Found wanting

Lost Patrol logo

GIMMICKS. Completely superfluous throwaway items that neither add anything to a game or make it more playable. Gimmicks are there primarily for reviewers, rather than the people who buy the games. They are there for the screenshots on the back of the packaging, there for the glossy adverts in magazines, and there for kids to tell their mates about down at the computer club.

But gimmicks don't make a dull and average game any better or any more playable. Ocean's Lost Patrol has plenty of gimmicks, but it's almost completely dull.

It begins with a chopper coming down in enemy territory in Nam. The survivors, the lost patrol, have to make their way back to Do Hoc, a friendly base, through the trackless wastes of VC infested jungle.

So this is Ocean's return to Vietnam, after arousing controversy for its despicable licence of Platoon a couple of years ago. A number of things have been changed in the interim, the most important of which was Operation Wolf. The influence of the game permeates Lost Patrol with its various 3D sections.

You start off with your squad of soldiers, each with fitness and morale ratings. As Sarge Weaver you must assign scout duty to whoever you feel is either most competent or most expandable. Expendable because one of the various sub games involves a scout in a beat 'em up encounter against a ridiculously good gook. Obviously he has seen all the Bruce Lee films you haven't.

Most Most of the game takes place on a poor quality map display. A cross marks your position, and you have the option of crawling across the jungle or digging in or resting. Your lads get tired, so the odd hour's rest is essential, but when the sun says au revoir for the day either dig in for the night or expect trouble. The trouble is that your cross moves unbelievably slowly across this cruddy map.

Sometimes you get a still picture depicting a soldier crossing a river or hacking through the jungle. Sometimes you get a little series of VIDI-Amiga vignettes, in black and white of course, but they look rather small and strange among the technicolour and stagnant screens they are overlaid upon.

Right, so you plod along, trying to be inconspicuous, and then the sheer boredom is interrupted by an arcade section. What will it be, you wonder, as it loads from the second disk. The minefield, with a solider prodding his way through with a bayonet is mouse operated and mildly intense in a dull way.

More exciting is the battle sequence, which is real Op. Wolf territory. You are pinned inside a ruined farmhouse and must rise above the protecting wall to fire and lob grenades at the VC force. It's all in 3D. They shoot at you, you shoot at them, and the only disaster to beware of is letting the VC close enough to lob a grenade into your position. That spells trouble and mustn't be allowed.

Some more static screens, or with a minimal amount of animation, herald these arcade sections. There's the awful beat 'em up section, the grenade the VC, and the sniper sub games to contend with as well.
These arcade subgames are all competently handled, and the graphics are certainly better than on the map section.

It all comes across as rather a mishmash. Only the hand to hand section is poor, the rest being quite adequate games, but the map section and speed of movement are awful.

Why does it take so long to move a cross one square, pixel by pixel? What it comes down to is design, and the design for Lost Patrol is rubbish. There's no two ways about it, it must have taken four guys sat in a pub 10 minutes to come up with the design for this game.

Lost Patrol is dull, it's long winded, it's boring, and it's completely ordinary in absolutely every aspect. And if you read otherwise in other magazines, take it from me, the reviewer is lying for the advertising that Ocean will place with them. Lost Patrol should have stayed lost.


Lost Patrol logo

OCEAN £24.99 * Joystick/Mouse/Keyboard

Vietnam in 1966. 400,000 American soldiers fighting a war on foreign soil, for a cause few understand. The US military, winning hearts and minds at the point of gun, rules the air. The VC, baptised by fire at Dien Bien Phu, rule the jungle.

This is now your problem: your squad was returning to base in a helicopter when the 'bird' went down. Stranded 57 miles from 'home' walking's the only option. Armed with minimal ammo, a few grenades and two days' supply of food, the Lost Patrol is under your command. The only obstacles that lie in the way are minefields, VC patrols, hostile villagers, booby traps and failing morale.

In this unique icon-controlled graphic adventure, you must guide the team across the main game map to the last outpost on the road to hell - Du Hoc, the only place you can call home. A compass is used to guide the boys by clicking on one of the points.

