DID Alistair Maclean write this one? The war is not going well and the enemy hold vast areas of the homelands to the north and west. Meanwhile their research into their ultimate weapon continues. Soon they will have the Atomic Bomb!
That's the basic premise of Death Wake, told in breathless prose inside the cover. It's one of the great questions of history; what if the Nazis had got the bomb? I say the Nazis because I presume this is supposed to be World War II, though the planes which attack you seem to be swing-wing jets.
No time to discuss it anyhow, because once again they're looking for a hero and once again you fit the role. Nothing like saving the free world before breakfast, is there? You're not totally alone; High Command has provided your ship the Undaunted, with two escorts.
Stage one of your journey to the secret enemy research station, set in the side of a heavily guarded cliff, is the air support phase. That is a mildly strategic diversion where you allocate planes to attack enemy bases and neutralise them for one or two rounds, so making your journey easier. It's all done with a cursor on a map, and while it won't stretch the tactics of confirmed wargamers it could test their eyesight - the cursor is tiny.
You scramble your forces by moving the cursor to a handy little icon and all hell is let loose as you proceed to bomb each other. This all seems to rake up ridiculously high scores for rather a small effort but don't complain because the next section provides far less chance to make the Hall of Fame.
Now you're into the first arcade sequence and well on your way to the enemy beach head... Sorry, didn't mean to mention the opposition, but that perennial hit is the inspiration for this multi-part mission.
In this first variation you get attacked by planes armed with torpedoes. Using a missile command cursor to target fire from your ships, which you look down on, you may be lucky to wipe out some of their pilots but it's not easy because the guns are a trifle slow.
Prejudging the enemy flight paths is all important and eventually one of them will make a bee-line for your convoy. Now, finger off the fire button and you can swivel ships up or down to avoid incoming projectiles, though that, too, calls for some very fine tuning.
If you survive this stage with even one of your escorts still intact you'll be doing well and both are expendable, though it helps to have their supporting fire. You can only afford to take three hits. After that you have the choice of manning the boats or going down with your ship. It's a difficult first game with serviceable graphics and very fine lines for the tracer shells.
Next up it's more torpedoes, delivered by patrol boats, and all Beach Head fans will recognise the targeting skills required. Choose your artillery by moving the cursor along the base line, then aim for both direction and distance using left and right and elevation, has to be done pretty quickly.
After that it's another bird's eye view as you guide the Undaunted through a minefield and the feelings of deja vu are really growing. Then more target practice from the deck as you try to take out the final line of battle ships guarding the coast.
Finally, you reach the research station but the doors begin to shut. The answer is to lob a shell between those doors in best Boys Own fashion. How can you fail?
Actually, a more pertinent question is how can you succeed? The game is very difficult and the only solution is to play it again and again. Are you willing to do that? That's going to depend on whether you're a fan of Beach Head I and II. If you are then you'll probably go for this, but for me Death Wake didn't quite hold together and the extreme difficulty of the first section was off-putting.
Publisher: Quicksilva Price: £7.95 Memory: 48K Joystick: Kempston, Interface II, cursor