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MINDSCAPE * £34.99 Joystick, mouse or keyboard
C Blue max hocks away chaps! Forget the radar, forget the missiles, the ejector seats and (most unfortunately) all amorous thoughts of Kelly McGillis - Aces places you not in a state-of-the-art F-16 Falcon, but in the ramshackle cockpit of a selection of eight First World War aircraft.
Journey back to the days of leapfrog in the mess, stiff upper lips and bountiful supplies of crumpet. The men (usually called ‘Ginge’) were magnificent – flying machines made of balsa wood and cloth (to a standard of engineering precision even Blue Peter would be embarrased of). No parachutes or bulletproof glass – just you, your machine gun and your ‘kite’.

Aces attempts to recreate this era of heroes and ‘flying by the seat-of-your-pants’ aerobatics by offering you a selection of game modes built around a basic bank-climb-roll flight-simulator package.

Tommy or Jerry?
Allied or Axis? Which side to enrol is the first moral decision you have to make. You remain registered until you are shot down or fail to land safely. You can enter several pilots simultaneously on either sides of the fence and fight according to how patriotic or ‘Fritzy’ you are feeling. Next you must decide which ‘kite’ to fly. A nice demo sequence allows you to choose from eight different aircraft and having successfully chosen your Sopworth Camel Gti 4x4 ‘Popular Plus’ it is almost time to go up, down, flying around, looping-the-loop and defying the ground.

Hang on though, as first you have to select your adventure. Assuming you wish to do more than just dogfight or pracice, there are three campaigns to explore, ‘Bloody April’, ‘Battle of Amiens’ and the ‘Ludendorf Offensive’. Each comprises of missions fought over the same area. This way, you learn the landmarks – useful when you are upside down with some angry Fokkers up your exhaust port.

Missions include protecting from an air base enemy bombers, photo reconnaissance, bombing raids and balloon-bursting exercises. Complete each mission in all three campaigns and you are awarded the Blue Max or the Victoria Cross (depending on which side you are fighting for).

Simultaneous two-player action is a useful option. Fighting head-to-head or as wingmen, provides an extra dimension to the otherwise rather repetitive game scenario. Another useful inclusion is the ‘strategy game’. One or two players can plot out their manoeuvres step-by-step on a grid and then see the results played back in real time.

Seat of your pants
Basically, Mindscape have developed a flight simulator program around which ‘extra’ peripheral features, replays and game-modes are bolted. Unfortunately, the whole package does not quite come off. If a flight simulator is to lose the missiles, radar, ground attack, in-flight refuelling, HUD and lock-on that provide the ‘hook’ for the majority of hi-tech simulator games, then there had better be a good reason in this case, it was the attempt to recreate the simple ‘flying spirit’ of the first world war. Nice idea – but with only mediocre graphics, it has not paid off.

The graphics can be quickened up – at the expense of detail and sound effects – but even the smoothest of sorties won’t provide you with the ‘skin-of-your-pants’ exhilaration that was intended. Still, if flight simulators are what light up your Christmas tree, then Aces is worth a try. Smoke me a kpper, I will be back for breakfast...
Neil West

Amiga Format, Issue 23, June 1991, p.59


Probably the best-known plane of the war, taking its name from the ‘hump’ over the engine cowling. A sensitive plane – requiring a sensitive pilot – and is quite nose heavy, making the risk of a spin all the more likely. Each plane could carry four 250lb bombs with a forward-firing machinegun. Almost 5,500 were built, and the ‘Camel’ claims more kills than any other plane of the Great War.

This was the favourite amonst the allied aces. Quicker than the Camel, the Nieuport also carreid electrically-fired rockets for the destruction of enemy balloons.
The Camel and the Nieuport are just two of eight different planes you can choose from – each with individual characteristics and specifications. Which will be your favourite ‘kite’?

  • Great idea let down by mediocre graphics.
  • Lots of extras built around basic flight simulator program.
  • Two-player mode offers extra dimension to game scenario.
  • Great packaging provides background info on the pilots, planes and campaigns.

Blue max logo

Publisher: Mindscape
Authors: Three Sixty
Price: £34.99
Release: Out now

Blue max It seems to be flight sims a-go-go on the Amiga at the moment. You cannot load up a game without bumping into solid 3D polygons and low flying aircraft. Blue Max or Aces Of The Great War (Mindscape seem unable to decide which title to go for), has obviously been developed with the not-so-technical player in mind. Options are the order of the day, with a certain sacrifice made in the old realism department.

Rooted in the Great War (that is the first one for all you youngsters), it is chocabloc with bi-planes, tri-planes, the Allies, the Germans, and several shades of green. Reading through the manual and checking out the stills on the back of the box, I rally got quite excited about the game. After all, if what they were intending to do (as it appears) is sacrifice a degree of actual simulation realism in favour of some pretty spanky action-packed 3D dogfights, then this looked like the game for me. The simultaneous two-player option seemed like a great idea too, something that could take the game into the realms of greatness...

Then I loaded it. Oh boy. This seems to becoming a recurring nightmare for me – one where everything happens in slow motion. You have guessed it, this is another stodgy flight sim, showing little or no concern for the player. Sure, they have sauced the whole thing up with loads of options, and you can reduce the level of graphical detail to make things run a bit faster, but it seems that programmers Three Sixty still have a thing or two to learn about fast, smooth 3D graphics. To get the game running at anything like acceptable speed means viewing everything through a tiny window, with no plane details visible. For Pete’s sake, even a Sinclair Spectrum could do things better than this!

I am disappointed, I really am. I have been waiting for some time for a successor to F/A-18 or F29, and this sure is not it. When will software companies realise that the primary objective of any game, be it a flight sim or anything else, is to entertain? True flight mechanics are all very well, but they should not be included at the expense of playability. In fact, I challenge anybody to get any real pleasure out of playing this. Why should Amiga owners have to put up with software that has not been developed with the pleasure of the buyer in mind?

Amiga Power, Issue 03, July 1991, p.76

A game which aspires to greatness, but falls far short. It could have been a classic, and that is what makes me angry. The best I can say is ‘nice sound’.