Part Two of our article on flight simulators, separating the best from the rest.
Here's Part Two of our article on flight simulators. There are many available for the C64, some cheap, others very expensive, so the Zzap! team decided it was high time to have a look at them to separate the best from the rest.
Spitfire Ace by US Gold is a simulator that attempts to challenge your flying skill and knowledge of air-to-air combat techniques. As the title suggests, you are in control of that famous World War II fighter... the Spitfire.
There are nine different scenarios and your aim is to complete five missions so you can win the accolade of Spitfire Ace. These missions range from easy to hard, the easiest being the shooting down of a Stuka above Malta, whilst the most difficult is to engage in combat with Germany's new prototype jet.
The screen layout is the now rather standard view of the inside of a cockpit. The instrument readings you need are displayed as a straight numerical output. The data available to you includes your speed, the aircraft's course as a compass bearing, altitude, ammo left and power.
The upper portion of the screen is where all the action takes place, being a pictorial view of the outside world. In the middle of your screen is a gunsight for use with the plane's machine guns. It's also handy for deciding quickly whether you are going up or down; when the horizon is above the sight you are dibing and when it's below you are climbing.
You are also supplied with a rear view mirror. This is fine on easy levels but once you start to progress you'll find that most of the later missions are night flights where a rear view mirror is a bit useless.
Joystick control is very simple - left and right for banking, up and down for dive and climb. Fire activates the machine guns but as you only have forty rounds of ammunition it's wise to be frugal... and accurate!
In combat you are flying above a fairly featureless landscape (in fact it's just green ground and blue sky). The planes are rather small sprites that, on closer approach, reveal little or no extra detail. Because the game is quite slow, a dogfight that you would expect to be quite exciting can in fact be rather dull.
Upon finishing a mission you are given one of three ratings: victory, no result or loss. If you bail out there's a chance you might be captured and if you are then you get a loss, otherwise you're awarded a no result status.
The documentation accompanying this package is quite nice as it explains the capabilities of the simulator to the full. Spitfire Ace is not really a full simulator and suffers for it - we feel that this is more of a game than a true flight simulator.
Anirog's Flight Path simulates a 737 making a short journey across a range of mountains. This includes take off and landing as well.
The simulator is presented in standard format of a graphic window at the top of the display and instrument readings covering the rest of the screen. The graphics are only really revelant on take off and landing because during flight the view through the cockpit window is only plain blue sky. Approaching the mountain range results in some pretty peaks slowly scrolling onto the graphics window, only to scroll down again once you have safely flown over them.
Control is achieved with a combination of joystick and keys. The joystick and keys. The joystick is used for basic flying movements (banking, diving and climbing), while keys control flaps, undercarriage, power and fire extinguisher (for engine fires).
There are several different difficulty settings that vary mountain height and the destination runway length. On the higher levels other problems are introduced into the scenario with crosswinds and even engine fires. The increased mountain height provides you with problems on deciding the optimum ascent rate and speed. The higher the mountain, the harder it becomes to judge. Decreased runway length needs a greater flying skill to land the airliner in such a restricted space.
Mostly the graphics are there just as an added bonus, though not that helpful, they do add some atmosphere to the game. The main action depends on the instrument readings, this is the nearest thing to a text only flight simulator we've ever seen. Even so, the end effect is quite good, creating the right amount of tension at the right moments to keep things interesting.
The different difficulty levels work well in Flight Path 737 as they are evenly graded. Documentation is of good quality, providing all the fundamental knowledge needed to operate the game plus a few tips to help you through the tricky bits.
Overall, a nice piece of software that actually attempts to induce some of the tension involved in flying an aircraft. This is far better than trying to provide cheap thrills with air-to-air combat as quite a few recent sims do.
This jet simulator involves a complex strategy game as well as all the usual learning to fly problems. There are a number of separate missions to choose from, ranging from easy to damn near impossible. It's a bit similar to Spitfire Ace in that respect, bringing into play skills that are needed for air-to-air combat and bomb runs.
Apart from the normal 3D screen at the top there is a map that shows the local military installations and any scrambled fighters. You are also equipped with radar that has various ranges. A healthy armoury is on offer, including such goodies as short-to-long range missiles, and Electronic Counter Measures (ECM), just the same as in Elite.
