ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MICROPENDIUM P.O. Box 1343 Round Rock TX 78680 Phone 512-255-1512 Internet [email protected]

MICROREVIEWS for March 1994 Micropendium by Charles Good

I'really excited about both products I am reviewing this month. If you want to excite me with your 99/4A product, send it to me for a MicroReview to P.O. Box 647, Venedocia OH 45894.

WHO'S BEHIND THE MEXICAN UFO'S by Bodenmiller Computers.

Reviews of game software are, to a large extent, very subjective. A favorite game of one individual may not be at all interesting to someone else. With this in mind let me state that, "MEXICAN UFO's is the most enjoyable most fun adventure game I have ever played on my 99/4A." At least one of my kids (8 year old Meaghan) agrees.

The game pushes the basic 99/4A disk system to the absolute limits of its graphic capabilities in the extended basic environment. UFO's reminds me of many of the graphic adventures my kids play on our IBM clone, particularly the "Where in the ..... is Carmen Sandiego" series. In such PC games you see a full screen color picture. A text window opens up within the picture to provide the player with information and accept player input. At appropriate intervals an animated person or character moves across the screen.

MEXICAN UFO'S is written in extended basic (it is completely LISTable) and uses the advanced graphics capabilities of T.M.L. (The Missing Link). The results are comparable graphically to many of the adventure games my kids play on our clone. You need to own T.M.L. in order to make UFO'S work. I purchased T.M.L. several years ago and never found much use for it. Existing T.M.L. applications have not, so far, interested me. Now that UFO's is available I am glad I own T.M.L. Before you play for the first time, you have to install T.M.L. onto the first UFO disk. Once installed you can then put your T.M.L. disk away because UFO'S will then always boot like a regular extended basic program as LOAD from DSK1.

You are a United States secret agent assigned to find out about UFO's shaped like Mexican sombrero hats that are appearing all over the world. Usually when one of these UFO's appears, some expensive electronic equipment or military documents get stolen from a nearby location. You get on an airplane and fly to various cities all over the world (Athens, New York, Paris, Cairo, etc). At each location you usually arrive just in time to catch sight of one of the UFO's. Then you go snooping around looking for clues.

An airplane sprite takes you to each location. When you arrive, a TI Artist picture is displayed. Then a text window opens within the picture. Any of several sprites may float across the screen at any time. On a 40 column 99/4A system this simultaneous combination of a TIA picture, text window, and sprites is only possible with T.M.L. enhanced extended basic. Most of the time you just read the text, pressing "any key" to read the next text segment. Sometimes the text window gives you a choice of 2 or 3 ways to proceed, each of which will yield different results.

If you like adventure games with complex puzzles and scenarios, then USO's is not for you because it is EASY to solve. When given a selection of choices, you always eventually proceed to the next part of the game. My 8 year old had the thing finished in 20 minutes. Playing the game again may lead to the end point via a different route, but any random selection of choices will eventually lead you to the White House to be congratulated by the President. The game's measure of success is how few turns it takes you to solve the mystery. I like such easily solvable adventures. I am a real bimbo when it comes to adventure games and am intimidated by their complexity. After all, I have a PhD so I am supposed to be smart! And yet I must confess that I have not been able to finish any of the Scott Adams adventures without first looking up lots of stuff in the cheat book. I appreciate an adventure game that is both entertaining and logically simple enough that I and my children can solve it.

UFO's is full of original colorful artwork. The title screen and accompanying music are stunning. I sometimes let this title music play for several minutes before restarting a previously saved game or starting another game to try and beat my previous "fewest turns" score. This original music uses all the 3 sound channel plus 1 noise channel tricks possible in the XB environment.

UFO's comes on two DSSD disks and is designed to play out of DSK1. It is a very large game, with successive segments automatically loading themselves into memory at the appropriate times. You can't play this game with only single sided drives. You can combine both disks onto one DSDD disk which must be named MEXICO2. If you put all the files on a ramdisk you have to name the ramdisk MEXICO2 and either you have to make the ramdisk think it is DSK1. or you have to modify lots of references to "DSK1." in the XB game code to some other drive number.

UFO's is commercial software available only from Ramcharged Computers for $12.95. T.M.L. is available from several dealers including Ramcharged for $24.95. Ramcharged will give you a little off these prices if you purchase both products at the same time. Their shipping charge is $4 per order (buy one or both and pay the $4) which you can save if you make your purchase from Ramcharged at the May 14 Lima MUG Conference. Phone Ramcharged at 800-669-1214 or write the company at P.O. Box 81532, Cleveland OH 44181.

DIGISYNT by Stefano Bonomi

Every now and then something new and truely remarkable comes along for our favorite computer, an "I had no idea you could do that with the TI" type of product. The last time I ran into one of these was several years ago when I found CS1*FINDEX, which allows one using only a console and cassette player to automatically load from a menu stored on a cassette tape any TI Basic or XB software stored anywhere on the tape. Almost all of us now have disk systems, so few 99ers use CS1*FINDEX any more. But don't throw away that cassette cable and tape recorder yet! Dust off that cable, and cassette program recorder, hook them back up to your TI console and let the fun begin.

