For The Fun Of It
Planes, Thrones and Slapshots
There's only one word to describe this issues games: eclectic. For instance, Superstar Ice Hockey takes you to a fun-filled night at the fights--uh, we mean ice hockey. Then Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon puts you in the shoes of one of the greatest adventurers of all time. And, finally, SkyChase has you battle it out with the fastest and most powerful attack jets ever developed.
SUPERSTAR ICE HOCKEY
reviewed by Rick Teverbaugh
Superstar Ice Hockey goes far beyond what any other computer hockey game has ever attempted. But perhaps in trying to cover too much ground, the creators forgot to add the speed and passion that make this sport one so exciting to watch--and so taxing to play.
|With impressive graphics, Superstar Ice Hockey goes far be-
yond what any other computer hockey game has ever attemp-
Gamers assume a triple role. First, as the general manager, you wheel and deal to obtain the best players possible. Then you're the coach, deciding who plays on a fine, when the line changes occur and what strategies will be used on the ice. Finally you get to put on the gloves and pads, pick up a stick and go get'em. That's where the troubles begin.
Ice hockey is a game of speed, finesse, power and brutality. All of these elements show up in Superstar Ice Hockey--except brutality. Once the game moves to the ice, you're left with a G-rated version of a sport that is mostly R-rated (for "rough") or at least PG-13. When one player checks another or trips him, all you get is a player sitting on his posterior and spinning on the ice.
Not only is that less than satisfying, but the spinning lasts too long. Time is simulated so it won't take 20 minutes to play a 20-minute period. This compression of time makes the spinning players even worse. One player spun in one place for nearly 30 seconds.
Game control is certainly more exciting when you leave the goal-keeping to the computer and go to control a skater. This gives you more to do during a game, but there's another reason. Since the game is from a side-press-box point of view, it's difficult to get a good perspective for moving the goalie to protect the goal. Most of the time the computer does a better job, at least on the first shot. If there's a rebound, you'd better be on the spot with a defenseman because the goalie will almost never stop a good second shot.
The Preseason and Gameplay
Despite the on-ice problems, Superstar Ice Hockey has enough long-range playing options to keep you interested. For instance, not only will the program keep track of an entire seasons worth of games leading into the playoffs, it will also track as many as nine seasons.
Preseason improvements are made to the team in three ways. You can take the team to training camp, trade players with other teams or recruit players from the minor leagues. When the season gets underway, the game setup screen is where you make choices for the upcoming period and the player you will control with your joystick. In two-player games, two joysticks are used.
Once the game begins you can select from one of three offensive and defensive lines--pre-arranged sets of three offensive players or two defensive skaters. Then you can set the strategies. On offense your choices are Attack, Normal or Setup. Defense also has three choices. Forecheck is an aggressive, attacking style that often becomes necessary when your team is behind. Other choices are Normal and Protect, which is good for maintaining hold of a lead.
It Takes Time
It will take a while to catch on to the method for shooting, passing or faking shots. It will also take some time to learn that skating too hard and too fast will almost always result in skating past your intended target. Putting on the brakes isn't easy here.
Expect to take some lumps in your first few games. If the score gets too high, even the referee may find your ineptness humorous. But he'll still hit you with penalties for unnecessary roughness, offsides or icing.
Superstar Ice Hockey is a good game; it's just not everything an exciting sport like this deserves.
SINBAD AND THE THRONE OF THE FALCON
reviewed by David Plotkin
The aging Caliph has been mysteriously turned into a falcon before he can name his successor from among three candidates--Good Prince Haroun, Prince Jamoul (The Butcher) and the Black Prince. The Caliphs daughter, Princess Sylphani, summons famed adventurer Sinbad the Sailor to help. As Sinbad, your goal is to discover the secret of turning the Caliph back into human form. To do this you must lead the Caliph's armies past the Black Princes forces.
|Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon was another Cinemaware
game designed to be reminiscent of the old movies.
Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon is another Cinemaware computer game designed to be reminiscent of old movies. Like their earlier offerings, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
You begin at the Caliph's palace. You have a ship, a loyal crew, a map of the surroundings, an hourglass (It's important to keep track of the time--the Caliph will remain a falcon forever if you take too long.) and a crystal that you use to command the Caliph's armies. You can explore the surrounding area on foot with a party of men or sail to other ports with your ship.
If you travel on foot you'll meet characters you can converse with. Chief among these are the gypsy, the shaman and a seductress (now that's an interesting encounter!). When these characters speak to you, you're given a number of responses to choose from. The correct response may win you gifts or valuable information. However, angering the other party can have serious consequences.
Moving on land is simply a matter of clicking on one of the road signs to get to your destination. Remember that time passes while you're traveling. Pirates may attack your ship from time to time, killing members of your crew. Be sure to leave a good-sized defending party on board when you go exploring. You will also want to "recruit" new crew members in the larger cities.
Periodically, you must use the crystal to review the situation around the Caliph's palace. Inevitably, you will find armies of the Black Princes converging on the palace and you must order the Caliph's men to attack. The battlefield is divided into hexagonal shapes, with each army occupying one hexagon. When opposing armies occupy the same square, they fight. You must move reinforcements to areas where the fight is going badly, as well as move weakened armies back to supply depots. It's possible to completely defeat the armies of the Black Prince and not need to worry about this part of the game anymore!
Sea travel means that you must locate your ship and set sail for the destination you selected from your logbook. Once you reach that destination, you can choose a landing party and go ashore, at which point you move once again into the "land exploration" portion of the game.
As with earlier Cinemaware games, Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon has a number of arcade sequences. Sinbad may need to guide his ship through rocky shoals (picking up shipwreck survivors to add to his crew). Hitting a rock ends the game, though, so it's best not to take too many chances. You may also have to battle it out using your sword. Opponents can include the Black Prince, Prince Jamoul (The Butcher), a skeleton and a statue that comes to life.