On-screen there is a plan view of your plane graphically showing your remaining ammunition and you are constantly updated on altitude, speed, engine power and compass bearing.
The vector graphics would have been quite good if it wasn't for the massive leaps taken in between frames. The overall outlook for F15 as a flight simulator is a bit weak as no landing or take off practice is involved and we would have thought these to be pretty fundamental for a flight sim.
With the different missions and all that air-to-air combat, F15 Strike Eagle seems capable of holding some interest, but that interest will probably soon pall.
This vector-based flight sim from Docsoft puts you in the pilot seat of a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. Upon loading you are presented with a nice pictorial view of the instrument panel plus a pilot's eye view of the outside world. As soon as it's loaded the game automatically auto-runs and puts you straight into the game. Rather a silly feature really, as it doesn't let you settle yourself down before you start.
You'll find yourself flying towards the huge words 'DR SOFT' in vector 3D. The informative message "Caution: Tall characters around" appears. It rather puts you straight in at the deep end as you have to avoid them. If you fancy being a bit flash, you can always fly your jumbo through the O in SOFT (although surely 747s were not designed as aerobatic planes)? Once this hazard is passed, you will need to increase your speed to avoid stalling.
You can, if you don't want to tackle the dreaded Dr Soft letters, press the E key, which allows you to enter different scenarios, all different airports. You can then fly around them and, if you're brave enough, try landing.
Reasonable control is given over your plane; there's the normal plane joystick operation (via the joystick) plus power, brake and flap control from the keyboard. There are several different scenarios to choose from, all modelled closely on the real world.
The first screen with the large letters is there for getting used to the controls and how the plane will respond to them. Next screen is a take off and landing practice. Taking off is relatively simple but landing is harder as there are hoops to fly through that give the correct descent pattern for landing. The different scenarios get harder and harder, each one needing new skills to be developed.
Docsoft say buildings are represented in 3D at some airports although we didn't manage to find any. Also included are complex navigational elements that must be used when flying to the destination airport.
The bonus that makes this flight sim worthwhile is the documentation. It provides reasonable understanding and aeroplane headling. The graphics are vector, but the display is updated every third of a second, hardly Elite standard! Instruments are easily and quickly read because of the neat layout. The plane sometimes gets a trifle sluggish but the response is usually up to respectable standards for a 747.
Docsoft's 747 should be enjoyed by beginners wishing to delve into flight simulation and should also provide enough challenge to keep the hardened simulator pilots happy.
US Gold's import from Cosmi, Super Huey, is a simulation of the Huey UH-1X helicopter. The control mechanism of a helicopter is obviously quite different from an aeroplane in that there's direct control over up and down.
Cosmi's solution to getting this onto one joystick is quite ingenious. There are two modes to joystick operation, cyclic mode is accessed by direct joystick control. It gives you the basic movements; forward, backward and rotate left/right. When you hold down the fire button, you go into collective mode and will have control over up/down and thrust, release the button and it's back to cyclic mode. Though this may sound complicated and even awkward, it's not and once mastered the basic moves mean that quite respectable flying manoeuvres are possible.
Graphically it's heads and shoulders above most other simulators, the playing screen consists of an impressive view through the cockpit. The landscape moves smoothly beneath, giving a realistic sensation of helicopter flight. Overall, the graphics are very good, with excellent movement and content.
The game structure offers four options ranging from training to combat. In flight instruction mode the computer sets a series of manoeuvres to be performed. A great feature this, which allows you time to become acclimatised to the Huey's controls.
Also of a very high standard is the sound which gives a very realistic recreation of a helicopter's rotor and engine. There's a really neato tune on the title screen too.
Documentation accompanying the package is of a high calibre, giving some interesting background info on the Huey UH-1X. They do a very good job of teaching you how to use the program. A little more detail on the later missions would have been nice but it would also kill off some of the gameplay elements.
Overall, this is a really classy simulator and one of the best and most exhilarating to fly. With the realistic sound and the different missions you can tackle, it offers excellent value for money and must be one of *the* best flight sims around.