WHERE does Second World War mania come from? There are far too may simulations of aerial combat around, and Lancaster is yet another. What is wrong with the distant past or the future? Couldn't the format of Theatre Europe be built on?
After a black and white loading screen, coupled with loud and nasty stereo sound, a menu screen with about 20 buttons and a wobbly pointer appears. The buttons select everything from cheat and demonstration modes to the time of day and whether barrage balloons are present or not.
With this negotiated, you pick one of three pilots, watch the flight crew enter the plane outside the hangar and bang the hatch shut, switch to it taxiing out of the same hangar, then watch it take off along a green runway.
Once airborne, the scene switches to an excellent map of South East England, then to one of France or Germany, with the plane's progress and the target marked.
Before long a voice screams that an attack is about to take place. Messages flash on screen. You are given a view out of the tail gunner's dome - shoot everything on sight, the little arrows with AIMS marked on them pointing to the barrage balloons leave you in no doubt as to in which direction your bullets would be best fired.
After many ambushes you switch to a view of your target from above and get the chance to drop the most destructive bombs ever - when one hits a building, it vanishes without a trace.
You then struggle to get back home, avoiding more ambushes. If you are hit, the plane slides gracefully to the ground, bursts into flames and your pilot records are displayed with "File closed".
Graphics are of variable quality. On the menu and introductory screens they are very detailed. On some of the take-off and landing screens - especially the view from above of the sight to be bombed - the graphics are solid and extremely blocky.
In one case you are whisked from a hi-res view of the plane with propellors spinning into lo-res where there are no propellors to see.
The combat screens are a mixture of detailed control panel and blocky view with some of the graphics looking like products of a modelling package. Enemy planes trail smoke and spiral realistically before plunging to earth. Complete chaos is simulated well.
The sound effects are poor. The voice is very hard to make out. Other effects are nothing special.
Despite these reservations, the hackneyed subject matter and the mistakes, Lancaster is a pretty good example of its type.
Based on the missions of the famous bomber plane, it is in the usual Amiga Epic format - combat scenes linked via much groaning from the disc drive with pretty graphics and animation, colourful maps, menus and fanfares.
It is not a bad game. At least the authors are honest enough to point out where the simulation departs from complete historical accuracy.