by Gareth Powell
Australian Apple Review Vol 3 No 4 April 1986
Recently, I had to ask Paul Beaver, the rotund and non hirsute computer guru of Dick Smith Electronics, for the loan of some games programs. Now, understand that Paul is the consummate games person. He knows them, he sells them, he plays them. He has very strong views on what are good games, what are bad games, what are mediocre games. He handed a collection of Apple II games over to me without comment except for some very favourable murmurs about one or two of them.
This is not really a games review written by me. It is more an investigation into why Paul Beaver picked these particular games. Because they were available? Because they were the best of the best? No one is quite certain. What is certain is that the collection is a fascinating one.
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Written by Randal Don Masteller, published by Intelligent Statements.
This program has been around for a fairly long time. I remember the original version when it first came to Australia in 1981. It is a basic adventure game concerning the Warriors of Ras, and it is in the same pattern as all of them. I suppose it is a question of whether you like adventure games or you don’t. If you like adventure games this is the sort of program you would like. If you don’t you probably wouldn’t go near it.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The same is not true of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which plainly is a favourite not only of Paul Beaver but of almost everyone who has played it. On the inside of the cover there are 10 testimonials as to how good the game is. These alone are worth the price of admission:
“The best game I’ve ever played! But what’s the square black flat thing with the hole in the middle?” Ralph O’Leary, Gym Teacher Brooklyn, New York
“The disk makes a great teething ring and fits perfectly on the bottom of a bird cage.” Liz Taylor, Highway Patrolman Piscataway, New Jersey
“A stunning achievement in interactive fiction: funny, innovative, and a bargain at twice the price!” The New Zork Times
“Your software is revolutionary! I like that.” Havana, Cuba
We have reviewed this game before so there is no need to do so again, but these quotes from first pages of instruction are enough to give you an understanding of how excellent and crazy it really is.
The program is written by Douglas Adams who is responsible for the book The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Most people who have enjoyed that great book do not realise it started in 1978 as a radio serial on the BBC in England. And that Douglas Adams is a Pom who graduated from Cambridge in 1974 and collaborated on several projects with Monty Python’s Graham Chapman and also worked as a writer and script editor on Doctor Who. Almost everyone who has read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy already knows that the answer is 42. But what is the question? Nobody knows. Not even the man responsible for the program, Steven Meretzky, who had the job of turning the inspired nonsense of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy into a program which works on the Apple II.
In the opening scenario you are
Arthur Dent and a bulldozer is preparing to level your house, even as an alien space fleet is preparing to level your planet. After that things get worse.
Here begins a transcript of interaction with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
>LLOK I don't know the word "LLOK". >LOOK It is pitch black >VERBOSE Maximum Verbosity IT IS PITCH BLACK >WHERE AM I You're in the Bedroom >GET UP Very difficult, but you manage it. The room is still spinning. It dips and sways a little. >GO TO THE DOOR It's here! >OPEN THE DOOR It is already open >GO OUT You miss the doorway by a good eighteen inches. The wall jostles you rather rudely. >SWITCH ON THE LIGHT Good start to the day.Pity it's going to be the worst one of your life. The light is now on. BEDROOM The bedroom is a mess.Carpet and old wallpaper. There is a washbasin, a chair with a tatty dressing gown slung over it, and a window with the curtains drawn. Near the exit leading south is a phone. There is a flathead screwdriver here. There is a toothbrush here. >PUT ON THE DRESSING GOWN You're not holding your gown >GET GOWN Luckily, this is large enough for you to get hold of. You notice something in the pocket. >LOOK IN THE POCKET It's hard to open or close the pocket unless you're wearing the gown. >PUT ON THE GOWN You are now wearing your gown. >LOOK IN THE POCKET Opening your gown reveals a thing your Aunt gave you which you don't know what it is, a buffered analgesic, and pocket fluff.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Those of us who have been to the Philippines will feel they have a complete answer to Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego? She is working as a go-go dancer in Bubbles in Avenue MH Del Pilar in Ermita in Manila.
