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This text is from the magazine from Parco Electric in Honiton, Devon, - issues 5 and 6 - undated but 1985. A magazine for owners of the Texas TI-99/4A Home Computer, still relevant for anyone with one of the TI99/4a emulations such as MESS. The lengthy four column listings have been omitted.


TI99/4A - Parco Magazine - Issues 5 and 6 - 1985

Belgian ARTIST A-R-T-I-S-T
[sjs 2016- CARE- this is not referring to the better known program TI Artist}

You won't have seen or heard of this one before as it is new and exclusive to PARCO. written in Belgium it will suit the Minimemory user that doesn't have Disk/32k etc etc. Actually ARTIST does have certain features that GRAPHX doesn't, even though the total package is not so comprehensive.

Perhaps you are like me. When you first used Minimem with the LINES sampler program, you just gazed goggle-eyed at the screen. impressed yes, but wishing that you could somehow harness the drawing capabilities to make your own designs. Here is the answer.

Take a look:-
choice between thick/thin pens
thick/thin erasers
functions for drawing lines circles, boxes or rays.
pre-definition of 2 symbols or figures on an enlarged 24x32 grid for later use on any part of the screen.
'spray' to fill a space, and another to clear filled spaces
choice from 16 colours for foreground, background and screen.
variable cursor speed
HELP screen, showing options pictorially. (joystick driven)
load/save to cassette
type a variety of character sets on screen, including true lower-ease.
mirror-image painting (quad)

It seems impossible without Memory Expansion and all, but it's true. ARTIST does all of this, and very nicely.
The 'mirror-image' function is amazing, especially if used in conjunction with the 'rays' option. As stated, ARTIST is less sophisticated than GRAPHX, but still a masterpiece of assembly programming in its own right.
ARTIST is available on cassette, the only peripherals required being MINIMEM, CASSETTE PLAYER and JOYSTICK. £19.95

Dig Dug Review DIG DUG - Module review

Atarisoft for the TI usually means good graphics and sound, and this is no exception. Funny, this is the opposite of Congo Bongo in that early levels are so simple as to make you wonder if the game is for children.

That theory bites the dust just as convincingly as DIG DUG does as he burrows his way around the screen. The further you go on (and you CAN select difficulty levels at the start) the tougher it gets.

The object of the exercise is to burrow underground, and to kill off the beasties that lurk in their tunnels. Of course they also pursue you as soon as they get opportunity, and 'Fygars' are particularly nasty as they breathe fire, wnereas the 'Pookas' don't.

There are two ways of polishing off the little fellows. You can blow them up, whicn requires three 'pumps' of the joystick whereupon they inflate and explode, or with a little skill you can earn more points by causing rocks to drop on them.

So all's going well, 'til suddenly the rules appear to have been broken! While you are confined to burrowing in straight lines, those crafty Pookas and Fygars have turned into ghosties that don't understand that you can't go through walls, and here they come in bee-lines toward you diagonally and all! The only way you can kill them now is rock-dropping, otherwise run for your life until they are transformed back again. Phew!

Once you have mastered the basic elements of DIG DUG, there are still new targets, as extra points are gained through collecting the fruit and vegetables that appear momentarily after two rock falls.

At GBP 15 DIG DUG is good value
(JOYSTICK REQUIRED)

Module Review CONGO BONGO - Module review
You are a hunter on a jungle safari. Reach the mischievious Congo Bongo by escaping wild monkeys, skull-crushing coconuts, and poisonous snakes. Ominous jungle drums warn you of the dangers that lie ahead - but it's too late to turn back!

Safari - so good! Would you know what I meant if I said that this game is infuriating? Although there are only two screens; one being a mountain climb, and the other a river crossing; both involve such precision of control that you only tend to get a little further each time. Consequently a return to square one is repeatedly necessary. All very well if you have a lot of time on your hands.

This reviewer did not, and to be honest I nearly gave up without completing level one! Glad to say I suddenly cracked it and got onto level two. Even then I saw no monkeys or snakes, so I guess there's plenty more challenges awaiting anyone who does have the time to spend.

