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Fun from the early days of computer gaming

by Shawn Barnett

I remember back when I was in junior high, the path I walked to school ran right by a 7-11 store. And in that store was one of the best video games ever: Asteroids, by Atari. I spent a lot of lunch money there, and missed a lot of what went on in first period playing that game. And despite the money and time spent, I was never very good. I wasn't like the guys who could get past a million and reset the machine. But I had fun.

Now, this isn't called Asteroids, because it's not by Atari, but it's still a lot of fun. There are currently two versions, one that runs on monochrome screens, AstroidsGS (probably for Green Screen), and a color version, called AstroidsC. Both programs have excellent animation, and lots of action. The textured backgrounds, ship, and rocks make for the most interesting play, but you can change to flat asteroids and ship with no background if you like. Hidden in the sparkly rocks are bonus items, some of which give you things like double shots, auto fire, extra life, extra shots, and extra distance. One of the fun bonuses looks like a pizza pie, but it makes your ship spin and fire rapidly, eliminating almost all foes and rocks. Another nice option is the ability to modify the amount of thrust, how fast you spin, and how much drag is in space. I like high drag, because it keeps me from floating uncontrollably all over the screen, though it's considerably less like the vacuum space is supposed to be.

As I said, I was never very good at Asteroids, and that hasn't changed much. The scores shown at right are far from my high scores, however. Those are really shot on an emulator running on a PC. It's very difficult to play a game intended to be played with four buttons when all you have is the mouse cursor. I just wanted to show you how cool the screens look. Playing on the Palm IIIc is certainly the peak of game play on the Palm platform. Astroids is definitely worth a look, and for US$7.95 you can save your lunch money and play anywhere you want.

-Shawn Barnett

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