Dave's Game Room
Obliterator, Leatherneck, Eagle's Nest, Vampire's Empire, Crazy Cars.
Reviewed By David Plotkin
Crazy Cars is an auto racing game similar in many ways to Pole Position. Your view is from above and behind your joystick-controlled car. The object is to complete each of three courses in the allotted time. If successful, you're given a faster car and less time to complete the course. The other cars on the course will try to run you off the road and you must pass them to improve your time. There are also bumps in the road that can throw your car right up in the air, making it difficult to steer!
The graphics are colorful and detailed. The scrolling of the road, the background foliage and the roadside signs all add to the realism, and the cars are well-rendered. Where this game starts to lose its charm is at the joystick control system. At around 200 mph, the cars should be very responsive, but they aren't. You must hold the joystick in a given direction for quite a while before you get a response. This is frustrating and leads to collisions, either with another car or running off the road. Once the cars do respond, they jump from one position to another in rather large increments so that small adjustments in road position really aren't possible.
$39.95, color. Titus Software, 20432 Corisco Street, Chatsworth, CA 91311. (818) 709-3962.
Oh, no! An alien spacecraft has invade Federation space and defeated the star fleet. Now this apparently invincible craft is headed straight toward Earth, bent on destruction. There's only one way to stop it. Use the prototype matter transporter to beam you--last of the Obliterators--aboard to defeat the enemy crew and destroy the alien craft.
So starts Obliterator, a new arcade/role playing game from Psygnosis. As the game begins, you appear on the alien craft armed with a heavy caliber gun. The graphics are stunning, richly rendered and highly detailed. The animation is smooth and convincing. Then trouble starts.
Controlling the Obliterator is done via the standard Psygnosis control panel. This control system is confusing, hard to use, awkward and should be replaced. The game documentation says you can control the figure with the mouse, keyboard or joystick. But the joystick trigger doesn't work. The mouse takes advantage of the control panel at the bottom of the screen to fire, run, jump, defend, pick up objects and board elevators.
A secondary control panel, accessed by pressing the [SPACEBAR], lets you change weapons, monitor your status and watch your score. You can move the Obliterator either by using the [ARROW] keys, clicking on the arrows in the control panel, or moving the mouse cursor on the side that you want to move towards, then clicking the mouse button.
The only really effective method of control is to use the panel at the bottom of the screen. But you can't keep your eyes on the action and on the control panel. If you try to use the other methods of control, the Obliterator tends to run headlong into things, including enemy objects, which costs shield energy and, eventually, the game. It's difficult to get him to walk into an elevator, and apparently there's no way to make him duck, so he just gets knocked over again and again by the hovering robots, which are invulnerable to his pistol. This is frustrating and there's no way to save a game.
If you can master the controls for Obliterator, it's an involving game, with many goals (disable engines, weapons systems and shields) which must be accomplished before winning. Mapping is recommended, for the alien craft is huge and full of danger. When you leave a room and return, all alien threats have regenerated and must be destroyed again. There are shield regenerators scattered around the ship, and these can be really handy.
$39.95, color. Psygnosis, 1st Floor, Port of Liverpool Building, Pierhead, Liverpool L31BY, England. 011 4451 236 8818.
Vampire's Empire presents a game theme which has not been done to death and features some outstanding (and adult) graphics. But it has too many problems for me to recommend it.
You take on the role of Van Helsing, the famous vampire killer. Your mission is to enter Dracula's lair and dispose of this most notorious of vampires by positioning mirrors throughout the lair to reflect sunlight into its murky depths and disintegrate the vampire. Tossing garlic helps protect yourself.
Confusion starts almost immediately. You find yourself at the entrance to the lair. Your view is from the side as you guide Van Helsing with the joystick. To select a weapon--various mirrors, a magic light-directing ball, or garlic--push the joystick down while pressing the button.
You must use the joystick diagonally to negotiate stairs-never an easy thing to do, especially since the instructions don't cover this. Placing mirrors is a hit-or-miss affair. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Since you can't see the sunlight, It's tough to figure out whether placing mirrors is doing any good, let alone where to aim them! A small arrow at the top of the screen is never explained. But it might have something to do with the direction of sunlight.
Using the magic ball is just as frustrating. You levitate it to your chosen altitude, then change the sunlight direction. Again, I could never tell if it worked. At least the garlic worked.
About these demons. Many of them are naked (or nearly naked) women, rendered with remarkable clarity and detail. This is a decidedly adult game! Overall, the graphics are very good, but the screens are not "smooth scrolling" as the documentation states. Instead, they switch between one screen and another very quickly, which is disorienting.
There are some other unexplained items on the screen, including what appears to be an hourglass and is possibly a lifeline which gets shorter whenever you get the short end of a demon encounter. When this "life-line" runs out, you end up back at the beginning ofthe game. But sometimes you end up there anyway for no apparent reason. A lot of this confusion may arise from the "documentation," a double-sided 8 1/2 x 11-inch sheet of paper with about half of one side actually used for game instructions. The brevity of the "manual" may have been a misguided attempt to have players figure everything themselves. Vampire Empire needs much better documentation, lots more programming work, or both.
