Digital Antic VOL. 4, NO. 7 / NOVEMBER 1985 / PAGE 74

product reviews

Jack Bellis
2013 Green Street, 3F
Philadelphia, PA 19130
$69.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Brad Kershaw

Simax is an outstanding business display program for the Atari. In fact, Antic used Simax for our booth display at the Consumer Electronics Show in June and the presentation was a real hit.

Simax makes it quick and easy to create colorful, eye-catching signs and animation-style displays for in-store video viewing. The program is operated entirely by menu, so you don't need to be a programmer to get professional results. Almost all features can be selected with a single keystroke.

There's a choice of 128 Atari colors--up to nine colors onscreen at one time. The graphics editor uses Atari's mode 10, permitting very nice effects on a high-resolution 80 x 192 screen.

Animation effects are created by swapping any of the nine screen colors in a choice of patterns and timing. Your finished display can be transferred to videotape. Simax's main menu options are: Edit, Load Screen, Save Screen, Delete Screen and Run Show. Each of these options takes you to a submenu where the specific work is done. The program is self-prompting and will not allow you to press an incorrect key.

You can choose between four types of displays: regular-print text, large-print text, moving headline banner, or a graphics screen created with the built-in graphics editor. Simax also has a built-in clock which will display the time in a header that can hold as many as 99 small characters.

You are allowed five text screens, plus one graphics screen. You can specify the display order and timing. You can specify the diplay order and timing. You can place text on a graphics screen and vice versa. The graphics editor is similar to other painting programs on the market today. You choose the color, brush size and special patterns from menus.

You can choose among six borders: squares. circles, small circles, asterisks, a solid border, or no border. Any of the border characters can be set to rotate at a speed you choose.

Simax is an excellent product for store owners to display special promotions. Simax should pay for itself many times over if used in high-traffic areas.


Activision, Inc.
P.O. Box 7287
Mountain View, CA 94039
(415) 960-0410
$24.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Jack Powell

Okay, this game's terrific! And I'm not even a big fan of Pole Position, which has been considered the top Atari auto racing game. I appreciate Pole Position's driving simulation, but I get bored with the scenery. It's a little like driving through the Midwest. How many cornfields can you watch before you start gobbling No-Doz and fiddling with the CB dial?

The Great Cross-Country Road Race is the Ferrari Dino of race games. It's got variety, clever illusions, and attention to detail. Designer Alex DeMeo should be congratulated for this tour de force.

You start off choosing your route across the U.S. A map then appears showing where you are and what city you're headed for. Road conditions flash across the screen. Press [START] and you're off on the first leg of the journey.

Now you're in a screen much like Pole Position--a three-quarter overhead view of your racer and the road stretching to the horizon. Similarities end there, however. You have a four-shift vehicle which is monitored by the dashboard tachometer and the sound of the engine whine. Rev it too high and you burn out your engine.

This is a long trip, so you'd better watch your gas gauge. There are gas stations along the way, but if you run out you must push your car to the next pump.

The scenery on the horizon varies depending on the part of the country and time of day. You might see mountains or power lines or forests. When night falls, your vision narrows and the cars ahead are nothing but glowing tail-lights. At times you're driving through fog or snow. I especially like the muffled sounds while driving through the snow.

When you reach a city, it looms on the horizon looking a little like its namesake. Detroit, for example, has a billboard with a car, and St. Louis displays the famous Arch.

Refreshingly, there's none of the arcade mentality, crash-and-burn-then-resurrect cycle that other racing games rely on. In G.C.C.R.R., your opponent is time. If you run into another car, you don't burst into flames. You simply come to a stop at the side of the road and lose valuable time.

The wealth of details both graphics and sound--all contribute toward a full, believable environment. You won't have any problem losing yourself in this game. This is one of the better releases of the year.

19821 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91324
(818) 703-1202
$19.95, 48K disk

Reviewed by Jack Powell

When I was a child, I bought a puzzle box in Chinatown. It was lacquer-shiny and inlaid with all sorts of colorful, cryptic symbols. And to open it up, you had to find these hidden panels and slide them up, right, down, and in just the right combination before the top slid back.

ANKH from Datamost is a little like that Chinese puzzle box. It's called an "Adventure in the MetaReal World" but it's really more of a graphic puzzle than an adventure.

