With over 26,000 games (and counting) on the Spectrum, there's an astounding choice of what to spend your time firing up. For the fan of the scrolling blast-'em-up, there are the classic gems like Dragon Breed and R-Type, and the more recent More Tea Vicar and Genesis: Dawn Of A New Day. And, now to give new meaning to the phrase "fire and forget", there's one more, A Yankee In Iraq by Ast A. Moore.
There's no scenario to this game - it's just you in a helicopter flying through a featureless desert shooting and bombing things. Compared with Vicar and Genesis, it's nothing short of tragic. Firstly, on many levels the game itself is ridiculously unfair. The screen area is cramped and the Iraqi's surface-to-air missiles zero in on you in one second flat unless you skirt out of their way to hug the left or right side of the playing area. Unfortunately for you, planes enter from either side of the playing area. This means that there's a very good likelihood of flying into a "safe" space only to explode as a plane you never saw coming mindlessly flies into you.
You have three lives and the random nature of the game means you can reincarnate right next to an enemy and be picked off a second time too. Fly too low over the missile launchers and it's also instant curtains... your helicopter doesn't pick up speed at anything near the velocity it needs to.
All I can really deduce after an hour's play of this garbage is that you should try and keep your helicopter in the top middle of the screen. That way you'll get farther. Having said that, I haven't yet escaped stage one because the total lack of variety - planes and missiles ad infinitum - makes this game feel more like an endurance test than any sort of fun. And, when you're concentrating so hard on flying on the spot, it's very hard to monitor the ground and the skies at the same time.
There's a loading screen and a title page, the latter of which tries to be "clever" by not having you select the game options by keypress (with which we're all familiar) but instead by flying a helicopter and shooting at your desired option. On this page you have to use 6, 7 and 0 to control it for no real reason and with no explanation of these controls anywhere on the page. Even if you've redefined the controls for the game itself, this page still insists on these defaults!
Those of you old enough to remember Your Computer magazine would probably agree that A Yankee In Iraq is like the type-in games that that magazine used to feature. Such games were generally a little bit more superior than Basic fodder but wouldn't usually have been able to stand alone as budget titles, let alone full price ones. A Yankee In Iraq sits firmly in that category - a very simple scroller hopelessly outclassed by much of the competition.
I'm afraid its stirring music (on the 128K version), and the fact that it's free, can't save it.