That however is not the correct answer to the question Where in the World is Carmen San Diego which is a Apple game from Broderbund. Any game from Broderbund is likely to be of the highest possible order. This is true about Sandiego. The package contains the World Almanac and Book of Facts which is published by the newspaper enterprise foundation in New York. This book is 928 pages long and is set in the smallest legible type in existence. We think it is six point gibberish but it is certainly impossible to read unless you are a) young and b) have 20/20 vision. Luckily you don’t have to read the book to play the game. It is just there in case you get desperate.
Where in the World is Carmen San Diego is written by Dane Bigham, Gene Portwood and Lauren Elliot. The publishers call it a mystery exploration game and that precisely is what it is. It is cast rather in the mould of the novels by Raymond Chandler.
The opening scenario is as follows: “Monday 5.00am. A ringing sound jars you awake. You grope for the phone and drop the receiver on the floor. Out of the darkness comes the voice of your boss Wake up, kid. Got an assignment for you.’ You stumble out of bed, turn on the light, and grab your brand new detective’s notebook.”
You set off to find that you are chasing Carmen Sandiego’s gang which has stolen the torch of the Statue of Liberty. You find that you have to chase the gang right through all the capitals of the world.
In each city you see a well known landmark or monument and you’re briefed on the local geography and culture. As you explore the city you unearth clues to the crooks’ identity and many clues you will understand right away. Others you will have to look up in the World Almanac of Facts.
By the time you finish running through this game you’ll have, a) enjoyed yourself and b) learned a lot more of the world around us. Because there are ten possible suspects, thirty cities and very nearly 1000 clues.
The game changes every time you play it and works as an entertainment machine and as a trivia tutor. Incidentally, it is our opinion that Carmen San Diego is innocent.
Captain Goodnight and the Island of Fear
The next game recommended by Paul Beaver, and for our money the best, is Captain Goodnight and the Island of Fear. This is by Michael White and again is by Broderbund, who undoubtedly produce some of the finest games available for personal computers.
This game uses graphics and text to tremendous advantage. Captain Goodnight is a cross between Biggles, James Bond and Hannay. He keeps finding himself up against that renowned naughty person Doctor Maybe of the Federation of Evil. This time the Doctor has devised a doomsday machine and is threatening to destroy the entire civilised world. The machine is hidden in the underground Federation of Evil headquarters, Doom Island, and the free world is being blackmailed by the naughty doctor.
With the game you get a code descrambler, a circular disk guaranteed to decipher any code providing it doesn’t drive you mad first. There is also a map and a mission briefing.
You play the game either with a keyboard or a joystick but it works infinitely better with a joystick because you can speed it up when you get to any parts where you feel you’re in command of the situation. The game has its tongue firmly in its cheek but at the same time puts you into the situation where you need to use intelligence and skill to survive. Captain Roscoe does “Buzz” “Goodnight Cap” is not perhaps the most endearing hero in computer games. But he must be very near it. Captain Goodnight and the Island of Fear is very nearly the ultimate that can be achieved with current technology on computer. The next big breakthrough is going to be the use of the video images. That can’t be far away.
The Ancient Art of War
Finally The Ancient Art of War. This is available on the Macintosh but not as far as we know on the Apple II yet. Paul Beaver has in fact stopped playing this game because he has got to the stage where he will nearly always win.
The idea is you start off by selecting a role for yourself. You can be one of the great military minds of all time. Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Sun Tsu and so on. You find yourself in battle against som e historic opponents who use quite authentic military strategies. You can zoom into any area of the battlefield and direct your forces as best you may. When you and the enemy meet there is animated conflict. We have run this game on an IBM in order to see it in colour.
We have yet to find anybody who sees the Ancient Art of War who does not become instantly and totally addicted. This is the intelligent version of Captain Goodnight. It is, in the main, historically accurate. It adopts the personalities of genuine historical figures and conducts the battles according to their known methods and biases. It depends on the intelligence and foresight of the player rather than skill in pressing buttons. It is, we promise you, totally addictive.