The team walks at three different speeds - double march, normal and extreme caution. It would be better to travel at 'gee Mom, I'm scared'< pace, checking every blade of grass, but the food supply won't allow it./p>

Your grunts can search areas, rest and dig in for the night. Traps can be laid with either grenades or claymores. Food consumption must be strictly limited. No vast list of options, but enough to survive in Charlie's back yard.

Using recon info, scouts work out the lie of the land terrain-wise but not Charlie-wise. The enemy just pops up, in small parties or large groups toting heavy machine guns, and each has a different arcade sequence to decide the encounter's outcome.

One-on-one confrontations are beat-em-up sub-games. Both troopers stupidly put down their guns and try to punch the living daylights out of each other. Group encounters have the marines pinned down in a foxhole. Standing up to shoot or throw grenades and ducking to avoid the Cong in a Op Thunderbolt-style blast. Against the machine gun bunker, grenades are the only option, and they're in short supply. SO soldiers need quick, accurate and careful throwing.

Other interactive elements of Lost Patrol (aka Nine go mad in Indo China) are the minefields, snipers and dealing with villagers. Minefields require a bayonet and some slow digging if you're to get past without going 'poof'. Snipers are a pain in just about any part of the body. Your chosen marksman scans the tree-line with a telescoping sight, seeking the virtually invisible muzzle flash of the VC who's taking your squad apart man by man.
Dealing with locals gets very heavy indeed, with two of the four options being kill one and kill all - we are talking Mai Lai simulator here. Questioning them can earn food, while searches reveal tunnels.

The men who are under your command are a fickle bunch, considering you're trying to save their necks. Cut the food supply down and they complain. Make them march too fast or too long and they whinge about lack of sleep, and if morale drops they run off into the bush. Suicidal for them and the rest of the platoon.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Lost Patrol is a joy to watch. Packed with still and animated screens, it captures the war-weary mood of the Gis and the natural beauty of Vietnam. These still frames are backed up with digitised sequences of troopers romping through the jungle, M-16s at the ready. These can be turned off to speed play along, but are vital to the game's structure. Motivation stems from the desire to see the next scene as much as getting back to Du Hoc for a warm can of Bud'

The movie idea is supplemented with a great theme and the occasional excellent effect: the metallic lock and load sound as the snipers force rounds into the breach, for example. Some may damn Lost Patrol as a series of impressive graphics strung together with a tenuous plot. But with Vietnam accepted by popular cultural as the first TV war, its story can only be captured using film techniques. Any other genre would have lacked the 'Nam feel that Lost Patrol exhibits.

LASTING INTEREST

Lost Patrol stresses the graphic element, and so has massive instant appeal. Yet there are only 28 intermediate scenes, 5 digitised sequences and 10 arcade or interactive sub-games. There's a lot to see, but it can get repetitive meeting the same VC patrol sub-game time after time. Even the arcade sequences get dull once the best techniques for overcoming the obstacles or enemies are learned. A bunch of weary troopers would not attack VC patrols merely to nick their supplies, but once you've sussed the sub-game this does become a practical proposition.

Lost Patrol will feasibly find their way home with in a few days. The pictures may lose some of their appeal after repeated sightings, but there's still enough fo a game buried beneath the graphics to justify the project. All the same, only the die-hard and the foolhardy will see everything and still make it home.

JUDGEMENT

Lost Patrol looks good and plays well enough to capture the atmosphere of America's worst national nightmare. There's little unity in the squad, no will to survive, and you as Sgt Weaver must turn these city boys into jungle warriors. Holding them together as a unit you must balance their whining with just enough military discipline to see you through. Lost Patrol lets you go 'in country' for a short while and earn a little glory - or at least a Purple Heart - without the necessary trauma of being shot at while there and spat on when you reach home.


Verloren im Bitdschungel

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Gerade dachten wir noch, Oceans verirrte Patrouille würde den Weg nach Haar nie mehr finden - es war schon zu befürchten, eine Spezialeinheit der BPS hätte das Game vorzeitig abgeschossen. Und dann entpuppt sich das Ganze als taktikorientiertes Kriegsspiel mit (fast) unblutigen Actioneinlagen.

