ST Game GalleryVirus, Final Assault, Strip Poker II, Space Cutter, Fire and Forget, Warlock
VIRUSVirus claims to be the most infectious game ever. Maybe not, but it can certainly bring on quick symptoms of gaming fever. And the cure comes only after long periods of play.
Why the fever? Simply, the graphics are among the very best I have seen on the ST, definitely of arcade quality. The colors and detail make a solidly believable 3-D background, but playing speed is not sacrificed for scenery. The pace is more than fast enough for the most hardened game players to enjoy.
Virus begins as alien seeder ships appear and quickly pass over the countryside, spreading a slimy red virus which poisons everything it touches. As a Hoverplane pilot, you race to intercept these menacing alien ships before more spores can be released. Your marvelously handling craft blasts seeders ftom the sky with powerfull laser cannons and heat-seeking missiles. Other aliens attack-drones, mutated drones, bombers, pests and fighters.
The playing area view is a breeze to interpret, so you can spend your time hunting aliens instead of reading dials. The land map shows just how little of the potential play area is actualiy in view of the Hoverplane. This vast area of operation does wonders for the graphic effect of the total game. The trees, houses, fields and water look as solid as in the real world. Run into any of them and it's time to go get a new Virus destroyer. The contouring of the landscape adds a realistic thrill as it appears and passes when you make a low attack.
You control the Hoverplane by mouse or keyboard. I started out with the mouse and discovered that, just as it warns in the manual, the Hoverplane may lag behind the mouse movement. Three quick and spectacular crashes later I was on keyboard control. I firmly believe that the mouse is the first thing that the aliens infect. However, you can reconfigure the keyboard before the start of Virus action. And I did just that, designing a layout that felt natural to me. WOLF GRIFFEY
$29.95, color. Rainbird, P0. Box 2227, Menlo Park, CA 94026. (800)227-6900.
FINAL ASSAULTEver watch in amazement those TV documentaries about the latest expedition to scale some big, treacherous mountain somewhere? It always seemed too dangerous and cold for my tastes. But I might be interested, if someone could devise a way for me to do it without the danger or the sub-zero temperatures.
Epyx has come to answer that challenge with Final Assault. Graphically, the game is beautiful, looking much like the company's Summer, Winter and World Games efforts. The gameplay is much the same too, requiring a certain amount of dexterity and a good memory to succeed in scaling even the smallest peaks.
What's really exciting about this release is that it goes in a direction more software publishers should attempt. Plenty of companies are reproducing or cloning hits from the arcades. Plenty of companies are doing adventure games in both past and future scenarios. Plenty of companies are doing war and sports simulations. But there are very few companies interested in pioneering exciting simulations outside the software mainstream.
I doubt that Epyx got many user respouse cards wanting a mountain-climbing game. But I believe most players will get a certain excitement from playing Final Assault and a certain sense of accomplishment when they get to the top of the biggest mountain.
There are six trails choose to from, along with a training hill for getting used to the game's mechanics. You can take on the paths solo, in pairs or threesomes. The names of the six tests give a good idea of what's ahead. There's Hat Trick, Side-Burner, Edge Of Fright, Footloose, Knucklehead and Consider Me Gone.
The first step is to pack a rucksack. Although one is already packed for you, it is possible to change those selections. First-timers would probably do just as well to stay with the suggested items. Whether rock-climbing or climbing on ice, it is necessary to have the right equipment on your feet and hands before you even attempt to get going.
Unless you do some mountaineering and know the difference between crampons and pitons, a four-page directory of climbing terms at the back of a 25-page rule book will be useful. The training trail is both helpful and a nuisance. When playing at that level, hints of things you might want to do or things you might want to do differently appear regularly. It is necessary to press the [ESC] key to remove the message and continue with the game.
After that, it's a matter of figuring out the proper sequences of joystick moves and button pushes to get the climber up the side of the mountain. Most of your time will be spent climbing, although there are segments of flat travel between climbs when you'll need to walk, test ground and sometimes jump over small crevasses.
On the longer journeys, it will be necessary to have along enough provisions to keep food in your belly and liquids in your system. Unless you like your food raw, it would be a good idea to keep a small stove in that backpack. Using the joystick to move an on-screen cursor around, you can switch from carrying or wearing certain items, to putting them in the backpack and visa versa. If you're on a climb though, don't forget to strap yourself to the mountain first.
Don't be fooled by how easy it is to get to the top of the training slope or the easiest of the trails. It's much harder and the program gets much less forgiving for minor mistakes as you advance. Final Assault may not be the program that fills the void in everyone's gaming collection. But it is a worthwhile addition for anyone who ever looked up at those magnificent peaks and daydreamed about climbing them. RICK TEVERBAUGH
$49.95, color. Epyx, 600 Galveston Drive, Redwood City, CA 94063. (415)366-0606.
STRIP POKER IIStrip Poker, one of the most tasteless ST games available (at least commercially, through a major publisher), has gotten better. Or do I mean worse? I guess that depends on your point of view.
Strip Poker is one program that won't surprise you when you run it. The name is self-explanatory and everyone knows what strip poker is. What you probably don't know is that your opponents in this latest version of the game are digitized images. Which means that these women (and men, on one of the data disks) are no longer merely electronic paintings. No, these images are now more like grainy photographs.
Other than some sound effects and a different card style, the game plays just as it always has. Owners of the original may wish to check with Artworx concerning the availability of digitized data disks for their current version, and new purchasers should make sure that they're getting the new version. STEVE PANAK
$39.95, color. Artworx, 1844 Penfield Road, Penfield, NY 14526. (716)385-6120.
