Bally Alley

Extended Memory Products Review #2
The Gate Escape and Wack-A-Mole

by Dave Carson

(October 1983)

This is a review of two games released by WaveMakers for the Bally Arcade/Astrocade with extended memory and Blue Ram BASIC. This review first appeared in the Extended Memory Products Review column in Arcadian 5, no. 12 (Oct. 24, 1983): 178-179.

The Gate Escape_01
 The Gate Escape

The Gate Escape

This column will include actual screen dump illustrations of the games being reviewed. I haven't quite perfected my dump routine as yet. The four possible colors of extended BASIC (E.B.) are creating a problem, so please bear with me.

For my first installment I am taking a close look at The Gate Escape from WaveMakers, by Mike Peace. WaveMakers has had the reputation, for some time, of being one of the leading producers of software for our system.

The first thing you will notice, if you purchase this tape, is the attractive packaging. WaveMakers has devoted considerable time and effort to the illustrations that accompany their products. The picture, visible through the top of the box, is similar to the one seen in the ads for this game and is actually the top of the instruction sheet.

The Gate Escape_02
 The Gate Escape

The documentation with the tape was clear and easy to understand. Loading procedure was outlined and game play was fully explained.

The cassette itself appeared to be of very high quality and should hold up well. The load executed quickly and cleanly. You will first be asked to set up the control handle format. Choose either to pass handle number one from player to player or use separate controllers. This is done for the convenience of those with only two handles.

Now choose the number of players from one to four with knob one. Pull the trigger and the game begins!

The scenario is quite simple. You gather the small x's from the screen. There are thirty two (4 rows of 8) in each level. You move your player up, down, left, right, and diagonal with the joystick. Move over an x to pick it up. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! There are eight characters whose only purpose in life is to do away with your five players! You will see a different one for each screen you complete. I have faced only seven so I'm not sure what happens after the eighth. Each character is different.

The Gate Escape_03
 The Gate Escape

They are colorful and each is animated with moving arms, legs, tentacles, etc. They are not only constantly chasing you, but periodically place a pod on the screen which allows them to "warp" to a different location. Along with the player's character (near the top center), the first nemesis (bottom center), and the x's, there are the gates. The gates are turnstiles which pivot vertically and horizontally when you push them. The bad guys can't move the gates so you can use them to block or box in the opponent while you grab the x's. The screens get more difficult by placing less gates on the field. The monsters get more aggressive as you progress to higher levels.

Each x gathered yields ten points and a very large bonus is paid for grabbing one of the pods. When a screen is completed, you get a couple of seconds to relax and enjoy the cartoon intermission. A very nice music routine plays while your character chases the current nasty across the game board. When you finally reach THE END, the total compliment of foes is displayed at the bottom for your inspection.

The Gate Escape_04
 The Gate Escape

The tape that I used contained two versions of The Gate Escape: one which, runs in a 4K machine, and one requiring a larger system. The latter was used as a basis for doing this review. In extensively testing both versions, I noticed only minor differences. Slight variations in sound and the display of remaining player characters were noted.

The 4K program had a couple fewer monsters, and they were not animated. The game play seemed identical. All average scores were the same no matter which game was used. The strategies worked equally well on both. The Gate Escape, in either format, is as full of color, sound, and fast smooth action as you would expect in an E.B. game. It is a game of quick decisions and careful strategy. I heard nothing but praise from those who watched as well as those who played. The general consensus being amazement that the game is in BASIC and on tape rather than in the cartridge slot. It is that well done!



On the reverse side of The Gate Escape is a real treat: Wack-A-Mole. This game is an outstanding conversion of a mechanical arcade machine to a video game. In the game havens known for their delicious pizza across the country, resides a little machine that is always busy. It attracts gamers ranging from the very small to the very, most experienced players (of all ages). The game features a rather large, stuffed, leather hammer on a chain. There is a flat surface with a series of holes. After inserting a token, moles (yes, those little enemies of lawns and gardens everywhere) begin to randomly pop up from the holes in a taunting fashion.

The player, using the padded hammer, must attempt to bash as many of the critters as possible in the time allotted.

Loading Wack-A-Mole into your E.B. system takes you right back to the famous mouse's theater with an unlimited number of tokens. WaveMakers' conversion is so well done it's almost the real thing! The major difference being that instead of a time limit you play until you miss a certain number of moles.

On the game board, the box titled "reflex" displays the current level of speed in which the moles appear. Wacking one results in incrementing this number. The window below "REFLEX," titled "SPEED TO BEAT" displays a number having to do with your reaction time. Each mole, when hit, displays this number above his head. If it is greater than the one in the box, then the one in the box is adjusted. The window at the upper right is labeled "score." This is where my screen dump routine is imperfect (as you see). Points are awarded for each successful Wack and are totaled in the box. Below the "score" box is another window (not visible in the illustration) labeled "average." This one keeps a running average of the reaction time number.


The board is a 3x3 grid with each square being a "hole". Moles appear randomly and briefly from these holes. The joystick is your "hammer." The grid represents every possible joystick position including neutral. When a mole pops out, position the "hammer" accordingly and Wack (pull the trigger). When hit, the mole chirps, frowns, and disappears back down the hole to taunt again later. The game starts out rather slowly and increases in speed as you progress. I noticed the remark "good guess" at the bottom of the screen when I finally connected after missing a few. I knew moles were pesky but these become abusive.

This is a fun game for everyone. There is an abundance of sound and color. You don't have to do well to enjoy it. One caution: if you have friends that handle joysticks roughly, don't show them Wack-A-Mole. Also, when you or your children play, stress and enforce care with the controllers. It only takes a touch in any direction to be effective. Controller abuse could make this game a joystick "killer!" We have played for hours and hours with no ill effect, but heed the caution.

This tape, containing two great games, is a fantastic software buy at $19.95 and I recommend it highly. Both games are extremely well-programmed and utilize the features of E.B. Many hours of enjoyment are waiting for you if you order The Gate Escape in E.B.

Attention: If you have any products for sale which require extended memory, and would like to see a review done in this column. Send, along with complete documentation, the exact product the customer would receive. I will not write about items that I cannot recommend. Our goal is to promote and advance the Bally Astrocade system, not to destroy it or anyone connected. If I feel there is a problem, I will contact the supplier personally to try to correct the situation and make a review possible.

Special thanks to Paul Thacker for providing screenshots of Wack-A-Mole.

Extended BASIC Links

  1. The Gate Escape (BASIC Program) - This is the Blue RAM BASIC version of The Gate Escape by WaveMakers.
  2. Wack-A-Mole (BASIC Program) - This is the Blue RAM BASIC version of Wack-A-Mole by WaveMakers.

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