Game Card Reviews

________________ ________________ / \______________________________/ ___ ___ \ / o | || | \ / _____________________________ |___||___| \ / [] | __ ___ _____ _ __ __ | [] \ | || | | | \ \/ /|\ \ | |\ \/ / | || | | | | | | _ || | | | \ / / | \ \ | | \ \/ | || | | | | | | _| |_ || | | | / / | \ \| | <\_> | || | | | | | | |_ _| || [] | |__|_ | | | |\ | /\ \ | [] || | | | | | | |_| || | |____| |_| |__| \__|/_/\_\ | || | | | | | | || | | || | | | | | | || | G A M E R E V I E W S | || | | | | | \ [] |_____________________________| [] ___ ___ / \ ATARI | || | / \ _____________________________ |___||___| / \_________________/ \________________/ NOTICE: Free-Net users may search for a specific game review by pressing "/" at the end of a page followed by the game title name. Robert Jung, the maintainer of the Lynx Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list, has reviewed every game available for the Atari Lynx. (He generally gets his reviews out within a day or two of a game's release in the States). So that people could have a nice, handy reference to the Lynx. Kevin Dangoor bundled these reviews into one file in alphabetical order and made them available to every Lynx enthusiast. Unfortunately Kevin has moved on to better things (better than a Lynx??? ;-)) and has passed the torch on to yours truly. The FAQ, these reviews, and the Lynx Cheat files now reside at the anonymous ftp site: in /pub/uploads. Special thanks should be extended to Mathew for maintaining the ftp site and mail server. -- Peter Hvezda (Internet e-mail: P.S. You can reach Rob Jung through Internet e-mail at: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Rating values 10 - 8 Great! A value at the regular price. 7 - 5 Good. Buy if you're interested or if it's discounted. 4 - 2 Poor. For die-hards only. 1 Ick. Shoot it, please. [APB]========================================================================= A.P.B. 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 OVERVIEW: Meet Officer Bob. He just graduated the other day from the Police Academy, and is now ready to serve and protect. It's not an easy assignment; his sergeant is a real hothead, and the slightest mistakes will get Bob into trouble. Still, if Bob works hard and plays it straight, he may someday make chief. But that's in the future; Bob has to go to work now -- after he gets a donut. Preferably chocolate. A.P.B. for the Atari Lynx is an adaptation of the cartoony arcade game of the same name. You play Officer Bob, who patrols the big city in his squad car. Every day, you must catch criminals big and small, while avoiding demerits for actions unbecoming an officer. If you get too many demerits, you are fired (rather painfully, too), though you can erase demerits by hard work. Along your career, you will have chances to earn extra rewards, upgrade your patrol gear, and maybe someday make the big catch. GAMEPLAY: Fans of the arcade A.P.B. will be pleased with the Lynx adaptation, as all of the whimsy and almost all of the original features are translated intact. At the start of each day, you are given a quota of traffic violators, from litterbugs to speeders, to arrest. On certain days, an A.P.B. (all-point bulletin) of an especially dangerous criminal is issued; capturing this suspect is worth more points. Failure to either arrest the A.P.B. or meet your quota will bring the sergeant's wrath, and earn more demerits. The actual patrol takes place on a vast overhead city map that scrolls in 360 degrees. Violators submit easily and can be ticketed by pointing your crosshairs and sounding the siren, but the criminals will put up a fight, and require a chase to take down. Between arrests, you must keep your car filled with gas, grab donuts for more time, and look for various bonuses. Hints and tips will periodically scroll across the screen, giving warnings, game advice, or what mistake you just performed. In all, there is a total of about 30+ levels to play, which keeps this game fresh for a long time. There are a few flaws with the game, however. First, button "B" is used as the accelerator; this means there is no fine speed control, and makes using the siren (button "A") while driving tricky. Second, the arcade bonus sequence, where you take a captured A.P.B. criminal and try to extract a confession, has been removed. Finally, the Lynx version is more sensitive to collisions than the arcade. If you are moving and touch another car when the siren is off, that counts as a demerit against you, regardless of which driver is at fault. While these problems are mostly minor, they do detract from the game somewhat. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The sights and sound of A.P.B. are very well done and entertaining. The graphics, while not always identical to the arcade versions, are distinctive, detailed, and appropriately silly. The 360-degree scrolling is very smooth, and even the cartoon sequences remain intact. Sounds are equally impressive; the music is identical to the arcade, while car honks and other sounds are realistically rendered. Then there are all the digitized voices, slightly scratchy, but very well done: cries for help, complaints from arrested violators, and the sergeant's incomprehensible mumbling when he congratulates you on a day well done. SUMMARY: A.P.B. on the Lynx is a decent adaptation of the original game, and offers a refreshing variety to video gaming. The gameplay is fair, and is enhanced by some very appropriate and entertaining sound and graphics. For people hooked on the arcade title, and players interested in a slightly silly change of pace, Officer Bob is waiting with a box of donuts. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 9 OVERALL: 8.5 [AWE]========================================================================= AWESOME GOLF 1-4 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $29.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Forget those 5:00am tee-offs, with AWESOME GOLF you can now play the links on the Lynx. This is a fully loaded golf game, offering three courses filled with obstacles, and enough challenge to keep you busy. Chipper the chipmunk will be your caddy and scorekeeper, so pick your club, and please replace your divots. You can play on one of three imaginary courses, for a 9-hole or an 18-hole game. Up to four players can ComLynx together, practice on individual holes, or work on a driving range. Each hole beings with an overhead map, where you can aim your shot as well as scroll and zoom as desired. Fourteen clubs are available: three woods, eight irons, two wedges, and a putter. Finally, you take swing, hopefully staying on the fairway and avoiding the hazards. GAMEPLAY: AWESOME GOLF is a straight, no-nonsense implementation of the game, with many features and game options. A game can feature three different wind levels, while the properties of terrain and the slope of the green must be kept in mind. Distances to the hole are always available, and each club's range, usage, and effect on the ball are accurately duplicated. Strokes are done with a power bar using three button presses: The first press starts the swing, the second press sets the strength, and the third press determines hook and slice. Finally, you can select the clothing, race and sex of your video duffer, though the only major effect is that women golfers tee off closer to the hole. There's not much else to be said -- AWESOME GOLF plays golf, and plays it well. As in real golf, the key to winning is a good strategy and a good technique. The game is helpful without being pandering; players can set individual handicaps, hints on clubs and aim are available to beginners, and the driving range reports statistics on your swing. The only gripe is with the multiplayer option. You must ComLynx to play against other people, though the game could have been designed to support multiple players on one Lynx. It's a trivial point, but one worth mentioning. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Graphics on AWESOME GOLF are a combination of detailed realism and light humor. Shots are seen from behind your player, and the ball's flight is viewed from overhead, all done with quality animation, detailed backgrounds, and smooth scrolling and scaling. Finally, cartoon stills highlight events such as bogeys, penalties, and birdies. On the sound side, AWESOME GOLF is fairly quiet, using short chimes to indicate selections and decisions. To spice things up, Chipper's high-pitched voice is peppered throughout, congratulating good strokes, laughing at blunders, and making remarks everywhere. SUMMARY: Between CHECKERED FLAG and AWESOME GOLF, the Lynx is shaping up to be a serious video sports system. This game captures the intricacies of the sport, while offering enough extras to enhance its appeal, though playing with friends can be a hassle. If golf is your game, AWESOME GOLF should not be missed. GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 9 OVERALL: 9 [BAS]====================================================================== BASEBALL HEROES 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: With Atari finally increasing the number of sports titles for their Lynx game system, the only real question was how long it'd take for them to release a baseball title. Now there's BASEBALL HEROES, a portable video version of the American pastime. One or two coaches pick from four fictitious teams, each with 20 players (two in each position and four pitchers) rated in various attributes. Before a game, you select a team, assemble a squad of nine men, and arrange a batting order. They then take to the field, trying to score the most runs possible in nine innings. A single exhibition game is possible, or you can play a multiple-game "Final League" challenge. Between games, practice in batting and fielding is available with the "Home Run Derby" and "Three Flies Out" games. GAMEPLAY: This is one of the more ambitious Lynx sports games out now; BASEBALL HEROES tries some new ideas and to push the boundaries of portable gaming, and partially succeeds. The ability to select your players and adjust the lineup is welcome, but you must decide carefully, since there's no way to change either once the game starts. A wide variety of views are used, according to the situation: behind the batter, behind the pitcher, three-quarters overhead, directly overhead, and from the outfield fence, giving this game a real "you are there" feeling. The actual gameplay is respectable: infield players cover each other, and dives and jumps for the ball are fully supported. Batters can swing high and low, inside and out, while pitchers can steer the four stock pitches for variety. Common baseball rules and events are supported, including beaning the batter and wild pitches. The computer opponent is challenging but not completely perfect, leaving some opportunities for crafty players to exploit. BASEBALL HEROES is not without problems, however. The worst offender is the fielding, which starts with an overhead view, then switches to a "behind the outfielder" angle on the ball's descent. This makes judging the ball's location difficult, and requires lots of practice to master. Also, some of the controls are a little quirky, such as using the same button to throw and jump, and the slow swing times of the batters. There's nothing that makes the game unplayable, but they do detract a bit. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on BASEBALL HEROES are simply delightful. There's great use of animation, including little details like the umpire hunching down for each pitch. The batter and pitcher views feature gigantic characters that fill the screen, while the fielding scenes use small but manageable players running about. Even the player selection and lineup sequences are entertaining, with "trading cards" used to select and rearrange your team members, and fanciful logos for each team. The only music in the game comes from the title theme and a few simple tunes. The remaining sounds consist largely of digitized effects of caught balls, the crack of the bat, and the umpire's calls. Though the umpire's "strike!" is unrecognizable, and the crowd falls silent too quickly, the sound effects are fine overall. SUMMARY: BASEBALL HEROES is a very good translation of the sport, though not a perfect game. It has a few rough spots that will try some people, but for the most part this is a quality title and a showcase game for the Lynx. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 8 OVERALL: 8 [BAK]======================================================================== BASKETBRAWL 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: For some reason, combining basketball with violence is a popular video game trend -- look at ARCH RIVALS, BILL LAIMBEER'S COMBAT BASKETBALL, or PUNKSHOT. Now there's BASKETBRAWL, a Lynx version of the Atari 7800 title, with a very similar theme. You pick your character from a fixed pool of players, each rated according to skills and health. You then play against the other team, trying to score more points before the six-minute clock runs out. Aside from this, anything goes. Players must fight, stab, and mutilate their opponents for the ball, while spectators attack anyone who get too close. Weapons and power-up icons appear on the field, giving temporary benefits such as speed or renewed health. Your ultimate goal is to beat five other local gangs and win the championship. A password allows you to continue from a later point, while two players can ComLynx together for a team-up against the town. GAMEPLAY: Sadly, when BASKETBRAWL took away the rules, it also took away the fun. The problem is that neither the brawling nor the basketball aspects of this game are done well. Shooting consists of jabbing Button A and praying the ball goes in. Fight moves are limited, aiming attacks is difficult, and weapon effects have little variety. Defense is nonexistent; you can't block shots or passes, steal the ball, or resist enemy attacks. The basketball action is constantly disrupted by fights, and fight fans have to stop and score points to keep the game going. The overall pace is frantic and confusing. You play three times against each team, first with one opponent and working up to three. Two spectators enter the field and attack players for no reason, and a third throws knives at everyone. The control buttons are used to attack, kick, shoot, and throw, depending on who has possession. But it's difficult to tell when you have the ball, and you may throw it away when you were planning to attack. In the end, there's a lot of frenzied button-pressing but very little satisfaction. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Sights and sounds in BASKETBRAWL do little to enhance its appeal. While backgrounds are sufficiently detailed, the main game graphics are simple, crude, and poorly animated. Throw in a very choppy side-to-side scrolling, and game looks like a relic from the Atari 2600. The title theme music is very catchy, but the other game sounds are primitive and dull. SUMMARY: BASKETBRAWL takes an idea loaded with potential, then removes most of the excitement by combining weak sports action and weak combat action. The only thing to do is to wait a while longer for an authentic basketball game; Lynx owners may be eager for sports titles, but they're not desperate. GAMEPLAY: 4 GRAPHICS: 4 SOUND: 5 OVERALL: 4 [BAT]======================================================================== BATMAN RETURNS 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $44.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Yes, Bruce Wayne's back, in this Lynx license of the 1992 hot summer movie with Keaton, Pfeiffer, and DeVito. Catwoman and the Penguin have formed an alliance, and their plan is to defame Batman and place themselves in political power. Now Batman must save both the town and his reputation, while bringing in his opponents for their punishment. Closely mirroring the movie's plot, BATMAN RETURNS makes you the defender of Gotham City, as you run, jump, and fight through four scrolling levels. Your enemies are a motley crew of thugs, police, and penguins, while you fight back with Batarangs, acid vials, and your fists. Even with battle armor, Batman is a frail creature with limited health; if he takes too much damage, the game ends. GAMEPLAY: As the description implies, BATMAN RETURNS is an action-arcade game in the traditional run/jump style. You have a limited amount of Batarangs and acid vials, though icons throughout the game give more equipment and health. While the general location of enemies is fixed, their actions and appearances are not, making patterns impossible. This is a hard game, as the deck is clearly stacked against the player. You have one life, no continues, and no passwords to defeat a seemingly endless number of opponents and their various attacks. Though four levels might not sound like much, each level is dozens of screens large, and the high difficulty of this game will make finishing the first stage a major accomplishment. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on BATMAN RETURNS can do no wrong. Gotham City on the Lynx perfectly captures the unique architecture and moody atmosphere of the movie. The enemies are distinctive and easily identified, and Batman's acrobatic flips and cape-flapping jumps are among the best effects ever on a Lynx. A pulsating theme music plays in the background, while the majority of game sounds are recognizable but not noteworthy. SUMMARY: BATMAN RETURNS is a respectable action game, and the Lynx version would be equally enjoyable on any other platform. It offers solid action and a serious challenge wrapped up in a hot license, making a package that's guaranteed to sell more Lynxes. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 6.5 OVERALL: 8 [BAL]======================================================================== BATTLEWHEELS 1-6 players, horizontal game Beyond Games, for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? Yes OVERVIEW: Even before Mel Gibson slipped behind the wheel as Mad Max, the blend of cars and weapons has always appealed to action fans who dream of combining speed and power. The newest electronic incarnation of this genre is BATTLEWHEELS, the first title by new Lynx developer Beyond Games. One to six players drive armed cars, competing against computer drones and each other to be the sole survivor. Most of the action takes place from a first-person perspective, though you can change views, check vehicle damage, and locate opponents on radar. A round ends when one driver remains, and the first player to get a specified number of kills wins the game. Various options are available both before and during a fight. Selections include seven levels of computer expertise, sixteen arenas, player colors and images, while multiplayer games also allow team formation. You can use pregenerated cars for quick playing, or build your own with rules for weight, cost, and weapons placement. In the arena, weapons and tactics range from paint sprayers and missile launchers to sideswipe and hit-and-run. You can even leave your car and fight on foot, either to escape an explosion or pick up prizes left behind. GAMEPLAY: The basic premise of BATTLEWHEELS demands action, and the game delivers it in spades. A typical round may last no more than five minutes, but each second is filled with fast, frantic combat. There are few opportunities to rest, and ensuring your survival is a full-time task. The computer is not an unbeatable juggernaut who overwhelms the player; rather, drones operate on their own, and will often attack each other as much as you. Beginners will naturally find the game a bit confusing due to the numerous actions available, but can soon overcome this with practice. Beyond Games recruited hundreds of playtesters, and it shows. Everything about this game screams quality and care. Controls are responsive and natural, allowing quick changes of weapons, views, and displays while fighting in the heat of battle. The driver's view includes indicators for speed and heading, ammunition remaining, armor and engine alerts, and direction of enemy attacks, all without inducing clutter. The option selection and car building phases are equally user-friendly, and handicapping is available to keep multiplayer games balanced. BATTLEWHEELS can be played on many levels. The use of prepared cars allows for quick games, while the custom mode allows more planning along with the task of managing a budget. Options are significant, and winning tactics change depending on the conditions chosen. Another appeal to the game is the level of detail and realism present. For instance, you can't leave your car if the door is blocked, but once outside, you can run, dive, shoot back, and commandeer other cars. This level of depth permeates everything, and enhances the fun. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on BATTLEWHEELS perfectly capture the spirit of the game. Images are drawn appropriately, mixing gritty views with clear and concise displays. Sprites are distinctive and scaling is used extensively, though things never become too blocky. Extra touches round out the visuals, such as the drivers' assorted expressions and the garbage-pelting crowd at the end. While the sounds do not set any new trends on the Lynx, they are done well and used appropriately. A few tunes play between duels, but the roar of the engines and bursts of weapons fire sharply punctuate combat. Sounds and alerts are unique, which helps attentive players to follow the action, and stereo is used during the fights to convey the location of enemies. SUMMARY: Beyond Games has hit the Lynx community in a big way, as BATTLEWHEELS is a high-quality title that promises plenty and delivers it all. It is, quite frankly, the best implementation of the "Car Wars" idea I've ever seen on any computer or video game console. The design allows for fast play without compromising complexity, and the graphics and sound effects are as hot as the action. Whether solo or with friends, electronic road warriors should get this explosive card immediately! GAMEPLAY: 9.5 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 9 OVERALL: 9.5 [BIL]======================================================================== BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 OVERVIEW: Who says Death doesn't bear grudges? In retaliation for getting "Melvined" in the second movie, the Grim Reaper has kidnapped Bill and Ted's girlfriends/ wives/better halves, the Princess Babes. The ladies were smart, though; during their abduction, they scattered sheet music from the band's latest song along the path. Now the two guitarists from San Dimas must follow this musical trail through time and space, and carry out a rescue before the next Wyld Stallyns concert. BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE on the Atari Lynx is really a combination action/adventure game. As either Bill or Ted, you must follow the time trail in your interdimensional phone booth. Each area is a maze-like scrolling landscape, viewed from an overhead perspective, and protected by roaming creatures. Your basic goal is to collect enough musical notes, which reveals more pages of the phone book, which enables you to travel to other eras. Along the way, you will find objects and meet assorted historic figures, who ask for favors. Help them, and they return your generosity with further aid. For more fun, two players can ComLynx together and go traveling together. GAMEPLAY: It is the adventure portions of BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE where the game shines. Many of the puzzles must be solved by taking an item from one time period and using it in another. Furthermore, time paradoxes are possible and must be avoided. For example, if you find a note to yourself that a later version of you has written, you must be sure to go and leave that note, in an earlier time period, later in the game, for you to find in the future (get it?). The puzzles are robust and challenging, and solutions rely on finding the right object for the right situation. Like the movies themselves, this Lynx adventure emphasizes silly fun and non-violence. The guys do not carry weapons, but can subdue certain enemies by playing the right musical instruments. Similarly, Bill and Ted can never die. If you are caught by a creature, you are sent back to an earlier position, no worse for wear. The only problem is that the game can occasionally become tedious. In tight spots, you may need several tries to get pass the random monsters. Since the game can take a long time to finish, a detailed password system is offered. Unlike other Lynx games, this is a true game save feature, encoding your current score, location, and inventory. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The sights and sounds are serviceable, but not much more. Game graphics are done in a recognizable, cartoony style, with a moderate number of animation. There is also good use of color and detail, especially the subtle changes in the same lands across different eras. Sounds are not really needed, but the ones present are basic. Background rock music plays according to your current time period, but if they become irritating, you can shut them off with the Option 2 button. SUMMARY: How you feel about the Bill and Ted movies should not be a factor, as this game is an enjoyable package. It has a fair amount of action with lots of rock-solid puzzle solving, and the addition of time travel offers even more gaming potential. Though the sound and graphics are not extraordinary, in the end BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE earns its name. GAMEPLAY: 8.5 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 8 [BLO]====================================================================== BLOCKOUT 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp. for the Atari Lynx $34.95 OVERVIEW: Based on the original computer game by California Dreams, BLOCKOUT for the Atari Lynx is clearly inspired by TETRIS. As in TETRIS, the object is to rotate and position oddly-shaped blocks into a pit, dropping them so that the pieces interlock. When a level is filled, the blocks in it are removed, giving more space for more pieces. The longer the game lasts, the faster pieces fall, until there's no room left to maneuver. BLOCKOUT differs from TETRIS, though, by using all three dimensions. Pieces can be rotated around all three axes, the pit can be of variable size and depth, and the pieces can come in very strange shapes. Naturally, all these features add to the complexity and challenge. GAMEPLAY: As in the original BLOCKOUT, emphasis is placed on gameplay over frills. The game screen is non-nonsense, showing the pit, its contents, and the current piece to be placed. A level indicator color-matches the layers in the pit, and shows the depth of the current piece. Your score, the high score for the current setup, the game settings and difficulty are also shown. Points are scored based on the shape of the pieces and the height they're dropped from. BLOCKOUT is very friendly and playable, one of those games that takes 30 seconds to learn and a long time to put down. The only hitch is in the controls; X and Y rotations can be done in any direction, but Z rotations can only be counterclockwise. Still, this is a minor nuisance, and the game is still fun regardless. Several options let you customize the game. The pit size and rotation speed of the pieces are selectable, and sounds can be toggled. Blocks can be either flat, simple 3D, or a manic extended collection. Finally, you can start playing from any of 10 speeds, though the longer you play, the faster it gets. A practice mode, game demo and controls screen makes learning painless. