Part 21: Complexcalibur - Aadvark AttackOkay, let's give this a try. I wanted to start off in the kiddie pool, so I went over the earlier issues of Compute! to find something more my speed, while still being worth posting in the thread. Something simple, but not a boring Pac Man or Tron clone. Something educational. Something alliterative. Something with animals from space.
Let's Play 64 Aardvark Attack!
November 1983, Issue #5, Vol. 1, No. 5*
The game is nice enough to give us a backstory, so let's see it:
The best way I can describe this game is Missile Command meets Mavis Beacon.
ANDROMEDAN AARDVARKS ARE ATTACKING EARTH THEY HAVE 26 KINDS OF BOMBS AND THEY'RE ATTACKING 10 CITIES! YOUR ALPHANUMERIC RADAR CAN SAVE EARTH FIRST: RECOGNIZE THE BOMB (A-Z) THEN: SAVE THE CITY (0-9)
After choosing a difficulty, our playing field loads in:
Next, those red asterisks at the top get covered up with blackness, accompanied by a very Commodore 64 type of sound.
Finally, a letter shows up in the square on the right, and the bomb drops!
The aim of the game, as given in the instructions, is twofold. First, you have to type the letter that shows up on the screen. Next, you have to eyeball which city it's aiming for; all bombs only go straight down, so it's just a matter of checking which column the bomb is in and typing that number. The time you have to do this ranges from tight (barely a second on difficulty 9) to laughable (around half a minute on difficulty 1).
If you type the correct letter, the bomb trail inverts itself, and if you then type the correct number the bomb is destroyed, and you get points based off of how quickly you were able to destroy the bomb. If you DON'T type the letter and/or number in time...
The city gets blasted, and you're treated to a nice little technicolor flash. Having the city hit once won't totally destroy it; each of those numbers is actually the top of a little bar representing how un-exploded the city is. A direct hit from the bomb will take of 2 points of the bar, from which there are I think 5. If you get the letter but can't find the number in time, you only lose 1 point. And if any of those bars bottom out, it's game over, which means another seizure of color.
- This is going to sound like damning with faint praise, but for someone who's never touched BASIC, the code was very easy to follow. It was sectioned off sensibly, and each part of the code was prefaced with a REM explaining what that section of the code was meant to do. So
ifwhen something went wrong when I was testing this, I knew where to look.
- At least compared to some of the other games featured in the thread, the sound effects aren't really grating at all. That said, it's hilarious to listen to a bomb on Difficulty 1 sloooooooooowly pitch shift it's way down as it plummets for a whole 30 seconds.
- Despite being billed as an educational game, this really won't teach you how to type so much as it'll teach you where everything is on your keyboard. To 64 Aardvark Attack's credit, the article about the game does mention that it's not really meant to help with touch typing, but it kind of struggles to come up with any other point for the game. It makes a token suggestion that parents can use it to teach children their letters, but the kind of parent that could afford a Commodre 64 in the 1980s probably already has a decent set of flashcards for that instead. Then again, those flashcards don't contain nearly as many aardvarks.
- After you miss a few bombs and the numbers at the top of each city's bar are blasted off, it gets kind of hard to discern exactly which column a bomb is dropping into. This leads to more mistypes, which means more missed bombs, which means more numbers nuked off the top row. For my first few games, once I got four or so misses I pretty much went to a tailspin of failure. But then I realized...
- There's no penalty for mistyping anything, so you're free to just run your hand across the keys, defeating the purpose of the game! This isn't really feasible for the letter phase of the bomb, but after you nail that part, just rolling your hand across the top row will usually get you the bomb. Granted, this is probably easier for me to do on my modern keyboard compared to the raised keys on the actual Commodore 64, but the fact remains.
This ad comes from a time where the advertising art for video games either looked nothing like how the game actually looked, or it looked exactly like how the game actually looked.
*Aardvark Attack was also featured in Issue 4 of Compute! with code for the VIC-20, along with what I can only assume was a conversion of the code to the Commodore 64. I originally bashed my head against that version of the code for a couple nights trying to figure out why my FOR statement was spitting out a syntax error every time I tried to cap it off with a NEXT, gave up, wondered if a later issue mentioned any bugs, checked the listings, saw the game was listed a second time, and then took a crack at that version.