Am 7 Juni 1966 stürzt ein US-Hubschrauber über dem zentralen Hochland von Vietnam ab, nur sieben GT's überleben das Unglück. Die müssen sich nun auf eigene Faust zu ihrer Einheit vorkämpfen - durch 57 Meilen Feindesland...

Mittels einer Windrose dirigiert man seine Jungs über eine Landkarte, dabei sorgen zahlreiche Handlungs- und Entscheidungsmöglichkeiten für Abwechslung. Man kann die Rollenverteilung innerhalb der Truppe variieren, rasten oder neue Marschgeschwindigkeiten vorgeben, die tägliche Essenausgabe kontrollieren und sogar Fallen für eventuelle Verfolger aufbauen. Bei all dem muß man immer die Motivation seiner Leute im Auge behalten, die Kerle werden nämlich leicht rebellisch. Je nach gewählter Route kommt man unterschiedlich schnell voran - und taumelt dabei meist von einem Schlamassel ins nächste! Die dann folgenden Action-sequenzen werden zwar immer von hervorragenden Animationen eingeleitet, bieten aber grafisch und spielerisch nur biedere Hausmannskost. Das öde Herumgestochere in Minenfeldern oder die geradezu lachhaften Nahkampfszenen reißen heute wirklich keinen mehr vom Hocker, einzig der Heckenschützen-Überfall kann mit ein paar unverbrauchten Ideen aufwarten.

Mit den schwachen Actioneinlagen könnte man zur Not noch leben, absolut nervend sind aber die zahlreichen Logikfehler: So tauchen beispielsweise ab und zu Meldungen auf, daß ein Truppenmitglied gestorben sei. Soll mit recht sein, aber beim nächsten Spielzug ist der Junge plötzlich wieder da und beschwert sich über das mangelnde Vertrauensverhältnis! Im übernächsten Zug ist er dann wieder tot und immer so weiter. Leider haben sich eine ganze Menge solcher Ungereimtheiten eingeschlichen, bei den gelegentlichen Verhören bekommt man es zudem mit einem Parser zu tun, der außer "Essen" so gut wie nichts versteht. Aber vielleicht war's ja so beabsichtigt? Schließlich: Wie viele Amerikaner sprechen schon Vietnamesisch?

Das Schönste am Lost Patrol ist zweifelsfrei die Grafik. Nach jedem Spielzug erscheint eines der über 20 stimmungsvollen Zwischenbilder, zum Teil sogar mit eingeblendeten Filmsequenzen! Über die Begleitmusik läßt sich hingegen wenig Gutes berichten, außer vielleicht, daß man sie abschalten kann. Bleibt die Frage, ob sich die ausgedehnte Wartezeit auf dieses Spiel gelohnt hat. Nun, der Taktikteil ist sehr abwechslungsreich, jede Sitzung verläuft etwas anders. Hätten die Programmierer bei den Action-sequenzen nicht gar so sehr geschlampt und auf einen logischen Spielablauf geachtet, dann hätte das Game sicher der erhoffte Hit werden können. Aber so? (Felix Bübl)


Lost Patrol logo

Ocean
Price: £24.99

My only experience of Vietnam to date has been 'Platoon', 'Tour of Duty' and a crash course in the ruder parts of the lingo from my good mate Lam. I do not know much else, except that American cannot seem to make up their minds whether they are anguished about loosing the war or guilty about entering it.

Lost Patrol follows the story of platoon sergeant Weaver and his six men, all of whom have survived a helicopter crash behind enemy lines. Ocean's game has a cast of imaginary characters and a plot about as convincing as a 'Police Academy' film.

Resources are limited. You have a dozen or so grenades, a couple of hundred rounds of ammo, and hardly any food. To make things worse you need to guide the platoon through fifty-eight miles of Vietcong territory in order to reach a friendly base. Your course is plotted on a rather simple map. A detailed report on the surrounding area can be gained by sending out a scout, although he risks bumping into Vietcong patrols.

