Bargain Time

Review by Les Ellingham


Issue 11

Sep/Oct 84

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Three From P.F. Software 

In last issue's editorial I mentioned that there were a number of low price programs around which quite frankly put you off from responding to advertisements but I also said that there were some excellent programs available. The problem is how do you know which is which?

With the above in mind I decided to take a look at three programs from P.F. Software which range in price from 2.50 to 4.50 and you won't get much cheaper than that! Most owners do not realise that Atari software generally sells only in small quantities and the cost of fancy packaging and advertising often means that selling software at low prices is not feasible. Forget the thoughts of the idle rich Atari programmer, it is simply not true! In order to sell at such low prices, P. F. Software have cut right back on the packaging to the extent that you get a typed label and photocopied instructions. You may be dismayed initially at having spent even 2.50 but it is the programs themselves that count, so are they worth it?

The first of the trio at 2.50 is Blackjack which is the standard game of pontoon using the joystick to twist or stick and play against the dealer. A very familiar game that has almost become a computer standard by now but this version uses excellent high-resolution graphics in four colours and knocks Atari's own Blackjack for six. Especially impressive are the court cards with good design and plenty of colour. It really does look like a pack of cards on the screen. Against the 9.95, or whatever, that Atari charge for a very basic program this is undoubtedly worth every penny of 2.50!

Secondly, for those of you who are budding artists but do not have a disk drive or cannot afford MicroPainter or Paint comes Art Atari which is a drawing utility enabling you to create screen pictures and save them to cassette. It obviously lacks the sophistication of the MicroPainter type utility but it does allow you to compose pictures in up to 80 colours and has the usual line, draw and fill functions. The different colours are achieved by using variable display list interrupts and although there are some limitations on how the colours are used, with careful planning some superb hi-res pictures can be composed. Generally you will need only a dozen or so colours in any given drawing and the results that can be obtained are very impressive. Included on the tape is a demo picture which is copied from an original drawn with MicroPainter and whilst Art Atari is not so easy to use, the end result is just as impressive If you are looking for a drawing utility but are not sure whether you can get on with one, Art Atari will get you started for very little cost You can always go on to MicroPainter afterwards. Far better than spending 30 and finding that you don't like drawing programs after all!

To my mind, the best of the three is Picture Puzzle. I was amazed at the quality and the program will give you many hours of enjoyment if you like the 'sliding square' type of puzzle, If you have young children then the program will be of extra value for the easier levels are ideally suited to young minds. Picture Puzzle is very similar to the range put out by Thorn EMI some time ago and consists of a high resolution picture which is scrambled up and then needs to be re-arranged to the original using the joystick. There are five difficulty levels and each picture can be divided into 16, 20, 25 or 40 pieces. As the difficulty level increases the pieces are more jumbled and on level 5 the screen is blanked while the pieces are moved. Choose this level and forty pieces and you could be in for a long night! At the opposite end on level one and using only 16 pieces, the program is ideally suited to young children who, maybe with a little help, can easily re-arrange the picture and will gain a lot of pleasure in putting it back together again. There are two pictures to choose from and the quality of both and of the program in general is very good. If you like picture puzzles you will probably consider your 3.50 well spent.

P.F. Software is obviously a 'home base' company putting out some well written software at pocket money prices You don't get fancy packaging and fancy protection techniques and these are not of the top American (and now British) standards but a great deal of care has gone into making the programs presentable, and you are not being asked to pay fancy prices.

Blackjack and Art Atari come on 16K cassette and Picture Puzzle requires 32K.