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Graphics in BLOCKOUT are appealing, though minimal. The colors and graphics are distinctive enough to let you know what's happening at a glance, and watching the wire-frame pieces rotate is nice. Except for a little music between games, the sound may as well be turned off. SUMMARY: This is a nice, addictive, no-nonsense strategy game. Without any patterns to memorize and several options to choose from, BLOCKOUT will keep its freshness for quite some time. If you thought TETRIS was too simple, give this title a try. GAMEPLAY: 8.5 GRAPHICS: 7.5 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 8 [BLU]====================================================================== BLUE LIGHTNING 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: You just can't help yourself. Even in the midst of war, with the enemy's overwhelming air power, with the Air Force's best pilots gunned down like ducks, you just can't resist the urge to goof off whenever you take to the air. But now Central Command gets its revenge: the Blue Lightning, an advanced fighter jet, has been developed to the experimental design stage. The top brass needs it, but doesn't want to risk the lives of their remaining competent pilots. Guess who's deemed expendable enough to field-test a flying prototype in the heat of battle? Witty storyline aside, BLUE LIGHTNING for the Atari Lynx is a first-person air combat game in the AFTERBURNER tradition. The action is seen from directly behind your plane as it dives and banks through nine missions. Barrel rolls can be used to dodge enemy attacks, and a ten-second afterburner burst provides extra speed. The Lightning is equipped with forty missiles and an unlimited supply of cannon fire, which are used to attack enemy jets and targets. A password for each stage allows you to start at later levels, and the game ends when you finish the ninth mission or use up all six lives. The only danger comes from collisions -- crash into a tree, a canyon wall, or an incoming missile, and kiss another life goodbye. GAMEPLAY: BLUE LIGHTNING strikes a perfect balance between respectable difficulty and reasonable gameplay. The action does not go at supersonic speeds, but proceeds at a brisk pace, and the result is that you never feel "cheated" from being destroyed by something too fast to be seen or overwhelmed with inhuman odds. The terrain and the placement of the enemy are somewhat random, which prevents the game from being solved by pattern development. The game starts off easy enough, but adds more threats at a gradual rate, and you're drawn completely into the action before long. If there is a flaw, it's that the missions are not varied enough, as many of the levels involve destroying various ground targets. To compensate, most stages add extra rules to complicate matters -- For example, level 4 requires you to destroy tanks while travelling through a twisty canyon, and you cannot go high enough to fly over the rock walls. There are also a few minor nits: the aim of the guns feels a little off, and enemy missiles can go through the terrain, but these are easily adapted to and do not hamper the gameplay. GRAPHICS/SOUND: One major contribution to the appeal of BLUE LIGHTNING is the game's graphics: There's a lot of incredibly diverse stuff moving on-screen at once. >From the flight crew that preps the plane to the sheer number of terrain and targets to see, the game graphics never feel dull. Especially impressive are the dancing paths of the enemy's manta-like fighters and the graceful arcs left by the vapor trails of the missiles. The Lynx's sprite engine is heavily used, with specks on the horizon growing into hills and mesas, and flat lands rendered with realistic disappearing perspectives. There aren't a lot of different game sounds, but each one is properly suited to its situation. The most persistent noise is the roar of the jet engines, which is punctuated by cannon fire, flying missiles, the warning beep of incoming attacks, and lots of explosions. SUMMARY: It's very refreshing to see a game that's a challenge without resorting to tricks or gimmicks. Success or failure in BLUE LIGHTNING is completely based on the player's skill, and the game is recommended for all action players. Though the levels could use a little more variety, the user-friendly gameplay and the sensational graphics make this title a blue-ribbon winner. GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 10 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 9 [CAL]====================================================================== CALIFORNIA GAMES 1-4 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 (free with Lynx Deluxe package) Stereo? No OVERVIEW: So you want fun in the sun without the hassles of zinc oxide, crowded beaches, and the risk of skin cancer? Well, the Surgeon General has certified CALIFORNIA GAMES for the Atari Lynx as a completely safe way to get your sand- coated jollies. This is an adaptation of the Epyx home computer game, and allows one to four players to compete in a number of "sport" contests for points and bragging rights. (Sidebar: The instruction manual says that CALIFORNIA GAMES only allows for 1 or 2 players. ComLynxing three or four players is possible, but tricky -- don't give up if it doesn't work initially) There are four events in CALIFORNIA GAMES. The BMX bike race is a run through a hilly, obstacle-infested course as fast as possible. Surfing lets you hit the waves, doing stunts like riding the tube or 360-degree spins before running out of time. Similarly, halfpipe skateboarding gives you a time limit to try and perform as many handplants and aerial turns as possible. Finally, you can play with the footbag, which consists of keeping a small beanbag airborne using only your feet -- style counts. GAMEPLAY: CALIFORNIA GAMES is a card for beginning video players. The individual games are fun at first, but all of them are fairly easy, and most dedicated gamers will master them in a short period of time. This is especially noticeable when playing by yourself, and the game soon becomes an exercise in "can I beat my previous score?". More contests would have helped, as well as options to adjust the difficulty or a "tournament" consisting of all events. There's nothing wrong with CALIFORNIA GAMES; there's just not much to recommend, either. Playing with other people makes it more enjoyable -- the competition is head-to-head, and you must adjust your strategies for opponents who are trying to trip you, run you over, or crash into your latest stunt. This is good for some cheap laughs, but the lack of real depth in the gameplay keeps it from retaining any permanent appeal. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The sound and graphics in CALIFORNIA GAMES are a good indication of what the Lynx is capable of. Color, hue, and animation are used well throughout, providing realistic-looking backgrounds and characters. The scrolling is smooth, and there are a few graphic treats, like the semi-transparent tube in Surfing, and the camera zoom in/zoom out on the Halfpipe. Sounds are also commendable, with quality music and noises everywhere. Each game has its own, distinctive soundtrack, and the title theme music is suitably bouncy. Similarly, sound effects are appropriately used, each one properly coordinated for the current on-screen action. SUMMARY: It's understandable why Atari includes CALIFORNIA GAMES in the deluxe Lynx packages: It's easy, varied, non-violent (have to placate worried parents, you know), looks and sounds well, and ComLynxable. However, with only four basic games available, most players will want a tougher challenge soon enough. If you don't already own CALIFORNIA GAMES, you may want to consider a different title. GAMEPLAY: 4.5 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 8 OVERALL: 6 [CHE]====================================================================== CHECKERED FLAG 1-6 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? Yes OVERVIEW: It's time to strap on the helmets and head for the tracks; as the name implies, CHECKERED FLAG presents auto racing on the Atari Lynx. The class is Indy racing, with the ground-hugging racers that symbolize breakneck speed. The usual elements are all here: cars to pass, curves to negotiate, and roadside obstacles to avoid, all while trying to be the first across the finish line. Option settings allow you to configure the game as desired, and up to six Lynxes can be connected for a real challenge. GAMEPLAY: CHECKERED FLAG is an absolute joy to play! While the game offers nothing that hasn't been done before, it implements and integrates all of its elements effectively. There are no bonus items, pit stops, weapons, or auto design to complicate matters; rather, the emphasis is on pure driving skills at high speeds. Even though the promised track editor has been left out, the end result is an extremely fun card that captures the thrills of the sport. The action is viewed from directly behind your car. A course map, race information, speedometer, tachometer, and rear-view mirrors are always visible. Controls include acceleration, brakes, gearshift, and steering, all of which feel properly responsive. The computer opponents are fairly straightforward, though they manage to stay on the road better, and will try to pass you whenever possible. Hitting another car or an obstacle may result in a crash or a spinout, which costs speed and time. Take too many hits and you might even lose your mirrors. To make things even more interesting, the game offers numerous options. There are 18 tracks to race on, from the slightly curvy to the very difficult. You can drive for practice, run a single race, or go for an eight-race tournament, and your car can be equipped with one of three different transmissions. Up to ten human and computer racers can compete, and starting positions can be set randomly or by a qualifying lap. For an extra touch, you can also choose the color of your car and the gender of your driver. GRAPHICS/SOUND: CHECKERED FLAG's images are among the best on the Lynx. From cars to obstacles, all of the graphics are elegant and highly detailed. The sense of speed is very convincing, with the Lynx's hardware scaling used to make everything fly by smoothly. Race information is clearly visible without being obstructive, and other game screens are equally attractive. There are not a lot of different sounds in the game, but they are used well. Engine whines alert you to change gears, tires squeal on tight turns, and the stereo roar of other cars remind you of pass attempts. Then there are the little extras, like the flagman's digitized voice announcing the start of the race and the musical scores between races. SUMMARY: This is a high-performance title that does nothing but pure video racing, and does it extremely well. Crammed with exciting gameplay, fast action, options galore, hot sound and graphics, and true multiplayer challenge, CHECKERED FLAG is absolutely terrific! GAMEPLAY: 10 GRAPHICS: 10 SOUND: 8.5 OVERALL: 10 [CHI]====================================================================== CHIP'S CHALLENGE 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Meet Chip. Chip is a nerd. Chip has a problem with women (natch). Meet Melinda. Melinda is a nerdette. A good-looking nerdette, though. Melinda has a problem. Melinda needs a date. Chip wants to take Melinda. Melinda is not impressed. Can Chip prove himself? Chip can try "The Challenge". Mazes. Blocks. Computer chips. Buttons. Switches. Time limits. Thieves. Keys. Doors. Traps. Force fields. Fireballs. Water hazards. Fire hazards. Ice hazards. Chip-eating creatures. LOTS of creatures. Will Chip do it? "Sure, Melinda!" See why Chip has a problem with women? Welcome to CHIP'S CHALLENGE, the brain-straining strategy game for the Atari Lynx. From a scrolling overhead view, you control Chip as he tries to survive 144 levels filled with all sorts of dangers. The object is to find the exit of each level and escape before time expires. Complications include deadly monsters and hazards, as well as a number of computer chips that must be found before you can reach the exit. Naturally, each level is a puzzle; only by properly moving blocks, pushing buttons, building bridges, and avoiding dangers can Chip get his date. GAMEPLAY: CHIP'S CHALLENGE is one of the most innovative strategy games ever released for any system. Unlike some puzzle games, this title offers a wide range of tasks to perform and goals to reach, and all of the puzzles are carefully crafted to be uniquely challenging. The main objective is escape, but the subtasks needed to accomplish this varies widely, and it's impossible to find a universal strategy. Some levels require doing things in a certain sequence, or repeating one motion many times over. Others have lots of possibilites but only one answer, and still others require precise timing and fast movement. Most levels emphasize sharp thinking over arcade action, so players not blessed with lightning-fast reflexes will not be too intimidated. Another thing worth mentioning is the high degree of friendliness in this game. Chip has an unlimited number of lives, so you can redo a level as often as needed until you solve it. If you fail too often, the game will let you skip the current level if desired, and a password for each level allows you to start there in future games. Best of all, the first eight challenges are tutorials, summarizing what must be done to solve it, and introducing new creatures and objects at a controlled pace. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Puzzle games generally don't need flashy sound and graphics, but CHIP'S CHALLENGE doesn't skimp on special effects. Game visuals are small but distinctive, allowing you to see a wide area while identifying everything at a glance. Animation is used fairly well, and the multidirectional scrolling is flawless. Sounds are equally well-done, with distinct effects used for everything that can happen. Even if something happens off-screen, the sound cues help you to keep track of everything happening on the current stage. Finally, several "electronic" soundtracks play during the game, though they can be turned off if needed. SUMMARY: The Lynx was originally designed for fast arcade-action games, but there's no reason why it can't expand its range. With a lot of variety, a lot of difficulty, a lot of originality, and a lot of ol'-fashioned craftsmanship, CHIP'S CHALLENGE is a quality title and recommended for players of all kinds. GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 8 OVERALL: 8.5 [CRY]====================================================================== CRYSTAL MINES II 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: What do you get when you cross DIG DUG with CHIP'S CHALLENGE? The answer is CRYSTAL MINES II, the latest puzzle/strategy game for the Atari Lynx, and a sequel to Color Dream's original puzzle game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. You control a mining robot whose objective is to gather precious gems from a series of underground caverns. You must do this while avoiding falling rocks, wandering monsters, radioactivity, lava, and the dwindling time limit. The robot is equipped with a digging laser and dynamite, which can be used to fight creatures and create caverns. Meet the gem quota for a level, and you must next find the exit to travel to another, more complex cavern. Some caverns offer more advanced challenges, such as gravity-altering switches and item-changing pipes. The game offers 150 regular levels and 31 hidden levels, ensuring lots of challenge. GAMEPLAY: One of the best aspect of CRYSTAL MINES II is the diversity of game elements, which all interact in consistently complex ways. Rocks, dirt, and creatures can be explosive, indestructible, or easily disposed. Temporary enhancements are available for use, such as a long-range laser, a map of the current level, or protective shielding. Gathering more valuable gems can help you meet the level's quota faster; other game elements can help or hinder your progress, depending on how you use them. The game elements all interact in a consistent manner, and a lot of the time is spent learning how they interact with you and with each other. A big reason for this is the instruction booklet (yes, the booklets are back) -- It is deliberately general, teaching only the most basic elements of gameplay and leaving the rest for the player to explore and discover. To make this easier, you have an unlimited number of robots, and each level has a four-letter password to let you play there in future games. Even better, if you take too many tries to finish a level, the game will offer to skip it. Though CRYSTAL MINES II is clearly a strategy title, it places a bit more emphasis on good reflexes than other games of this genre. This is neither good nor bad; how much you will enjoy this title depends mainly on what combination of strategy and action you prefer. Completing a cavern relies on figuring out how to use the features of that level to uncover gems and equipment, stop pursuing enemies, and avoid robot-destroying dangers. Aside from the first few introductory stages, the levels are very challenging and not easily solved. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The sights and sound of CRYSTAL MINES II are simply functional, and no more. The main game graphics are drawn with grid-oriented components, with little or no animation. On the other hand, game features with similar properties are drawn similarly, making it easier to predict how they will react. Similarly, music and sounds are all very basic. Most of the noise comes from the title theme, which plays throughout the game, though it can be toggled off with Option 2. Other game sounds are generic, though distinctive from each other. SUMMARY: CRYSTAL MINES II borrows a lot from earlier puzzle games, especially BOULDER DASH and CHIP'S CHALLENGE, and produces a decent challenge to both the mind and the reflexes. Though it won't win any awards for special effects, the large number of demanding levels and the wide array of game elements make this a respectable title for any strategy game player. GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 6 SOUND: 5 OVERALL: 7.5 [DES]========================================================================== DESERT STRIKE 1 player, horizontal game Telegames, for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: It is a scenario torn from the pages of recent history. The megalomanical leader of a Middle Eastern country threatens his neighbors with war, conquest, and poison gas. Spies and diplomats have been captured and tortured, which prompts the United States to respond. As one of the Army's top helicopter pilots, you and your co-pilot must fly into this dangerous zone, completing a series of missions to right the wrongs and neutralize the threat. Thus begins DESERT STRIKE on the Atari Lynx, Telegames' adaptation of the strategy/action game from Electronic Arts. There are four campaigns in all, each consisting of a number of missions. From a three-quarters overhead view, you fly your Apache into enemy territory, destroying targets, rescuing innocents, and looking for supplies. The player starts each campaign with three lives; if all lives are lost before the missions are completed, the campaign is restarted. Passwords at the end of each campaign saves the game. Do you have the reflexes and military mind required to stop the madman? GAMEPLAY: DESERT STRIKE on the Lynx retains the challenge and depth of the original Sega Genesis game. Unlike STEEL TALONS, this is not a simulation; the Apache is restrained to two dimensions, and the emphasis is on playing rather than flying. Armchair pilots must manage supplies of ammunition, fuel, and armor, while planning attacks to outmaneuver and outshoot the enemy forces. The campaigns are significantly distinctive, and each is more challenging than the last. The missions themselves are fairly diverse, with the placement of enemy forces demanding different stratagems for each. There is no way to directly set game difficulty, though the choice of a co-pilot/gunner has an effect on performance. Even so, the game is more than reasonable, starting off at a moderate pace that slowly builds throughout the missions and campaigns. Controls are simple, with the joypad used to fly, the A, B, and OPTION 2 buttons to fire, and PAUSE to bring up the mission status screen. The only kink here is that the helicopter moves a little slower than desired, but most players will readily adapt after a few minutes. GRAPHICS/SOUND: A respectable job has been done to fit the original DESERT STRIKE graphics on the Lynx screen. Most items are animated and instantly recognizable, though the soldiers need scrutiny to distinguish friend from foe. Unfortunately, the desert terrain is drawn with colors that range from dull brown to garish orange. They do not contrast well with the other colors and makes playing the game a bit straining. Sound effects are merely functional and little more, consisting mostly of generic explosions and simple pops. Several tunes play between campaigns and between games, but there is nothing truly noteworthy. SUMMARY: DESERT STRIKE on the Lynx is a very faithful adaptation, offering a rich mix of strategy and action that ensures many hours of satisfying fun. While the graphics and sounds could be refined some more, this card is still highly recommended for its diverse and complex gameplay. GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 6.5 OVERALL: 8 [DIN]======================================================================== DINOLYMPICS 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: While Creation versus Evolution is a constant battle in schools, it is not a debate in video games. Cavemen and dinosaurs have long been a staple, simply because divine intervention is not half as much fun as hairy guys and big lizards. Joining this fray is DINOLYMPICS for the Atari Lynx, a puzzle game known as HUMANS on other computer and game systems. Each of the 25 levels is a collection of platforms, objects, and obstacles. The idea is to reach a goal before time runs out. By working together and using objects, the tribesmen can jump chasms, climb obstacles, kill dinosaurs, and other tasks. In dire situations, the witch doctor can be summoned to exchange a tribe member for an object. The game ends when time runs out on a level or all of the tribe is lost, and passwords allow players to skip earlier levels. GAMEPLAY: For some reason, a lot of people think of DINOLYMPICS (and HUMANS, I may add) as a derivative of LEMMINGS. I don't see it, myself. Instead, this card reminds me more of THE LOST VIKINGS, GOBLIINS, or the old GOONIES video game. The first few stages are simple, but it soons gets to a point where finishing a level requires careful coordination of two or more cavemen and assorted objects. Most levels are fairly complex, including unobvious solutions and red herrings to waste time. The simple controls allow you to select actions and tribesmen, as well as get a large map of the entire level. Even so, this game requires a good dose of tolerance. Your biggest enemy is time; most levels have just enough for you to finish it, if you know the solution. The clock almost never stops, so a lot of time is lost in minor acts, and making a mistake halfway through a stage might not leave enough time to finish it. The game is also a little repetitive by design -- moving three men and a spear across a chasm requires repeated use of jumping and throwing, for example. These are not necessarily bad points, but depend more on each player's individual preferences. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The effects of DINOLYMPICS neither captivate nor repel, but are merely sufficient. Game graphics are basic but easily identifiable, and assorted whimsical scenes are sprinkled throughout the game. Animation and colors are average, though there is a little gratuitous parallex scrolling. The dominant sounds are a variety of bouncy tunes that play through each level, mixed with some very basic sound effects. The music can be turned off before the game starts, if desired. SUMMARY: DINOLYMPICS is an acquired taste. Some folks will find the time limits and the game's repetitive nature a bit too frustrating. On the other hand, more patient players will give this title more time, whereupon it will grow on them to become an appealing challenge. GAMEPLAY: 8.5 GRAPHICS: 6 SOUND: 6.5 OVERALL: 7.5 [DIR]====================================================================== DIRTY LARRY: RENEGADE COP 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: The story sounds familiar, almost like it came from a movie: Detective Larry has just gotten chewed out by the chief, then sent off to bring in Mr. Snuff, first lieutenant to the city's kingpin of crime. The big man doesn't like this, though, and sends his legions of psychopaths and gang members to stop the cop. Larry's got a simple answer to crime scum -- he wields his .45 and blows it away. But can even "Dirty" Larry survive long enough to deal with Mr. Big once and for all? That's Larry, not Harry, but you get the idea. DIRTY LARRY: RENEGADE COP puts you in the shoes of a hard-boiled gumshoe who walks, jumps, and ducks through seven side-scrolling stages, fighting everyone in sight. Larry's fists are always available, but he's equally proficient with handguns, rifles, and grenades. You have one life to live, and once you lose it, the game ends. For your sake, Larry can take a number of hits, and icons found along the way will restore some of his health. GAMEPLAY: There's a difference between game pace and game speed. Someone at Atari got the two confused, and decided to make DIRTY LARRY a high-speed title, a move that effectively ruins the game balance. The computerized criminals attack far too quickly, and Larry has no effective way to protect himself or dodge attacks. His only recourse, therefore, is to shoot the criminals before they come close, meaning that Larry's fine as long as he has ammunition. Once he's out, he gets trounced. Larry himself is also too fast; a typical player can fly through a scene in three minutes or less. The game has only seven levels, and the criminals, extra ammo, and health icons all appear in a fixed order. Combine all of these factors, and this card soon becomes a test in how well the player can memorize appearances and conserve bullets. A savvy player can finish this title without too much effort, but that same player would not care for the game's too-short duration. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Weak as the game is, the graphics in DIRTY LARRY are no slouch, and put some other titles to shame. The sprite animation is only average, but the graphics feature incredible use of color and detail: shadows in the alleys, lights rushing by in the subway, torn wallpaper, and lots more. A few animated intermissions advance the plot as well. Sound effects, though, are not half as impressive. The title theme is above average, but actual game sounds consist mostly of gunfire, assorted thuds, and a few miscellaneous effects. SUMMARY: Conceptually, DIRTY LARRY had the ingredients to be a easy, no-nonsense action title. Unfortunately, the game balance got thrown out of sync, and the final result lies in video limbo: young players will be turned off by the difficulty of the game, and experienced gamers will finish it too quickly. GAMEPLAY: 5.5 GRAPHICS: 8.5 SOUND: 5.5 OVERALL: 5.5 [DOU]======================================================================== DOUBLE DRAGON 1-2 players, horizontal game Telegames, for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Running rampant through the city, a gang of vicious street thugs has kidnapped the lady Marion. In retribution, martial artists Billy and Jimmy Lee set out to rescue her, determined to fight anyone in their way. This is the humble premise of DOUBLE DRAGON, an arcade game that spawned two sequels, over a dozen home versions, a cartoon series, and countless imitators. Courtesy of Telegames, this classic title has now reached the Atari Lynx. Four skill levels are available, as well as a practice mode and the ability to play with or against a second player. Whether bare-fisted or armed with a variety of weapons, Lynx players can now take the fight to the streets. GAMEPLAY: In theory, DOUBLE DRAGON should work on two levels, appealing to gamers who want an action-packed fighting title and to collectors looking for a quality adaptation. Unfortunately, this card does neither, and the result is a mild disappointment. Though there's plenty of action, compared to the fighting games popular today, this title sports a pace that seems plodding by comparison. Devotees of the arcade version will notice numerous subtle, but fundamental differences here. These include abbreviated levels, enemies that take a high number of hits, and the lack of most of the original's end-level villains. The game is fairly difficult for a variety of reasons. You start with three lives, but there are no ways to get extra lives, recover health, or continue a game. The controls are the worst culprit. By pressing button A or B, alone or with the joypad, the player punches, kicks, jumps, jabs, grabs, and throws enemies and objects. As a result, the controls are unresponsive at times and behave unexpectedly at others. While the game remains playable, all of this adds up to create a grueling contest that players may find is more trouble than it's worth. