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Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Oldschool Reviews - LASER

Oldschool Reviews - LASER

Posted by Jeffrey Lee on 09:00, 9/4/2007 | , , ,
LASERI figured it was about time for another oldschool review. This time I'll be talking about LASER, a game written by Mike Goldberg (and his cat) as part of his series of graphics programming articles in Acorn Computing magazine. The game was released on the subscription disc for the February 1994 issue of the magazine, along with a level editor so users could make their own puzzles.

The introduction

Eek! There appears to be a problem with the Sheepwell reactor - it keeps going critical and in hot weather melts down. You play the role of "Chin-up" Bill in his Laserdrive - the only man who can stop potential catastrophe by firing a laser bolt directly into the heart of the reactor thus causing a controlled(!) destruction of the whole plant. Of course it's not as easy as that as the reactor is protected by concrete blocks - some immoveable, others you can destroy with your laser. You'll have to deflect the laser round the blocks by strategic placing of mirrors which are not only portable but rotateable.
Being a free game, the title screen isn't particularly snazzy, but it does get the point across, and features some of Mag's artwork. The screen has a simple two-frame animation for the background image, and the "LASER by MAG & CAT" strapline scrolls across the bottom, leaving a trail behind via the magic of EOR plotting. After a few seconds the title vanishes, taking you straight to the action of the game.
Enough of the title screen, then. What about the game?

The game

The gameIf you haven't worked it out yet, LASER is a game about lasers, mirrors, radioactive sheep, and the soon-to-explode Sheepwell reactor. The action is fairly simple - You have to navigate the maze-like level and position the mirrors so that you can fire a laser into the heart of the reactor before the time limit is reached. The problem lies in that you can only fire the laser from "safe" zones (those without the radiation hazard symbol), and there are both destructible and indestructible walls in the way as barriers. And the occasional two-headed sheep.
If you run out of time you are rather unceremoniously returned to the first level, but since there are only 8 levels in total, it isn't too much of a nuisance to have to redo them. Although the first few levels can be done on your first run through, the last few are quite tricky.
Although fairly attractive, the graphics for the game are also fairly simple. Having said that, the game is designed to run on the lowest common denominator (it will probably run on a 512K machine at a push), and the lack of detailed character animation (e.g. for moving between map squares) doesn't detract from the gameplay. Similarly, the sound effects are simple, yet effective, and there is no background music.

The extras

The editorAs previously mentioned the game also comes with a level editor, which allows you to create your own levels (as well as take sneak peaks at the default ones). As with the game the editor is a simple single-tasking affair, using the keyboard to create and edit levels. You also get a few "cheat sheets", showing solutions to the last 4 levels of the game.

The verdict

LASER is a fun little game, one deserving its five minutes of fame on the Internet. Unfortunately it hasn't aged too well, and plays a bit fast on modern machines. Luckily all the code is written in BASIC, so apart from serving as a tutorial for writing simple BASIC games, it's also quite easy to slow the game down if it plays too fast for you.

  Oldschool Reviews - LASER
  Q (20:55 11/4/2007)
  Phlamethrower (21:03 11/4/2007)
    Phlamethrower (21:54 11/4/2007)
      Q (23:13 11/4/2007)
        Phlamethrower (23:53 11/4/2007)
John Cartmell Message #101268, posted by Q at 20:55, 11/4/2007
Posts: 37
Apparently your copy of LASER is written entirely in BASIC. My copy includes 8 modules and won't run on modern machines. Where did you get your copy?
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Jeffrey Lee Message #101270, posted by Phlamethrower at 21:03, 11/4/2007, in reply to message #101268
PhlamethrowerHot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot stuff

Posts: 15100
My copy should be straight from the original 1994 subscription disc (or from the archives that came on an AU CD). I'll check when I get home. It does definitely use modules for the sound effects, but if what you say is true (how modern is "modern"? smile) then it's possible I tweaked it a bit to get it to run.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Jeffrey Lee Message #101271, posted by Phlamethrower at 21:54, 11/4/2007, in reply to message #101270
PhlamethrowerHot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot stuff

Posts: 15100
Compared to the copy on the AU CD, the only change I've made is to slow the game down a bit (by inserting a 4cs delay in PROCP). The game works fine on my RO 3.7 StrongARM RiscPC like that.

If you comment out everything in the !Run file from 'RMEnsure MemAlloc' to 'ScreenSize 160' then it'll run on an Iyonix, too (Although there'll be no sound, and it'll need a speed fix if you want it to actually be playable)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
John Cartmell Message #101275, posted by Q at 23:13, 11/4/2007, in reply to message #101271
Posts: 37
If you let me see just what changes you have made to the BASIC file I'll see if I can make the modified game an official release. And the same for any of the AU, AC, AW cover games and apps that can be made to work on 32-bit machines.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Jeffrey Lee Message #101278, posted by Phlamethrower at 23:53, 11/4/2007, in reply to message #101275
PhlamethrowerHot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot stuff

Posts: 15100
The current fix is simply this change to !RunImage:


However that will cause the game to run slower on old machines. A much better fix is the following, which should keep the game at around 25fps on all machines:

130 SYS &42 TO TEMP

(The game changes TIME, so I've had to switch to OS_ReadMonotonicTime for a reliable clock)

Also, the level editor needs a similar fix:

130 SYS &42 TO TEMP

I've also realised that the RISC OS 5/32bit fix will stop the game from using two screen banks, introducing flicker. Fixing that will need this change to !RunImage (which shouldn't cause any problems on earlier machines):

50 MODE 13+128 : MODE 13 : OFF

Making the editor 32bit compatible is also possible - you just need to change the !Run file in the same way to stop it using MemAlloc, and edit line 50 of EDIT29 to match the above.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]

Acorn Arcade forums: News and features: Oldschool Reviews - LASER