DIGISYNT is simple and fun to use, it is potentially very useful, and it is very low in cost. It is an all software one channel sound digitizer that uses the TI's cassette port for sound input. Other than a cassette recorder, TI cassette cable, and 99/4A console, all you need is a SSSD disk system with 32K. The software sucks any sound out of the tape recorder into the TI's memory expansion. These digitized sound segments can immediately be played back (without the tape recorder) through the monitor speaker, and can be saved to a disk file. Disk files are in DV80 format and full of control characters (the ASCII 0-31 characters you get with TI Writer when you invoke "special character mode" by typing CTRL/U). These sound segments can later be loaded back into DIGISYNT for playback. But more importantly they can be also be programmed into any TI Basic or Extended Basic application.

What can you digitize? 1-Anything that comes on a cassette tape including music and voice. Just press "Play" on the recorder, and when a sound segment you want to record comes along enter "1" (Digitize) from the DIGISYNT main menu. The flashing cursor disappears indicating that sound input is being digitized. When the sound buffer is full the flashing cursor reappears. 2-Your own voice or any other sounds in real time, directly through the cassette recorder's microphone or through an external microphone attached to the cassette recorder. To do this you need a cassette recorder (such as the TI Program Recorder) whose earphone jack is not muted when you are recording. Disconnect from the recorder the red "mic" jack of the TI cassette cable and insert a tape that you can record onto. Press "Record" on the cassette recorder. When you are ready to speak, enter "1" from the DIGISYNT main menu and begin talking into the cassette recorder's microphone. Your voice will be digitized directly by the computer and simultaneously will be recorded onto the tape. You have to use a tape because you can't press "Record" unless there is a tape in the recorder. Please note that you do not need a speech synthesizer to digitize and play back voice or music. DIGISYNT is apparently the technology used in creating the "speech synthesizerless speech" found in Goblin game I reviewed a few months ago and in the game Perfect Push released several years ago.

The digitized sound is not high quality. This is the same one channel sound made by some PC games (eg. "McGee" and "Kate's Farm") which produce speech through the PC speaker rather than through a sound blaster type of multi channel sound board. Music synthesized by DIGISYNT sounds as if it were coming from a fuzzy AM radio broadcast, but melodies are recognizable. Speech is understandable if you speak clearly. It helps to experiment with the volume and tone controls of the tape recorder.

The duration of a recorded sound segment depends on the size of the sound buffer, the complexity of the sound, and the "delay" you select. You can modify the size of the memory expansion digitizing buffer from within DIGISYNT, allowing you to store sound in both high and low memory areas if you want. There is no provision for using other memory outside of the standard 32K memory expansion area (but you might be able to bank switch using an Asgard AMS card). The default is B000-E000 which can be adjusted in order to not interfere with the execution of TI Basic or XB programs you might want to run with digitized music and voice. Silent time does not occupy much buffer space. Using the default buffer size, I can record my voice counting off 30 seconds before the buffer is full. I only get about 15 seconds of recorded music in the same size buffer. Such "default buffer size" sound files occupy about 50 sectors of disk space. You can increase the digitizing time duration by selecting "3" from DIGISYNT's main menu. You can then increase the delay value (decrease the program's scan speed). The result is similar to reducing the speed of an audio tape during a recording session. You get more time to record, but the sound quality is poorer. You can also record a sound a normal speed and then increase the delay before you play the sound back. This results in deep slow voices and slows down the tempo and lowers the octive of recorded music.

Utilities are included which allow you to CALL LOAD and then CALL LINK to digitized sound from within a basic program. You need the EA module to do this with TI Basic software. You can repeatedly play a loaded sound segment with your choice of volume, and you can later load in one at a time other sound segments and play them, all from within a running TIB or XB program. The possibilities here seem endless. How about a verbal message every time an ON ERROR is activated such as, "You forgot to put the data disk in the drive." You can add music and voice to your custom applications. Have the computer say, "Charlie's checking account" when you activate your check balancing program. Verbal game instructions would be both useful and cute.

The DIGISYNT disk comes with a well written sample XB game called "Submarine" (shoot torpedos at passing surface ships) illustrating the use of digitized sounds and speech in a game format. You have to listen carefully to the words because they have an Italian accent. You hear a very distinct "Gamea over" at the end of the game. The disk also comes with a variety of sample sound files you can load and play, including sounds of various animals and some disco music.

This is unique software. Only DIGISYNT allows you to create your own digitized sound segments on an all 99/4A system and incorporate them into your own software. DIGIPORT (Horizon) and SOUND F/X (Texaments) allow you to play digitized sound files created on other types of computers and downloaded from bulletin boards, but you can't create your own sound files on a TI system and you can't easily add the downloaded sounds to software. If all you want to do is play short sound segments just to hear them, why not use the cassette deck of a stereo music system? MIDIMASTER 99 (Cecure) lets you create your own very high resolution music, but only if you have an expensive MIDI keyboard. I don't think you can easily add the resulting MIDI files to TI software. Three of my children (ages 8, 13, and 15) and I spent a couple of hours together yesterday evening playing with DIGISYNT. We quickly filled a DSDD disk with sound files of our voices and favorite recorded music. It was fun!

DIGISYNT is fairware. The author asks users to "send what it is worth to you." I think it is worth a lot. I will send it to anyone in the United States and Canada who sends me a $1 bill to pay for the SSSD disk and return postage. Elsewhere in the world send a disk and paid return mailer directly to the author: Stefano Bonomi, Via Sacchi 21, 37124 Verona, Italy.

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