When Mikoyan rolled out the MiG 29 a couple of years ago the West was impressed. When Domark rolled out a sim based on the aircraft, Amiga owners were impressed. So was Amiga Format who gave it 91 per cent and a Format Gold. But since then Mikoyan has upgraded their fighter and so has Domark.
The first thing you'll notice (apart from a swankier loading screen) is you have four options of the number of colours and screen lines. This plays off visual appeal against speed. If you want the smoothest, quickest update you'll forfeit colour and detail but it does make a noticeable difference. Once selected, the set-up stays until you reboot.
Flying high on the campaign trail
MiG-29M actually gives you a complete war to take part in, whereas the original game just had six missions which you could play in any order. A map flashes up and you are plunged into a campaign. If you beat them all you could fly a tougher, previously inaccessible mission. There are several enemy airbases, a truck convoy and a large number of buildings. All these are legitimate targets, but before you belt off to attack them you should first log on as a named pilot.
You can also alter your weapon payload, choosing between air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. Once you're happy it's time to you.
The cockpit display is similar to the original. The noticeable difference is the greater ground detail. A control tower (with associated radar buildings) sits to your left and an evil range of mountains glint in the distance. Full power sends you howling down the runway. Pull up at 400 km/h and... nothing happens, not unless you select ALT-J before your first flight, otherwise the computer won't recognise the joystick. It's irritating at first.
Once in the air, the MiG handles like a dream. It's more powerful than the original, and feels livelier. Throw it around and you'll soon find out that the program is also smoother and more responsive.
Two yoghurts and a pint of Fulcrum
The first mission pits you against a lone fighter which takes off from a base about five minutes flying time away. As you scramble you will find the chap on your long-range radar. You can head straight towards him and hope you get a lucky hit or you can vector around and intercept him from behind. This is a neat trick if you can pull it off without letting him know you're there. A missile right up the engines will soon see him spinning into the ground. As he goes down you see chunks of his aircraft departing from the airframe.
This is easy enough if you can keep your wits about you, but as you come up against other aircraft, you realise that instead of just flying around you in wide circles, the enemies in MiG-29M employ proper air-to-air combat manoeuvres such as high-G turns, Immelmanns and scissors interceptions. It's as real as it can get and as you learn, it gets more fun.
Kill the fighter, though, and you will end up in the vicinity of his base. It's a nice juicy target so you may as well hit it with an air-to-surface missile. Lock on to a hangar and fire when ready. With today's high-tech weaponry, it's as easy as that (no wonder the Gulf War was won so easily).
Evade, adapt and hopefully survive
The colour/screen lines selection system is a master touch, allowing you to play either a quick-fire, highly-responsive game (without too much ground detail) or a scenic exploration of the map. The scenic route is still very playable and unless you've just been playing on the faster level, you might not even notice the difference in speed.
The game retains the original's all-round outside views and even has a missile view which lets you ride your hardware right until the moment of impact. There is also an enemy-view mode, which puts you in the opposing aircraft's cockpit. You can't see his instrumentation, but you can see his HUD, targeting system and his speed and altitude.
If you are using this mode to cheat, that's all you need to gain an unfair advantage. You can still control your plane so it is possible to carry out all your evasive manoeuvres whilst watching from the other plane.
One niggling problem which Domark have carried over from MiG 1 is the target selector turns itself off after about 20 seconds (or after you launch a missile), so you have to re-engage it. If a real MiG does this then it is a realistic feature, though.
This is a minor criticism though. MiG-29M Superfulcrum is an excellent simulation, and definitely improved on the original. Graphics, speed, gameplay and the war-game scenario all add up to flying around in a brilliant type of Russian aircraft type of experience. It is easy to get into and very deep when you do. What more could you ever want from a flight sim?