You played the great demo, now try the even better game!
Hopefully most of you out there will know what to expect from this, after our excellent playable demo on Amiga Power coverdisk 11. Me, I love the thing to death. I'm tempted to end the review here, buy hey, there's this whole big box to fill up yet, so why don't I explain things for those who missed the disk, making it clear exactly the reasons why I've fallen so thoroughly for such a 'techie' game.
The follow up to Team Yankee - perhaps Empire's biggest success yet - Pacific Islands revolves around a group of five (yes, you guessed it) islands in the Pacific ocean. A group of 'disaffected communists' (i.e. the Russians, but they're not really) have take over the island, and it's your job to lead a nearby team of tanks across them, liberating the oppressed people, blasting hell out of the Ruskies (sorry, rebels) and so on. Money is gained for wiping the floor with the bad guys, while your cash supply is cut off if you go around blowing up churches and the like - just imagine that it's Congress or someone you've got to keep satisfied.
It's all very simple, until it comes to the bit about controlling the tanks. There are sixteen of them, you see. Thankfully, they are grouped in teams of four - only the leader of each team is controlled (if that tank gets totalled, then control and view passes to the next in line) - which gives you a fair selection of firepower if you need it (especially if you build each team up out of different types of tank).
Sounds fun but perhaps complex to control, doesn't it? Happily, though, it's not - the screen is split into four small windows (each of which can display a 3D tank view, a zoomable map of the conflict area, or a damage status screen) - and any of these windows can be increased to cover the screen at any time. Movement is all achieved via the map screens, so the 3D is used purely for turret and gun control. The route through the islands is partially flexible, so strategies are very important, and after each mini conflict funds can be used (if there are any) to re-supply tanks or buy new ones to replace those which got duffed. There's also morale and that kind of guff to worry about, but I'm running out of space here, and what I haven't done is say why I like it so much yet.
Well, basically I like Pacific Islands 'cos it's really good. [Would you like to elaborate? - Ed] Well, apart from the ever-so-slightly dodgy sprite scaling routines, it looks well groovy, the sound is actually essential (just try working out what the hell is happening without any sound FX) and the control of sixteen tanks is ridiculously well designed. Strategy games usually bore the hell out of me, but it's actually the strategy aspect of Pacific Islands which I've enjoyed most. When I was a kid, I always loved playing with my toy tanks, and now the chance to do it for real (or as close as I really want to get) on the Amiga is definitely welcome. Dodging in and out of jungle, throwing up smoke walls and using infra red to pick off the 'blind' bad guys on the other side (they don't have infra-red capability) is a laugh a minute. It all goes to prove that there's nothing wrong with the concept of strategy games at all - just that they're usually executed in such a slow and tedious way.
What else is there to say? Well, the war atmosphere is brilliantly done - the grainy graphics, understated sound and intelligently-designed icon system all serving to induce the player into a constant state of near panic. When you've got a team of tanks just hidden right at the edge of the jungle and four Russian ones roll past, it's almost impossible not to involuntarily hold your breath and sit completely still in your seat.
For once, I can't really fault any aspect of a game. Everything has been thought through from the player's point of view, and although it's all a bit daunting initially, playing General soon becomes second nature (well, as close to second nature as doing sixteen different things at once ever becomes, I guess).
Pacific Islands is simply the closest the Amiga has ever come to those glorious World War II action adventure movies, with the added spice of a fantastic strategy system, and a well orchestrated enemy force. Sheer tank heaven (look ma, no bad tank puns).
The Bottom Line
You'd play Cover Girl Poker (say) for about half an hour. You'd play this one for at least half a year. And they're both the same price. You work it out.
Have a break from all those cute games, platformers, arcade adventures and RPGs - join the army, you know it makes sense.