Inevitably you and your merry men come under fire, causing the disk drive to whirr as it loads in an arcade sequence. You find yourself hidden behind a wall avoiding a hail of bullets, and every now and then, should you feel the need to, you pop up, fire off a few shots or lob a grenade or two then sink back under cover again.

The GIs in this game did not have many scruples. When supplies are running short it pays to raid a village. Some are friendly but if you are not sure interrogate its chief. You can be nice or you can be nasty, just talk, or hit the bloke hard. If you are not getting anywhere you can execute a villager. If you are in a really nasty mood, you can lay waste to the village. This highly tasteless option is like something from 'Apocalypse Now' but it hardly does wonders for your men's morale.

Although it jumps on the Cinemaware bandwagon, Lost Patrol misses the mark. As a compendium of sub games it works OK, but as a Vietnam war game it is hardly an education.

All the individual sections are good fun to play. The graphics are tidy but unfortunately are not as impressive as the early demos led us to believe. A weak sounding, but catchy, semi-techno tune plays throughout, only interrupted by bursts of gunfire and the occasional scream.

Lost Patrol is not what I had originally expected. Instead of a really absorbing, well plotted strategy it's turned just a string of arcade sequences. Despite this disappointment Lost Patrol is a pretty good excuse for a romp through the Vietnamese countryside, and it does provide some genuine entertainment.


Lost Patrol logo

Fancy taking a 60 mile hike through a Vietnamese jungle in war-torn 1966? No, neither did Duncan MacDonald or Paul Lakin but they had no choice. They were drafted and their first tour of duty was with The Lost Patrol, the new Cinemaware game from Ocean.

It's June 7th 1966: a US helicopter returning troops from a period of rest and recreation in Saigon goes all wobbly and crashes in the remote Central Highlands of Vietnam. There are seven survivors, and the nearest US base, Du Hoc, is 57 miles away. 57 miles of unbelievably harsh terrain. 57 miles alive with booby traps and Vietcong troops. A fully equipped team of soldiers would find the prospect of a trek of this sort of daunting (to say the very least) but the seven men who will be under your control have little food or ammunition.

Oh, and morale is low, obviously. Your chances of survival are extremely slim. In fact it's worse than that: you're as good as dead. Here's where you stand...

THE SURVIVORS
This is your troop. Watch them carefully - some of them have certain strengths. Some of them have certain weaknesses. You don't want to send the cook into unarmed combat with 'a Geek' if there's someone available who's quite good at origami (I think you mean Aikido, Ed.)

SGT. Charles Weaver
US Residence: Springfield, Illinois
STATUS: Height 5'9". Weight 153 pounds. 29 years old. Single. Two years army service. Ten months in Vietnam on W.H.A.M. Missions for intelligence. Decorated for valour during action in the An Loc Province during October 1964.

PTE. William Blom
US Residence: Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
STATUS: Height 6'1". Weight 168 pounds. 24 years old. Married, one child. Six months active in Vietnam. Aikido 2nd Dan.

PTE Robert Case
US Residence: Columbus, Ohio.
STATUS: Height 5'11". Weight 147 pounds. 31 years old. Married, two children. Nine months active service in Vietnam.

PTE. Harvey Moore
US Residence: Fayetteville, North Carolina
STATUS: 22 years old. Height 5'8". Weight 162 pounds. Single. Six months active service in Vietnam.

PTE. Richard Bachman
US Residence: Bangor, Maine.
STATUS: Height 5'10". Wight 161 pounds. 28 years old. Single. Fourteen months army service. Six months active in Vietnam. Highly proficient marksman.

PTE. David Cain
US Residence: West Liberty, Kentucky
STATUS: Height 6'0". Weight 163 pounds. 27 years old. Single. Seven months active service in Vietnam.

PTE. Juan Gomez
US Residence: Montgomery, Texas.
STATUS: Height 5'6". Weight 132 pounds. 24 years old. Married, two children. Nine months active service in Vietnam.