SPACE CUTTERSpace Cutter takes place in the largest arena I have ever seen on a computer screen. And the ultimate score is the highest anyone can obtain, infinity. The galaxy is occupied by a race of intelligent spaceships which have enslaved most of the human population. To gain freedom you must reach the Five Perfect Solids. You are a lone human, flying your Meson Fighter through the enemy-occupied galaxy by way of the Whirligig, a network of over four billion mini-universes linked by Stargates. To get to the Fifth Solid alone requires a route of 32 gates.
Your Meson Fighter is capable of high speeds and extremely fast turns. For protection it is outfitted with target-seeking missiles and chaff pods. The missiles have a quick response, streaking toward the target along the shortest route possible. Unfortunately this route might intersect with the last maneuvering Meson itself. Chaff, on the other hand, will not destroy the Meson, but will go for the highest priority target. Enemy ships come in many types and their aggressiveness increases as the Meson travels deeper into Whirligig.
Control is by mouse only Chaff and missiles are fired by button selection. A control panel for the navigation and status of the Meson can be brought up for viewing at any time during a sector run. It provides a mapping of the stargates and supply depots.
Overall, Space Cutter is fairly fast paced and active. The graphics have a good, solid feel, with lively colors and background. Good scrolling speed makes going at high rates more than just interesting, adding a touch of carefree danger and spice. The graphics for sector entry and exit are fun to watch. WOLF GRIFFEY
$29.95, color. Rainbird, P.O. Box 2227, Menlo Park, CA 94026. (800)227-6900.
FIRE AND FORGETFire and Forget is a road racing game along the lines of Titus' earlier Crazy Cars. But where Crazy Cars had a poor control system and rather uninteresting play mechanics, Fire and Forget is easy to control, and has some good sound effects and graphics. It's also fun to play, if somewhat repetitious.
Fire and Forget is set far in the future.The Earth is in the grip of international terrorists who have started wars in seven areas of the globe. You must stomp out these brush fires that threaten to explode into nuclear conflagration.
You'll be driving the Thunder Master, a sort of supercar with a powerful missile launcher mounted on top. (Wish I had one of these in rush hour traffic!) In a one-player game, only the Thunder Master is available. But in a two-player game, the other player controls the Thunder Cloud, a jet plane that deals with your airborne enemies. Both players can use joystick or keyboard control. There are three levels of difficulty, with level 1 being good for anyone lacking super reflexes. The high score is automatically saved to disk, which is a nice touch.
The map of the world shows the seven trouble spots. You can deal with them in any order. Simply use the joystick to select the one you want and press the trigger. The screen clears and things start getting exciting.
Your viewpoint is from behind and slightly above the car. Speed and steering are controlled with the joystick. To fire, press the trigger. You can't have more than about four missiles in the air at once, so don't go around firing indiscriminately. You earn points for obliterating enemies with your missiles. Airborne choppers, roadside pillboxes, barbed wire and other obstacles help develop your steering ability and the quickness of your trigger finger. Destroyed enemies disappear in a satisfying explosion, complete with realistic sound. Sometimes the road will split and you must then choose which fork to drive on, though both will eventually lead to the end.
The key ingredient to surviving Fire and Forget is fuel. The line across the top of the screen shows how much of this precious resource you have left. You'll use it up quickly as you travel, though not at a rate proportional to your speed. You can refuel at green or blue fuel depots positioned along the road, and you pay a huge fuel penalty whenever your vehicle explodes from a hit. If you run out of fuel, the game is over. One word of warning: Don't use the blue cisterns to fill up the jet plane, because it will explode it can only fill up from the green cisterns.
Fire and Forget's graphics are slightly better than those of Crazy Cars. However, the explosions are very realistic the sound was probably digitized. Overall, I like this game. It's last and furious, and even novices can survive long enough to have a good time. DAVID PLOTKIN $39.95, color. Titus Softwam, 20432 Corisco Street, Chatsworth, CA 91311. (818)709-3692.
WARLOCKWarlock is playable, fun and has good graphics, animation and some real challenges. You'll guide a warlock in his quest for the stolen Karna, a jewel of the underworld. You must also recapture eight magical objects scattered throughout the game's 20 screens.
In this joystick-operated game, the warlock can move, jump, and go up and down levels when appropriate. He is armed with a scepter that fires energy bolts at the different enemies featured on each level. Some enemies move blindly and are easily avoided; others bounce around and are hard to hit; still others can freeze your wizard in place, which can be very dangerous; and then there are those who shoot back.
Your enemies all are highly detailed and well-animated: the zombies lurch, the bats flap their wings, the ghosts flit back and forth. There are some indescribable enemies as well, and discovering how to defeat newly encountered creatures is part of the fun. Shooting enemies can be profitable too, as some leave gifts that you may find extremely useful in the upper levels.
The sound in Warlock is noteworthy. Aside from explosions and such, flashes of lightning are followed by the crash of thunder, and the echoes of digitized night sounds are uncanny.
The scoreboard at the top of the screen keeps track of the number of items you have recovered, your score, the power of your scepter and your vitality. Without power you can't shoot at your enemies, and the game is over when vitality drops to zero. As you explore, you'll find items that restore your power and vitality, as well as jewels that partially protect you from the assaults of the denizens of the underworld.
Overall, I like Warlock a lot and have managed to play 12 levels. You need to keep an eye on your vitality, because some areas which look harmless are actually very draining. One problem is that there can only be two fireballs (such as those fired from your scepter) on the screen at any time. Thus, ifanenemyisfifing at you, you can't shoot back. This should be fixed, as you might be unable to shoot at the most embarassing times. Aside from this, though, I recommend Warlock as an entertaining shoot-em-up. DAVID PLOTKIN
$34.95, color. Three Sixty Pacific, Inc., 2105 South Bascom Avenue, Campbell, CA 95008. (408)879-9144