Flight sims are, on the whole, great. But, no matter how authentic their performance envelopes, how detailed the scenery, and how many little dials and knobs there are on the instrument panel, they all tend to suffer from the same problem.
Whereas in a real plane you view the world through a bubble-shaped canopy, allowing you to see what's above and to the sides of you simply by moving your head about, in a flight sim you've just got a rectangular window in front of you. It's a bit like you're looking out of a porthole the whole time, or you've contacted a rare tropical disease that's left you with tunnel version and a stiff neck.
This is fine if enemy planes are obliging enough to fly along in a straight line in front of you while you shoot at them. But, the human survival instinct being what it is, they tend to start swerving about as soon as they see bullets flying past their ears.
And pretty soon they've disappeared off the side of the screen. Recalling the stuff about Yo-Yos and Scissors you read in the manual =, you bank your plane over and head off in pursuit. But - oh no - he's turned again and is going in the opposite direction. If only you'd been able to turn your head a bit you'd have known.
Your prey flits briefly across the screen, you roll the plane again over again to follow him, but it's too late. While you've been slewing drunkenly across the sky, he's got behind you and the game is up.
Most flight sims, Overlord included, make an attempt to solve the problem by offering you views to the left and right, selected by pressing keys. But the last thing you want to be doing in an intense combat situation is fumbling around with the keys, disorientating yourself by flipping the view through 90 degrees all over the place.
So what Rowan have done with Overlord is introduce a view they call 'inside combat lock'. When you're flying along behind a plane, you look forward out of the cockpit as normal. But as soon as the enemy starts to turn and disappear from view, you can press the Backspace key. The view then swings smoothly round in 3D keeping the baddy in the centre of the screen, just as if you're turning your head to follow him.
Big arrows on the windows make sure you know which way you're flying, and if you start to get confused it's pretty easy to flip back to the ordinary view. I'm not sure that the system works quite as well as it does on the PC version, whose more detailed graphics give you extra visual clues that prevent you from getting lost, but it's still a great thing to have.
Apart from that, Overlord is pretty much a standard flight sim treatment of Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings. You get a choice of three planes to fly - the Spitfire, the Mustang and the Typhoon. The Spitfire's best in close combat, while the Mustang's got a longer range, and the Typhoon carries rockets for attacking trains and ships. You're based at RAF Tangmere, and your missions involve popping across the channels to stir up trouble in occupied France.
Initially it's not the most impressive-looking of games. It draws on that old flight sim cliché of dressing up all the options screens as roughly-hewn scenes from military life, with you clicking on doors and maps on the wall to jump to briefings and things. Please could we all stop doing this? It takes ages to work out what does what, it's easy to overlook important options, and the contrast between the 3D flying sequences and the flat, badly-drawn world back at base is jarring.
And then, once you're up in the air, Overlord doesn't exactly grab you as a thrilling step forward for Amiga polygon graphics. The power-hungry texture-mapping of the PC version has had to go, and there isn't even a graduated horizon.
But it does move smoothly, especially on a 1200, and once you've flown around for a bit you'll begin to appreciate the car that's gone into assembling a replica o 1940s France. The ports along the coast are actually port-shaped, with harbor walls and everything, and the towns around them are, er, town-shaped (rather than just being generic squares like you usually get).
Big cities have lots of roads and railways coming out of them, trains have carriages, radar stations have gun emplacements defending them, and targets fall to pieces and let off huge plumes of smoke when you blow them up.
Big arrows on the windows
The planes look good, too, with invasion stripes on the allied ones assisting identification, and Swastikas on the wings of the German ones. And they leave smoke trails behind them when they get shot down. The only slight snag here is that there aren't many different sorts - aside from the three you can control, there are Me109s, Fw190s, Ju68s, He111s and B-25s, and that's it. Aerial combat can therefore get a bit samey, but it doesn't matter too much when attacking ground targets is so satisfying.
And to examine it all, you've got what probably add up to more viewing options than every other flight sim put together in the World. Through various combinations of the function keys, the number keys and Control and Alt and things you can get views of just about everything in the game from every conceivable angle. You can watch your bombs as they drop on buildings, and arrange it so that, if you shoot down any planes, the view switches to them. You can do anything you like, although the enormous number of keys involved can be intensely confusing.
So Overlord's got a great environment to fly around in, but does it work as a game as well? Undoubtedly. Tedious things like take-off and landing are optional, and long flights can be cut down using a time compression option, so you're always in the thick of it.
The missions are varied, with you able to switch between aircraft-types (and hence mission styles) at will. You've got three lives, represented by three pilots, and amusingly you can make them switch places with pilots in other planes during combat - for example, if you're about to hit the ground.
Heck, Overlord even runs perfectly happily on an A600 off floppies, although a second disk drive saves quite a bit of swapping between missions.
With Rowan's other new game, the WW1-based Dawn Patrol, due from Virgin next month, along with TFX from Ocean, pretty soon you'll be able to buy swish new games encompassing the whole of aviation history. If you've got enough money.