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The Lynx adaptation attempts to duplicate the graphics of the arcade, and partially succeeds. The cartoony characters and scenery have been retained, though the sprites are drawn much larger on the screen to retain the level of detail. The minimal animation of the original DOUBLE DRAGON has been trimmed further by the removal of more frames, making the game look jumpy at times. Sound effects have suffered the most; powerful thuds and punches have been reduced to tinny echoes. A number of tunes play in the background, but they are mostly uninteresting. SUMMARY: DOUBLE DRAGON is not a terrible game, but it is also not an especially captivating title, either. Tolerant players who don't mind this card's leisurely pace, translation liberties and quirky controls will be sufficiently entertained. More demanding gamers, however, should not set their expectations too high, lest they be disappointed. GAMEPLAY: 5 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 5.5 OVERALL: 5 [DRA]====================================================================== DRACULA THE UNDEAD 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: If Bram Stoker were alive today, would he have written "Dracula" as an interactive novel? Atari thinks so, and their reinterpretation of the horror classic is DRACULA THE UNDEAD, a gothic adventure for the Lynx. You play the part of Jonathan Harker, who is visiting Count Dracula to conduct real estate business. As the story begins, Jonathan has awakened from an overnight sleep at Dracula's castle, ready to work. However, the Count has affairs to attend to, and will be gone until the evening. With a day of waiting and no Lynx to spend the time, Jonathan decides to explore Dracula's quaint home. In your travels, you will discover many unusual secrets; your goal is to escape with evidence proving that Dracula is a danger to mortal men and possibly destroy the Count himself. Of course, Castle Dracula is filled with danger, not the least of which is its tall, imposing owner... GAMEPLAY: As the plot summary attests, DRACULA THE UNDEAD is not your ordinary video game. If nothing else, its gets credit for diverting from the usual sword-and- sorcery fantasy scenario. Game control is similar to the method in computer adventures such as KING'S QUEST and THE ADVENTURES OF MONKEY ISLAND: each room is a graphic image, and you use the joypad to move Jonathan around and explore it. Complex actions are done by choosing verbs and nouns from a scrolling window to form commands like "examine drawers", "open door", or "use lamp with tinderbox". Room features that you can interact with are indicated by having its name appear on-screen when you pass by it. You can also talk to people by selecting your dialogue from a number of sentences. The actual adventure is a fairly challenging affair, though a little bit linear. Many times, there are several possible goals, but usually only one will lead to progress which advances the plot. Puzzles are not easily solved, and often nothing can be done without a certain item that you haven't found yet. Hints are few, coming from Jonathan's musings and an occasional narrative from Bram Stoker, and red herrings abound. It is also possible to finish the game without winning it, since Jonathan must make enough notes to build a convincing case against Dracula. The game assumes a little knowledge of vampire lore, but nothing too complex, while dialogue and descriptions are brief but appropriate. There are only two weak points with DRACULA THE UNDEAD, the first being the control scheme. Each room is shown from a single viewpoint, with the LCD screen being one of the walls, so some features are unseen, either because they're off-camera or part of the screen "wall". Since their names appear when Jonathan approaches them, it's only a minor nit, and enforces the need to explore rooms thoroughly. The greater flaw is the lack of a save-game feature. You must finish this game in one sitting; the game disables the automatic shut-off feature of the Lynx, but if you haven't finished this title already, it's best to play with an AC adaptor. GRAPHICS/SOUND: DRACULA THE UNDEAD is drawn in shades of brown and tan, using impressive "brownscaled" images that look almost like digitized aged photographs. Most of the animation comes from Jonathan walking around, with a little gratuitous scaling as he moves towards and away from the player. The game is sprinkled with animated scenes, such as the conversations with other characters, and Bram Stoker flipping pages while reading the latest plot twist. Sound effects are a respectable mix of machine-generated and digitized effects, such as creaking doors and the howl of wolves, but they are few and far between. Instead, the game's most consistent sound is a moody background tune that plays continuously. It can be disabled with the Option 2 button if it proves wearisome, however. SUMMARY: DRACULA THE UNDEAD offers traditional adventuring fare with an unusual premise, with enough challenge and appeal to satisfy most adventurers. The inability to save a game in progress hurts, but dedicated players who are willing to live with this flaw are encouraged to give the Count a visit. GAMEPLAY: 7.5 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7.5 [ELE]====================================================================== ELECTROCOP 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Inspired by various science-fiction movies popular with the masses, in the near future the worldwide conglomerate known as Megacorp developed you, the Electrocop. As the only one of your kind, you have tirelessly served the public interest, and today you have been summoned with a crisis: The President's daughter has mysteriously disappeared, and is believed to be kidnapped. Megacorp's intelligence net says that she is being held in an abandoned warehouse by a new robotic creation called the Criminal Brain. Worse, the place has been rendered impregnable with an array of traps, weapons, and computer-sealed doors. Megacorp deems that only you, with your superior design, security countermeasures, and total loyalty can breach this fortress. You have one hour to search the building, survive the dangers within, and confront this mysterious being to find the truth behind these happenings. GAMEPLAY: When everything is said and done, ELECTROCOP is a real-time action- adventure game presented in a three-dimensional view. Each level of the warehouse is a maze, with drones and weapons to be destroyed and exits to be found. You are initially equipped with a laser gun, but can find more powerful weapons throughout the game. Many of the passages contain computer-locked armored doors, which are opened when the proper security code is given. Computer terminals also allow you to repair wounds, fix damaged weapons, search for security codes, or play simple video games to pass the time. That's the entire game, and that's the problem. ELECTROCOP is fairly limited in its gameplay; the only real adventuring aspects are in opening doors and exploring the levels. There are weapons to find and enemies to fight, but most of them can be defeated by simply firing like mad. Worse, there is little randomness to the game -- the layouts of the levels and the combinations to the doors never change, making this title very prone to memorization. Most of the time with this title will be spent constantly mapping levels and cracking codes, and as with many adventure games, once ELECTROCOP is solved, there is little incentive to play it again. GRAPHICS/SOUND: ELECTROCOP is played with a 3D perspective view, shown as a camera that tracks you everywhere. This result in some of the most eye-popping effects ever seen in a video game; you run not only left and right, but also into and out of the action, an effect unduplicated by any other video game. Quality graphics are everywhere, from the detailed, smooth-scaling graphics to the cinematic sequences at the start and the end of the game. The only problem is that your character is too large; you don't see enough to your left and right, producing a "tunnel vision" effect. Sounds are a little more mixed, but still impressive. Actual game sounds consist of explosions, weapons fire, and assorted bells and warning klaxons, all done nicely. What steals the show, though, is the music: there are a number of high-quality soundtracks, from classical to rock, all capturing the intense tempo of the game itself. The futuristic title theme is especially catchy, and runs throughout much of the game. SUMMARY: This card was a brilliant concept that didn't completely clicked; the race against the clock and the real-time exploration/combat elements are hampered with uninspired gameplay and little variety. ELECTROCOP's stunning visuals and sounds make it fun to watch, but whether you'd buy a game for its razzle- dazzle is a personal decision. GAMEPLAY: 6 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 9 OVERALL: 7.5 [EUR]========================================================================= EUROPEAN SOCCER CHALLENGE 1-2 players, horizontal game Telegames, for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Telegames, one of the first third-party developers, returns after a prolonged absence with EUROPEAN SOCCER CHALLENGE, a portable version of the world's most popular sport. From a side-scrolling stadium seat, one or two players each control an 11-player team, picking from over 130 teams in 36 European countries. Game options allow changing the control scheme, setting the length of matches, and entering passwords to resume earlier tournaments. GAMEPLAY: After a string of disappointing sports games on the Lynx, I'm pleased to say that EUROPEAN SOCCER CHALLENGE is a playable, well designed, quality title. The amount of detail crammed into this card is incredible. Each country has a stable of two to eleven teams, each with its own name, players, and attributes. The team you pick does make a difference; players run, steal, and defend better depending on who you pick. Unfortunately, there's no way to see a team's abilities, so experimentation is necessary to find the better crews. The full gamut of soccer rules and actions are implemented, including tackles (stealing), throw-outs, and penalty flags to remove aggressive players. Controls are responsive, though a little complicated. A team's goalie is operated by the computer, who blocks and acts intelligently. User control goes to the player nearest the ball, and uncontrolled teammates follow a standard formation selected before the match. Kicking is done with the A and B buttons for high and low kicks. Holding down a button lets you aim and set the strength, allowing you to run one way and kick in another. The overall action is brisk, and following the game is not difficult. For comparative purposes, EUROPEAN SOCCER CHALLENGE is much more enjoyable than Atari's WORLD CLASS SOCCER cartridge. There are a few quibbles, though they are minor. Because control automatically goes to the man closest to the ball, there is the possibility for confusion when it enters a crowd, and chasing the ball carrier can be tricky. The instructions are also a bit confusing, and assumes the reader has a thorough understanding of how to play soccer. These make learning and playing the game a little more difficult than necessary. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Sights and sounds on EUROPEAN SOCCER CHALLENGE are vastly schizophrenic. The graphics are consistently wonderful, as game screens everywhere are done with great use of detail and colors. Sprites are moderately small, allowing for a wide view of the surrounding area while still showing sufficient detail. The animation of players is average, but the actions depicted are numerous and realistic. Scrolling is fast, although sometimes a little jumpy. In stark contrast, sounds are dismally dull; aside from a short musical loop between games, the only noises are a shrillish whistle and the quiet thud of a ball being kicked. There are no fanfares, no crowds, no other sounds to add to the experience. SUMMARY: EUROPEAN SOCCER CHALLENGE is a very respectable version of the popular sport. The sophisticated gameplay, quality design, and crisp controls are complimented by some very elegant graphics. Non-soccer fans won't be swayed, but enthusiasts will find this title very enjoyable. GAMEPLAY: 8.5 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 4.5 OVERALL: 8 [FID]======================================================================== THE FIDELITY ULTIMATE CHESS CHALLENGE 1-2 players, horizontal game Telegames, for the Atari Lynx $39.95 OVERVIEW: We all knew it would happen, sooner or later. After all, even portable video gamers cannot live on action-arcade titles alone. Now filling a void, Telegames Inc. has released THE FIDELITY ULTIMATE CHESS CHALLENGE for the Atari Lynx. There's not much that needs to be said, really; this is a one- or two-player version of (Western) chess, following all of the standard rules for the game. If you don't know how to play chess, get a different game. (Quick note: Though this game seems to be packaged and distributed by Atari, there are enough signs that this is an independent developer's effort. Everything on this game is credited to Telegames Inc., so all praises and criticisms must fall squarely on their shoulders...) GAMEPLAY: What does this version of chess offer? FIDELITY CHESS (for short) lets one or two players play chess with a _single_ Lynx. The computer offers 17 levels of difficulty -- 8 levels based on search depth, 8 levels based on analysis time, and an "ultimate" level using unlimited time and searching. You can ask the computer for hints, force it to make a move immediately, and take back moves (up to 100 full moves can be taken back). The board offers gold and silver pieces on a 2-D or 3-D board, and game sounds, messages, and other features can be toggled and selected during a game. Finally, the entire current chess game is logged in standard chess notation, and can be reviewed, along with a running count of the players' scores (based on pieces remaining). The most important question, naturally, is how well FIDELITY CHESS plays the game. Though I enjoy the game, I don't claim to be a chess expert; however, the Lynx appears to play a very respectable game. For a test, I pitted FIDELITY CHESS (on the Lynx's 65C02) versus the computer game BATTLE CHESS (on a 68000). Although the Lynx took longer to make decisions deeper into the game, it ultimately checked and mated in 23 moves. With "ultimate" mode, FIDELITY CHESS may just be almost impossible to defeat. On higher levels, it can take quite some time for the computer to make a move. To counteract this, the Lynx's automatic shutoff feature is disabled. A few minor quibbles with the game. Control response is the most sluggish I've ever seen in a Lynx game. Specifically, response to button presses are not always instantaneous, for some reason. Also, while there is an icon-driven Setup screen to help you set options, not all features are available. Without reading the manual, you'd need an accident to find out about features such as taking back a move (press A and B simultaneously). There is one large flaw in FIDELITY CHESS, however: The game has no "board set up" feature. The manual suggests that you can set up a game by playing a two-player contest to the desired point, then switching to a one-player game; however, I find this suggestion cumbersome and unfriendly. Essentally, then, you must either finish a game at one sitting, or log all the moves to recreate (and continue) a game at a later time. Very dissappointing. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics and sound on FIDELITY CHESS are functional, but nothing more. That's fine, though; flashy graphics and noises can be a distracting irritant if done improperly. The chess pieces in both 2-D and 3-D mode are clear and distinctive (though a little large in 3-D mode, in my opinion). Sounds are similarly sparse; aside from a musical ditty played at the title page, the only noises available are the chimes that are played when a piece is moved, or a message is displayed. SUMMARY: Telegames has made a respectable entry into the Lynx game market with this title. As a chess game, THE FIDELITY ULTIMATE CHESS CHALLENGE fits the bill. It plays a strong, challenging game, though it presumes some knowledge of chess on your part. The lack of a board set-up option, however, is inexcusable; it could have been added with very little effort. However, if you can live with this omission, and want to play chess on the go, then FIDELITY CHESS is a good solution. GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 6 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7 [GAT]========================================================================= GATES OF ZENDOCON 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Let's skip the story already -- there's only so many ways to set up a horizontal-scrolling, shoot-everything-in-sight video game, which is what GATES OF ZENDOCON is. Your mission is to fly your spaceship through various scrolling lands, firing lasers and dropping bombs to destroy everything in your way. There are power-up weapons, but they are few and far between, and a password feature lets you start the game at any selected level. The ultimate goal is to stay alive long enough for the final confrontation with Zendocon, a giant alien who looks like a disembodied brain. There are a few interesting wrinkles to this title. The game features 51 levels, but you do not go through them linearly. Instead, each level has one or more "gates", and the next stage you go to depends on which gate you exit through. Any path you choose will eventually take you to the end, but some routes are longer and/or harder than others. Your ship has a temporary shield to repel most attacks, and you can suffer up to three hits before dying. The first two hits take away your shield and your laser, respectively, and those can be repaired at the end of a level. Finally, the game can be played in either "Easy" or "Hard" mode, where the action is twice as fast and the score is 100 times greater in "Hard" mode. GAMEPLAY: As the first side-scrolling shoot-'em-up game for the Atari Lynx, GATES OF ZENDOCON is not bad. True, there's nothing that's really innovative about the game, but it does offer a lot of action. One big reason for this is the vast number of different enemies and levels in the game: You're attacking and attacked by everything from UFOs, columns of flame, and giant insects to robotic walkers, space lizards, and rolling missile launchers. Each enemy behaves differently, attacks differently, and have different vulnerabilities. Similarly, the 51 levels are set in some very diverse locations -- beneath the ocean, over futuristic cities, in caverns, and more. Many of the enemies appear and attack in predictable times, but there is a fair amount of randomness to the action. The game difficulty is fairly consistent, and the game as a whole is an above-average challenge. Some levels are easier than others, but not by too much. It's worth noting that many people will find that the "Easy" mode is too easy; the pace of the game is half as slow as the typical arcade game, and today's dedicated players will breeze through it without too much effort. The "Hard" mode, however, will suit these pros just fine. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics in GATES OF ZENDOCON are adequate, with a fair use of detail and color, but they don't completely feel right for the title. Many of the game elements look simple and cartoony, instead of the sleek and rugged futuristic appearance traditionally associated with these games. Sounds are also a mixed bag. The good news is that the game features several musical scores, each one uniquely appealing in its own way. On the other hand, actual game sounds are mostly uninspiring, consisting mostly of explosions and the firing of your ship's laser. Worse, the sounds of combat drown out some of the music, which detracts. There is also a short digitized laugh at the start of the game, but nothing truly noteworthy. SUMMARY: This game makes a strong argument for not judging a book by its cover. Underneath the average graphics and average sound is a well-rounded, pretty diverse action game just waiting to be discovered. There is very little that hasn't been seen before, but for players who are looking for a stereotypical "shoot it if it moves" title (and there are enough of those out there for any platform), GATES OF ZENDOCON is a good buy. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 6.5 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 7.5 [GAU]====================================================================== GAUNTLET: THE THIRD ENCOUNTER 1-4 players, vertical game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: No, you're not mistaken. GAUNTLET: THE THIRD ENCOUNTER is _not_ a Lynx adaptation of any of the GAUNTLET arcade games. Instead, this was originally a similar game developed by Epyx called TIME QUESTS AND TREASURE CHESTS. When Atari bought the rights to the Lynx, they gave it a quick name change in hopes that the GAUNTLET title would enhance its market appeal. In any event, the game pits you and up to three companions against the demonic hordes of an abandoned castle. Players can choose to be one of eight characters, each of whom is rated differently in speed, strength, fighting skill, and health. Your objective is to fight through a dungeon of 40 maze-like levels, and retrieve a mysterious Star Gem of immense power. Along the way, you will find food, treasure, keys, magic potions and scrolls, and computer terminals(!) which offer information and sell supplies. You lose health from time and attacks, and die when it disappears. The action is seen from a scrolling overhead map, along with a second window that provides a first-person view of the action. GAMEPLAY: One new twist to the gameplay in GAUNTLET: THE THIRD ENCOUNTER is inventory management. Everything your character finds is carried along until used, though there is a limit to how much you can tote. It's possible, for instance, to drop pots of gold and "build" a protective wall to shield your adventurers from nearby threats. The game itself is fairly difficult, as survival depends on both minimizing your damage and on managing your food supplies. There is also quite a bit of creativity and variety throughout -- opponents include multiplying slime creatures, falling stalactites, and robots, and your character choices range from cowboys to pirates to nerds. Unfortunately, these points are counterbalanced by a number of criticisms. Since levels are presented in a fixed order, and the location of their contents never change, the game becomes static and predictable. The arcade frenzy has slowed down a bit, due to monsters who will not attack until you either strike first or approach close enough. Worse, if a creature touches your character, the monster disappears, reducing the overall difficulty. Progress can often be made by standing still and holding down the attack button, which reduces the strategy needed and increases the repetitive atmosphere. The orientation of the game is worth a few extra words. Used properly, vertically-oriented games can add to the fun, giving a taller viewing window into the action. Here, it feels more like a gratuitous demo of the Lynx than an aid to gameplay, as the display could be rearranged for a horizontal setup with no loss of data. Worse, the bright backgrounds used in some levels have been known to cause eyestrain and headaches in some players when played for long periods. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The sights and sound of GAUNTLET: THE THIRD ENCOUNTER are pretty average, neither highly appealing nor truly repulsive. Game graphics are small but varied and clearly recognizable, though animation is at a minimum. Scaling is used in several places, but not to great effect, and the first-person- perspective "action window" does little to enhance the game. Sounds are also short and varied, consisting mainly of clips indicating the attacks used by the monsters and your players. A low-key background tune plays throughout the game as well. SUMMARY: This cartridge offers some good points and some bad points, coming to rest as an average game. Several more refinements would have been welcome, but as it is now, whether or not you should get GAUNTLET: THE THIRD ENCOUNTER depends on whether you can tolerate its weaknesses. GAMEPLAY: 5 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 5.5 [GOR]======================================================================== GORDO 106 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: "Deep in the bowels of N. Human Inc., trapped in cage #106, Gordo, a poor, brutally exploited lab monkey lives a life of lonely misery. Until an experimental nuclear potion gives Gordo #106 the cunning intellect he needs to free his friends and escape..." It doesn't matter what your views are on the animal research debate; that introduction is simply one of the most heavy-handed pieces of propaganda ever to grace a video screen. Critique aside, GORDO 106 is the newest side-scrolling action game for the Atari Lynx. Your objective is to help the renegade monkey run, jump, and swing through the N. Human facilities, rescuing captured rabbits and puppies along the way. Scientists, hunters, and other monsters are out to stop Gordo; fortunately, he can throw apples to defeat his attackers, and eat bananas to replenish lost health. You start with six lives and can earn more, but that may not be enough to take Gordo to a confrontation with N. Human himself. GAMEPLAY: What can I say about this game? It sits there. Aside from its unorthodox plot, GORDO 106 has nothing truly noteworthy or original to attract your attention. Most obstacles simply move back and forth, though there are a few death traps scattered among them as well. Overall, the challenge is reasonable and the game proceeds at a fair speed. There are over eighteen stages, from labs to penthouse apartments and a fashion show, ensuring a variety of locales. There are no time limits or requirements to finish a level, allowing you time to explore and free more caged animals. Like many other games in this genre, memorization and experience is essential to survival. Some spots require blind jumps and falls, ensuring replay value at the sacrifice of game design. The controls can be a problem, since making Gordo run requires a double-tap on the joypad. This produces dashes at inopportune times, and presents difficulties when you need to rush in a small space, such as a running jump. These flaws add to the frustration and reduce the already-low levels of appeal in the title. GRAPHICS/SOUND: If you're looking for a title to show off the Lynx, GORDO 106 is not it. Graphics are a bit on the whimsical side, but generally uninspired. The animation and scrolling is jumpy, and overall the visuals could be done on any other console. Only a little bit of multilayered scrolling hints at more. Things are similarly lackluster in the audio department. The several background tunes that play are passable, but the sound effects are generic and dull. In any case, either the programmers did not know what the Lynx is capable of, or did not bother to find out. SUMMARY: If the Lynx game library was saturated with run-and-jump titles, GORDO 106 would quickly be overshadowed by flashier, more appealing entries. As things stand, its biggest fans will be players who can stomach its bland flavors and overloaded cliches in exchange for a moderate challenge. GAMEPLAY: 5 GRAPHICS: 6 SOUND: 5 OVERALL: 5 [HAR]====================================================================== HARD DRIVIN' 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: HARD DRIVIN' for the Lynx is an adaptation of the Atari Games arcade racing title. The objective is to drive your performance sports car around a track, while dodging traffic and trying to finish each lap as fast as possible. Also, the track is divided into a speed course and a stunt course, which allow you to go at top speeds or try to survive death-defying jump ramps and banked curves. Race well enough and you can challenge the last champion in a head-to-head duel. What makes this different, though, is that HARD DRIVIN' is a true driving simulator. You can drive anywhere on the field, and your car has weight, momentum, and inertia, just as in the real world. Turn too hard and the car will skid, which becomes a spinout if you don't countersteer in time. Taking a jump at the wrong speed will result in a fiery collision, and approaching a loop too slowly is certain suicide. GAMEPLAY: HARD DRIVIN' is a straightforward game. Your sportster has four speeds with reverse, with either an automatic or manual transmission. The action takes place from within your car, complete with working instruments, while the track is drawn with filled 3D polygons. The speed track is mostly flat, with long stretches of curves, while the stunt track offers a drawbridge jump, banked curve, and other dangers. Surprisingly, game speed is not a problem with this game. One would expect that the complex mathematics of the physics and polygon graphics involved would slow HARD DRIVIN' to a crawl, but it doesn't. While it is not as fast as the home computer and Genesis versions, the speed of the action is not enough of a problem to affect gameplay. What does anchor HARD DRIVIN' from greatness on the Lynx are two problems, both unexpected. The first problem is in the "feel" of your car; it's hard to tell exactly where your edges are in the game's universe. Extra room is needed when tailing or passing another car, or else a crash occurs. Similarly, a healthy dose of paranoia towards road obstacles will improve survivability. The other, more critical problem is in the game's controls. Steering, accelerating, and braking are incredibly sensitive, to the point where playability is severely hampered. Anything more than a tap on the joypad will send you on a sharp turn, and the car's speed rises and falls faster than you would expect. With the manual transmission, it's even more confusing, with Option 1 and Option 2 used to shift gears. Players will need a lot of time and patience to become comfortable with the controls. