Quadra, by Mike White Software, is the featured program for review this month. Mike is just now getting ads set up for the Arcadian and the Sourcebook, so many of you haven't yet heard of him or Quadra. In Vol. 5, page 125, there was an article on File Search. This was written by Mike and contained the first mention of his product. There has been an address change since the article and a correction will appear near the end of this column. In making preparations for this review, I have been struggling with a question of ethics: whether or not to even do it, since Mike is a personal friend and I have seen Quadra progress from the idea stage. The answer was to tell the readers that, even though I will try not to let it influence the review, a certain amount of bias may be present.
Quadra is a game that could fall into a category with games such as Gorf or Tron, since it is a group of several games tied together to form one. It first came to life in Astro-BASIC in a unique format: an approximately 10K program being executed in an 1800 byte memory. This was accomplished in the same way that disk-based systems run very large programs. Reloading or replacing the contents of the memory and leaving the necessary variables and such intact. Since this required quite a bit of tape shuffling, the logical thing was to set it up in extended memory. A 4K format was next to appear and then the "super deluxe" 16K version. All three versions are currently available. They all share the same price and they all play the same. The differences being less tape maneuvering for 4K (and none for 16K), and some extra frills and fancies for the E.B. formats. By the way, Mike offers a free update for current owners, to any larger format just for sending in your original tape. This review will be based on the 16K program, but will point out the major differences for the other variations.
In 16K only, the load is quite lengthy, but you are treated to a nicely animated title page. You also will be told periodically that the load is progressing properly. Since all formats have the same scenario, the instruction sheets apply to all. Individual notes containing the differences are included. The documentation is clear, easy to understand and complete.
The game accommodates from one to four players on individual control handles. Following the input of "# OF PLAYERS," player #1 will see the screen divided into 4 sections containing "??" and be prompted to choose a game. An arrow in the center rotates to pick a quadrant. The four games are arranged randomly and may change. When a game is completed by one of your three "lives," it is marked as complete on the selector screen. If incomplete, the name remains visible so you may return to it or choose another quadrant. After a life is lost or a game completed, you will return to the selector. If all four games become completed, it automatically progresses to the more difficult level, #2 or #3 (on up as high as you can get).
The four quadrants contain games that are variations of old coin-ops and some that are brand new concepts. Smash Up is similar to Head On. It seems every computer and game system uses this interesting game idea in one or more variations. Your car moves counter-clockwise through a rectangular maze, erasing dots while avoiding the computer car (traveling clockwise). UFO Attack has some similarities to Space Invaders, among others. Your movable, land-based cannon must eliminate four waves of descending, shooting invaders and then destroy the "Mother Ship." Laser & Slide actually is made up of three separate challenges. The laser segment is a shootout between your laser gun on the left and the computer on the right. The slide game is played like the coin-op Avalanche. You have to catch 30 falling rocks in an ever-shrinking basket. As an intermission between the two, you play a simplified Breakout type of game called Brick Buster. With your paddle, you bounce the brick upwards against a wall, knocking out sections. Bounce a brick through a hole to finish. Make this one last as long as possible to gain extra points.
Safe Cracker is a totally new and unique game. You begin, standing atop a maze with a room in the center containing a trap door. In the room is also an electrified robot. (Shocking!!) He guards the maze against intruders. In the first level, he isn't too fast or intelligent, but look-out in later levels. In each corner of the maze is a small cubicle. In one of these you will see a key. Go get the key and go out the trap door. You will automatically be pulled through a "tunnel" which proceeds to the top of a second maze room. This one is just like the first except there are two keys. The third and fourth rooms have like numbers of keys. While all this is being done, a "bomb timer" is constantly counting down the seconds to zero hour! After having picked up 4 keys and passing through the trapdoor, you will be deposited in the room with the safe. By using the knob to dial on-screen numbers, you must find the three number combination. Then use the joystick to open the safe in the 4K and 16K versions. In 4K, the game is now complete. If you have the 16k game, you must now defuse the bomb which is still counting down. The bomb is in the safe along with the bomb instruction manual and a pair of snippers. You turn the pages of the manual to find out what sequence the wires must be snipped. The wrong sequence and BOOM! There are two problems. The bomb timer is still counting down and a robot shorted out the lights. You are in the dark with only the small spot of a flashlight to see to read the book and snip the wires.
Playing Quadra requires skill and quick reflexes in each segment. It is a game that cannot be played in just a few minutes. Since the selector screen chooses from four titles, practice on individual games is impossible. To correct this, Mike includes a menu driven file search practice program on the reverse side of the tape. The main Quadra side, he calls the Marathon. On the practice side, you may play multiplayer versions of the four games and also a version of ping-pong. You may practice for the "Marathon" or simply play your favorites.
Quadra has lots of color and it has sound effects for literally everything. It is very unique and well done. This is a good game for an all-night session. The graphics are handled nicely, although in some of the simpler segments such as Avalanche, you will see some "blinking." This does not harm the play value at all. The movement is so lightning fast you won't even care. There are lots of machine routine calls throughout this BASIC program. I would recommend for beginners and intermediate programmers to look inside at some of the strange tricks that Mike pulls off (especially in 16K). This is Mike's first effort at a commercial product, and I think you will agree that we can expect a lot from him in the future. If you like fast, furious action, I'm sure you won't be disappointed in Quadra for $15.95. I feel it is definitely worth the price. Mike's new address is: Michael D. White, 4585 County Line 2, Box 373, R.D. #1, Ohio 44889.
I am going to try to get a column to print every month, but due to the limited availability of extended memory products, there may be some months that it won't appear. There is quite a bit out there (and more being produced all the time), so as time goes on we may get better established. I got a call from Rusty at R&L Enterprises a few days ago. It seems that they are eager to get one of their 64K boards to me for review. I understand they have some exciting plans for our system. I'll let you know when the board arrives, and when I gain some familiarity with it, you will be hearing all about it.
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