If there aren't enough members in the landing party to defend them, Good Prince Haroun or Princess Sylphani my be carried off. Sinbad may also find himself in an underground cavern, from which you must help him run, jump and climb in a sort of rudimentary Donkey Kong game. There is also a sequence where you try to shoot down Pteranoxos, a sort of pterodactyl with feathers. The arcade sequence animation tends to be jerky and joystick response is not always what it should be, especially in the sword fights.
The graphics are quite good, in keeping with other Cinemaware products. Full-screen renditions of scenes lend a movie-like air to the game. The encounter with the seductress is especially provocative (if rated PG). If you are playing on a 520ST, frequent disk access and disk switching is required (the game comes on three disks). But if you have one megabyte or more of internal RAM, all three disks can be loaded into memory and the game proceeds much faster. A hard disk is not supported. Sound is nonexistent except for a few squeaks and tinkles.
Only the joystick is used, although the mouse pointer would be much easier and more efficient. Confusingly, the documentation is written for the Amiga, although there is a card of changes for the ST version. But what's really incredible is that there is no Save Game feature. Sinbad is a big game, with lots of territory to cover and many ways to die. Yet you must start over from the beginning every single time.
Try Before You Buy
If you liked earlier Cinemaware offerings, you'll like Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon, particularly with its stunning graphics arcade sequences. But in my opinion, it lacks depth and fails to involve the player. I suggest that you try the game before you buy it.
reviewed by Scot Tumlin
SkyChase from Broderbund, is a jet simulator that combines tactical maneuvers with fast combat action. It's a game that puts you in the cockpits of some of the hottest U.S. and Russian military attack jets. Your mission is to seek out and destroy enemy aircraft--before they destroy you.
Simulation Parameters: Choosing Your Weapons
|SkyChase puts you in the cockpits of some of the hottest
U.S. and Russian military attack jets.
Once the game starts, you're presented with a series of menus, each of which contains options that alter the simulations parameters. The first menu selects the number of players. You can play against the computer or a friend. There is no keyboard option, so joysticks are required.
Each player can then select the type of jet he or she wants to fly. The following jets are available: the Navy F-18 and F-14, the Air Force F-15 and F-16, the Russian MiG 27 and MiG 31--and as a special bonus, a top-secret Paper Plane. At this time, players also select the amount of fuel and gun ammunition and number of missiles for their jets.
Bullet-hit threshold determines the size of the area within which you can score a hit with your guns. The missile-lock threshold determines the spatial interval within which your missiles will acquire a target. The G-force effect determines the amount of G-forces the player can withstand before blackout. A grid-select option determines the size of the grid. The smaller the grid, the fewer lines there are to update (and thus game speed increases). When you play against the computer, the game automatically sets your opponent's difficulty level.
Once the parameters are set the play screen is displayed. This screen shows two windows, yours and your opponent's. Flight instrumentation is displayed below each players window. Digital counters display speed, score, missile and gun rounds remaining and current altitude. Colored bars display fuel and thrust levels. A radar is displayed at the bottom center of the screen.
The dogfight begins with both jets executing a flyby. Each jet starts from one end of the grid and passes the other jet. The players' controls are disengaged until the jets pass a certain distance. At this point the controls are engaged and combat begins!
As in other flight simulators, pushing the joystick forward causes your jet to dive. Pulling back on the stick causes your jet to climb. Left and right movements cause the jet to bank and turn or roll.
The goal in SkyChase is to shoot down your opponents jet. Maneuvering behind the enemy aircraft is best way to achieve this goal. From this location you can fire at him, but he can't fire at you.
A crosshair marker is displayed at the center of your cockpit window. For a gun-kill, maneuver your jet until your crosshairs are centered on your opponent. Press the trigger for a quick burst of machine-gun fire. Gravity and momentum do affect the direction of your rounds. At times you will have to "lead" your gunfire to score a kill. A missile-kill is slightly different. When you're in range, a target-designator box will appear over your opponent's jet. A line will connect between the designator box and your crosshair. Once the missile has a lock, you'll hear a high-pitched whine and see a green light appear on your screen. Double-press the trigger to launch the missile. A small dot will race toward your opponent's jet and on his screen a red light will flash, indicating a missile has locked onto his jet. Once a player's jet is destroyed, the flyby sequence starts over.
SkyChase is simple and to the point. There are no fancy 3D environments to update, just a grid. During combat, there is no time to look at pretty scenery. Accessing the weapons is very easy: one trigger press for guns, two for missiles. The rich selection of parameters gives total control to the players, thus allowing advanced players to go head-to-head against beginners in a fair scenario.
SkyChase does have a few bad points. First, if an opponent's missile acquires a lock, it's goodbye amigos! A quick move may work, but most of the time it doesn't. Military jets have defenses against enemy missiles. SkyChase should, too.
All things considered, SkyChase is one of the best jet combat simulators available. It's the best for quick screen updating and smooth 3D animation. If you have the need for speed, buy a copy of SkyChase. It'll blow your socks off!
Rick Teverbaugh is a sportswriter and veteran game reviewer for several computer magazines. David Plotkin is a chemical engineer for Chevron U.S.A. and a Contributing Editor for START. Scot Tumlin is Direct Mail Sales and Support Supervisor for Antic Software.
Superstar Ice Hockey, $49.95. Mindscape Inc., 3444 Dundee Road, Northbrook, IL 60062, (312) 480-7667.
Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon, $49.95. Cinemaware Corp., 4165 Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Westlake Village, CA 91362, (805) 495-6515.
SkyChase, $39.95. Broderbund (Maxis), 17 Paul Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903, (415) 492-3500.