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The visuals of HARD DRIVIN', though not perfect, are simple and effective. The filled polygon effects are done well, while retaining enough detail, and help to enforce the sense of realism in the game. The instant replay scenes are the best part of the game, using reverse angles to accurately duplicate the conditions of your latest crash. Aside from a title song, the main game sounds are the roar of the engine and a few digitized clips. SUMMARY: Converting the complexities of the arcade HARD DRIVIN' is a difficult task; what makes the Lynx version especially disappointing is that its shortfalls could have been prevented. The sensations of the arcade are duplicated well, but unweildly controls reduce this title to only a moderate game. While the Lynx version is still playable, only the most dedicated HARD DRIVIN' enthusiasts will derive the most pleasure from it. GAMEPLAY: 6 GRAPHICS: 8.5 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 6 [HOC]======================================================================= HOCKEY 1-2 players, horizontal & vertical game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: It's a cold fact that the current Lynx library is short in sports titles. This trend is fading, however, first with AWESOME GOLF and CHECKERED FLAG, and now with HOCKEY for the Lynx. As the title indicates, this is a portable version of the winter sport, and an unofficial translation of MARIO LEMIEUX HOCKEY on the Sega Genesis. The action is seen from a mid-court arena seat, as one or two players lead a team of five skaters and a goalie, trying to score as many points as possible over three periods. All of the familliar elements of hockey are here: face-offs, tiebreaker shootouts, two-minute penalties, and the obligatory fistfights. GAMEPLAY: Lynx HOCKEY contains enough statistics and options to satisfy most players. Periods can be 5 or 10 minutes long, the computer opponent can be set to easy or normal play, and rules, penalties, and fights can be toggled on or off. There's a league of 22 teams, with each team rated in abilities like skating speed, defense, and goalie skills. The default settings are modelled after the 1991 NHL, but you can rearrange or randomize the league, and an eight-letter password keeps track of the new ratings. If you're not in the mood for a long game, you can practice the fighting and shoot-out sequences. The actual hockey contest is a one-game bout, with no provisions for season play or a tournament. While you control one player, the computer handles the rest of the team reasonably well. Player selection (with OPTION 1) and puck-passing (with button B) are managable, but shooting for the goal is quirky. To shoot, button A is tapped once or twice and aimed with the control pad, a system that's more complicated than it sounds. Scoring is possible, but you'll need some time to get the hang of the system. Gameplay is brisk, though you might briefly lose track of the puck in a crowd. The computer opposition plays very well even on the easy setting, and tends to rush your goalie for a quick score. When enabled, fights can occur fairly often, but you can choose not to enter them. Common hockey penalties are supported, such as offsides and the two-line pass, but the loser of a fight is punished, which is inaccurate. Several screens of game stats are available any time, covering trivia like "number of successful checks" and "% of time on offense". The shoot-out sequence at the end of a tied game is worth mentioning: the Lynx is held vertically as each team takes four shots at the opponent's goal. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics of HOCKEY are reasonable. The best scenes are before the game starts, with player poses and digitized scenes shown while selecting teams and options. The rink holds small but recognizable players, a referee, and an even smaller but workable puck, along with game scores and clocks. The scrolling is a little jumpy and could have been better, and the near-digitized fights are detracted with cartoon-like special effects. In contrast, sounds offer little worth mentioning. Aside from a stirring title theme, music consists of short, simplish renditions of the American and Canadian National Anthems, and assorted rally tunes. The game is often quiet, with bland effects, simple sirens and whistles, and an unnatural silence from the crowd. SUMMARY: HOCKEY on the Lynx is a good, but not great, video version of the sport. A few minor flaws, like the quirky shooting controls and the lackluster sound effects, keep it from doing better. Still, for Lynx sports fans who can bear its weak points, this card is a good buy. GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 5.5 OVERALL: 7 [HYD]======================================================================== HYDRA 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: You are known as Hydra, though no government will admit you exist. You are a mercenary whose specialty is the transport of "sensitive" packages, using your Hydrafoil, a one-man armed speedboat. Even so, there is competition from other agents, and danger from those who don't want your cargo delivered. Only the best survive, but that's okay -- you are the best. Maybe. This is HYDRA for the Lynx, an adaptation of the Atari Games arcade title. The action is seen from behind your boat which you pilot through nine levels of rivers and oceans. Along the way, you can get money bags for bonuses and crystals for extra fuel. There are also gun embankments, enemy crafts, and other nusances, though your Hydrafoil can fly temporarily to escape dangers. Finish a stage and you can try to win more money in a bonus stage, then buy better weapons for the next job. GAMEPLAY: HYDRA on the Lynx loses very little on the way to the Lynx. A single hit will destroy your Hydrafoil, but that's not a problem, as your survival is measured in fuel; the only way the game ends is if your gas tanks are empty. This version is slightly easier when compared to the arcade, but remains of average difficulty. Unlimited continues are available, but resets your score. There is no randomness to the location of objects, on each level, but the later levels use a large number of enemies and obstacles, coupled with a rarity of fuel, to keep the game from being finished quickly. All of the buttons are used to fire weapons, change weapons and activate your craft's air-lifting boost. There's a minor quibble with the controls -- you press down to accelerate and up to decelerate, but it has no effect on playability. Unlike ROADBLASTERS, the steering is more gradual, makes driving and aiming with the joypad reasonable. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The digitized game elements of the arcade HYDRA are respectable on the small screen, though the colors make some items look a little muddled. Also, judging collisions requires a little experience; your first few forays will feature lots of collisions with obstacles you thought you avoided. Sounds fit the action accordingly, consisting mostly of the roar of your engines, chimes when items have been picked up, a wide variety of weapons fire, and the obligatory explosions. SUMMARY: It must be said that HYDRA borrows heavily from the game ROADBLASTERS, and offers little that's different or unusual. That doesn't make it any less fun or exciting, however, and this Lynx version is a decent adaptation that will be enjoyed by action players and fans of the arcade. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 7.5 SOUND: 7.5 OVERALL: 8 [ISH]======================================================================== ISHIDO: THE WAY OF STONES 1-? players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Once again, the Lynx travels to the Orient to get inspiration for a strategy game. This time it is ISHIDO: THE WAY OF STONES, a conversion of a home computer title. You are given a set of 72 tiles, each marked with a specific color and figure. The stones are presented one at a time, and you place them on a board with 90 slots, next to other matching pieces. The more matches made, the better your score. If you play good enough, the Oracle may appear and impar some of its wisdom. GAMEPLAY: ISHIDO's rules are simple, yet not immediately obvious. The basic idea of matching tiles is enhanced with restrictions on the types of matches possible. But in return for learning the rules, ISHIDO offers a deeply complex and challenging experience. Tiles are matched by color and figure, with the elusive four-match being the best play (match two by color and another two by figure). The game is "won" by making the highest score possible, but you will quickly find other goals to achieve, such as using all the tiles or scoring four-matches around the starting board. ISHIDO also offers several variants and options. Scoring can be either the "ancient" method, where only four-matches have value, or the "modern" way, where all matches score. Games can be played solitare, alternating with a computer or human opponent, or as a tournament against any number of players. During the game, you may take back moves, ask for legal moves, and view the stones remaining. Other options allow you to select the tile set to use, and set a time limit for moves. An interesting extra is the Oracle of the Stones. Make a four-match, and the Oracle will offer a piece of "ancient wisdom". These are excerpts of insightful thinking, similar to the writings of the I Ching, and the player is asked to apply them to his innermost questions. In the end, it is harmless fun, though you can turn the Oracle off if it proves distracting. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics and sound in ISHIDO are total contrasts. Visually, the game is stunning, with beautiful imagery everywhere from the opening fireworks to the glimmer of a four-match. Sounds are also appealing, but are at a minimum; the primary game sound is the click made as each tile is placed. SUMMARY: ISHIDO: THE WAY OF STONES is proof that a game does not need many rules to be sophisticated. The concept is simple, yet each new move offers a wealth of possibilities to be explored, making this a perfect entry for the deep-thinking strategist. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 10 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 8 [JIM]========================================================================= JIMMY CONNORS' TENNIS 1-4 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: The Lynx library of sports games continues to grow, and the latest offering in this area is JIMMY CONNORS' TENNIS. Set at the Bella Country Club, home of the Jimmy Connors' Invitational Tennis Tournament, this card by Handmade Software lets one to four players get on the courts. Game options include singles and doubles games, court surface, four skill levels, and friendly or tournament play. At the top of the tournament ladder is Connors himself, waiting for a chance to challenge you. GAMEPLAY: There's a rule of thumb that talented professionals never need to promote themselves -- people will find the highly skilled for themselves. JIMMY CONNORS' TENNIS is analogous to this; it doesn't need flashy effects or catchy gimmicks, but instead presents a robust, high-quality sports game. While individual matches can be played for fun, the heart of the game is the tournament ladder, available for one or two players. You advance through a list of 24 players/teams by challenging and defeating the other entrants. A password feature between matches allows tournaments-in-progress to be saved between sessions. The actual tennis game is a grueling challenge, requiring time and practice to fully master the game. Where to stand, when to swing, what swing to use, and where to aim all must be decided in seconds, and beginners will require quite a bit of patience at first. To help, the easier levels display squares to show where to stand in order to return the ball. The computer opponents are worthy opponents, gradually building in difficulty as you advance, and it is easy to lose several weeks, if not months, refining your game in hopes of winning the Invitational. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Sights and sounds on JIMMY CONNORS' TENNIS uphold the high standards for quality from Handmade Software. The game is viewed from behind your side of the court, and the ball's height and position is easily tracked. Players are drawn with great use of color, and while the animation is clean, they run with an awkward sideways shuffle. Thankfully, the game is often quiet, as tennis should be; the most common sounds are the realistic thuds of the ball as it bounces off the ground or is hit on a swing. Loveliest of all are the digitized voices, crystal clear and among the best for the Lynx to date. The judge announces each score and fault, and Connors himself starts the game and offers blunt comments after matches. SUMMARY: As with AWESOME GOLF, Handmade Software has delivered a solid, no-nonsense portable version of the sport in JIMMY CONNORS' TENNIS. It is difficult without being frustrating, and sports buffs will gladly spend lots of time improving their skills. Challenging action, detailed graphics and crisp voices and sounds make this card a welcome addition to the Lynx. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 9.5 OVERALL: 8 [JOU]======================================================================= JOUST 1-2 players, horizontal game Shadowsoft, for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: It's arguable who made the best video games in the early days of arcade gaming, but one firm commanded awe from all players: Williams. Their early games had simple rules, lots of strategy, and a take-no-prisoners challenge that only the best could master. JOUST for the Lynx is a version of the Williams classic title. The player rides a flying ostrich, engaging in combat against enemy riders. Two riders joust by colliding, and the winner is the one whose lance is higher. The arena is a cavern of platforms, which can be walked on or flown around. A few extra wrinkles make the game more interesting. Defeated enemies turn into eggs, which hatch into more aggressive fliers if they're not retrieved in time. Later levels introduce the lava troll who snatches riders overhead, a nearly-indestructible pterodactyl, and vanishing platforms. Two players can play together with the ComLynx cable, working cooperatively or competitively. Some stages have special bonuses, such as extra points for not losing a life, or for unseating your partner first. You start with three riders, with extras at regular intervals, and once they're gone, the game ends. GAMEPLAY: This title is from Shadowsoft, the same folks who gave us their incredible Lynx version of ROBOTRON: 2084 a year ago. I don't need to say much -- if you liked JOUST in the arcade, you'll love the Lynx version! It's a perfect, flawless translation that loses absolutely none of the original's depth and excitement. What starts off as a simple exercise in dismounting opponents soon becomes organized chaos. Your character is soon assaulted by riders on all sides, with more aggressive enemies hatched and on the way, and a pterodactyl ready to assault you for taking too long. This conversion also has a few extra features. There are ten difficulty levels, where more aggressive enemies appear sooner and hatch quicker at the harder settings. With two players, you can also play in "gladiator mode", where you configure the arena, then try to destroy your opponent completely. Throw in a high score table to track the top five players, and you've got a "must buy" Lynx game for action/arcade fans. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The sights and sounds of JOUST are just as faithful to the source. The Lynx screen resolution causes a slight loss of detail, but nothing to get upset over. The sprites are small but easily recognizable, with animation, color, and visuals copied exactly in every detail. Similarly, almost all of the sounds have been digitized or duplicated exactly. I only noticed one sound effect from the original that has not been copied, but other than that, it's all here. SUMMARY: JOUST is another unbelievably excellent product from Shadowsoft. Players who never played the arcade title will be captivated by its simple rules, deep strategy, and fast action, while the legions of arcade JOUST fans will be in video-gaming heaven! GAMEPLAY: 10 GRAPHICS: 9.5 SOUND: 9.5 OVERALL: 10 [KLA]========================================================================= KLAX 1 player, vertical game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? Yes OVERVIEW: It's good every once in a while to see video games that don't have a ludicrous plot tacked on to the concept -- Really, who can believe that the paddle in ARKANOID is a trapped spaceship trying to reach home? KLAX for the Atari Lynx is a translation of the Atari Games arcade strategy title, and thankfully nobody gave it a background along the way. The base idea is simple: You operate a moving paddle at one end of an advancing conveyor belt. Your objective is to catch colored tiles coming down the belt, then either deposit them into a bin below or toss them back on the conveyor for a little extra planning time. Points are awarded for making rows, columns, and diagonals using three or more tiles. To complicate matters, each level ends only when its goal is met: make six diagonals, or score 10,000 points, for example. Both the bin and the paddle can hold a limited number of tiles, and tiles are dropped into oblivion if you don't catch it in time. Drop too many tiles, and the game ends. GAMEPLAY: KLAX in the arcade had a uniquely addictive quality about it, and the Lynx version loses none of this appeal. Like TETRIS, the game fools you with its simplicity: newcomers often adopt a "How hard can this be?" attitude, but are soon enraptured by the depth and strategies possible. However, KLAX offers more variety and a quicker pace, making it appealing to people who found TETRIS too slow and limited. The game features 100 levels, which helps keep the challenge high. With such simple rules, it's not surprising that KLAX on the Lynx misses none of the original's features. As in the arcade, you can start the game at levels 1, 6, or 11, and skip levels after every fifth stage. However, this version also allows you to go to the highest stage ever reached, and offers three levels of overall game difficulty. An unlimited number of continues is available, and the score is cleared each time. The vertical orientation of the Lynx is welcome here, making optimal use of screen space and allowing all of the action to be clearly seen. The game as a whole is quick and responsive, though the action slows down a bit when there are too many tiles on the conveyor belt at once. GRAPHICS/SOUND: KLAX makes full use of the Lynx's sound and graphics capabilities, and successfully captures the bouncy atmosphere of the game. The graphics are large and colorful, and the animations and effects of the arcade are duplicated exactly. Even the various abstract backgrounds are present, though some of the original scenes have been replaced with new ones specifically for the Lynx. As good as the graphics are, however, what really steals the show are the sounds and music. Crisp digitized sound effects, all from the arcade game, are used everywhere -- the applauding crowds, the lady announcer at the start of each wave, even the wail of a falling tile as it drops into the void. Stereo, heard for the first time on the Lynx, is put to great use, both during the game to indicate the location of tiles, and in the rollicking, high-tempo, electric guitar-loaded theme music masterpiece. SUMMARY: This is an incredibly simple and totally addictive game, appealing to both the mind and the reflexes alike, that has made a perfect transition from the arcade. Between the friendly gameplay, elegant graphics, and stunning sound and music, KLAX on the Lynx is highly recommended! GAMEPLAY: 9.5 GRAPHICS: 10 SOUND: 10 OVERALL: 9.5 [KUN]====================================================================== KUNG FOOD 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Okay, how's this: For some crazy reason, your boss at the video-game company wants to put the unstable mutagen Rynoleum into the next batch of games. Acting on your conscience, you steal the toxic waste, haul it home, and put it for safekeeping in the freezer. Unfortunately, you've been contaminated into a six-inch-tall, naked, green version of yourself. Worse, your groceries have gained sentience, and are now planning to take over the world! Can you fight through your leftovers, cure yourself, and stop this plan cold? That's KUNG FOOD for the Lynx, the video game with a plot that's an instant finalist in the "Goofiest Idea of 1992" award. You play the samaritan in the refrigerator who kicks, jumps, and punches through five levels of killer groceries and other hazards to save the day. You start with three lives, and can take a limited number of hits, but the vegetables still outnumber you. There are no continues, but power-up icons along the way will help even the odds. Sure, it's silly, but it's no weirder than ninja-trained terrapins, right? GAMEPLAY: There's no surprise here -- KUNG FOOD is your generic "beat everything in sight" video game. You walk left to right, up and down, and after a few steps encounter a pack of hopping peas, potato men, or ice demons that have to be destroyed before you can go any farther. You take hits pretty easily, and there's not much warning that you've been hit, so watching the health gauge is very important. There are a number of small quirks that may bother some players, however. Controls are a little awkward; button A and the control pad activate punches and kicks, which is tolerable, but it's impossible to turn quickly in the heat of battle. Actually hitting an opponent requires a fair amount of precision, and, depending on where you're standing, it's possible to be hit by an enemy who you can't hurt. Working around these limits isn't difficult, but veterans of video street battles will be caught flat-footed at first. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on KUNG FOOD are among the most elaborate ever on a Lynx title. There's great use of color, detail, and animation, and some fairly elaborate opening and closing sequences, which mesh together with a consistent level of high quality. Game sounds are pretty good and match the action appropriately, but the background music and title theme are repetitive and grating. Fortunately, pressing OPTION 2 lets you turn the music off while keeping the sound effects. SUMMARY: Take away the story, and KUNG FOOD comes across as a very average fighting game that breaks no new ground. The game's controls and minor quirks may irritate some players, but fight fans with Lynxes should look past the silliness and give the title a try. GAMEPLAY: 6 GRAPHICS: 8.5 SOUND: 5.5 OVERALL: 6.5 [LEM]========================================================================= LEMMINGS 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Just for the record, real lemmings do not mindlessly jump off cliffs to their doom. This is a myth first staged in a Walt Disney nature film, and has now become a popular misconception. Nonetheless, Psygnosis released a famous computer puzzle game on this idea, and now LEMMINGS has reached the Atari Lynx. The premise is simple: You have a flock of green-haired lemmings that you must guide to an exit. The little critters walk forward mindlessly, regardless of obstacles and dangers in their way. By giving them skills like digging, climbing, and floating, you can help them avoid disaster. There are 120 stages all together, and a password is provided for each. GAMEPLAY: Gladly, LEMMINGS on the Lynx loses none of its appeal nor challenge in the conversion from the original. You select an ability, point the cursor on a lemming, then click to change his behavior. On the Lynx, two screens are used -- one for the side-scrolling map, and another for the menu of the lemmings' skills. The cursor moves a little slow, but it's not a problem, since it can still be moved while the game is paused, and allows for accurate positioning. Other options are to adjust the flow of lemmings, speed up the lemmings, and to restart the level. There are 30 levels for each of the four difficulty settings. Naturally, the earliest stages are very easy, to get beginners up to speed, but the difficulty builds at a steady pace. Those who have conquered LEMMINGS on the home computers will find that this conversion uses the same levels, the same names, and the same passwords. While this means there is nothing new for the masters, it also means us novices can transplant our lemming-rescue skills easily. Purists will be upset to hear that the two-player competition from the original is gone, but most folks should not mind. GRAPHICS/SOUND: As with the game itself, the sights and sounds of the original LEMMINGS are transplanted almost identically on the Lynx. The lemmings themselves are a pleasant surprise; though only a few pixels tall, they remain very expressive and animated. Backgrounds are detailed, important information is always visible, and there's a little gratuitous scaling as well. In the audio department, the cries and sound effects from the source are nicely digitized, and a wide variety of background tunes play throughout the game. Owners of the new Lynxes which support stereo headphones will notice one oddity, though -- the music is played in both ears, but the sound effects come only through the right speaker. SUMMARY: The popularity and charm of LEMMINGS remains intact on the Lynx, and is still enjoyable even after all this time. With cute graphics and fun sounds to spice up the appeal, this game satisfies all but the most finicky players, while begging for an adaptation of the sequel. GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 8.5 OVERALL: 9 [LYN]======================================================================== LYNX CASINO 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Video gambling games are hard to promote. On the one hand, an accurate simulation lets players experience high-rolling thrills without using real money. On the other hand, if there are no real winnings, why bother? Other questions about how much strategy can be developed or transferred for games like Roulette or Craps are left to professional gamblers. LYNX CASINO doesn't resolve this paradox, but it does offer a risk-free alternative to Atlantic City or Reno. This title is a collection of five familliar casino games: Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Slot Machines, and Video Draw Poker. You start off with $1000, though the cashier can give you two loans of $500 each; when your money's all gone, the game ends. You can also ComLynx with a friend for a mini-electronic junket. GAMEPLAY: The best thing about LYNX CASINO is that it faithfully captures the experience of casino gambling. Not only are authentic rules, odds, and payoffs used, but each game allows of the same options that its real-life counterpart offers. For instance, Craps supports everything from the usual Pass/No Pass to Hard Way and Horn Bets, while Roulette uses a Double Zero wheel and allows numerous number combinations, and Blackjack is played with six decks. The only major discrepency is that you're always the dice shooter on Craps. The user interface changes with each game, but is generally consistent. Statistics are kept for each game session, allowing pros to analyze their playing skills. As a result, LYNX CASINO can be played on two levels: casual players can have fun just placing bets, while self-proclaimed experts can exercise existing gambling strategies or trying to develop new ones. While this card may not make you rich, it can be treated almost as a simulation, and the only regret I have is that more games weren't included. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Graphics in LYNX CASINO are decent overall, with a touch of cartoon whimsy. You guide your on-screen personna among the games and roaming bystanders, while still images show scenes of other gamblers and the staff. Most of your time is spent at the tables and machines, which are well drawn with good use of color and detail. Sound effects are not so interesting; a variety of background tunes play during the game, though they can be turned off if desired. Other than that, game sounds are few, brief, and fairly simple. SUMMARY: There's not much that needs to be said: LYNX CASINO is a well-done, no-nonsense video version of the Vegas experience. If you want to refine your Craps strategem or just want to blow some imaginary money, this game will easily fit the bill. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 5 OVERALL: 7 [MBV]========================================================================== MALIBU BIKINI VOLLEYBALL 1-4 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Having covered the mainstream sports (with varying degrees of success) for the Lynx game library, Atari now turns to the unconventional sports for their latest game. This is MALIBU BIKINI VOLLEYBALL, written by Handmade Software, which brings sand, surf, and scantily-clad members of both genders together for some two-on-two fun. You can serve, spike, and dive either in a three- round elimination tournament, or a single game with four difficulty levels. Options allow you to change the ball speed, turn indicator boxes and winds on or off, and set the score and time limits. GAMEPLAY: A good sports game must balance two contrasting points: to simplify the skills needed to play well, yet still keeping the game challenging. On this count, MALIBU BIKINI VOLLEYBALL is only partially successful, as the efforts to make it playable blunts the edge somewhat. The game locks you into a fixed pattern -- ball goes over the net, one player sets it, the second player sets it, the first player returns. While professional volleyball players often use such a cycle, having it forced on you is a bit irritating. There is also little control over your aim or strength, which reduces the game to basic moving and button-pushing. Despite these flaws, there are still a number of interesting points. There is enough unpredictability throughout to keep your attention, and the timing needed to hit the ball is tricky. The fixed cycle of ball- hitting applies to both teams, making for brief lulls where you can catch a breath. This gives the game an easygoing rhythm that some players will find relaxing. While this card will not appeal to everyone, neither can it be dismissed outright. