ST Product News
ALTERNATE REALITY: THE CITY (Version 2.0) Datasoft 19808 Nordhoff Place Chatsworth, CA 91311-9969 (818) 886-5922 $44.95
Reviewed by Jim Pierson-Perry
Alternate Reality is here at last for the ST! Originally previewed in the November, 1984 Antic, this is planned to be a seven-part series of interrelated role-playing fantasy adventure games. Each adventure will be a separate scenario with its own quests and puzzles but will tie into the overall plotline. Sort of like the old Saturday matinee cliff-hangers, isnt it?
The City is the first installment of the series and must be completed to go on to the succeeding disks. It is a training ground where you develop your alter ego characters personality, abilities, and equipment as well as learning basic survival skills.
You begin the game by creating your player character, who will continue throughout the series. There arc six character traits which you can pick: stamina, charm, strength, intelligence, wisdom, and skill. Load up on strength at the start, since your bare hands will be your only weapons. Your initial finances and hit points (measure of survivability) are also set at this time. As your character gains experience, these trait levels will increase and allow you more playing options as well as improve your combat skills.
The playing area is modeled after an enclosed city with over 4000 locations. Hidden behind its labyrin-thine walls and secret passages are shops, inns, taverns, smithies, and banks. Here you can purchase equipment, get a job or invest in savings accounts. Hidden away more deeply are the various guilds where you can increase your character trait levels and be trained in the arts of magic. Mapping the city is vital to unravelling its secrets and a starting map guide is included in the game documentation. Be sure to purchase a compass early on in the game or you will quickly become hopelessly lost. In your travels you will find locations that you cannot enter without a future scenario disk (entrances to the dungeon, palace, arena, etc). Mark them well on your map--they will be important as the series progresses!
You will not be alone in your travels, since the city is heavily populated with both honest citizens and those who prefer to prey on the weak (e.g. you). Even worse are the nonhuman horrors who stalk the streets after dark, so beware the night until you gain some defenses! Unless you really want to be a nasty soul, do not pick fights with commoners or merchants-the city guards will take an unfavorable viewpoint towards your continued existence!
When you encounter someone (or something) you have several options including attack, retreat, and cast a spell. Effective fighting requires different tactics for different foes. Fighting occurs in real-time so keep a finger near the pause key if it gets too intense.
Be prepared to die quickly and often until you get used to the game. Stay close to the town center and do not go out at night until you get a weapon (a dagger is good to start with). After you gain some experience and have over 25 hit points, you can try some exploring.
Alternate Realitys point-of-view graphics are outstanding. You see your surroundings from eye level in a realistic, detailed 3-D perspective that scrolls very smoothly with your movements. The realism even includes sunrise, sunset, and weather changes. There is a strong time dependency to the game and many play options can only occur during certain times. Simple movement can be done by mouse, joystick, and/or keyboard controls. However, some options (e.g. leaving a store) only work with the joystick or keyboard.
I do have a complaint: the game save is the worst Ive ever seen! When you save the game, you also are thrown out of the program and left to hang. It doesnt even return to the GEM desktop. Even more insidious, however, a given game save can be used only one time and is then erased. This lovely effect is not covered in the documentation and caused me to waste the benefits of several hours of game play. Adding insult to injury, the game save file apparently cannot be backed up by normal GEM functions; however, a simple sector copier will do the trick nicely.
Alternate Reality: The City is potentially an exciting addition to the ranks of ST gaming. By itself, The City is not so much a game as a playing shell; there is no purpose besides simply wandering around, killing things, mapping, and building up your character in preparation for quests yet to come. The success of the series remains with the disks yet to come (the next one, The Dungeon, is not slated for release until the end of 1987). However, a hint book should be available by the time you read this review.
LABELMASTER Migraph, Inc. 720 333rd Street Federal Way, WA 98003 (206) 838-4677 $39.95
Reviewed by David Plotkin
LabelMaster (LM) is a combination address book database and label printer. It has the unique feature of printing labels with graphic pictures. It comes with over 100 pictures, has a built-in graphics editor for making your own pictures, and is compatible with PrintMaster files, meaning that there is a large library of ready-made graphics ready for use.
The first portion of LM is the database. Each record consists of fields for First Name, Last Name, Address, City, State and ZIP. There is no phone number field. You fill in the information by typing it in the dialog box for each record. A variety of buttons also appear in the dialog box. You may print the record, delete it, move to another record, move to the first or last record, find the next occurrence of a specified string, or choose a new graphic design for the file. Two other boxes let you specify how many of this particular label will be printed, and to choose the personal or business format. Personal format prints the first and last name on the first line of the label, while the business format prints the first name on the first line and the last name on the second line. Thus, you can put the persons whole name in the first name field, and their company name in the last name field.
LM has many options once you have designed some records. You may print all the specified records as business or personal. You can sort the records on any field. You can also customize the text of a special label to be wide, normal, or condensed for each line individually. You cannot, however, print out already defined records using this special definition, but must fill in the information on the screen -and you cannot save this information.
The other half of LM is the graphics. Each label you print out can have a graphic icon, or small picture, printed on the left side. This can really dress up your labels, especially when you are sending out Christmas cards. When you print out a whole file of labels at once, they will all have the same graphic icon printed on each one. However, when you print out single labels, you can choose which graphic design will be on each label. If you decide to load a design, you will be presented with a file selector box to choose the name of the graphics file you want to load. Each graphics file contains a number of icons. After you have loaded the file, a page of titles for the graphic icons in the file will be put on the screen. You may choose one of the titles by clicking on it or move to the next page or previous page of titles. Clicking on a title will load it and it will then be available for editing. This procedure is also how you load a design when you select change design in the database portion of the program. The design will appear magnified on the screen, and you can now change it. You select a pen color (black, white, or checkerboard) and click in the squares you want to color. You can also flip the design either horizontally or vertically, and invert it (white becomes black, black becomes white). You can move the design one line in any direction, print it, erase it, and either copy or move a user-defined block. Further, there are two modes for block operations, Replace (covers what was there before) and Transparent (moves or copies only the black dots from the original area to the new area, so the original design shows through). You may also drdw lines of either one- or three-pixel width. When you are done with your design you give it a name and can save it with the file.
LabelMaster is a very simple program, but it does what it is supposed to do very well. The graphics editor could benefit from a few more tools (like a circle), and the database could use a phone number field, so that you could use the database as your address book, and not just for making labels. But all in all, this program is easy to use and fulfills a function I have yet to see anywhere else. If you enjoy making creative mailing labels, I recommend this program to you.