Wow! It's great, you play the role of Gringile the Gnome as he spends a few hours taking out alien hordes with his magical, mithral razor and V11 WolfBat cruiser... Well, not quite. In fact not at all. Air Bucks is a game that requires more thought than your average role-player and more strategic planning than a war-game.
Yes, you get to play to play Sire Freddie Laker - for those of you too young to recall the heady days of this heroic, bald entrepreneur, just think of him as a hip version of Richard Branson - while you attempt to set up a successful airline business.
You start the game with a knackered old Dakota DC-3 plane and a measly $100,000 (I'm not sure what that is in real money) and the situation is complicated by the fact that the year is 1946. The year, you would assume, would work in your favour, what with there being thousands of unemployed USAF pilots looking for things to do. Oh yes, by the way, you start the game in the United States.
Waiting to do the business
You can play with up to four players and there are different levels of difficulty set for each one. I can only imagine what it would be like to play against real-life human beings - no-one else wanted to play, so I was stuck with three computer opponents all of whom seemed to have a much better idea of world domination via commercial airlines than I did.
Air Bucks has a great deal of waiting around while the statistics resulting from each player's decision are calculated. This could have been done with style (and the occasional animated graphics of a hideous nose-dived crash into the Appalachias where the survivors are forced to eat each other before moving on to the airline dinners) but nope.
What you get is a screen with the standard map of the world in front of you, and the incredibly dull background music blaring out in tiny synthesizer style. Once all the calculations are made, the date changes and it's time for you to move on to another endeavour. Could do better.
But the point of this game is definitely not the graphics, which are average, or the music, which is a bunch of notes slung together so they don't sound too nasty. The meat of Air Bucks lies in the planning, the thought and the sheer commercial instinct that you are prepared to expend on it.
You are in charge of every aspect of the business, from the routes you decide to bid for, down to the level of luxury the passengers will put up with, while still paying the exorbitant fees that you will inevitably want to charge for a trip from Tuscaloosa to Tuscon.
You have to oversee the fitting and re-fitting of your aircraft, make the decision as to when to sell the DC-3 in order to buy a newer, bigger and more profitable aircraft - damn, you have to do everything. There is no delegation in 1940s business or so it seems.
All this calls for a level head and a total lack of emotion. The biggest, and potentially most profitable or harmful decisions are whether or not to approach the bank for a loan, or to flog off some shares. The latter also means keeping the shareholders happy. But sooner or later you're going to have to approach someone for some money. This really is the critical stage.
Basically, Air Bucks is a game that will have plenty of appeal to those people who enjoy fiddling with profit and loss ledgers, who adore stomping on other people's chances of success, who go all wet and squidgy over the idea of flying as a way to buy a Beverly Hills mansion, who ooze over good gameplay, but don't really give a monkey's oxygen mask for great sound of graphics. A good addition to Amiga's armoury of game genres.