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics and sound in MALIBU BIKINI VOLLEYBALL, while not truly outstanding, are very good for the Lynx. Sprites are small but recognizable, though the females are a little too "healthy". Colors are largely tans and browns, with splashes of primaries to add some flair. There are also some nice background extras, such as head-turning crowds and wandering beachgoers. The few sound effects are merely passable thuds and whistles, and are eclipsed by the crisp, clear digitized voices. What really dominates are the ten background tunes, all respectably done in a variety of styles. Pressing OPTION 2 brings up a "CD player", allowing you to change the order and options the tunes are played with. SUMMARY: MALIBU BIKINI VOLLEYBALL is not a very demanding game, but is, like a good day at the beach, a leisurely way to spend some time. Gamers looking for a more punishing regiment should look elsewhere, but those who want a kinder, gentler sport will find this title pleasing. GAMEPLAY: 6 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 8 OVERALL: 7 [MSP]======================================================================== MS. PAC-MAN for the Atari Lynx 1 player, horizontal game $39.95 OVERVIEW: Unless you've been living in a cave for the last 20 years, chances are good you know of Pac-Man. The original yellow-balled maze muncher became _the_ symbol for video gaming, and spawned a flock of sequels and me-too titles. The official sequel by Bally/Midway/Namco was MS. PAC-MAN, and now you too can plug this game into your Atari Lynx. The game is simple: You control Ms. Pac-Man, a feminine yellow ball with a mouth, through a maze. Your objective is to eat all the dots in the maze and go to other mazes. Four ghosts chase you through the maze -- one touch and you die. Run out of lives, and the game ends. Certain dots are "energizers", which temporarily turn the ghosts blue and vulnerable for you to eat them. At times, bonus foods hop through the maze, and eating them gives even more points. The Lynx version features two sets of mazes. You can play with either the original arcade four mazes, or with an alternate set of 21(!) wider mazes. On the alternate mazes, a lightning bolt will occassionally hop through the maze. Get the bolt, and you can push a button (A or B) for 15 seconds of high speed. The bolt goes away if you die, finish the level, or use it. GAMEPLAY: To be honest, MS. PAC-MAN is a simple game, and it's not surprising to see it arrive on the Lynx intact. Scoring is the same, controls are the same, and (as far as I can tell) the ghosts even behave the same. The alternate set of 21 mazes helps keep this game interesting, especially to jaded maze runners who mastered the original. I myself don't mind a _little_ Pac-mania (though I think it went too far, in the end), and am happy for a maze game on the Lynx. (I'm personally bummed that the two-player-simultaneous gameplay rumored a few months ago is not present. Oh well) GRAPHICS/SOUND: MS. PAC-MAN is set up as a horizontal game on the Lynx, with the maze scrunched to keep the entire maze on the screen at once. As a result, the graphics suffer a bit. The game graphics, from Ms. P to the ghosts to the fruits, are very small. Details (such as the ghosts' eyes) are missing, though the game is not affected any. The only place to see big ghosts and Pac-people are in the intermission cartoons, which are kept intact from the arcade. Sounds on this game are decent, though not outstanding. Music bits (the opening tune and intermission bridges) remain identical, cheery and light. The game sounds are average, neither irritating nor exceptional. SUMMARY: A decent adaptation overall, and a good game in its own right. I suspect whether or not you'll buy this depends on how willing you are to have a Pac-Maze-game on the Lynx. If you are interested, the Lynx version will not do you wrong. GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7.5 [NFL]========================================================================= NFL FOOTBALL 1-2 players, vertical game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: There's no surprises here; NFL FOOTBALL for the Atari Lynx is a portable version of the American pigskin sport. This is the sport where two teams of eleven guys each try to carry an oddly-shaped brown ball down a hundred-yard field into the opposing team's end zone. As a licensed game, all of the real football teams and logos of the NFL are used, letting players fulfill their fantasies of managing their hometown favorites. For even more realism, the card features offensive plays designed by a real NFL coordinator, and game strategies can be altered in real time as needed. The action takes place from an overhead perspective, which zooms in and out of the action. GAMEPLAY: Ugh. NFL FOOTBALL had such promise, but falls far short. This game has so many defects in its implementation that you wonder if anyone bothered to play it before its release. The good news is that, on offense, almost two dozen plays are available, and each play can be improvised as needed (pass the ball on a running play, for instance). A game lasts for four 15-minute quarters, and two players can compete head-to-head with the ComLynx cable. Everything else goes downhill from there. On offense, passes are done by holding down the "B" button, moving a crosshair to an open receiver, then releasing the button to throw -- all performed while the opposition rush for the tackle. Running plays are easy to perform, but they yield little yardage and become essentally useless. When you have the ball, any touch from an opponent brings you down, with no chances to spin or break free. The selection of defensive plays is pitiful, with only six general defenses available, and there is no easy way to change the defensive player you are controlling. Two-player games are inherently more challenging because the computer opponent is pathethic. The Lynx has no head for strategy, and you can use the same play repeatedly with no effect. The computer makes up for its stupidity by making its players run faster than your team; if all your defenders are behind the ball carrier, it's a guaranteed touchdown. Each session is a one-game bout, with no provisions for league play, and there is no difference between teams other than their logos and uniform colors. There are no fouls, no way to block punts, and many more shortfalls, too numerous to list. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on NFL FOOTBALL are clean and identifiable, yet fail to excite or inspire. The Lynx's hardware scaling is wasted; the screen zooms in at the end of a play and zooms out to a high overhead shot for kickoffs, but most of the game is viewed from a static halfway height. It's possible to be in control of an off-screen player, though it shouldn't have to be. Screen clips highlight cheering crowds and the referee's calls, but they are simply animated there's not many of them. Sounds are a little better, but not by much. Aside from a title theme, the game is quiet most of the time, with most of the sounds consisting of a whistle and the shlup-shlup-shlup of running feet. The digitized voices of the referee calls are a bit muddled, while the crowd that cheers after each score is a simple "white noise" effect. SUMMARY: It doesn't help if football games on other portable game systems are no more sophisticated than NFL FOOTBALL. The bottom line is that this game is a futile exercise in boredom, and is certainly not fun to play nor worth the price asked for it. GAMEPLAY: 4.5 GRAPHICS: 5 SOUND: 5.5 OVERALL: 4.5 [NIN]======================================================================== NINJA GAIDEN 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp. for the Atari Lynx $39.95 OVERVIEW: Adapted from the arcade game (and not the Nintendo adventure series), NINJA GAIDEN represents the second Tecmo arcade conversion for the Atari Lynx. The storyline is irrelevant; you play a lone ninja, who must defeat all of the assorted criminals and villians in a scrolling city landscape. Your only weapons are your fists, feet, and the occassional sword, while the villians have more weapons and much more numbers. As the landscape scrolls by, you can walk and jump all over the terrain. Enemies will come from offscreen, and you must fight them to the death. Several attacks are possible, such as swinging from overhanging poles, backwards jumps over walls, and flipping the opposition. Some obstacles along the way can be broken, by throwing someone into it, and will often reveal benefits such as extra health, lives, or a sword. For extra pressure, you must finish each level before an on-screen clock runs down. GAMEPLAY: The biggest gripe against Tecmo's earlier Lynx title, RYGAR, was that it was a scaled-down version of the arcade original. Sadly, NINJA GAIDEN offers no improvement at all, and some would call its curtailing even worse. Only about half of the different types of villians are present, though there is some variety to their attacks. The game makes up for this deficency by bringing out even more enemies than the arcade version did. The challenge thus comes in simply surviving a swarming attack, rather than reacting to a wide variety of opponents. NINJA GAIDEN is challenging, though not exceedingly so. You start the game with four lives, and each life can take up to five blows before dying. When you finally die, you may continue the game up to two times with a score of zero. The biggest problem, though, is that the game is too short; only four levels from the arcade original are present, which will not be enough for many action fans. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The highest point of NINJA GAIDEN comes in the game graphics. Though they are only about average for a Lynx game (reminescent of RAMPAGE to a degree), the visuals are almost a direct lift from the arcade version. The smooth animation and distinctive appearances are translated intact. Game sounds are limited to the thuds and crashes of combat, though that is a fault of the original game instead. A background soundtrack adds a little spice to the action. SUMMARY: NINJA GAIDEN is not a bad game; it's just not a good game, either. More sophisticated games have been done before on the Lynx, which makes this all the more depressing. However, it is not a total pushover, which saves it to a degree. For the arcade purist, NINJA GAIDEN is a dissappointment, but for the Lynx player looking for an action game, it's worth a try. GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 7 [NG3]========================================================================== NINJA GAIDEN III: THE ANCIENT SHIP OF DOOM 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $49.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Ryu Hayabusa, the last survivor of the Dragon Ninja clan, is also the ultimate weapon of the United States government. Working through CIA liaison Irene Lew, he has faithfully completed assignments too difficult and too sensitive for regular agents, anonymously saving the world several times already. Now, while on an undercover mission, Irene is brutally murdered, and witnesses identify Ryu as her killer. On the run, Ryu must retrace Irene's footsteps, find who has framed him, learn the secrets that she died for, extract his revenge, and clear his name. Thus begins NINJA GAIDEN III: THE ANCIENT SHIP OF DOOM. Tecmo gained fame in the late '80s with their NINJA GAIDEN action games for the Nintendo system, and the Lynx card is an adaptation of the final title in that series. The player must run, jump, climb, and slash his way through a variety of traps and enemies, including bioengineered beasts and enemy ninjas. Though armed with his sword, Ryu can also invoke a variety of magic attacks if he has enough power, and orbs along the way provide further aid. Starting from a secret laboratory, the trail winds through diverse scrolling locales such as a tropical jungle and deep underground, before ending in a showdown with the ancient evil behind it all. The player has five continues and three lives, each capable of taking a number of hits, but there is no option to save or restore games. (For purists, NINJA GAIDEN is also available for the Lynx, but it is an adaptation of the arcade game and not the first title in the Nintendo series. NINJA GAIDEN II is not available on the Lynx) GAMEPLAY: While previous Lynx adaptations of Tecmo titles -- RYGAR and NINJA GAIDEN -- were curtailed to varying degrees, NINJA GAIDEN III suffers none of those deficiencies. This card is a total adaptation of the Nintendo cartridge, from the layout of levels to the placement of enemies and obstacles, and players of the original will get a strong sense of deja vu. As with many other action/platform titles, there is no randomness to the game, and patterns can be developed over time. What elevates this game from others in the genre is that it is demanding without being unreasonable. The layouts of the levels work with the large variety of enemy characters to keep the game fresh. Enemy attacks and a time limit keep the player moving yet punishes mindless thrashing; this means that speed, precision, and planning are needed in equal amounts, which makes for a satisfying challenge. Fortunately, the smooth, responsive controls are never a problem. If there is one flaw with this title, it's the difficulty. The first stage is easy enough, but after that the curve turns sharply uphill, and the five continues can go by fairly quickly. There is no way to adjust the skill level, and the lack of a game save/continue simply makes it more grueling. To be fair, though, these same shortcomings were also present in the original Nintendo cartridge. In the end, while the game is difficult, it is not impossible, and never totally discourages the player. GRAPHICS/SOUND: A sincere attempt was made to directly translate the original NINJA GAIDEN III graphics, but the lower resolution of the Lynx screen hamper it somewhat. More subtle details are missing; at times Ryu and his adversaries look like blobs, and recognizing the different powered orbs will require some work. The scrolling is smooth, but some backgrounds are cluttered and hide objects too easily. The graphics are better in the cinematic interludes that tell the story before and during the game, though the dialogue has not improved any. The sounds suffer more. Most of the game noises come from Ryu's attacks, but they are fairly simple and indistinct, and the music during the intermissions are innocuous at best. The various background tunes have been mangled to an extreme, with the higher-pitched notes drowning out the rest; what were exciting rhythms on the Nintendo come out shrill and painful on the Lynx. They can be turned off by pressing Option 2, but the resulting near- silence feels awkward. SUMMARY: NINJA GAIDEN III is both a commendable adaptation of the original Tecmo cartridge and a rousing challenge. Though the graphics and sound are not the best on the Lynx, the solid gameplay makes up for these deficiencies, making this an intense title that action gamers should seriously consider adding to their collections. GAMEPLAY: 8.5 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 5 OVERALL: 7.5 [PAC]====================================================================== PAC-LAND 1 or 2 players, Horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 OVERVIEW: Anyone remember Hanna-Barberra's PAC-MAN cartoon from the early '80s? Yes, folks, before Nintendo's CAPTAIN N hit the airwaves, the world's most famous video game star had his own television show. The adventures of Mr., Mrs., and Junior Pac-Man failed with the Neilsons, but not before they inspired Namco's arcade PAC-LAND video game, now available for the Atari Lynx. Despite the presence of "pac-" in the name, PAC-LAND has nothing to do with mazes and dots. Rather, Pac-Man is on a mission of charity, who must take a lost fairy back to her home. So he puts her under his hat, then proceeds to run and jump across the towns, forests, hills and deserts of Pac-Land. The way is dangerous, with rickety bridges, quicksand, and deep chasms to cross, not to mention the ever-present ghosts. However, if Pac-Man looks hard enough, he can find tools, powers and secret warps to help him complete the job. GAMEPLAY: Despite the silly storyline and cute graphics, PAC-LAND is not an easy game. There are five "trips" to be completed, spread over 20 levels; you can choose which trip to start at, which lets pros skip the easy parts. Each trip consists of several levels to return the fairy, then a level of guiding Pac-Man home. Along the way, Pac-Man must dodge the ghosts, who chase him in cars, busses, airplanes, and pogo sticks. There are also swimming pools to be jumped, floating ledges to ride, and darkened houses to explore, each with their own tricks and dangers. For extra pressure, each level must be completed within a given time limit. Pac-Man is not completely helpless, naturally. If Pac-Man walks across certain areas, hidden fruit will appear, which he can eat for points. There are also energizer pellets, which enable our hero to temporarily chase the ghosts. In addition, there are goodies such as helmets, invulnerability, and warps to higher levels hidden in the game, and assorted known and unknown point bonuses to try for (can you get the 7,000-plus-point bonus at the end of each level?). While PAC-LAND is an engrossing "run and jump" game, it's not as complex as other titles in this genre. The different levels offer a bit of variety, but each level does not take long to complete. The ghosts are fairly easy to avoid with a little careful dodging; to compensate, their appearances are randomized, which prevents patterns from being developed. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on PAC-LAND are cute and cartoony, appropriately enough. Pac-Man looks friendly and animated, while the ghosts are silly and amusing. Other items are drawn with bright colors and simple designs. Finally, there is some multi-plane scrolling both behind and in front of the action; however, the positions of Pac-Man and the ghosts are always clearly shown. Game sounds are similarly simple but amusing. The background music is taken from the original cartoon show, though some people may find it irritating. Other sounds come from the ghosts on the prowl and various game actions, but are simply average. SUMMARY: PAC-LAND is a simple but challenging action game. The cute atmosphere masks lots of surprises to uncover, and the game requires attention to beat. There are a few shortcomings, but they are there because the card is accurate to the arcade original. Veteran video jumpers may breeze through this title, but for other players, a trip to PAC-LAND is worth considering. GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 7 [PAP]================================================================= PAPERBOY for 1 player by Atari Corp. $39.95 OVERVIEW: In Norman Rockwell's America, purehearted young men got their start in the financial world by delivering newspapers or selling fruit. In PAPERBOY for the Atari Lynx (an adaptation of the Atari Games/Tengen arcade title), you play such a young man, out to deliver a week's worth of papers on either Easy Street, Middle Road, or Hard Way. You start off with a bike, ten papers, and two blocks of customers. As you ride up the street, your objective is to deliver papers to your customers with a well-placed toss. Aim carefully -- breaking windows is a fast way to lose a customer. Between customers, throw papers haphazardly to destroy other people's property(!) or hit people(!!) for bonus points(!!!). At the end of the run, you can run an obstacle course and show off your bike-riding and paper-throwing prowlness. It's not all peaches and cream, though. Crashing your bike into an obstacle (incoming traffic, pedestrians, animals, etc.) will lose you a paperboy. Lose all your customers, or all your boys, and the game ends. Survive an entire week and you may actually keep your job. GAMEPLAY: A decent adaptation of the arcade game. Minute game details from the arcade original are preserved intact, such as the "hidden targets" (the catburglar, the birdbath --> periscope, etc.). Scoring and gameplay are identical enough that veterans of the original will feel right at home. There are a few nitpicky points that detract, though. For one thing, while you can slow down/speed up the bike, you cannot STOP. For another, the Lynx version seems a little bit easier than the original. Making mailbox "bullseyes", dodging obstacles, and generally staying alive are easier to do. You do get to pick three different streets of varying difficulty, though there's no way to refine the game further. One minor "cute touch" -- the Lynx version maintains a seperate high score table for each street. Get a score in the top five for the street, and you get to enter your name. No score-saving mechanism, however. GRAPHICS/SOUND: A mixed bag. Graphics are clearly distinguishable (breakdancers from drunks, trash cans from tombstones), but left me with a sense of "could have been done better". Every extra graphic nicety was counterbalanced by a weak point, leaving an overall OK graphics impression. Similary, the sounds are indifferential. The background music is a pale shadow of the original, but the other game sounds are appropriate and helpful (especially the musical riffs when you deliver a paper). The volume of the sounds vary widely, though -- you strain to hear a delivery riff and have your concentration broken by a (relatively) loud "car horn", for instance -- again leaving an overall balanced impression. SUMMARY: Not a bad game, though not one of the Lynx's best. It's not a fast-paced breakneck-speed game, so people looking for relaxation should be interested. If you can overlook average-quality graphics and sound, and did not dominate the arcade version, this is worth trying out. GAMEPLAY: 7.5 GRAPHICS: 6 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7 [PIN]====================================================================== PINBALL JAM 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: As much as I like video games and pinball, I never cared much for video pinball games. The problem is that either the playfield is an unrealistic collection of screen-sized subfields slapped together (ALIEN CRUSH, DINOLAND, DRAGON'S FURY), or the programmers put in "video features", like bosses and marble eaters (HIGH SPEED and PINBOT for the Nintendo Entertainment System). In either case, the fundamentals of pinball end up being compromised. Now Atari Corp. has released PINBALL JAM for their Lynx portable video game system. This game card contains two real Williams/Bally pinball titles, "Elvira and the Party Monsters" and "Police Force". Elvira has you shooting targets and ramps for pizzas, punch, and water rides with the campy Mistress of the Dark. "Police Force" requires you to defend the Law of the Jungle against the Drug Rat, the Loan Shark, and other animal villains. The action is viewed from directly overhead, with the screen scrolling up and down to track the ball. GAMEPLAY: PINBALL JAM consists of a lot of plusses mixed with a few minuses. The best thing is its high level of realism and adherence to the originals' rules and scoring. Game physics are convincing for the most part, down to the frustrating ramp shots that don't quite succeed, but the marble is a little more elastic than it should be. On the other hand, this is still not a total replacement for real pinball. Pressing the OPTION 1 button shakes the board, and tilts are possible, but slap saves and other complex moves are not. Still, for the time being, this is the closest that pinball purists can get in a video game system. A few other changes have been made to accomodate the transition to a video screen. The scrolling screen follows the ball, so aiming for targets at the top of the playfield becomes harder. During multiball, the lower ball is shown and an arrow points to the location of the other. Free game specials are now extra balls, and end-of-game matches are gone. Each pinball can be played in easy or hard mode; "easy" gives five balls per game, while "hard" offers three balls and clears all lit targets after a drain. Only one player can play at a time, but a high score table tracks the top three scores for each machine. Of the two titles, Elvira is a tougher challenge and requires good playing to get high scores. Police Force is suited for beginners, and offers many easy chances to get high scores. One minor risk is that players who are unfamilliar with the originals will start off handicapped. The manual documents shots and target combinations, but nowhere are they labelled or illustrated. As a result, new players have to discover where the Pizza Passage, the Hot Sheet, and other targets are before they can play effectively. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Graphically, PINBALL JAM literally tries to duplicate the look of the arcade. The screen closely resembles the real games, containing everything from playfield art and flashing arrows to transparent slides and wire ramps. The effect isn't perfect, however, and the limits of the Lynx screen display are clear. Some areas are colored too brightly, and some other spots are too cluttered. The screen scrolls well most of the time, but when the balls get extremely fast, the scrolling becomes somewhat jumpy in order to keep pace. The primary game sounds come from computerized approximations of bumpers, flippers, and other obstacles at work, which are okay by themselves. Each pin also has a selection of digitized voices from the arcade, though they are slightly scratchy and rearranged a little with the original game actions. The best sounds, though, are the number of background tunes play throughout, setting the pace and keeping things lively. SUMMARY: PINBALL JAM is a fun game, though it cannot satisfy the die-hards who want the complete pinball experience. But for those of us who can accept some minor compromises for realistic pinball action on the go, this card is a perfect way to spend many spare hours. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 8.5 OVERALL: 8 [PIT]======================================================================== PIT-FIGHTER 1-2 playes, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $37.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: It is a sport not covered by any network, not sponsored by any groups, not sanctioned by any leagues. It is pit-fighting, played in dark basements and seedy barrooms, where bloodthirsty crowds watch and wager on total strangers in no-holds-barred combat. Now, you stand, ready to start your career in this brutal contest; can you show your superiority in the face of overwhelming odds, or will you be crushed beneath the heels of your opponents? For those not in the know, PIT-FIGHER for the Lynx is an adaptation of the Atari Games arcade title. As Buzz the wrestler, Ty the kickboxer, or Kato the karate expert, one or two players battle through twelve stages, earing big bucks for defeating your opponents. Use your unarmed skills to kick and punch to the top, or pick up barrels, knives, and other weapons for an extra assist. GAMEPLAY: PIT-FIGHTER is reportedly the first four megabit (512K) Lynx game card ever made. Frankly, I don't see it; there is nothing to justify it over other Lynx games already on the market. It's not that the game is unplayable; rather, this is a fairly accurate adaptation of the original, and unfortunately includes the same flaws as the source. Fighting is fairly repetitive, and requires little of the strategy found in the various street fighting games currently in vogue. Responses to actions are a little slow, leaving you vulnerable in the fast pace of the fight. The different fighters each have their own speeds and fighting abilities, but the opponents all attack with the same tactic -- rush in and pound you without pause. The joypad and buttons are used in combinations to perform assorted moves, but a lot of progress can be made by simply kicking repeatedly. In short, the game soon becomes a mildly annoying exercise in fast button pressing, and only fans of the original will have enough interest to return for more. