Microdeal have recently come out with Stone Raider II and Airball. Of the two, Airball is definitely the better designed although it is very, very hard. The game puts you in a castle dungeon beautifully drawn in black and white 3-D. The idea is to find and return a book of spells that the wizard has lost. It's basically a mapping game but mapping is not the key to the game; the key to success lies in negotiating your way around the screens without hitting the spikes, and getting to the pumps before you run out of air.
The game is really beautiful to play and involves a lot of skill and fast perception. It is a great game on joystick or keyboard, unlike Stone Raider II which is a waste for one simple reason - there is no keyboard option and the game is too fast for joystick work.
In a game like Boulder Crash (which is what this is), where positioning and timing are far more important than speed, dicey play control like this is farcical. The game contains a cheat for those who can find it - which is becoming a general trend days, much to my distress. I like to be able to buy a game where I don't have to work out how to hack it to get the full enjoyment from it. If a program has a screen designer in it, I would like to use it without having to solve several convoluted problems - if I want to do this I'll buy an adventure game.
However, that fault taken into account there are some very interesting layouts in Stone Raider II and it seems to have been well thought out. The sound isn't anywhere near Chris Jolly standard but it gets by and the graphics are quite attractive. I've you've got Boulder Crash, and have finished it with ease, then this one is for you - as it really starts where that one finished, but why oh why, this late into the Dragon's life, are we getting games without keyboard control??
Moving on we come to Trun, one of Blaby's last releases, which has all the elements of the arcade game in it, but all of them badly ripped off. In the arcades this was one of my favourite games (and, due to its excellent tongue in cheek sense of humour, one of my favourite films) but this game just doesn't do it justice. The cycles are embarrassingly easy, the thanks are impossibly hard, the spiders are messy and the cone is the sort of graphics my two year old cousin would design! Basically, this version of Tron is no better than the other really useless one that's been on the market for quite some time now.
Adventure Writer from Cowen Software is, I'm sure, a superb piece of programming and I'm equally sure that its creator has written many very good adventures on it. My copy, however, has photocopied A4 sheet after photocopied A4 sheet of comprehensive instructions none of which have helped me even to start to use the program! It's supposed to be an adventure writing language. Well if that's true then it's the most user-unfriendly language I've ever used! It makes FORTH seem like baby talk and assembler seem like BASIC. I would really like to be able to give this program a good review because I think a utility of this nature is quite exceptionally useful. However, if it can't be used because someone didn't take time to test out the instructions then what's the point?
Before I sign off and give my ratings on these programs, please do not think I am being pessimistic. I love the Dragon, it is the only computer I own, and it is still the best programmers' machine on the market. This is an appeal to the software companies. If you can get games like Airbail and Superkid then give them to us. We're fed up with trying to sort through the chaff to find the wheat! Oh yes, and one other thing, whoever is selling Mastertronic's Vegas Jackpot, please stop it... you're embarrassing me!!