PTE. Roy Castle
US Residence: Richmond, Surrey.
STATUS: Height 5'9". Weight 138 pounds. 48 years old. Married, four children. Brand new draftee with no previous active service. Can play Flight Of The Bumble Bee on the Alpine Horn. (Are you quite sure about PTE. Roy Castle? Ed.)

THE TERRAIN
This is where your route is planned and plotted. Familiarity with Vietcong war tactics and how to cope with the diverse terrain might help you. However, don't forget that the original 'Nam draftees weren't given any information. The only way they learnt was by experience - which meant (in so many cases) by getting themselves killed. You'll probably be doing the same - but at least you can have the luxury of a second bash.

This map screen is also where you check up on the morale of your men, where you choose to distribute rations (or to not distribute them - they're low remember) and, well, basically you give your orders and stuff from here.

The speed of your troop's progress can be changed by clicking on the centre of the compass icon (D). The direction in which you march (crawl, slope, hack or wade) is chosen by clicking on any one of the surrounding cardinal compass points.

Your movements, as in real life, are slowed to varying degrees by the natural terrain features of the route you take - hills, rivers, swamp or jungle for example. There's the Control Panel Message Slot (E) to keep your eye on, which gives you quite detailed terrain descriptions once you've summoned up the grid icon (F) and the highlighted the area you're interested in. The map, by the way, is two screens wide. And it's scrollable, so you can study it at your leisure.

The M icon takes you to the Team Morale screen, where not only will you get the individual morale and strength ratings but also details of injuries sustained. Clicking on the Lead icon chooses that member as the head of the team file as it moves across country. This means that he's going to be the first one to step on a mine or walk into a booby trap, so either choose someone you don't like or somebody who's proved himself to be observant and unflappable. Clicking on the scout icon allows you to select a 'pointsman'. In fact you can appoint two. What these pointsmen do is guard the flank of the file: checking for VC's creeping up the rear. (Insert Julian Clary type joke here. Ed.)

The menu bar at the top of the control panel (accessed by pressing the right mouse button) gives you access to a number of options. 'Traps' allows you to leave booby traps in your wake. 'Food' allows you to alter the amount of rations to hand out. 'Rest' is something you'll need to do occasionally if you have causalities among the troop (rations can be consumed during these rests, and morale will be lifted, especially if you known any Paul Daniels 'party tricks').
'Digging In' is something else you'll need to do - mainly at night. You can 'dig in' for multiples of one hour and like 'rest', you'll find it beneficial to strength and morale.

ONWARD MARCHING SOLDIERS
The Lost Patrol is made up of the main Map Screen and a host of sub-games: moving to a certain area on the map will plunge you into a small piece of arcade action. For instance, you might find yourself in a minefield which surrounds a Vietcong bunker. You can choose to retreat - but you might get spotted. Decide, instead, to push forwards and you're going to have to find a safe route through the mines. This is a viewed-from-above sequence against the clock.

You control a crawling soldier (pick which of your team you feel best able to cope in this situation). The soldier can be turned through 360 degrees and be made to probe the ground with his knife, which may (or may not) reveal a mine. If it does, well, you're not going to want to go that way, are you? No. You're not. (Unless you're incredibly thick.) So, it's a case of turning, probing again and when you find a safe spot, shuffling forwards. You mustn't hang around though, because at any point you could get seen by the VC and be overrun: um, which means getting mutilated and killed. But if you start panicking and move too fast, you might make a mistake and get your legs blown off - and the blast will be like a doorbell to the Vietcong anyway, saying "look over there. Some Americans to visit (and, um, mutilate and kill)".

Another of the arcade sequences takes a little bit of its inspiration from Operation Wolf, but instead of a continuously scrolling horizontal landscape, the action takes place on a single screen's worth with a vertically scrolling wall between you and the enemy. You dinf yourself pinned down inside ruined buildings by a VC force of unknown strengths and size. Hidden behind the wall, you're safe from their bullets and grenades. Unfortunately, because you're behind the wall, you can't see them either - you have to poke your head up to take a shot or throw a grenade. And you know another word for 'a head poking up over a wall' don't you? That's right: 'a target'. Still, you can't sit down behind the wall indefinitely, because you'll find yourself getting overrun by the VC's.

