able to move one or more directory levels up is a nice touch.
Although I am a heavy Windows user, it wasn't until I was searching the manual for some other information that I happened across this tidbit. Now that I know about this feature, I often use it and appreciate its usefulness. I still prefer GEM in terms of speed and simplicity of use, but I wanted to set the record straight.
Casio strikes again
I like Casio. Through the use of their inexpensive but capable musical instruments, I have been able to learn about and use the MIDI ports on my ST. I first became aware of Casio's MIDI keyboards when I saw and later purchased a mini-keyboard synthesizer called the CZ-101. Later, I upgraded to their CZ-5000 full-size keyboard with sequencer. I have had this keyboard for several years and still enjoy using it alone and with my ST.
Casio's latest musical instrument is the Digital Horn (DH-100). Smaller than an alto saxophone and made out of gray plastic, the DH-100 is as fun to play as Casio's MIDI keyboards. The DH-100 comes with built-in sounds of a saxophone, trumpet, oboe, clarinet, flute and synth-reed and uses recorder-type fingering so learning is easy.
You can use either the keys like on/off switches or blow into the mouthpiece for dynamic control over volume and tone. The DH-100 is battery-operated, contains its own built-in speaker and has a two-octave chromatic scale. It also has a MIDI-out connection that can be used to control other MIDI instruments or a MIDI program.
The Casio DH-100 Digital horn is both easy to learn and fun to play. The street price of the instrument is about $100 although it retails for $150.
It's been a while since I took a break and spent some serious game-playing time on the ST. In that time, a dozen or so new titles have been piling up around here, and it's time I took a look at them. Of the new titles, a few appear to be especially interesting.
I've always been partial to golf games. Not that I play real golf—I tried it once and found out I'd be better off staying with the video golf games. That's why when Zany Golf from Electronic Arts arrived recently, I couldn't wait to play it.
I was disappointed when I first opened the package and booted up the game Zany Golf is not a traditional video golf game in the sense that you try to get your best score on each of the nine or 18 holes. Instead, Zany Golf is more like an arcade game. You must perform well on each hole in order to move to the next hole.
At first I couldn't even get beyond the first hole. My poor performance and resulting frustration in not advancing in the game almost led me to completely dismiss Zany Golf and not bother mentioning it. However, I kept at it, hole by hole, and once I realized that it was more arcade game than simulation, I started to enjoy it. My success at advancing through the game also helped.
The best way to describe Zany Golf is to call it a fantasy miniature-golf game. Like traditional miniature golf, there are only nine holes and each hole presents a particular obstacle to overcome. What makes it a fantasy course is many of the obstacles. Bouncing hamburgers, pinball machines and flying carpets are rarely found in the real world.
Game play is straightforward. At each hole you are presented with a preview with which you can scroll around the hole by moving the mouse. Then, you place the cursor on the ball, hold down the button and drag the mouse in the opposite direction you want the ball to go—kind of like using a pool cue and drawing it backward, especially since the farther you pull the mouse back the harder you putt. Releasing the mouse button putts the ball.
As mentioned before, you must do well on the hole to go on to the next hole. Each hole has a par value and a certain number of strokes are allowed on each hole. After you get the ball in the hole, any remaining strokes are carried over to the next hole. When you use up all of your remaining strokes the game is over.
There are a couple of things that could be better in this game. One is the time required to load each hole from disk. Although it takes about 25 seconds, it seems like forever. Another is the fact that you cannot put the contents of the two disks on your hard disk. This would speed up the game and avoid the need to insert the second disk halfway through the game.
Zany Golf was created by Will Harvey and his Sandcastle design team. The music was written by Doug Fulton, the animation created by Ian Gooding and Jim Nitchals did the ST translation. In spite of the small improvements I have suggested, it is fine effort, providing plenty of challenge to golfers and nongolfers alike.
Zany Golf sells for $40 and is available wherever fine ST games are sold. You can also order directly from Electronic Arts at 1820 Gateway Drive, San Mateo, California 94404; (or call 800–245–4525 Monday through Friday during normal business hours).
The other game that caught my eye was Tower Toppler from Epyx (600 Galveston Drive, Redwood City, California 94063, 415–368–3200). It seems that you have been sent to the planet Nebulus where eight giant towers rise from the depths of a toxic ocean. The goal is to reach the top of each of eight dark and deadly towers, each of which is more difficult to get to than the last. Once at the top of each tower you must destroy it by setting off special destruction mechanisms.
Each tower has its own set of surprises and obstacles. They are guarded by deadly rolling boulders, indestructible mutant molecules, flying phantoms, flashing blockades and other things too gruesome or nasty to mention. If you touch one of the rolling boulders you'll be bumped off the ledge and sent sailing down to sea level. If you are lucky, another ledge might catch your fall. Unless it is one of those disintegrating ledges that disappear the moment you land on them.
Your main weapon is a snowball gun that can be used to freeze or destroy enemies. In your quest for the top, you can ride emergency elevator lifts or hop over some of the obstacles. However, there's a twist. As you climb these colossal columns, they rotate with you so your vantage point changes. This constant change in view makes the action even more exciting.
There is a time limit for you to reach the top of a tower. Failing to do so ends the game. Also, you can gain extra points by catching fish between the towers. One or two players can play using joysticks, and there are two missions to choose.
Tower Toppler is one of the US Gold games from Epyx. It sells for $40 and although it has been out for a while, it is worth your consideration. The graphics and 3-D effect in this game are excellent. The music is also fun but after a while you may want to turn it off.
Tower Toppler is an interesting take-off on the "hopping game" concept. Much like one of the first games in this genre, Q-Bert, the game concept is simple: get to the top and avoid the monsters. But it is easier said than done, and that is where the challenge lies. Tower Toppler provides stunning graphics, challenging game play and the desire to play "just one more round." What more could you want from a game for your ST?
Arthur Leyenberger is a computer journalist and freelance writer living in beautiful New Jersey. He can be reached on CompuServe at 71266,46 or on DELPHI as ARTL.