As you've probably already gathered Coala, is spelt with a 'C' and you'd be right in thinking that it doesn't have anything to do with that furry thing down under. In Empire Interactive's words.... 'Coala. Cute name bud don't be deceived.'
If you can remember a game called "Thunderhawk", cross it with EA's "Desert Strike" and you can possible form an idea how Coala looks and plays.
What makes Coala stand out from the rest is the virtual realism that features so strongly. For instance, during a flight, what would you do if you heard a hellfire shooting off and it didn't belong to you. It'd be too late to toggle between external views to find out who it came from - as you'd be plummeting thousands of feet towards your death.
However, in Coala,if you should hear the whoosh of a missile being unloaded, possibly in your direction, holding down the right mouse button will enable you took out of the window to see where it's coming from. If you do happen to be unlucky enough for it to be hammering in your direction, the careful triggering of a Chaff or a Flare will soon confuse it and give you the time to get out of there. It's all to do with quick thinking and Coala makes it that little bit quicker.
To make things a little different. Instead of being part of some squadron or another disciplined air force, our helicopter doesn't actually have any markings, so it is completely unrecognisable by everyone else. This means you can take anyone's side and help them blow up the opposition. Not only will this be great fun by pretending to fly with the opposition and then blowing them out of the sky, but you will be able to repeat the missions and support the other side. The only downside for this is that once you do take a side, the opposition won't take too kindly to you hanging about and will try anything to get you out of the sky.
The flexible view controls are very useful, unlike in many other flight sims where they were only good for showing the game off. You actually need them for landing , viewing other planes, and escaping missiles.
All the function keys represent the views as usual, and the F1 key brings up your on-board computer, whereby you can view your mission objectives, targets, find out the damage to your helicopter, and see the aircraft that is entering your vicinity.
The flexible view controls are very useful, unlike in many other flight sims where they were only good for showing the game off
There are many detailed scenarios which you can battle though, each one posing a completely different objective, and it will take more than an ounce of strategic knowledge to complete. You can also configure the object, world, surface details, which between shaded horizons and the Amiga's special copper shading to suit how you would like to view it.
You are able to take part in battle during four different times of day - dawn, noon, sunset and night. Obviously, the night is going to be difficult because of the dark, although, your special Pilot Night Vision System (helicopter headlights) can be switched on.
To help you weapon-
The missions themselves are all designated by ex-NATO personnel and even the codes have a special ex-NATO defence system feel about them because you have to enter the special password for that particular officer - or should I say, staff member of Empire!
Not only do you get Coala for your £25, you also receive two products that should be quite familiar to anyone who's explored the Aminet series. The first is Navigator which is basically a virtual world creator - this is the actual engine which was used to produce Coala. Although you can't create your own worlds, you can however, load up some of the objects used in Coala, zoom in and out, rotate through 360 degrees, and generally manipulate them in any way you wish.
The next is called EFA, which is a simple program whereby you load up any of Coala's aircraft and just fly them around different types of scenery - Empire thought this would be an added bonus. If you get bored of flying a helicopter in the actual game, you can then move on and whizz around with EFA, flying high-powered jets, or even bi-planes. The speed of EFA is outstanding, providing high speed thrills - even though there's nothing to shoot.
Coala features complete artificial intelligence between the two competing sides,. For example, you can stay on the ground and miss out on all the fun and still win - because all the other pilots will battle it out in the skies above you. The only problem with this is that you won't receive any points because you are awarded for what you shoot down and consequently you won't proceed any further.
The graphics featured in Coala are truly superb, especially with the virtual reality which makes you feel as if you really are there. The intelligence of the other sides is set perfectly, so you can fly around stalking other aircraft rather than getting blown out of the sky every few minutes.
The sound effects of other helicopter's blades whizzing by are excellent and the copper shading on the horizons adds that little bit extra in terms of realism. The whole presentation aspect is superb - the graphics and sound are nothing of what we expect from the Amiga.