Personal Computer News

An Atari Assortment
By Richard Wilcox
Atari 400

Published in Personal Computer News #061

A batch of Atari allsorts are tasted by Bob Chappell - which are his favourite ones?

An Atari Assortment

A batch of Atari allsorts are tasted by Bob Chappell - which are his favourite ones?

A mixed bag of subject matter this time, including solving a murder most foul on an airship, driving a racing car and piloting a jetcopter, but there's not a bad egg among this collection.

Murder On The Zinderneuf

A most intriguing and unusual game. You play the part of any one of six oddly familiar sleuths - do the names Achille Merlot, Emile Klutzeau and Miss Agatha Marbles ring any bells?

It is the year 1936 and on board the luxurious dirigible Zinderneuf one of the sixteen passengers has been murdered. Roaming freely around the passenger area you must search rooms and interrogate the remaining fifteen travellers to discover 'whodunnit'.

The Zinderneuf's layout and all the characters are shown graphically, movement of your gumshoe being controlled by joystick or keyboard.

All commands are entered via menus which appear at the top of the screen. You can question individual suspects using different approaches, appearing as thick as two short planks one minute and, if you want, being downright violent the next. You may ask any suspect about any other suspect, ignore them altogether or accuse them. The responses you get are determined by who, how and what you ask.

You have only 12 hours (approximately 36 minutes of actual play) to solve the crime, a bell chiming at every game hour.

An excellent and novel game, and not so elementary, my dear Watson - it's different every time you play so there's plenty of life and entertainment in it.


If racing's your game, you'll like this one. Not only do you have to drive your car in the big race, you also control the pit stops.

You get the usual bird's-eye view of the track, which scrolls smoothly and rapidly away, from top to bottom, as you race. Hit another car on the edge of the track and you just bounce off - but you do incur damage. As a tyre receives ill-treatment, it gradually changes from dark to light blue to red, indicating its deterioration.

A small map of the course is on view, a marker denoting your position and that of the pits. When you reach the pits, you merely have to pull over into the slip lane whereupon the scene changes to show your car at rest in the bay. Around the car is your pit crew, four mechanics, each with a special function. A mechanic is activated by moving a tiny cross onto it, pressing the Fire button then pulling the character around the screen. You use the mechanic to change your tyres and refuel.

Time is not on your side - other cars are roaming past the pits while you remain. Moving the cross onto the flagman lets you back on the track again.

There are a number of skill levels, laps and different circuits to choose from. The graphics and sound are first rate, producing a thoroughly enjoyable motor racing simulation.

Blue Thunder

Blue Thunder is a jetcopter whose mission is to penetrate enemy defences to rescue captive comrades.

There are electronic storms, a variety of missiles and armoured barrage balloons to keep a weather eye out for. You must shoot your way through the enemy's defensive screens in order to reach the captives.

The screen scrolls left and right, revealing a total of about six screens of landscape. Several skill levels and a limited supply of fuel add to the challenge.

Although similar to, but not as good as, Choplifter and Fort Apocalypse, the game offers quite a test of your reflexes.

Missile Command

Missile Command was an Atari original and, for my money, still one of the most addictive shoot-'em-down games around.

In case you've not heard of it, the game places you as the sole defender of six cities against an ever-increasing deluge of alien missiles which streak down from the skies. A cross-sight is used to plant target points across the screen for your own missiles to head for. The idea is to detonate your missiles in the path of the descending warheads.

Colourful, exciting and challenging, this is one game I can simply never tear myself away from. Not one any committed hero can afford to be without.

Shamus II

The little fedora-hatted character (called Shamus, naturally) features in this sequel. He is still rushing around a labyrinth of cutaway chambers which this time are inhabited by snakes, octopi, and other odd creatures. As in the original, the arch-fiend the Shadow is still lurking about the place.

There are keys, prizes and messages to be collected throughout the building.

Like most sequels, this does not quite come up to the excellent standard set by the original Shamus, either graphically or imaginatively. Nonetheless, it is still a high-quality, professionally produced game which will undoubtedly give a lot of people a great deal of pleasure.

Bob Chappell

Other Atari 400 Game Reviews By Bob Chappell

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