3D-style graphics are first rate, and the overall structure of the game is a cross between Kong and Frogger. I wish I had more time to get into it in more depth - the fact that I haven't at least confirms that this is no 'one day wonder'

£19.95 - available now
PS. great jungle sounds!

[2016- sjs- I never did learn how to handle this one and just gave up on it as impossible!]

Module review Jawbreaker

If you don't like your games fast and furious, then leave JAWBREAKER on the shelf. If you want to spend your leisure time leisurely, forget it. If you are looking for a game that will calm you down at the end of a long day, then don't bother. If you enjoy playing a game with one hand while unwrapping and eating a chocolate bar with the other, then I'm afraid this is not the one.

It would not have been so out of place to call this one JOYbreaker; I can virtually hear the sound of snapping sticks all over the nation as I write. The screen is divided into five horizontal levels. You take the form of a set of gnashers in mid-screen. There is a door in each of the dividing walls, and the doors are continuously shifting horizontally. A row of dots lines each row, A la Pacman, with energizing capsules at each corner of the screen.

Naturally you are being chased, and yes you guessed it, by Grinning Gobblers. In keeping with the Pacman guise, the Gobblers have the advantage until you reach an energizer, whereupon they turn into ghosts and become vulnerable to you for a limited time. Nifty shifting is required to move between the levels, and you can easily be trapped. Various treats sucn as lollipops appear from time to time for bonus points. When you clear a screen, a toothbrush appears to give you a quick brush-over. Whether this qualifies the Module as an educational one is not clear, but it certainly won't do any harm!
Okay, having set the scene, what is the appeal?

Firstly the title-screen and music are superb. A lot of thought has gone into this alone, and the options offered include choice of which keys to use for controls (If you aren't using joystick). Difficulty levels range from 'Teddy Bear' to 'Jawbreaker', with the latter being frantic to say the very least. In fact, I can't think of many games that can compete with Jawbreaker for sheer speed. Breathtaking stuff this, for GBP 12.50

There is, of course a knack to the game. What it actually is evades me, as I keep getting hammered.
I'll have to leave Jawbreaker there, as I have an appointment at the dentist ....

Othello OTHELLO For those of you who are not aware of this strategy game, I thought it best to sit down and review it to prove how good a game it is.

I will take you through the game step by step, and hopefully persuade you to buy it because for a module it is remarkably cheap.

The game starts by displaying the grid numbered l to 8 vertically, and lettered A to H horizontally. There is a lack of colour here, and throughout the game. standard black screen, green board with white border and medium red for no. of moves and last move.

There is a prompt in cyan, asking wbetber you would like to create a game in progress. I suggest type 'N' or else you bave to set up the board yourself! You are tben asked if you would like to play against tbe computer (most people type 'Y' for ego purposes). You are then given tne choice of 8 levels of play. If you have played before, then level 1 is a piece of cake. You are then asked if you want to move first. If you haven't played before let the computer go first.

The object of the game is to capture as many of the opponent's disks as possible by outflanking them. This simply means getting your disks either side of the opponent's (horizontally, vertically OR diagonally), and changing them to your colour.

To place a disk, all you do is type in the desired co-ordinates (column first) and press ENTER. The computer then changes tne disks to the appropriate colour, alters the scores, displays the number of moves, and displays tne last move. After a few games you begin to realize tne importance of the edge squares, and more importantly the corners. If you have the good fortune to capture a corner first tben you shouldn't have much trouble winning tne game.

This game really is outstanding. Only two points to criticize - the colours as mentioned are a little dull, and unlike levels 1 to 5 which are very fast, levels 6 to 8 are much slower. The computer can take over 2 minutes making up its mind on the very hardest level, so it is possible to play for an hour and still be on the same game.

If you happen to lose, you are then subjected to the ubiquitous 'Death March', which gets on my nerves. (Always a shame, because when played properly this is a fine piece of music!) If you win, then a cheerful tune is played. The best music is reserved for a draw, which seldom happens.