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The sights on PIT-FIGHTER are a mixed bag. Most of the digitized graphics of the arcade have been translated rather well; colors are used well, and the sprites and images are reasonably clean and attractive. On the downside, animation is jumpy and simple. Scaling is used at a minimum, but is nothing spectacular or worth noting. Game sounds, on the other hand, are universally bland. Actual fighting effects are an assortment of some plain and uninspired thuds and punches. Several fast-paced hard rock music loops provide background music throughout the game. They repeat quickly, and can prove irritating after a while. It is possible to turn them off before the game starts, but then the game is eerily silent. SUMMARY: PIT-FIGHTER for the Lynx, while not a horrid game, does not offer much to recommend it, either. Die-hard fans of the original will be content with this portable version, but for most players, the appeal of this title will not be so clear-cut. GAMEPLAY: 5 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 4 OVERALL: 5 [POW]======================================================================== POWER FACTOR 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: POWER FACTOR for the Atari Lynx puts a new plot on the traditional side-scrolling action game. In a virtual reality chamber on a leisure moon arcade, you play the heroic Redd Ace and try to duplicate his historic victory over the Sinledo Techmods' invasion. You run, jump, and shoot through 11 side-scrolling levels of the enemy base, looking for six parts of a bomb to destroy it all. You start with three lives, a flight pack, and a Very Large Gun. Items scattered through the game enhance your weapon, give extra lives, and add fuel to your pack. A statistics screen summarizes your mission progress, and computer terminals in the base provide maps, object locations, clues and information. There are no continues, so losing means a long wait in line before you can try the simulator again. GAMEPLAY: Take away the slightly novel storyline, and POWER FACTOR comes off as a fairly simple, fast-paced action game. Basic strategy is to grab all the items on a level, find the exit, and shoot everything you can. The game is very linear, consisting of surviving a level, defeating the end boss, and going to the next. However, there are some subtle touches of sophistication. You can't win without finding all six parts of the bomb, and some of the weapons you find are better suited for specific obstacles. There are three difficulty levels, though even the easiest level is a decent challenge. At its core, this is a fun, if not particular original, action contest. The only real hitch comes in the controls. In an attempt to give the player a lot of options, the control pad is overloaded with functions. For example, pressing left and right moves Redd, while tapping left and right selects weapons. This makes weapon selection difficult in tight situations, small movements tricky, and detracts from otherwise seamless controls. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on POWER FACTOR are highly detailed, with a touch of whimsy. Redd Ace and the Sinledo aliens are drawn with a cartoonish look, making the station's deathtraps, backgrounds, and other items appear soberly realistic by comparison. Scrolling and animation is particularly fast and smooth. Sound effects are also nice, but not as diverse as the graphics; sounds consist mostly of explosions and firearms of all sorts, mixed with other minor effects. There's also a very nice piece of rock music, but for some reason it only plays after the game ends. SUMMARY: POWER FACTOR tries to become a slick, action-packed run-jump-shoot game, and almost succeeds. The controls are a minor irritant, though the action, sights, and sounds almost make up for it. For the player looking for cheap thrills who can handle one flaw in an otherwise fine package, this is a decent title. GAMEPLAY: 6.5 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 7.5 OVERALL: 7 [QIX]======================================================================== QIX 1-2 players, horizontal game Telegames, Inc. $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Telegames, the first developer of third-party Lynx games, strikes the market again with QIX. This is an adaptation of the Taito arcade game from the early 80s, named after the Qix, a swirling helix of colored lines. The player's goal is to draw boxes on the playing field, restricting the movement of the Qix, while avoiding contact with the Sparx, Fuse, and the Qix itself. Each level has a percentage threshold, and the level ends when you have claimed the limit, with bonuses rewarded to extra territory. Higher levels offer more Qixes, Fuses, and Super Sparx to outsmart. GAMEPLAY: The original QIX was a simple game by today's standards, so it is not surprising to find that the Lynx version plays exactly the same. The Qix dances around the field, and you lose a life if it touches your drawing lines. Points are awarded for drawing boxes, with more points given for daring to draw slowly. There are 256 levels, each with its own combination of game elements, and a password to avoid the earlier levels. Two players can compete by alternating turns, while built-in instructions and a Practice Mode help beginners learn the game. There are a few problems, however. The arcade game used separate buttons for slow and fast drawing, but this version uses only one, which is awkward. More annoying are the sensitive controls; a wayward diagonal can cause the marker to jam, leaving you vulnerable. Finally, the Qix is proportionally larger on the Lynx, making the game slightly harder. None of these flaws are crippling, but they do diminish the game. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The simple graphics of the Taito QIX have been renovated slightly for the Lynx. Each level uses a different pattern to fill in claimed space, and the other visuals have been duplicated here. Sound effects are fairly simple, consisting mainly of the buzzing of the Qix and two short tunes, though the title page uses a nice, short digitized rock riff. SUMMARY: QIX on the Lynx is a steady translation, offering no more and no less than the original. Whether it will appeal to today's players is questionable, but longtime devotees and people who like unusual games will probably enjoy this title. GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 6.5 OVERALL: 7 [RAM]======================================================================= RAMPAGE 1-4 players, horizontal game for the Atari Lynx $34.95 OVERVIEW: "Better living through chemistry"? Not for four employees at MegaVitamin Pharmaceuticals, who -- through a mixup in the company cafeteria -- ingested a contaminated sample of Megavitamins. Within 24 hours, Larry, George, Ralph, and Lizzie had transmorgrified into giant animals, wrecking havoc and major property damage throughout the United States. Worse, a rumor is now around that an unnamed lab technician can develop an antidote for the disease, but is hiding this information to extract extortion from the government... RAMPAGE for the Atari Lynx is a conversion of the Bally/Midway game from a few years back. You play one of four monsters (one more than the original), who travel from city to city, smashing skyscrapers, pounding cars, breaking bridges, and eating fruits/humans/vegetables/humans/meat/HUMANS. You and your friends can collectively wreck havoc, or clobber each other, depending on your inclination. As you jump and climb your way through the city, the screen scrolls to show you the action immediately around your monster. Along the way, you encounter the evil forces of the United States Army, who throw soldiers, tanks, helicopters, and bombs at your 60-foot-tall self. You can smash them, too, but they are many and you are few, so you've got to keep yourself alive while tearing the town apart. Destroy all the buildings in a city and you move to the next, thus effectively roaming the country. If you survive long enough, you may be able to find the mysterious lab technician who can restore you to your former self. GAMEPLAY: This game is fun. Aside from the sheer silliness of the concept, RAMPAGE is very easy to play, with uncomplicated controls, simple rules, and a sense of difficulty that feels right. There is a lot of stuff to eat and destroy, such as passing trolleys, damsels in distress, neon signs, bridges, and cars. The Army will be able to wear you down through sheer numbers, but if you play it safe and snatch all the food you can get, you'll be able to hold out for a while. If you're lucky, you can find and drink potions, which will render you invulnerable (and invisible to other players) for one level. Players familliar with the arcade game will be glad to know that the Lynx version is very close to the original, and offers more. After your monster loses all its health, it turns back to human and slinks out of the picture -- until you activate another life. Run out of lives, and you're out of the game. If you're playing with friends, you can continue the game with a new life indefinetely -- until you get past level 40. After that, all deaths are final. Your monstrous abilities to destroy are all translated intact, and the levels, though presented on a scrolling screen, are about the same size as the arcade. Unlike the original, though, there seems to be no difference in the abilities of the different monsters. Watch out for crumbling buildings, and don't jump too hard on the bridges. If you survive long enough, you will ultimately find a lab scientist who can cook up an antidote to revert you to normal. Though I can't confirm it, I think this will take _quite_ a while to accomplish. The scientist is rumored to be in Sunnyvale, and level 40 doesn't even take you halfway around the country; you start in the state of Washington, and it seems like you travel counterclockwise throughout the United States. Level 40 only gets you to Tennesee. I hear that this game offers around 100+ levels (the manual doesn't say), and it seems quite possible. As mentioned before, the action takes place on a scrolling screen, so it's possible to be attacked by someone you can't see. This doesn't matter, though, as the game, overall, is slightly easier than the original. It's not a breeze, though, as you will eventually get worn down by a lack of food and an abundance of military might (the lack of continues past level 40 doesn't help, either). A side note: Normally, I don't discuss manuals in these reviews, but this time I'm making an exception. There's a lot of things that you can do in this game, but are breezed over or completely ignored by the manual. For instance, you can grab a dynamite pack and hurl it away before it explodes. Or grab and HOLD ON to a civilian for points. I don't know whether the omissions were intentional or not, but it's a good idea to TRY EVERYTHING -- you may turn up a surprise or two. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The game graphics in RAMPAGE are similar, but not identical to, the arcade original. There's nothing wrong with that; game elements are clearly recognizable, and rendered in the same cartoony, tongue-in-cheek mentality that arcade fans will recognize. Especially delightful are the little "cute touches". Punch an electrical applicance and get shocked, eat an undigestible object and cough up, swallow some dynamite and breathe fire -- there's a lot of visual humor in this game. Between cities, the newspaper headlines present the city, the level, and offers bad jokes (there's monster humor, cow puns, and subliminal ads for Atari, to name a few). The sounds in this game are appropriate, but not special. Sound effects match the game action, as it should. During the game, bouncy/cheery background music plays, sounding similar to the tunes found in CHIP'S CHALLENGE. Fortunately, if it bothers you (I think it's for the wrong game, myself), you can turn the tunes off and keep the sound F/X. SUMMARY: RAMPAGE for the Lynx reminds me of XENOPHOBE for the Lynx: A lighthearted, silly game that's lots of fun for lots of players (the more the merrier). Though it's not hard to play, I feel that there's going to be lots of hours invested in this card before someone finishes it. If you like the arcade original, like multiplayer cooperative/competitive games, or are looking for a casually-paced challenge, RAMPAGE is the way to go. GAMEPLAY: 9.5 GRAPHICS: 8.5 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 9 [RAP]========================================================================= RAMPART 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $29.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Longtime players fondly remember the Golden Age of video games, where flashy graphics and sound didn't matter as much as a solid idea backed with good gameplay. Even though most of today's games fall into recycled formulas, every now and then there's a title that gets attention simply for daring to be different. Such is the case with RAMPART, an adaptation of the Atari Games' arcade machine. The player is the warlord of an enclosed castle; cannons are placed behind the walls and used to repel enemy attacks. After each battle, holes in the wall must be patched with Tetris-like pieces before the next attack, else the game ends. One player can compete against a computer-controlled navy through eight levels, or two players can fight each other, with or without the computer. GAMEPLAY: Lynx RAMPART is a near-complete copy of the original. The Lynx controls are a respectable substitute for the arcade's trackball. In a one-player game, a level ends after enduring a number of attacks, and survival is the final goal. Against the computer, the difficulty starts off moderate and builds gradually, with higher stages having more ships and stranger-shaped wall pieces. A two-player game ends when one player loses, and all games have a limited number of continues. There is one difference that devoted fans will notice: On the Lynx, all ships can drop off ground forces, which makes defending your shoreline very important. This change makes the game more difficult, but not unplayable. GRAPHICS/SOUND: RAMPART in the arcade used simple but uninspired graphics, which the Lynx duplicates exactly. To compensate, this version also shows a number of elegant animated and still images between breaks in the action. There are not too many sounds, but the ones present are well done, with explosions, musical themes and dirges, and digitized voices. SUMMARY: RAMPART on the Lynx is a good adaptation, and is a welcome change from today's recycled arcade themes. For those who've never tried this unusual game, its original blend of action and strategy can be quite addictive, and is well recommended. GAMEPLAY: 8.5 GRAPHICS: 9.5 SOUND: 9 OVERALL: 8.5 [ROA]====================================================================== ROADBLASTERS for one player by Atari Corp. for the Atari Lynx $39.95 OVEVIEW: We don't really need a storyline for this game, and the one that comes with the manual is a bit on the cheesy side, so let's skip it. ROADBLASTERS is an adaptation of the arcade hit by Atari Games/Tengen, which also had the dubious distinction of being one of the earliest video game/toy tie-ins (Play the game, buy the Matchbox cars). People who are familliar with the arcade game can skip the next two paragraphs; this Lynx adaptation has it *ALL*. The game, in a nutshell, is SPY HUNTER crossed with POLE POSITION, thrown into the 21st century. This is a concept that long-time Los Angeles residents (like myself) will appreciate: You drive a high-performance sports car through 50 crowded, twisting races. Other cars in your path are out to stop your commute, so either pass 'em or shoot 'em. Complicating the matter are third-party obstacles: roadside obstacles and cannons, immobile mines in the road, and roving spikers. Contact with any obstacle destroys your car. To be fair, you have a few tricks on your side. Your only major concern in this game is fuel -- run out of gas, and the game ends. There is no time limit, and collisions are only annoying because they slow you down. Furthermore, at various points in the race, a jet will fly by and air-drop "power-ups" for your car. These range from the high-speed Nitro injector to the all-destructive Cruise Missile (my favorite). GAMEPLAY: As I wrote above, people familliar with the arcade game will be right at home with this one. Just like the Lynx version of KLAX, this adaptation features *ALL* of the gameplay from the arcade, intact. Indestructable blue limos, high-turbine motorcyclists, level warps, power-up weapons, the bonus multiplier...The only things missing from the arcade to this card are the coin slots, the high score table, and the free T-shirt contest. If you lose a run, you can continue (up to four times) if you want. The game is really fast and challenging, and it's hard to find anything wrong with the game. The game promises to be a no-holds-barred, high-speed, action-packed thriller, and it delivers. My only gripe comes with the controls; as with most home video driving games, steering with a joypad/joystick is not as accurate as using a steering wheel/control yolk. This is doubly annoying in ROADBLASTERS, because you need precision steering to both dodge obstacles and shoot well. With a little bit of practice, though, you will get used to the controls, and *REALLY* enjoy the game. GRAPHICS/SOUND: One reason this Lynx adaptation is so close to the arcade comes from the audios and visuals. Visually, everything looks either identical or VERY close to their arcade counterparts. The graphics are well-detailed, distinctive, and very colorful. The Lynx's graphics hardware are put to great use -- the smooth scaling and fast scrolling work together to make this one of the slickest, fastest, and most exciting driving games for ANY home video game system currently available. This game shows off the Lynx at its best. Sounds are, similarly, a little short of perfection when compared to the arcade. The opening title tune, digitized voices, and game sounds are all from the arcade (I love the whine of the motorcycles when you pass them). However, the digitized voices have a bit of static to them (especially dissappointing when you realize how clean the voices on KLAX are), and the music is louder than the rest of the sounds, causing an annoying imbalance as you play. All in all, though, the game sounds fit the game accurately. SUMMARY: This is a mind-blowing *AWESOME* adaptation. I'd recommend it to most video-game players -- fans of driving games, fans of shooting games, fans of action games, and fans of the arcade original. It's a challenging, well-balanced arcade/action game, faithful to the original, worthy of the Lynx and offering lots of hours of fun. This goes right up there with BLUE LIGHTNING as one of the best Lynx games around. Grab yourself a copy, but don't be surprised if they dissappear FAST. GAMEPLAY: 9.5 GRAPHICS: 9.0 SOUND: 8.5 OVERALL: 9.0 [ROB]========================================================================= ROBO-SQUASH for 1 or 2 players by Atari Games $34.95 OVERVIEW: It's the 31st century, and after 200 years of peace, there is a conflict. The two political parties of the universe are arguing over a successor to the recently-deceased President of the World. Instead of settling the dispute through barbaric warfare or elections, both parties have sent a representative to play the zero-gravity game of Robo-Squash. The winning player will win the Presidency for his party. Guss what? You're one of the players. The Robo-Squash game consists of 16 rounds. For each round, you sit at one end of a zero-gravity corridor. At the other end is your opponent, and in the middle are spinning bricks and some icons. A ball is batted back and forth between the players, picking up speed and knocking out obstacles as it goes. A round ends when one player fails to return the ball three times, or one player hits the roving mecha-spider that appears when all obstacles are knocked out. The game is complicated by a few twists: First, missing a ball leaves a big red splotch on your end of the arena. This is more than a nuisance, it blocks your view of the ball and makes it harder to see incoming shots. Second, hitting the icons in the middle of the arena gives you (if you can catch it) power-ups: a ball grabber, a larger paddle, a fireball launcher, or a ball spotter are available. Before each of the 16 rounds, a player picks a ball in a 4-by-4 grid to play for. Winning a round wins the ball for the player, and at the end of all the rounds, bonuses are awarded for getting grid entries in 2, 3, or 4-in-a-rows. GAMEPLAY: ROBO-SQUASH is a nice, well-balanced "sports game" (okay, sport-like). The general concept reminds me of PONG, BREAKOUT, SHUFFLEPUCK CAFE, and ARKANOID. The game and controls are easy enough to learn, and the addition of power-ups, vision-blocking, and fighting for grid positions make it more interesting. The game has four difficulty levels, which affect the top speed the ball can get and the intellect of the coputer opponent. ROBO-SQUASH can be played either against the computer or another player. The computer opponent is good, but not unbeatable -- like video tennis games, alternating volleys to extreme ends of the arena can trip it up. Human opponents, though, are another matter; use strategic shots (to set up vision-blocking splotches) or fireballs (exploding bricks obscure the view temporarily) to distract your opponent. One minor annoyance: You can angle the return of the ball by hitting it on the edge of the padde OPPOSITE from where you want to go (make it go down by hitting it with the top edge, for instance). Once you understand it, ball control is easy -- but until then, it's a mystery. The manual is of little help here. GRAPHICS/GAMEPLAY: From an original name of "3D Barrage", ROBO-SQUASH makes good use of the Lynx's scaing capabilites. The 3D effects of the game are very well done; the ball's size changes and the use of two ball shadows make it clear where the ball is, and the obscuring blotches are a neat idea. The rest of the graphics are functional, though the power-up icons are a bit cute (a dragon's head for the fireball launcher, for instance). Sounds are passable but not notworthy, repeating the trend in PAPERBOY and XENOPHOBE. The actual gameplay is mostly silent, with only the sound of the bouncing ball and smashed bricks punctuating. The only real music comes in the opening title tune, and while it's nice, it's not enough. SUMMARY: A good, slightly above-average game. Playing it by yourself is fine, since the difficulty levels let you tune the computer to your skills. I suspect, though, that playing it with another person would be more fun. Best for players who are looking for a sports-type game for the Lynx (at least until TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL comes out). GAMEPLAY: 7 to 8 (depending on difficulty/number of players) GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7 [ROO]====================================================================== ROBOTRON: 2084 1 player, horizontal game Shadowsoft Inc. $34.95 Stereo? Yes OVERVIEW: Shadowsoft, a newcomer to the Lynx development scene, takes video gamers back in time with their first release. The destination is 1984, where Williams Electronics' ROBOTRON: 2084 is taking arcades by storm. In a plot reminescent of the movie Terminator, you play a laser-firing mutant who must save the last humans of Earth from extermination by the mechanical Robotrons. Destroy all the Robotrons, and you travel to the next stage, with even more dangers. GAMEPLAY: Williams' video games were respected as true challenges, with no mercy for the weak, and Shadowsoft's version is no exception. ROBOTRON on the Lynx is just as fast and tough, with absolutely nothing missing nor abridged. The action is viewed from overhead, and you must navagate around each level, saving humans while keeping yourself alive. The difficulty can be set to one of five levels, though even the easiest is a challenge. Anyone familliar with the original ROBOTRON will know that the controls will present a problem. In the arcade, two joysticks were used, allowing you to move and fire independently. In response, Shadowsoft has provided three different control schemes, using different methods of aiming and firing. This is an acceptable substitute, and each player will find a setting that works for himself. GRAPHICS/SOUND: ROBOTRON's faithfulness goes down to the smallest detail, as the sights and sounds of the arcade machine are duplicated exactly. Game elements are distinctive enough, though their may be some confusion in the heat of the battle. All other visuals are copied as well, right down to the storytelling attract mode. Similarly, the sounds of the original have been rendered exactly, down to the last zap and explosion. Most of the game is played in mono, though the moody title tune and the effect when you die are done in a subtle stereo. SUMMARY: ROBOTRON on the Lynx loses none of the intensity of the classic title. Though the controls are a minor sticking point, they can be worked with, leaving this a game of intense non-stop shooting action. If Shadowsoft's future works are as good as this, Lynx owners are in for a lot of fun. GAMEPLAY: 8.5 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 8.5 OVERALL: 8.5 [RYG]======================================================================= RYGAR by Atari Corp. for 1 player, horizontal game $39.95 OVERVIEW: It has been over 10,000 years since the demonic hordes of the underworld drove our people away from the fertle farmlands and forced us into hiding on the desolate slopes. Now, however, the predictions of the ancient sages has come true. You are Rygar the Reclaimer, born of the mystic birthmark, who has the power and the skill to weild the warrior's shield, destroy the demons, and bring our people home. Okay, so the storyline is nothing original. RYGAR for the Lynx is an adaptation of the Tecmo arcade game, where you play the barbarian hero out to battle monsters and beasts across the land. You run from left to right across a scrolling screen, fighting monsters and grabbing artifacts along the way. Your weapon is your armored shield, which, when thrown at the monsters, returns to your hand. If there are too many creatures to be destroyed, you can stun them for a few seconds by jumping on them. The artifacts you find along the way will either give you additional points or extra fighting powers. You must be careful in your travels, however. Touching a non-stunned creature, or falling off the path, spells instant death for Rygar. Run out of lives, and the game ends. You face opponents such as headless zombies, flying griffons, and giant rolling worms across 23 levels. Clear all the levels, and you will return peace to the land. GAMEPLAY: Okay, how's it play? As an arcade adaptation, RYGAR is almost -- but not completely -- identical to the arcade version. Veterans of the original will notice a few differences in the gameplay. For instance, you can't throw your shield in a protective arc, and throwing the shield upwards is possible only if you have a "star" artifact. There are other minor differences as well, but this is an adequate adaptation for the most part. On the plus side, the controls are easy to use, and the game difficulty is not set too high. The game is mostly patternized, with a few random elements in terms of what artifacts appear. You start off with three lives, and get extra Rygars at certain point intervals (the first three are at 50,000, 100,000, and 175,000 points). When you die, there is no "continue" feature, and no "skip levels" feature, so this is largely an endurance contest. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on RYGAR are identical to the arcade version. Both Rygar and the demons are clearly distinctive, detailed, and animated identically to the arcade. The landscape is done in two-level multilayered scrolling, with nice details and some background animation. While it's not MICKEY MOUSE AND THE CASTLE OF ILLUSION, it is sufficently well done. Sounds are a bit weaker, however. The game effects are appropriate and adequate, though the bells that signal the presence/taking of artifacts can get irritating. The background music is reminescent of the arcade tunes -- a low rythmic drum beat during gameplay and a musical interlude between levels -- but suffers from either being too low-volumed or too high-pitched. Fortunately, you can turn off the music by pressing Option 2 before starting the game. SUMMARY: RYGAR for the Lynx is a "typical" game, neither extremely outstanding nor truly dissappointing. While fans of the arcade game will find slight differences, it's close enough to be familliar (especially since the only other adaptation was a vastly different game for the Nintendo). Though there are only 23 levels, the lack of a level skip and game continues means this is an average-difficulty endurance contest which will take some time to finish. