Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cover to Cover: Aardvark Ltd. 1983 Catalog (pp. 9-10)

Our weekend journey through the pages of the February/March 1983 Aardvark Ltd. software catalog continues, with pages 9 and 10.  (We're out of the Dave Edson pages now, though not all of these games are credited to an author.)

Page 9 focuses on TRS-80 Color Computer games, with a few that are also compatible with the Ohio Scientific Instruments kit computers that gave Aardvark its start.  Like a lot of early home computer games, most of these are simple renditions of tried-and-true game ideas, written in BASIC in somebody's den:

Starship Hercules is yet another version of the classic, unlicensed Star Trek games that appeared on mainframes and just about any other system with an addressable text display back in the day; my own introduction to this once-thriving genre came via Radio Shack's Space Warp for the TRS-80 Model I.  This CoCo version required a whopping 32K of memory, unusual for a game with no real graphics, but as it's written in BASIC there was probably some resource wastage afoot.

Breakaway is yet another Breakout clone, also written in BASIC.  Biorhythm is a very 1970s concept, based on the then-popular pseudoscientific idea that people function on precisely timed cycles of various types that intersect in propitious or negative ways, and can predict compatibility via comparison.

Killerbot sounds like a version of the arcade gamer Berzerk, but it's actually an older, simpler idea that inspired the Stern coin-op -- the player moves, the enemy robots move toward the player in turn, and the player tries to get them to run into obstacles or each other.  Calling this "real time" is a bit of an exaggeration, but the concept is a classic; I played a Dr. Who-inspired version called Daleks on the Atari ST in the late 80s.  It was originally available for the OSI platform and was ported to the TRS-80 Color later on.  The same goes for Battlefleet, which sounds a lot like Battleship but appears to have a little bit of Mastermind thrown in, as feedback scores the player's 6-shot volleys in terms of how many squares were hit.

Page 10 continues the trend, with more CoCo renditions of established game concepts:

Space Wall sounds about as exciting as its title -- two players duke it out through a wall... in space!  For some unspecified reason, the (I assume) more playable machine code version is accompanied by a BASIC version.  But in the early home computer hobbyist days, when third-party software was scarce and everybody needed to learn how to program to some degree, this wasn't too unusual.

Golf purports to provide a "very accurate simulation" of the sport, but like a lot of early golf games, it plays more like pool, with an overhead 2-D perspective.  But it looks like it was a decent attempt at the sport -- some details are available here at L. Curtis Boyle's excellent TRS-80 Color Computer Games List site.

Crosswords (aka Parizek's Crossword Game) wasn't really a crossword puzzle game -- that is, there wasn't enough storage available to provide clues for word-guessing.  Instead, players took turns placing words into a computer-generated crossword grid, making the game more like Scrabble.

And Space Shuttle is nothing like Activision's sophisticated simulation for the Atari 2600 -- from the description, this sounds more like Atari's coin-op Lunar Lander in reverse, as the player tries to fly up to dock with an orbiting space station but may have to land back on the planet's surface for refueling.

We're nearing the end of this vintage catalog -- next time, pages 11 and 12!

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