R E V I E W
ACE OF ACES
1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
XL/XE Cartridge $34.95
Reviewed by Matthew J.W. Ratcliff
Ace of Aces puts you in the cockpit of a DeHavilland Mosquito, in the middle of World War II. Take on the role of a would-be ace pilot, a member of Britain's Royal Air Force, in one or more of four scenarios.
Ace of Aces provides a simulation of assaulting the Nazi U-boats (submarines), outrunning V-1 buzz bombs, chasing down bombers, or stopping POW trains before reaching enemy lines. The user may begin with practice or a full mission. To practice, any one scenario may be chosen and played immediately. If a mission is enabled, one or more scenarios may be chosen. Each option presents an intelligence report including weather, expected adversaries and recommended armaments. Next, the user must choose the appropriate cluster of bombs, machine-gun ammo, rockets and spare fuel tanks. It seems that the only trade-offs encountered here are between bombs and rockets.
Once all mission, fire power and fuel options have been enabled, the air raid siren goes off as a black-and-white photo sequence is displayed, prepping the aircraft for takeoff. This is a nice graphic sequence, coupled with a very obnoxious sound effect. The fire button mercifully sends control to the flight screen.
It's always cloudy in Ace of Aces. The pilot will never see the ground, not even moments before he crashes. In fact, the only time the ground or ground targets are seen is when the bomb-bay doors are open and the aircraft is on the perfect course for enemy interception. If the plane is off course, only the gray of cloud cover is seen.
The main play screen is split, the top displaying mostly clouds and the blue sky above, while the bottom is occupied by the cockpit. A hash mark appears on the compass, located at the left of the display, indicating the proper direction for the next target. When the hash mark is centered on the compass, the proper course is set. An artificial horizon is at the center of the cockpit, with the yoke displayed below. The yoke moves in response to the joystick-a nice effect.
At any time, en route to the next target, enemy ME109s may attack. They are difficult to kill due to sluggish joystick response. The enemy seems to jump about the screen and sometimes vanishes from the display. It's difficult to line up an enemy plane in the gun sights and shoot it down. Evasive maneuvers are generally a wasted effort. The clouds look nice, but a simpler display would have sufficed for more responsive game play.
There are five displays the user may view during a mission, which may be selected by pressing the keys 1 through 5. Using a clever fire button/joystick move, these screens may be viewed without the use of a keyboard. A navigational map may be viewed, which displays the current location of the pilot's plane, the ever-present pair of storm clouds (that you apparently fly in all the time), and locations of the next target(s).
Throttle, fire extinguisher, flaps, gear, and other controls are found in the engine room, which is available from either of the side views. At the bottom left of each view is an icon of the plane, called the intercom. When the center flashes red, it is time to move to the bomb-bay screen to attack a ground target. Other flashing areas on the intercom indicate problems, such as a fire, that must be attended to.
When attacking a POW train or U-boat, the target is seen through the open bomb-bay doors. It seems illogical to bomb a POW train, for fear that the prisoners, your allies, may be killed in the process. The goal is to bomb the cars marked with iron, and not red, crosses. It is a wasted effort to attempt bombing the tracks in front of the locomotive, since the game automatically breaks off the attack before this can be achieved. However, this approach would seem to be the most logically safe way to stop the train from taking prisoners across the border. The scenarios seem contrived, stifling creative thinking. The U-boats are sitting ducks on the surface of the water. They do not spot the Mosquito until its bomb-bay doors open, then they begin to dive. There are only precious moments to get off a successful bombing run before they are safely submerged.
The ultimate goal of this game is to fly all four scenarios in a single mission and return to base safely to become Ace of Aces. The graphics in this game are excellent, to the detriment of playability. A little less graphic effects in favor of a more responsive joystick in the air-to-air scenarios could have made this a champion game instead of a lackluster one. This author would much prefer to see F-15 Strike Eagle, from Micro Prose, packaged in a cartridge.