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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....




Basic Computer Skills and Fun with MacBrickout!
January 5th, 2000

This week's column touches on some very, very, basic computer skills as well as a wonderful game for experienced users that I have just discovered. Chances are that those who would benefit most from the very, very, basic skills review haven't a clue how to get to the internet or this column, therefore they will depend on you to print and share the information. If you are helping someone learn to use a computer for the very first time (as I am with my father) you may find this extremely helpful. At least, I hope so. After a couple of hour long, long distance, phone calls during which we were apparently not speaking the same language, I created the guides included in this column and faxed them to my father. Now when I say window, icon, or desktop, he knows what I mean. You are most welcome to share these in any way you think they might be of help and to suggest additional guides that I have not thought of. If you would like to have copies of the three guides e-mailed directly to you, you can contact me by e-mail at nancy@macobserver.com and I will forward them to you.

There is really not much discussion required for these guides except to explain to new users that (1) everyone's desktop looks a little different, but the basic principles are the same, and (2) these basic guides are accurate for any Mac using System 7.x or above.

(You may click on the pictures for larger versions)

On to the game. I must tell you that I am very impressed with this game on a number of levels. It is very sophisticated in it’s development, there are lots of extra’s that make it well worth the US$25 price, the instructions are extremely easy to follow and a lot of effort has been spent making them interesting. Oh yes, and it is really fun and challenging to play. It is very obvious that the creator of this game, Carson Whitsett, has put his heart and soul into the development which he first began in April 97. Indeed, if I were capable of creating a computer game I would want it to be of like quality. The most current version (4.0.1) was released just this week. If you have an older 68K machine you can still get version 3.x from the same site as the newer version. O.K., so enough gushing already, what is this fabulous game? It is called MacBrickout 4.0.1. It is produced by Leapfrog Software Inc. (www.leapfrogsw.com), is 1.7MB and requires System 7 or better! To play the game you use a ball and a paddle to bash all of the bricks out of a wall to complete the level. The goal is to advance through all of the levels to win the game. Along the way, catch falling capsules to gain (or possibly lose) special powers. There are evil bubbles that can deflect the ball and foil your efforts. Added features to this new version include bomb balls which will take out virtually anything in their path once you set off the explosion, radiation balls, an umphee that walks in the sand whose hard shell will bounce the ball back into play, hidden fruits and vegetables, and much more. Features include 256-color graphics, 3D sprites, support for Gravis joysticks, and smooth animation and movement. This is a “typical” ball and paddle game, but all the extra’s move it to the top of the list as far as I am concerned.

The instructions can be downloaded from the www.leapfrogsw.com site. They include instructions for playing, as well as descriptors of the various balls, capsule, and other impediments to your success. Following are small excerpts from both the ball descriptor page and the capsule descriptor page.

There are good balls and bad balls and balls that explode. For instance, in the first level there is an explosive ball captured within the bricks. To release the ball and make it explode you click with your mouse button - it doesn’t matter where or when. Some of the capsules will give you extra balls as explained below. The red colored balls are bad news and you want to avoid them at all costs.

The capsules offer all kinds of additions to the game as you can see from reading the few descriptors I have included. Avoid the red ones. They will automatically cause you to loose your ball. The balls with L on them are very good and you should capture them if you can. Once you have one, the two ends of your paddle turn into guns and you can shoot out bricks at the same time as you are bounding your ball. The capsules with the “w” on them allow you to have a longer paddle. There is a capsule for slow “s”, and for fast “f”. Slow is good, but fast is a bummer. There is also a capsule that is green in color and it allows you to catch the ball after each bounce and point it to a specific target. Several different capsules release additional balls that can help you remove bricks.

There are lots more and they are covered in the instruction manual.

Some readers will have played these kinds of games before, but for those who have not, start out by visualizing a one-handed game of ping-pong. You get 4 balls to start with and your goal, as explained above, is to knock out all the bricks before you loose your balls. Your most important basic strategy is to get the ball to the top of the screen so that it will continue bouncing and knocking out bricks through it’s own exertion. For each bounce that occurs without use of the paddle, the score is multiplied. Almost all the games have gold colored bricks that can not be removed, requiring you to maneuver around them to achieve your goals.

The first level of the game looks like this:

Although I have only actually made it to the third level (in spite of several hours of intense RESEARCH on my part) I can speak to all the levels through the magic of game review. Each of the 12 levels is very different and requires different skills on your part to complete. Some of my favorite are the fourth level, called Rainbow Road; the fifth level, called Over the Top; the sixth level, called Wall of Flowers; the ninth level, called Catch the Teleporter; and the tenth level, called Ants. Rainbow Road is the first level in which you come across bricks that must be hit several times before they go away. Over the Top requires you to get the ball into a specific path, between gold bricks, to achieve removing all the regular bricks. Wall of Flowers is composed of four flowers surrounding a box. Many of the levels have boundaries that can not be opened until you manage to hit the proper lever. The box in Wall of Flowers is that way, but the levers are in the center of t! he four flowers. You must have all four open before the wall will open to allow you to complete the level. Many of the levels have Teleporter, small tunnels that instantly move the ball from one place to another. The first level offers you opportunity to practice using the Teleporter. In the ninth level you must try to get your ball into a moving Teleporter. If you do so the rest of the level is a piece of cake. The operative word here is “if”. Ants will release dozens of balls (and capsules) at once when you hit the right spot.

You can download a trial version of this game and try it out, however you will not really benefit from all the special attributes unless you register your version by paying the US$25 dollar registration fee. It is well worth the fee and is a game that can be played by every member of your household.

If you have any tips, suggestions, or other comments about this, or any other Mac topics, send them to me so that I can share them with other readers.


Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.


Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.


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