HAND TO HAND COMBAT
At any point during the 'game' one of your scouts may stumble upon a Vietcong soldier guarding arms or supply bunkers. As total silence is imperative (you don't want to alert his 'chums' to your presence), you have to take him on hand to hand, which is another way of saying it's time for a bit of side-on-view beat 'em up. You can punch and kick and, if you can get close enough, headbutt.

However, time isn't on your side (as seems to be the case everywhere else in the game) and if you fail to report back to the group at the designated time, you'll be regarded as Missing In Action, and left behind to fend for yourself. Mind you, you may be killed by the VC before your time runs out anyway.

SNIPERS
Coming under fire from VC snipers isn't a barrel of laughs. You and your men are pinned down. All you can see are distant huts and trees and you hear the sporadic crack of rifle fire. Suddenly a message appears: "Private Case has been shot in the right arm". Oh dear, where are they shooting from? The trouble with snipers, you see, is that they're hidden. That's why they're called snipers. If they weren't hidden they'd be called 'sitting ducks'.

So, it's time to use the telescopic sights on your rifle. Okay, scan the landscape dead slowly. Crack. Another shot. Phew, no-one's been hit. Scan more of the landscape. Crack. Hey, there was a tiny flash from that bush over there. It's sniper fire. Bang, bang, bang (go easy on the ammunition). There. Got him. Oh no, Private Case has been hit in the left leg. Retreating from snipers can be just as dangerous as facing them and trying to pick them off. It's just another of the many dilemmas you'll be facing.

There's another sniper sequence in the game, in which you have to use hand grenades instead of your rifle. You pull the pin from the grenade, aim it with the cross hairs and set the power meter for whatever you think is the correct distance. This means you have five seconds to get the grenade aimed and launched - because you can't put the handle and pin back in again. If you take too long the grenade will go off in your hand, and it'll be frankfurters for tea.

SNIPERS
On entering villages, you have to interrogate the inhabitants. This is done in the style of adventure games, with text descriptions and menu-driven multiple choice responses. You're placed in the unenviable position of not being able to trust anyone - the gentle looking old man in front of you could be just that : a gentle looking old man. However, he could also be a Vietcong sympathiser, holding information that will mean the difference between life and death for you and your men.
This is where the real flavour of the Vietnam war starts to seep into the gameplay - have you been dehumanized by the carnage and destruction you've witnessed in the jungles and swamps? How will you play it softly, giving the old man the benefit of the doubt, and having a friendly game of noughts and crosses with him? Or will you get slightly rougher in your techniques, resorting to threats of physical violence and handling out the odd slap? Maybe you'll get seriously gung-ho and batter him about the head with a rifle butt until his skull goes all wibbly.

You have the option to do all these things. Basically it's a question of how much you value the lives of potentially innocent people. This is set against your duty to get the men in your command back to safety. Role playing has never had such serious undertones. (Personally we'd set fire to his legs).

Atari ST reviewDunc: Hang on a mo, I want to tell you a story first I've just got to put on my Vietnam soldier's voice. Ahem. Grunt, grunt. (Clears throat and tries to sound like a cross between Matt Dillon and Martin Sheen.)
"There he was, in a village, me and give of my men (Gomez had been blown apart in a VC trap the previous day). Morale was low, and there wasn't a helluvalot of food or ammo left. Two of the party had serious wounds and we still had 35 miles to go before hitting Du Hoc."

Ahem. Grunt. Actually I'm not very good at being 'American', so I'll have another bash - this time as an English 'soldier'...

"Blimey. This is a rum old turn up for the books. I can blinking well tell you. The bally helicopter crashed and all seven of us were stuck in the middle of the Vietnamese jungle, without so much as a cricket bat to help us pass the time. We jolly well soldiered on though, on foot, and eventually made it to a charmingly picturesque village. (Um, except for Gomez that is, who got into a bit of a scrape with some sort of landmine)".

