Palpitations in the Pacific

Battlehawks 1942 logo Amiga Computing Value Award

BATTLEHAWKS reminds me of that place in London where all the old relics are kept. No, not the Atari ST User office. I mean the "ace caff with quite a nice museum attached".
If you know nothing about the history of the Pacific War, you will after reading Battlehawk's 150-page manual. It's impossible to put it down, the best book I have seen for any computer program - an excellent textbook for Mastermind, even with the novella protection.

The game is nice too. You are in the cockpit of one of 12 types of Japanese or American plane and you can play a vital part in the reconstruction of your great battles - Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz Islands.

Depending on the type of plane you have, you can torpedo or dive-bomb battleships, whip the enemy in dogfights, protect damaged ships from attack and possibly rewrite the history books.

Basically, Battlehawks is a very good flight simulator. The controls are greatly simplified, mind you - all you really have to do is guide the plane around using the mouse, raise and lower the flaps to alter lift, open and close the throttle, keep a close eye on the compass and altimeter, plus look to the sides and behind you for any enemy planes trying a surprise attack.

At first, using the mouse to change height and direction seems a little strange. However, you soon find that it is much more sensitive than joystick or keyboard. Pressing either mouse button fires the machine guns and the space-bar drops bombs.

Downing the enemy planes is difficult because they keep their distance and it is almost impossible to keep your plane completely level. On my maiden flight, lasting one hour, I shot down three planes, damaged one, and missed several thousand times.

There are practice modes which give you a pilot's dream - infinite ammunition and armour, enemy planes which don't shoot at you and a safety device which prevents you stalling or flying below 75 feet. In real battles you can save your skin when shot down by ejecting.

For the vain, the most useful feature is a camera which can be switched on during your manoeuvres. It can be replayed later as a nice ego massage.

The graphics are on the clear and bright menu screens. The view out of the cockpit window is much more crude. The planes and ships are rather ill-defined - all you see is sea and sky represented by two blocks of colour.
The sound is a great help, the note changing pitch whenever the plane is damaged or the engines are about to stall. Together with the rat-tat-tat of machine guns and the crunch of explosions, it sounds very realistic in stereo.

Many similar programs have been released before. Battlehawks 1942, an ace book with quite a nice game attached, is the best I've seen.

Battlehawks 1942 logo

Price: £19.99

I never did History at school. Mind you, I never did much at all at school, except English, and that is why my reviews are as good as what they are (Slick, Tone, Slick - Ed). But, getting back to the original track of the review, even I know that in 1942 there was a bit of a ruck going on.

Battlehawks is a World War II flight/combat simulator, if you had not already guessed. Now here is the catch. It does not support the use of a joystick. Crazy or what? You can only use mouse or keyboard. What a joke! As I write, I can hear thousands of Amiga owners turning the page muttering "I wonder if Falcon is any good...?".

So, missing joystick option aside, what do you get when you purchase Battlehawks? Well, you get a simplified flight simulator that uses fairly convincing 3D sprite techniques and has dozens of cute little touches. It contains over thirty different missions, including training, as well as the option to play the bad guys, Japan.

Once you have gone through all the rudimentaries like creating a pilot, choosing a mission/plane/difficulty level etc., you start your mission, not on a runway or a carrier as you would expect, but 5000 feet up about 45 seconds from your target. I thin that it is a little cruel to send a rookie pilot into the fray so quickly, especially when you are flying by mouse, but that is the way the programmers has done it. At least you do not have to take off.

Now those cute little touches I mentioned. Lots of graphical frills have been thrown in, and they do heighten the game. When you hit an enemy plane a few times, it catches fire, and after a moment or two starts spinning toward the sea. At this point the pilot bails out, and what a large, well defined sprite he is. Sadly, you cannot then proceed to blow him away, but then again we did not do that sort of thing. Not sporting.

The sound is, well, sound. It serves its purpose and is full of little sampled war-like sounds. Bullets ping off metal (though not Teflon, as so many games seem to do these days), engines roar, the crowd rises, the paint greases, oh how I love the circus (Whaa? Ed).

The graphics are not terrible. The sizing of the sprites is convincing enough, though they do go a bit blocky at times. The refresh rate is none too fast either, which makes the Amiga version run only slightly faster than the PC version running off a Sinclair PC 200.

It is quite fun to play, but as the frills wear thin the level of enjoyment falls rapidly. Not a worthwhile investment, but worth getting your rich mate to buy so that you can play it round his gaff.

Stunning World War 2 action from those cuddly people at Lucasfilm

Battlehawks 1942 logo Zzap! Sizzler

US Gold/Lucasfilm, Amiga £24.99

Life was tough in the Second World War, according to my grandfather:

'Eee, I can remember when we had to queue for three weeks just for a loaf of bread and a couple of toilet rolls' etc etc.

Mind you, I bet the pensioners in the good old US of A have some slightly more gung-ho tales to tell, if this latest release from the US Gold/Lucasfilm team-up is anything to go by.

Battlehawks 1942 is a departure from the usual flight-sim in so much as you are thrown almost immediately into the thick of the action. No mucking around trying to take off, no waiting for goodness knows how long to get to where you want to be - just plonk, right into the middle of pitched battle.

The briefing room is the first port of call, where you can choose from a number of different options. As well as the four set battles (Midway, Coral Sea, the Eastern Solomons or Santa Cruz Islands), you can also select one of several training missions, including practice at dogfighting and bombing. Alongside these choices, it's also possible to inspect the aircraft available to you, as well as pilot service records.

Once a mission or practice session has been selected, you're into real action. Flying high above sea level, your mission basically consists of knocking out the enemy fighter planes, while attempting to score a hit on one of the enemy boats.

With only one bomb or torpedo, success depends purely on your skill the first time round - there are no second chances in this war.

Mind you, that's not strictly true because, should you come to grief one way or another, you can always quit the game and start again from the beginning. Bet your grandfather wished he could have done that forty-odd years ago, eh?

Gordon Houghton Battlehawks 1942 is just my type of flight sim - enough control to give you the impression of actually flying a plane which would be even better if there was a joystick option offered. Mouse control, although not bad, isn't what I'd call the ideal device for flying. Apart from that though, I like this a lot. The computer controlled pilots are intelligent enough to go and attack enemies in some spectacular formations, as well as coming to hassle you at rather inopportune moments. Get it or regret it.
Paul Rand All right, so it's not run of the mill simulation, but who cares when what is there is as good as this? The whole makeup of Battlehawks 1942 positively oozes class, from the packaging inwards. There's a lot of historical background to the missions contained in the manual, which will help you make the right decisions when it comes to re-enacting them (as well as making rather good reading in its own right!). As for the program itself, it's extremely polished, with marvellously defined and animated graphics as well a laid-out cockpit. Sound is of a high quality also, with a plethora of clearly sampled effects (although one of them does sound as if it was poached from Gunfight at the OK Corral!). It's easy to play, without becoming tedious, and above all, it's wonderfully addictive. So go out and get it. Now.