$29.95, color. Digitek, 10415 N. Florida Avenue, Suite 410, Tampa, FL 33612 (813) 933-8023.
Leatherneck casts you in the role of a U.S. marine landing on a beach-head and fighting your way inland. Four can play, using Michtron's optional adapters to connect four joysticks to the ST's two joystick ports. Your marines are viewed from above and move across a vertically scrolling landscape. Various objects afford cover from enemy gunfire, which is intense. Huge numbers of enemy soldiers come at you from the front, and you must deal with gun emplacements firing from concrete blockhouses.
Your marine has three weapons available. Chief among these is the heavy machine gun, which has a range greater than the guns carried by the enemy soldiers. You can blast them before they can get close enough with their guns or grenades. The second weapon is a light machine gun which is virtually worthless, since you must get very close to an enemy soldier before it will work.
Lastly, you carry grenades which can only be thrown forward. This is awkward because they are the only weapon effective against gun emplacements which can fire at you from behind.
The Leatherneck graphics are colorful and realistic, and the digitized sound effects are chilling. Unfortunately, games tend to be very short, because enemy forces quickly become overwhelming and you get ony three lives. The odds are better when playing with friends, although you must be careful not to shoot each other.
$9.95, color. Microdeal (Michtron), 576 S. Telegraph, Pontiac, MI 48053. (312) 3 34-5 700.
INTO THE EAGLE'S NEST
Into the Eagle's Nest puts you in the role of a soldier invading the nazi fortress known as the Eagle's Nest. Your mission is to rescue three Allied saboteurs and generally create as much havoc as possible. You're armed with a rifle and plenty of ammunition. Along the way, you'll need to pick up additional ammo, elevator passes, cell keys and other objects to aid in the search operation.
You control the hero with your joystick. The game is viewed from above as your soldier moves through a colorful, scrolling maze of walls and other obstacles. The most frequently encountered obstacles are enemy soldiers, who move toward you mindlessly and get in each other's way. Press the fire button to shoot the enemy. Meanwhile, they try to touch you and, if you are touched 50 times, the game is over.
Strewn about the castle are first aid kits which will reduce the number of times you have been hit. You must keep a sharp lookout for additional ammunition, because you'll use it up at an alarming rate. Sometimes it's better to run from enemy soldiers than to shoot it out. You can shoot open treasure chests if you have ammunition to spare--sometimes there are valuable artifacts inside. But be careful not to shoot a chest full of dynamite and end the game immediately. To win, you must rescue the three saboteurs. This is no easy task.
Into the Eagle's Nest is easy to play and features good graphics. You will probably need to map your way because the castle has several floors, each with many rooms. You can expect to play a long time before you master this game.
$39.95, color. (Doesn't work on Mega.) Mindscape, Inc., 3444 Dundee Road, Northbrook, IL 60062. (800) 221-9884.
INDIANA JONES: TEMPLE OF DOOM
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is an adventure/arcade game in which you must use a joystick to guide the hero through three increasingly difficult scenarios to achieve a variety of goals, culminating in recovering the three stones of Sankara from the Pankot Palace. On the way you must deal with enemy guards, traps, cobras and the evil High Priest, Mola Ram. The game is fun, but extremely frustrating.
As in the movie, the children of the village of Mayapore have disappeared, as have the three stones which brought prosperity to the village. You must rescue the children, recover the stones and defeat Mola Ram.
As the game begins, Indiana Jones is standing outside the mine tunnels. You have the choice of entering one of three mine shafts, labeled Easy, Medium and Hard. The inside of the caves consists of flat plateaus connected by ladders and it's easy to get lost in the maze. At various places there are children locked in cages, whom Indy can free by using his trusty bullwhip on the cage.
You can also use the whip on bats, cobras and guards, although it merely stuns the guards--but you can eliminate future threats by knockinga stunned guard over the ledge. Mola Ram also pops up occasionally and throws fireballs--tracking fireballs, no less. You can whip the fireball or Mola Ram. Being touched by any of these dangers uses up a life and sends you back to an earlier place in the cave.
Eventually you'll locate the entrance to the mine tunnels, and thus begins the most difficult portion of the game. You must guide your mine car down the rails to reach the Temple of Doom. Missing sections of track, obstacles and cars full of guards all stand in your way. One wrong move and the game is over. You can accelerate and slow down, steer the car and even tilt it up on two wheels.
At the Temple of Doom, Indy must negotiate the drawbridge over the lava pits to recover the first stone. If he's successful, it's back to the first level for two more trips through the game until all three stones are recovered at which time Indy can win by escaping across the rope bridge. Of course, Mola Ram will be throwing fireballs for all he's worth.
The graphics and sound are adequate and Indy is easy to control, but you can't pause or save a game. And the biggest problem is that the game may not be interesting enough to hold your attention.--DAVID PLOTKIN
$49.95, color. Mindscape, 3444 Dundee Road, Northbrook, IL 60062. (312) 480-7667.