- Ataxx -




Ataxx - May 27, '00 by Dorsola

Thanks to recent advances in MAME technology (MAME 0.37 Beta 3), the world is now blessed with the ability to play ATAXX, which is in my opinion the most addictive and innovative strategy/puzzle game to come about since Othello. In Othello (Reversi to computer fans), you would place either white or black tiles on a board and then turn over all of your opponent's tiles that lay between the piece you just put down and your other pieces, to your color. In ATAXX, the strategy is similar... and yet an almost completely different type of battle is being waged.
ATAXX, released to the arcades in 1990, is a game consisting of blobs that can move either 1 or 2 squares away from their current positions. A move of 1 square will create a new blob, leaving the existing one in place. A move of 2 squares will cause the blob to jump to that square, vacating the original. When a blob lands next to your opponent's blobs, it will turn them to your color, so the idea is to end up with the most blobs at the end of the game. Given these basic, simple rules, an incredibly challenging game forms. And with sometimes frighteningly good AI, I guarantee that you'll be spending a lot of money trying to figure out the best strategy for defeating the computer. (Of course, this game can be played 1-on-1 with your friends as well - I remember watching a group of guys challenging each other to ATAXX, one after the other. It was fun. =)
Leland was pretty well known for the amount of detail they put into their games, and their efforts really show in both the graphics and the sound in this game. The graphics for the blobs are very smooth and well-done, and the characters, some of which are incredibly ugly, are very nicely drawn. And despite all the detail put into things such as color cycles, the hourglass that shows you how much time you have left, and the various faces of your opponents, your attention is immediately drawn to the playfield, where you wage your battle. Sound, too, is nice, though of fairly low quality in comparison to that of many other games out at this time. Slow, moody music sets the tone for the game and stays very nicely out of the way, and the sound effects are neither obtrusive nor inaudible - they seem to keep things going pretty much on their own.
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One of the other nice things about this, as with many of Leland's games, is that the machine stores statistical information about you. Before you begin a game, it asks you for your initials and your birthdate, and then when you come back to the machine later on, you can enter the same information and have your statistics on the number of times you've won, lost or drawn, your ratings (based on a system similar to that of chess!), etc. Nice touch - it adds to the reasons to keep coming back.
I'm not sure if this is due to the complexity or speed of the original hardware, or if it's just because this is a "first draft" of the Leland drivers, but emulation right now is pretty slow. On my system, which is a Celeron 400 overclocked to 500 MHz with a fast video card, I can get ATAXX to emulate at almost double its original speed. While that's not a bad figure, it does mean that in order to play this game at full speed, you'll need a PII-class processor, so I'm docking points in Performance for this. Emulation speed may improve in future MAME betas. (For comparison, if I unlimit the emulation speed on, say, Pacman or Joust, it jumps to at least 600%, and occasionally up to 900%, of original speed on my computer.)
ATAXX: A breath of fresh air in a world dominated by fighting, racing and sports games. A true, competitive strategy game that'll challenge you... and your wallet if you're not careful. ;-)
Play Control
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