Rick's Games Cafe
Six ST entertainments reviewed
By RICK TEVERBAUGH
TRACKER, SENTRY, KNIGHT ORC
Firebird's Tracker is a shoot-em-up that's a bit reminiscent of the classic 8-bit space game, Star Raiders. Except that Tracker is played over a huge maze of lines which take you front place to place, and junctions where most of the combat takes place.
You control up to eight skimmers in each game. A skimmer starts in one af the safe areas outside the grid. The object is to reach the center of the grid and destroy the centerpoint sector. Along the way you'll find defenders and scouts to destroy. Plasma balls, your main weapon, are fired by pressing the left mouse button. The mouse is used to guide your craft, but it's best to use the automatic pilot when the ship isn't threatened. Your time is better spent monitoring the enemy positions on the numerous map displays at your command. The program will sound yellow alert when trouble is approaching, and red alert when you're already in dutch.
Each maze is different, so a strategy that works well on one won't always work on the next. But it is the mix of strategy and arcade features that keeps the game fresh and keeps you in the game long after you've forgotten where you've put your other games.
Another new Firebird game that is just forgettable is Knight Orc. I've only been playing computer games for about eight years, but it took me two hours just to figure out how to get out of a garbage dump and communicate with the first inhabitant I encountered.
Of the 36 pages in the manual, only nine are devoted to game mechanics and features. The other 27 pages are a novella. You're an orc in a place similar to medieval England. The graphics are entertaining but not as good as some past efforts.
Finally, there's The Sentry, possibly the most difficult program I've ever had to describe. Most other games are similar enough in form or playing style to draw some famliliar comparisons, but when the game system and object are so completely new and origin, my job becomes much hader--but the overall enjoyment of the game grows. The Sentry's game system is unusual, but still solid in thought and design.
You must avoid The Sentry while absorbing energy on any of the thousands of landscapes included on the disk. Some of the energy is picked up from objects already on the surface when you land. Others can be created once you land, then absorbed.
Despite being played on a two-dimensional screen, the game is played in three dimensions. It is vital to climb higher on each landscape, not only to better see what can be absorbed, but also to have a chance to destroy the Sentry before its hatefill eye-beam catches you and steals your life.
The amount of energy you pick up on one landscape before destroying The Sentry will decide which landscape is next. If the next screen is too difficult, you can go back and replay the previous landscape, absorb more or less energy and then be transported to a different site for your next challenge.
$44.95 each. Firebird Licensees, Inc. 71 North Franklin Turnpike, Waldwick, NJ 07463, (201) 444-5700.
RINGS OF ZILFIN
Another graphic adventure of this ilk is Rings of Zilfin. The object here is to find the famous rings and conquer Lord Dragos. The classes of your band of characters are also different and include humans, halflings, dwarves, elves and zilfins. But the biggest difference is in the variety and number of foes (or minions of darkness! as they're called).
$39.95. Strategic Simulations, Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View CA 94043. (415) 944-1200.
THE BARD'S TALE
The Bard's Tale is out for the ST and it's about time. This game has long been a staple for other machines and now that it finally has made an appearance, I can only say that the wait has been worth it. The Bard's Tale is a graphics role-playing adventure. You create yuur own band of characters in classes such as Warrior, Paladin ("Have Mace, Will Travel"), Rogue, Bard, Hunter, Monk, Conjurer, Magician, Sorcerer and Wizard. I always lean toward being the Bard, because my favorite line from the manual is: "When the going gets tough, the Bard goes drinking."
Movement and most input is handled via the mouse. Equip your band well and then go out to release the city of Skara Brae from the evil influence of Mangar. Of the two games, I'd say The Bard's Tale is a bit more attractive, but Rings is a bit easier to get into. Both are attractive packages.
$49.95. Electronic Arts, 1820 Gateway Drive, San Mateo, CA 94404. (415) 571-7991.
BOULDER DASH CONSTRUCTION
Boulder Dash Construction Set is part of a new line called Maxx Out, from the Epyx stable of games. I'd mostly recommend it for Boulder Dash fanatics who know the game inside and out and want new horizons and challenges. They certainly can be created here.
A major problem with the package is its scant documentation. What there is assumes an intricate knowledge of the game system.
$24.95. Epyx, 600 Galveston Drive, P.O. Box 8020, Redwood City, CA 94063. (415) 366-0606.
Rick Teverbaugh of Indiana is one of the most active game reviewers in the U.S. The title for these collected reviews comes from the film "Casablana" where Bogart ran "Rick's Cafa Americain"