Commodore User


Author: Mark Patterson
Publisher: Activision
Machine: Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #52


For all of you who might have thought Guadalcanal had something to do with the oil super tanker that was hit in the gulf, you're forty-five years out. Guadalcanal is in truth one of the small Pacific islands occupied by the Japanese during World War II.

The background to Guadal goes back toward Japan's first strike at America at Pearl Harbour where they caused serious damage to the American navy. From there they attacked the Philippines. Using the Philippines as a jump off point Japan then preceded to capture the Pacific islands one by one until they had reached Midway Island, only thirteen hundred miles away from the United States western seaboard. Meanwhile the Americans had, unknown to the Japanese, cracked their enemy's code. Now alert to the Japanese naval plans, the American admirals brought together the aircraft carriers which had been 'out to lunch' during the attack on Pearl Harbour. And thus ensued the famous battle of Midway. America won and the top brass were then ordered to retake the Pacific Islands starting with Guadalcanal [Thanks for the history lesson, Mark, it was jolly interesting! - Ed] Guadalcanal is really nothing more than an unspectacular rock jammed near Midway Island, all it contained was two Japanese bases and an American airfield named after a Major Lofton Henderson.

Henderson airfield had been easy to capture and was American's first military capture of the way in the pacific. Now the solitary Marine Corps had to hold the Island against obvious Japanese retaliation.

After many months of fighting the Marines began winning major victories on the island itself. The old units were being replaced with fresh ones without almost any naval intrusion by Japan. By the middle of January 2943, American scouts had to report that the island was now clear of the Japanese.

Guadalcanal is an easy game to get into [That's more than can be said for this review - Ed] and a first for me in actually being an icon-driven war game that shows the first inklings of being a war game.

The game does not restrict you to one field of battle; instead you have complete control over land, air and sea forces, though most action happens through airforces and navy. You also have a party of scouts to send out at your discretion ot try and view the enemy military situation. A seaplane is available for scouting purposes, these I tended to keep in the gulf between Guadal and her neighbouring islands so I could get an advance warning of any enemy convoys.

You get messages constantly bleeped up at the top of the screen. While informative, the noise that makes has the same effect as the brain washing in the Ipcress File. A continuous clock racks up the time all through the game with one minute of game time being represented by ten seconds of real time. This cannot be stopped and can only be speeded up, which then leaves with a backlog of messages and bleeping to keep you amused.

The weather affects the game in several ways too, on bad days reconnaissance is hampered, and on really bad days planes cannot be used at all. Control of the ships, planes and army units is easy, you select the route you want them to take and leave it at that.

The naval groups are stronger on Japan's side, but America could compensate by having an initially more powerful Marina unit of Guadal, and the advantage of being able to land planes there. One problem which I found was when I sent my planes out to intercept enemy convoys. By the time I realised they hadn't got enough fuel left to return home I had to let them ditch.

There are only three scenarios in Guadalcanal, a training scenario, a full campaign with American forces and a campaign with the Japanese. The Japanese scenario appealed more to me as I have always had a soft spot for changing the course of history. Playing the Japanese the best tactics I found were to blockade Henderson rather than go all out in an attack or play a fairly quite game supplying my troops until they were at maximum strength. Because once the American transport ships have been totalled there is no way the Marines can be supplied.

Guadal is absorbing, fun and playable but a bit too easy with more of an emphasis on strategy rather than the true war game element, ideal for beginners or people of an intermediate standing on the wargaming podium [And a degree in history - Ed].

Mark Patterson

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