"As I said, though, the village was wizard: wooden huts with hay on the roofs. The sergeant got hold of an old wrinkled farmer chappie and suggested we get some information from him. 'Oh good', I said, 'can you ask where I can buy some ethic mantlepiece ornaments?' The sergeant told me that he was after information of a different kind, so I let him get on with it and went for a little walk. A few minutes later I stubbed my toe on something. It was a trapdoor, so I lifted it up - and found a hole in the ground full of people wearing funny hats and brandishing guns."

'''Oh, how quaint, they're playing tunnels' I said, and asked them if I could join in - but they all jumped out and started firing. 'Hey, you can't shoot me, chaps', I said. 'I'm English', but they paid me no heed."

What The Lost Patrol is all about is atmosphere. And it scores. You feel tension with every step your party takes. You get a feeling of 'it's not fair'. You get a feeling of 'why do we have to be here?', but you are there, so you have to carry on. That's the intention. The war isn't glorified, but you're not allowed to play the pacifist humanitarian. Well, you are, but you'd be dead in about two pico-seconds. I could say 'first you do this, then you do that and then you do this and that and the other' but that would spoil the game. Anyway - the real soldiers in Vietnam weren't told what to expect, so why should you? What I will say, however, is that there's a certain 'random element' in the game. Luck. Just like real life.

Amiga reviewPaul: In space no one can hear you scream. (You're not in space, you're in the middle of war torn Vietnam. Ed.) Well, this is certainly a rather different approach to war on computer. No shoot, shoot, shoot, kill, kill, kill ha, ha, ha. It's far more thoughtful than that. In fact it's an 'anti-war' game, in a sort of Cinemaware fashion.

That doesn't mean to say it's not violent. It is. Very. But the violence comes inside a different pill than most war games: it's slightly harder to swallow. From the very outset, the tension is there. You stare at the map screen, scrolling it around to check the terrain, and a bass heavy 'Nam war film type riff comes form the speakers. "Where would I be hiding" you ask yourself, "if I was a Vietcong foot soldier?". "Where wouldn't I expect to find a group of weary Americans?". On deciding on an area you think the VC's wouldn't expect you to be, it's a good idea to head for it.

The trouble is that whenever you think the Vietcong won't suss something out, you're generally wrong - well, quite often. The tension can be a real killer. Still, what am I telling you this for? The Lost Patrol is a mission of discovery. You really have to learn as you go along, but just as in the real war, the cost of any mistakes can be very high. You can find two members of your party killed because you stupidly didn't realise that... oh dear. There I go again, nearly letting the cat out of the bag.

Actually, I wish I could have my first go all over again. Getting all seven of the company safely to Du Hoc on the very first play would be quite an achievement. As it happens, if this was real life I'd be already dead and wouldn't have another chance.

The graphics are superbly done, both in the statics and arcade sections. Check out the black and white digitised film sequences: brilliant. And the interrogation screens and something else. (I really hate to say that I enjoy them, but you know what I mean). Non, no, I'm not going all gung-ho, what I mean is that they add to the game in a way that... Look, I don't actually 'enjoy' them, it's just that you find yourself in a real dilemma as to whether or not you... Oh, I give up. I'll just say that The Lost Patrol, as a whole, is even greater than the sum of its parts. (Yes. And you liked the interrogation scenes in particular., didn't you? Ed.) Stop


