Skyfox (Ariolasoft/Electronic Arts) Review | Amstrad Action - Everygamegoing

Amstrad Action

By Ariolasoft
Amstrad CPC464

Published in Amstrad Action #6


Flight simulators and arcade games continue to get closer in nature. Although this one falls on the side of the shoot-'em-up, it contains many elements of flying skill and strategy. The other intriguing factor is the mixture of ground and air action against both tanks and planes, instead of just the usual aerial battles. The first task that awaits you is to choose from the five ranks (skill levels) and fifteen battle scenarios that will determine what sort of a mission the Skyfox fighter is sent on. There are seven training missions where the skills needed to deal with both air and ground targets can be learnt before taking on one of the eight invasions, where the enemy will throw all his forces at you at once.

The fighter starts at a home base to which it can return at any time, as long as it hasn't been overrun or bombed by the enemy. It is launched through an unconvincing tunnel effect and, depending on the mission, can be launched low to a view of the ground with a hill-covered horizon, or high to a blue sky broken by the occasional cloud. Flying around this display is easy enough with left and right turning and diving and climbing. You'll also notice the nose of the plane oscillating of its own accord making tanks below you particularly difficult to hit.

You're equipped with three types of weapon, all of which are forward-launched. Twin laser cannons have an unlimited supply of ammo but there are also limited stocks of guided and heat-seeking missiles for the more persistent target. These are all easily used with the target merely having to be centred on the screen, although they'll do their best not to be.

In invasion missions, the tanks and planes can be dropped by low-flying motherships which have to be dealt with quickly before the odds against Skyfox become too overwhelming. That's the bones of the game - flying around zapping up waves of tanks, who usually come in groups of more than five, and planes that operate in fewer numbers. The game gets more complicated when it comes to the cockpit display and base computer controls.

The display is packed with information including a radar scanner that operates overhead or forward and gives update messages on your situation, a clock of elapsed game time, fuel indicator, speed indicator, shield indicator, altitude indicator, guided and heat-seeking missile counts, map co-ordinates and compass heading. There's also an auto pilot that flies you to the next target while you take a rest or check up on the base computer.

The computer is the source of lots of interesting information, not least of which is a map of the whole playing area showing the enemy concentrations and your own installations. You can examine the battlefield in detail by zooming in on sections or set the auto pilot for a particular square. This tactical map is invaluable for reference between battles so that you know just where to take Skyfox to be most effective. The computer also allows you to check on the score summary of damage received and inflicted and to get reports on the status of installations and the base.

The installations and base contain personnel and are protected by shields that gradually get worn down by the enemy attacks until they are finally destroyed. Skyfox can be landed at the home base but not installations to refuel and recharge shields.

All of this action will keep you fully occupied, but not so that you won't notice some rather odd graphics. The tanks and planes look all right when you get close to them but in the distance or when they explode, they appear as a messy jumble of characters that look like they're in severe need of a sprite designer. The sound isn't overwhelming either with engine noise, explosions and warning noises.

These slight grumbles apart, the game still has lots of depth and, with all the different scenarios and ranks, will keep you busy for many long hours of combat.

Second Opinion

I found this one of the more engrossing flight simulator/combat games available for the Amstrad - particularly because you can get into it immediately, but still have a long way to go to achieve the higher rankings. Despite the slightly unsatisfactory graphics, there's still a lot of satisfaction to be had in zapping the enemy.

Good News

P. Fifteen different missions.
P. Different difficulties and missions mean any skill of player can enjoy it.
P. Excellent range of controls and features.
P. Interesting graphics on the ground when close to target.
P. Plenty of depth and lasting challenge.

Bad News

N. Some graphics are indistinct and blocky.
N. Will take time to familiarise yourself with key controls.