The Great Fire of London
This interesting new title from Rabbit (now under Nick Alexander's watchful eye at Virgin) puts you in the position of the chief fire officer at the time of the great fire in 1666. You have to co-ordinate the city's fire fighting resources and stop the entire city from being totally putted. You have at your disposal several water pumps, demolition gangs and gunpowder gangs, each capable, to a limited degree, of stopping the fire from spreading. You can also make the wind variable and even give the fire time to spread before you actually start playing the game (if you like having your work cut out for you).
You can only take control of one unit at a time and you have to take it to wherever you want it to begin fire fighting. Some units are more difficult than others to control. Although I followed the instructions to the letter, whenever the water pumps were used, the main character was killed off. Water From need constant resupply from the rivers or they become useless very quickly. The various gangs you can employ also need to be recalled into action on various occasions.
The screen itself is a large, smooth scrolling map depicting London in the late seventeenth century. The map is in full colour and all the streets are labelled in a redefined character set. Because of the rapid movement required (even on the simplest settings, the fire moves incredibly quickly) it is highly advisable to use a joystick (and there are several joystick options available from the main menu).
There is a great deal of rapid thinking required to figure out which places are the best to build fire breaks and how to deploy your forces, once you have located them all. Once the basic game is mastered, there are options for building and saving your own map, so this offers a great deal of scope for those pyromaniacs like Robin Candy out there.
The main faults with this game seem to lie with the ambiguity of the rules. All the time I was playing this game, I felt that I wasn't getting the best from my resources and yet there didn't seem to be any better way to employ them. This led to constantly having to restart the game as the chief fire officer repeatedly died in the course of his duty. Even though I didn't allow the fire to spread before playing, it spread incredibly quickly, presenting an almost impossible task for the beginner. Perhaps it's just me...
Having said that, it's one of the best presented and programmed low price games I have ever seen and it certainly offers something new for those weary with panzer bashing. If you keep your wits about you and a steady hand on your joystick, then this could be one of the best value for money buys you're likely to come across in the near future.