Aquanaut! v1.0- by Steven Turk

OS/2, like many operating systems, seems to have drawn its share of classic video game nuts. Or maybe it's just that the ancient (by today's standards) software that ran on yesterday's video arcade boxes is the most complex type of game that can be successfully ported to our beloved OS. Either way, Aquanaut! is yet another classic game that many die hard arcade dwellers will recognize instantly -- PM style.

Aquanaut! by any other name...

Except it's completely different. Frankly, I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't remember the name of the original stand-up arcade hit that Aquanaut! mimics (I played it more than once...). If you ever played it, you will recognize the copy immediately: it was that space ship game that had a joystick and about 6 or 7 buttons not quite in a horizontal line for everything from acceleration to smart bombs. Space Something or Something Blaster...

Anyway, Aquanaut! is fairly faithful to (what I can remember of) the original except the setting in this case is underwater and instead of a space ship fighting UFOs, you're cruising in a sub saving the sea floor from evil seahorses. The rest is near identical. Your sub is moved up or down and the acceleration key causes the (resizable) play window to scroll by you, simulating your motion. Other keys cause you to reverse direction, fire one serious laser, drop a smart bomb or flip into hyperspace (useful for tight situations if not entirely consistent in a marine setting). The evildoers out to steal your treasures from the sea floor are Seahorses (Demonic and otherwise), Jellyfish, U-boats, Torpedoes, Mermaids and Rubber Rings (these last two appear only in the registered version of the game). And there is a handy radar (or sonar in this case) above the main screen to warn you of approaching bad guys. As with all shoot 'em up games, things get markedly hairier as you progress in levels.

The purpose, as the on-line help says, is, "to stay alive as long as possible, amass as high a score as possible and protect the sea's treasures for as long as possible." Pretty straightforward.

Window Dressings

It was a long time ago (1994 in fact) that the author, Paul Stanley, sat down and banged out this little gem and it shows. (Did the original look this cheesy? I remember it being so cool...) While Aquanaut! is a graphical PM game with sound effects (lasers, explosions, music, etc.) it is not Myst. The graphics (GIF, 5k) are rough and the sounds may get a little annoying after a while. Still, the display is functional and there's enough color and noise to imagine you're really doing the world a service with all the wanton sea-life eradication you're engaged in.

Performance

The game is also reasonably snappy even on the most challenged of systems. This is probably because back in '94 a "power system" would have quaked in fear at today's RAM stuffed boxes. If you have at least 16 meg of RAM you'll likely have no problems with Aquanaut!. A nice touch is that the game pauses when its window loses focus.

There are sound drop outs but this is most likely an MMOS/2 problem since it has been observed on the test machine equipped with a Sound Blaster in the past while running other programs. Otherwise the game performed flawlessly.

Conclusions

What can I say? Aquanaut! is shareware and very reasonably priced at US$10. The only catch is that this game was written so long ago that there isn't even an e-mail address anywhere in the docs. I'm not sure if the author is still at the address listed or if he is still accepting registrations (but we can assume he wouldn't mind them). Is it worthwhile? Well, you probably won't get any great return by investing your $10 in a 2 yr old game but you might ease your conscience. And as long as you realize what you are paying for, it is worth it.
 * Aquanaut! v1.0
by Paul Stanley
download from Hobbes (ZIP, 229k)
Registration: US$10
Stephen Turk is a salesman at a small computer retailer and part time trouble shooter. He has been using OS/2 for over a year and is an avid Usenet lurker.

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