Overall the program is well written, and at GBP 9.95 must be a bargain.

If you like to use your head instead of a fire-button (Does that explain those weird indentations in your face, Phil? - Ed) then Parco will Certainly oblige.

MODULE review - Phil Donald

2016 additional: Othello is a trademark game name, licenced by Texas Instruments for this module. Parco were nonplussed to receive a threatening letter on behalf of the tradename owner telling them to stop selling this product. They told the writer to contact Texas Instruments.


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Games Module: Hopper HOPPER

Command Module Review
(Reviewed on account of the fact that lots of people wonder if it is the same as Frogger.) (It isn't.)

I have I often heard it said, or is it just a convenient figment of my imagination that the most effective things are simple things done well? Wherever I got the notion, HOPPER fits the category anyway. I have always thought that when it comes to sitting down at the computer and choosing a game to play, a rather different set of rules comes into effect than the ones in operation when I want to gasp at someone's programming ability or choose to review a meaty package. Somehow I need to have a goal to achieve, yet relax at the same time. I don't want a long drawn out or complex issue at times like that, I want something pleasant to look at and convenient to manipulate. That's why I often revert to Munchman, Invaders, and lately HOPPER.

It was after playing Hopper for a cumulative total of about 6 hours over several days that I realized there is no music written into the module, not even on title screen. Somehow if the game 'works' such details have less import. Nor do the graphics win awards for variety, but who cares if the all important 'playability' factor is present?

You see it's like this. You are a kangaroo - oh yes you are - and you are being pursued around tne room by trainers. Scattered about the place are packing crates. In order to evade your pursuers you duck and weave around tne crates and 'kick' them into the paths of the traihers; either to trap them or squash them. And that's it.

Mind you, with strategy and fast reflexes you can really pile on the points. If you just squash a trainer, so good, but if you can confine one or more and close in on them to hem them in completely, they die rather more dramatically and you get extra points. Sadistic aren't we? You get points also for knocking the crates around. In fact, as well as wiping out the trainers, you want to clear as many crates from the screen as possible.

If a crate is free-standing and you kick it, it shoots across the room to the nearest obstacle, whether it be another crate or the wall. If the crate you kick is already up against something then the crate is crushed. Obviously, the aim is to trap trainers, smash crates to pieces all over the shop, then come pack and polish off the poor trainers.

Therein lies my ONLY moan, in that once you nave trapped tne trainers, it is a bit of a plod going round smashing crates witnout even a time limit or bonus scheme. Still it wouldn't be a real review without one gripe, would it?

Naturally the completion of a screen heralds the dawn of another, harder one. There are ten in all, with a nasty twist on the tenth. You have five lives to play with, and options include ohe or two player games, and keyboard or joystick control. There is also a useful pause facility in case you get caught short.

To sum up, the impressions that HOPPER leaves are simple but appealing graphics, compelling sound-effects, good joystick response, and fast, addictive animation. And is that mot, my friend, what all good arcade-style computer games are really about?

Disk Label review DATA WIPERS - product review

Do you ever get fed up with scribbling over disk labels, or peeling them off when they've been scribbled on too many times already? Now why didn't YOU invent DATA WIPERS then? image of disk label

We've seen the 'write on/wipe off' boards on kitchen walls etc, well here is the same principle applied to disk and cassette labels. Either type are available, but the idea is the same. The labels themselves have a sort of laminated finish, and the pen is a non-permanent fibre-tip. Consequently it writes clearly on the label, but can be erased quickly and simply with a damp cloth.

I like the principle, I like the look of them, and I shall use them. Where 'workdisks' are concerned, or cassettes that are repeatedly used, DATA WIPERS are perfect. The only reservation in my mind is the fact that the ink can be rubbed off with a dry finger if mauled.

Assuming that disks are handled with appropriate care, then this can probably be discounted. I shall give them the benefit of the doubt until such time that I can no longer read the labels and have to use Disk Manager to tell me which disk is which!