You control a strange little four-color blimp, described in the documentation as your "other." The object is to explore all 64 rooms in the game. And to do this, you have to solve various puzzles by opening doors and picking up objects. A large part of the challenge is figuring out just what the puzzles are.

There are a few meanies to avoid in some of rooms. You can shoot them, or outrun them. They're really not that dangerous, the main thing is the puzzle factor.

And you must always watch your Karma. It's the green line on the right of the screen.

If this doesn't sound like your usual computer game, you're right. It's different. In philosophical tone, it's a little like Lifespan from the Antic Arcade Catalog. Game play, however is closer to Sir Galahad and the Holy Grail.

The documentation is purposely vague. It really can't say much without spoiling the game. A flyer was included in the package, however, which takes the player, step by step, through the first few puzzles. Datamost probably added this after their phone started ringing off the hook.

The ambiguity can get pretty frustrating. When the game begins, you're presented with arrows pointing right and left, and the word "CHOOSE." Choose "right" and you begin what appears to be the main game. Choose "left" however, and you end up playing around with what seems to be a pointless character-graphics screen. I've gone both directions and made it through 54 of the 64 rooms, but I still haven't figured out what's going on in the "left" area. It's mentioned nowhere in the documentation. Perhaps it's a meditation room.

ANKH is not an action game. There's plenty of time to sit in one room and think about your next move. Some solutions require coordination, but most require experimentation and abstract reasoning.

If you like puzzles, this is your kind of computer game. I like puzzles.

Synapse Software
(Distributed by Broderbund)
17 Paul Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 479-1170
48K disk (2 drives required)

Reviewed by Harvey Bernstein

When Synapse invited Antic for a sneak preview of their forthcoming "electronic novel" adventure game Mindwheel a year ago, excitement reigned supreme. Unfortunately the finished product has turned out to be a major letdown.

In all fairness, the plot of Mindwheel has potential. Civilization is about to fall apart and it is up to you to recover the "Wheel of Wisdom-- the one object that can hold things through the minds of four dead folkheroes: an assasinated rock star, a poet, a fascist general, and a great scientist.

Each mind is populated by its own set of characters and puzzles. Some of the puzzles are unique, requiring you to do things like solve riddles or finish poems rather than the usual manipulation of objects.

In spite of some good points, however, I cannot recommend Mindwheel for several reasons. For one thing, it is s-l-o-w. Constant disk accessing means that the text is updated at a snail's pace. There is no prompt to tell you when the program is through accessing the disk, so you are never quite sure when to input your next command.

If you try typing something in during access (which you can do thanks to a handy vertical blank interrupt), odds are the letters will be dropped. I wasted countless minutes re-entering commands that were messed up through no fault of my own.

However, my biggest complaints about Mindwheel don't come from operating bugs, but from bad writing and sloppy game design. Mindwheel goes overboard on purple prose, apparently trying unsuccessfully to imitate the famous Infocom style. The thug character (a punk Richard Nixon) threatens to give you a ketchup nose. A ketchup nose?!

Many events that should not repeat themselves do. For example, you enter a room and a character asks if you have a book with you. You give the book to the character and she writes something down. No problem, except that every time you enter the room you must repeat the exact same sequence of events! This sort of thing happens repeatedly.

But the worst offense is that Mindwheel is EASY! Characters are forever handing you clues without being asked. An experienced adventurer will be able to finish the game in three or four sessions. A novice might take a week or two. Not much value for your $40.

By the way, Mindwheel requires two disk drives. Is it worth buying a second drive for? Absolutely not! Is it worth buying to play with a friend who can bring over a second drive? Perhaps, if you've never had any luck with Infocom adventures, want to try something simpler and have $40 burning a hole in your pocket. As for me, I'll wait for Zork IV.

By the way, if you own a 130XE you should know that the program makes use of the extra RAM, but takes forever to load and doesn't seem to speed up the game noticeably.

Atari Corp.
1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94088
(408) 745-2000
29.95, 16K cartridge

Reviewed by Andre Persidsky

Even though nuclear war turned most of the world into a Dead Zone 50 years ago, a group of "Patriarchs" (the good guys) survives in frozen Antarctica. There's just one problem. Intercepted radio communications reveal that the automated missile stations of the "Warmongers" have managed to complete their own programming and are readying to attack.

