Friday, September 7, 2018

1980s computer game: Sonar Search

This advertisement hails from page 31 of the October 1984 issue of Computer Gaming World. It's for Sonar Search, a strategy game for the Commodore 64 that was being sold by Signal Computer Consultants of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The game, available on either tape or disk, cost $29.95, which is the equivalent of about $72 today.

Here are some excerpts from the advertising pitch for the game:

  • THE SUB IS DIRECTLY BELOW! You stab the fire button and watch as 6 depth charges arch into your wake. Several long seconds pass before they explode, sending six domes of white water to the surface. The message "SUBMARINE SUNK" flashes on the screen.
  • SONAR SEARCH is a "fast-action" strategy game based on anti-submarine warfare. You are the commander of a group of three destroyers sent to intercept a pack of 5 enemy submarines.
  • SONAR SEARCH makes full use of the high-resolution graphics, multicolor and audio capabilities of the Commodore 64. Programmed in machine language to provide immediate response to your commands, SONAR SEARCH is realistic, educational and entertaining.

Here are some screenshots of the game, taken from a YouTube video posted in 2017 with the comment "looks boring."

It looks to me like it might not even be as exciting as Intellivision's Sea Battle, which came out in 1980. But at least we can add the information, from the screenshots, that the game author was Thomas B. Levine.

Elsewhere, I discovered an archived 1986 review from Antic magazine for a different Signal Computer Consultants game — Train Dispatcher. At the end of that very positive review by Jack Mindy is this paragraph:
"According to the brochure included with Train Dispatcher, Signal Computer Consultants will be releasing a Super Dispatcher simulation, a Northeast Corridor simulation with Metroliners and all, a Locomotive Switcher simulation with high-resolution graphics — and their only non-railroad offering, an underwater Sonar Search simulation. All these forthcoming programs are scheduled for 1986 release on Apple, IBM and Commodore, but NOT for Atari. Is it time for Antic readers to start writing letters again?"
Train Dispatcher appears to have had a long life as a popular piece of niche software into the early 2010s, according to this Softrail webpage (to which Levine is connected). It appears that the original game was later adapted to help run elaborate model railroad layouts.

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