Parsec (video Game) - Details

Details

Parsec represented a leap forward in game technology for the platform, using the superior 'graphics 2' mode of the TMS9918A processor (making it incompatible with the older TI-99/4) and, optionally, the speech synthesizer. The game had a number of features:

  • An exhaustible fuel supply which must be refilled by navigating through refueling tunnels.
  • A choice of 3 "lift" settings, each corresponding to a different control sensitivity and offering a differing balance between large-scale maneuverability (e.g., for combat situations) and small-scale maneuverability (e.g., for navigating through refueling tunnels).
  • The danger of overheating the laser and thereby destroying the ship by firing too often over a given interval: Aspects of the game's difficulty curve include a reduction in both overheating threshold and cooling rate as the player advances to higher levels.
  • Smooth single-pixel horizontal scrolling: Numerous ground sections randomly appear to represent an infinite landscape. The landscape includes images including but not limited to enemy ships; the Texas Instruments logo; and the programmers' initials and nickname, respectively (JED / URB).
  • Warnings from the "on-board computer" of each impending attack wave. These include an alarm sound and flashing text, as well as a spoken warning if the speech synthesizer is connected, except concerning the approach of Killer Satellites, which start appearing after the third asteroid belt at the beginning of level 4 with no warning at all. The manual incorrectly states that they appear at the end of each level, starting with level 4. In some Parsec cartridges, the warning text misspells Asteroid.

The optional speech synthesis, although advanced at the time, adds little to gameplay: Although it warns of advancing enemy craft (except for Killer Satellites) and of low fuel levels, both of these features are duplicated by on-screen visual cues and are easily predictable by an experienced player. The sole exception is in the asteroid belts between levels, whose length increases with the level number: The speech synthesizer provides a spoken countdown not duplicated by any on-screen display, such that without the speech synthesizer there is no indication of how long the asteroid belt will last.

The voice of the on-board computer was performed by Aubree Anderson, who at the time was a student at Texas Tech University.

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