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 8.5 SOUND: 6.5 OVERALL: 7.5 [STU]========================================================================= S.T.U.N. RUNNER 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Take the New York subway system, throw in a hovercraft cruising at 900 MPH, and you have S.T.U.N. RUNNER, the latest Atari Games' arcade sensation adapted for the Lynx. The game starts off simple enough: just drive your S.T.U.N. sled up, down, and around a twisting course of tunnels and walkways, trying to finish it in the brief amount of time given. Complicating the matter are the other cars in the passages, trying to ram and slow you down, as well as passing jets trying to bomb your craft. While firing back, you must keep an eye on the track, for reckless driving will slow you down, which can cost you the race. There are over 20 levels, each with its own variety of twists, branches, jumps, and obstacles. GAMEPLAY: S.T.U.N. RUNNER on the Lynx is both a thrilling action game and another shining translation. In terms of action, the gameplay is fast and furious, requiring you to negotiate the twisting track, deal with opponents, and go for bonuses all at the same time. Enemies may be dodged or destroyed, though you can unleash a road-clearing Shockwave if things get too thick. The only time you really get to relax is while examining the map between races. As a conversion, S.T.U.N. RUNNER offers all of the game features found in the original. Each of the arcade courses have been faithfully duplicated, with the same combination of narrow tunnels, jump ramps, and other track features. Similarly, the opposing vehicles are as varied and tenacious as ever, blocking your path in the most annoying ways. Finally, challenge stages are scatted throughout the game for extra points. There are a few imperfections, but they are very minor. The steering controls are a little sensitive, and beginning players will tend to oversteer. The problem is not critical, however, and players will adapt to them in a short time. The Lynx version is also harder than the arcade game: turning improperly into a curve will slow down your craft significantly. Coupled with the tight time limits on each track, this can cost you the race. GRAPHICS/SOUND: S.T.U.N. RUNNER on the Lynx exploits the graphics engine completely. While the original game drew everything with filled polygons, this version duplicates it with scaled sprites. The end result is not as refined, but the action is incredibly fast -- you really get the sensation of flying at supersonic speeds. Distinctive-looking enemies, sharp backgrounds, and intermissions round out the sensational effects. Sounds are also very good, with a constant barrage of blasts, screeches, and explosions pulling you into the action. Even better, sound effects and voices are digitized from the original game, giving strategies, tips, and encouragement throughout. SUMMARY: This game is a high-quality production from beginning to end, retaining all of the action, thrills, and speed of the original game. The Lynx's abilities are exploited to the fullest, making this version of S.T.U.N. RUNNER a fully-loaded action extravaganza and the best adaptation now available for any machine. GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 9.5 SOUND: 9 OVERALL: 9 [SCR]======================================================================= SCRAPYARD DOG 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 OVERVIEW: Louie is back for the first time. No, that's not a contradiction; the big-nosed junkman from the Atari 7800 game SCRAPYARD DOG returns in this new adaptation for the Atari Lynx. As before, Louie's pet dog Scraps has been kidnapped by Mr. Big, and it's up to him to rescue his pet pal by running, ducking, and jumping through 24 stages. Along the way, Louie will face Mr. Big's animal gangsters, such as rat mobsters and rock-dropping birds. He can fight back by lobbing tin cans, or try to sidestep the problem all together. He can also find money, play in hidden bonus sequences, and go shopping. However, a timer counts down each level, so Louie can't dawndle too long. GAMEPLAY: SCRAPYARD DOG offers solid game action in an easy-to-learn package. The controls are simple and logical, and Louie himself responds sharply to your moves. The action takes place on a side view, horizontally scrolling playfield, though some scenes scroll vertically as well. Game dangers are clearly visible, which prevents you from getting killed by a blindsided attack. Players comfortable with Bonk or Mario will be right at home with Louie. Though the mechanics are very familiar, SCRAPYARD DOG keeps things intersting by good use of variety throughout the game. The trip starts off at the scrapyard, but winds through, above, and below the rest of the town. With vehicles to drive, places to explore, and villians to foil, the player is kept pretty busy. Things never get too hectic, though, and overall the game runs at a leisurely clip. As with other games in this genre, there are very few random elements, so patterns can be developed over time. The most interesting parts of the game are the numerous secret bonuses and diversions. There are stores along the path where Louie can buy useful items, such as weapons or protection. Also, hidden throughout the landscape are various bonus scenes. For instance, by hopping on the right keys of a giant organ, or winning a shell game, Louie can pick up more money and benefits. There are also other bonuses, both hidden and overt, sprinkled throughout the game for the player to find. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics in SCRAPYARD DOG are simple and entertaining. Game elements are easily identifiable and drawn in primary colors with a minimum of detail. There are also extra touches that add to the fun, such as an animated opening cartoon, and Mr. Big's taunting notes throughout the game. Sounds are pretty basic, offering appropriate but generic noises with a musical tune thrown in. SUMMARY: Despite the cute graphics and the simple plot, this title offers good clean fun for players of all ages. The numerous hidden surprises and the variety throughout only add to the game's appeal, making SCRAPYARD DOG a well-recommended title. GAMEPLAY: 8.5 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 8.5 [SHA]====================================================================== SHADOW OF THE BEAST 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: The Beast is back! SHADOW OF THE BEAST for the Lynx is -- no surprise -- a conversion of the popular Psygnosis computer game. You play an inhuman demon, stripped of your human identity by the dreaded Beast Lord, and who has just now learned of your lost heritage. Now driven by rage and revenge, you must run, jump, and fight through a number of multidirectional scrolling stages to destroy the fiend and rest your soul. Along the way, you will unravel puzzles and hunt for tools and weapons, but an army of minions and many traps stand in your way. GAMEPLAY: The original version of BEAST was notorious for being incredibly difficult, and this version is just as hard; it is one of the toughest Lynx games you can buy today. You have only one life, and your lifeblood is quickly whittled away by relentless attacks and sheer drops. The game offers three continues, but there is no way to save a game or to skip earlier stages. The game is immensely large, with dozens and dozens of places to explore, and players are advised to allocate lots of free time for this title. Simple controls allow you to jump, attack, and select weapons, though you cannot instantly change directions. What elevates SHADOW OF THE BEAST from being another rehash of DONKEY KONG is its adventuring aspects. While there are platforms to jump and enemies to destroy, blindly going forward will get you nowhere. Instead, the only way to make progress is to thoroughly explore each area. The adventuring aspects of this game are simple and very linear. Each problem has one path to the proper solution, and deviations from that are harder or simply impossible. Also, some areas require prior knowledge, which you can get only by experience from earlier games. To be fair, this game pulls no sudden surprises; when you die, for instance, you know exactly what mistakes led to your demise. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on BEAST are some of the best ever seen on a Lynx. Fantastic use of color and detail makes for realistic characters and backgrounds, topped off with fine, multilayered parallex scrolling. Your on-screen personna runs, turns, and jumps with fluid, lifelike animation, and many of the game's antagonists are equally well done. The game sounds are slightly above average, though they do not come too often. Much better, though, are the many background tunes running throughout the game, all of which are terrific, atmospheric, and haunting. You can press Option 2 to turn them off, but you won't want to... SUMMARY: SHADOW OF THE BEAST hits the Lynx without losing any of the relentless challenge from the original. It is an audio-video feast, but the game's high difficulty level and gameplay may turn off some players. Still, if you relish a serious, take-no-prisoners video game, this title is just the ticket. GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 8.5 OVERALL: 7.5 [SHN]======================================================================== SHANGHAI 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp. for the Atari Lynx $39.95 OVERVIEW: In 1986, before TETRIS, a company called Activision (now known also as Mediagenic) took the ageless Chinese game of Mah Jongg and twisted it into a computer puzzle challenge for the 20th century. This game became an instant hit, largely due to its simplicity: Players remove matching pairs of tiles from an organized heap, trying to remove as many tiles as possible. Now the game returns, in color, portable, and expanded, on the Atari Lynx. As in the original SHANGHAI, you are presented with 144 Mah Jongg tiles arranged in an organized, three-dimensional heap. By selecting matching pairs of "free" tiles (tiles not blocked by other tiles to the left or right), you whittle down the pile, and ultimately -- if your strategy is wise -- clear the heap. The Lynx version is expanded from the original with alternate board sets and two-player options, while retaining all the features of the original. GAMEPLAY: SHANGHAI is like TETRIS, KLAX, or a Rubik's Cube: it looks so easy to solve, but actually beating the challenge is another matter. Players who are familliar with SHANGHAI elsewhere will have no problem with the Lynx version, as the original gameplay has been kept completely intact. You move an arrow around the screen with the joypad, pressing the "A" button to select tiles, and the "B" button to deselect them. During the game, pressing Option 1 will provide you with extra features -- previous best scores for this board, changing the way tiles are displayed, restarting the game, or a starting-tile hint. Scoring is done by both the number of tiles you have removed, as well as the amount of time you take to finish the game (an on-screen clock is provided). As mentioned before, the Lynx version has been expanded from the original. Before the game starts, you can choose to play on one of seven tile configurations: Dragon (the original), Hawk, Butterfly, Fish, Bear, Spider, and Turtle. With two Lynxes ComLynxed, you can play either Alternating Competitive, Simultaneous Competitive, or Cooperative. The game even offers built-in instructions, for on-the-spot teaching. A special word goes out to the instruction manual. In this age of short and sparse game instructions, the SHANGHAI manual goes beyond the call of duty, presenting not only the fundamentals of gameplay, but some historical background into the Chinese Mah Jongg game, the origin of the tile symbols, and some very helpful strategies. There's even a slightly-silly storyline, for people who must have a tale for everything. GRAPHICS/SOUND: One major reason why SHANGHAI on the Lynx is so playable are the graphics. All of the tiles are clearly recognizable at all times, both in their symbols and their height on the board. Tiles can be displayed either as a number and a symbol (e.g., a "3" and a bamboo), or as the actual Mah Jongg tile image (e.g., three bamboo sticks). To further help identify the tiles, a magnified picture of the tile under your pointer is displayed (if the tile is "free" for removal), thus eliminating all ambiguity. Other game graphics are equally functional without being intrusive. Sounds are not really needed for this game, but the Lynx version provides them anyway. Tiles are selected with a resounding click, and a buzzer alerts you when you have made an illegal move. Option 2 selects from one of four background tunes, as well as total silence. SUMMARY: This is an excellent version of SHANGHAI, preserving all of the charm of the original game while throwing in enough twists to make it stand on its own. For fans of the original who want to play on the go, and for players interested in an engrossing, always-challenging puzzle for the Lynx, SHANGHAI is recommended without any reservations. GAMEPLAY: 10 GRAPHICS: 10 SOUND: 9 OVERALL: 10 [STE]================================================================= STEEL TALONS 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Once again, the Lynx dares to go where other portable game systems fear to tread, with an adaptation of STEEL TALONS, the arcade helicopter flight simulator. Your objective is to fly a military chopper through twelve filled- polygon missions, blowing away enemy armaments and camps while staying alive. Each of your four helicopters can take a small number of hits, and the battle computer and instruments provide lots of information, but in the end it takes skill and strategy to win. Are you up to the challenge? GAMEPLAY: Confession time -- when I heard that STEEL TALONS was being adapted for the Lynx, I shuddered in fear. After all, the last attempt at a polygon simulator was the very disappointing HARD DRIVIN'. If the Lynx couldn't handle a car, how much worse would a helicopter simulation be? Surprise! STEEL TALONS is a LOT of fun to play, and represents the cutting edge of Lynx software technology. John Sanderson and NuFX have learned a lot from their earlier effort, and this title is to be commended. Three features from the arcade game have been removed from the Lynx: The ability to play two players simultaneously, the use of fuel limits, and the option to completely simulate an Apache helicopter's control set (the arcade default used simplified controls to make flying easier). Otherwise, everything else is preserved. You have control of your speed, altitude, and heading, and instruments show everything from structural integrity to ammo remaining to the location of you and your targets. The game can be seen either from behind your chopper, or from the cockpit for double points. The instruction manual is a little sparse on details, leaving players more about the game to discover. The steering yolk, pedals, and stick of the original STEEL TALONS have been streamlined; all of the Lynx's buttons are used, alone and combined, to give you total control. Learning the scheme takes about ten minutes, but it's a worthy investment. Unlike HARD DRIVIN', everything is properly responsive and the controls are reasonable. One quirk that may confuse some players is that "flight" controls are not used; pressing up takes you higher, not lower. This shouldn't bother most players, however. Overall, the game is fairly hard and challenging, and careless players will be quickly decimated. Missions are progressively difficult, ranging from a training run to night hunting to weaving through tall canyons. Each mission is timed, and finishing a mission fast enough earns bonuses. You have a set number of machine gun rounds, rockets, and guided missiles, with the battle computer finding targets and helping your aim. You'll soon completely lose yourself in the action, strafing targets and destroying tanks effortlessly. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics and sound on STEEL TALONS will please most players. The game action is rendered with filled-polygon graphics, drawing enemies and hills along with trees, clouds, and rivers. The screen is updated at about four frames a second; while it's not as fast as a dedicated machine, it's more than sufficient and doesn't hurt the game at all. Instruments are visible without obscuring the view; other graphics, like the terrain maps and the high score table, are drawn very nicely. There are not a wide variety of sounds, but the ones that are present are used appropriately. The drumming of your chopper's blades fill the skies, mixed with the rattle of the machine guns and the hiss of missiles. Klaxons and chimes warn of radar lock and enemy hits, all punctuated with assorted explosions. Finally, there's a somewhat garbled voice giving you tips before each mission, and some nicely-done musical tunes sprinkled throughout. SUMMARY: Purists who wanted nothing short of a total, unabridged translation will be disappointed. For everyone else, though, STEEL TALONS on the Lynx is a joy to play, a very pleasant surprise, and a Herculean effort to be saluted. If the idea of realistic air combat action stirs your blood, buy this game and take off! GAMEPLAY: 9.5 GRAPHICS: 9.5 SOUND: 8.5 OVERALL: 9.5 [SUP]======================================================================== SUPER SKWEEK 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: It's a bird! It's a plane! It' orange furball? No, it's SUPER SKWEEK on the Lynx, an adaptation of the French computer game, and an unofficial sequel to SLIDER on the Game Gear. You control Skweek, the orange furball alluded to above, whose mission is to save 250 tile-filled levels on five islands with a motley crew of creatures and critters. The game is viewed from above, as Skweek walks along the tiles and shoots any creatures that get in his way. Skweek's most common goal is to walk on the blue tiles to make them pink, though some levels require rescuing female Skweezettes or destroying monsters instead, and all levels feature a time limit. Making the effort harder are the many types of tiles in the game -- slippery tiles, crumbling tiles, explosive tiles, and even tiles that float above the ground. Skweek can also find or buy icons to change his shots or give other powers. The game can start from stage 1, 50, or 100, or be played in a random order, and a password saves your current score and game. Finally, two people can ComLynx together for cooperative or competitive play. GAMEPLAY: Though it looks like a puzzle game, SUPER SKWEEK shouldn't be treated as one. Some of the levels require strategic thinking, but most of the game is played with instinct and arcade-quality caution. This title's biggest asset is its wealth of features. There are literally dozens of enemies, enhancements, tiles and wall pieces to work with, and discovering how everything works will take a while. There's also a lot of randomness to the game, which makes pattern developing impossible and helps its appeal. Other options allow you to restart the current level and to adjust the diagonal movements of the joypad. While the idea is fine, the implementation is not, as there are problems in SUPER SKWEEK that make it harder than necessary. Shooting is tricky, as only a direct hit on a monster counts, and near-misses often prove deadly. Because Skweek's movement is not confined to the "grid" of each level, you can walk into a dangerous area unintentionally. There's also an annoying bug if Skweek dies on a disappearing tile: your next life appears in the same spot, and if the tile is still gone, you die again. These problems are frustrating, though not enough to totally discredit the game. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on SUPER SKWEEK are very nice, though there's little here that any other video game can't duplicate. Colors are used incredibly well, with bright pastels and primaries used to compliment the whimsy and give the impression of lots of shades. Game text and elements are small, yet remain easily identified with lots of detail and animation. Sounds consistly of machine-generated effects, but nothing truly unusual or noteworthy. The various themes and music, however, are a notch above the standard Lynx fare. SUMMARY: This is an unusual game with a distinctive atmosphere that may not attract all players. While the concept is fairly novel, there are a few flaws in the implementation that hinder it somewhat. Still, if you're willing to put forth a little patience for its weaknesses, SUPER SKWEEK can produce many hours of engaging fun. GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 7.5 OVERALL: 7.5 [SWI]====================================================================== SWITCHBLADE II 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: In the far future, the evil ninja lord Havok reined over the land, until Hiro the immortal defeated his robot army and banished the fiend. Now Havok and his forces have returned, stronger than ever, and Hiro has returned to fight once again. Armed with lethal metal-slicing blades and an array of weapons, you must guide Hiro across the scrolling landscape, destroying all enemies in your path and bring down Havok once again. If you haven't fallen asleep from that threadbare plot, then here are more details for this Lynx adaptation of the Gremlin game. Hiro starts with three lives, though each life can take several hits before dying. Money, health, and points can be found along the way, while extra lives and advanced weaponry can be bought in the shops located in the game. There are six levels in all, each divided into several substages and capped with the obligatory boss villain. GAMEPLAY: The video game market is filled from floor to ceiling with hundreds of these scrolling, kill-everything titles, some very good and some very mediocre. SWITCHBLADE II leans towards the latter, with fairly bland gameplay that feels flavorless and leaves you hollow. On the surface, there is nothing at fault with this game, as it follows all of the formulas: Controls are simple and responsive, the story and gameplay are tried and true, and there's a wealth of enemies, weapons, and scenery. Just go in and clobber anything that moves, right? On the other hand, this game lacks a soul, a sense of adventure and excitement. There's very little challenge, with enemies patrolling mindlessly or attacking in ones and twos, and no time limit or other form of pressure. Young players may find this game tricky, but experienced players will easily stomp over the forces of evil. Many other games offer the same basic action, only better, or faster, or more difficult, but SWITCHBLADE II quickly becomes an exercise in boredom. There's no solid reason to dislike this title, but it offers little incentive to like it, either. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics and sound of SWITCHBLADE II do not do anything to enhance its appeal. The graphics are small and passable, with a good variety to reflect the different types of terrains and enemies. Unfortunately, they fail to get the player excited, and the animation is extremely simple. Similarly, aside from a stirring title theme, the game is mostly quiet, except for the tapping of Hiro's feet and assorted explosions. Remaining sound effects are uninspired and quickly forgotten. SUMMARY: SWITCHBLADE II is yet another side-scrolling kill-everything action game that will quickly get lost in the crowd, as it commits the cardinal sin of boring the player. People who dislike this game genre will not be swayed by SWITCHBLADE II, and action gamers can easily find other, similar titles that are more enticing. GAMEPLAY: 5 GRAPHICS: 5.5 SOUND: 5 OVERALL: 5 [TOD]======================================================================== TODD'S ADVENTURES IN SLIME WORLD 1-8 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Okay, let's get the novelty out of the way: TODD'S ADVENTURES IN SLIME WORLD is the first eight-player video game ever created. That aside, you play the role of Todd the explorer, who's trapped inside a planet made of disgusting green slime. There are six scenarios, and most of them requires you to climb, jump, slide, and fly to the exit, while grabbing as much treasure as possible on the way (when playing with friends, one scenario has you hunting the other players to be the last one alive). Todd starts off with a water pistol and a computer-generated map. As Todd explores Slime World, he will find valuable slime gems and assorted tools such as shields, jet packs, or megabombs. Todd will also get coated in the gunk, whether it's from dripping ceilings or attacks from numerous creatures. The creatures can be dispatched with the water gun, but too much slime is fatal, so you must keep Todd clean. Even then, the trip is very dangerous; an unlimited number of lives are available, and pausing the game gives a six-character password to let you continue at a later date. A built-in tutorial makes learning easier. GAMEPLAY: This game is HUGE. Most of the caverns used in the scenarios are hundreds of screens large, and require literally hours to reach the exit. You'll often look at the computer map, think you're near the end, explore a bit further, then find a larger expanse of uncharted territory ahead. There's quite a lot to look at, also: waterfalls of slime, rubbery slime to bounce on, slippery slime, giant pools of slimy water. SLIME WORLD's creatures will fly, hop, and jump all over, hoping to either coat you in the ooze, eat you alive, or simply stick to your face. The six different levels are somewhat distinctive; some emphasize arcade-type action, while others require careful exploring and thinking. As large and varied as it is, SLIME WORLD's weakest point is the lack of repeatability. It's biggest attraction is the appeal of exploring the unknown. Once you eventually finish a scenario, there is little motivation to try it again, as the layout and contents never change; a randomly-generated level would have helped immensely. While the "hunt the other players" mission is very enjoyable, the other levels feature little direct interaction, and do not benefit greatly when ComLynxed. Exploring Slime World is fun, but it's after the exploration ends that the fun wanes. GRAPHICS/SOUND: SLIME WORLD's slime effect is convincing and impressive, with glistening, unidentifiable clumps throughout, all oozing and pulsating in real time. Todd himself is highly animated, and can be clearly seen throwing bombs, using equipment, and performing whatever else you want. Creatures and other objects are also done well, though not nearly as animated as Todd. In a multiplayer game, your character has blonde hair while other players are brunettes. Sounds are interesting, though ultimately not as exciting. Aside from the title theme, game music consists of repeating clips, ranging from short tunes to near-random beeps, that change periodically. Sound effects are a bit better, though a crowd of slime creatures in tight quarters can quickly produce a jarring kalidescope of noise. SUMMARY: TODD'S ADVENTURES IN SLIME WORLD will appeal mostly to players who enjoy the idea of exploring every nook and cranny of its vast, gooey terrain. For others, however, the appeal is not as distinct; depending on personal preferences and the availability of friends, the value of this card will vary significantly. GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 8.5 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7 [TOK]====================================================================== TOKI 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: So there's Toki the caveman, out spending time with his girlfriend, talking about whatever it is cavepeople chat about. Who comes to spoil the party but the local Evil High Priest Vookimedlo, who kidnaps his gal and uses magic to devolve Toki into a chimp. Strangely enough, Toki the chimpanzee can shoot fireballs from his mouth, and decides to use his primitive machismo to rescue his date. Hey, if an Italian plumber can rescue damsels in distress, why can't an ape give it a try? That's TOKI for the Atari Lynx, an adaptation of the little-seen arcade video game from Fabtek. You must guide Toki through eight multidirectional scrolling stages of caverns, moats, and whatnot, battling Vookimedlo's traps and flunkies. Toki can defeat enemies by hitting them with his fireballs, or by repeatedly jumping on them. Along the way, you will find items that temporarily enhance Toki's abilities, like higher jumping or more powerful fireballs. A life is lost if Toki is hit by an enemy, caught by a trap, or runs out of time; an extra life is awarded if enough coins are collected. GAMEPLAY: The most supportive statement that can be made for TOKI on the Lynx is that it's a very faithful adaptation. Almost none of the gameplay has been abridged or altered; people who have played this in the arcade will be in familliar territory. The problem is that the original was not that spectacular to begin with. Aside from the slightly novel plot, there is very little here that hasn't been done before. This is not to say that TOKI is a bad game; as yet-another-run-and-jump, its redeeming points elevate it a bit above its competition. There is a good amount of variety; the enemies you have to face are very diverse, and the different stages are much more than a change in window dressing. Also, the game sets a very irreverant tone; for instance, two of the tools helping Toki's quest are football helmets and teeter-totters loaded with weights. Finally, the game itself is of fair difficulty; you start with four lives, and can continue up to two times, but the typical player will need all the help he can find. