Everything's coming up aces. (Dynamix's Aces over Europe released; additional new action computer games and products described) (Buyers Guide)
by Shay Addams
Following up on last year's hit, Aces of the Pacific, ace designer Damon Slye has turned in his latest tour de force with Aces over Europe. The P-51 Mustang, the Me 109 and Me 262 fighters, and many other war birds seen in World War II games are included. One novel addition is the German Arado, a light jet bomber. Surprisingly missing, though, is the Ju-87 Stuka, Nazi Germany's main dive bomber.
The action, spanning events from D-day to the end of the war in Europe, unfolds across your screen in much the same manner as in Aces of the Pacific. You choose a side and the branch of service-and then begin a series of missions based on the historical research of Dynamix's in-house war historian, John Bruning. Another part of the program allows you to practice specific mission types or dog-fights on either side.
Aces over Europe employs new flight models and an enhanced version of Slye's 3-Space graphics system. Major differences in the new game are that it incorporates a greater and more detailed emphasis on ground attacks, reflecting the nature of the war in Europe, and that the dogfights are even more stomach churning than in the original Aces. Improved polygon graphics now show legible insignia on the planes, so you'll know which enemy squadron you're fighting. And each enemy plane in an engagement is now numbered, enabling you to know which pilot you're chasing--or which is about to shoot you out of the sky.
While most games released for CD-ROM have been minimally enhanced versions of the programs available first on floppy disks, Spectrum HoloByte's new Iron Helix was designed specifically for CD-ROM by Drew Pictures. It's an action adventure with a science-fiction scenario reminiscent of Suspended, Infocom's classic all-text adventure.
The goal in Iron Helix is to track down certain DNA samples on an abandoned spaceship. To explore the six-level ship, you must direct the actions of a remote-control probe as it travels throughout the corridors and rooms. The obstacle is the ship's security probe. The security probe detects your probe's every move and tries to blow it away. Graphics and animation look sharp on a screen divided into four quadrants. One quadrant depicts a television view of the probe's vicinity, the other quadrants show icon-based commands and other elements of the interface. Iron Helix is available for Macintosh as well as the PC.
With the recent release of a MiG-29 mission disk, Spectrum HoloByte has added yet more life to what remains the world's top jet flight sim. The new missions are set in the same theaters that appear in the original game. This time, however, you can fly one of the other side's craft--the MiG-29 Fulcrum, one of the few light fighters to employ Beyond Visual Range capability, a capability which the F-16 doesn't possess. What may prove even more fun than the new missions is the opportunity to choose either the F-16 or MiG-29 in a head-to-head game played via modem.
A pair of new mission disks for X-Wing offers more challenges for veterans who have already completed the first two Tours of Duty. LucasArts is calling the new mission disks Space Combat Tours. The first of these, which provides another series of missions set in the Star Wars universe, should be out by the time you read this. By early fall, look for another mission disk that will include a new craft--the B-Wing--in addition to a new Tour of Duty. And if they prove popular with the public, LucasArts will turn out at least one more X-Wing mission disk. (There is, however, no truth to the rumor that X-Wing designer Lawrence Holland and Wing Commander designer Chris Roberts are teaming up for a joint production called X-Wing Commander.)
For X-Wing and the super-realistic air combat sims of the 1990s, a new breed of joystick has emerged with lots more buttons for all the sophisticated flight commands. The latest entry is the Gravis Pro, distinguished by adjustable tension and a pair of extra buttons. The buttons correspond to the buttons on a second joystick (which many major flight sims support for various features). The tightest of the adjustable-tension settings makes it far easier to fly jets that require a light touch (like the Harrier in Domark's AV-8B Harrier Assault), especially if you tend to overcontrol and wind up like me: out of control. When set at one of the four looser positions, the Gravis Pro is at home in action games.