by JOHN WILSON
This arcade-style action game requires BASIC and a minimum of 16K RAM (24K with DOS). It runs on all Atari computers.
Captain's log . . .
Received an urgent message from Comstar that the Nebulus, our sister ship, has been reported lost in an uncharted sector of space. We have been assigned to investigate and assist in rescue operations. End of Captain's Log . . .
You are in command of the battle cruiser Centurion. Your mission -- to rescue any remaining members of the crew of the Nebulus. Use a joystick plugged into Port1 to control your vessel. Push the stick to the right or left to rotate the ship, and push it forward to move in the direction you're facing. Forward thrust continues until you release the joystick, at which point your ship decelerates until it stops. If you pull back on the stick, reverse thrusters act as brakes. As an emergency measure, you can hyperwarp through space by moving into the screen's border. If you do this, though, you'll lose 40 percent of your current energy.
CONVERT MOVEMENT INTO ENERGY
Your ship uses the latest in ion-energy-conversion technology. As it hurtles through space, it scoops up ions and converts them into energy. Therefore, in order to maintain your energy reserves, you must keep moving. If you let your energy level hit zero, your shields will disappear and you'll be defenseless. If you're hit by enemy fire during this period, you'll be destroyed.
Your enemies are members of a mechanical race built eons ago to protect this sector of space. Their saucers are equipped with powerful lasers that drain your shields in proportion to the saucers' distance from your ship. And if an alien ship picks up one of the surviving members of the Nebulus' crew, you are penalized five points.
In self defense, your ship is armed with plasma torpedoes, which you fire with the joystick trigger. You can fire up to two at a time and you get 10 points for each ship you destroy.
OTHER DANGERS AND AN ESCAPE ROUTE
If you hit one of the stars strewn about the sector, your ship will be destroyed; if you hit an asteroid, you'll lose 30 percent of your energy. Don't lose hope, however. You can always use the black hole at the screen's center to transport yourself at random to another part of the sector. Since you're using the black hole's gravitational force, no energy is consumed, but there's always the risk of emerging on top of a sun or an asteroid! The game ends when your ship is destroyed.
You can stop the game during play by pressing any key. To resume play, simply move the joystick. Good luck, Commander.
John Wilson, 27, is a self-taught BASIC and assembly-language programmer and has been writing game programs for about four years. He works as an electronics technician for Ford Motor Company.
Listing: STARSECT.BAS Download