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics and sound of TOKI capture the game's lighthearted attitude very well. There is good use of color and a lot of detail and animation in the graphics. However, some of the game elements are fairly small, requiring a bit of effort to spot them. This can be fatal with some of the more detailed backgrounds, as a small incoming projectile could slip past your sight. Sounds are better, making good use of music, computer-generated effects, and digitized clips. Each level is accompanied by an unobtrusive background soundtrack, and the individual sound effects are distinctive. The digitized bits are often the most enjoyable, such as Toki's death yelp and the cartoon-inspired "boing!" noises. SUMMARY: TOKI is, in the final analysis, a great adaptation of an average game, duplicating the original's sights, sounds, and action faithfully. If you aren't interested in run-and-jump contests, there is little here to change your opinion. However, if you're in the market for a new arcade-action game, TOKI is a worthy candidate. GAMEPLAY: 6.5 GRAPHICS: 7.5 SOUND: 9 OVERALL: 7 [TOU]====================================================================== TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL 1-4 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: As mankind moved into the 21st century, the task of keeping people entertained started to become a problem. The sports and games of yesteryear seemed boring and tame as the new generation wanted more action and danger. Since murder remains illegal, the solution fell to robots, who could offer the violence that the audience demanded while preserving human lives. Welcome to the era of TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL, the explosive sequel to the CYBERBALL arcade game from Atari Games. This is a futuristic sports game with very close ties to American football. Two teams of robots play on a 100-yard field, trying to move a ball into the opponents' end zone. The ball heats up over time, so the offensive team must carry the ball far enough to cool it down, else face an explosion that destroys nearby players. Cheap mass-produced replacements are available, but smart coaches save their winnings to buy the better model players. GAMEPLAY: On the surface, TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL appears to be a decent adaptation. Up to four players can play, either against each other or versus one of four computer coaches. The defense has a fixed selection of moves, while the offensive choices are picked by the game from a larger pool, according to the situation. On the field, each player controls a robot, and are responsible for making the passes and blitzes needed. During the game, you earn money for specific scoring actions, such as interceptions and scoring. The game lasts for six periods, with opportunities to buy enhanced players throughout the game. Scratch the surface, however, and the problems appear. There is no apparent difference in abilities between the teams, and the team-unique plays from the original are gone. Robots cannot be damaged, though an explosion will destroy the ball carrier. Handoffs are unpredictable, reducing the value of running plays, and while passes are effective, it's difficult to intercept the computer's throws. Opportunities for enhanced players appear throughout the game, but reduce the number of plays available until you accept. The pace of the game is a little too fast; more time to decide and choose plays would be welcome, and plays start as soon as all players are in position. These and other flaws reduce a great idea into a frustrating experience. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics in TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL are passable, though little more. The robots are distinctive, but are otherwise nondiscrept, and appear a bit too small. The three-quarters perspective scrolling and the play selection screens are done well, but are nothing to shout about. Sound effects are of a similar nature, either using similar versions of the arcade sounds and music, or omitting them all together. On the plus side, some of the digitized voices have been preserved, though hearing "Three... six... hike!" on every play becomes irritating after a while. SUMMARY: TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL on the Lynx could have been a quality conversion; other Lynx titles have shown the potential of the system. This game seems to have been written by someone with little familliarity with the original, and the shortcomings show through. In the final analysis, the many fans of TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL should skip this conversion and stick to the arcade machine instead. GAMEPLAY: 5.5 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 6 [TUR]======================================================================= TURBO SUB 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 OVERVIEW: Let's get this straight: Earth is under attack (again) by alien invaders (again). All attempts to repel the invaders have failed (again), but a single brave hero may (again) restore peace to the planet (again). Guess who gets this honor (again)? Yes, you (again). TURBO SUB for the Atari Lynx is a first-person nonstop firefight. The enemy has taken over the skies and seas of the Earth, and it's up to you to destroy the invaders and save the day. You pilot the Turbo Sub, a high-speed flying and diving aquatic arsenal. Your foes use everything from amphibious warships to robotic creatures and flying stone heads. Each level (there are reportedly seventeen) starts off with an aerial attack, though you can dive to escape if the situation gets too thick. After the air attack, you head underwater, with more enemies to fight, obstacles to dodge, and gems to gather. Survive the round, and the sub enters a supply cavern, where you use gathered gems to buy additional supplies and weapons. GAMEPLAY: TURBO SUB is what I call a "ten second" game; it takes ten seconds to learn it, and another ten seconds to get into the thick of things. Your primary objective consists of blasting everything. Staying alive means dodging enemy fire, collisions, debris, and underwater obstacles. The sub's main weapon is an unlimited supply of electro-plasma bursts; there is also a limited supply of megabombs, which can destroy all visible enemies at once. Between rounds, you can buy extra ships, extra fuel, and better weapon systems for use on the next level. Two players can ComLynx together, but the only purpose is to see who can out-shoot the other. There is little else that needs to be said. The game idea demands fast, frantic action, and TURBO SUB delivers it in spades. The initial levels consist of small groups of one and two aliens, but quickly progress into more opponents wielding more firepower. The game starts with eleven subs, and they will go quickly if you're not careful. In the end, though, TURBO SUB strikes a balance between being difficult without being hopelessly overwhelming. The downside of this game is that there is little variety; as with other games of this type, victory will come to players with the fastest reflexes and the strongest thumbs. GRAPHICS/SOUND: As expected, the Lynx's sprite hardware makes TURBO SUB's 3D effects smooth and effortless. The graphics themselves are a mix, from realistically detailed to bright and simple, and end up attractive and engaging. There is very little for sound, however. The only music comes from a bouncy little tune at the title page, and actual game sounds are mostly explosions and weapons fire. SUMMARY: What TURBO SUB lacks in originality and variety, it makes up with blistering excitement. If you've got an appetite for uncomplicated massive destruction at Mach 3, TURBO SUB is the way to go! GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7.5 [VIK]========================================================================= VIKING CHILD 1 player, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Can't a guy fulfill his destiny in peace? Brian the Viking child was just sitting at home when the Norse god Loki appeared (between stints in GHOULS AND GHOSTS, natch). Worried about the prophesy that Brian will grow up into a mighty Viking leader, Loki has kidnapped Brian's family, spirited them across the land, and dared the young boy to rescue them. If Brian can survive the rescue of his family, he may get to fulfill this destiny someday. This is the premise of VIKING CHID, an action-adventure game for the Atari Lynx, adapted from the European computer title. You play the part of Brian, who must explore many stages of the side-view scrolling landscape in search of your family. A family member has been hidden throughout the land, guarded by both Loki's forces and a bit of deception. Only by agility and intelligence can you complete this quest. GAMEPLAY: When you boil the game down, VIKING CHILD is essentially a run-and-jump quest game with a few adventure-gaming touches. Brian loses health over time and in fights with monsters, while each victory earns money and points. Though the trip is very linear, there is a lot of terrain to explore, and houses, castles, and caves contain shops selling weapons and magic. Finally, you can't exit a level without first uncovering and defeating the level's chieftain monster, who is hidden from immediate view. In the end, the combination of action and adventure is only partially successful, which hampers the appeal. As an action game, VIKING CHILD is a bit slow; Brian walks and jumps at a modest rate, while monsters run and jump all over the place. There are numerous fights, but they consist mainly of poking creatures with a dagger or throwing weapons against them. And while there is much to see, this game offers none of the sophistication of real role-playing games. In its favor, VIKING CHILD is a tough game, with time limits and Loki's forces combining to whittle down your health. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on VIKING CHILD are done fairly well. The adventure itself makes good use of earth-tone colors and detail. Brian and the creatures are drawn small enough to give a good view of the surrounding area, without losing much detail. There are also some elegant static screens and lots of cute touches throughout. Sounds, in contrast, are an absolute minimum. There are some nice scores, but the few primary game sounds are simply basic. SUMMARY: While VIKING CHILD is a pleasant diversion, it is missing the refinements needed for greatness. The biggest appeal is in exploring the land and just trying to survive, but it should not be mistaken for an adventure game. Still, if you're looking for something that's a little more than the typical run-and-jump title, VIKING CHILD is worth a try. GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7 [WAR]======================================================================= WARBIRDS 1-4 players, horizontal game by Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $34.95 OVERVIEW: Modern air combat is hardly as glamorous as it appears in the movie theatres (or video games, for that matter). Modern radar and weapons systems seek and destroy a target well before the pilot even sees his enemy, and today's "dogfights" end in the blink of an eye. Not since the days of the early 20th century have air combat involved pilots flying close enough to salute each other before the kill. This is the world of WARBIRDS, the new aerial combat game for the Atari Lynx, and the first true flight simulator for any home video game system currently available. Other flying games currently available only give the illusion of flight -- While you can move around the screen, you have no real control over where you go. WARBIRDS, on the other hand, puts you in complete control of a World War I biplane. You can fly over a barn, loop around, then strafe it from another direction. You determine all of the plane's maneuvers, and can turn, roll, dive, and climb any way you want. GAMEPLAY: So what are you doing here? Up to four pilots (including yourself) can occupy the airspace over the lush green countryside. No matter how many are present, your objective is the same -- destroy them all. Your only weapon is a front-mounted machine gun, and your only defense are your skills and the occassional cloudbank. "Scoring" consists of how many planes you can shoot down before you yourself are killed, over a series of missions. If you run out of ammunition, you must find, land, and reload your guns, during which you are vulnerable to enemy attacks. Several game options are available. These include how much damage a plane can take, whether collisions are fatal, how much ammunition is present, and where your airplane starts. In a multiplayer game, everyone can choose their own settings, providing a handicapping feature between players of different skills. In a single-player game, six "missions" are available; however, the only difference is the number of enemy planes, and whether they're amateur or professional pilots. As a simulator, WARBIRDS is filled with features not found on any other video game. Your plane has instruments for airspeed, altitude, direction, oil pressure, and ammo rounds remaining; all are important in their own way. The physical effects of stalling, high-speed dives, and even the inertia from the rotating engine are duplicated convincingly. Because WARBIRDS is a simulator with no fancy weapons, success or failure is fully dependent on your own flying and hunting skills. This realism cuts both ways, however -- biplanes were not known for their speed, and players accustomed to the high speeds of today's arcade games may find WARBIRDS boring. There is an "arcade" option, which gives your plane a faster "jet" engine, which may satisfy your need for speed. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on WARBIRDS are a mixed bag from good to great. The opening title page is attractive, with biplanes and credits flying by the player. The actual combat scenes are done with a combination of filled polygons (for hills and barns) and scaled sprites (clouds, planes, flying bullets, smoking engines). Digitized pictures are shown at the end of a fight, indicating your success or failure. Overall, it's slightly above average for the Lynx's abilities. Sounds are essentally basic and effective. The game uses several music scores before and after flights. Actual combat is filled with the noises of your engine (unless you turn it off), the rattle of gunfire, and several sound effects indicating when you're hit, when your shots hit, and when a plane has been downed. SUMMARY: WARBIRDS is designed and written by Robert Zdybel, a newcomer to Lynx game design; He dedicates the game to his father, and it's a worthy piece of gaming to be proud of. It's a game that's simple in concept and fun to play. Throw in true simulator realism, a variety of options, and the ability for four-player competition, and the sum is greater than its parts. For the video gamer looking for realistic aerial action, WARBIRDS leaves eveything else behind. GAMEPLAY: 9.5 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 8 OVERALL: 9 [WOR]======================================================================== WORLD CLASS SOCCER 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $29.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: In Atari's moves to fill the Lynx game library with sports titles, the latest entry is WORLD CLASS SOCCER. As the title indicates, this is a portable version of the worldwide ball-kicking sport for one or two players. Two teams from around the world face off for a one-game bout, trying to score the most goals in the time given. Basic soccer rules and penalties apply, including throw-ins, corner kicks, and fouls. Game options allow setting the length of the game, from 10 to 90 minutes, the field conditions, and the computer difficulty level. GAMEPLAY: WORLD CLASS SOCCER has the makings of a quality title; unfortunately, its good points are outweighed by numerous quirks in the gameplay. On the plus side, ball control is fairly effortless, with automatic dribbling and easy passing and kicking controls. On defense, you can steal the ball either by kicking or a sliding "tackle", and you have full control of the goalie as well and all squad members. The field scrolls from side to side, while the screen zooms in and out of the action as needed. While the game ideas are sound, the actual result is lacking and hurts the playability. Control automatically goes to the man closest to the ball, which causes quick control changes it enters a crowd. There is an option to manually change the active player, but it doesn't work at all. The zooming screen tends to focus closely on the ball, creating tunnel vision; long passes are impossible to coordinate, and you may be controlling a player or goalie who's off-screen, impairing your defense further. Players can choose teams from a hundred countries, but the only difference is the flag used. These and other problems make following the game very difficult and frustrating. Playing well is possible, but requires a lot of practice. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Like the game itself, the graphics on WORLD CLASS SOCCER are a mix of good and bad points. Images and sprites are respectably drawn and animated, and look well even when the screen is scaled to its smallest point. On the down side, the scaling is too slow to effectively show where the active player is, and the scrolling is often very jumpy to keep pace with the ball. Sounds are even less inspiring, composed mostly of a bouncing soccer ball mixed with periodic whistle blows and a simplistic crowd cheer. SUMMARY: This game has the ingredients for a quality soccer game, but assembles them into a disappointing ensemble that could have been better. While the hard-to-follow game action can be overcome with perseverance, only devoted soccer fans will care to invest the time that WORLD CLASS SOCCER requires for mastery. GAMEPLAY: 5 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 4 OVERALL: 5 [XEN]======================================================================== XENOPHOBE for the Atari Lynx Licensed by Bally/Midway for 1-4 players $34.95 It's some time in the undisclosed future, and a human colony in a far-off planet lives in isolation. Their tranquility is interrupted when their orbiting space stations are overrun with Xenos -- bug-eyed monsters very reminescent of what Sigorney Weaver fought off in ALIENS. If the Xenos get accustomed to human atmospheres on the space stations, they will eagerly attack the humans on the planet below. As a result, you (and up to three other friends) are called upon to kill the Xenos and save the day. Okay, storyline's over. For those of you who are not familliar with the original Bally arcade game, Xenophobe has you maneuvering a hero through 23 space stations, killing (almost) anything that moves. You pick a persona from one of nine human and semi-human characters (different looks, same skills), then crawl, walk, jump and fall your way through the stations, getting weapons and artifacts, fighting the numerous alien critters. GAMEPLAY: There's not too much variety in this game. You get to grab treasures, explore rooms, and operate machinery, but the bulk of the game is killing the Xenos. There are 23 space stations of different sizes, hence 23 levels, and the manual hints at a "final confrontation" at the end of the game. Each level can end in one of three ways, from the high-scoring "destroy all monsters" (wasn't that a Godzilla movie of the '60s?) to the wimpy (and low-scoring) "escape with your life". Your hero stays alive as long as he has enough health points (lost when attacked by aliens or explosives); when he dies, you can pick another to continue the fight. People familliar with the original arcade game will find that the Lynx version has been expanded a bit. The stations seem much bigger, with a bit more exploration than before. There are new artifacts, like the flying jetpack and the health-restoring vitamins, to help you survive. The Xenos remain the same: crawling critters, rolling rollerbabies, hypnotic Festors, and more, all of them creeping all over the place... Early reviews of Xenophobe report that the game was too easy. Nah. In single-player games, you only get to play up to four characters before the game ends. In multi-player games, you play as long as undead heroes remain; when the pool of eight are gone, you all lose. With 23 levels of varying sizes, this game looks like it will take a while to master. A few other goodies worth noting: In multiplayer games, one player can choose to be an alien spitting Snotterpillar, and hunt his friends. Compared to the arcade version, the Lynx Xenophobe is easier to control, thanks to all the buttons being used. Finally, like SLIME WORLD, Xenophobe makes it easy to Comlynx everyone up: Just wait at the main title page, until the correct number of players is displayed. GRAPHICS/SOUND: Graphics are adequate. Nothing spectacular, yet not dissapointing. Like the arcade, Xenophobe graphics look more "cutesy" than scary, with heroes looking like caricatures, Xenos looking cartooney, and assorted goofy touches here and there. Sounds are also adequate but not outstanding. The opening title music is completely forgettable, and aside from a musical tune between levels, the only game sounds are the noises of battle. You want audio entertainment, go elsewhere. Overall, An average-decent game, good for players who don't want complicated gameplay to get in the way. Best recommended for fans of the original Xenophobe arcade game, quick-action gamers, or multiplayer game fans. Gameplay: 7.5 Graphics: 6.5 Sound: 6 Overall: 7 [XYB]========================================================================= XYBOTS 1-2 players, horizontal game Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx $39.95 Stereo? No OVERVIEW: Daleks, Replicants, Terminators, Robotrons, Xybots -- the robots are at it again. EarthBase 26-B9, a remote station in the Federation's intelligence network, has been completely overrun by the alien Xybots in a surprise attack. Recovery of this base is of the highest priority; since you are the closest agent available, you must infiltrate the station, battle the Xybot forces, and stop the Master Xybots from taking over. NOW! Storyline aside, XYBOTS is a Lynx adaptation of the Atari Games' arcade title. One or two players must travel through the station's levels, as seen from a first-person 3D view. As you wander through the maze, you can grab coins, keys, and weapon enhancements, all while fighting the various Xybot forces. Your battlesuit will protect you, but it loses energy through time and from attacks; if it runs out, you are captured and the game ends. Reach the exit, and you have an opportunity to buy more equipment before going even deeper, featuring trick walls, transporters, and even more dangers. GAMEPLAY: Though a few recent Lynx games have been disappointing, XYBOTS is happily not continuing the trend. This is a respectable version of the game, with all the features of the original. The enemy comes in many different forms, using various defenses while firing on your position. Your gun fires unlimited shots, and an energy-draining zap can temporarily freeze the Xybots. The main action is seen from directly behind your fighter, and a second screen showing the level layout and status information is available. Every tenth level or so is a fight with a Master Xybot, but the main game remains maze-running and robot-blasting. Temporary enhancements such as robot locators and extra firepower are available, but financial frugality will help you survive later. The game is not perfect, however, since the Lynx version is a little easier than the coin-op. The Xybots are not too bright, and often spend time waiting until you are in range before attacking. They are still dangerous, but you will rarely have to worry about being overwhelmed. You also start with 35 coins, enough to stay well-armed for three or four levels. As a result, the game may seem to start off slow for more experienced players, but Warp Exits allow travel to the higher stages quicker. Overall, XYBOTS on the Lynx remains formidable, but don't be too surprised at the initial progress you make. GRAPHICS/SOUND: With XYBOTS, the Lynx once again pulls off game graphics that look almost completely identical to the arcade. The station mazes are spartan, drawn with identical wall panels, but enemy Xybots and other game items are well-animated and detailed. Other visual extras such as the teleporter and the transition between stages have been duplicated exactly. The only shortcoming is that rotating your view is done with a 90-degree "snap", which can be a little disorienting. Sounds are also very faithful, with the few blasts and explosions of the original copied closely. The mechanical Xybot voices have been removed, but in their place are several quality techno-rock background tunes. Though enjoyable, they can be turned off from the title page if desired. SUMMARY: XYBOTS on the Lynx is a solid translation, presenting an acceptable version of the game on the go. While the difficulty has been scaled back slightly, there is still more than enough of a challenge to keep the typical player back for more. GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 8 OVERALL: 8 [ZAR]====================================================================== ZARLOR MERCENARY for the Atari Lynx 1-4 players, horizontal game $34.95 OVERVIEW: Ah, life in the space lane. You are one of the most hated and most revered people in the galaxy -- a mercenary. If someone's got the bucks, you've got the guns, for whatever the cause. Your current case is for the Zarlors, who are at war with the Mendicants over some financial dealings or other. The Zarlors have decided to cripple, but not kill, the Mendicants with a set of six tactical strikes. They jingled their Zarbits, so you signed up for the deal. The Zarlors don't think you can survive all six attacks. You'll show them... That's the game in a nutshell. ZARLOR MERCENARY is a horizontally-based, vertical-scrolling space shoot-em-up, an original title from Epyx for Atari, by the creator of CHIP'S CHALLENGE (talk about diverse). The screen scrolls from top to bottom at a fixed rate, and you (and up to three other friends) move around the screen, shooting everything that dots the landscape. The screen moves horizontally with you, giving you even more targets to blast. Everything you destroy is worth Zarbits, that funny plastic money from the Zarlors. The more you shoot, the bigger your profits, and the more money you have means the more hardware you can buy from the Mercenary Merchant. You start off with three ships, and can get more through the game -- either that, or buy them. GAMEPLAY: Shooter fans will rejoice, because ZARLOR MERCENARY has all the staples of these games -- power-ups, bosses, targets, targets, and more targets. Everything that can be shot is worth something, and there is a *LOT* to shoot at. There are only six levels, but each level is fairly large (about five minutes to get through), and the enemies are numerous enough and fire enough to punch through any defenses you have. There are a lot of enemies/targets too, in a wide variety, such as patternized fighter squadrons, unconcerned walkers, mercenary-seeking drones, and unarmored civilians (grin). If anything, the game may be too difficult for fewer players, though your mileage may vary. You start off as one of several "characters", each of whom has a different power-up weapon to start with. What you don't have you can get, either by shopping between rounds or picking up floating globes on the level. If things get tight, you can also sell your weapons back (at a loss, natch), or trade Zarbits with your co-mercenaries between levels. There are a lot of power-ups in a wide range of uses, enough to satisfy most video warriors. The gameplay and controls are straightforward enough for any gamer; true video warriors will pick up the game in 10 seconds, if not sooner. GRAPHICS/SOUND: The graphics on this game are _INCREDIBLE_! The game itself is shown in a three-quarters psuedo-3D view, with accompanying shadows everywhere to reenforce the effect. Targets and background graphics are crammed with nice features and detailed touches, from blinking lights and transparent windows to ditches dug by mechano-bots that stop when you destroy them (the bots, I mean). Someone went through a lot of loving care to make the graphics stand out, and it shows. Sounds are slightly above average, though not up to the standards set by the graphics. A slightly-repetitive tune plays throughout the game, but you can turn it off with the Option 2 button if it bothers you. Most of the other game sounds are from weapons fire, explosions, and the occassional off-screen special effect. All are done well, though not outstandingly so. SUMMARY: A great no-nonsense action game, perfect for people who love the "shoot it if it exists" philosophy. The game itselt is not easy, and the addition of four-player teamups and cash payments/transfers/power-ups ensure quite a bit of variety to the game. Though there are only six levels, they are quite varied, and should offer many challenging hours to the average player. GAMEPLAY: 9 GRAPHICS: 10 SOUND: 7.5 OVERALL: 9 ================================================================================
Return to menu