Book review Getting Started by S Shaw
a book review

There are two reasons for recommending this book to a beginner. One is that it sheds light on many of the knotty areas where the User Guide is less than clear, and the other is that many topics are included that the User Guide doesn't even cover.

The first three chapters deal with setting up, and with an introduction to TI Basic. There are clear descriptions of common commands, with plenty of examples.

The next two chapters cover topics that everyone wants to know more about, but finds little help - cassette handling and file processing. If you have a particular interest in this subject, then the book is worth getting for this alone. Not that this or any other subject is exhaustively covered, but the User Guide is so confusing and sketchy that the clarity here is bound to help.

Next, an interesting chapter called Advanced Programming. Assembly Language is touched on, but the Author is sensitive to the fact that the majority do not have the necessary resources for this to be relevant, so returns to Basic. Useful tips and routines are included, e.g. sorting and data compression.

Extended Basic warrants a chapter to itself, with an overview of the 'plus factors' of the module over console Basic.

The last two chapters deal with various software ahd hardware descriptions. The author's penchant for detail ahd interest is highlighted by the inclusion of such goodies as the extra BASIC commands available with PRK ahd Statistics modules.

Stephen is a stickler for getting facts right, and is always seeking to uncover new info about the TI. This is reflected all through the book, which is written in a clear and easy style.
£5.95 and well worth it

Book review Book review:
Using and programming the TI99/4a Including Ready to Run Programs by Frederick Holtz.
Available online from TI Books

If a book were judged by the length of its title, then this one would need a lorry to carry away the awards. If on the other hand you could judge a book by its cover, then this one surely contains the secret to domestic bliss. You know the kind of thing I mean - the perfect All American happy family poised gleefully around their computer with not a hair, tooth, or rich-oak-bookcase-full-of-etc etc out of place.

The thing is - does the content of the book live up to all this? Well actually, it's not bad.

Best start by sorting out who it's aimed at. Like 'Getting Started' which I reviewed this book tends not to exhaust any particular subject, but introduces many. By definition then, it will suit the 'man in the street' (who IS he?) rather than the 'Expert'

Having said that, there are features of considerable note here. One first impression that grabs is the number of photos, diagrams and charts in the book. It's surprising how helpful this can be. Included are illustrations of things that some folk have heard of but never seen, so it's a nice touch. There are a few bits that are either dated or inappropriate, like the fabled TI Thermal Printer and the Monitor, but it's interesting all the same.

As for content? Well here again, what impresses is that in amongst the usual mixture of intro/first-steps/ examples and glossaries there are some juicy items that you'll be hard pressed to find in other 'basic' books. For instance, there is a whole chapter describing TI and 3rd party software that was available at time of going to print. Sadly some of the titles never reached these shores, but the info does make interesting reading nevertheless.

Incidentally, it says 1983 inside the cover, yet have prices really changed so in such a short time? Do I hear $30-$40 for Scott Adams cassettes? (and I mean JUST the cassettes) Othello (reviewed here) is priced in the book at $40 - and how many of you paid $55 for Early Reading?

Well, that's as may be, but back to business. One section sticks out like a chapter on Himalayan Fruit-Bat Microsurgery in the Blue Peter Annual. Not that it's irrelevant, just that having been gently introduced to the rudiments of TI Basic, you are suddenly launched into a chapter on the TMS9900 Microprocessor Chip and its Assembly Language, without even a quiet warning to fasten your seatbelt! To be fair, I found it really useful, but I just feel for the absolute TI novice (me being just a relative novice), who is expected to come to terms with the fact that "...to perform double-precision multiply operations on unsigned 32-bit numbers with the 9900, a cross multiply technique can be used..." Oh, yeah?

I may have poked fun at various points here, but I actually like the book. It's quite big - over 200 pages and 9" by 8" cover-size, with good quality print and illustrations. If you are looking for an 'introductory' type hook, then you will gain a lot from this one. If you already have 'Getting Started' type books, then this will duplicate some info for sure, but Tl freaks will want it if only for its sheer enthusiasm and attention to items overlooked or forgotten by otherwise similar books. GBP 7.85

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