For The Fun Of It
In which Wasser waltzes with warships
and Plotkin paddles pucks
REVIEWED BY SCOTT WASSER
|AT A GLANCE|
ST owners can now get a taste of 17th century buccaneer life, thanks to MicroProse Software's "Pirates!" An award-winning program on other computer platforms, the ST version of Pirates! is as special as the swashbuckling era it recreates.
The Main Thing
What makes Pirates! so special is its design. It deftly blends the best elements of role-playing, arcade action, strategy and simulations into an engrossing adventure.
The adventure revolves around you as a buccaneer of English, Dutch, French or Spanish nationality. In addition to nationality, you select the historical time period during which your adventure will take place and pick one of five special skills to help you succeed. Your adventure can be played at one of four different skill levels.
The instruction manual included with the game is absolutely wonderful. It provides easy-to-follow detailed instructions on all of the game's aspects, as well as interesting historical narratives and "The Memoirs of Capt'n Sydney."
Trading Over The Sea
During the course of playing Pirates!, you'll have to trade with merchants, negotiate with politicians and scoundrels, sail and navigate the Caribbean, search for buried treasure, plunder towns and fight battles using cannons, swords and muskets. Each of these elements is represented in a different way in Pirates! Unfortunately, it's impossible to describe them all in detail in a review of this length, but here's a brief synopsis of what happens on screen:
When you go into a town, trade with a merchant or visit a politician, the screen shows a portrait of the person with whom you're dealing. Some of the characters are slightly animated (they may wink or smile) and you converse with them via dialog boxes. While sailing and exploring the Caribbean, you view your ship from overhead and use an on-screen cursor to guide it. The perspective is similar when engaging another ship in battle or attacking a land-based fortress.
You can board another ship or storm a fort by maneuvering your craft next to the target. The screen changes at that point to show you and an adversary engaged in a sword fight. Your actions are controlled by mouse and your fate tied to that of your men. Their spirit and numbers and your skill determine the outcome of a battle.
Although you'll encounter some variations on those themes, these are the three main scenarios of Pirates! Each one is characterized by clear and vivid graphics. The drawings are rich in character and detail, although animation is a bit choppy and not overly impressive.
Sound, on the other hand, is terrific. Pirates! supports output of its catchy baroque soundtrack through the ST's MIDI port. Hook a synthesizer to the port to let the music pipe through it, while other sound effects such as clanking swords and cannon blasts will be heard through the ST monitor's speaker. Although I was unable to take advantage of the MIDI support, I was still impressed with the program's sound.
Copy Protection and Recommendations
Pirates! comes on two single-sided disks and uses "key-disk" copy protection. This means you can make backup disks or install Pirates! on a hard disk. But you'll be asked to insert the original program Disk A briefly before the game will load.
Loading Pirates! leads to an experience offered only by the very best ST programs. It will provide countless hours of entertainment by transporting you to another time and place where your success and survival depend on your ability to negotiate and navigate, swing a sword, and plot, plan and plunder.
|AT A GLANCE|
REVIEWED BY DAVID PLOTKIN
Shufflepuck Cafe is a fast-action game reminiscent of air hockey. It's fun to play, and, as with most games of this type, adds some features that can't be found in the real-world counterpart.
Shufflepuck Cafe is played on a long table with curbs down the sides to keep the "puck" from going off the edge. You're at one end of the table, your opponent is at the other end. The puck slides along on an almost frictionless cushion of air and can attain very high speeds. To move the puck, both you and your opponent must hit it with a small paddle. The object is to send the puck into your opponent's goal--the open end of the table at his or her end. Of course, your opponent is trying to do the same thing to you. Your opponents in Shufflepuck Cafe are a motley crew, each with a unique style of play. You can select your opponent from the opening screen, or use the practice droid, which can be programmed to be a worthy opponent (not that the inhabitants of the Cafe are easy to defeat!). They range from Skippy, a wimpy opponent who is a dead sucker for bounce shot, to Biff Raunch, a distasteful sort who has no weaknesses I could find. In between there are, among others, the General, who has a wicked return, and the Princess, who uses a magic hook on her serve that was impossible for my 30-plus-year-old reflexes to handle. The opponents even have their own characteristic mannerisms, grunts and groans that you'll hear and see as the games progress.
|Broderbund's Shufflepuck Cafe offers fast and
furious game play for any skill level--just watch
out for the General!
To make Shufflepuck even more interesting, you can customize it. The "Bouncer" moves back and forth in front of your goal, and its size and speed can be adjusted. You can set the size of your paddle, though the bigger paddles are not as nimble when it comes to bouncing and spinning the puck. You can also program the paddle as to how sensitive it is when applying spins and edge shots. The paddle can even have a different response depending on whether the button on the mouse is up or down. By the way, it's best to play this game with a standard mouse--even the slightest hesitation in a wireless mouse and you lose the point with the better opponents.
Once you get good at defeating some of the opponents, you can enter tournaments. These can be loaded and saved to disk, and if you win, you get to put your name on the vanity board, and store it to disk.
Shufflepuck Cafe has fast action so expect to feel it in your mouse-hand muscles after you play it for awhile. It's exciting and fun, with good graphics and sound. If you like air hockey, or any fast-paced game that requires nimble movement, check this out.