Personal Computer News


Atari Arbitrator

Author: Bob Chappell
Publisher: English
Machine: Atari 400

 
Published in Personal Computer News #039

Atari Arbitrator

These Atari games have been appraised and applauded by Bob Chappell

Diamonds

In Diamonds, English Software has brought out an excellent version of the tunnel-digging species of arcade game.

A prospector's lot is not a happy one. Digger Dan, an ever-hopeful diamond prospector, has stumbled on a likely-looking site. Shovelling for all he's worth, Dan carves out a series of underground tunnels, searching for the elusive carbon. He is not alone. A bloblike creature is after Dan. Not only that, a tidy soul called a Filler keeps running around filling in the freshly dug tunnels. Fireflies, snakes, ghosts and a demon also give Dan a hard time. The only way Dan can survive to enjoy the fruits of his labours is to undermine rocks so that they fall and impede the monsters - better still, make the cave-in squash the pursuers flat.

There are 16 levels, each of four screens. Finishing the fourth floor on level 16 reveals the Great Diamond - English Software is offering a more tangible reward (a trophy and free software) with an associated competition.

Diamonds is a compulsive game with attractive graphics and sound. A great excuse to skip digging the garden.

Firefleet

Another good one from English Software - which is beginning to produce games to compete with American software for the Atari. Firefleet also has you delving underground, but in a large spaceship. The ship descends through a tortuous maze of caves, bombing away for dear life. The bombs are required for two reasons. Firstly, there are enemy cannons and tanks taking potshots at you as you pass by. Secondly, you need to do a bit of gatecrashing, so to speak.

There are four sectors, of increasing difficulty. Altogether, there are an astonishing 34 different screens of gently scrolling, crisp graphics. The ship is just a fraction too wide for comfort - this makes the game a pretty tough challenge even on the lower sectors. Some of the twists and constructions in the caves will have your jaw bouncing off the lino and your heart playing a drum-roll. All in all, a real test of nerve and co-ordination and, at under £10, very good value for money.

AE

Something to do with the Japanese for Sting Ray, AE is aptly named. Although the theme is the familiar one of a space showdown, the aliens are a school of robots having every appearance of the aforesaid rays. The game has excellent 3D effects set against interesting backgrounds - the first is a futuristic city.

The robots (planetary vacuum cleaners gone homicidal) come swooping down in single file, swirling like a kite-tail. After threading their way round a couple of buildings, they are soon right overhead, dropping bombs. Because of the three dimensional effect, shooting back is not easy. You must judge the height and distance precisely.

Holding down the fire button and releasing it at the critical moment detonates an air bomb. You have to explode the missile right in the path of the leader - with luck, the leader and most of the followers will plough into it, going off like firecrackers. However, if just one of the wave escapes back over the horizon, your shooting is wasted as only complete destruction of a wave counts.

To progress to other levels, you have to knock out three waves. Higher levels have different backdrops and the AE use different flying formations, including splitting up to attack singly from every which way.

Due, I believe, to the program not being properly adapted for British TV systems, there is very little colour in the graphics. Nevertheless, the game has excellent 3D effects, good sound and a novel scenario which make it well worth having.

Computer War

Thorn EMI's latest has a grim theme. Based on the film War Games, Computer War puts you in charge of NORAD, the North American Air Defense System. On screen is a map of the USA and two banks of flashing lights. Approaching the nuclear bases marked on the map are several white blips - attacking missiles. Someone has broken into the computer and activated its nuclear war simulation program. Unfortunately, this computer doesn't know it's only make believe and unless you knock out the simulated attackers, it will start a global thermonuclear war.

Moving a sight across the map to one of the blips and zooming in brings up a scrolling landscape through which you track and shoot down the attacking missile. When a wave of missiles has been stopped, you must attempt a code breaking exercise (pattern matching on the banks of lights). This part is pretty feeble since you don't need to work it out: there are only twelve possibilities, and a simple sequential movement of joystick and fire button solves it quickly every time.

Any missile getting through to a US base brings war closer; if one reaches NORAD itself, war begins.

The whole affair is done very well; the graphics are interesting and it makes effective use of sound. I might have enjoyed it more were it not for the awful reality of the theme - nuclear war. It's not easy to forget this when the program hands out such messages as 'Global nuclear war initiated' as I felt this was one of those subjects too sensitive to be placed in an entertainment context. The program does have a moral though. As it says, "The only winning move is not to play".

Caverns Of Khafka

A great title for a game and a pretty good game at that. A vast complex of claustrophobic chambers is filled with all sorts of hazards and obstacles: acid pits, crushers, moving floors, boulders, darts, bats, deadly walls, etc. Down these mean caves someone must go - you, but very carefully.

Excellent graphics and very, very challenging - makes Kafha's nightmares look like a Disney feature.

Note

The programs are available from Home Computers, 234 Church Street, Blackpool FY1 3PX. Tel: (0253) 22340 and other Atari dealers.

Bob Chappell

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