Buzzard Bait

Tom Mix Software latest release is one of the biggest feathers in its cap. It has shoe-horned a complete "joust" program into a 32K machine, including sound effects like birds walking and a hand groping in a lava pit. Buzzard Bait is a game of avian skill. It pits you against computer controlled mounts, a flock of nearly invincible buzzards, and (optionally) one other player. You control your mount by joystick. The object is to dismount your opponents by jousting them when they are at a disadvantage (below you), which turns them into eggs. Eggs hatch into unmounted riders in time, if they haven't fallen into lava. You must run into these eggs to stop this from happening.

Point the joystick where you want to move. Your bird will walk, run, and even skid to a stop when you change direction. Repeatedly press the button to flap its wings. The wings must keep flapping or your buzzard will fall to the ground, so keeping it flying must become almost second nature before you can make any kind of decent score.

Animation never looked so real. There is no flicker or jerkiness. The birds respond quickly. Sound effects are synchronized with the action, not overdone, and you can tell what is going on by ear. With the proportional joysticks of the Color Computer, the birds are even easier to control than at an arcade—you don't have to bump the underside of things a lot because moving fast horizontally doesn't mean climbing fast, if you don't want to.

As your score gets higher and you make it to more screens, things get tougher. Lava rises up to the ground and burns part of it away. Buzzards show up, first as loners, then as flocks. One must be a master rider to win a joust with a buzzard. Elevated platforms dissolve, turning things into a free-for-all dogfight. I'm not sure what else is thrown at you because my three mounts never got past the sixth flock of opponents.

I found myself concentrating on my flying technique, not cursing the game or computer. It has been a long time since I have played a game good enough to really give me some fun. Tom Mix has hatched a winner.

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