Datasoft was among the first commercial third-party sources of Atari software, and the quality of their product line has remained consistently high. Canyon Climber, by Tim Ferris, sets a new standard for Datasoft, as well as one that challenges comparison.
Beginning with strains of Bach, Canyon Climber sets its own tense, yet humor-filled pace. The musical opening is superb; it is hard to tell whether you are listening to your computer or a cut from the album "Switched-On Bach." How Ferris manages the tone sustain is a mystery to me.
Suddenly the music vanishes, and your lone figure is left, clinging to a narrow canyon trail while dozens of surly, half-crazed billygoats seek to topple him from the precipice.
You are without weapons in your attempt to scale the many paths and ladders. Your only edge is a near ballet-like ability to leap into the air. If you time your leaps just right, you can hurdle goats on the fly. Your timing is crucial, of course; beginners will almost certainly earn a lot of horns in the keester.
The first task is to place explosive charges across a set of bridges spanning the canyon. Dodging oncoming goats from all sides, your fearless climber scales the sheer cliffs. And, upon reaching the detonator, you blow the bridges. This will hold the billygoats for a while.
However your problems are just beginning. The screen changes, and you find yourself at the foot of another set of cliffs.
Billygoats were child's play. Here you meet a very sedate group of Indians: they neither move nor make a sound. They simply and continuously shoot arrows at your face. Hope you've been practicing your pirouettes.
At a couple of these cliffs you will find a shield, which may help fend off a few arrows. Be careful though, because your shield may disappear at any time. Carrying it also makes ladder climbing tougher, as you cannot climb a ladder while carrying a shield.
If you are lucky enough to make it past the Indians, you are greeted by a final set of cliffs. You can see the top now. In the sky above, great birds hinder your progress by dropping, well, bricks in your path. The trail itself becomes quite tricky, as the way is broken by deep fissures. One misstep and you'll be goat feed by the time you hit bottom.
Finally you reach the top, just long enough for a breath of blue sky and a bit of Bach before the head billygoat butts you right back down to where you started. This time the going will be even tougher.
Canyon Climber achieves a cartoon-like atmosphere in the rendering of its various screens, to very pleasing effect. Your figure has blond hair, and wears a blue shirt with jeans. It actually seems to throw a shadow on the canyon wall, as well. The animation is smooth and the colors superlative.
You will spend a while with Canyon Climber. It took me a couple of days just to reach the top on a regular basis. Now I have begun to work on my score.