Lost Patrol: Map of Vietnam
A The scene of the crash
B High ground
C Marshland
D Compass icon
E Message slot
F Grid icon
G Vietcong village
H Vietcong emplacement
I Du Hoc
VIETNAM WAR 'FACT'
In the words of Paul Hardcastle's song, the average age of a soldier in Vietnam was nineteen (n-n-nineteen). According to Ocean's The Lost Patrol, the average soldier in Vietnam was twenty-six (t-t-t-twenty six), single, with five sevenths of a child (f-f-f-five sevenths, f-f-f-f-) (That's enough 'Paul Hardcastle' imitations. Ed.)
GLOSSARY
AK-47 - Assault Rifle used by Viet Cong
Arrrggh - Soldier's signal meaning both his legs have been blown off
AWOL - Absent Without Official Leave
Charlie - Viet Cong (or a perfume from Lentheric.)
C-Rations - US Field rations
Didi-Mau - Vietnamese for 'Go Away'
Diddy Man - One of Ken Dodd's little pals
Grunt - An infantryman
Greens - Army basic issue working/ killing clothes
Hooch - Tent, or peasant hut
KIA - Killed In Action
Klick - Kilometre
M16 - Standard issue US assault rifle
Mama San - Any older Vietnamese woman
Medevac - Medical evacuation, usually by helicopter
NCO - Non Commissioned Officer: i.e. Sergeant
NVA - North Vietnamese Army
Ouuucch - Soldier's signal meaning his hand has been blown off
R and R - Rest and Recreation leave
RPG - Rocket Propelled Grenade
Tail-End Charlie - Last man in patrol
Viet Cong (VC) - Vietnamese Communist/Guerilla
WIA - Wounded In Action

Lost Patrol logo

Ocean, Amiga £24.99

The Vietnam War was a particular pointless exercise: America dropped most of its bombs, more than were used in WWII, on the country it was supposedly defending - South Vietnam. The Lost Patrol does not really deal with that, the Gis are still the good guys, but at least it is about survival rather than victory. Set in 1966, the game starts with the crash of a helicopter in some remote highlands.

As Sergeant Weaver your job is to lead the other six survivors in a trek across 57 miles of jungle and swampland to the nearest US base. Booby traps, Viet Cong troops and snipers will ensure it is an interesting trip.

The main screen is a map where you can select which direction to march in. Hills and rivers slow progress down, but following well-trodden trails make you a sitting target for the VC. You can also decide the pace of your match, how fast you consume rations and how often you rest, as well as how long you sleep at night.

Periodically static screens come up showing what is happening and occasionally there is a short digitised sequence.

Your trek is also interrupted by numerous arcade sequences. One of your scouts might run into a VC soldier, resulting in a simplistic hand-to-hand combat scene. You might also come under Sniper Attack. Here the screen shows a static picture of a village, as shots ring out tiny muzzle flashes can be spotted through your telescopic rifle sight.

A sharp eye is also required for the Battle Sequence, which has you pinned inside a ruined farmhouse. As you hide behind a wall VC stand up to take aim: pressing the right button has you standing up to fire back or throw grenades.

Somewhat familiar is the Grenade Section with a VC sniper hiding in a field of wheat. Pressing fire pulls the grenade pin out, leaving you a few seconds to select the strength of your throw. The overhead-view Minefield Section has one man crawling ahead of the rest, using a bayonet to uncover mines.

There are also confrontations with villagers who can offer vital food supplies if questioned correctly. But for that unqiue My Lai touch, there is an option to massacre entire villages.


Phil King I was relieved to find that, unlike most strategy games, Lost Patrol is surprisingly easy to get into. The game is well presented with easy-to-use menus and atmospheric pictures. I particularly liked the way the men in your command behave as individuals, occasionally disputing your leadership or even stabbing you in the back! Some of the arcade sections are also very playable - the Sniper Attack sequence is particularly tense with a neat telescopic sight effect. The only trouble is that after a few goes the game's simple appeal starts to wear off and endlessly trudging through jungle becomes repetitive.
Scorelord The heart of the game is strategic: picking your route, pace, rations and rest periods is critical to making significant progress. Providing graphical glitz are numerous static screens and occasional digitised sequences. The former are well drawn, although the palette is often a bit pale, while the latter are only okay. The soundtrack is also disappointingly bland, yet there is no denying the overall impact is streets ahead of most strategy games. The arcade sections are okay, but none are outstanding. A more serious problem is the RAM save option, why no disk save? - possibly because the 57 miles is not that long for a game. It is certainly not easy though, and going back to the start only to end up hitting the same booby traps again is frustrating. A few more missions would have made it better value for money. Nevertheless, this is an innovative and interesting game which, Vietnam buffs at least, might find very compulsive.