Catena, APF, 1978
Something to notice about the menu screen:
This machine is considered to be a "TV Micro-Computer" by its makers. Well, yeah, all videogame consoles are, technically, "computers", just not what we usually call "computers" anymore, thanks to the great Computer/Console Distinction riots of the early 1980s. But I digress from the chronology . . .
First of all, lets just deal with the title. I originally confused it with the word cantina, which is a bar on Mos Eisley, but that's because I'm an idiot. It's actually a smart title if you know what the word "catena" means. (I didn't, I had to look it up.)
Catena is the Latin word for "chain" and "Planetary geologists use the word to refer to chains of similarly sized impact craters." Yeah, I copied that directly from Wikipedia.Catena, the videogame, shares the same rules of the boardgame Othello (remember? "A minute to learn a lifetime to master?") using maroon and orange squares instead of black and white circles. With the definition of the word catena given above, isn't that an appropriate name?
It is nice to see this game on a console. I don't think it was ever in the arcades (which isn't a shock) and I think this marks its first appearance on a home system, so "yay" for the APF!
In case you're not familiar with the game of Catena/Reversi/Othello go here:http://www.rainfall.com/othello/rules/othellorules.asp
There's also a version of Othello that you can play here:http://www.rainfall.com/othello/
I'm going to try to link more often to better directions as I always make things more complicated than they should be.
In Catena, on the APF MP1000, to select your pieces you input the number of the square upon which you'd like to place your next piece using the keypad on your controller. The computer handles the task of changing the colors of the pieces you "capture".You can set the computer to play against itself, in case playing against the computer by yourself has "worn you out". (Hint: A lava lamp is prettier to stare at.) An odd quirk of the game was that the computer wouldn't "let" me make some moves. I'd have to input the number of the square of my choice several times before it would accept it. Also, there were times when it would place my piece at a completely different position than the one I had been punching in. Problem with the code? Problem with the cart? Problem with the console? Problem with not having the instructions? I don't know, but it was really annoying.
The sound also qualifies as annoying. The only sound effect is a non-innocuous clicking noise used to alert you where the computer has placed its piece and what pieces are affected by the move. We turned down the sound on the TV after about three turns, patched our bleeding ears, and resumed play.
(Note to self: I need a refresher course on when semicolons are best used.)
I can say that the game's graphics are functional, but the colors are damn ugly. So is the sound. However, unless I'm mistaken, the system and the game itself get points overall for being the first boardgame translation with an AI opponent on a home videogame system. (Correct me if I'm wrong, okay? Am I forgetting one?) As far as the quality of the AI, I'm not really good enough at the game to notice any problems with it, so it gets points for it even existing.Next entry will be another Hangman game. This one is the best Hangman, yet!