When we saw that Data East turned the anti-war film "Platoon" into a computer shoot-'em-up game, our first reaction was to bomb it. Still, we ran the disk and now we have to admit that it's cute, tricky and a lot of fun.
To tell the truth, the only difference between its jungle fighters and the latest space game's warriors is which world they're battling over.Platoon is a big step up for Data East. Until now, they've turned out mostly mindless, graphically naive arcade knockoffs.
This game has five separate, well-depicted situations for a six-person platoon to get through alive: jungle, village, underground tunnel, bunker and foxhole.
The enemy can pop out of nowhere. Scattered booty and hidden traps abound.
Platoon is out for Atari ST, Commodore 64/128, Apple IIe or IIC, and IBM type computer (with 512K RAM, joystick optional). Cost is $30 for C 64/128, $40 for other machines. (Data East, 408-286-7074).
LucasFilm Games' Maniac Mansion is worthy of the name Lucas, famed for high-budget fantasy films. It's a rip-roaring adventure for kiddies from 7 on up, in the style of our favorite computer game, King's Quest.
You'll learn all the fundamentals of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) computer gaming as you move your team of three stalwart teens through the myriad rooms of a kooky mansion. You're in search of abducted Sandy, friend of fearless leader Dave. You find clues, avoid traps, collect helpful objects, and hopefully outsmart the mansion's weird inhabitants.
As with all good D&D games, this one changes plot depending on which three of seven teens you choose to enter the mansion. They all have distinct skills, foibles and personalities. There are five possible endings and a few clues to get you started.
As you'd expect from LucasFilm, Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick's art and animation are gorgeous. The music and sound effects from Griggs and Lawrence are the best we've heard.
A clock ticks in the hall. A phone rings unexpectedly. When you turn on a water faucet, you hear the water tchhhh its way through a tap. It's wonderful fun. $45 for IBM and compatibles and $35 for Apple II and C 64/128. (Call 415-662-1902 if you can't find it in stores.)
Epyx's Dive Bomber is so dependent on graphics that its IBM version comes with three disks to handle three graphics standards. It's a European-made melange that combines classic computer flight simulation with war-gaming.
There are practice sessions in take-off, landing, bombing and exchanging fire with enemy planes. Once you've got the basics mastered, you can test your skill against a friend or the dastardly computer in any number of randomly programmed situations.
It costs $40 for Apple II, C64/128 and IBM PC types, $50 for Atari ST and Amiga. If you buy it for IBM type computers, and your command card isn't marked Part 50005D-62 Rev. A, hold down the Shift key and press the Up Arrow key to turn on your Engineer's panel lights. The game's first shipment left out that instruction, driving us nuts before we rang up Epyx's helpful tech support folks.
Shopping for bargains? We came across three oldies now selling for $15 apiece.
First, Broderbund's Captain Goodnight and the Islands of Fear is an outstanding arcade game for bright eight-year-olds and up.
The good Captain travels by land, sea and air to destroy a dreaded doomsday machine. Enemy guns, killer robots and other assorted evils try to stop him. You, the joystick wielder, attempt to get him through it all safely and triumphantly. Think you can? Not without decoding several secret messages!
The game works on all Apple IIs. Phone 800-527-6263 for your nearest dealer.
For 6- to 9-year-olds, we recommend Accolade's Law of the West for C 64/128 and Apple II (but not IIGS). Your youngster plays a sheriff who meets various characters as she ambles along. Some folks are bad, some good, some just cowardly braggarts. When they speak, she has to decide (from four onscreen choices) how to answer.
If she's a smart aleck, she'll find herself in a gunfight. Whoever's the fastest sharpshooter wins. If she answers wisely, she'll weather every encounter and win.
Onscreen sentences use comic-book language. But they do offer incentive to kids learning to read. The pistol play hones eye-hand coordination and helps beginners learn to wield a joystick accurately - valuable skills in this computer-game age.
The third oldie, Accolade's Sundog: Frozen Legacy, is a simple spaceship adventure for preteens and up. The goal is to find a lost space colony, unfreeze its cryogenic inhabitants and supply them with food and equipment you've bought. Whether you win depends in large part on your trading ability.
If you like, you can create characters' attributes as in Dungeons and Dragons play. The authors built in enough peopled places to explore that you can play for a year without getting bored. Apple IIs (not GS). (Accolade: 800-245-7744.)
As a service to readers, the columnists answer questions and send a checklist of back issues if you enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope. A special report, "Classics in Computer Games," reviews more than 40 games highly recommended by Peterson and K-Turkel for computers from Commodore and Amiga to Apple and IBM compatibles. For your copy send a $3.50 check and stamped self-addressed envelope for Report FP11 to TBC, 4343 W Beltline Hwy, Madison WI 53711. (C) 1989 P/K Associates Inc.