Amstrad Action1st August 1986
Published in Amstrad Action #11
Biggles may not spring to most peoples minds as a good subject for a film or a computer game, but it looks set to do well both at the box office and on the computer shelves. The game stars the intrepid hero and his time twin (don't ask me, see the film) in a mission to locate and destroy an enemy sound weapon.
The game is split into four sections, the first three are on one side of the tape and are arcade games, while the fourth loads separately and is a helicopter simulation/adventure. The three arcade sequences are where you have to locate the sound weapon and prepare for the final part of the mission, where the task is to destroy it. The fourth part can be played without finishing the first three, but completing them gives you a helpful advantage for the final stage.
The first of the three arcade games is a flight in a biplane to locate the sound weapon. It takes the form of a Scramble-type game, with the plane flying left to right along a scrolling screen. Enemy attacks take the form of biplanes flying in the other direction which shoot at you, and anti-aircraft guns that throw flak up at you. The planes can be shot down with your own bullets while ground installations can be bombed. When you have flown far enough, or get shot down, you move onto the next stage.
The second section is a bit of trench warfare in Commando style, as you try to reach the sound weapon's test site on foot. It consists of several screens, each split into a trench and overground section with enemy soldiers who try to halt your progress. Some wander around, shooting occasionally, while there are also machine gun nests that rattle out fire. You can shoot the soldiers if you get near enough, and there are also grenades to collect that can be used to knock out machine guns and men.
The third stage brings you into the present day with Biggies and his Time Twin having to hop across rooftops to get to their helicopter. All the while you have to avoid the clutches and the bullets of the guards that patrol the rooftops. The two men are controlled alternately and have to get a run up to leap between roofs before timing their jump. You've also got to be careful not to miss a roof and go plunging to your death.
The three arcade games are competently put together and, although none of them are outstanding, they should provide some fun and challenge before moving on to the helicopter section. This provides the really lasting challenge.
The simulation owes a lot graphically to Strike Force Harrier since it presents a similar view of the surface features and flying movement. The action takes place on a large map, mostly controlled by enemy forces. You have to complete several tasks before locating the sound weapon test site and destroying it. These include picking up people, fuel, a machine gun and ammunition. Each one serves a purpose that should help you on the mission but it is not always apparent what or when.
There are of course plenty of hazards that have to be overcome. Flying the helicopter isn't always easy and crashes prove fatal. The enemy is present in force, and overflying ground positions can be very bad for the health. If you've got something to shoot them with you can captures positions yourself, but this isn't easy. Most objects are marked on the maps and at first the task looks fairly simple, but you soon discover that it's going to take a lot of work to crack it.
The graphics are quite chunky for all four stages, but are done in very nice shades of colour and actually look quite pleasing. The combination of the three initial games works very well with plenty of variety in the tasks and gameplay to keep you interested. The real challenge comes from the final helicopter stage though, which combines a simulator and adventure task very well indeed. I don't know what WE Johns would have made of the whole thing but I'm suitably impressed by a very slick product.
What with the film tie-in and the current fad for chunky graphics, this one would sell pretty well, even if it was a complete turkey. In fact, it's not a bad game - though the gameplay is a bit patchy. The arcade games are okay, but a bit lightweight. There's nothing really to get your teeth into until you start the simulator, and that's pretty low on grab factor.
Competently written and reasonable value - but nothing very exciting.
Green Screen View
The map on the simulator section is colour-coded, so you miss out on crucial information. As a result it's not really playable in green.
P. A testing helicopter/adventure challenge.
P. Good graphics even though they're a bit chunky.
P. Excellent value for the four games together.
P. Stands up as a game in its own right.
N. Arcade games aren't too difficult.
The phrase 'the game of the film' is becoming more and more popular as licensing deals predominate in the computer market. In this issue alone we have Biggies, Blade Runner and the three TV titles Max Headroom, V and Dr Who. Unfortunately these deals don't always produce good games, the classic example being Ghostbusters, which really was pretty awful on the Amstrad.
Biggles is a pleasant surprise because it isn't too dependent on the film and you won't need to have seen the film, read the books or even heard of him before to enjoy it. Naturally, it gains a lot of hype from being associated with the film but for once this is justified. Let's hope licensing deals continue in this sort of vein.