In Final Legacy, a 1984 game just now being released by Atari, you are in command of the deadly new Legacy battleship. You must sail into the Dead Zone, destroy all enemy missile sites, and protect your home cities.

You begin each game with the Navigation screen. It's a wide-ranging map showing your eight cities and the randomly distributed missle sites. Two types of enemy ships are constantly pursuing and attacking your Legacy ship. To fight an enemy ship, you switch to Torpedo mode. This gives you a 360-degree scanner view of your bow and the approaching enemies.

An enemy missle site is destroyed in the Sea-to-Land mode. Here you have a window which displays mobile missle launchers moving about. To destroy them you press the fire button while they are directly centered in your sights.

The enemy will send missiles toward your cities as soon as you attack one of their sites. A clock tells you how much time you have before the missiles destroy your city. To intercept them you use the Sea-to-Air mode where you have a satellite view of the missiles.

I found this part of the game the most challenging, especially on the harder levels where the missles move faster and faster. When all missile sites are destroyed you will gain bonus points for your surviving cities and then go on to the next round.

Final Legacy offers six levels of play. The higher a level, the more enemy ships and missile sites you will encounter. The different graphics screens are quite inventive and the sound warnings are effective. The 8-page manual is very good.

In some ways this game reminds me of a more advanced Missile Command. The new game's main problem is that it lacks strategy and tends to become a little repetitious. But overall, Final Legacy is quite entertaining. It demands alertness and quick responses, and is a worthy successor to the great tradition of Atari action games.

981 University Avenue
Los Gates, CA 95030
(800) 654-7340
32K disk

Reviewed by Jack Powell

I don't want to take much space reviewing this throwback, but Antic has a certain obligation to warn readers against junk products. Chopper Hunt would make a very nice public domain game and might have been seriously considered as a professional program when the Atari 800 was just a twinkle in Nolan Bushnell's eye.

You move a slow, blocky helicopter back and forth across a crude, blocky screen, bombing holes in the ground so you can get to the flashing grey squares. Meanwhile, a slow, blocky enemy airplane flies back and forth dropping slow, blocky "dirt balls". I had to look twice to make sure my BASIC cartridge was not in the machine slowing down the action.

If you plunk down your hard-earned money for this outdated arcade game, you are helping prove that Barnum was right to say, "There's a sucker born every minute." The circus has come to town and you are in the center ring wearing funny hair.

Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Rd, Bldg. A-200
Mountain View CA 94043
(415) 964-1200
$59.95, 48K disk
Reviewed by Dr. John F. Stanoch

Ever since the end of WWII, there has been constant tension along the border between East and West Germany. It is here that the two superpowers have deployed their most advanced war technology. SSI's new Reforger '88 is an operational-level game of NATO defense against a combined Soviet and East German thrust through the Fulda Gap into the American-defended sector of West Germany.

To win, the Soviet player must gain as many victory points as possible, while the NATO player must hold down the number of points given up. Points are awarded to both players for enemy unit destruction and possession of West German cities. However, once a NATO city has been overrun, the NATO player can not regain victory points for recapturing it. The Soviet player receives a substantial bonus for capturing the main U.S. Airbase at Frankfurt. The NATO point total is subtracted from the Soviet total to arrive at the final score.

In the solitaire mode, the computer ably controls Soviet forces. Units are combined into combat groups that can be combined or split apart at the start of a turn. Orders are given and then all movements and combat are simultaneously executed.

To win, airpower must be successfully integrated with ground troops. Adequate anti-aircraft defense is also necessary. Enemy combat groups are displayed only if adjacent to a friendly combat group or sighted by friendly air recon missions. Many times, my NATO force were unpleasantly surprised to find a few Soviet armor combat groups racing toward Frankfurt, well behind what seemed an adequate defense line!

I have one valuable suggestion. Before you play, go out and buy a good set of fine-point overhead projection markers. These will prove indispensible for marking the position of all units on the SSI, plasticized data/map card. It is next to impossible to competently play Reforger '88 without an overview map in front of you. Many times, since the screen displays only a fraction of the entire scrolling map, a player may forget what one combat group was ordered to do on one section of the map.

Although Reforger '88 is a complicated game, its excitement is well worth the effort. I recommend this game to any advanced wargamer. But keep a cold drink available, you will probably work up a sweat playing it.

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